Saturday, February 26, 2011

Being yourself, and how much [different] is too much? You'll never get a job looking like that!

I'm quite different to most of the women in my suburb.  I'm certainly quite different to the mums at my children's school (which is the single largest local community I participate in regularly). When I say different, I don't mean "I'm unique", because, well, we're all unique.

I've often spoken about not feeling like I am able to relate to other people much. It could be a language/thought barrier thing, whereby having spoken and thought in several language throughout my life, I sometimes make different connections between concepts than people around me.  Or it could be a sight related thing because I often find it very difficult to read non-verbal cues.  Or maybe it might even be an ADD thing, again, the difficulty of reading non-verbal cues comes to mind.  Whatever it is, I've also heard that many people feel the way I do in that respect, so it's evidently not uncommon to feel that way.

However, I also tend to differ from others physically - sort of.  Like most Australian women who are a size 14 or over, I'm no stick insect. I'm larger than life, and honestly, I prefer to be bigger.  I have been smaller and I felt very vulnerable. I really like my curves, I feel somehow softer and more feminine when I'm bigger.  I feel motherly and warm and comforting. So, I don't mind being a size 20 at all.

I don't dress like other women around me.  I have one friend who dresses similarly to me (or rather I tend to emulate her "look" a lot of the time - but sometimes not at all - because I really like it!), but she doesn't live around here.  I LOVE my clothes.  I love the way they flow and swish around me.  I love the colours, and that some of them have embroidery or beads on them.  I really love bright colours (though the photo below doesn't show my love for bright colours).  I like some mainstream fashions from time to time, but mostly I can't stand them, and prefer my wardrobe of eccentric clothing.

I usually wear a lot of jewelry out of the house - but not at home - I've worn less in previous years because I was often carrying my children, and they'd grab at it and sometime break it, or hurt me.  I love necklaces, bangles, bracelets and rings.  I love sparkly, gaudy, colourful jewelry - costume jewelry!

I have my nose pierced.  I've had my nose pierced for about 18 years now.  Once I had to take my nose stud out for a receptionist job and forgot to put it back in and the hole grew over.  I felt NAKED without my nose stud, like I was missing an essential part of myself, so had to have it re-pierced (it was far more painful the second time around). I didn't get my nose pierced because it was fashionable (although, I did take advantage of it being fashionable in the 90s), but because I always admired nose studs on others.

Nothing like a close up to remind you to pluck
your brows!

In the past couple of years I've gotten a number of tattoos.  Again, not a fashion statement.  These, to me, are body ART and very personal and significant.  They are meaningful celebrations of relationships in my life with myself, my husband and my children.  I have plans to get more.  Most can be concealed by clothing, though the one on my right forearm is almost always visible (I got it for my youngest child, but it signifies "eternal gratitude" which is something I like to constantly be reminded of as well).

So, yes, in many ways I am visually quite different to women around my suburb - or even in wider Australian society (of course, there are pockets of society where you will find more people like me hanging out).

I really like me.  I don't try to be different to "stick it to" anyone, or to "get in your face" with anyone, or to "bring attention to myself".  I just love the things I've chosen for myself - the clothes I wear, the nose stud, and the tattoos.

I do realise though that people often decide what a person is like based only on their first impression - those first 30-odd seconds of sensory input when they meet a person.  I can be as friendly and funny and intelligent as I like, but if people are put off by what they see, then none of that matters much.

Lately, I've been really keen to shave my hair off again.  I loved shaving my hair off the other two times I did it!  Life is different now though.  I have tattoos now, and my kids are in school, which means I have to deal with people who aren't like me at all.  People who might look at me and be put off because I represent "the Other",  Something that they can't relate to.  There was actually a mum at our school who did shave her hair off, for about a year.  I'm not sure if she had cancer though, or was raising money or awareness for someone who had cancer, she didn't wear strange clothes or have tattoos or a piercing though.

There are other mums, and at least one teacher, at the school, with a nose stud, but they don't wear strange clothing, have tattoos or shave their head.

There is a mum who has tattoos (less obvious than mine), sometimes cuts her hair really short, and wears slightly more alternative clothing, but she isn't a large woman like me.

So, would it be going just that one step too far to shave my hair off as well?

The other thing I wonder about is working.  Can a large woman, who wears robe like clothes, has a nose stud and tattoos and a shaved head, work with children?  Most mums would probably be put off by that, right?  It might be really hard to get work, yeah?

