Thursday, May 31, 2012

Santa, the Tooth Fairy and the Easter Bunny (walked into a bar...)

Nah, just joking!

I saw this poster on Facebook this morning.

The inference here is that parents who engage their children in fantasies about Santa Claus, the Tooth Fairy and the Easter Bunny are basically lying to their children and setting up a situation where trust will be broken and disappointment will break the child's heart.

I've seen many debates over the years about this issue - the issue of parents being willing to lie to their children about these mythical creatures instead of just saying, 'I buy your presents, put money under your pillow in exchange for a tooth and scatter chocolate eggs around the back yard, it's all me. Those other guys, they're just made up stories for kids who can't deal with reality! I won't treat you like that because I respect you!'

The Grumpy Old Man and I walk a middle ground between 'cold, hard reality' and 'Oh, look, giant powdery bunny prints in the kitchen!'

Our kids know we are somehow in cahoots with the 'fantasy creatures' and quite frankly, they prefer it that way!

It's a cold, hard world where there is no such thing as Santa Claus or the Easter Bunny - and I think it's a rather depressing place to live.

I also think children are far more robust than that.

This need to be ultra-hardcore-real with children is something akin to the 'school of hard knocks - they have to learn about how the world really works some time' approach. It lacks a certain level of generosity, of meeting the child where they live - in a world full of possibilities and void of limitations. If Santa and the Tooth Fairy are impossible, then how can a small child ever hope be a hero one day?

Fantasy is not lying. Lying is about self-preservation. Lying is selfish. Fantasy is generous and giving and full of play - and playing is good for children! The two are simply not compatible!

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Why I encourage boredom...

I just noticed I have 1700 posts on this blog - this one will be 1701. 1700 posts fill with stuff I've learned or observed or experienced or felt over the past 6 years and nearly 5 months. Go me!

Today saw another milestone as well. Today the Grumpy Old Man and I trekked down to our local Maternal and Child Health Nurse Centre for the very last time - we've been going there since July 1999, almost 13 years. We've learned so much in that time.

Stuff like the benefits of boredom in childhood.

This morning I read this article in The Age about children being constantly stimulated by technology throughout their day and whether or not that is a good thing.

I tend to agree with the general thrust of the article that technology has become so ingrained in the every day that is an inevitable part of our children's lives (I know Steiner parents might not have TVs or computers in their houses but my local shopping centre has four large screen televisions hanging from the roof in various places, there is no getting away from technology!). Technology is more and more becoming part of my children's school experience with every class in possession and use of computers, iPads and other technology on a daily basis.

Just last week one area of our school (thankfully not an area my kids are in this year) had a 'technology day' which involved children bringing their iPods/iPads/DS's to school and being given two sessions during the day during which they 'interacted with their technology' (um, yeah, otherwise known as playing computer games).

I wasn't particularly impressed - I have to say - and was grateful my children were not thusly engaged for 1.5 hours at school!

So, anyway, this is why I encourage my children to be 'bored'. That is I have days and weeks where the TV and other technologies are not options for passing time. I hear a lot of 'but there's nothing to do!' and that's fine with me. I see my children sitting listlessly on the couch and that is fine with me. I see them staring off into the distance and I smile!

Can you guess why?

Well, because sometimes it's good for kids not to be 'doing'.

It's great for kids to interact with technology and use it to connect with friends and interact. It's great for kids to get outside and run around, and ride their bikes or kick a ball around. It's great for kids to sit and read, or construct with lego, or role-play with dolls and one another.

And sometimes it's great for them to just sit with their thoughts - yes, even the 'I'm bored! I hate mum for not letting me play on the Wii!' thoughts. You see, those thoughts inevitably lead to 'When I'm 18 I'm going to play Wii all the time!' which leads to 'When I'm grown up I'm going to...' and soon they're not thinking about being bored, they're just thinking.

They're thinking about their friends and conversations they had, they're thinking about hows and whys and what ifs - without new stimulus distracting them from those thoughts. They're processing their experiences and their feelings. They're getting to complete their thought processes.

Being bored is just a spring board for thinking. Sitting still allows them to get lost in thought.

That is why I encourage my kids to be bored!

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

When in doubt - crochet!

I'm currently on day two of 'The week Sisyphus built!' (Sisyphus was that guy who was doomed by the gods to roll boulders up the top of a steep hill, only to have them roll down again, and have to start over each day)

Today the Grumpy Old Man had an interview for a job which may or may not turn out to be something like the job he applied for - confused? I don't blame you! He thinks he is in with a shot IF the TAFE in question is granted permission to have a diary and/or other publications for the rest of this year, otherwise the job will be aimed more towards an activities manager, in which case he has next to no experience. Now we play the waiting game. I hate the waiting game.

Tomorrow Ari has his 3.5 year old check where I will no doubt be asked which kinders I've applied for (the answer to which will be none so far) and then be on the receiving end of the, 'Oh dear!' exclamation because I'm such a neglectful and irresponsible parent, you know.

By the close of business tomorrow I also have to have posted of my submission to the Text Publishing Competition for this year. Couldn't enter last year because my manuscript was under submission - and then rejected without a letter (oh well). Considering I'm submitting that very manuscript with no real changes, I stand buckley's chance, but consider this an exercise of 'just do[ing] it!' because I so often don't.

Thursday is art school day for Erik - his last opportunity to fatten his folio before the highschool interview on Monday. It is also when I need to pick up my tee shirt for volunteering in the city for the Emerging Writer's Festival.

Now as if I didn't have enough on my plate, I've signed up to write 50 000 words in June, and so I have the next 60 hours or so to write up some sort of plan for this new novel (novel novel?), ha!

So, guess what I've been doing today... Well, exactly, nothing to do with any of the things I listed above. Of course!

When I'm a bit strung out or at loose ends or generally feeling in doubt about life and at odds with certainty, I craft.

In the past couple of days I've picked up a project I started in February, but then lost motivation to complete. At the rate I'm going I should finish it very soon, but in the meantime I thought I'd show you all a sneak peek!

Though it's not very clear from these photos, I'm crocheting a hexagon blanket (my favourite kind!), and the hexagons are white, light purple, dark purple and black.

Every now and then, in a random pattern, I throw in a red hexagon, just to break it up a bit.

