Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Let's Bust a Myth: Children Mimic Their Parents...

All the great scary stories about parenting come from the premise that what you do in front of, or to your child, they will take on board and replicate.

Don't smack your child because then they will grow to believe physical violence is the answer to all their problems.

Don't swear in front of your child or they will swear at nanna and all hell will break loose.

Don't let your child see you iron for your partner or they will become indentured houses slaves for their own partners...

Never drink in front of your child or they will become an alcoholic.

Like every scary story, these all begin with a grain of truth. Children do look to adults to learn how to become members of society. Human children are most definitely social creatures.

However, living in fear of being the wrong kind of role model is also based in the belief that children come into this world as empty vessels with no personality or thought processes of their own, and that the people around them create their every view of the world.

This same belief underpins a lot of 'perfect parenting' practices. If you keep your children away from certain mindsets or live choices then the child will never come up with those thoughts or life choices off their own bat.

This is probably why I came around the corner into my study just a few moments ago to find this scene...

Ari mucking around on my computer and also (though this photo doesn't show it) swilling my cold coffee...

Undoubtedly, he believes this is what adults do. I do it a lot!

Other bad things my children do that they've probably picked up from the Grumpy Old Man and I include:

* Whining 'Whaaaaat?' in response to their name being called. I'll argue they mostly got this from their dad, he's a champion at whining 'whaaaaat?'

* Putting their feet up on the coffee table.

* Saying, 'Shut the f*ck up' - yep, even Ari says this, though only to us, not nanna (thank goodness)...

* Demanding a hug while simultaneously lashing out and being generally completely unhuggable (oops, Ari gets that one from me).

Oh, I can't think of anything else, because, you know the GOM and I are actually pretty perfect parents (yeah right)...

But you see, therein lies the rub that disproves this myth...

Despite us simply never modelling the following, the kids also...

* Like rap music (???), well, Erik does...

* Burp like champions! (Ari)

* Pick their nose and wipe it on the wall! (all of them, grrr)

* Sleep with their socks on (all of them)

* Vote Liberal (no, no, they don't do that, I thought I'd just throw that one in to see if you were paying attention)...

You see, sometimes kids just do stuff they've never seen modelled. They come up with stuff on their own because of their own personalities. You can model until you're blue in the face and your child might still chose a completely different life to the one you hoped for them!

I don't go gold prospecting just because my dad thinks that's a brilliant life choice.

I'm not a Christian despite decades of modelling from my mum (who raised me as a single parent from when I was 13).

I have no wanderlust like both of my mum and dad had all my life.

The GOM on the other hand never wanted to work 9-5, five days a week in the same job for 40 years like his dad. He's not a big tea drinker. He hates gardening (they both loved gardening).

You cannot make your children into the people you want them to be, and quite frankly, your influence over their lifestyle choices is quite limited. Many children actively rebel against their parents chosen lifestyle!

My friend Jayne recently moved back into her childhood home, and the first thing she did was paint two walls in the house bright purple. Her poor mother's face was almost bright purple from watching us paint over her favoured beige colour scheme. Jayne is not a beige décor kind of woman despite decades of having beige house furnishings modelled for her.

Just because I breastfed each of my children for several years, and co-slept with them, and wore them in slings, and had the attitude that they should choose their own educational paths does not guarantee they will make the same parenting choices. Yes, my children might even vaccinate their own children, ye gads!

Just because I smacked my children does not guarantee they will smack their children. Many of my friends who were smacked as children have never smacked their children. I've also noticed that of my four, two were smacked a lot, two weren't. Two will lash out physically in frustration, two won't. Of the two who do, one was smacked a lot, one has almost never been smacked. The same goes for the two who don't lash out when frustrated.

So, if you feel that being a parent, and modelling correctly for your children to create the kind of adults you want them to become is something like living in a straight jacket, then loosen the straps a little. Allow yourself to breathe a little because chances are some of what you've modelled so well will stick and some of it won't, and in some ways your adult children will disappoint you with their choices and in other ways they'll be so much better than you ever were able to model anyway!

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

10 Things Tuesday: 10 Signs I'm Truly Getting Old and Grumpy...

I call my husband the Grumpy Old Man - don't worry, I'm not having a go at him. He is quite proud of his Grumpy Old Man status, he even has a tee shirt with Grumpy Old Man emblazoned across it (not that he ever wears it out of the house; t-shirts with slogans go against the Grumpy Old Man code, don't you know)...

I'm many, many years younger than the Grumpy Old Man. In fact, there is an entire decade (the sixties, in case you were wondering) between our birthdays! Until my last birthday, he was a man well and truly into his fifties with a wife in her thirties...

Until my last birthday, that is, when I turned 40. The big four ohhhhhh!

I have to admit I've been feeling my age recently. It's true what they say, you trundle along feeling 23 for years and years and then all of a sudden your age catches up with you. Oh my, but it does.

I know there is a lot I can do to counteract this, and I plan too, just as soon as I have more energy...

But actually, this post isn't about the physical signs of ageing. I'm not going to spend 10 points counting my crows feeds (10 points wouldn't be nearly enough anyway). No, this post is about how I've noticed that my mindset, which use to be young and hip and with it, is kind of all old and fuddy-duddy and, oh my goodness, awfully inflexible (kind of like my hips, actually)...

So, here we go, the top 10 signs that I'm truly beginning to show my age...

1. There is a classics radio station which plays all my favourite music all the time and that means no music that came out past about 1999...

2. It's taken me about 10 years to finally get up enough courage to figure out this torrent palaver... All my friends have been downloading full seasons of their favourite shows from overseas for years, but I've always found it all a bit to 'new tech' and difficult to understand and quite frankly I was completely intimidated! But I have finally figured it out, just this week, woot!

