Thursday, November 29, 2012

Reading on the toilet...

Do you?



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I don't and I've never understood people who do...



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I'm guessing it is a practice which became ingrained in individuals right back in early childhood when they were toilet learning. I imagine parents encouraged bored children to stay put on the potty until their bodies evacuated of their own accord... Think about why parents might do this - possibly because children in nappies are so unaware of their evacuations that they might wander off before finishing? Surely adults are more in tune with their bodies that they don't need to actually hear a splash to know they're finished???




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I can't help but view needing to read on the toilet as a form of disassociation; Oh, I'm not pooing or peeing, I'm just sitting here reading with my pants down... Yeah, you're not fooling anyone but yourself! 'Do you mind if I go read a book in your toilet for a while?' screams 'Right, I'm off to lay a cable!' It's poo! Every single person on the planet does it, so get over it already!

There are many reasons - besides disassociation - that I just can't read on the loo...

1. There's just not enough time - unless of course I want to sit there reading, over an open pit of my own body waste - I'm in, on, and out in a matter of a couple of minutes. This is the case for a couple of reasons; I only go when I need to go and also, the longer I spend in the smallest room of the house, the more likely it is one or more of my children will have brought Western Civilation to the brink of collapse in my absence (particularly the four year old).

2. The lighting in there isn't very good either, so I barely have time to adjust my eyes before I'm ready to leave.

3. In the case of number twos... Well, hmmm, maybe I'm strange but I want to get out of stench asap; not sit in the wafting aroma of waste and disinfectant while I finish the chapter or article...

3. There is no avoiding the issue if bacteria. E-coli, even in the cleanest toliet is everywhere. When you share a house with five unco-ordinated males, it'sa damn site more dodgy! Even letting them play computer games doesn't seem to have improved their hand-eye co-ordination - I'm sure you get the picture. There isn't enough disinfactant in Australia to safeguard against five blokes sharing one toilet...

So, it gets on your hands, then you're handing a book or newspaper or magasine, wiping yourself - and God forbid you actually have a toilet library like the ones pictured here! Even if you remember to close the loo lid before flushing, that's not an airtight seal, you know... Splash-back and micro fine spray... Ever watched the movie Outbreak? Now imagine itty-bitty unseen molecules of body waste flying through the air when you fart or flush the loo... That's all I'm saying... If you don't have a toilet library, chances are the reading material (covered in e-coli, by now) goes back into the main part of the house - want to do a swab test on your book shelf? Coffee table? Kitchen counter? Paper is a porous haven for bacteria, peoples!


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Reading on the toilet is a bad, bad idea! Really, if you're having that much trouble relaxing your sphincter muscle, you should consider meditation or metamucil!

Bless, bless Sif xxx

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Oh no... Not the...COMPUTER!!!

Wah!

I turned my computer on this morning, did a quick search on Google, went and did some other stuff - as you do - came back, browsed Facebook and mid-sentence to the Grumpy Old Man my screen went black!

I tried to turn the computer back on and heard the first click-pop sounds, but no friendly tone saying it was initialzing. I checked the power cord, it was all plugged in properly and working. I took the computer to the kitchen and plugged it in there, but still nothing...

I started to hyperventilate...

I fumbled through the box of receipts to check if I had bought an extended warranty for it when I got it brand new just 17 months ago, but couldn't tell from the receipt.

I rang JB Hi-Fi to see what they had to say. They said to contact the Apple Store online and book into the Genius bar... Online? Well, yeah, but my computer is dead! No, I can't read the screen on my mobile... Sure, I could use my iPad - if I was prepared to wrestle it from he who must be obeyed if you want to keep you face in one piece my four year old.

I rang off and pried the iPad from my shrieking off-spring (yeah, sure, judge my parenting if you will, he was working on an astro-physics equation if you must know), I made an appointment with the Genius Bar just in case, then rang the apple store and navigated my way through the menu until I finally stumbled up a human. He was very nice and confirmed I am indeed under an extended warranty *WOOT!* and also eligible for home service. Further discussion revealed that the home visit might not happen for a few days, so in the end I've decided to go the Genius Bar in the morning.

I cannot believe my luck with computers, though...

This is the fourth computer to die in the past 3-ish years! I had three die in 18 months (during my second Masters degree) from various virus, trojans and the like. That is why I invested DA BOM! in this iMac and now it has died as well! This time I'm pretty sure it's a mechanical fault, though.

Actually, I don't really care what it is, I just want my computer back!!!





Bless, bless Sif xxx

Sunday, November 25, 2012

New Upper Conch Piercing!

Well, after a fairly crap week, where we've had to decide to cancel Bryn doing the school swim program and Erik and Lukas participating in the year 5/6 fun day because we just don't have the $130 these things would cost, it was nice to end on the week with a bit of fun and long wanted piercing - that cost not a cent!

The opportunity presented itself on Thursday to get a free piercing on Sunday (today), including free jewellery, at an end of year training facility. Basically we'd be helping out graduating piercing students by allowing them to pierce our body, under close supervisor of a qualified and highly experienced couple of piercers.