I seem to be transitioning through colour stages in my life. When I was very young I loved yellow. In my teens it was green. Then in my twenties it was hot pink, in my early-to-mid thirties it was red, then in the last couple of years it's been purple, but just recently I'm back to green again, so while I adore this blanket, it is well and truly helping me work purple out of my system!

The next blank it bound to be in greens!

Linking up with...

Saturday, May 26, 2012

How's life?

I'm enjoying a quiet weekend this weekend, it feels like it's been a long time since the last one. There are always parties to take the kids to, or some event or other to go to, or even just grocery shopping, but this weekend is nice and quiet - thank goodness, we need it!

Life is set to get busy again over the next few weeks.

Next weekend I'll be attempting to overcome my agoraphobia and volunteering at the Emerging Writer's Festival on Friday night (for the launch of The Emerging Writer) and on Sunday for Page Parlour - which, ironically, is the one EWF event the Grumpy Old Man attends each years because he usually knows at least one person having a stall there - this year he knows two.

I've been meaning to get more involved with the local writer's scene for a while, but I have so much anxiety about meeting new people. The worst part is not being able to recognise faces or remember names and not feeling that I can make that clear to people in a way they understand. I have to just keep getting out there though because otherwise I'm going to dry up and blow away here on my own with my writing.

A friend's son also has a birthday party on the Saturday, so yep, next weekend is going to be full.

On the following Monday we have Erik's high school interview. He's been working hard on preparing a bit of a folio of his drawings to take with him. Last week we handed in the preferences form to the primary school for them to hand on to the department of education to then be forwarded to the high schools of our choice. We received a call from the teacher who was checking the forms before sending them to the department of education. She was curious as to why we'd chosen the high school we did, for Erik. She was curious because no one else from our school had ever gone to this high school - and apparently students from our school are going to seventeen different high schools but never this one.

I thought her question was a bit nosey, and in conjunction with the patronising I've personally encountered from this particular teacher previously, I have to admit I felt like she was asking us to justify our choice as if she thought we'd simply picked a name from a list because we thought it sounded good.

Luckily, I didn't take that call and the Grumpy Old Man politely told her all our reasons - he's good like that.

Erik is really enjoyed the art course he's been doing this term and has several pieces now that he can show the Principal at his high school interview. One piece will only be a photo of the drawing because the drawing itself has been framed and will be in this exhibition...

This is one of three places he will be exhibiting his art this year. 

He is also working on a painting which will be exhibited at the Ian Potter Gallery at Federation Square in July...

He hasn't decided what he'll submit for the Artist Camp Fair Art Show in November.

On the 16th of June we, as a family, will be attending an event at the Astor in Windsor to protest the possible closing of the iconic cinema to the public in the next couple of years. There will be a free screening of Labyrinth. If you're in Melbourne you might like to join us. More details here.

The Grumpy Old Man has put in an application for a job and has an interview next week. The original job description was pretty much exactly the job he was doing at Swinburne back in the early naughties. Due to State Government funding cut backs to TAFE in the budget that was recently release, after he put in the application, the job description changed. In fact, the position was initially scrubbed and applicants were notified, and then contacted again to say the position was back on, but had changed slightly, both in hours offered (reduced from full time over 18 months, to .6 over six months) and job description. We aren't sure if the Grumpy Old Man will be suitable now, but we live in eternal hope - even if it is only part time and until Christmas!

The Grumpy Old Man has another driving test coming up next month as well. Fingers crossed that this will be the time he gets it!

In other news - rather astounding news - I received a text from my dad the other day asking for my mum's mobile number. At first I thought it was someone who has texted to the wrong phone - someone else's dad asking for someone else's mum's number. You see, for the past twenty four years my dad has refused to talk to, or even talk about, my mum. When the Grumpy Old Man and I got married we eloped because I couldn't face the idea of dad not wanting to come to the wedding because he knew mum would be there.

Anyway, I checked the number the text had come from and it was my dad's number. I texted him to say that mum didn't have a mobile phone or a home phone and that I usually Skyped her or called her at work. Dad replied saying he didn't know what his options were, and I started to feel a bit anxious at that point.

Honestly, I couldn't imagine why my dad would want to contact my mum after all these years. Yes, I wondered if he was dying. I wondered if he was drunk texting. I wondered a lot of things.

In the end he suggested I give mum his number and ask her to call him, which I did, and she did, and it turns out they had a nice conversation and may catch up at my place one day...

To say I was shocked, still am shocked, would be something of an understatement. It actually makes me teary to just think about it.

A the child of a divorced couple, your reality - even if it wasn't a pleasant one - is broken apart and slowly, over time, you build a new reality. For some children that reality is shared custody and an amicable relationship between their parents, for most it is not. Children of divorced couples often get used to a reality where the other parent is a shadow who is only carefully referred to in ways that minimises the perceived pain of the present parent.

So, now my reality has changed again, and in one way it feels wonderful that my parents are actually talking to each other, to whatever degree that ends up being. On the other hand, this is unknown territory and completely unfamiliar and uncertain and I don't feel like a forty year old woman at all, but rather something like the sixteen year old I was the last time they talked. Weird.

It's been a big week.

So, how is your life going at the moment?

Friday, May 25, 2012

FFS Friday - You've got to be kidding me!

# The one where your husband has been trying to get a job for three and a bit years and twice already been offered a job only to have the offer rescinded. You're feeling pretty black about the whole situation, but then a perfect job comes along (pretty much the job he was doing before he was made redundant) and it's an 18 month contract and it's more money than you've ever had to work with in your entire 15 years together... And then because of State Government Budget cut backs, you're told - after he applies - that they're only going to offer a six month contract, after all - but you don't care, six months is six months! And then you wait 10 days before being offered the interview you know he deserves. And then you get an email saying the position will no longer exist and so there won't be an interview. And then he gets a call saying the job will exist, but has been cut back to part time for six months, and the job description has changed and now it may involve a bunch of stuff he hasn't done before... Or not... Bloody State Government Budget! My husband needs a job! FFS!

# The one where you haven't had any sleep all night, and in your sleep deprived cleverness, you decide to pay your utilities by BPAY because you notice your pension has come into your account; only you pay your gas bill twice, and one of those times is into the account for the house you lived in two years ago! FFS!