3. I think all the new fashions are tacky; leggings as pants, mullet skirts, those sandals with cuffs, ugh, what are young people thinking???

4. I still use CDs... Even my similar aged friends left tangible music behind in favour of mp3 and 4 music five years ago!

5. I get very annoyed when young people on the bus don't give up their seat for me... Just saying...

6. Changes of Twitter, Blogger and Facebook interfaces confuse and irritate me - newer isn't always better! If it has to change it should have a point other than just looking better (and looking better really is in the eye of the beholder)...

7. Almost everything my parents told me that I used to laugh at is starting to sound like common sense these days...

8. A night at home crocheting while watching a good movies and sipping moscato and eating chocolate is always preferable to going to see a band or going dancing.

9. Catching up with friends at a restaurant is all but pointless because I can't hear people across even a small table these days thanks to the interference of so-called white noise!

10. [Drum Roll] I desperately want my own home where I can live out the rest of my days in the decor of my choice (i.e. filled with lots and lots of old family heirlooms that young people today would probably think look old-fashioned and sad)...

Oh, and a bonus one...

11. Before I could write this list today, I had to take a nanna nap (and I'm not pregnant and I don't have a baby waking me through the night...)

Do you feel your age?

Monday, February 27, 2012

Let's talk communicating...

Way, way back in the early 90s, I did a Bachelor of Arts in Communications at the University of Canberra and while I never went on to have a career in communications, I have found a lot of what I learned during those years very helpful.

Over the years I've observed how people communicate with one another and one thing I've noticed is that communication despite - or perhaps because of the deep penetration of technology - has become more garbled.

Many humans on the planet have had to learn to communicate via text. This is not a new phenomenon, but the speed at which we communicate with one another via text certainly is new. Text communications in this day and age are almost instantaneous.


I know how easy it is to become swept up in an emotional tsunami while operating technology - before I have a chance to reconsider my response, I've typed (and I touch-type at 90 words per minute) and sent my raw emotions to another person - often to many other people and with no real control over how quickly my communications are further disseminated to others.

That is a lot of responsibility.


However, it gets worse because text lacks a form of communication which is essential to humans as it is with all social creatures. Text communications lack non-verbal cues. They lack tone of voice, they lack those teensy tiny muscle movements which differentiate a smile from a smirk, or a frown from confusion.

We try to compensate by using smilies, but smilies fall far too short of the mark most of the time and leave a gap for interpretation as wide as the Atlantic Ocean.

Another phenomenon I've observed is a response to all this ambiguity - well, actually I've observed two responses...

First, there is the response of a well guarded opinion. Many people are too afraid to say what they think, what their opinion is incase it is wilfully misconstrued by people all too willing to take the greatest possible advantage of the non-verbal gaps in text communications.


Second, and this is what I want to highlight, there are many who are quite happy to say or write how they feel, even if it is sheltered by ambiguity and then use that ambiguity to protect themselves when others take offence to their words or catch on that they have just been made the butt of a joke they were not supposed to be privy to.

I have often heard the words, 'That was not what I meant.' or 'That was not my intention.' from people who wish to redirect blame for failed communications.

It used to be, in conversation, that the responsibility for good communications lay both with the disseminator of the communication and the recipient. Both had responsibilities when communicating. The disseminator had responsibility to be clear and concise and to choose their words carefully to impart the information they wished to communicate. The recipient's responsibility lay in listening attentively and receiving the information as impartially as they could.

With so much of modern communications being recorded, either in text or other forms of audio and visual media, there is consequently less responsibility on the recipient and more on the disseminator.

I argue this because the recipient need not listen carefully at the time of the initial communication because they can always refer back to the communication and either validate their perceived reception or have it corrected.

Therefore the onus on the disseminator to be clear and concise in their communication becomes greater as that communication can so readily be recalled in its original condition (because there are no non-verbals to be lost in recall).

When you communicate with people via the media (and by media I'm including the internet), the onus is on your to say what you mean and mean what you say. Successful people are masterful communicators. They make their intended impression and because of the endurance of the written and recorded word, that impression sticks around for a long time.

Yeah, actually, mostly... it is!

Choose your words carefully, make them work for you and have the impact you intend them to have... This skill is becoming ever more crucial in this age of technology!

Sunday, February 26, 2012

How Sif Got Her Groove Back...

I wasn't a very happy Sif the other night...

It's easy to get down when you have high hopes and they are not realised.

That said, there is nothing to gain (except momentary attention from good friends and reassurances that people do care) from dwelling on what has not materialised.

What do you do when you're feeling very, very low?

Me, I sing. I sing daggy songs to the power of 10!

So, yesterday I cocooned myself in my bedroom and spent the day listening to 80s music on the radio, surfing the net on my iPad and iPhone and singing...

I wasn't alone...

Erik and the GOM did come in and chat as well, though I didn't have the presence of mind to take photos of them as well.

I also hung up and placed a couple of pieces I've inherited from mum in the wake of my parents downsizing... These reminded me of my place in history through my connections with the past...

This blanket, which I hung on my bedroom wall, was hand stitched by my mother's father's mother.

The story goes that my great grandmother (Langamma Síta) went up to an attic in a farm in Iceland back in 1930 or so and found a section of a blanket which had a quarter of this pattern woven into it. There was some kind of indication (suddenly I can't remember if it was a written note or a date woven into the blanket) which dated the original woven blanket back to 1831 (so it was already 110 years old when she found it).