I could not pass up such an opportunity!

I've long wanted to get the top of my ear pierced. At first I looked at getting a rim or helix piercing but in the end it was more a conch piercing and I'm so very happy with it. My plan is to give it a good six months or so to heal (this area takes up to a year) and then change out the bar bell for a stud with a large flat diamond head. Something like this...

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Although - these particular earrings cost over £3000, so probably not real diamonds, but definitely something glittery...

So, I know you want to see the actually piercing...



And from behind...


Was it very painful? No, it wasn't. There was pain, maybe about a 4 for me (my first nose piercing was a two, the second time it was about a 7), but it lasted two seconds, then that lovely warm feeling spread through my ear. I was told pulling the tube out might hurt, but I didn't feel that part at all. My friend, Jayne, also hard her ear done - slightly different position - and generally speaking she feels pain more acutely than I do, but she didn't feel any pain at all (she had a professional do hers, whereas mine was the last graduate off the rank. My graduate did a brilliant job, but was maybe more hesitant than the attractive young professional who did Jayne's ;)).

The waiting is always the most painful part and we had to wait for a while with a bunch of 20-somethings who had all had several piercings and were intent on reliving every horror story and comparing pain levels and what not - I kind of just wanted them to shut-the-truck-up.

It's always exhilarating getting a new tattoo or piercing done! Getting it done for free is just a huge bonus! I'm keen to get my second holes re-done now that I know that a needle piercing is much better than a gun piercing, and I would also like to get my tragus done. We're going to find out where the guy works who did Jayne's because he seems very good - and he has nice cool hands (he offered to hold my hand when I had mine done and he got the clammy end of that bargain)!

Friday, November 23, 2012

Art and life...

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You know that saying about art imitating life? Well, the other day I was watching Parenthood, with all the family nuttiness and dramas, and squabbling in public and drama, and did I mention drama? I realised I used to watch shows like that think, dear Lord, these shows are so unrealistic. I mean who has all this drama in their life constantly? It's great entertainment and all, but watching it can get tiring at times because just as the characters resolve one problem another one crashes upon them. There is never any respite and everything is always so full on, so dramatic...

So, I was watching Parenthood and suddenly it dawned on me that our household is like television drama. There is always something! If you wrote our lives as a script it would be turned down as too implausible, too over the top.

Too draining.

Take today for example. You know the week we have had, right (if you don't read my last post, I dare you)? Well, today I thought I'd put all that behind me and go and enjoy some great company and a coffee and some cake - and that is just what I did! I visited two friend's houses (wow!) and it was lovely!

Then I arrived home and in my email inbox there was a letter from our local kinder telling us that the four year old kinder assistant has just tendered her resignation today. Okay, so maybe that doesn't seem like a big deal, except that we've enrolled Ari in this kinder - which we are not zoned for - only because of this particularly brilliant kinder assistant! With my agoraphobia, I was relying on her familiar and very welcoming face to ease us back into the kinder scene and now she won't be there and the kinder teacher Bryn had also left early this year, so basically we won't know anyone.

If it weren't for the fact that I'm now so used to Murphy Law's putting the boot in, I might be devastated by this news. As it is, I find myself smiling at the inevitability of it all. Of course she was going to resign! That is completely and utterly in step with everything else in our lives!

Actually, I'm happy for the kinder assistant - she is lovely and she has a dream she is going to pursue which means she will be able to touch the lives of so many more children in our fair city and that actually makes me happy! Child oriented people like her are quite rare. She not just patient and funny and enthusiastic, she genuinely cares about the children in her care and their families. She was so warm and friendly on Wednesday last week at the kinder AGM and came and chatted with me for a good ten minutes even though there were plenty of other people to meet and greet - she always made us feel welcome and safe.

So, drama is something we tend to deal with a lot and for some time I've found myself waiting for it all to subside. Waiting for the time when we'll manage to get all our ducks in a row and start to live normal, sane, unmessy lives.

That time will never come. Maybe it's our personalities or maybe it's purely a numbers things - maybe we have too many people in this family for it ever to be truly crisis free? I don't know, but the roller coaster ride is not slowing down any time soon, so I need to just accept that.

If I can manage to accept the stuff that seems unfair or ironic or unnecessary, then maybe I can just get on with it all and that will lessen its impact? Possibly the worst part of drama is wishing it away because doing that only seems to compounds the bad feelings. If I can accept that things mostly can't be the way I wish they were, then I'll be less anxious; waiting for the other shoe to drop?

Art doesn't imitate life... Art is life.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Up, up, up... Down, down, down...

I've been debating with myself whether or not to write this post for the past 24 hours.

On the one hand I know some people continue to read my blog mostly to cheer themselves up if I'm struggling (lots of grist for the mill here, hey?), on the other hand, I know some of my readers are rooting for us and want to see us get to that better place we are striving for and those readers I am loathed to disappoint, yet again.

Ultimately though, this blog is a true representation of my life and hopefully one day this part of my life will be a dark memory, but it will show how far I've travelled, our little family has travelled, when life is good and things go our way.

