Friday, July 27, 2012

Defining oneself in negative space...

Probably the first thing the Grumpy Old Man ever complimented me on was that I knew what I wanted. Apparently, all the other women he'd dated had suffered from that not-so-rare disease 'You decide' and he found this forever frustrating. On the one hand it was great to have the last word on which movie to see and which restaurant to go to, but on the other hand there was this nagging doubt in the back of his mind that if he chose poorly, he'd forever be 'that guy who never considered my feelings'...

I can see why, too. The first time we went to the movies together, he took me to see David Lynch's Lost Highway. Here's a hint; I thought Gremlins was a really scary movie... Mine and the Grumpy Old Man's tastes in movies is only overlap in the smallest of venn diagram ellipses. The same goes for music and food.

Even though he bestowed such a gracious compliment on me, I still find that I struggle with defining myself by what I am, but find it rather easy to define myself by what I am not - which is a lot like knowing what you don't want.


I've been thinking a lot about what I am not, lately.

I have so much admiration for bloggers who can write gracefully about their lives. Bloggers who can put every day occurrences under spotlight and make them gleam and glisten in such a way that others cannot look away for the sheer beauty of it all.

Even those bloggers who live with intense pain or angst or challenge, who can pour blood onto their keyboards and still have it appear on screen with all the rarified elegance of a Sylvia Plath poem.

I am not like that.

I would love to be like that, and I kind of, sort of can see how it is done, but in the end, it's just not me.

Funny doesn't seem to be me either. Which is funny because there are people who I can spend time with and all we ever do is laugh and while I'm in their company, I am funny and I feel the power of being funny and words come out of my mouth without any effort that are witty and clever and, and, and entertaining.

But as soon as I try to put those words on paper they turn brittle and thin and stilted.

Something else I'm not is a grudge holder. I just can't do it. I'm too lazy to hold a grudge.

And yet, I'm not someone who let's go, either.

Yesterday I found out an old friend had a baby a few months ago. This old friend doesn't talk to me any more. I've tried to make contact with her but she's just not interested. I'm not sure what I did that was so terrible she can't bear to interact with me, even superficially.

You see she was a nanny - a great nanny. She was great with kids, I really admired her generosity and pep. She went overseas to nanny and we stayed in contact. She met some great people and was encouraged to write a book. Initially, it was going to be a children's recipe book. She loves to cook. Then later it turned into a parenting advice book from the perspective of a nanny. That's where something went wrong - and I still don't understand it. One day she emailed to say she was co-writing a parenting book and she hadn't told me before because it didn't support my choices in parenting.

I was hurt by the email. Partly because she didn't trust me enough to tell me what she was writing - she was so sure I'd give her a hard time about it, when I'd never said anything to indicate that. Partly because I felt that she had judged me as a parent-without-a-clue.

I wrote back and made a flippant comment about the title of the book; pointing out it was called Nanny Wisdom, not Mother Wisdom. And that was, as they say in the movies, that. I never did hear from her again, and any attempts to make contact with her after that point were met with a wall of silence.

But I miss her. At the time, she was my best friend - ever. She was like an aunt to my children. To this day they still wear clothes she bought them and toys she sent them. I still have a photo of us on the mantelpiece in my bedroom. I miss her.

So, yesterday I saw photos of her little boy because she doesn't hide a thing on her Facebook page which makes stalking her far too easy - and I am not someone who let's go easily. I'm so happy for her! And it made me cry because I miss her, too.

Sometimes it's a lot easier to see the edges around who we are not. It's easier to define ourselves by what we cannot relate to, rather than what we can relate to.

I am not someone who can turn the every day routine or pain into a magical adventure.

I am not someone who writes funny.

I am not someone who holds grudges.

I am not someone who let's go.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Thankful Thursday: Stepping up...

Dear Lord, it's Thursday! How can it be that I keep losing track of the days?