Langamma Síta took the section of blanket and mirrored the pattern four ways and then sewed that pattern onto the blanket now hanging in my bedroom. At the bottom of the blanket she sewed in the date it was originally woven; 1831 and at the top she put the date at which she duplicated it; 1941... So, now this blanket is 71 years old and the pattern is at least 181 years old. Some of the colour has faded; there is a fair bit of blue which can't be seen in this photo (mind you, my bedroom walls are also green, not cream).

I found a home for the fairy castle...

My mum made this castle one day while standing in the Ada Ryan Gardens in Whyalla way back in the very early 80s. I remember that day so well. There was some sort of exhibit of local potters and others doing courses at the TAFE in town (I think). My mum - who had been studying pottery there for a while was doing a live sculpture and decided to make this castle - Rapunzel's Castle, I think it was, or possibly Sleeping Beauty's Castle, I'm not sure now - and I remember the children crowding around her and her asking them what she should do, and following their suggestion (to some degree, at least).  The castle used to have copper flag staffs coming out of each turret and flags attached, but they've since gone missing (though I plan to replace them now).

As a little girl I used to love to run my fingers along the winding path and imagine the people who lived in that tiny castle...

I listened and sang loudly to this song... Yes, I did!

Yes, when I'm down, nothing brings me back up like belting out a daggy song in a key I can comfortably manage...

So, old family ties, hanging out with my kids and singing daggy songs, those are how I got my groove back...  What works for you?

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Why I prefer KRudd...

My twitter stream is full of KRudd hating. People think he's smug and a whiner. I hear the majority of Australian's would still prefer him, but I don't have those people on my twitter stream.

I don't fancy myself any kind of politically aware person. What I do fancy myself is a keen observer of people, of personalities, of what motivates people. As a writer, I'm always watching people and over the years I've discovered I have a very good bullshit radar.

Twenty months ago, Julia Gillard was manipulated through pride into the position of deposing Kevin Rudd. I will not go as far as to say she was a complete innocent in the matter - there is no doubt in my mind that Julia is a woman with a sharp mind.

At the time my twitter stream was full of 'Go Julia! Finally a woman Prime Minister! KRudd didn't deliver, Julia will!'

In the intervening months I've seen much disappointment over Julia's failure to deliver things she never promised in the first place (gay marriage for one). There have been quite a few people who have said perhaps Kevin would do better...

So now we have the big upheaval of another caucus vote and questions over who will lead the Labor party as of Monday. I'm not here to say who it will be. I know Rudd doesn't have the numbers in the caucus despite polls of the people suggesting he is their preferred Prime Minister (and even then there are big questions about how accurate these polls are - they certainly don't reflect my left-leaning twitter stream, as I say)...

All I can say is who I would prefer, and why.

I would prefer Kevin and this why...

Yes, he is smug. The man can't keep that smirk of his face, he is loving the attention, he is loving the people power, he is loving that finally he is making Julia and her backers nervous. He is a bitter man and has been for a while.

smug kevin

The thing is, I'm bitter, too, so I get how he feels. I think, quite possibly, a lot of Australian's a bitter at the moment.

The other thing Australian's are is supporters of the underdog. By deposing Rudd after he signed the Kyoto agreement, after he apologised to the Stolen Generation, the faceless men created a sympathetic underdog - and one who holds grudges. They created their own worst enemy.

I have had ideals and wanted to make great changes and sometimes made mistakes and been judged far too harshly and far too prematurely, only to be proven right down the track, when the shit has hit the fan.

I get how he feels.

Meanwhile, Julia is PR managed to the hilt. I'm sure she had very strong emotions on many topics but she is a master of the poker face and the impassive mask and I don't trust that - she is a politician, after all.

Poker-face Julia

Rudd is no god, he is no saviour, he is no saint. However, he is quite transparent in his motivations and his feelings and so he is a known quantity.

Julia is much more a person to play her cards close to her chest.

Actually, the fact she has come out and personally attacked KRudd has lessened my dislike and mistrust of her because now she's showing all I have sensed lay beneath the mask. Still, it's too little emotion, too late.

I don't necessarily want a Prime Minister who is completely rational. Rationalism lacks humanity. Humanity is passionate and far from flawless.

KRudd is not cuddly and doesn't give me the warm-fuzzies. I wouldn't have him as a friend because he seems like a man who's single focus is for self-actualisation. However, there isn't much that is hidden about him and he has the ability to be humble and to admit getting things wrong, even if it is a rare occurrence. Whereas Julia believes in her own sanity and rationality - a character trait I cannot fully trust.

In the end, if Julia holds her position on Monday, I believe she will probably lead Labor to defeat. Labor will elect a new Opposition Leader and Kevin will be waiting in the wings. Ultimately, he has nothing to lose at this point and to some degree he can thank the faceless men for helping him become the underdog and creating the perfect 'what if...' situation.

No one.

2.25am and I can't sleep. Earlier today my parents left for home after an epic 10 days.

Epic because for a week of that the Grumpy Old Man was visiting them in Adelaide and getting in as much automatic driving as possible before his test. Epic because at the same time my parents were putting their house on the market after making the huge decision to simplify and downsize their life and become debt free and footloose as well.

Epic because they sold their house in record time, for the price they wanted, and bought their next home within two days (to be ready in July).

Epic because they have to move out of their home in three weeks time following an extremely short settlement time.

Epic because the Grumpy Old Man had yet another driving test to get through.

He did his driving test today - well, yesterday, Friday. If I tell you in wasn't straight forward, you'll be pretty much not surprised, right? On Thursday afternoon, after spending most of the day out of the house buying my parents new caravan (did I mention they're becoming grey nomads - although a little less of the nomad bit for the first couple of years before mum actually can retire), we came home to discover a message on the answering machine.