Back in August I wrote about my fears about us becoming homeless next year. At the time I was desperately depressed - crying every day and not sleeping kind of depressed. Soon after I wrote that blog post MIL had a tree fall on the roof of her house and while trying to sort out insurance to cover fixing it, discovered the entire roof was asbestos and needed to be replace for her to continue being covered by her insurers in future. The cost of replacing it would be on her and she was not keen to spend that kind of money on a house which will likely be demolished within a few years.

So, she started to think about selling and buying a property we could all live in because she is getting on and needs a fair bit of assistance from us. She no longer can run her own errands to the supermarket which is a couple of minutes walk from her house. In fact she often needs help just to get her bins out and in again for rubbish collection. She also requires assistance for jobs around the house, changing lightbulbs, moving furniture etc. She has a cleaner come every week, a gardener every few weeks, and had meals delivered weekly.

With the prospect of getting out of the rental market suddenly on the table I found my stress levels dropping considerably. Also, Ari got into the kinder we hoped for and Erik was offered a place at the brilliant high school we'd been told about. Things were starting to look up.

We've also long been talking about getting a car. After more than three years of driving lessons, mostly paid out of our own pocket, though some from the ILs, and 9 tests, the Grumpy Old Man finally got his licence in June this year. The plan had been for him to get a manual licence and drive FILs as new 2002 Mazda Protege (13K on the clock!), but in the end the GOM went for an automatic licence and therefore can't drive the Mazda which has sat idle in the garage for the past four years. We thought MIL would sell the Mazda and buy an automatic car.

We've always known the ILs had some investments and a bit of a nest egg 'for a rainy' day, but we've never known how much.

So, the months passed since the GOM got his licence and MIL was reluctant to spend any money on a car, or to even sell the car sitting in the garage. We tried to explain to her how much easier it would be to help her out if the GOM could drive around. Getting to her place by public transport takes an hour on a good day, on a Sunday it takes an hour and a half or more. The Grumpy Old Man goes to her house often, every week and as time has passed more often several times a week. Each trip to her house is a minimum three hour return trip. Often it's more like five or six hours. Driving to her house would take him twelve minutes.

In that sense it's probably good that he doesn't work. I don't know when he'd fit in trips to his mum's around working as well.

Anyway, with the sale of the house looming on the horizon, and with Ari going to kinder, and Erik to high school and the other two at primary school (and me possibly at Uni), we've been saying we really need to do something about getting a car. The GOM decided he just needed to get on with selling it, himself. So last weekend he went and washed it. He told his mum to get the RACV out to charge the battery on Wednesday and then he could drive it out of the garage to take photos of it.

Wednesday came and he rang to see if she had arranged for the RACV guy to come out. She hadn't. She said she didn't want the same guy as last time - for whatever reason, I'm not sure.

She also said she had been talking to the neighbour across the road and he was saying to her that maybe it would be better for her to just stay in her house for another year or two and she could probably offer to go guarantor for us if we did receive a notice to vacate once our six month lease is up in February next year.

She said she didn't want to dip into her savings for a car (she's assuming, probably correctly, that even with selling the car there would be some extra cost for another car in reasonable condition - we're not necessarily looking for a people mover, mind you, at this point even a hatchback would do the job!).

The thing is, she told the GOM last week that her investments total more than six years income for us. In fact, she had savings with the now partly bankrupt Banksia to the tune of over a years income for us all this time (and she let us believe that buying a second hand car after selling the Mazda would 'stretch' her). She's probably lost a chunk of the Banksia money. It's frozen but she 'may' get some of it back. I can't help but think if she'd bought a car back in June, then Banksia couldn't have taken that money from her and she'd now have a car which would mean the Grumpy Old Man could far more easily get to her when she needed him!

She really is in a position to help us but she won't.

It's fear.

She has to leave her (asbestos ridden) home of forty years, she has to sell the last car she and FIL bought together, she has to give up many of her possession because her personal living space would be smaller no matter where she goes. She's turning 84 this week and she's afraid.

I get that.

The thing is, we have four children who rely on us, and she relies on us (whether she acknowledges that or not). To maintain stability for our children and for her, we - the GOM and I - have to keep living in this area - three suburbs away from her current house (12 minutes by car if she would help us get one). This area we live in expensive. It has lots of infrastructure, which is great, but an average three bedroom rental is $430 per week.

With four children and no taxable income and 30 applications for every property, we have Buckley's chance of getting another rental in this area, even with her as guarantor. We only got this house we're in because a) it was in such poor condition no one had applied for it in three months and b) we basically lied on the application about the GOM's employment status.

This means we'd have to move away from her and away from the great kinder and schools. Ari would not go to kinder next year at all. Erik would have to go to whatever local high school wherever we ended up. Lukas would have to start a new school part way through year six (Erik part way through year seven, I'm not sure which is worse).

As well as this, we would not be available to MIL at all because further away with no car means even longer on public transport and with children in three different kinder/schools we'd been hard pressed to fit in whole days to get to her to take her wheelie bins in from the kerb.