Well, okay, this week I shamefully have to admit that I lost track of a few days because I didn't eat on Saturday night. Not eating in and of itself is not a terrible thing - I mean for one night, not eating at all is bound to do damage in the not-so-long-run, though. However, on Saturday night I really should have eaten, you see I had a few drinks. Not more than I usually do - I have inherited something of a tolerance for alcohol which is good in that I don't tend to develop hangovers even after an amount that would send others reeling, but bad in that it is often also associated with a predilection for alcoholism. I had a few, and they were mixed spirits and most importantly, I didn't eat.

So, Sunday was a write off. I have not had a hangover like the one I had on Sunday since the very early 90s and that $4.50 bottle of port. Let me tell you something about $4.50 bottles of port - they are pure evil!

While I was no longer engaging Huey in conversation on the porcelain phone on Monday, I was still trying to find my land legs.

Tuesday - for some reason I don't actually remember Tuesday.

Yesterday, I went for a day trip to Vision Australia with the smallest boy and the Grumpy Old Man, and by dinner time I was propping my eyelids open with match sticks (incidentally, the eyelid propping was not the reason for the VA visit, but the result of a busy day - in case that wasn't clear).

Does it take a week to recover from a big night of not eating when you're 40? I don't know, but I'm not testing that ever theory again!

Anyway, I digress.

On Saturday, before I'd had anything to drink, I had a tarot reading at my lovely friend Jayne's 40th birthday party. Every year for the past five or six years, she's employed a tarot reader or psychic at her birthday parties, and having readings is always a lot of fun. Some people take it all more seriously than others. I follow my instincts and view it all as a form of counselling which allows me to become aware of what is going on in my head...

This year, the biggest message I took from the reading was about having previously stepped up to a door and knocked, but then backed away from it before an answer came. The cards were saying it was time to step up and knock and wait for the answer this time.

Straight away, I thought of work, of me working... I want to work and have tried to become employed in the past with mixed results. Sometimes I've received an outright, 'Sorry, we don't think you're suited for this position.' Other times it's been, 'You've been here on trial for a few weeks, but we're not sure you're suited for this position.' It always, always comes down to my low vision status and employers being nervous about my 'inabilities' or about accommodating my 'special needs'.

In the past few years we've struggled financially. The Grumpy Old Man has been unemployed and when seeking employment has come up against similar concerns from employers about his abilities now that he is over fifty.

Employers are a very nervous bunch of folk, I have to say.

I have considered trying to get work and have done some casual work, of sorts, to earn small amounts of money here and there, but have not sought regular employment.

So, I immediately thought the employment door was the one I've been running away from.

In the intervening days I've come to realise I have also been running away from 'assistance' door. The door I have to knock on to receive assistance for issues relating to my low vision. I have actively avoided interacting with bodies who might be able to assist me with adaptive technologies such a monoculars and magnifiers, or voice over programs or mobility assistance.

This is why I sucked up my pride and my fear and took myself off to Vision Australia yesterday and bought a monocular...


It looks exactly like this, and I look like this when I use it (on the other eye) though not quite as 'pretty'. I have not wanted to use one since I was about ten because they are rather conspicuous and I feel like a pirate. However, better to be a pirate than stay at home because I can't read signs, can't see my kids when they stand up in front of assembly, can't read overhead menus at cafés.

I've decided monoculars are very steampunk!

And, you know, I might even get myself an eye patch for my non-functioning left eye...

I guess if [I] love me - as Baby said to her dad in Dirty Dancing - I've got to love all the things about me. Even my need for assistive technologies.

Besides seeking work and employing assistive technologies, I realised I've been running away from connecting with people so I can get started on my doctorate. I've wanted to do it without actually needing to contact real people 'out there' because I'm shy and insecure about my ideas and I'm afraid of embarrassing myself by sounding like a fool.

I had actually knocked on that door on Friday - so, before the reading - and had had a slightly discouraging response when I heard back that there was a shortage of staff at my preferred University, so they were turning applicants away. I'd been advised to start looking at other Unis. For me this was a bit of a blow because it had taken a lot for me to email the staff at this Uni to ask for advice on a possible supervisor.