# So, you ring the bank - yes, at 5.30am because it's an emergency, you need that money to, you know, live off and they helpfully tell you that they can put a recall on the payment and the money should be safely back in your account in 10 working days - that's two weeks in ordinarily unemployed terms. FFS!

# The one where you have to do the grocery shopping because your cupboards are bare, and there is an oncoming storm warning. FFS!

# And you don't have a car or a licence. FFS!

# And after you've bought two weeks worth of food, you trundle your trolley towards the cab rank to find a fire engine blocking the road because the restaurant across the narrow road is on fire, so you are told you'll have to wait to go to the taxi rank. FFS!

# And an hour later you go back to find the road and therefore the taxi rank has been closed 'for the rest of the day'! FFS!

# And the alternative taxi rank was closed two months ago for road works on the other side of the shopping centre. FFS!

# And it's now raining cats and dogs outside. FFS!

# And your three year old has lost his little mind because he's been stuck in a shopping centre for three hours and there are so many rides and you only had two $1 coins. FFS!

# The ten year old comes home from school in the freezing, pouring rain and you offer to make him a tea, and he moans that he wants cocoa. FFS!

# He knows you never buy cocoa! FFS!

# He laments that the tooth fairy forgot to pay him for his tooth again. FFS!

# The 12 year old pipes in that the tooth fairy owes him for four teeth. FFS!

# Bloody forgetful tooth fairy. Bloody State Government Budget that puts jobs at risk. Bloody lying Centrelink Homepages that says it 'Assists people to become self-sufficient...' when they refuse to help the Grumpy Old Man because he's on a 'parenting pension' and his youngest 'hasn't turned six yet, so you're not a priority client.' F F S!

Dear Baby G

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Birth thoughts... Funny moments...

If you're a mum, do you ever just randomly start thinking back to the birth of your baby - kind of out of the blue, as if you subconscious had stumbled over something and thought it would bring the memory up?

I know that, sadly, a lot of women cannot think back to the birth of their child without enormous feelings of despair, anxiety or anger, and that those memories will ambush them when they're not ready, because they're never quite ready to relive what ultimately was a traumatic event in their life - even though it was also the moment that brought them the child they love so dearly and feel massively protective of in the wake of this trauma. (long, rambling sentence, sorry)

For this blog post, I guess I'm talking about those mums for whom the birth of their child was probably a challenge - like running a marathon, or some other endurance activity - but for whom it wasn't necessarily a traumatic experience.

Do you ever find - without occasion - that you are back in that place, reliving the events and having revelations about how you felt or what happened that somehow got forgotten in the post birth euphoria or sleep deprivation?

I do. It may be an ADHD thing, or possibly not.

Last night my mind stumbled upon the birth of my fourth. He was born at home. There were a couple of funny moments in the last five minutes of his birth that I was finally able to make sense of. I thought I'd blog them case I go on to forget them.

To set the scene for the first funny moment, I have to explain that in natural birthing advocacy circles there is often a lot of quasi-spiritual talk about the pregnant woman going into herself or into her cave during labour, particularly the latter stages of labour...

Now I see some of you rolling your eyes, or getting ready to click away but bare with me, I'm not about to have us all link arms and begin a rendition of Kumbaya.

Anyway, the idea is that the labouring woman isn't disturbed from the act of labouring and connecting with her baby and doing what she needs to do the birth the child. She is supposedly often quite unaware of what is going on around her and so it's considered good and right to keep noises and talk to a minimum and keep lights dimmed so as not to distract the woman from her reverie...

This is where I tell you this has never happened for me. Some would say it was being I was in hospital for my first three, but that doesn't explain the fourth at all.

So, let me tell you about the funny moment.

It was about 8.55am. Ari would be born at 9am, but of course none of us knew that time frame for sure. I was close though. I was feeling the pushy contractions but was not pushing with them just yet. Deep inside me, I was waiting. Though I didn't know it at the time.

I heard a car door slam outside. I recognised the sound of that particular door and that it was right outside our house. I heard foot falls along the long driveway and I said to my midwife and my birth attended. 'Someone needs to open the door, Jayne is here.' At first there was no action from either of them, so I said, 'The door. Jayne is here.' The birth attendant hesitantly got off the bed (I couldn't see her as I had my head tucked into my arms at the end of the bed, but I could feel her hesitance). She opened the door and there was Jayne.

Later the birth attendant and the midwife told me they hadn't heard the car door slam or Jayne walking along the driveway. They were focus on the moment, on observing me as I laboured. They were deep in the trance of birth.

So, why wasn't I?

As I reflected on this last night, I found I had been, but in my own way. I really think this is an ADHD thing. You see, a lot like how I've heard autism described, people with ADHD have difficulty shutting out the world around them - well, except when they're hyper focusing. We don't pick up as much information as a person with autism might, we aren't as overwhelmed by it, but it's there; the sights, the sounds, the smells other people don't notice, we can't help but notice.

The other thing is, I believe a birthing woman would never be so entranced as not to sense danger. Some, possibly very small, part of her is aware of her surroundings, but in most women in this state it is pushed right back especially is she is surrounded by a circle of carers.

In my case, I probably didn't feel my circle was complete until Jayne was there. She had been at my third son's birth as well, and had taken on the mothering role, my other birth attendant took on the sisterly role, and the midwife was, of course, the sage. As soon as I knew Jayne was in the room, I started to bare down, and within a couple of minutes, Ari was born.

The second funny moment I realised I'd had - and this moment is actually what started me thinking about the birth of my son last night - was a sort of popping sensation.

It wasn't my waters breaking.

The popping was in my conscious mind, or in my heart, or in my soul - I'm really not sure - but at this moment, as I write it, I can feel that moment. I realised I'd felt that moment with each of my children, at different times.

With my eldest the pop didn't happen until he was laid on my stomach and he glare at me with his angry and confronted black eyes. *POP*

With my next three, it was just in the minutes before they entered the world. *POP POP POP*

That moment is when I finally recognised that this child was a separate person to me.

You see, throughout each of my pregnancies I'd always felt that my baby was an extension of me. I always felt strange talking to my foetus because for me it felt like I was talking to my pancreas or liver - and I'm not in the habit of talking to my internal organs.