That's if we even got a rental property. I'm not convinced we would. Which means we'd probably end up living in motels paid for by the Government, moving every few days. The kids would be so messed up. Thinking about it makes my heart race with anxiety and rage. Why can't she see this? How can she sit on her nest egg, her 'money for a rainy day' willing to let her grandchild be uprooted like this. This is the rainy day! It's pouring right now!

So, the haters out there are saying, 'Why don't you or your husband get a job?' Well, it's like this. We can't. We've tried, and tried, and tried.

But let's say there was an everyday miracle and one or both of us got a job...

Who would care for the kids and who would care for MIL? One person cannot be on call for five people in four different places, all of them at least 30 minutes public transport away from one another. That's a two person, full time job.

And the crazy thing is, the ILs helped me encourage the Grumpy Old Man to get a licence because we all knew the day was coming when he would be needed to run around after them and our own children. That day is here and MIL has her head in the sand and her heels firmly dug in the ground.

There is nothing we can do, though.

In the end she holds the purse strings.

In the end it's up to her to decide how things will play out and we can only paddle furiously to try and keep our heads above water and still be there for her as long as we can - until we receive the inevitable notice to vacate.

I've cried many tears of sheer panic in the past twenty-four hours. I fear for our relationship with MIL. I fear for the psychological and emotional, and even the physical well being of our children. I fear for the health of the Grumpy Old Man (he is enormously stressed about all of this).

I cannot understand her thinking at all.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Maybe I'm not a person?

Having a bit of a laugh at myself today.

I've said it many times before, but never really thought about it.

I don't get people.

I actually don't really like a lot of people. I sort of identify with that saying, 'The more people I know, the more I like my cats.' - except that I don't really like many cats either.

It occurred to me though, that it's a very strange thing to believe about yourself; that you don't get people or you don't like people. It's very strange because ultimately I am a person. Well, in theory, anyway.

Because sometimes I wonder. Maybe I'm not a person? Maybe I'm an alien to this planet and just don't know it. Maybe I was sent here to observe people and one day I'll be teleported back to the mothership and they'll download all my observations from my database (brain). I mean, it sort of makes sense, right, the fact that I wouldn't know I'm not a person because that would help me observe humans more authentically.

It's a bit unfair though, don't you think that, given my lack of proper understanding for humans, that I'd be dumped here with no understanding of my alien origins - an understanding that might help me not feel quite so out-of-step with the rest of the human race.

I've heard many times that this sense of alienation I feel is very common amongst humans. That must be some sort of genetic fault considering the social nature of the human race. Surely a species which relies so heavily on belonging would have some sort of protection from feeling alienated by their own species most of the time.

Although, here's a thought... The need for ego in humans - it is ego which has seen the human race develop and evolve as quickly as it has - is probably the thing that creates the sense of alienation. I mean, it's ego that makes it so hard for me to relate to others. My very individual nature (something all humans possess to one degree or other) is what stands in the way of me getting other people. They are not like me, they don't react to things the way I do. They don't feel what I feel and cannot empathise most of the time. And this is something most humans experience, I think.

Humans are innately social, but also innately ego driven and have the unrealistic expectation that others will feel the way they do. When others don't sharing their feelings, humans blame themselves. Most humans tend to wonder what is wrong with them that others don't feel the same way they do, or that they don't feel the way others do.

So, not getting other people, and not really liking most other people is probably the greatest indicator that I am, indeed, a person!

Damn!



Saturday, November 17, 2012

A time to be quiet...

Today was a rough day.

It started this morning with the blood-curdling screams of our seven year old. I really hate waking up to that sound and it happens so often.

You see, he knows he will get our attention that way.

Not that we ignore him, but when we're asleep and his big brother won't let him out into the lounge room to watch TV in the morning, or will let him, but then won't let him actually breathe, the seven year old has learned to scream and rage to wake us up quickly to come and save him.

Today started with yelling, and sending Mr 13 to his room. Reassuring Mr 7 he was indeed allowed to sit and watch TV and breathe.

The next task was to talk to Mr 13 again. Yet again. Like all the other agains that have happened over the past nine years since hour long screaming-until-he-passed-out-from-exhaustion sessions morphed into stealing things, mostly food from shops and friends houses and our pantry, and lying about things, and bullying his brothers.

The talk varies but pretty always comes back to the big question. Why? Why does he torment his brothers. Why does he attempt to parent them even when we are in the room? Why does he bully? Why does he allow the tiny things, like breathing, irritate him so much he is compelled to shove a person half his age and size onto the floor?

He doesn't like his brother, he says. He steals because it makes him feel good, he says (the developmental paed we saw when he was eight said stealing is a self-soothing activity when his anxiety  overwhelms him).

Lying, well, lying happens because he knows stealing and shoving his brothers is not okay.

I try to reason with him, but he says he doesn't care. He doesn't care about anything, He doesn't want to talk about what he wants out of life. He doesn't want to talk about how he feels. He shuts down.