After the reading though, I felt I had to keep making contact, so on Monday morning I tweeted another institute to find out who to contact. Then that after I received an email from the person I'd contacted the previous friday at the first Uni suggesting I make contact with another staff member at that Uni who might be interested in my thesis concept.

I bit the bullet and emailed this other academic immediately with my idea - even though I hadn't set it out on paper before - and she replied to my email yesterday saying she loved my topic and would be happy to support my application and supervise me if my application was successful!

So - and finally, I'm going to get to those Thankfuls...

I'm thankful;

~ That hangovers are temporary, and I know what to do to avoid one next time (there will NEVER be a next time, I swear!).

~ For tarot card readers who help me to reflect on my own fears and confront them.

~ For assistive technologies that do exist to make life easier for people who live with a disability.

~ For academic staff who are as excited about my thesis topic as I am!

Also, this afternoon, I received a call from Vision Australia updating their file on me and offering me an assessment appointment at the end of August and one of the things they said they could offer me was employment services. I'm thankful even just for the hope of getting a job one day.

I'm linking up with Kate Says Stuff for Thankful Thursday - what are you thankful for?

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

How much time do you have left?

In that semi-stupor between waking and sleeping this morning I realised that in the back of my head, I don't think I have much time left.

This may be a genetic fault on my father's side. He's been living on borrowed time since he was forty-five. That is to say, he always believed he would die young, not live far past the age of forty-five, and so, now at the age of almost sixty-three, he's been on borrowed time for the past eighteen years.

I wasn't ever conscious of my belief that I might not live long until early this morning, when I realised that when I try to project myself into my life down the track there is a definite dark horizon rising up to meet me in only a couple of years time.


I realised that it's been there for a very long time, but now that I've stepped into my forties it seems to be much clearer. I can't really see my life beyond forty-two or forty-three.

That doesn't necessarily mean I won't live beyond that time, so don't everyone start panicking - I'll probably be around to annoy you all beyond then... I think.

What it might mean is that my life plans don't reach much further than that.

I cannot tell you why. Maybe life has just been hard recently and so my imagination can't cope with anything past the next little while.

I realised while I was thinking about all of this that this inability to see a long future is what is causing me stress in my every day life. I really feel like I'm running out of time to achieve what I want to achieve in my life. I feel very much as if my life hasn't stood for much.

I have four beautiful children who I believe will do well in life. I have a lovely husband and I have known what it is to be loved. These things are more than what a lot of people manage in their lifetime. Still, I feel that I, personally, have not achieved much.

I thought I would achieve so much more. I always had a strong sense that I would contribute something significant to this world. I feel that I am running out of time to do that.

It's a horrible feeling, I have to say.

I feel so tired all the time, too.

Maybe this is just ego.

The other thing this dark horizon could be, is the knowledge that I'm starting to lose sight. My vision has been stable most of my life, at least since the age of three. This year it has started to deteriorate; at first, just a little but recently, much more obviously to me. I made the decision last night to go to Vision Australia and purchase the magnifiers I have actively avoided since the age of ten. I can't avoid them anymore. I can barely read normal print anymore and glasses don't help.

I know there is life beyond blindness. I know many, many people who live full and very productive lives without much, if any, vision at all.

Still, I'm a visual person and I don't want to miss seeing beautiful things. I don't want to miss seeing my kids faces as they grow, my husband's eyes, Erik's drawings and paintings, all the images I would photograph...

Well, how depressing is this, hey?

Anyway, now I understand better why I've always felt, 'on the clock' with my life. I've always had a grand plan and a timeline that I was either sticking to or falling behind on. At the moment, I'm way, way behind in many areas, and I think that is a very big part of the stress I'm experiencing.

People keep telling me to be patient and it will all work out. They don't see the dark horizon I've been seeing subconsciously, they don't hear the clock ticking down.

Do you feel, 'on the clock' in your life. Do you have self-imposed deadlines or a grand plan for your life or a bucket list you feel compelled to make happen?

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Judgement? You're soaking in it...


It's that time of year again. The time of year many households in Australia check their bank account every day for the Family Tax Benefit Supplement payments. It is also a time of much judgement, I find. There are constantly threads on parenting forums where those who have judge those who don't for spending lumps sums 'frivolously'.

