Sunday, March 24, 2013

Why, hello there...

Uh-oh, I haven't blogged in ten days!

It doesn't feel like it's been ten days but then again, that's not surprising as it has been a jam-packed week and a half and I haven't had much time to reflect on it, let alone compose a blog post about all the happenings.

We took the car in to be assessed and were told the problem was not covered by our RACV warranty, and that it would cost in excess of $2000 to fix. On the same day, the Grumpy Old Man had a job interview for a position which requires him to have a car.

We ended up calling his mum and asking her for the money. We weren't at all sure that she would come to the party, not because she couldn't afford to but because she has not been very supportive of the idea of the Grumpy Old Man driving since father-in-law passed away almost four years ago.

She did come to the party though and we got the car fixed, which was cheaper than expected at $1700, and had a new key cut (a worn key was the reason the battery kept draining) at the cost of $140.

We haven't heard back from the company where the Grumpy Old Man had his interview. The next stage of the application process is a physical - the physical is why the Grumpy Old Man didn't get the last position he applied for, so this part is a bit nerve-wracking - assuming he gets that far. We'll see what this week brings.

I took Erik with me to see my counsellor on Thursday. The session went well, and the counsellor is keen to have his tested (IQ testing). I won't see her again for about three weeks, but I look forward to hearing what she thought.

I've been keeping it under my hat for several weeks now that Deakin had gotten back to me about reassessing my application and had said they thought they 'should' be able to offer me a position in their Higher Degree by Research PhD; they had asked if I would be will to wait to start until mid-year. I got straight back to them and said I would be quite willing to wait until mid-year. I had hoped to hear back from them quickly but after a fortnight of waiting I found myself emailing them again to double check that they received my last email. They said they had and were processing my application and would get to me 'in a few weeks' but they couldn't tell me anything more than that.

Then on Thursday I received an email stating my application had been approved.

Usually, I'd get right on here and post such news, but to be honest, I was quite shell-shocked. Just three months ago, I was devastated to hear that my application had been denied and then to find out the grounds for denying it were so flawed, but the person who had denied my application was quite sure of himself. Then he resigned but it had been so long since the application process had ended I felt sure they'd make me repeat the entire process and that by then the person who was supporting my application would have moved on to other projects. This process has taken seven months in total.

I had completely prepared myself for more disappointment.

I sent off my acceptance forms by email on Friday. My commencement date is June 3rd, 2013. It's all happening!

Yesterday, we had a full day out as a family.

In the morning we loaded the car with scooters and headed off to Kew Traffic School for an outing with Ari's kindergarten. Bryn even saw a couple of kids from his year group who still have younger siblings at the kinder this year. At first Erik and Lukas were being party poopers because they were so much older than the littlies, but with some other older siblings joining in, they all ended up scooting around. There were sausages and fruit and cordial and it was just nice to get out and do something together. Ari really didn't want to leave in the end!

I don't think I'll ever get sick of being able to just load the car and head out! We've never done an outing like this because having to herd four kids with scooters and sundry other items on public transport was always too hard.

Mini trams! Bryn spent more time checking out the miniature trams and houses than actually riding his scooter. 

Lukas was going to be a spoiler and sulk because he was several years older than the other kids, but we refused to let him get away with that and despite himself, he ended up having a good time!

Erik had no problem making the most of the event.

Ari kept missing out on sausages and other food because he wouldn't get off his scooter - we realised afterwards he hasn't really had much of an opportunity to ride his scooter freely for any length of time.

Tiny telephone box!

Bryn absolutely adores watermelon!

This trike isn't too small for me...

Afterwards we had a quick lunch at McDonalds in Balwyn (the boys were in heaven, it's a been a few months since they all had Maccas), then headed over to Warrandyte to check out Erik's painting at the Warrandyte Rotary Club Art Show. We didn't realised the Art Show was part of the annual Warrandyte Show and so we ended up driving around for 45 minutes looking for a park. Finally, we decided to park about a kilometre away from the exhibition. Ironically, we probably could have done a little less walking if we'd taken public transport!

My parents met us at the exhibition and we spent almost an hour checking out the 5000 paintings (and wrangling a somewhat overstimulated and overtired Ari).

Erik's art teacher, who had entered his Surrey Dive painting after he brought it to school a couple of weeks ago, had told him she thought he would win first prize. I had spent the last two weeks trying to prepare him for not winning first prize. He was absolutely convinced he would win a commendation though. I tried suggesting he might not even win a commendation, but he wouldn't hear it.

Erik has had a lot of adulation for his art because of his age in relation to his ability. Obviously, as his mother I am extremely proud of him. That said, he won't always be considered a wonder because of his age, and I want him to be able to cope with that. This showing was a great first encounter with disappointment for him. He did not win first prize, nor did he win a commendation. His work is great, but the standard of works in the secondary students gallery at the exhibition was simply amazing! Chances are most the other competitors were 2-4 years older than Erik, but ages were not recorded or used as a yard stick for assessing artistic ability. Erik, who has been used to being a big fish in a small pond, suddenly found himself in a much bigger pond with much bigger fish.