I need to get published and sell a lot of books!  If I was a published author who sold  lots of books, people would probably think I was "cool" for being alternative.  You know, because, "those artistic writer types do that" - artistic writer types are allowed to be alternative and eccentric and a little bit weird because they're artistic, right?

I know I'll shave my head again, it's just a matter of time.  I would love Dave to get a job first though, so I don't have to worry that by shaving my head I'll be dooming us all to impoverishment because no-one will employ a skin-head, tattooed, pierced hippy-chick!

Friday, February 25, 2011

Dear 2011...

This is just a little reminder that we have an agreement.  This year is supposed to be the year of good.  You will produce lots of great outcomes for our family, and in return we will be extremely grateful!

So far, this year has gotten off to a pretty promising start, but as we near the end of February, I'm just a little concerned that some of the bigger goals for 2011 are beginning to lag a tiny bit.

By now, I had really expected to have the results of my Masters Thesis, which I had high hopes of passing.  With the first of March looming on Tuesday, I'm beginning to worry that perhaps the marks are lost in transit, or worse still, that somehow I've managed to completely stuff up my Thesis and my examiners are so lost for words over my lack of skills and accomplishment that they can't face submitting my final results at all.  Could you please get back to me on the progress of this project?

The other thing I was really hoping to see some forward motion on was Dave getting a job.  Just this morning I've had to apply for an advance of my Family Allowance payments so that Luey can attend a last minute excursion at school on Tuesday, and so that we can also afford for Dave to do his driving lessons leading up to his driving test soon.  Dave has been scouring Seek for jobs he is qualified and able to do, and also applying for jobs from other sources, but so far he hasn't even gotten so much as an interview all year.  It is very discouraging.  We're trying to be grateful for all the lovely gifts we've received this year, and we're trying to do our bit to "make things happen", but a little encouragement would go a long, long way.

I really hope this note doesn't seem too pushy, I understand that things happen in their own good time, and that there are often very good reasons for delays, but if we could please see some progress on these two items, we will more than happily fulfill our promise to be extremely grateful!

Yours sincerely,


Tuesday, February 22, 2011

When your day runs away with you!

Yesterday, I'd planned to blog about Icelandic Women's Day. I hadn't realised until I copied a friend's Facebook status about women gaining weight/wisdom, that Sunday was Women's Day in Iceland. Being Icelandic, they never do things the way the rest of the world does things - I think Icelanders are contrary by nature - so, while the rest of the world celebrates International Women's day in March, Iceland does it in February. I looked Women's Day up on Wikipedia, and had a bit of a giggle, because Women's day is preceded by Husband's Day in January, but quickly followed by BEER DAY on the first of March! (obviously everyone needs a beer after Women's Day; poor men who had to do for their women folk, and poor women who had be on the receiving end of all that attention!!!)

Beer Day is a recent addition to the Icelandic holiday calendar, I'm pretty sure, because Iceland didn't even have beer (legally, anyway) until 1989!  It was prohibit between 1915 and 1922, but not legalised until 1989.  When it was legalised, there was such excitement they decided to celebrate its legalisation every year - or so it seems!

BUT, I digress...

I didn't get to writing about Icelandic Women's Day, or Beer Day (coming up soon!), because what was supposed to be a quiet day at home ended up not being so quiet at all!

We started the day as planned, by going to assembly.  I took some photos of the boys sitting with their classes in the big hall.

It's a big deal having three kids in the same school at the same time, or so it feels.  We certainly don't have the most kids at school from the same family, there is one with 5 at the school at the moment, but three is quite a significant contribution, I think.  We also have one child in each part of the school; junior, middle and senior, this year, and this is the only year that will happen - so it was a picture worthy moment for me!

Then Dave, Ari and I headed home.  My plan was to some vacuuming and dusting before picking Bryn up after lunch.  Dave had plans to got run some errands for hi mum.  None of this happened because just 40 minutes after returning home, Dave took a call from the school nurse.  Nothing untoward had occured, it was simply a case of lice which meant one of the boys would need to be picked up immediately and taken home for treatment.  Dave said he would be right up, and would take all three boys because it was likely if one was infested the other would be too.  The nurse was quite happy with this arrangement.

The back story is that Erik and Luey - in particular - have been growing their hair out.  Erik is forever brushing his long, long fringe out of his eyes in Justin Bieber fashion, and Luey is looking more and more like Ron Weasley of Harry Potter fame every day.  I've been wanting to cut their hair for ages!  They wanted to grow it, so we had a problem.  We decided to agree that as long as they kept their hair clean (washed it regularly so it didn't look lank and greasy) and they didn't have nits, then they could continue to grow it.  However, first sign of nits in any of them would mean instant no.3s all around...  I wasn't devastated when the school nurse called.