Last year I spent the payments on a computer and iPad (which have helped me write, get published and prepare for undertaking a doctorate) and three iPods for my older boys and I came under much fire for doing so because we later found ourselves in financial difficulty when the Grumpy Old Man did not become gainfully employed as expect, because he had a firm job offer at the time I spent the FTB.

This year it's just after lunch on the day the FTB Supps were deposited in my account and yes, all the money is gone again...

No electronics this year, and no, no car either.

The Grumpy Old Man is still unemployed a year on - even though after the first firm job offer was rescinded, he received a second firm job offer - which was also withdrawn due to a change in circumstances with the employers.

The Grumpy Old Man has a licence now - yay! - which is a big difference from this time last year, but we do not have a car, and at this point in time we cannot afford to buy one.

We had considered using the FTB to buy a cheap car, but in the 2-3000 dollar price range, we decided it would be money poorly invested as cars at that price don't usually come with road worthy certificates or registration. So instead we've spent some of the money, and put the rest away in preparation for Erik starting high school next year.

This year we've spent the money on the kids. We haven't bought toys, though.

I just finished booking Erik's birthday party. Each year one of our boys gets a party with his friends (the other three just have cake at home with us). This year it's Erik's turn because he became a teenager. We haven't had the money until today, so today I finally got to book it. Erik has been very patient.

I've also booked a trip for Bryn and I to go to Adelaide on the day before his birthday next month, so he can spend his birthday with my mum, who shares the same birthday. About three years ago, I promised each of my boys a trip to visit their grandparents in Adelaide. Erik and Lukas had their trips fairly early in the piece, but Bryn has been waiting his turn for two years. We've made plans before, but each time they've had to be cancelled because we had other financial priorities to meet. So, in a few weeks it will finally be Bryn's turn - he's been talking about it almost daily all year!

Finally, as a surprise for Lukas, we've booked him guitar lessons. None of the boys have had much in the way of extracurricular activity. Erik and Lukas did a drama class and a pottery class for one term each about four years ago. Since then Erik has had two terms (one three years ago and one this year) of art classes. That's it. Bryn has had nothing but so far he has also not shown much interest in pursuing an activity. Lukas has asked to do either guitar or tennis for the past few years, but it just hasn't been in the budget. So, for this one term we're prioritising Lukas' desire for guitar lessons. My brother gave him one of his old electric guitars early this year, so he'll use that. I've booked Lukas private lessons just to see if he can learn something and if he really is interested (or just thinks he might be). I suspect Lukas is quite musical, now we'll find out!

The remaining $2000 of the FTB Supps has been put into a separate bank account to pay for Erik's high school uniform, text books and fees. I don't have any exact figures on what these things might cost, but have heard they are expensive. There will be some School Kids Bonus coming in January as well, and hopefully that will cover the initial high school camp which they're all sent on for 'bonding' purposes.

I guess we didn't have to give Erik a birthday party or Bryn a trip to Adelaide - I really felt that we owe Lukas some sort of extracurricular activity though - but I don't regret spending this money and I don't apologise for it, just as I didn't apologise for buying my boys iPods last year. Our children only ever get a fraction of what their peers get (this is obviously related to the middle class area we live in, but there is no use comparing my children to children they don't even know).

Our children don't get regular extracurricular activities like their friends, and have never had more than one term a year in the years they have had any at all.

They don't get regular holidays away from home - even to Australian destinations. We've been on one family holiday, last year, to visit my parents and we travelled by coach for 11 hours each way (The holiday cost us $210 in total, including buying food while we stayed with my parents for six days).

Until last year the boys had no gadgets, no even Mp3 players. They don't have their own computers or laptops or sound systems. They've never had Leap Pads or games consoles or the like. While my youngest is lucky to have these things in his life from a very young age (thanks to FTB Supps and my brother buying the boys a Wii at Christmas), my eldest was twelve before he had anything like the various devices all his friends took for granted.

