Monday, April 30, 2012

Clean up in isle nine...

In our family there are five of the male variety (not including the dog - also male) and one of the female variety. That'd be me. Many years ago, all the boys realised I didn't have a penis, which included various joyous moments such as Erik (then three) pointing to random people on a tram and yelling, 'Penis! No penis!'

I was cool with that, I even kept my cool when he pointed to a women and yelled, 'Penis!'... Luckily, she was also cool with it.

We've had other fun times, like when I recently made a one woman push for the word vagina to be used in preference of 'vajayjay' or Luey's all time favourite 'vahmmmmmm'... Yesterday, he confided he still actually prefers to say 'vahmmmmmm' - I whispered to myself, 'Small steps, Sif, small steps, he's only ten'...

My approach to society's taboo topics is to be very straight forward and open and matter-of-fact and to always answer a question where and when it is asked.

I don't not want my kids growing up with all sorts of weird and mostly not-so-wonderful misconceptions about their bodies or about sex. I certainly don't want some girl's irate mother lobbing on my doorstep telling me her daughter got pregnant from my son because he told her 'It isn't sex if it isn't inside'. Remember how Clinton didn't cheat on his wife because it was just oral? Things that make you go, hmmm.

So, and speaking of oral, when one of my children asks at the dining table - in front of his littlest brothers, 'Mum, what is a blow job?' I answer - while the Grumpy Old Man chokes on his food - 'It's a sexual act where one person stimulates the other persons genitals with their mouth, sweetheart.' This leads to much 'Eeeeewwww!'ing and gagging and a bit of laughter and me saying, 'Yes, it sounds gross, but a lot about sex sounds gross in the cold, hard light of day.'

On Saturday we took the boys grocery shopping. We try never to do this. Four boys in a crowded shopping centre with a stressed out Grumpy Old Man is not how I like to spend my Saturday afternoons, but sometimes it can't be avoided.

We were working through the list and were up to isle nine, the shampoo, cosmetic and sanitary items isle. Oh yes, you know where I'm going with now... If you're too squeamish, look away. If you are mature and open minded, follow me.

I reached for a couple of packets of pads and Luey in his eminently high pitched voice-that-carries, squawked, 'What are those for? And, what are these back here?' he pointed to the tampons. I glanced up and down the isle which was chockers with Saturday lemmings shoppers, like us. The Grumpy Old Man was at the other end of the isle, so I could proceed with impunity.

'These are pads, and those are tampons.'

'What are they for?'

'Well, from the age of ten or so, sometimes later, every month girls and women bleed from their vaginas, and these go in their undies to soak up the blood, or they can put those inside their vaginas.'

'Bleed???' Luey looks around him at all the women in the isle as if he is excepting a re-enactment of the lift scene from 'The Shining'.

'Yep, every month. It's called a period and it happens if the egg that the girl or woman releases each month isn't used to make a baby. The body kind of chucks it out. It's completely normal'

'Oh, yeah, it's okay, I'm not grossed out,' he squeaks, 'I was just curious. What happens to men?'

I resisted the urge to say, 'Men generally live in fear of their testicles because they tend to do and say stupid stuff around women who are bleeding.' and instead went with...

'Nothing, you guys are pretty lucky, huh?'

He nods enthusiastically.

'So, it's like a blood clot?'

'Yeah, something like that, only bigger' (admittedly bigger wasn't the best description to use here, I'm sure he's imagining some horrific, bloody football-sized thing, but I was also trying to save the rest of the isle from their embarrassment and we were getting perilously close to the Grumpy Old Man, who would break out into a cold sweat before passing out if he heard us. 'Clean up in isle nine, Grumpy Old Man with 19th century moral code...'

'When does it stop?'

'Mostly when women are between fifty and fifty-five...'

'Fifty-five???' and the boy looked appropriately sympathetic.

My job was done and we turned into isle ten - the chocolate isle!


Sunday, April 29, 2012

Finding a painting reference...

A few weeks ago, Erik (12) was selected, along with nineteen other grade six students from his school, to attend a seminar at the Ian Potter Museum Annex at Federation Square about painting landscapes. In the wake of this seminar, students have been asked to paint a landscape which will be exhibited in the gallery.

Before Erik can get started, he has been asked to take a photo of a landscape as reference for his painting. The photo has to be a local place of significance to him. He decided to source his reference from a local park where we used to go and watch the local miniature sailboat club sail there boats on a Sunday morning when he was little.

We took the following fourteen photos or the old quarry and brickworks near the lake, the lake itself and the boats on it this morning.















From these, Erik liked numbers nine and thirteen, but ultimately decided he would like to paint number thirteen.

Which one would you choose?

Saturday, April 28, 2012

More me...