If only it had been a simple matter for getting the clippers out!  Sadly, our good clippers had started to rattle and shake and make a horrendous racket, and Bryn and Ari were afraid of them.  I had bought a cheap set, but it turned out they didn't cut hair at all!  So, I had to go to the shops and spend money set aside for driving lessons...  Our local shopping centre was completely sold out (seems other people had the same idea as us!), so I travelled on to the one further away from home.  With clippers in hand - and a cape, because the boys complain so much about being itchy if I cut their hair with them just in undies - I hopped on the bus home.  Only it turns out I hopped on the wrong bus and was headed AWAY from home instead.  I had to get off, get back to the shopping centre and hop on the right bus!  By the time I got home, Dave was ready to send out a search squad!

Luckily, the cape worked wonderfully and in an hour I had a mass of blonde, brown and red hair on the kitchen floor! Even Ari got a cut - just to be on the safe side.  He was very brave and only cried a little bit until Dave came and talked to him.  He looks so gorgeous - he reminds me of Bryn at this age.

In fact...

And with this short, short hair, I find myself calling him Tin-tin!

So, yesterday didn't quite turn out the way we thought it would...

I have to say - going through some images online...  Erik, still kind of has a Justin Bieber haircut...  Oh dear...

Blog Love...

As many of you will have noticed, I made a few changes to my blog last week.  I changed the appearance (something I do quite a lot, call me restless), and I added a few buttons down the right hand sidebar as well.  This is because I'm hoping to draw more people to this blog, maybe get a few more comments - because although I'm painfully introverted, I do love to get to know people (I just fear getting out there to do it!).  I would love to hear more from readers.  Say hi!  I don't bite!  If you don't agree with anything I write - tell me why, I am always open to fresh perspectives!

One place I found, online, to meet new bloggers is Blog Love.  This cute little button will take you to their site and you can list your own blog there and get to know other bloggers as well!

So, hop on over and check it out!

Sunday, February 20, 2011

"Parental Guidance", um, Guidance...

When it comes to what our children watch, my husband and I don't always see eye-to-eye. We've had several, let's call them, discussions about the boys being able to watch such movies as Batman, The Lord of the Rings series and the Harry Potter series.

 Dave is far more desensitised to the violence and gore, or even just the high suspense in movies than I am. He's a bit of a film buff who watches all sort of independant stuff - and he's a fan of such directors as David Lynch and some Quentin Tarantino amongst others (he's like guys movies for guys about guys doing guy stuff - oh, and if they're old guys, all the better!).  So, anyway, I don't always appreciate his judgement of what is suitable for our four year old boy (whichever one is four at the time)...

After quite a few debates, I put my foot down one day and said he absolutely COULD NOT let them watch anything that wasn't rated G or PG, and even for PG, I wanted to have seen the movie myself before I was happy to let the boys watch it.

I wasn't just being a "wuss", I had learned the hard way that even PG rated movies could cause our boys distress - there were months of getting up to Luey after he watched Monster House when he was six.

Then, just recently a problem occurred to me.  I discovered that movies that had been rated M at the movies - such as later movies in the Harry Potter series - were now being screened on TV with the rating of PG (which meant my children were gagging at the bit to watch them because they are also painfully aware of my limits with regards to movies).  I've been TiVoing the movies, and watching them before letting the boys watch them, and it seems to me there is no editing being done to take out the parts that required the higher rating in the first place..

One tool, I've come to appreciate greatly is the Internet Movie Database.  It's a fairly comprehensive database of all movies, past, current and future, with cast, synopsis, trivia, but best of all a Parents Guide to most movies (well, all the movies I've needed to check so far, anyway).  The parents guide pretty much covers every incidence of violence, profanity, and sex or drug use or reference in each movie.  This is NO SUBSTITUTION for actually vetting a movie yourself for your children, but it certainly helps to have some idea of what's in the movie, and if you're vetting a movie that has had it's rating reduced, you can check against the guide what scenes were removed - if any!

The best thing for me, is that I can get access to this database on my iPhone!  IMDb have an app in the iTunes store and it's FREE!

Saturday, February 19, 2011

I wish for you... some serendipity!

an aptitude for making desirable discoveries by accident.
good fortune; luck: the serendipity of getting the first job she applied for.