He sits in defiance with his hand over his mouth, head perched on his knee on the floor in front on me. The room cools and he doesn't speak. Time passes and we both shift our weight to avoid pins and needles. I wrap myself in one of my other son's doonas to stave off the cold. He sits in defiance unwilling to speak or make eye contact.

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I suggest how I think he might be feeling but I'm wrong, wrong, always wrong.

We sit in silence and time passes.

There is no clock in the room so I don't know how much time has passed, I just know that I can't get up and walk away because he needs to talk, he needs time to think through his feelings and he needs someone there to keep him on task so he doesn't distract himself with another activity.

Sitting doing nothing is killing me. I know that if it is killing me, it is killing him too, because we are very similar. We both fidget and bide our time.

A long time of silence passes.

He speaks.

He is afraid of being assessed by a psychiatrist because he knows he will come back 'positive' for ADHD. He believes if he doesn't try to control his impulses I won't take him to a psychiatrist because so far, as long as he has continued to be impulsive I have not had him assessed.

His theory is arse-about-face, but I have to admire that he has been observant enough to note that I have not acted during all these years of him following his impulses.

I tell him anti-social behaviour is a disorder. Anti-social behaviour is a disorder if it cannot be controlled and it is a disorder when the person can control it but chooses not to most of the time. I tell him that having a disorder is not a bad thing in and of itself, it is a sign that a person needs some assistance. Getting assistance is a good thing.

He looks at me as if I just suggested swallowing knives.

I tell him that the behaviour cannot continue. I tell him I am compelled to seek treatment for the behaviour if it does continue. I tell him I have been wrong to let it continue this long because it has given him the impression it is acceptable, even preferable.

He says it won't continue, that he can control it.

I want to believe him. I want him to be happy. I want my other children to be happy, too.

In the end we spent three and a half hours sitting in that room, mostly in silence, while he worked through the thoughts in his head. It was hard on both of us. We both had to sleep afterwards. I don't know if it made any difference, only time will tell.

Sometimes silence is more effective than pushing for answers.

Friday, November 16, 2012

Fighting the skittish white rabbit...

If depression is represented by a lurking black dog, then I think anxiety should be represented by a skittish white rabbit. White because it is conspicuous, skittish because it's difficult to grasp and can run away with a person's rational thinking.

Today I've been battling the skittish white rabbit.

It sits there twitching and taunting me but whenever I reach out to wring its neck it hops away, never completely away, just far enough away to be conspicuous and out of reach.

I feel physically sick from it. I mean, as I sit hear there is an uneasy feeling in my stomach which has been around since the kindergarten AGM last night. I went there, to the AGM, on my own. The environment was familiar, and I knew I'd know at least one other face. I did everything right; didn't stumble on my words, had all the right forms and all the right money. The one person I knew came over to talk to me for a quite a while and we laughed - and that bloody white rabbit twitched and twitched and wouldn't leave me alone.

I felt conspicuous and wrong.

I had a little conversation with a couple sitting in front of me who I didn't know and that went fine, they were very nice, and I felt conspicuous and wrong and in the way.

I came home afterwards with a pounding headache.

I went to bed feeling feverish and woke a couple of hours later still feeling feverish and headachy. I took Neurofen and managed to get back to sleep quickly enough. I woke feeling dazed and confused this morning.

I took Ari with me to meet a friend and go to another friend's house for lunch. Everyone was lovely and we talked and laughed - and I felt conspicuous and wrong and in the way and a nuisance. I fought the feeling, nothing in the other people's behaviour suggested I was any of the things I was feeling, but that's agoraphobia for you. My rational brain was in the firm grip of that skittish white rabbit and ever out of my reach.

Tonight I've considered withdrawing from social media. I've considered withdrawing from people altogether. Withdrawing sounds good, easy, safe. My social score card is constantly in the red and I struggle daily to balance it out, but maths was never my strong suit and, as it turns out, neither are people. I've fantasised about becoming a recluse who works on her PhD and only talks to her immediate family because I don't feel conspicuous and wrong and in the way and a nuisance with them.

Of course, I can't do that - I don't even really want to do that.

What I want to do is ring that bloody twitching white rabbit's scrawny little neck!

I wish I could be different - not different from others, just different from me. I wish I could blend in and be inconspicuous. I watched all the mums at the kinder AGM last night; the way they were, the way they dressed, the way they talked. I wanted to be like that.

But it's ridiculous because I know I would only feel like a fraud if I attempted to be like them - I have attempted that once or twice...

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I wish I was invisible.



Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Secrets of a happy marriage...

Today the Grumpy Old Man and I are celebrating fourteen years of marriage. This is apparently our gold anniversary (which seems odd to me because it's not even a big-0 anniversary, but there you go)!

I would say we are happily married. Fourteen years on our marriage is as solid as ever. I guess that is a relative term, I mean, I could be saying we were never very solid and so we're as solid as ever, but no, I actually mean, we have a solid marriage, we work as a team, we're committed (and sometimes we feel like we need to be committed!).

Today is also our fifteenth anniversary of living together and our sixteenth anniversary of being together. I mention these other two anniversaries every year because they're important to me as well!