The judgement I received last year hurt. It was made by people who cannot understand what it is like to see your children missing out on what others take for granted. We have no debt and very little income and lump sums of money do get spent rather than saved. We constantly live in hope that the Grumpy Old Man will get one of the jobs he applies for and that he can get off the Government pension he is on. We've learned to be more careful with our money, and considering the fact we have no debt, I think we do fairly well. We had to ask mother-in-law for a fair bit of money to make ends meet last year, mostly because of driving lessons - for which we also came under fire from people who did not know us - but this year we've only asked for her assistance one time.

We no longer have the cost of driving lessons and tests (since the middle of last month), which makes things easier, but also we have had furniture to sell because of my parents generosity in the process of downsizing their lives and that has made a considerable difference.

We always pay our rent and bills on time. We prioritise food last because we know we can get that more readily than rent or bill money. We can cut corners on food (our children eating always takes priority over the GOM or I eating, in case you were wondering). Though through increasingly better money management skills, we are finding we can meet all our basic needs each fortnight (housing, bills and food), there is just nothing left for anything beyond the basic needs.

So, when a lump sum comes we do splurge on things that we can never afford the rest of the year. We do it because we can. Some might say, 'Save the money and use it for smaller fun things throughout the year' but they don't understand that dividing this amount of money over 52 weeks means not really being able to do anything worthwhile. Aside from the money set aside for Erik starting high school, we're talking about $1200 which over 52 weeks would be $23 per week which is not enough for us to do anything as a family (it wouldn't even cover a family Maccas meal). Instead, we spend larger amounts in one go to give three of our children memories to keep forever (Ari misses out this time, but fortunately he doesn't notice at his age) because they don't get family holidays or extracurricular activities or birthday parties except once every few years each...

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Busy doing very little...

I made this card this morning in preparation for the blog post I'm about to write.

We've had a hectic couple of weeks during the holidays, busier than usual with other kids birthday parties and our kids birthdays, play dates, visits from friends and of course, my parents coming over to pick up their caravan.

I don't mind busy holidays. With a house full of kids, busy holidays can actually be better than really quiet holidays (our usual variety); where everyone has plenty of opportunity to get on everyone else's last, frazzled nerve - especially mine!

Yesterday, even though to kids were back at school, we were still running around from dawn to dusk, so today was the first proper routine day and I was looking forward to doing nothing.

Of course, it didn't quite work out that way, it hardly ever does, but it got me thinking about so many of my family and friends who are run off their feet with life and who sometimes, like me, feel the need to fib about being busy even on their quiet days just so they can actually have a quiet day!

I know I have told people I can't catch up with them on particular day because I'm 'run off my feet' when on that specific day I have no plans. I do it because if I admit to having a quiet day planned, I might be viewed as selfish for not catching up with someone on that day when I'm always saying I can't catch up because I have so much on.

Sometimes I fib because I need a break but I feel that will not be understood by the other person.

Sometimes the problem is that other people do not perceive my life as busy because I'm not in paid work. I'm a mum and a writer. I'm a mum with three kids at school, so other than doing housework and tending to one at-home child, what could I possibly be doing with my day that keeps me run of my feet, they wonder.

It's funny, sometimes I can't even tell people.

Today, for example, I've been on the phone all day. I've been trying to sort out my mother-in-law's Myki card, this has required calling several departments who mostly had no clue how to categorise MIL for a card, though eventually we worked it out (I worked it, I should say, and then told them, and they agreed, thank goodness!). I also had to call MIL several times to clarify things - because you never know what questions they might ask you before you call each department.

This has taken hours of my day!

Other days, I try to do research for my PhD proposal, or chase up utility account issues (their mistakes) or Centrelink (because they randomly increase or decrease payments and I'm never quite sure why), or the kids schools.

There is always something, and most of it is paperwork. It is no joke to call a housewife a manager, not just of little people or partners, but of all the sub-contractors of the household; the utility companies, the gardner, the agents (if you rent), the council (if you own). There are school applications to process and exhibitions (or performance if you child performs) to arrange for and homework/projects to oversee.