Erik has had a few disappointments this week.  He put himself out there to be voted for a couple of positions of responsibility in class and didn't get enough votes.  He came close on one occasion, only two votes between him and the other kid, but two votes was enough.  As well as this, we agreed for him to go into the draw to go to a Government funded 9 day camp.  There were 22 children in the ballot, but only 12 places, and Erik didn't get a place.  He was very disappointed and Dave and I tried to explain to him that everything happens for a reason, even if we can't see what the reason is at the time.

I tend not to see the world, or life, or the Universe as random.  I believe there is rhyme and reason to everything that happens and good can be found in every situation.  Everything can be turned to good.

This morning Dave is continuing to sort through the study - I could do the job about 10 million times faster, but it's his stuff for the most part so I have to sit back and try to be patient.  In going through the filing cabinet contents he pulled out earlier in the week, he had found the instructions manual to an old Nokia mobile that used to be mine.  I had replaced it for some reason - I think I'd left it in a taxi and had it returned several days later but in the meantime had bought a new phone. I had put the phone in the filing cabinet as well, and elsewhere in the cabinet we also found the charger cable.  I said to Dave that all we needed now was a pre-paid card and then one of the children could use the phone one day, or it could be a spare in case Dave's phone was lost or died.

This morning Dave also came across a pre-paid sim card pack that was unopened!  I remember now that I had bought Dave a new prepaid phone years ago, and it came with a sim card pack, but at the time the old sim card was working just fine, so we put the new pack aside.  It had seemed like a waste of money paying for the new sim card pack as well as the new phone at the time (they were bundled), but now it means we have a ready-to-go phone in the house should we need it!

It's many, many little serendipitous moments like this that remind me life isn't random.  We all part of a big balancing act that keep everything going.  Sometimes things happen that seem hard, or bad, or incredibly unfair at the time, but later, with some hindsight we can see that without those challenging situations, we would miss out on the blessings that come along to balance them out...

Friday, February 18, 2011

A Matter of [Depth] Perception...

 I love photography!  I'm very much a visual person.  Ironically, I just happen to have low vision.  A few years ago I heard about a blind photographer in America.  I don't know if is was Pete Eckert or someone else, but the follow video about Pete Eckert is worth seeing nonetheless.

| Artists Wanted | In Focus : Pete Eckert from Artists Wanted on Vimeo.

Being a visual person, I've wanted to do photography since I was very, very young.  I finally fulfilled the dream of buying myself an SLR camera back in 2006.  In 2007 and did a short course to learn the very basics of manual photography.  Since that point I've done a moderate amount of photography on a semi-manual setting, but I've always relied on my camera to do my focusing for me.  I have vision in one eye, but not the other and therefore, I have practically no depth perception.  As well as this I'm extremely short sighted and so I often can't clearly see the image through the view finder.  What looks clear to me, often turns out to be in soft focus once up on the computer screen.  Today though, I was out in the front yard with Ari and thought that since we'd done so much gardening (for us) recently, I should really attempt to capture some of the loveliness of the garden in late summer.

I like close up pictures.  Often a close up serves to magnify an image for me so I can actually get a glimpse of what other see from a distance.  Rarely will you see a photo taken by me that is a distance shot - I'm not able to enjoy those photos, so I don't take them.

Today, I decided to have a go at figuring out the focal depth on my own.  Here are my best shots.

This one is quite soft, but I still like it.

Joining in - Things I know: decluttering

:: The process of decluttering always involves making a bigger mess than what you started out with.

:: If you decide to declutter your house the week before Hard Rubbish Collection, your children will surely bring home toys from other people's Hard Rubbish to replace the one's you're getting rid off.

:: When you haven't the time to get to it - that's when the mess in your house will get to you the most.

:: When your time is freed up - the mess will be something you're sure you can do in an hour or so, after you check Facebook, Twitter, and write a blog post about dealing with the mess.

:: If you're a minimalist, chances are you'll marry a hoarder.

:: If you're a minimalist who's house is always cluttered, chances are you're kidding yourself about being a minimalist.

:: While there will always be one child who NEVER wants their photo taken, there will always be another child who insists on standing in front of camera whenever you bring it out [to illustrate the aforementioned mess created by decluttering]...

Join in the "Thing I know" link up at Yay for Home!

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Having Attention Deficit Disorder.

Inattentive (at least 6 necessary)
:: Often fails to give close attention to details or makes careless mistakes.:: Often has difficulty sustaining attention in tasks or play activities.:: Often does not listen when spoken to directly.:: Often does not follow through on instructions or fails to finish work.:: Often has difficulty organising tasks and activities.:: Often avoids, dislikes or is reluctant to engage in tasks requiring sustained mental effort.:: Often loses things.:: Often distracted by extraneous stimuli.:: Often forgetful in daily activities.