So, considering our solid, committed relationship after all these years, I thought I'd share some secrets of our happy marriage. Note I didn't say secrets to a happy marriage, but rather of our happy marriage. This is no formula by any means, but may contain some surprises when considering all that is conventionally considered necessary for a happy marriage.

Marriages start with wedding days, so lets start there...

The Grumpy Old Man and I got married at 10.30am on Saturday the 14th of November, 1998. This was actually the date on which I was supposed to be marrying another person with the same initials as the Grumpy Old Man - I guess I was always destine to get married on that day, I just had to find the right D.B.!

In attendance at the ceremony were the GOM's old friend Bev and a work colleague of mine, Marion and her boyfriend. These are three people we have not managed to stay in contact with over time. No one else was at the ceremony, and no one else knew about the ceremony. The main reason for this was because the various branches of my family could not be civil in the same room as one another at the same time and I wanted the day to be a happy one!

I wore black - head to toe black, and I had black hair as well - mum likes to say I was going through my gothic phase! The Grumpy Old Man wore dark grey and black.

We have no official photos of the day because the photographer was rubbish. We have the proofs somewhere but couldn't bring ourselves to pay good money to have terrible photos printed (including one of the Grumpy Old Man standing behind a cast iron gate, looking as if he has just been imprisoned!). Somewhere, I'm not sure where, we have one photo Bev took of us. It is not framed - our memories are all in our minds eyes.

I was also about seven weeks pregnant, but this was planned. Everything was planned! As evidence, I would like to submit the receipt from the booking of the ceremony about four months before the day!


We honeymooned at Point Lonsdale from Saturday afternoon until Monday afternoon. We didn't consummate the marriage until March 2000, though. It's funny, I only realised this last night! They say a good sex life is essential to a good marriage. I'm here to tell you, it isn't. We had a great sex life before I got pregnant, and then for the next twelve years it was pretty appalling, actually, with great long stretches of celibacy! And yet we have always been very affectionate. I'm sure you'll be relieved to know our sex life is currently very happy and healthy. We suffered a lot from 'small child-itis' - that is the Grumpy Old Man did. Being a very hands-on dad, he just didn't feel very sexy...

Oh, funny story - the Tuesday after we got married we went to his parents to tell them, and his mums reaction was, 'You're pulling our leg!'. On the Wednesday we went to my parents to tell them, and my mums reaction was, 'Phew, I thought you were going to tell me you were pregnant!' (so, I didn't tell her for another couple of months).

We've been through some tough times. We had a very tough patch in 2003-4, it really tested our relationship, but somehow we got through it. We've had another tough patch since the beginning of 2009, but this time has been very different - this time has not been a test of our commitment to one another, but rather a test of the two of us against the world.

One thing I think we've always had going for us is that we talk a lot - to each other, that is. We are not ships passing in the night, despite having four children and his mother to look after and being on-the-go constantly, we always find time to talk. We talk about stuff we're dealing with, whether it be the kids or other stuff, we talk about current affairs, we talk about esoterica.

The other thing I think we have going for us is that we can happily not talk, as well. Both the Grumpy Old Man and I are introverts and often spend time apart together. Yes, that is an oxymoron. What I mean is, when the kids are in bed, we can be in different parts of the house doing our own thing and it's all good. Or we can be in the same room and not talk and it's all good. There are only comfortable silences between us. I can not imagine a time when we might run out of things to talk about.

We argue. Yesterday, we had a whopper of an argument over the placement of a folder in a filing cabinet. We don't hold grudges and we let ourselves cool off and we move on. We don't usually apologise after arguments - even though every marriage counsellor on the planet seems to think this is necessary to a happy marriage - there is no need because we have a deeper understanding of each other and we forgive because we know the strain each other is feeling at the time.

We are both hopeless at buying each other presents. After all these years, I still don't think we really understand what the other one values. I cannot pick his movie or book likes, and his mind goes completely blank when it comes to finding birthday and Christmas gifts for me. We usually just have to tell each other exactly what to get. And that's okay.

We've only ever had a handful of comments on our age difference over the years. The Grumpy Old Man is twelve years and eight months older than me. I've often read couples with large age gaps say it makes no difference in their relationship. I have to say this is not true for us. Our age differences heavily impact our relationship. Possibly this is emphasised by the fact that his parents were older when they had him, and my parents were younger when they had me, so his parents are my grandparents age, and my parents are less than a decade older than him. We often feel the generation gap. It can be frustrating because our world views can be very, very different, but at the same time, it can also be very good because we both get to learn why the other generation feels the way it does about life.

We never really had romance. There wasn't really ever the swooning thing. We do have love though and to be honest I much prefer that because we haven't had the disappointment of the first blush wearing off and having to adjust to everyday reality. Instead we've gone from appreciating each others conversation and company to a deep sense of love and commitment which accepts all imperfections of each other (Well, most of the time! We're not saints).

One thing we probably do that is recommended for a good marriage is laugh. We laugh a lot. Sometimes we laugh so hard someone farts, and then we laugh even harder. We have a strong sense of the silly. Laughter is an amazing balm.