The message was from VicRoads and was for the GOM informing him they'd just discovered that his hazard perception test papers had lapsed and he'd need to take the hazard perception test again before he could take his licence test.

My parents were only able to stay until today because even though they've sold the house, final signing of contracts is on hold until pest and building inspections clear the house for the new owner, so there is another open for inspection scheduled for Sunday. So, having to schedule a hazard perception test first suggested the GOM would not be able to take his licence test at the time we'd arranged and might have to rebook for the earliest opening in 7-8 weeks time.

This stressed us all just a little.

The Grumpy Old Man called VicRoads and was told they could squeeze him in for the hazard perception test just before his licence test. Instead of just doing one test, he would now be doing two.

Test day... The boys went off to school and mum and I took Ari off to Forest Hill shopping centre to keep our minds off the tests - that didn't actually work so well and even remembering the day makes my stomach turn with anxiety.

We wondered around, did a bit of retail therapy (work clothes for mum and she bought Ari and I a present each), tried to have some lunch - my stomach was too unsettled to eat... It was almost time to head home on the bus to pick up the boys and I felt the vibration of the phone in my bag.

The Grumpy Old Man had left a message for me to call him back.

I did and s-dad answered the phone because the Grumpy Old Man was driving them home, for a microsecond I felt excitement - he got it! He got his licence, I thought...

No, he didn't.

Sadly, he got pinged for - get this - speeding. Of course, I didn't even believe that. The Grumpy Old Man is too cautious to speed, there is no way he could have been speeding, if anything he tends to drive too slowly.

Well, I was half right. He was doing 65 in what he believed to be a 70. Unfortunately, he believed wrongly - it was a 60 zone. That was his first critical error.

His second was that he was approaching a zebra crossing with lights, he was slowing in case it changed from green to red, and he once he was within about 20 feet of the crossing and it hadn't changed yet, he thought he would be right, but then it changed, he breaked as gently as he could, but unfortunately his tires were on the white line. Second critical error and he failed.

We're gutted. 7 was not our lucky number, after all...

Next test is scheduled but is two months away.

No car means no work. No work means no money. (yes, I know some of you don't believe that, or have a millions ideas about what you think he could be doing if he really wanted to earn some money...  Don't bother to suggest them, we've considered them all already. Believe me, we do not want to be in this position)

Life feels pretty unfair at the moment.

Possibly we're just bad, lazy, heathens who are only getting what we deserve for our wayward ways. Possibly if we worked harder and believed in the right gods and gave more to charity things would start to go our way and the Grumpy Old Man would get his licence and get a job and I would get a job and we'd buy a car and save for a deposit on a house. Possibly the answer is staring us in the face. I don't know. I really don't. I feel like we follow the rules (I so, so, so badly want to get a dog right now and the tenants agreement be damned, but that would be wrong, right?) and feel like we try to be conscientious and good people. I feel like we try to keep our chins up and just keep swimming and having faith that it will all work out and I feel like right now the powers that be are flipping up a great big bird.

I feel angry and manipulated by reality.

I feel emotionally and physically exhausted.

I feel like what is the point? What exactly is the point of all of this, of struggling, of having faith in anything or anyone, of trying to play the system according to everyone's stated rules when those rules don't guarantee the desired outcome.

I want to feel safe. I really need to feel safe. I haven't felt safe in a very, very long time.

I'm sorry that this post is so dark, I'm in a very dark place. Sometimes, I see some light and I run towards it. I run as fast as I can but it doesn't seem to get any closer and sometimes - like right now - it disappears completely.

Some people say surrender, let go. I have. I have let go completely, but the falling never stops. The roaring of the wind as it soars past me in the darkness is frightening and deafening and there is no one there to catch me. No one.

I appreciate all the help the Grumpy Old Man's parents have given us over the years, and all the help my parents have given us (twice already this year they've driven interstate so the GOM could practice in and drive their car during his driving test). I am in no way saying that our families have not helped us. Unfortunately, they can't influence potential employers or testers, so they can't catch us in that sense. I'm not angry with or ungrateful of our families.

I'm angry because I don't actually believe we're lazy or bad or faithless, and we're raised to believe that if we do the right thing and are good and play by the rules and have faith that life will go our way - or at least be balanced in how much it does and doesn't go our way. Yet here we are in our 40s and 50s and we can't get a foothold. We don't expect to be handed life on a platter but we have always thought we'd be met halfway for our blood, sweat and tears. I'm beginning to suspect there is no one out there to meet us half way.

Maybe this is just the exhaustion speaking. I'll probably regret posting this in the morning - I'm going to post it anyway for honesty sake. Maybe one day I'll read this post and laugh at how blind I was.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Uptight and anxious parenting...

What I should be doing right now...


What I have been doing instead...

Obviously, that's not me browsing the net - she's far too perky and no where near myopic enough - she doesn't have the haggard look of a bedraggled hausfrau, like me...

Anyway, on my browsing travels a few things I've read have started to tangle up with one another in my brain and got me thinking about parenting and parenting styles and all the stuff that worries parents...

First I saw this article which suggests that even having the TV on in the background around children (who are not actively watching the set) is detrimental to their development. So, when Australian parents are recommended to have no television for children under two, that means that while the child is awake, the television simply should not be on. One hour a day for 2-12 or two hours a day for 12-18 year olds means the same for the parents while those children are awake. Think about how long your average 16 year old is awake and do the math...

Television viewing is just one way in which parents can damage their children. Obviously processed foods, particularly fast foods, come to mind. Balancing not get enough sun with getting too much sun is another juggling act of parenting. The list goes on, and this is just for your average run-of-the-mill non-religious and non-idealistic parent.

Then I saw these fun videos...