Hyperactivity and Impulsivity (at least 6 necessary)
:: Often fidgets with hands and feets, or squirms in seat.:: Often has difficulty remaining seated when required to do so.:: Often climbs or runs excessively.
:: Often has difficulty playing quietly.:: Often "on the go".:: Often talks excessively.:: Often blurts out answers to questions before they've been completed.:: Often has difficulty awaiting turn.:: Often interrupts or intrudes on others.

In each case, the symptoms must be present for at least six months to a degree that is maladaptive and inconsistent with developmental level.

When I took Lukas and Brynjar to the optometrist this morning, I spotted a stack of brochures on Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder. I quickly grabbed one and stuck it in my purse to read later.

I was diagnosed with Attention Deficit when I was 18.  The symptoms in bold are the ones I lived with for my entire childhood and felt were my "failures". Despite being very bright, being assessed as having an IQ in the gifted range, teaching myself to read at the age of 4, being bilingual from toddlerhood and on and on, I never did particularly well at school, and in fact failed year 9 (year 10 equivalent) while living in Norway. My school reports were always the same, "talks too much in class", "distracts other students", "won't stay in her seat/the room", "takes a long time to settle into her work", "has difficulty completing tasks"...

A couple of years after reaching the dead end in my education in Norway, I moved to Australia to live with my dad.  One day I took myself off to my Grandmother's doctor to talk to him about my inability to sleep or to concentrate, and the four channels of continuous thought in my head.  I thought there was something very wrong with me.  He sent me to a psychologist and over a few visits, I was assessed.  I was told I had all the symptoms of something call Attention Deficit Disorder, though they couldn't be 100% sure because I also have a distinctly abnormal brain structure (part of the birth defect that results in my low vision) and the symptoms might simply be a result of this defect.  He told me there were experimental drugs I could be prescribed, but explained they had side effects.  He also offered to do some Cognitive Behavoural Therapy with me.  I decided to try the latter first and if that didn't help I would look at the drugs.

The CBT helped a lot, mostly in creating an awareness of the behaviours that adversely affected my progress at school.  It meant I could finish a TAFE course that would allow me to get into University.  The CBT didn't "fix" me.  I've never completed a degree in the required time - but luckily my low vision affords me extra time.  I've never held down a job for more than a couple of months.

The irony is that I have a physical disability that people assume is my biggest obstacle in life, and yet I struggle most with the fall out of having Attention Deficit, a disability that is invisible and that many people still believe is "not real".

I hadn't looked at any materials about ADD/ADHD for a long time. It is painful, and yet, it also is freeing. Reading the pamphlet reminded me how well I do manage when I struggle with this invisible affliction every day of my life.  I muddle through and I've achieved quite a lot in my life, even though there are so many things I fear attempting because of the symptoms of Attention Deficit, because I have to keep checking with myself,

~ did I focus on that enough?
~ did I miss something because I wasn't focused?
~ did I forget something?
~ did I talk too much?
~ did I say the wrong thing?
~ did I come across as weird?

I am constantly reviewing myself and I still miss a lot of things. I still lose things and forget things - I'm very good at hiding it but I've walked away from my children in shopping centres, walked away from a wide open front door for entire days out, lost countless bank cards, taxi cards and travel passes. Without knowing why I was the way I was my mum had already started teaching systems for remembering things and methodically working through tasks so I could organise myself.  I'm very attached to my "methods" because without them I could barely function as a responsible adult.  Sometimes I feel half insane with the inability to hold onto a thought because it gets crowded out by all the other thoughts competing for space in my head, but I have coping strategies.  I find doing something with my hands constantly helps my brain to settle down.  I play a lot of bejewelled on my phone these days.  Other times I've kntted or obsessively kept a handwritten diary (several entries a day).  Writing helps a lot! I suffer terribly from restless legs - and hands - it literally feels like my nerve endings want to crawl out from under my skin. Those are the daily symptoms most people aren't aware of.

Sometimes I joke about having ADD, and I often here other people joke about having ADD/ADHD, but for the most part, when you live with it every day - when you really can't get away from it not matter how aware of it you try to be, for the most part it's no joke. There are aspects of this disorder that I kind of like - I never get bored! It's hard though when I see it causing me difficulties and I know other people don't see the root of those difficulties, only the symptoms and therefore aren't able to contextualise my behaviours.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Picturesque lives...