So, last night it dawned on me that I had a moment just after Jayne arrived where I felt a *POP* in my conscious and it dawned on me that another person was about to emerge out of my vagina, and I had no idea what this person was really like or if they'd like me, or if I'd like them.

The popping moment for me is a moment of such clarity when suddenly I'm fully aware of the enormity of bringing another person into the world, and the imminent reality of it. It's not frightening so much as awakening.

Ari awake and alert at two weeks.

Did you have that moment? Or is it just me?

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Totally Pinworthy: Flying Pigs!

You know what's not Totally Pinworthy?

My sieve of a brain!

Last night Amy at Mahlimoo, Me and Three asked readers on her blog's Facebook page, if they'd be linking up if she did another Totally Pinworthy. I, of course, said I'd absolutely be linking up - that's I'd, indeed, been looking for a blog Pinterest meme, and then summarily forgot all about my enthused response when I got up this morning and our house was a riot zone and then my brother came for a visit...

I was just relaxing with a coffee when a little alarm went off in my head. Don't you hate when you do this sort of thing - oh, you never do this sort of thing??? - well, I hate it.

So, here's my Totally Pinworthy topic of the week: Flying Pigs!

My mum, who's surname is Ham, started receiving a lot of pig statues from various people over the years of her marriage. Just recently when she and my step-dad downsized their living situation, she knew not to bequeath me the pig collection, but thought I might like her cast iron flying pig...

To be honest, at first I really wasn't sure... I'm born in the Chinese year of the pig, but well, that's about where my interest in pigs has always ended. But this flying pig has grown on me. I mean, aren't we all trying to make pigs fly, just sometimes. Flying pigs are a symbol of wish fulfilment, got to love that, right?

Mum recently pointed out that with the Grumpy Old Man's family name being Bird, a flying pig - or a 'ham bird' - is quite representative of our two families...

So, I've been on the hunt for other flying pigs, and here are some I thought were Totally Pinworthy!

This one would cost the bomb to have shipped here, but I love the recycled feel of it, and the cherries are delightful!

I'm a big fan of Steampunk (yeah, yeah, no surprise, being that I'm also a big fan of the modern Doctor Who series, I know)!

So, the pigs above and below are very Steampunk and therefore I love them!

Such a delicate flying pig - isn't she? And those impossibly small wings! Too cute!

And who doesn't need a flying pig covered in inspirational words? This one is on my must have - or perhaps even 'must make' list!

If you want to post about what you've found that is totally pin worthy this week, don't forget to link up by clicking on this button!..

Saturday, May 19, 2012

As it turns out... I'm allergic to money!

Yes, you read that right.

For the past three or so years the Grumpy Old Man and I have been wondering what the hell is going on that we're having so much trouble getting to a financially secure place in our lives.

My mum thinks we're cursed.

This morning I figured out a different reason, though.

When I got up I discovered this red and itchy rash on my left boob...

This is only part of it, because I know you don't really want to see my whole boob, it's well beyond its best these days.

After exclaiming, 'Dear Lord, I've been bitten by flesh eating spiders!', I calmed down and tried to figure out the real cause. The Grumpy Old Man helpfully suggested I'd laid on my silver bracelets and that had caused the rash... Yes, hmmm, they're sterling silver because that doesn't give me a rash!

But then the penny dropped, so to speak, it was actually a $2 coin and two 20c pieces. I'd popped them in my bra the other day - as you do - and obviously my body reacted to them. Metal reactions start slowly for me, and flair up after a day or so, even after the irritant has been removed, I mustn't have noticed the first signs of the rash.

Some of you might be wondering why I'd be carrying coinage in my brassiere. Yes, well, that's what us well endowed girls do when we wear clothing without pockets. I wear clothing without pockets a lot.

My bra is constantly stuffed with public transport passes and tickets, my bank card, receipts, crystals, lego (I have stopped carrying my phone in there since a friend put the fear of God into me about breast cancer). Last night I had a spool of thread tucked in there while I mended the handy 'thumbhole' Bryn had created for himself at the end of his school uniform sleeve.

I've lost things in there, like my keys - these keys...

I'd popped them in my bra to go taking the kids to school one morning - I prefer to be hands free when I have a toddler to wrangle in a busy school yard and while herding the cats kids to the school gate. The Grumpy Old Man hadn't left by the time I got home, so he let me in. I spent hours that afternoon looking for my keys, absolutely convinced Ari had flushed them, only to undress that night and have them fall on the bedroom floor...

I know some of you will understand.

So, I occasionally tuck money into my bra, and it seems my body is sick of this and has decided to reject the money as best it can by conjuring up a big, angry, itching rash. Gee, thanks body, needed that.

No wonder we're not attracting financial fortune into our lives - I'm allergic to the stuff!

*mumble, mumble, scratch, scratch, mumble*

Friday, May 18, 2012

My horse for a shovel!

I'm going to whinge - you have been warned!

I'm the person in this house who is legally blind, I'm also the person in this house who has been diagnosed with attention deficit hyperactivity (yes, not so sure about that bit) disorder.

So, why is it that everyone else in this house is a slob?

Now, usually, I don't like to have a go at the male of the human species, but when it comes to being a slob - at least in this household - it seems the Y chromosome trumps not being able to see dust until your knee deep in it and ADHD!

This morning I had to text a friend to say I'd be half an hour late for a coffee-get-together because I couldn't find a hair brush.

I hate being late! I work very hard at not being late. In fact, I often turn up far too early for things because I hate being late so much (yes, I also hate being kept waiting when others are late, just deal with it, okay)...

But I was late. Luckily this friend is very understand of people who run late and wasn't at all bothered. She kept living her life while I hunted high and low for the hairbrush. Me? I'd have been sitting there tapping my toe and mumbling about people who couldn't read clocks, but she's thankfully nothing like me in that regard.

So, back to the elusive hair brush. It wasn't under the two coats dumped on the dining table, or under the hoodie on the sideboard in the hall, or under the three garments on the chair in the study - what is with my menfolk and randomly discarding clothing around the house? It wasn't amongst the detritus which had found its way to behind the couch since I last cleared that space out last week.

It wasn't anywhere!

I was getting pretty mad.