I've witnessed most of these scenarios in my parenting life - and said a lot of these things myself! Yes, I've been totally crunchy. Now that the kids don't breastfed, co-sleep or require assistance getting about in an efficient manner, I do less visible crunchy stuff... But yep, for the idealistic parent, life can be pretty anxiety inducing.

Having gained almost 13 years of parenting experience now, the only thing I regret about my choices is heaping so much pressure on myself to be The Best Parent™. Living in fear of damaging my children may have damaged my children...

Okay, that's an overstatement, but I do wonder if all the anxiety about what they eat, what they watch, what they play with and come in contact with physically, mentally or spiritually isn't a new crisis we modern day parents are heaping on our children...

Remember how we all used to um-ahhhh! about 'olden day parents' who whipped their children with sapling branches because the child spoke out of turn and the parent was deathly afraid the child would be ruined if left to believe that was okay?

Yes, well, I have to wonder if 'having a talk' with your three year old because she 'harmed' your one year old by calling her baby brother a 'good boy' isn't akin to whipping a child for speaking out of turn.

In our grand quest to bring up Completely Whole Children™, might we not be causing different kinds of damage by ostracising them from society into sub-cultures where they can only play with 'natural, organic materials' and eat 'natural, organic foods they have grown or killed themselves'. Is not letting a child see their grandparent because the grandparent prefers to use disposable nappies when caring for the child, or the grandparent lets slip the odd bit of praise taking 'good parenting' too far?

Are our children our own little sociological experiments where we set out to prove that our way will lead to 'better, stronger, more individual people'?

Do children benefit from parents who take controlling their child's environment into obsession territory?

Are we perhaps raising anxious children who fear fuming plastics, buying anything new, chucking paper in the 'regular bin instead of the recycling', who baulk at food outside their own home incase it contains 'poison' (additives/preservative/pesticides), who can't play with the kid they met at the park because he has a toy gun and he's wearing a tee shirt with a cartoon character on it!

Anxiety is rampant in our society, new disorders, such as hoarding, are being recognised every year. We try to avoid medicating our children when they are small, but are we setting them up to need medicating in adulthood?

Are you an anxious parent?

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

10 Things Tuesday: 10 Things My First Encounter With Solo Parenting Has Taught Me...

The Grumpy Old Man comes home late tomorrow night, a few hours short of a whole week parenting on my own.

I know I'm not the first woman to parent on her own. I know I'm not the first woman with four children to parent on her own. I know I'm not the first woman with low vision and ADHD to parent four children on her own for [only] a week.

But I know this has been a first for me. It's been a steep learning curve, and I've learned quite a bit from this exercise. So, I thought today I'd reflect on what I'd learned...

#1 I rely on The Grumpy Old Man quite a lot, and I don't mean to do stuff like take out the rubbish or even get up in the morning and get them ready for school (though, he does do that and bless his little cotton socks for it, because quite frankly homeschooling has been at the forefront of my early morning thoughts for many days now).

No, I rely on him emotionally. He's my sounding board for all the billions of thoughts that hustle for room in my brain box every day, and without that sounding board, I'm feel as if my head is crammed with stuff I just can't let go off because I haven't had a chance to talk-it-out. Yes, I have learned I'm a four year old.

#2 Sleeping on my own in a house full of kids isn't as scary as it used to be. Before this week, I was a big old scaredy cat when it came to being alone at night with the kids. Being alone in a house at night doesn't worry me - it's the being responsible for kids bit. Suddenly, having had kids, I worry that if there was an intruder, that person might get to the kids and I wouldn't be able to do much to stop it. Also, if there was a fire, could I manage to get four children out of the house safely on my own? I didn't used to be able to sleep much when the Grumpy Old Man spent nights elsewhere, but a week on my own has cured me of that!

#3 A lot of stuff doesn't change at all. My world hasn't been turned upside down per se. It's more like a slight tilt which can cause dizziness at times, but mostly I'm fairly well adjusted...

#4 Now, this may just be because I don't drive and parents doing a solo act who do drive might have a different experience, but I can't speak for them... When your child has a sore throat and it's getting dark outside and you don't have anything in the house to relieve their pain, it sucks to be a solo parent because there is simply nothing you can do about it. You're it when it comes to making sure you have everything you need.

I'm lucky in this regard, because my eldest is old enough to help out - this morning he had to run up to the servo to get milk because even though I went to the shops yesterday, I didn't get milk and so this morning we found ourselves short. Usually, there is someone to watch the kids while someone else goes and gets stuff, but when there is only one adult it pays to be psychic.

#5 Solo-parenting is a lonely business. Maybe not so much for people with a lot of people in their lives, but I've been so lonely this week I can't even begin to describe it. With four children there is always someone to talk to, but the conversations at always at their level and there is a lot children don't get or don't need to know.

#6 I still hate cooking.

#7 The house is a lot cleaner. I've always had this thing about not liking being watched while cleaning, so I'm not inclined to clean much with the Grumpy Old Man around the house most of the time. I do what is absolutely necessary, but leave the rest a lot of the time. With him gone though, I've become a little obsessed with getting this house clean. Maybe he should go away for a week more often...

#8 It is true what they say about the children of solo parents growing up faster because they take on responsibility earlier. This week I've relied on the older boys to do more. They've always been very capable and the GOM and I are not the kind of parents who molly-coddle out kids at all; they've always had responsibilities according to their capabilities. Even so, this morning I sent Erik and Luey off to school in charge of Bryn. I was always going to do it this year. They only have to walk a couple of hundred metres and cross three fairly quiet suburban roads (the one at the school is busiest but they've crossed it a million times). The only thing that was holding me back so far this year is that old saying, 'Two's company, three's a crowd' - if it was just Erik and Bryn or just Luey and Bryn it would be no issue, but sometimes the three of them together can lead to disputes and in that situation Bryn can become unreasonable. However, this morning I found myself sending them off on their own all the same because I'm not feeling 100%.