I thought I'd tell you a few things about me you might not know... Partly because I just want to write something, but done know what, partly because in the past two months my readership seems to have increased by a third, so some of you might want to get to know me more - I'm very considerate like that, you see...

* I bite my nails, but not compulsively. I just prefer to bite them instead of clip them. I don't bite my thumbs nails because they're too tough and it hurts my teeth. Also, just in case you were wondering, no I don't bite my toenails, I clip those!

I also can't take photos - well, I can but this is not my best work.

* I love to wear head coverings. I love hats, but not so much on me. I personally wear headscarves in preference to hats. I once wrote a big post about headscarves and various ways to wear them. I wear headscarves more in winter, of course. I love them to have fringing or to be colourful or glittery - yep, I'm very gaudy like that!

* Despite having lived in Melbourne for the past almost 15 years, I struggle to wear black. I do have black clothes - quite a peppering these days - but I had to make a conscious decision to choose those items over something more colourful. On a crowded train platform in Melbourne in the dead of winter, amongst the sea of black and grey, you'll find me in my bright green velour coat! I never wear head-to-toe black. I also rarely, very, very rarely wear pastel colours. I just like brights - that's me...

* I'm an extremely proud mother of four boys who turn 13, 11, 7 and 4 this year! Oh, oh, you already knew that? Well, okay, you caught me, this is just an excuse to post a photo of them...

Swishy, Buddha, Blue and the recently renamed Emoboy (yeah, no
it has absolutely nothing to do with the colour of his clothes -
but yes, I did have to ask him to smile, and that was his best effort...).
* I adore elephants. If I personally had to power to protect one species on the planet from extinction it would be elephants. I find them fascinating and amazing! I loved this ad from Samsung (even though I doubt they could convert) me from I-devices)...

What do you think people might not know about you?

Friday, April 27, 2012

Ari at 3.5 - a great big ol' brag post!

Today Ari is three and a half.

It's funny, I was so excited about him turning three but cannot get my head around him turning four, but now that he's three and a half, I can't deny that four is coming!

He is currently 95cm tall and 14 kilos, which puts him on the 10th percentile for height and the 25th for weight. He's still a little tacker, but he seems to be growing like a weed on his own curve.

In the past six months his hair has become more and more curly (the curls are not evident in the photo above, I know, so you'll have to take my word for it). It's still a nondescript light browny, blonde highlighted colour with tints of strawberry.

He still loves Doctor who, but also Thomas and just recently he's become interested in Ben 10 and often wears Bryn's old Ben 10 jacket and Ultramatrix.

He talks fluently now and nearly all his baby talk is gone. He has a peculiar old-fashioned was of talking, 'You look very lovely today, mummy.' and 'How are you feeling today, mummy?' - I'm not sure where he picks these turns of phrase, we generally don't speak like that around here, we're more, 'You look spiffo!' and 'How you doin'?', ha!

He's been out of the pram since March and just today we had a special lunch date with him at the shopping centre and at the table next to us a boy who was a fair bit taller than Ari was being hoisted into a stroller. Ari looked on with a look of utter confusion! 'Why isn't he walking, mummy?' and 'Does he like the pram?' Ari was very happy to see the back of his pram and is all for holding hands and walking these days...

His eating habits are pretty much the same as before. He loves meat and hates vegetables. We can occasionally get him to have a tiny taste of carrot or baby spinach leaf and the other day he used broccoli to sop up gravy - and then sucked the gravy off the 'little trees', ergh!

He does love fruit now - even bananas! So, that's something at least.

He puts himself to sleep at night now. So, okay, lots of 3.5 year olds do that, but see he was a co-sleeper until he was just under 3. From  then he would be parented to sleep and transferred to his own bed. About a month ago he asked to go to sleep in his bed and he asked the Grumpy Old Man to leave him and then he just went to sleep. He'd been doing that consistently for two weeks before we actually believed it!

He's a very visual child. The other week I wrote a blog post about Doctor Who. I hadn't put any photos in the draft yet, and then he reached past me at the computer and put his finger on the word 'Doctor' and said, 'It's Doctor Who!' He recognises the word from our TiVo recordings menu.

He isn't going to three year old kinder or creche yet. Partly because he's still in nappies (and recent attempts to sort that one out were a miserable failure) and partly because I never did organise anything. I've made preliminary inquiries for term 3 but because he's still in nappies, I'm just not sure. I have no idea what I'll do for four year old kindergarten...

In six month's time, he'll be four. I just can't imagine it.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

The days you get it ALL wrong...

Do you ever have days where you realise you're getting it all wrong and there is no start over, so you just have to get through it and start afresh tomorrow?

I'm having one of those days...

* The dog desperately needs a walks, he hasn't been walked in a few days because of the rain (and our common aversion to it). Last night he was extremely anxious and unsettled. He needed to do his business but he doesn't like to walk on our very spongy wet grass. So, he was wanting to go out every 20 minutes or so, but then not actually going, or not going properly. He didn't sleep well, so neither did I.