We're trying to buy a car somehow and researching all that goes into that and the many ways in which one can get one's mitts on a car (legally, of course) is time consuming.

Oh, and writing, well, that should be a top priority but often because it requires a certain creative energy it gets set aside for more pressing - and mundane - matters.

Once I'm doing the doctorate, I know I will have even more to manage. That frightens me. At the same time, the doctorate is a means to an end and it could be very beneficial to our family, even in the short term.

Sometimes though, there is a lull in the busy-ness, and it never last long, so sometimes I find myself 'run off my feet doing very little at all' so that when the lull fades away there is something left of me to take on all the busy-ness again.

Do you fib about being run off your feet some days - just so you can catch your breath?

Friday, July 13, 2012

Do you have low self-esteem?

I don't.

I used to think I did, but having met several people who really do have low self-esteem, I've now come to realise I actually have low confidence (and note I don't say low self-confidence, but more on that later), and that is a different breed of animal all together.

I was having a chat with a friend the other day about people who constantly put themselves down. If you are a participant in social media you might be aware of this kind of person. Everyone is smarter than them, prettier than them, more motivated, better organised, or has greater talent than them. It goes further, some of these people are not at all opposed to running themselves down to others with comments like, 'I'm so fat' (and not in a proud, fat acceptance way, but in a negative, self-loathing kind of way), or 'I'm stupid' or 'I'm ugly'.

Some people are just fishing for compliments, of course, but the ones who persist; the ones who simply cannot take a compliment and cannot see anything worthwhile about themselves most of the time - they really do have low self-esteem.

Unlike Elinor Dashwood in Sense and Sensibility who greatly esteemed Edward, people with low self-esteem do not 'greatly esteem' themselves. They wouldn't be, and ultimately are not, their own best friend.

I do not have low self-esteem. I really like me. I would most definitely be my own best friend because I think I'm quite funny, and very intelligent and loyal and reliable and all the things I look for in a friend.  I also tend to think I'm quite attractive; not necessarily in the sense of the modern beauty, but I've never had any trouble in the attraction department (must be my eyes, right?)...

So, no low self-esteem here, but I do have low confidence. That is not to say I don't believe I can do stuff, but I'm often concerned that other people don't believe I can do stuff and that if I make even a common mistake I will prove them right.

This is wholly related to my low vision, of course. I'm tougher on myself to perform because I feel as if I have to make up for a perceived shortcoming from the perspective of others. This is the primary reason I don't put myself 'out there' into the workforce. I've been mucked around by employers who pretty much just wanted to scam Government schemes for employment entry payments for people with disabilities. I've been employed for the minimum amount of time and then without making any real mistakes I've been let go because of my 'potential for mistakes' because of my low vision or because I need to work a little slower than others because I need to be more methodical.

My confidence in employers has been knocked about and battered to the point where it just seems far less painful to not try.

My problem here is, more and more it's looking like I have to put myself back out there. I have to overcome other people's prejudice. If you believe I'm seeing a prejudice that does not exist, then please explain to me who only 15% of Australia's vision impaired people are in the workforce at all - even fewer in full time employment. Vision impaired people are not lazy.

So, yep, low confidence is what I have and now I just have to figure out how to eliminate it...

Any ideas?

PS. Here is a somewhat unrelated cartoon, but I love Calvin and Hobbs, so I thought I would share it with you - also, I often see this attitude in society these days and I don't understand it at all!


I swear there's gypsy blood in my lineage...

This week my mum and step-dad have picked up their new caravan. It's a beauty, it really is! I think at forty, with four relatively young children (still dependant children), the idea of living full time in a caravan kind of scares me. I know it doesn't scare other people my age, mind you. Quite a few people I know have either gone on extended round-Australia trips with their children, or would like to do that. I wouldn't mind going on a month long trip, maybe, but choosing to live permanently in the small space of even a 25 foot long caravan still makes me nervous.

They've become minimalists!

I said to mum yesterday that I couldn't think of anything to give her for her birthday next month because she doesn't have room for even one more thing in the caravan. She said I was 'off the hook'... I think not - I just have to be more inventive. There are plenty of consumables which do not need storage!