So, there you go! We got married in black, eloped, got pregnant before getting married, not didn't consummate the marriage for 16 months, barely had any sex for the next twelve years, argue and don't apologise, have a large, intrusive age gap, didn't fall head-over-heels in love to begin with, and we are hopeless at buying each other presents, but we are still happily married after 14 years, still together after 16 years...

Monday, November 12, 2012

Fair!

Every November for the past seven years (I was saying six years all weekend, but the Grumpy Old Man corrected me, it has indeed been seven years), we've attended the school fair! 

Generally speaking, I love fairs. I love the colourful rides - though you'd be hard pressed to ever get me on one now -, I love fairy floss (cotton candy to you northerners), I love face painting (on the kids, not me). I love music outdoors and sunshine and seeing lots of people I know and all the smiley, happy faces.

We seem to always have had sunshine, every year for the past seven years!

This last Saturday started like this at 9am when we were heading out to do the fortnightly grocery shop...


But by the time the show started at midday, it looked like this...


Our school fair is very blessed, indeed!

Here are some more photos from the day...

Erik next to his works (the top three paintings and the Minecraft 'egg' at the bottom, the other works belong to the other emerging student artist award recipient). Erik's painting; 'The Waiting Forest' sold on Opening Night on Friday to someone we don't personally know, which was really affirming for him - though there were plenty of people we do know who expressed disappointment over having missed out on this occasion. He says he'll paint something else during the holidays, right now he just wants to enjoy his last few weeks at primary school.

The ride Bryn says he went on TWELVE times!

Ari LOVED the jumping castle with slide!



In fact, he loved it so much he refused to get off when his group's time had lapsed... I ended up apologising profusely to the ride man (he was very understanding), as did the Grumpy Old Man about 30 minutes later!

Hurtling down the BIG slide with Luey - this was Ari's favourite ride of the day - he did it a dozen or more times.

Ari's 'Green Dragon' face, done by the lovely Kate!


Bryn would make an awesome mountain climber (somewhat to the Grumpy Old Man's distress) - he didn't inherit his father's vertigo! He climbed the 'mountain' three times in his allotted five minutes! Go Bryn!

Luey modelling the contents of his show bag!

Fair Day always leaves us absolutely buggered! And this weekend we also had two birthday parties. Luckily, the first was for a friend of Erik's so he took himself off to that sleepover party after the fair on Saturday. Then on Sunday, Bryn had a birthday party at a local bowling centre, and the Grumpy Old Man took him there while the two bigger boys and I tackled the house - and herded Ari...

The Fair is always great!

The resulting chaos at home is not so great...



But while I tidied, vacuumed and dusted the rest of the house - the boys sorted out the kitchen for me... I'm not really a kitchen person, as evidenced by Ari coming up to me while I made a cup of tea yesterday and asking, 'What are your doing in Daddy's kitchen?' Yes, that about sums it up, doesn't it?


Last night we sat down to review what is coming up next for our little family and discovered we'd completely overlooked paying for Erik's netbook hire for high school, which was due on Friday. So today is all about rushing around trying to sort that out and hoping they'll take pity on our disorganised selves and let Erik have the netbook over summer despite our tardiness! Erik pleasantly surprised me by not being distraught over the possible lack of netbook this summer - he's maturing!

Thursday, November 08, 2012

Ready, Set, Go!

It's finally here!

The Art Show Opening is tomorrow night and we have a babysitter lined up for the three younger boys.

The Grumpy Old Man took Erik's pieces up to the school this morning, one to be hung in a section for the two Emerging Student Artist award winners and the other to go into the unframed works' bins.

We had to sit and have a think last night about what is coming up after the show because it's been such a big focus in the household in the past three months - and we've been planning for it and looking forward to it since about April.

Erik has a sleepover party on the night of the fair and I think that is a good thing because coming down from all the excitement is often very hard on him. It's another trait we share; the day after Christmas or our birthdays he and I both tend to take a bit of an emotional nose dive. So, at least on the day of the exhibition, he will be occupied with his friends and distracted, so hopefully the dip won't be too steep.

The following day Bryn has a birthday party to attend.

Life goes on.

And, of course, I'm still waiting to hear back from Deakin about my application and just thinking about either potential outcome sets of a thousand fluttering butterflies under my diaphragm!

Anyway - I'm primarily here today to spam you all with Erik's new Facebook page for his artwork. This idea was suggested by an FB friend of mine because I'd become a bit self-conscious about spamming all my friends with updates of his most recent painting ad nauseum (yes, I'm a very proud mum). There is a badge over there on your right, click it and check out his page, and if you like what you see and want to see more, be sure to like his page!

Here are the two finished pieces he's exhibiting and selling at the Art Show on Saturday.

The Boot - a penciled drawing he completed in about an hour.

The Waiting Forest - a photo referenced acrylic painting which took 13 weeks to complete.


Wednesday, November 07, 2012

When 'The Problem' Is Actually Us...

Last weekend was a shocker and it's only really tonight I feel together enough to put this all into perspective.