* So, we both slept in today. The Grumpy Old Man is a dear in that way. He's happy enough to hold the fort while I sleep if I've had a rough night with a baby, or in this case, a dog. Unfortunately, he was somewhat unaware of all that needed doing today.

* I had a nightmare about being ignored and left alone by extended family and close friends. It was one of those awkward situations where I should have just jumped in and included myself in conversation and the goings on - where they were probably expecting me too, but I didn't and they didn't encourage me and because of my low vision I missed some important cues and then they all just left me alone - literally alone in a room. I really hate anxious dreams like that, all my greatest fears welling up. Dreams like this leave me feeling very vulnerable and somewhat self-loathing.

* This morning I had what is probably an irrational overreaction to some news that in this context probably doesn't mean anything, but which triggers all sorts of past hurts and anxieties and which I am not able to be rational about - and a big part of me doesn't want to be rational about at all. Sadly, it means being somewhat irrational with people I don't want to offend but may already have offended. I'm sorry.

* We were working to a tight budget this week so only bought groceries until yesterday in the weekly shop. The plan was to do a big shop this morning, but then I slept in. So, there is no dinner and this afternoon the Grumpy Old Man has a driving session which he really, really needs to do because he hasn't driven in something like 6 weeks and the kids need to be picked up from school and then Erik has art class, so no big shop will be done today.

* Because we didn't get out this morning, I haven't gotten the money out of the bank to pay for the rest of Erik's art class, so before the class today we'll have to walk up to get some money from the nearest ATM, so my plans of taking the bus go out the window this week as well.

So, today I'm thankful for tomorrow and the clean slate it offers.

I'm thankful for the knowledge that days like today are relatively far apart and that nothing is really bad wrong that can't be fixed, if not without a little inconvenience.

I'm thankful for a partner who is happy to let me sleep in when I need to.

I'm thankful dreams aren't reality.

I'm thankful that the dog will get a walk to pick the boys up from school - even if it is shorter than I'd planned.

I'm thankful that Erik really does love his art class.

I'm thankful the nearest ATM is a walk away (even if it is a longish walk away).

I'm thankful that dinner shopping can be done while Erik is in class and hog dogs are not only popular around here but only take 10 minutes to make.

I'm thankful that I'm really okay with giving the boys hot dogs once in a while (even if a while was only a week ago).

I'm thankful for people who will more than likely understand my neuroses and forgive my irrationality.

I'm thankful for tomorrow and the hope of getting some of it right...

What are you thankful for today?

I'm joining Kate Says Stuff for Thankful Thursday.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Jacob, our fearless defender!

Jacob has been living with us for about a month now.

I would say he's settling in quite nicely.

His very most favourite places to sleep in the house are either on the Grumpy Old Man's side of the bed (when the Grumpy Old Man isn't looking, that is), in front of the fire, or on one of our laps.

He definitely views me as alpha dog (Yes! Finally someone in this family acknowledges my supreme status over all things!), and Lukas is beta dog. He heeds the Grumpy Old Man when it suits him - which is most of the time, except when it's not. He likes Erik and Bryn, but senses their hesitance.

Erik is the 'food man' because Erik puts out his breakfast and dinner - I'm so proud of how Erik has just taken on this role, unasked!

Luey and I are the 'tish monitors' - he comes to us when he needs to go.

Ari... Ari is the noisy, unpredictable nuisance who Jacob battles with for the bottom rung. Jacob senses he could put Ari in his place, and will growl at him and warn him off, but then Ari just laughs and becomes even more unpredictable, so Jacob hasn't work that little problem out yet (don't worry, we're keeping an eye on the situation).

Jacob loves our fire place - he will often sit or lay staring into it for many minutes at a time as if it were an oracle.

He loves walks and has almost got a hang of heeling - usually heels consistently after the first 10 to 15 minutes.

He hates rain and for the past couple of days he's been a bit touchy in the tish department because 'it's all wet out there and it smells great but my feet, they get so wet! Do I really have to get off the porch to tish? Really?' So there have been quite a few false starts because he tries to shelter under bushes, where I can't see him at night, and I'm not at all sure he actually goes because after 10 minutes inside, he seems to need to go out again...

The wet and what's that... I smell possum! Dirty, rotten
invaders - if I ever get my paws on one, I'll, I'll, well, he'll
be sorry!

Last night we discovered what terribly frightening and aggressive creature umbrellas are! I'd left one standing upside down by the front do - outside - for those tish trips and a gust of wind toppled it over.

Well, Jacob lost the plot! He was a ferocious defender of the house, leaping into action and barking for all his little body had. We immediately told him to be quiet and the look of horror and offence on his face was priceless.