Now, I guess, because they can't buy size or quantity, they really will get to focus on quality - the best of what little they can actually take with them on their adventure.

Here are some photos from our catch up with them at Crystal Brook Tourist Park on Wednesday...

First up there is the "bedroom", you can see the end of the bed there, it isn't pulled out to full length for sleep because we're visiting and looking through the place. The door at the back of the room leads to the shower and bathroom.

This is the "dining room". I took this while sitting on the "couch" which is opposite the dining nook - unfortunately, I completely forgot to take a photo of the couch, d'oh. It is a double recliner with footrest. The table swivels and can be unscrewed from the floor and moved around or taken outside.

This is mum and step-dad in the kitchen, mum is about 5ft 10 inches tall, so you can see there is plenty of head room. She is standing in front of the oven, while step-dad is in front of the sink and to the right of both of them you can just make out the fridge and the microwave on top of it.

Here is their huge shower - I was very impressed with this shower, I have to tell you. I thought, in a caravan it would be tiny, but it was actually very spacious - bigger than some of the one's I've lived with in rental properties!

The bathroom is equipped with a toilet (for convenience use at night only, LOL, otherwise it's the park toilets the rest of the time, and for guests!), a sink, and in the corner there - hidden from sight is a washing machine.

Here's a slightly blurry photo of the bed head  - you can see an iPad over on the right there... They had electrical sockets put on the either side of the bed frame so they can charge their iDevices, hahaha! It's the little things that count (and I a teensy bit jealous of that!)...

Here is the dining suite with the table turned the other way. They were originally going to get beige (it was called sand or something, but I honestly think they were just trying to make heige sound less, well, beige!), but I really much prefer the black they went with in the end! The couch can be brought up to the table to create larger nook if guests come for dinner. The table has a fold down flap on one side to make it narrower.

A cold Melbourne winter's day and Ari is barefoot, the flush in his cheeks is from running around like a crazy person!

A giant jumping pillow is always a hit with my boys!


And then they discovered the games room, and I thought all outdoor play would be forgotten, but after a couple of rounds of Norwegian waffles with grandad and amma, they were right back out there on the jumping pillow again until we had to drag them away in the end.

Monday, July 09, 2012

Cold to the bone!

Anyone else in Melbourne think we're having an extraordinarily cold winter this year?

I could take this personally, you know. I made a vow back in May that I would not let Seasonal Adjustment Disorder get the better of me this year. I vowed to find joy in the cold weather! Yes, well, that was before we had the 1-2 degree night - and several off them each week!

It also seems to be raining a LOT this winter - like 5 days out of every 7!

The Grumpy Old Man said he heard on the radio that meteorologists are predicting another el niño for this summer because they are often preceded by particularly wet winters. The last el niño was around 2008/09; the summer Ari was a newborn and there were rolling brownouts in the city and we ended up with no electricity for 24 hours on a 47 degree day...

The rain is certainly not set to let up for the next four weeks, either!

I'm not wishing for a heat wave, really, I'm not, but... BUT, right now - as I lose feeling in my feet (through my big fuzzy socks), I do kind of wish it was summer already!

In other news, I'm making progress with my PhD proposal, slowly, slowly...

Today my parents went to pick up their new home (a 25ft Jayco Caravan). I was hoping to do a post full of pictures of the new lovely, but that'll have to wait until tomorrow or Thursday.

We're half way through the holidays and these have been very busy, and yet, I'm still ready for them to be done with - maybe because at the end of next term it will definitely be spring!

Still nothing on the car front.  Should any of my readers win the lotto and feel sorry for us and spot us cash for a decent second hand car, I just want to say THANK YOU in advance!!!

Maybe I should invest in one of those sun lamp things for misery guts like me who suffer from SAD!

Wednesday, July 04, 2012

Local Landscapes Exhibit at the Ian Potter Centre...

Last Sunday the Grumpy Old Man, Erik, Luey and I headed off into the city. My friend Jayne got up far too early on a Sunday morning to come and watch Bryn and Ari for us.