For most of last weekend we were trying to come to terms with the decision of the School Fair Art Show Committee; deciding to exclude Erik after we had already received a go-ahead for him to hang his painting in the framed section of the art show, and in writing no less.

The head of the Art Show Committee had been very clear over the phone; Erik's painting was to be excluded because he didn't meet one of the entry condition for framed pieces. Erik is under the minimum age of sixteen. The school art teacher had never had the jurisdiction to give an exemption for him to participate.

We were heartbroken for Erik - who just wanted to be in the show for his final year at the school, and for his teachers and peers to see his work. We were also livid that a lack of communications - a stuff up at the schools end - was going to result in Erik being penalised, without so much as an apology.

Anyway, on Sunday night, just as we were on our third draft of a formal complaint to the Principal, which we'd planned to CC to the Department of Education due the callous nature by which Erik was 'let down', we discovered a new email for the head of the committee telling us that Erik's painting could be in the show after all, just not technically in the show (they won't take any commission if he sells the painting).

Yesterday we were discussing our the troubles we have had with the school. We've had a few: their rigidity regarding the school sources book packs (not wanting to provide us with a list so we can source our own, more reasonably priced materials); keeping kids at the back of the room, or in an adjacent room where they could overhear the entire Christian Religion Education class, even though we withheld permission for them to attend; giving us a hard time because we refused to enrol Erik and Lukas in swim class at $90 a pop only three weeks before Christmas, just to name a few...

We've wondered if, with possibly moving out of the area next year, it might be a good idea to reconsider keeping Bryn at the school and enrolling Ari there for 2014? Erik and Lukas will both be at high school, by then. The child who would be affected is Bryn, of course.

The Grumpy Old Man and I have always both been against the idea of the boys ever having to change school (besides the move from primary to high school, that is). I changed schools ten times in 10 years, and while I coped, I never made friends. The Grumpy Old Man changed primary schools three times, the last of which he has never wholly forgiven his parents for (he's no fan of change, in case you were wondering). So for us moving Bryn half way through his primary school experience would be a big deal.

And there are many things about the primary school that we do like.

Anyway, the Grumpy Old Man asked me, 'Would it be better at another school?'

I immediately knew the answer.

'No, not really.'

You see, the 'problem' isn't them; the school. There are plenty of parents who don't have 'issues' with the school. Those parents might think the fees are a bit expensive, or that CRE has no place in schools, or they may wonder why their child hasn't learned to swim in three years of week-long swimming classes, but those parents just seem to have the ability to accept the status quo.

That is our problem, we are a couple of people who believe that not only can things change, but in many cases they should change...

We don't cruise.

We don't accept that the school knows best or that this is 'just how things are'.

We are the problem, and we will probably be the problem wherever our children go to school.

We adore our boys' high school - right now - but chances are there will be stuff that irritates us or seems unreasonable and we will approach the teachers and the principal and we will want to at least discuss things.

That's who we are... The Trouble-Makers™.

We are the people the Vice Principal calls and speaks to in the 'What do you want now?' tone of voice. We are the people the Principal refuses to arrange a meeting with (true story, she did this on Friday). We are the squeaky wheel.

This time being the squeaky wheel meant Erik gets to exhibit and sell his painting at the School Fair Art Show despite not being sixteen.

I shall leave you with a quote...

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Thursday, November 01, 2012

Hooray, it's November!

I just love November! It's my favourite month of the year - even more favourite than December, which I also adore (I'm a big fan of Christmas and my birthday is in December as well).

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I was supposed to have been born in November, so maybe that is why?

Reasons why I love November this year?

Well, hopefully; fingers and toes crossed - and anything else that can be crossed as well - this November I'll find out that I was accepted into the Doctorate I applied for in August.

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If I'm very lucky, I might also get a stipend for the next three years (that would be very exciting, but please don't hold your breath, I don't want to be responsible for people passing out or away!).

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NaNoWriMo starts today and continues for the rest of November! I have a fairly good plan for a story this year, so am hopeful I will actually win! I may be writing late at night, but write I will!

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Our school fair is in November, in 9 days to be exact. We love attending the school fair and look forward to it each year. This year with Erik receiving an art award and exhibiting in the art show, it will be all the more special!

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The Grumpy Old Man and I have our wedding anniversary on the 14th of the month. Fourteen years of marriage and 16 year of being together (and 15 year of living together) all on the same day! Maybe, if we're in our own house next November, I might actually get around to organising those vow renewals I was going to do four years ago. It would be love to invite family and friends - seeing as they weren't able to be in attendance the first time around.

Fourteenth wedding anniversary theme is apparently gold - must tell the GOM!

Oh, and I'm going to a concert at the end of the month as well, to see - wait for it - Rick Astley!!! I know, I know, what a dag - but you know, I did quite like his music in the 80s and the best bit is going with a friend who shares next to no similar musical taste with me!

This is what Rick looks like these days - like the love-child of Ray Martin and Kevin Rudd...


So, bring on November and warm weather and lots of good stuff!

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Teenagers and the failing parent...