'But it's an umbrella! Umbrella's are like, the. most. dangerous. creatures on the face of this earth and one is AT OUR FRONT DOOR TRYING TO BREAK IN!'

He looked from the Grumpy Old Man to me and back again, then flummoxed down in front of the fire with his back turned to us.

'Don't come to me when that umbrella murders you in your sleep! I won't be rescuing you from that one again. Nope, forget it - you ungrateful imbeciles!'

Ten minutes later he was all, 'Right, so about going out to tish..?'

And once outside, 'Dear Lord, the WET, the WET, it's everywhere!'

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Hello Winter...

It's icy cold and raining outside.


Two days ago it was mild and sunny.

That's Melbourne for you!

Every year since I was young, I've suffered from Seasonal Adjustment Disorder once the weather turned dark and cold. Every year I've dreaded winter.

Oddly enough, I don't remember feeling this way when I lived in Iceland or Norway for all those years. In Iceland it may have been because the thermometer never rose above 15 degrees celsius anyway. In recent years they've had heat waves of 22 and 25 degrees with elderly people expiring in the heat, but when I was younger these temperatures were unheard of.

Norway was different, being more mainland, even though it borders the Atlantic. The winters were colder, but not as windy (so more tolerable) and the summers were quite warm with highs in the early 30s at the peak of summer - and I do remember odd weeks of 35 degree heat here and there, too.

Maybe I didn't suffer because I was too young to really project the length of the cold and the dark in my mind, I was too occupied with boys and music!

Last night I watched 4Corners about Anders Behring Breivik and was transported to my youth. I never went to Utøya, but every summer I did go to the Salvation Army Congress which included a youth camp. The camp on Utøya reminded me very much of my teen summers spent at rallies.

I still feel horror at what I saw on my screen last night. Listening to all the interviews - many of them in various dialects of Norwegian - I found myself feeling deeply connected with these people. The language was as familiar to me as it used to be when I spoke it daily. The faces of the young people looked like many I'd known in the 80s. Seeing the streets of Oslo that I used to visit semi-regularly was a walk down memory lane.

But Norway barely resembles the country I used to know any more. So much has changed. It's grown up from its innocence all too fast.

So this morning, I feel relieved and grateful to be living in Australia where summers are long and hot and sunny. And this got me thinking about how every year I dread winter - something I never did in Norway - and how blind I've been to how lucky I really am.

The dark and cold in this country is relatively painless compared to that up north. So maybe the fact I feel it so keenly means I've become soft and spoilt? Maybe I need to embrace the cold and the dark more because it is so mild compared to what I have known and what it could be.

This winter I'm determined to find the good in winter. I'm determined to enjoy it and make the most of it. I will bring some of the Scandinavian approaches to the dark, cold months back into my life. I will light candles and I will snuggle up. I will bake and cook comfort foods. I will got for walks on crisp, dry days. I will listen to the music created by rain on the roof or dripping from the trees.

This is a Christmas table, but it reminds me of
so many tables I sat at in Norway and Iceland -
People in Scandinavia take table decorating very seriously!
This year I won't wallow in my Seasonal Adjustment Disorder, instead I'll treat by turning my negative thoughts on their head and embracing the change of the season!

Monday, April 23, 2012

The art course update...

Today I thought I'd update everyone on how Erik went with the new art course on Thursday. I found the whole experience to be very thought provoking, let me tell you why...

I'll start by explaining the suburb we live in is highly populated by immigrants from Asia, most especially from China. At our local shopping centre almost all the businesses barring the majors like Woolies and Big W are owned and serviced by Chinese. Most of the signage is in Mandarin and up until very recently there were quite a few businesses (particularly restaurants) where you couldn't get service unless you spoke and read Mandarin. There was an issue in our suburb last year of housing auctions being conduction in Mandarin sometimes without an English interpreter. Our suburb is somewhat of an Asian enclave.

I have found this alienating at times and have discussed my feelings of alienation with friends, but if you don't live in our suburb, it can be hard to understand the cultural divide that can often be felt. A lot of people have said things like, 'I'd love to live in a suburb which is so culturally diverse' or 'You suburb has the best market and supplies, you're so lucky!' They haven't gotten what it is like not to be able to get service because you don't speak the language and don't look the same - and yes, that really happens.

But before you label me racist, let me tell you about something I've realised recently...

First, I had the attitude that at the local shopping centre the customers where 90-95% Asian and I felt awkward and alienated. I rarely saw parents from school that I recognised (until this year our school, in this suburb, was 95% non-Asian, believe it or not).

Then a few weeks ago I went to a shopping centre down the road (which takes three times longer to get to by public transport, so we never went there before) and in the span of two hours I ran into six school families I knew. It dawned on me that people who live in my suburb and go to our school actively avoid our local shopping centre. I'm sure they'll say it's because it's crowded or not as well appointed or the parking is horrendous, but I have to wonder if it isn't because they also feel uncomfortable attempting to build a bridge between two distinct cultures?