I went back to the bathroom, but it wasn't amongst the toiletries on top of the cabinet next to the bath, and it wasn't on the sink. Exasperated I flung open the cabinet; the one place the brush actually belongs in the house but never seems to be, and of course, there it was... mocking me!

Someone, not me, had actually put it away properly and I was late for a coffee and spent forty minutes swearing under my breath because, in this house, finding something it is actual rightful place is so rare, I seriously didn't even think to look there!

It's all their fault, those Y chromosomians with their flagrant disregard for my need for visual order, I tell you!

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Sif is away from her blog today...

That's right.

I'm not really here, you're just dreaming... ooooOOOOoooohhh!

Today I'm over here... So, come and say hi, or wave, or throw rotten tomatoes - whatever takes your fancy...

Sunday, May 13, 2012

How to train your children for Mother's Day...

Yes, I know every day is Mother's Day and that the commercialisation of Mother's Day is akin to heresy, but let's face it, much of the year a lot of what we mum's do is taken for granted, and if we complain we're told we brought our pain on ourselves and we're not grateful enough for the blessing of having been able to bare children.

Believe me - we mum's, we know we're blessed - and, particularly when we gaze upon their sleeping faces, we are endlessly grateful for our little blessings.

That said, Mother's Day is - and in my humble opinion should be - a big deal! We are raising the next generation and we bare the burden of that responsibility!

So, today I'm going to share with you how I have trained my little people to take great care in showing their appreciation for me - because, you know, I think it is a very serious business raising children to appreciate the good things in their life, and goodness knows I'm topping that list. No seriously!

I've been building up over the years. I started out by modelling. I involved them in gift thinking-upping and gift seeking-outing and card making and so on for Father's Day and for their friend's birthdays and for Christmases.

I encouraged them in their first amateur steps at creating Mother's Day cards and gifts by being extremely proud and thankful for their bits of string glued to paper to represent me and them (and no, I'm not being sarcastic, I really did love those things).

I still carry the keyring Luey bought me at the Mother's Day stall when he was five and I still wear the bracelet Erik chose for me when he was nine. I drink from the cup emblazoned with the design Bryn created when he was four. I treasure those things and use them often so the kids can see me using them!

Last week I drilled the boys in 'What sort of things mum likes' at the dinner table. On their own they came up with:
  1. Candles
  2. Things with elephants on them
  3. Jewellry
  4. Flowers
  5. Wine (this last suggestion was Bryn's, bless his little cotton socks! I did point out he's not old enough to buy me alcohol yet, but it was a nice thought, and thoughts really do count [in tandem with action, of course].)
They are well versed in breakfast in bed - which is them tapping into cultural traditions because I'm really not someone who likes to eat when I first wake up - and they know not to bring it in before at least 11 am!

So, this, ahem, morning (just!), I was offered this...

Vegemite toast - spread thinly and to the edge, just the way I like it, plus coffee in my favourite, extra large cup, and flowers (I've been desperate to get pot plants into this house, and they've noticed, yay!).

My Mother's Day card was not your run-of-the-mill Mother's Day card - this card is significant because it's a Van Gough painting which was referenced in a Doctor Who episode featuring Vincent and is one of my all time favourite episodes!

And the gifts (the upside of having so many children!)... Okay, so the flower I've covered... The elephant with the plum/guava melt references my love of elephants and my recent discovery that elephants with their trunks lifted are considered lucky, it also references my love of sweet smelling melts and candlelight! Body lotion - who doesn't love body lotion, and it's scented with jasmine (my favourite floral scent) and green tea. Heart shaped cup measures - because I love to bake (and they love my baking and want more of it). Vouchers for back rubs and hugs and kisses all day, and doing jobs around the house speak for themselves. Two vouchers for facials, again, these speak for themselves. A pen because I can never find one! Two bling bling bracelets because I love jewellery. One has roses and four leaf clover, the other has hearts (each from a different child). And finally, from Bryn a pair of gardening gloves, a trowel and some tomato seeds - because even though I detest gardening, I've been saying for a long time that I'd like to grow my own veggies and this might just inspire me to do that! How thoughtful are they???

But that is not all...

After I had laid in bed for a bit longer I got up and Erik showed me what he'd been doing on Minecraft this morning...

The signs in the bottom picture say, 'From Erik, Lukas, Ari, Bryn and Dad'... 'Thanks for the being the best mum in the world'...

But, you know, I haven't just trained them [this well!] for my own benefit. Oh, no, no, no! I have done this for the benefit of future generations, for my daughters-in-law, and for all my boys' other friends and family, because a boy who can show thoughtful appreciation for his mother is more likely to be able to do it for the other significant people in his life!

This is my gift to the world! Enjoy!

Saturday, May 12, 2012

True or False: You have a favourite amongst your children...

Mother-in-law, who has been a veracious book reader since the depression last century has recently taken up reading magazines. I don't know why she is doing this - maybe she feels like she's read every story there ever was to write (that would not surprise me at all, she reads hundreds a year, literally). What I do know is that she has passed on some of the mags she's finished with to me.

I used to love reading magazines, I used to buy several every week when I was in my twenties. Then a combination of needing to put my money other places and simply not having time to read magazines put a stop to all of that. Over the years as I matured (ha!) I began to see magazine stories for the 'mostly-trash' they are. Basically, sensationalist stories and glamourous photos to get people to part with their money. Yep, we all know that.

Today I found myself flicking through one of the magazines where I came across an article with the title. 'All Parents Have A Favourite Child' written by Jordan Baker.

The article reported on research that had shown that most parents report having a favourite amongst their children, and when observed will, quite openly, exhibit favouritist behaviours; clapping louder for one child over others, laughing longer at their jokes and so on. The theory goes that parents favour the child who is most like them, and even more so if that child is the opposite sex to them - basically because humans are all narcissists.

Now, I've never been a believer in 'treat all my children exactly the same.' as one women I used to know rather defensively argued with me that she did. I just don't think it is possible. But as I reflected on this article I found it very difficult to identify one child amongst my four who was my overall favourite.

The article said children, particularly less favoured children, can easily identify the favoured child, and that in large groups of siblings there was often a unanimous response amongst the siblings as to the identity of the favoured child.

I decided to ask my older three (assuming I wouldn't get much sense out of the three year old) separately - and privately - if they thought their father and I had favourites and who those favourites were...