Today a friend on Facebook lamented that SouleMama's Blog made her feel inadequate.  It wasn't long before the usual calls of  "she's not real" and "I know, how does she do it???"were heard from several other women.  SouleMama certainly seems to divide opinions, and people either seem to love her or somehow resent her, because they think she is trying to show them up.

I tried to argue that I believed she was neither a fraud nor a superwoman.  For the most part this argument was lost on people, though.

Having looked at her blog, I see, and take on face value, a lot of photos of a mother of four (soon to be five) who has a passion for crafting (many women I know are the same).  She lives on a farm in Maine,. Farms - when photographed at the right angle, in flattering light and in the right moment, can look very dreamy and rural and pretty.  Hey, natural is beautiful!  She homeschools her four children, and while that is certainly not a common phenomenon, it's is really neither complicated or difficult to do.  So that she can help support her family, she blogs about her life and her passions.

Apparently, she previously had a career in marketing, and this is not at all surprising to hear because she knows what sells.  Seeing the positive, the good, the funny, and the aethetically pleasing sells.  Bemoaning early mornings, late nights, bickering siblings or cabin fever does not sell - unless you have a gift for humour.  People don't read blogs to find other people living their own lives - unless their life is extraordinary - people read blogs to escape, to learn, and to be inspired.  SouleMama exhibits a clear understanding of these principals - and more power to her!

Personally, seeking out the positive, good, funny and pleasing in life is something I admire more than having many children, being a homeschooler, or being able to sew a quilt.

What I was hoping to convey in my responses to this friend's Facebook status was that we can ALL do what SouleMama does.  We can all live a life that inspires us, and we can all keep track of the good and the pleasing in our lives.

To illustrate this point, I took some pictures from my life today.  These are just picture of things that made me smile today, things that were pleasing.  Most are self-explanatory, but some I'll endeavour to explain.

In amongst my books on writing, I found one of my Twilight books - some
little fingers had obviously pulled books out and when Dave put them back,
he didn't notice the other books on the shelf were textbooks, not novels.

Ari's "Buddy" waiting on the bedside table for bedtime.

Dave has been sorting through some stuff in the study and came across
my dad's collectable car - which is a little worse for wear.  Bryn wanted to
take it out of the box for a looksee, which took me right back to my childhood
and the same long-held wish!

Today I finally hung some mini-canvasses the boys and I had worked on
over the summer holidays.

Bryn doing his homework.

Luey showing Bryn how to draw a cartoon character.

Erik's discarded shoes on the dining room table.
If you want to have a picturesque life, it's not hard. Generally speaking, living a life you enjoy, doing things you enjoy, with people you enjoy is not hard work.  At the same time, there is no way to know someone from their blog.  The blogger has complete PR control.  Some people like to let it all hang out on their blogs.  Other people don't.  Each approach is equally valid.

I'm not one to hero worship anyone.  I tend to think people in the public are just like people in private.  They have their priorities and their dedication to those priorities.  They also have their struggles.  No one's life is without struggle.  I think so many people tie themselves in knots because they believe somewhere "out there" there are people living enchanted lives - really, there is just those who talk about and those who don't.  Or that there are people with superhuman strength, wisdom, will power - that is just not available to the ordinary person.  It has been shown time and again that ordinary mums and dads at home are capable of extraordinary feats of willpower, courage, determination and compassion when they are motivated.

We all have picturesque lives and the ability to be superhuman - we just need to be willing to see it.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Homework, homework, homework...

Homework times three kids - we're two days into week two of term one and tonight I have this overwhelming sense of, "D'oh, we didn't get around to..."  It's not that we didn't do homework.  We did!  It's that straight after school there was Erik's parent-teacher meeting, and then Dave headed off for a movie with a friend, something he hardly ever gets to do, and I went home, got two in the shower, cooked dinner while wrangling the other two.  We ate and then I all but got in the shower with the third one, who can't be trusted to wash his own hair.  Then it was time to sit down and do reading with three children, plus spelling with one.  By the time that was done it was 7.30pm and that's quite late in our house as far as bed times go.

Got the older three into bed, parked Master 2 in front of Harry Potter (yes, I know, I know), and as I sat here, I read over the newsletter Erik handed me as he climbed into bed.  It was from the senior school staff going over the various points of interests for parents of children in grades 5/6 and it had this whole Mathletics scheme thing that has to be done each week.  They're supposed to gain a Bronze medal in Mathletics every week.  Well, we didn't have time to do that.  I'm not even keen on them having another excuse to get on the computer - if I'm perfectly honest about it.  I'm fairly anti-computers for my kids, mostly because I don't want some virtual parasite coming along and robbing me of my constant companion!  We also didn't have time to review times tables or vertical multiplication.