So, now you're probably wondering what this has to do with Erik's art class? Don't worry, I'm getting there.

When considering sending Erik to an art class, I checked out our local community art centre. We've been there before for Erik and Luey to do pottery and drama, or art (years ago when we had more disposable income). I found they had outsourced their art classes to a business in a neighbouring suburb, so I went to the site of that business. The courses they offered looked perfect for Erik, so I rang the teacher of the course to find out if there were any places available.

The first question she asked me was if I spoke Mandarin. I said I didn't at all. That wasn't a problem, she told me about the course, said there was a place available for Erik and encouraged me to bring him along.

On Thursday, I took him to the art centre. We got there a little early (as I always tend to do, it's annoying, but I fear being late for things). Another couple was already there with their little boy, aged 6 or 7. The teacher was busy talking to the other couple so I waited. They were talking Mandarin so I didn't understand any of the words, but it is was obvious the parents were concerned about their child enjoying himself and being comfortable in a new environment.

Another student arrived, or at least I thought she was a student. She was about 14 and knew the teacher and spoke to her in Mandarin. Another couple arrived with their little girl, they also all spoke Mandarin. One by one other students arrived. Each student was Chinese and spoke Mandarin with the teacher.

When a small group had gathered the teacher addressed them in English and asked them to help her set up tables. At this point I was cued that the class was starting and said goodbye to Erik and headed off to the local shopping centre to buy dinner.

About 40 minutes later I returned to wait outside the class. I had an hour's wait ahead of me, so I checked twitter and Facebook and listened to the class in the background.

I heard a lot of children's voices, all speaking Mandarin, and I heard the teacher speaking Mandarin with them. Occasionally, she would say a sentence or two in English. I couldn't see Erik and couldn't hear him so I started to feel concern for how he was enjoying the class.

Could he understand what was going on?

Towards the end of the class, I heard the teacher round the children up and, in English, begin a review activity where the children looked at each other's work and discussed it. I heard her says, 'So, today we drew Easter bunnies! Look at everyone's wonderful Easter bunnies...'

My stomach sank. I envisioned Erik in a classroom where everyone was speaking a language he didn't speak, and were years younger than him and where the activity was to draw Easter bunnies. I imagined him hating me for bringing him to this terrible course. I tried to imagine how I would explain to the teacher that I didn't think this course was right for him after all and how I would like a refund. I felt a bit resentful that the course was being run almost entirely in Mandarin; that nothing on the website or in conversation with the teacher had indicated that this was an art class for Chinese students...

The door to the room opened and I and the other parents filed in to collect our children. I noticed a couple of other students about Erik's age; the girl I'd seen before and a boy who looked about 16 with a large folio in hand. Every student in the class besides Erik was Chinese. I spotted Erik across the room standing with his drawing pad in hand, looking unsure. I caught his eye and he came over.

I asked him, 'So, how did it go?'
He replied, 'Great!' with a huge grin and sparkly eyes.
I said, 'So, you want to come back then?'
He said, 'Yeah!' nodding his head enthusiastically and then looking at me askance because he thought I might withdraw him for some reason he obviously could not comprehend.

The teacher joined us and I asked her how he went. 'Have you seen his drawing? It's very good!' she said. I said I hadn't yet. I asked her if he was too old for the class, and she said there were students of all ages and that they were divided into groups depending on ability, and he fit in well with the older children who had been given a still life to do.

So, I left feeling much calmer, not least of all because of how Erik enthused about the class.

He said he'd felt intimidated at first because he didn't understand most of what was being said, but then he was given a task along with the older students. He said the older students didn't talk to each other, they just got on with what they were doing and he really liked that because in his last class one of the children would bug him the entire class because they knew each other from school.

He said there was a boy there who looked Chinese but who didn't speak a word of Chinese and so one of the other kids would translate for him and Erik listened in on that.

He said there were a bunch of younger girls from the beginner group who were 'Sooo annoying' because they kept looking at him and giggling and whispering to each other (and then he smiled in that way that told me he wasn't really annoyed at all)...

He said the older boy was really good at drawing and how he did shading in a way Erik had never tried before.

Suddenly, I found myself wondering why other non-Chinese parents didn't enrol their children in this art class? Were they, like me, intimidated by the language barrier? The teacher seemed extremely happy to have Erik in her class, so she wasn't opposed to non-Chinese students.

More and more I find myself wondering why it is that cultural enclaves occur in cities. It is because new and foreign cultures 'take over the suburb' or is it because there is a tipping point at which a majority culture will 'evacuate' a suburb because the numbers from an incoming, distinctly different, culture reaches a point where the older culture in the suburb feels displaced and actively disengages?