I asked Lukas (our second child, aged 10) first. He told me he though Erik (the eldest, aged 12) was my favourite and Bryn (the third child, aged 6) was his dad's favourite. Interestingly, out of our four, I'd said Erik is most like me, and Bryn is most like the Grumpy Old Man. Lukas said Erik and I had a special bond, and that he was 'just average' in the favourite stakes.

Next I asked Erik. He was adamant neither the GOM or I had favourites (favourite children often don't self-identify as favourites and he was asked by the parent most like him). I have to admit, I wonder if he isn't just savvy enough to know when he might be being set up... Good one, mate, remember that when you partner asks 'do these jeans make my bum look big?'

Finally, I asked Bryn. His answer was interesting, in that he identified Lukas as the GOM's favourite and himself as my favourite.

Apparently, none of the boys thought Ari (the three year old) was anyone's favourite. I wonder why not?

So, who would I say is my favourite? As I said, that was a very hard question to answer because for me it's just not as simple as that. They really all are my favourite, it just depends on the day and the circumstance.

Yes, I can't deny that Erik and I have a special bond. He is very much like me. He's highly strung, sensitive, somewhat socially inept (though as time passes, less so than I ever have been). We like similar things; we started our love-affair with Minecraft together. And, he is my oldest, for almost two years we spent long days together, he taught me all my first lessons in parenting.

On the other hand, Erik has also been my biggest source of concern. He was the child who was most uncontrollable and unpredictable, the one who would fall apart loudly in shopping centres, the one who stole from every place we visited, the one who lied to me the most. He was the child I smacked more than I care to recall. I didn't co-sleep with him at all. I barely wore him at all. He was the baby who had the most medicalised birth and the who I felt no deep bond with for the first nine months of his life. The baby I felt I was babysitting for someone else all that time. He is the one I have had to work the hardest to feel that deep abiding empathy with that other mothers seem to evoke so effortlessly.

Lukas, on the other hand was my golden haired boy. He was so easy going as a child - okay, other than the whole not sleeping at all until he was three bit. He was socially very confident and wouldn't cling to me at every event we showed up to. He was as straight as a ruler, he didn't steal, he didn't lie. He smiled and smiled and smiled and it only took me about 9 weeks to bond with him despite post-natal depression. I often worried that I was much closer to Luey as a child than to Erik. He was so even tempered, although feisty and stubborn, too. We co-slept and I carried him around on my back until he was almost three. He was, and still is, the most beautiful of my children with his golden hair and flawless skin (yes, I did just say that, he has classic looks - lots of people have pointed this out to me, though they needn't have bothered). He is my favourite to go out with because he appreciates just being without talking, and when he talks, he is interesting because he sees the world so differently to me and I sense a depth of thought in him which is not reflected in his social butterfly exterior. Lukas is as smart as a whip - secretly, he's my hope for post-tertiary success (either that or he'll be a loveable beach bum).

Lukas reminds me of my brother the most. Easy to talk to, but still waters run deep.

Of all my children I've probably said that Brynjar in my favourite the most. He's probably heard me say this, which might be why he believes this to be the case. He is my little buddha and I refer to him as 'my heart' because he is so gentle. As a baby, he was just joy, and light, and peace rolled into one chubby little bundle. Confident like Luey, but with all the soulfulness on Erik. People were easily beguiled by him. These days I worry that he is the least squeaky wheel and often goes unnoticed and feels it deeply. Luey felt this way when Bryn was born, but was very vocal about how we all didn't love him anymore. Bryn, on the other hand is the child who comes and leans against the Grumpy Old Man and I silently, just wanting to draw some warmth from us - I often feel because he feels he doesn't quite get enough throughout the day. I have to make an effort to give him my full attention because he doesn't demand it the way the others do. Bryn was the child who taught me that I wasn't the reason my first two children were full on fireballs of investigation and destruction (seriously, I think their motto was, 'seek and destroy'!). Bryn was calm and centred and reasonable. I could actually ask him not to do something, explain why I didn't want him to do it, and he would listen and co-operate! It was because of Bryn we even considered having Ari.

Ari is my bonus child. He was the children I hadn't considered having. I knew I would have three, I'd dreamt about them and even their age gaps, but I had never dreamt about Ari. It wasn't until after Bryn was born that I realised there was a fourth child I had to have. Ari was that child. Ari was the first child I actually enjoyed co-sleeping with. He was the child I didn't swaddle and place an arms length away in bed. He was the child born at home. The baby I bonded with immediately - the way I had heard other mothers did. He was tiny, and precious and incredibly alert. I remember being worried when he was little that he might be my favourite and that the other three might feel it (apparently not!). Like Erik, Ari gets a lot of time alone with the Grumpy Old Man and I because the other three are at school all day long during the week. His little personality is still developing so having conversations with him about stuff he's interested in still not really happening. Persoanlity wise, he is very like Luey, but perhaps even more feisty, but he also has some of Bryn's ability to be reasoned with - well, sometimes. He is able to make us laugh with no effort at all.

It is incredibly hard to choose a favourite, which is why I find this article difficult to agree with. Children are highly complex creatures. Some are more like their parents in personality, some more so in looks, some share a sense of humour or a common interest. A narcissist would be spinning in circles in they had enough children because sooner or later each one of their children is going to be a reflection of them. I suspect 'favouritism theories' are written by people who grew up not feeling that they were a favourite.

Oddly enough, speaking for myself as one of two children. I always felt that my brother was my mum's favourite - I've told her this, in case anyone thinks I'm having a go - and I felt that perhaps I was my dad's favourite, but only as a poor substitute for the son he had who wasn't enough like himself (dad was into all things manly (you know, cars, guns, living by your wits in the bush), my brother loved to draw and dance).

Ironically, mum and I are very close now that I'm an adult, and in many ways we are very alike. Whereas my brother and father, who never spent much time together when my brother was growing up are like different aged twins in personality and traits (and dad is still interested in all things manly and my brother is still interested in art, though philosophy has replaced dancing in adulthood).

I think perhaps these theories of favouritism tend towards oversimplification.

What do you think?

Friday, May 11, 2012

FFS Friday - Because I can, again...