#9 Being the only person in charge evokes Murphy's Law. That power cable to the house that has been working fine for 80 years will suddenly blow up the very first day you're the only responsible adult in the house...

#10 I can parent on my own. I can deal with a crisis; such as no electricity at night and no transport or place to go which does have electricity. I can get by without another adult to share the load.  I can  get up every morning and get them ready for school and keep the house clean, and cook dinner every night, and answer every one of the billion questions that come out of the kids every day, and supervise homework, and organise play dates and so on and so forth. I can do it all on my own with four kids, no car, low vision and ADHD - but I'm ever so grateful that tomorrow night the Grumpy Old Man will return and share the load. I know that in the blink of an eye I could become a solo parent and that the future is never guaranteed, but I know that I sincerely hope that never happens!

My hat is off to all the parents doing it on their own out there!

Monday, February 20, 2012

Why I hate carpet...

I hate carpet. I hate it with a passion!

The Grumpy Old Man - despite having moderate asthma and an allergy to dust mites, is quite fond of carpet. He says it keeps his feet warm. The fact he wears Grumpy Old Man Slippers ™ around the house which are probably more likely source of his cozy feet seems to go completely over his head.

Grumpy Old Man Slippers ™

The best thing about our previous house was that it had very little in the way of carpet...

I loved it for that. The Grumpy Old Man hated it. He said this was because every footfall in the house would echo and the constant clattering of little feet drove him to the edge on a daily basis.

He was overjoyed when we moved to this house with all its carpet throughout. I hate the carpet here, it's extremely ugly, and by saying that I'm actually being very generous. It's those carpet tiles that were so popular in the 60s, but which peel up from the floor, and then the edges curl and fray. In this house, the peeling, curling and fraying is so bad no one would rent the place until we came along - and I only agreed to rent this place because I decided to get off-cuts of carpet overlocked to fit most to the lounge room and the boys' room.

The extremely ugly carpet in our house and my floor covering
solutions - such as they are...
When we eventually buy, I want something like what my mum has in her house...

My parents have been extremely clever with their flooring choices. Not only is the wood beautiful, but they had it underlaid with the insulation that usually goes between second storey floors and the ceiling below to reduce sound. The insulation is thinner that standard underlay, but twice as dense. So, their gorgeous wood floors don't echo or clatter!

Getting back to why I loathe carpet!

With kids, carpet just gets grubby. There is just no avoiding it... In one house we did have a rather good carpet with regard to hiding kiddie spills... Axminster...

While ours wasn't the same colour or design at the one pictured above, it had pretty much the same overwhelming visual effect and often visitors would leave our house complaining of dizziness... 

But it hid everything...

For regular run-of-the-mill relatively plain carpet though, there is no avoiding it becoming grubby when you have a house full of kids. Actually, if I'm really, really honest, we adults aren't as accomplished as we'd like to think when it comes to transporting cups of coffee and tea from the kitchen to the living room, either.

There are constant spills and day-to-day dirt.

I'm implementing a shoe free zone as off this afternoon after spending the morning cleaning the lounge room carpet yet again...

I got stuck into the carpet with this today...

The carpet in the living room really needs a professional clean, but as it is carpet on top of carpet, I'm wary about getting a steam cleaner in. Instead, every few months I try a new carpet stain remover. Always with the same soul-destroying hope followed by disappointment results...

Here are a couple of before an afters...

These spots in front of the fire place mostly came out...

The darkest spots have lifted but the shadows remain...

Oh, and overlocked cut-offs were a great idea, but we've discovered they stretch and buckle with wear (because they're not fixed to the floor), creating ugly and irritating trip hazards.

I am absolutely, positively not going to have carpets in my next house! I hate them!

Where do you stand on carpet versus floorboards?

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Whoa, my blog's become a dead zone...

Hello? Is anyone out there? Hello?


I think I've been very boring off late...

Either that, or everyone is having a spectacular life - are you having a spectacular life? Tell me about it! No, seriously, I want to know - comment to your hearts content about your spectacular life, pleeeeease!

You see, I just realised something... The Grumpy Old Man, as grumpy and old as he is, well, he fills a very important need in me which is currently (for the past 50 odd hours) not been filled. No, not that, put your manners back in...

He's the constant adult voice in my life.

It's taken about 50 hours for me to really begin to miss not having grown up conversations. Conversations which don't centre around axes, remotes, farts or who's turn it is to clean up the bedroom/livingroom/kitchen...

This is about when Facebook and Twitter should really be coming into their own, but for some reason they just aren't doing it for me. I can't quite managed an in to conversations already in progress and I've discovered - to my horror - that I have absolutely nothing interesting to say. And by nothing interesting, I mean, if someone else posted my thoughts, I'd probably unfollow them out of sheer boredom.

Oh, the humanity!

When did I get so boring?

I keep thinking that if I can blog something fascinating, something that really inspires people or gets them thinking... Hell, if I could even get people debating... Then I might solve this little problem of the crickets...

I don't believe in feminism : discuss!

Nah, been there, done that, can't help it that I think it's a middle class, predominantly white bourgeoisie (that's a tautology, I know) pre-occupation bent of keeping women from actually just being equal instead of looking for all the ways in which they are not equal enough... Most people will disagree and (probably wisely) walk away from such a statement.

I had so much more to say when I was more idealistic. Now, I can't be bothered with ideals because they're impossible to achieve.