Whatever the case, despite being the only participant in the course who doesn't look Asian, and only one of two who doesn't speak Mandarin - in which about 80% of the class is conducted - he had a ball and feels inspired and wants to keep going! That was the goal of  enrolling him, so I'm happy!

He is what he drew in class:

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Household rules in a benevolent dictatorship...

Yes, I'm going to write two blog posts today - why not...

Do you have house rules?

We've struggled with house rules a lot over the years. Mainly because we don't have a concrete list of house rules.

There are about a thousand things the Grumpy Old Man and I tell the kids they shouldn't do around here, and they are often followed by, 'You know that's against the house rules...' But in all fairness, there are no concretely stated house rules in this house, so the kids are unlikely to keep track of all one thousand things they're not supposed to do.

Today I decided to sit down and write our house rules.

I know popular psychology suggests having a family meeting and everyone agreeing on the house rules, but this seems overly manipulative to me because after all parents are always going to steer the choices towards what they think is fair or reasonable. Otherwise, 'The bedroom will be divided into quadrants and each boy can only access their own quadrant and requires the permission of the owners of the other quadrants to access those.' would result in alliances being drawn to prevent some brothers from entering the room at all, or leaving it again once permission to enter was granted. Little boys are merciless!

So, yup, I took the 'benevolent dictator' approach to writing the rules of the house.

Want to know what they are?

  1. Do what mum and dad ask you to do when we ask you to do it - without argument.
  2. Be kind to your brothers.
  3. Do not lie.
  4. Do not steal.
Following the K.I.S.S.* principle there are only four rules; to give anyone a good chance at memorising them. 

Rule number one might seem open to abuse, but as their parents we will endeavour to always be fair and just - we just want them to know we're sick of the 'But!'s and the 'Why do I always have to..?'s.

Rule number two might seem obvious to most people, but alas not so to our little mercinaries boys; one in particular but all of them to some extent. If these boys can learn to be kind to one another as a general rule, that would eliminate about 90% of the disharmony in this home. The Grumpy Old Man and I try to model being kind, but we must be doing it wrong, because the message isn't seeding.

Rules number three and four are mostly related to rule number two, but sometimes go outside the bounds of brotherhood and even outside the household - sad to say. Again, following these two simple rules would make a huge difference to the flow of harmony in this household.

As you can see, our household rules are fairly minimalist. Some people like funny household rules, other people like all lovey-dovey, warm and cuddly household rules (I suspect they may not have four boys aged 3-12). Those wouldn't really work for us. We laugh a lot anyway, and we love a lot too, we don't need rules to do those things, but we do need to set some simple, plain old-fashioned boundaries for the well-being of all concerned.

What are your household rules?

Here are some house rules to inspire you if you're considering writing your own...


*K.I.S.S. stands for Keep It Simple, Stupid.

Doin' the funky Sif...

How do you think it happens that a person can be trundling along okay, doing what needs to be done in life and generally keeping a can-do attitude and then they don't? How is it a person can even feel inspired, then suddenly wake up one morning and just feel that they can't bear their life for another second?

This is me today.

Yesterday I was okay. Last night I went to bed with plans. I love having plans; having goals to aim for and work towards. Plans energise me.

This morning I hate the world. I just want to run away and hide.

I cannot figure out why I feel this way. Nothing has changed and yet that is core to how I feel. Nothing has changed. I feel stuck in this life with no visible exits to something different, something better.

The kids are driving me mad!

Ari has been cooped up for five days straight, so he's all cabin-fevery. I'm not sure what is going on with the other three. Maybe this is fallout from the first week back at school? Maybe the reality of not having all their technologies is setting in? I don't know, but they're being royal pains in the rear end and I don't want to deal with them at all.

How the kids are is actually separate to how I feel though. I felt this way before having to get out of bed and deal with the kids. They just add to this feeling of being stuck on a merry-go-round (which isn't particularly merry, by the the way).

Whatever is causing this feeling, I'm hoping it will pass soon because there are no signs that my life is changing for the better any time soon. The only thing to do is trundle on; get through each day meeting the needs of that day, go to bed, get up, rinse and repeat.

I think this used to be called being in a funk...

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Lonely, but afraid of intimacy...

A couple of days ago I took 19 minutes and 48 seconds out of my day to watch the following video, and I strongly encourage you to do the same!

If you have chosen not to, then maybe you will come back to it one day soon. I hope you do.

In a time when we celebrate every new technology, and at the same time hear messages about turning technology off before it destroys us, I think this TED talk oozed common sense. Sherry Turkle isn't telling us to turn off our technologies, but rather to have a good think about our attitudes toward them and assess where we stand on the continuum of 'lonely'.