Did you see this article today (if not, you need to get out from under that rock more often)... The one about being 'mom enough' to breastfeed a three year old? They used this photo...

When they had available to them, this image...

Or this one...

Or even this one...

I guess those other photos just wouldn't have gotten people as riled up... Wouldn't have garnered as many 'That should be illegal!' and 'That's sick!' comments those of us who breastfeed our older small children just love to hear so much... Bottom line, they wouldn't have gotten as much attention for Time Magazine... FFS!

The economic crisis has hit the school yard. The annual Mother's Day stall has crept up in price from 'Up to $5' to 'Between $5 and $10'... Times that by three children and Mother's Day is costing me the bomb this year... FFS!

Reality TV should have been drowned at birth like a baby rodent, but some asshat took pity on it and now - several torturous years and many school 'Masterchef's (don't even get me started - food poisoning risk, anyone???) later - we're going to be served Lara Bingle for our viewing pleasure.  Way to encourage more book reading... FFS!

George Michael came out to Australia a couple of years ago and I didn't have any money to buy a ticket to go see him. He's coming out again (to do a concert in Australia, is what I mean) in November and, yep, I'm still broke and get to miss out - yay me... FFS!

People who drive just seem to refuse to understand that a 15 minute drive to a venue is actually a 1.5 hour trip on public transport, and so, going to an event which lasts two hours, and would take 2.5 hours out of a driving person's day, will take approximately five hours out of my day. Yes, that is too difficult for me to arrange, thank you very much for your consideration... FFS!

I sleep. I don't have babies who wake in the night. I get about 8 hours sleep a night these days (when insomnia is under control). Why am I exhausted all the time? FFS!

I knew there was something off with our water bill when we moved to this house two years ago and it skyrocketed from about $50 per quarter to almost $200 per quarter. I rang the company and said, 'This can't be right, we've never used this much water before, we've never been charged this much before.' They said our bill was 'normal'... I said to the Grumpy Old Man that there must be a leak somewhere. I said the dripping tap in the bathroom must be causing the extra water usage, he doubted it. Then six months ago, our bill blew out even more and suddenly it dawns on him the loo has been leaking into the bowl for as long as he can remember, but more so at that time. I can't see the leak - I rely on him to tell me this stuff. I got the real estate to send a plumber, he fixed the loo and the bathroom tap, and hey presto the last two bills have been around $60! In the past two years we've spent over $500 more than we needed to on water just dribbling away! FFS!

I live in fear of rejection so I don't pursue anything I really want to do - why is that??? FFS!

Whatever the Grumpy Old Man and I did to deserve 3.5 years of utter freaking frustration and thwartation (yes, that absolmalutely is a word!) is well and truly paid back now - so I expect to see a whole truckload of good things coming our way in the next few weeks! I expect to see a job for him and a licence and a car! I expect to see Erik getting into the school we're interviewing for. I expect to see me getting into a PhD at Deakin. I have very high expectations of the next little while. We deserve a break, we deserve several breaks! FFS!

Linking up with...

Dear Baby G

Tuesday, May 08, 2012

Walking a mile in his moccasins...

When I met the Grumpy Old Man, he was 37. He was living at his parents house after a business he bought into when into receivership (something he had absolutely no part in causing) and he lost all of his investment.

When I first met him, he was standing in my parents lounge room reciting a readers digest of all his exploits since first leaving home when he was twenty. He'd worked for this popular pop culture magazine in Melbourne, and that award winning advertising agency in Sydney, he's owned such and such a sandwich shop in South Yarra and published X number of graphic novels. He'd even produced the cover for a popular indie band in Melbourne in the 1980s.

I stood in the kitchen and listened and pronounced him arrogant in my mind. Arrogant, but kind of interesting, too...

We got to know each other over the next few months and I made the call on my current relationship, finally ending it. 'Are you seeing that David guy?' the ex asked. 'No, I answered honestly.' But I'd like to, I thought.

We hooked up, and I thought it would be a summer fling because I was heading off to uni again to finish the degree I'd started four years earlier. He kept calling me in Canberra - actually courting me. He was very old fashioned like that. He visited a few times, braving the icy cold Canberra mornings, so we could spend days doing the touristy thing at the War Memorial and Parliament. He was very knowledgable about politics, my kind of politics, and I learned a lot from this Grumpy Old Man.

I visited mum in Melbourne and she had friends visiting from overseas. We'd all lived at a Salvo College together in Norway for a couple of years and so these people were something like family to me. One of the women took me aside one day and asked if I didn't think I had a bit of 'father figure' thing going on with the Grumpy Old Man because he was, well, so grumpy and so old. I laughed. He was only thirteen years old than me, that was nothing!

At the end of my year in Canberra, he was planning on moving out from his parents place, and I was planning on moving to Melbourne, so we decided to try living together.

The relationship felt very real.

I was never a halfway kind of girl, and so I started making noises about marriage and children. He was very honest with me - he wasn't interested in either. I thought maybe he just needed a bit of time to get used to the idea. He didn't.

Having been in a relationship prior to this one with someone I had to struggle with all the time, I knew that if we wanted different things, I really had to just walk away, however painful that might be.

We talked.

He came back with, 'Okay, let's get married and have a baby.'

I was surprised. I felt a guilty, too. Choosing between the end of our relationship or doing what he didn't want to do - get married and have a child - he was choosing the latter.

So, we got married and we had our first. I craved more. We had our second and our third and our fourth and the craving subsided.

Last night, I said to him, 'Sometimes I wish we didn't have kids. I love the kids, I enjoy the kids, but the noise! Not even the actual physical noise, but the noise of all the things we have to do and all the things coming down the track - did you realise Ari will start school the same year Luey starts high school? I'm seriously considering holding Ari back a year just so we don't have to deal with all the emotional turmoil at once!'

He laughed. His laugh was wry and warm at the same time. It was an ironic laugh.

'Welcome to the last twelve years of my life!'

Finally, it dawned on me. When our first was born, he was the age I am now; with all the disappointments I've had by now, and the energy levels I have now. He had that heavy sense of responsibility I feel now that the heady feeling of invincibility has lost some of its sheen.

Thirteen years does make a difference.