I just don't know how families where the children do extracurricular activities manage it?  Doing reading with Bryn is nothing, and he has no other homework - which is FINE by me because I think 6.5 hours of school a day is plenty for him.  I get why the upper grades have homework, and I have my own areas of concern I'd like to see my boys do a bit of focused one on one work on to build their confidence, but three lots of homework seems to require an insane amount of input from us after school each day - Ari pretty gets ignored from 3.45 until he goes to bed (usually at 7.30pm, though not tonight because he has a late nap, d'oh).  I'd better figure this out because it's only going to get worse!

What fixes most things for me?

Cleaning and decluttering.

No, I'm no fan of cleaning and tidying.  I'm as lazy at they come.  If I could afford a fleet of servants, I'd never lift another finger.  Sadly, the reality is, I don't have any servants, just a husband and four children, and while I can often boss them about and make them tidy up a few things, this hardly makes a dent in the trail of debris they generally leave in their wake.

I'm not the neatest person in town - just check my side of the bed...  However, I always tidy up within a few days (and then let the pile of discarded clothing build up again for another few days), and really my bedroom floor is my only vice.  For the most part (and my mother will laugh OUT LOUD when she reads this, I put things away as soon as I'm done with them).  This is a habit I've refined somewhat since having all these children, mind you - and maybe they'll do the same when they have children, I sure hope so!

All this said, there is definitely a gulf between my dear heart and myself when it comes to the acquisition, storage and maintenance of STUFF!  I like to acquire a helluva lot more stuff than he does.  However, he likes to keep anything and everything remotely related to anything he brings into the house - from the bag and receipt it came with, to the packaging, and the item itself.  And it doesn't really matter what the item is, either.  It might be a CD, or a book, or newspaper, or bus ticket.  He keeps it ALL!  When he is not actually using the things he keeps, he "stores" them in first place he can reach that is not directly under his feet.

My husband LOVES shelves, tops of cupboards and bookcases, or assorted non-descript plastic bags piled on top of one another for storing his STUFF.

Me?  I don't keep receipts, or bags and definitely NOT packaging.  In fact, if I haven't used an item in six months, or a year (if it is a season item), I find my fingers ITCHING to get rid of it.  I've had to learn to assess the sentimental value of items which will one day be a precious reminder of my children's milestone.  Photos are easily.  Paintings, old toys or clothing are much harder.

I have a habit of ordering a three cubic metre skip at least every year, sometimes more often, for the sole purpose of chucking as much unused stuff as possible.  I find the process of decluttering very soothing.  It's like having a fresh start, and more space to breathe and think.

So, with no studies hanging over my head, and three children at school most of every weekday, I've set myself the task of working my way through the house, and working towards ordering another skip in March.  No, I'm not going to just throw out everything.  I'm going to try something new.  I'm going to try and sell some of the stuff that has to go.  But there is still a lot of stuff that can't be sold or given away because it's actually rubbish (paper rubbish and packaging are always accumulating in this house, we are massive consumers of paper!).


I weeded through my wardrobe, and pulled out about 20 items I've either worn into threads or outgrown (or was never small enough for - oops).  I completely forgot to take before and after photos.

I also sorted out three of the four drawers in our filing cabinet.  The photo below only shows the first drawer, and doesn't even really show the several hundred birthday and Christmas cards that I'd managed to collect over the past 12 years (I was TRYING to learn how to be sentimental, and kind of went too far the other way and then couldn't face the job of sorting through the mess).  It was kind of fun, I found the list I'd made of all the outfits I bought for Erik before he was born - can anyone say "overkill"?

And then I decluttered the cabinet my printer stands on - and found the missing assignments from my Masters with the results and comments on them from my lecturer, so I can finally prove I deserve that Distinction I was sure he'd already given me!

And tonight after Ari had gone to bed, I went through his toy boxes and took out all the toys he's outgrown (the ones Dave and I had already decided we don't want to keep for future grandchildren).  Two garbage bags full to be sold at a kids market in March.

Of course, the more you declutter the more you realise just how much stuff you still need to get through.  Our study actually looks worse right now than it did before I started on it this morning!  It does feel better know that the filing cabinet isn't full of Telstra bills from 2001 though!

Sunday, February 13, 2011

I want to scream!