We had an invitation for four to attend the opening of the Local Landscapes exhibition at the Ian Potter Centre at Federation Square where Erik's most recent work was being exhibited.

The opening turned out only to be for the children from Erik's school. Out of the 20 children who participated about half turned up for the opening.

The director of the project had a talk about what the children had learned during the initial seminar and presented them with certificates of participation. Then we were all shown upstairs to see the children's work.

Of the eight schools which participated from all over Victoria, four had their works on display on Sunday. The standard of work varied but it was wonderful to see than children had been encouraged share a place which was meaningful to them by painting it and writing about it.

Here are a number of photos I took on the day including several of the works by other students from Erik's school and from other school which I felt really stood out.

These first two photos are a bit murky, but when I tried to use flash, they came out green...

The exhibition was in a small room upstairs which looks like a room they probably usually conduct art classes or workshops in...

I wanted to take a photo of Erik next to his painting but there was a bit of crowd to see it! Erik was kind of embarrassed. He wanted me to wait until everyone had gone home before taking a photo of him because otherwise, 'They'd all know it was me...' They all already knew it was him - being that they were parents of kids from his class and school (and the kids pointed him out to their parents). All the attention gave Erik a dry mouth and a headache!

While waiting for a chance to get a photo of Erik I went around and took some photos of other paintings I thought were amazing! 

The young artist who painted this was only 11 years old!

The painting on the left here is by one of Erik's close friend's!

I really love the imagery of these two paintings, particularly the one of the right!

The use of light in this picture - by a boy in Erik's class - is wonderful!

The painting on the right is by Erik's best mate and is of Mt Buffalo.

This painting is from a different school, but I like the use of colour here.

This was the only painting to use this technique out of the ones displayed on Sunday and I thought it really stood out as an example of how children really can grasp impressionism and texture in painting (or even post impressionism - as the GOM has just informed me), using a technique called pointillism similar to that used by Seurat

I particularly like the water in the following painting; the use of brown in the water - which is something children often don't see when painting.

This painting was my absolute favourite! This is the lighthouse at Point Lonsdale - which is where the Grumpy Old Man and I had our honeymoon. I love the use of light here and how the colours are blended, especially in the shadows on the lighthouse. Amazing work by such a young artist!

Finally, Erik's art teacher wanted to take a photo of Erik next to his painting and I used that opportunity to snap of a pic myself. You can see how overwhelmed he was by the attention by the way he is slightly hunched over, poor kid!

The director of the exhibit then pulled us aside. She said she'd been waiting all week to meet Erik. She asked him what else he had painted and where he'd learned his technique. We explained that he had had next to no formal training but his dad, an old grapho, had walked him through the steps of gridding out the painting and blocking out the shapes, painting the background and then working in the foreground - paying close attention to detail. I said I realised a lot of painters these days didn't believe in grid referencing photos, but to my surprise the director was very supportive of how Erik had been mentored by his dad.

She was very excited about his natural ability and took down our contact details and gave us her card. She wanted to know which high school he was going to - if it had a good art program. We told her about hoping to get into Templestowe College and about the art studio they offered their most enthusiastic artistic students and she was keen to contact the headmaster to ask him more about it - I really hope she does!

She said there were probably a couple of artists working with the National Gallery of Victoria (of which the Ian Potter Centre is an annex) who would be interested in meeting Erik and possibly mentoring him. She wanted Erik to meet one artist - Vincent Fantauzzo - that day, but Vincent was not at the gallery. She took us to see an exhibition he was currently presenting called 30 Inspirational Australians in 30 Days, where he'd undertaken the challenge to paint thirty portraits in as many days. I was completely blown away by his work!

I would personally like to interview this artist for my PhD!

As part of his exhibition Fantauzzo also had an interactive graffiti wall, and Erik added his own mark to it...

It was a great morning out and I can see so many doors opening for Erik! Of course, it's up to him to take up the invitations to walk through those doors, but we're more than happy to support him each step of the way!

Good Job!