P.S. The guilt I've felt all these years for pressuring him into marriage and children has been lifted in the past few hours. Why, you ask, in the light of me finally realising what a burden he felt all these years ago? Well, because he chose this burden. He had the foresight I have now and he chose to take it on anyway because he loved me - and still loves me. For him it wasn't a 'fun adventure', it was a responsibility, and he accepted that responsibility with far more maturity that I was able to muster at the time.

Linking up with Diary of a SAHM for...

Monday, May 07, 2012

Learning to keep my mouth shut...

I'm forty years old and for the past forty years I've struggled with activating my mouth before engaging my brain.

More times than I can to recall has this habit landed me in searing hot water.

I think very quickly, but I often stop thinking before my mind gets to the consequences part of the equation. It's probably an ADHD thing, but as with all the other ADHD things, I'm trying to find strategies to reign in my impulses. Partly because some of them win my no friends, partly because I want to be able to set an example for at least one of my children (possibly two, as time passes) who suffers from the same set of impulse control issues as I do.

I don't know if hormones play a part. I have noticed that I have days at a time where everything everyone says sounds imbecilic to me and I have to literally, second by second, fight my impulse to force them to acknowledge their stupidity (yes, see how that sounds, it's not something you'd find in the 7 Habits of Successful People book, is it?)...

So, I'm trying (I'm very trying at times) to keep my mouth shut when I hear other people says stuff which, to me, seems to drip ignorance and hypocrisy or just plain old stupidity.

It's hard.

I want them to know how far superior my intellect is to theirs. I want them to see that what they are saying is not at all logical or rational. I want them to work past the infancy of their current thought process to something more mature, better considered.

Don't worry, I'm cringing, too.

Why do I feel this way sometimes? I haven't answered that question. I often wish I had a lot more humility and compassion and respect. If I earnestly want these things, why am I so arrogant? I just don't know.

There is something else. Something I found myself worrying about last night in the shower (showers are great places for thinking).

How can I have such strong convictions about certain concepts and yet feel so weak in the face of an opposing view. How is that I can have thought something through, and kept thinking it through, battling my own preconceptions based on others preconceptions and found my own logical and rational conclusion based only on what is truly evidenced (as opposed to whatever is extrapolated from perception) and yet, in the face of another person's strong conviction I forget all my own thinking in that moment, even though my instinct tells me they are not acknowledging some vital evidence to the contrary of their own view?

Afterwards, when I question myself about my own conclusions, I end up kicking myself for my self-doubt because, on examination, I can still only come to my previous conclusion - it really is the only one that makes any sense to me.

Schema - look the word up. Schemata are fascinating.

Anyway, back to the title of this post. I'm learning to listen, even when I whole-heartedly disagree, I'm learning not to jump right in there with my own view, but to let the other person conclude their thoughts because I've found sometimes, not often, but sometimes, this leads them to think even beyond their own conclusions and add a new thought process. Whereas jumping in and attacking their flawed thinking forces them, in self-preservation, to cling to their conviction in defence of their reputation.

It is hard.

It is so hard for someone like me who is so very arrogant and so very sure I've considered everything because I spend so much energy turning ideas over in my head all day long.

It's painful.

I'm so far from being humble and compassionate and respectful... and patient. Patience is just a dot on a map someone else is holding just outside me field of focus.

I dream of humility, compassion, respect and patience. Maybe if I can master keeping my mouth shut, those things will come to me and not be frightened away by my arrogant voice.

Friday, May 04, 2012

I have a question for feminists...

Recently, Iceland was declared the best place to live in the world if you are a woman.

Being Icelandic, I've always believed women are equal to men. We aren't the same as men, but we have as much to contribute as men do, we are mentally as strong as men, we are as smart as men, we are equal to men. I also believe men are equal to women.

I believe women are entitled to all the same personal and professional rights as men and vice versa.

I have never felt oppressed by men as a separate sector of society - though I have felt oppressed in society at times; this has been by men and women, not because of men, or through some conspiracy laid out by men, but by people.

Because I don't believe in a male conspiracy on this planet, I don't believe in a patriarchy any more than I believe in a matriarchy, I have been called 'the anti-feminist' in some quarters. I laugh at this label and many who know me laugh at this label as far as it pertains to me - believing I embody feminist values (I don't, mind you, I just believe in myself and other women as people, and I believe in men in exactly the same way, as people. I'm a personist).

When I read the article I linked to above, a question rose in my mind.

Why do women in Iceland have it so good?


Why do Icelandic women have so much more personal power than women in other countries - including modern western countries like England and America? Why?

Are Icelandic women biologically different to other women in the world?

Are Icelandic men not as assertive as other men in the world?

Did God come down and stream enlightenment on Icelanders?

Do other women in the world give away their power where Icelandic women would not?

Is it because Icelandic women have had to live in very harsh conditions where there was no choice but to pitch in as hard as men, and often in lieu of men?

Why is Icelandic society so radically different from the rest of the world?

Is it really that different?

These are real questions - I'm not stirring the pot here. I don't think Icelandic society is that different, to be honest. Icelanders came from Europe, their origins are the same as those of Britains and Americans.

You might think it's the language, but no, Icelandic doesn't have a language which is less 'misogynistic' than English or any other language. The Icelandic word for human is 'menn'...

But then again, the word for woman is 'kona' (which is also the word for wife, by the way), and the word for king is 'konungur' which broken down looks to be part woman 'kona' and part young 'ungur' - so, king might mean young woman! Want to know the word for queen is? It's 'drottning' and the interesting thing about that is the word for Lord (as in God) is 'drottin'. Come on, that's kind of funny, isn't it..?

So, maybe language is key here?

Honestly, I don't know. If language were key, then I would argue that language changes thought, but also changes with shifts in thinking.

I had a conversation last night with a friend and suggested that at some point women had to have given their power away. She wasn't terribly impressed with this idea and argued that you can't give away what you've never had.

If you agree with that sentiment, do you believe men have always had more power than women? Have women always been oppressed?

If that is the case, how do we account for women who do not feel or are not oppressed? How do we account for Icelandic women? How do we account for the Amazons?

How did women come to need the movement of feminism to empower them? When did women stop being empowered by their very being? When did women give away their power? When will women stop asking men to give them back their rights and just take them - even if it means dying, even if it means their children dying...

Why are Icelandic women different to the rest of woman kind? Are they different, really?