Brings to mind the saying, 'If you don't stand for something, you are more likely to fall for anything.'

I loathe sayings like that. They're mostly provocative and far too easy to dismiss because of the inherent flaws in their logic.

And again this week I saw a poster on Facebook with a picture of Whitney Houston on one side and, presumably, starving children in Africa on the other side and the caption 'One person dies and millions cry, but millions die and no one cries'... Provocative and ultimately useless and hateful.

So, now I don't stand for much, I don't fall for much, but I'm terribly, terribly boring, and I'm desperate for some grown up conversation - even if it's just about the weather!


Friday, February 17, 2012

Forgetful Friday...

Been working on the premise that yesterday was Wednesday and today is Thursday, but no - that's not right...

So, was going to post a Thankful Thursday post today... Looks like it might have to be a Forget Friday post instead...

So, had I remembered it was Friday and therefore realised it was Thursday yesterday, I would have been thankful for the following:

Deciding to get a new phone on a plan last weekend!

Here's why:  Yesterday morning, the Grumpy Old Man left Melbourne, bound for Adelaide and a week spent with my parents driving around in their car in preparation for his driving test.

Me being at home by myself with all the kids for a week is a first!

I've gone away with all the kids before and left the Grumpy Old Man alone at home. I've also travelled away with just some of the kids. I've been away on my own without any of the kids as well, so the Grumpy Old Man has been at home with all the kids on his own before (though no for a whole week).

I'm well aware that solo parenting four children does not make me like a single parent. I don't claim to be 'doing the single parent thing' at all. Primarily because, while I'm on my own, I know it's very temporary.

That said...

It's still a big deal for me. A very big deal. I mean, it's not just that I'm on my own with four children, but I'm doing it with low vision and ADHD - that's no small challenge. The pressure is great!

Also, not being able to drive means I can't just bundle the kids into the car and do a drive through dinner. Nor can I bundle them in the car and go anywhere in an emergency.

An emergency, ha! What could really happen in a week? Right?

So, yesterday was my first day on my own. I had also organised a playdate at our house for Bryn, so on my first day on my own, I actually had five kids after school. That wasn't a problem at all and at 5-ish the other little boy's mum came to pick him up.

We were all pottering around and I was about to get dinner started. There was a storm outside, the change had finally arrived and we were lightning and thunder watching. Then there was a small surge and the lights blinked out. The computer was just restarting itself and then everything went black again. This time it stayed black.

We all looked at each other, no electricity. No computer, no television, no iPods. Oh no!

I put some candles on and got the boys to check the other houses in the street. They reported back that while they didn't see lights in other houses (it was still light outside, though the house was very dark), the street lights were working.

I picked up the phone to call the electricity company to check for faults, but of course a cordless phone means no electricity, no phone!

I had a look on the iPad for information (also thankful I have 3G on my iPad!) and found a number I could sms my area code to, to see if it was in an affected area. It wasn't, so I was asked if I wanted to report a fault. I rang the company on my mobile and had the following conversation with operator there...

Me: We've just had an electricity outage here [provide address]
Op: Did you check the circuit board?
Me: I'm legally blind so I can read the board.
Op: What does legally blind mean?
Me: What it sounds like, I can't see well enough to read the board.
Op: Well, then you could just say you're blind, you know!

No, seriously, that's what she said.

Anyway, she said she'd send someone around to check and it could take up to four hours. By this stage, that would be about 10.30pm.

I rang the Grumpy Old Man to let him know what was happening because he was expecting a call from me later. The boys said goodnight to their dad (with me hurry them up so I didn't lose too much charge on my mobile).

At 7pm, I got Bryn off to bed, and then a guy turned up. I was so thankful he arrived so quickly!

He reported that my circuit had, indeed, not flipped - I was sure it hadn't because I didn't hear a big bang when the lights went out.

He said the issue was with the cable from the street to the house, that it was an old cable and had finally given out - after 80 years, on the very first night that I was alone at home with all the kids for a week. Murphy strikes again...

So, our outage was just for our house! How lucky are we?

We would have looked like this...
If I'd been on my old prepaid plan with little or no money on the phone, and nothing in the bank account, I wouldn't have been able to report the outage and no one else on the street would have reported it because they were not affected! It was raining and storming outside and I would have been stuck at home with four kids and no electricity.

I'm very thankful I decided to go and get that phone last weekend and commit to a plan contract after years and years of being on prepaid.

In the end we were without electricity for three hours and we were fine.

Funny story. After I got the other boys to bed and had transferred Ari to his own bed, I remembered that I needed to take the bins out. It was pitch black outside by this stage, but as I know where the bins are kept (no, it's not usually my job), that didn't worry me too much. So I went around the side of the house and towards the bins and walked into a bush. The thing is, I could have sworn the bush wasn't there before. It was like it had sprung out of the ground in the past couple of weeks without me noticing it. I had to go back to house to get my phone to try and make my way around this bush to the bins...

This morning when I took the bins back in, I realised - it wasn't a bush at all!

Last night when the guys were attaching the new cable they decided to cut back an overhanging tree and they'd just left the branches on the lawn right in front of our bins... Ha!

I'm joining...

...come play along!

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Scattered thoughts about books and reading

Last night a tweet about this article where one mother of two children with ADHD (one who also has autism) responds to this article in the New York Times which, apparently (no, I haven't read it myself - post isn't about either of these articles, but bear with me, my own ADHD mind is actually following a logical path here), blames parents and more specifically parenting for symptoms attributed to ADHD...