WARNING: This is a blog post about NOT vaccinating. If NOT vaccinating is a topic that sends you off the deep end, please feel free to skip this post because it won't be pleasant reading for you. I am about to vent about the frustrations of being a parent who DOESN'T vaccinate.

I've been participating on a couple of forum threads about vaccinating, or more specifically about not vaccinating and why parents who do vaccinate can become so angry at those of us who don't.  These threads have been full of disparaging comments about parents who don't vaccinate.  According to those comments we are:

  • ignorant
  • lazy
  • selfish
  • afraid
  • not willing to put up with our children being a little grizzly for a day or three
  • happy for our children to suffer and probably die
  • relying on herd immunity to protect our children from devastating diseases and illnesses
  • mistrusting of science and believers in fantasy 
  • irresponsible

I just want to say a couple of things about this.  I've said these things over and over in the threads but am only met with mocking.  So, this being my blog, I'm going to say these things, if only to get them off my chest.

  1. Know the disease!  One thing that keeps cropping up over and over again is the horrific outcomes of contracting polio.  People immediately think of paralysis when they hear the word polio.  They hear it was wide spread and immediately assume most EVERYONE suffered from paralysis.  This just WRONG!  Ninety percent (90%) of people who contract polio are asymptomatic.  Of the remaining 10%, only 10% suffer some degree of paralysis.  So, of 100% of sufferers of polio, only 1% suffer paralysis.  If you're going to live in fear of a disease, take the time to know your actual risk.
  2. I am not choosing not to vaccinate my children because I'm put off by the needles.  
  3. I am not choosing not to vaccinate my children because I want them to suffer and die one day.
  4. I am not choosing not to vaccinate my children because I am relying on herd immunity.  In fact, I firmly believe herd immunity is a furphy.  Even if every person was vaccinated for every possible disease at the same time, the diseases would NOT disappear.  They would not disappear because no vaccine is 100% effective.  In fact, they say vaccines are between 60-90%, HOWEVER, children are generally NOT tested once they are vaccinated to check their immunity.  If children were tested, I'm willing to bet the vaccine rates of effectiveness would drop even further.  So, some people would still not be immune and would be able to pass on the disease and sooner or late that disease would overcome the vaccine.
  5. A vaccinated child is STILL a risk to unvaccinated people, and people with low immunity because vaccinated children can STILL contract and pass on diseases and illnesses.  Not all of them, but certainly a number of them, and as there is not post vaccination testing for immunity, you never know WHICH vaccinated child might pass on Whooping Cough, or Chicken Pox or Rubella. My children caught chickenpox from a vaccinated child.
I wish people who vaccinated wouldn't assumed they are protecting their children and other people's children simply through the act of having their child vaccinated.  Unless you have had your child's immunity tested at some point post vaccination, DO NOT ASSUME your child is not at risk, or a risk to others!

Saturday, February 12, 2011

We butchered the garden again today...

We got a notice in the mailbox this past week notifying us that we had two weeks to cut back the bushes and overhanging branches outside our fence line.  To say that Dave and I are not is an understatement!  Dave's parents were enthusiastic gardeners, and mine were not, and yet even with these differing models as children, this is a topic that Dave and I agree unanimously on.  Gardening sucks great, hairy dogs balls!

But the cutting back had to happen, and as we are stoney broke and only have enough money set aside for the gardener to cut the grass and do some extensive and very necessary spraying, we knew we couldn't ask him to also do this arduous undertaking for us.  So, Dave borrow a pair of loppers and a pair of secateurs from his mother - who was no doubt beside herself with glee! - and today we did the deed.

I didn't think of taking photos until the first lot of cutting back had been done, but you can see from the clippings how big the job was...

Outside the front fence on either side of the front gate.

Outside the side fence, taken from both ends of our property line -
it's a bloody long strip!

I was pretty proud of myself for coming up with the idea of using an old
sheet to haul the clippings to the compost - because we don't have a wheebarrow!

Dave and Erik pulling apart the dead tree in the front yard that had finally
collapse in the last big storm.  Our tree of Gondor is GONE!

I finally got to giving the vine-bush monstrosity in the back yard a time -
now Bryn can go play without be "attacked by the tree, mum!"

Luey hauling the cuttings from the tree to the
We're going to be sore in the morning!  Stu the gardener is coming next week to give the grass another go - can you see the basketball hoop down in from the garage?  It does have a base, you just can't see it for the sea of grass - there is actually a DRIVEWAY leading to the garage right there, but it's overgrow by buffalo weed grass!

Good Job!