I am one of those people for whom technology has been very helpful socially. I suffer from agoraphobia and find new social situations extremely confronting (familiar social situations are just regular strength confronting). Technology has afforded me a safe place to initiate connections with other people. A place where I could edit my responses and learn to mediate those thoughts which all too readily pop out of my mouth before I even know I've thought them in face-to-face communications.

For people like me, with a very faulty communications filter, technology is a godsend.

Even so, Terry's talk got me thinking about my relationship with technology and whether it is affording me better relationships or rather the illusion of better relationships. I think, to a great extend, it is the latter.

I have a very good friend who I would never have met if not for the internet. Ten years ago, last month, she set up a list on yahoo for parents like her. I was a parent like her and on screen we had a lot in common. Not long after finding the list, a group of us met up at a children's play centre (probably ten years ago this week), and from there friendships developed. Some of those friendships still exist, others have gone by the way. The internet was the fertile ground in which a seed was sewn which has changed countless lives.

This friend is my closest friend now, and really the only person from all those thousands (and there have been thousands) of connections I've made on the internet in the past ten years, who I see in person regularly.

Some friendships - when put to the test of real life connection, couldn't hold their ground. Sometimes because of differences which were too great to overcome. Sometimes, sadly, because it's far easier to project a persona in the two dimension world of the screen than it is in the three dimension world of life.

I have learned a lot from test flying friendships on line. I've learned to be more accepting of difference. I've learn that my every opinion is not going to be appreciated. I've learned to try to think before communicating. I've learned that while you can delete stuff you've said online, someone, somewhere has probably already taken a screen shot or copy and pasted your words and they will live forever - and often out of context.

I've learned you can actually feel an emotional connection to a person you've never met and are never likely to meet.

I've learned that some people take their online relationship with people far, far more seriously than their in-person relationship with people and will be more hurt if you delete them from your friends list than if you never ring or visit them, even if you live in the same city.

I worry about my children's experiences of relationships mediated by digitisation. They see each other at school, but if they can't Skype one another, then they're not really friends (yes, I've had this said to me by one of my off-spring). If you aren't on Steam, you don't exist. True story.

There is a safety in digital intimacy that doesn't exist in face-to-face intimacy. A virtual (((((HUGS))))) costs very little, while a real life hug means taking the risk of being given the WTF look. And, you can give a virtual (((((HUGS))))) while thinking, 'Oh, get over it!' because no one can pick up on your conflicting non-verbal messages.

Likewise, you can tweet on about how wonderful your children are, and at the same time scream at them to leave your, the hell, alone and no one will know.

You can update your Facebook status with all the photos of you at a get together with people you only know from the internet, and don't catch up with casually except for the occasion tweeter's dinner, while you cry in your isolation. People will still think your life is one big party and the epitome of success.

Yes, the internet - even with all the predators we hear about constantly - is a safe place to conduct perfect relationships and show off your shiny side, no one need ever know the truth.

That is not to say most people on the net are not genuine. I have met many of the people I've known over the years on the net; many of them are the same in person as they are online, if a little more self-conscious. However, many live double lives and it shows because they do fear intimacy and they do prefer virtual (((((HUGS))))) - they feel safer and happier on the other side of a screen, even if they are lonely.

This post was edited before publication to hide all my spelling and grammatical errors and the fact that my hands and brain often don't co-operate with one another...

Friday, April 20, 2012

Tantrums never really end, do they?

This is a post-production tantrum face...

Can't help but love the sight of a sleeping child, right? I reckon sleeping in the wake of a massive meltdown is what small folk do so their parents don't drown in them in the toilet...

As this little one's tantrum was in full swing a while ago I found myself comparing it to that of his eldest brother (who is going on thirteen in July).

This tantrum found it's root in the overstimulated nervous system of an overtired little person who had been up and on the go for the past 11 hours.

He loves to get up early and he loves to be on the go and most days he can get through to his 7pm bedtime all right, but about once a week, now, he'll lose his little mind at about 4pm.

It starts with giggling and running around and flapping arms. It may then progress to hitting his brothers and - since his recent arrival - attempting to hit the dog (the dog is thankfully a bit more canny than the brothers and can avoid most physical contact). Alternatively, he'll jump on the couch or the bed, or just on the floor throughout the length of the house.

We try to redirect him and we try to put a lid on his behaviour, sometimes this works, mostly it doesn't.

Eventually, the Energiser Bunny behaviour will lead to a reprimand, if not from the Grumpy Old Man or myself, then most definitely from the brothers. Then the crying begins.

Most people see the crying as the beginning, but I see it as the culmination of the tantrum. When the crying starts, I know the end is nigh. Once the crying commences, containment becomes key because nothing else works at this point anyway - just like with his biggest brother.

For Ari the crying doesn't last very long (thank goodness, Erik could cry for up to two hours!) before the eyes droop and slumber is upon him.