I ended up listening to a radio interview with the blogging mother responding to the New York Times article. In that radio interview, she described her son's symptoms. Amongst other things she said he had difficulty concentrating to read. Which got me thinking about my own boy - who is not diagnosed with ADHD, but who I firmly believe has ADHD all the same. He's a very clever kid - much like the son of this writer. He can solve problems when he's motivated enough to summon some sort of focus, but he is mostly too restless to focus on anything for long.

This boy of mine cannot sit still. He certainly cannot read for any length of time. This is a big worry for the Grumpy Old Man and I because next year he will be at high school, and there he'll be expected to read quite a lot every day. When he was little I used to worry that he wouldn't be able to read, that he might have dyslexia. There is dyslexia in my family, but so far none of my boys seems to have it.

This boy can read. He can read enough to chat with his friends on Minecraft. He can read enough to send and receive emails. He can read enough to get by doing school work. He can read.

What he doesn't do is read - actually sit and read as a pastime . He rarely picks up a book for anything more than a minute or two. He seems incapable of sitting still long enough to really read.

I taught myself to read when I was four. I read a lot for many years. I read thousands and thousands of books. I hyper-focused on books to exclusion of anything and everything going on around me. I read with great appetite until I was in my early 20s, and then my appetite started to dwindle.

I've written about this before...

I'm confused and bewildered about it, when I stop to actually think about it.

You see, I can't focus long enough to read a page of a book anymore.

I used to blame my sight. My eyes got tired, I'd think - but, you know, it's not that because books come in audio form, and I don't listen to them either.

So, now you're probably a bit confused yourself... She was talking about parenting and ADHD, then she was talking about her boy who isn't diagnosed but who she believes has ADHD, and who can't seem to focus on reading for any length of time, and now she's talking about her own inability to focus to read even a page of a book... Where is she going with this???

Okay, maybe I don't really know where I'm going with this...

Maybe it is that I see my child struggles to read even though he can read and I see myself now, struggling to maintain focus long enough to get swept up in a book... Long enough to begin hyper focusing (the opposite extreme of the ADHD spectrum of focus, we either don't focus or we hyper focus, it's what we do).

And I guess, I'm wondering why I'm not swept away by books anymore? I absolutely adore stories! I do! So, why don't books do it for me, now?

I'm so very envious of all the people around me who wax lyrical about their love affair with books. I used to have a love affair with books, it was so sweet.

These days I feel bored, mostly. I pick up a book and try to figure out if I've read it before or not. Chances are, if it was written any time in the past 20 years, I haven't read it, but it always feels as if I have.

What is wrong with me? People recommend a book - lots of people tell my about a book and say they love it. They say it made them see the world in a whole new way, it transformed them! I read it, and I'm distracted, I'm bored, I'm fighting the urge to skip to the good bits. I'm desperately hoping there are some good bits... How can this be?

I was talking to the Grumpy Old Man about this before and he felt that perhaps I was searching for something in particular, a theme or a style and I just hadn't found it yet.

I thought about the last book I read which caused me to hyper focus... It was from the Twilight series. I cringe. I know all the book lovers around me will be gagging... I know it wasn't well written. I don't even read vampire novels! But there was something there that got under my skin. I was gripped by being inside the imbalanced mind of a sixteen year old girl caught up in infatuation.

The other book that springs to mind is Lia Hill's 'The Beginners Guide to Living'... Again, a young person struggling with his emotions...

Books about adults struggling with their emotions bore me and frustrate me - I want the protagonists to just grow up already!  I don't want to read about adults behaving like teenagers and having angst. I'm not saying these stories aren't true to life - I know adult angst is very true to life. I just don't want to read about it. I don't want to read about adults falling in love either. I don't want to read crime. I don't want to read historical novels. I don't want to read post apocalyptic novels with people eating one another.

What is wrong with me?

Is it the ADHD?

Is it something else?

Has my imagination run off in the dark of night, abandoning me completely and leaving me a dried up old shell of a person who once loved books?

Can I really be a writer if the thought of reading books makes me want to run away and hide?

And linked to all of this, but not at all related...  Should I push through my angst over being labelled a mother wanting to 'brand' her child and get this boy diagnosed in the hopes of him possibly gaining enough focus to pick up a book and read it... And should I possibly consider getting some help for myself at the same time?

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

10 Things Tuesday: 10 Inspiring Bits of Crochet!

I'm neither 'hip', nor 'with it' - in fact, just using those terms probably proves this point perfectly.

I do have a Pinterest account, but sadly I'm just not sure how to use it... So, I collect inspiring images the old fashioned way... By Googling them. Lately I've been Googling crochet images a lot. I saw a blanket on Google images a while back that I loved, but because I don't use Pinterest, I didn't pin it, and now I have no idea where I saw it.

It was a blanket where the design, although all done in granny squares, created an optical illusion of wiggly lines or distortion... I've approximated the design on an app I have on my iPad... It looks something like this (from memory)...

So, anyway, I thought I'd share some images I will pin once I figure out how to use Pinterest properly...

#1 The only way I could warm up to a tank... This practice is known as 'yarn bombing' (and not because they've covered a tank in yarn...).

#2 Love these - I'd use different colours...

#3 I just love the shape of these!


#4 Very simple but very effective!

#5 It's the last two rows of this blanket which inspire me - I do love gradients!

#6 Again, I'd used different colours, but what an effect!


#7 More triangle love!

#8 Yes, I know it's very light, you know I wouldn't do it in this colour though...


#9 Crazy crochet patchwork blankets intrigue me, but I like them best in tonal colour options...


#10 But the most inspiring of all to me at the moment...

Isn't it just devine??? I want to make this in to a bedspread, so I might not make it quite this bright (though it won't be white either!)...

What's inspiring you at the moment??? Any crochet inspirations you want to share with me, I'd love see them!