He's in bed now and may or may not stay there for the night. He hasn't had dinner, but I won't wake him for dinner (because he wouldn't eat, and would cry a lot more). If he wakes, he'll be offered food then.

Funny thing occurred to me. Tantrums are most often associated with toddlers and preschoolers, but from my experience, they never actually end.

Earlier this afternoon my six year old had a tantrum because he thought he was going to the shops with the Grumpy Old Man. He thought if he went to the shops with his dad, he'd get some lollies. He was absolutely convinced he never gets as many lollies as the other boys (last weekend he went to two birthday parties and came home with three lolly bags - yes, one of the parties had two lolly bags for some reason I simply cannot fathom!)... There was sobbing and yowling and foot stomping, but this time we were saved the dramatic door slamming...

Last night the 12 year old threw a tantrum when he was sent to bed at the same time as the 6 year old because he just wouldn't give up his attempts to bully parent his brothers with aggressively toned calls of 'Go to bed!' He thought it was extremely unfair that he should have to 'Go to bed!' just because he was trying to ensure they followed the rules (not standing over your brother yelling at him is also one of our rules)...

And yep, you guessed it, the 10 year old throws tantrums, too. Of course he does, he's a redhead! Okay, that's probably not fair, but the 10 year old is quite the tantrum meister - though this week hasn't been too bad, on the whole.

So, really, I don't think the tantrums ever end. We seem to deal with at least one or two every day around here - sheer numbers increases the frequency. A big part of managing a large family turns out to be managing all the wild emotions...

Or maybe that's just us!

PS - I'm adding this one in for Peta's sake (ha! see what I did there?)... If you had hopes that tantrums end in adulthood (because we all know teenagers can throw spectacular door slamming, 'You are the lamest person on the planet, Mum/Dad' tantrums), let me put you straight.

I used to have a favourite cup, it was stripy and I liked the maroon stripes on it, anyway, it's in 20 pieces in the rubbish bin now because in mid-tantrum on Monday night, I threw it at a wall. What was so frustrating I had to break my favourite cup? Well, basically, the Grumpy Old Man went to Supa Nova and then came home and told us all about the fab Doctor Who costumes he saw there. I was jealous, so I picked a fight, and then we let all our recent frustrations hang out, but he's better at stopping himself than I am, and when silence fell and I was still raging inside my head the cup hit the wall...

Nope, tantrums never end...

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Anxiety Cleaning - before and afters...

Today is two weeks since this notice went up...

So, today it's supposed to come down according to the guy who put it up on the Thursday before Easter. Assuming none of our neighbours have any major concerns, the owners of our property will have the go-ahead to clear the back yard and commence construction on two town houses.

The construction phase may not happen right away - or it may. We are not privy to our property owner's plans and so, as for the past 24 months, we continue to live with low level stress of not knowing when we might lose the back yard, garage and off-street parking.

The owners are apparently going to build a carport in front of the house - so we'll lose a chunk of the front yard as well.

Because we store a lot of stuff in the garage we are going to have to commandere two rooms in the house for the storage of boxes and crates. We will lose the back laundry and the third bedroom - as well as the back yard.

We will have to get rid of the two trampolines, or one trampoline and the cubby house - maybe all three.

So, today I've felt a bit anxious because all these changes may be upon us in a matter or weeks... Or perhaps not. We just don't know.

Anxiety for me - for most people, as I understand it - stems from a sense of not having any control in one's life. To combat this, I choose to clean. I don't clean in an obsessive-compulsive way in that I certainly don't do this every day, but when I'm stressed I like to have a clean and tidy environment because it makes me feel more in control of my life...

This is what I've been doing today.

The living room and dining room before...

The television is on but no one is watching - do you have that problem at home? Toys, pyjamas and shoes scattered everywhere, I know you guys know what I'm talking about!

Yes, those are last night's dinner dishes (except Erik's because he was good and took his to the kitchen, bless him!)...

and after...

The master bedroom before...

and after...

I love my new sleigh bed so much!!!

The study before...

The Grumpy Old Man's desk on the left, mine on the right - we were competing over who could collect the most coffee, he was winning...

and after...

The kitchen before...

This is not to bad actually, it get's much, much worse than this - remember all the dinner dishes are still in the dining room...

and after...

The laundry before...

Don't get me started on the laundry... If I left it up to the Grumpy Old Man, this room would be where we permanently kept all our clean clothes... Yes, all these clothes are actually clean - we have another laundry for dirty clothes, you don't get to see it because it's actually tidy right now...

and after...

Ah! Breathing room. This is one of the rooms we'll lose when the back yard disappears...

The bathroom before...

Don't you love it; bathmat on the bath, and towels on the floor so people don't slip. Why do I bother, I ask you...

and after...

 Do you clean to deal with anxiety?

Good Job!