I am proud of how he coped! He took it all in his stride and really looked at what the other students had produced. He took note of the styles and media they employed, the sizes of the canvas and the themes. I think he saw the possibilities he can work towards. It was a great piece of experience for him and it came at just the right time, I think.

We didn't stay at the show as long as I would have liked. Ari was very restless and quite disruptive, so we ended up leaving before we all had an opportunity to properly look at works. I think my mum will be doing some painting this year, she was very inspired by it all.

Bryn and Ari showing their true colours.
Even though Ari ended up having a melt down by the time we got home, I was pretty happy with yesterday and with all we accomplished. Having the car is making such a difference to our lives. Being accepted into the PhD is a dream come true! Now, if Dave gets this job, I think our lives with finally be right back on track!!!

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

New cars are like new babies...

We've had our car for about a month now and it has been a month full of new learning.

A steep learning curve, with lots of stress and worry and sleepless nights - sound familiar?

The Grumpy Old Man and I can't help but feel it's been a lot like bringing a new baby home.

Some people, when they get a new car, it's all shiny and sleek and runs like clockwork and the most they have to do is learn how much pressure the gas and brake pedals need and how big the turning circle and other dimensional measurements are.

Other people get a new car (to them) and straight away there seem to be problems. It's hard not to ask yourself, 'Did I get a dud?', or smile in the face of other people's quips about 'buying a lemon' - in parent speak, it's a bit like being asked if your frequent night waker is a 'good sleeper'.

But just like proud new parents, the new car owner loves their new car, they want to be proud of it, they want to do what it takes to encourage their car to run smoothly.

The Grumpy Old Man and I are the 'other people'.

In the month since we first picked up Clover, there have been a few 'issues', shall we say.

On day one, the car stalled - it turned out the fuel gauge wasn't correct and we'd run out of fuel.

On day three, the fan in the motor wouldn't turn off which drained the battery quick smart and the left indicator light had to be turned off manually and would only click six times before falling silent.

We took the car back to the dealer to have it fixed after consulting an RACV roadside assist guy and him telling us the indicator light was a road worthy issue and the battery was also loose which was also a road worthy issue. 

As we were about to take the car to the dealership, the Grumpy Old Man realised the speedometer wasn't working anymore - obviously another roadworthy issue.

So, the dealership worked on all these things and we got the car back a few days later with a new battery as well (the RACV guy had said the battery was 4 years old, so had a limited life left, though it was running well for us).

Everything was okay for a couple of days and then we filled the car up and it started pinging and telling us the fuel tank was open when it clearly wasn't. Then the fuel gauge up and died completely.

The pinging subsided over the next day.

Then a little old lady drove past and managed to knock the driver side mirror clear off the car - she was rather annoyed we didn't have one of those mirrors which bends back, shame on us.

So, we didn't drive the car for the next couple of days until the time that the mirror was to be fixed by the insurer. When the Grumpy Old Man went to take the car for the repair appointment, it wouldn't start. We had to reschedule the appointment. The RACV guy came out again and jump started the car and we drove it around for a while and it registered a full battery. Over the next couple of days we found out the battery will only hold its charge for about 24-26 hours.

We also noticed the car had started leaking oil. We learned all about gaskets and checking oil and water and coolant. We now own coolant and oil, for top ups. We'll see about getting the gasket changed after the mirror has been fixed. The gasket should be covered by our RACV Warranty (thank goodness for insurance and warranties!).

Today we bought a battery jump starter for the car.

We figure having this means we can possibly put off paying for a new battery or alternator (we don't think it's the alternator) or wiring (in case something is draining the battery and it turns out not just to be that they gave us an old battery they knew they couldn't sell because it won't hold its charge).

So, our Clover is a colicky, unsettled baby who needs that much extra love and attention. We've had four kids, we know about steep learning curves and we're learning a lot!

Having a car is heaven sent when she runs and we can do things so much faster and easier. The Grumpy Old Man is quickly becoming more comfortable behind the wheel.

It would be nice though if one of the several applications he's put in recently for work would yield a real life job to help fund some of the 'colic remedies'...

Tuesday, March 12, 2013


I went to my first counselling session for a long time this morning. The lovely young counsellor asked me what I wanted to achieve from the sessions, and I had to be honest and say it wasn't really my idea to come along. It was something my GP had suggested when she put me on anti-anxiety medication 10 days or so ago.

I told her I've already had a lot of counselling in my life, some formal, some because I have parents who are counsellors and who counsel me all the time for free (though, obviously, they're not impartial). I told her I'm fairly self-aware, I understand my triggers, I understand about acting to prevent anxiety and acting to soothe anxiety, but that that hasn't been helping me much lately, so basically I wanted to reduce anxiety but other than that I had no specific goals.

She found out I have no qualms talking about myself and family - nope, no qualms at all. In fact I love to talk about myself.

She also found out that my life story cannot be summarised and that it is very 'interesting'. I think she may have had some anxiety of her own by the end of the session - or at the very least, she might have been feeling a bit light-headed and in need of lie down.

She is very interested in Erik and my relationship with him - which is great because certainly a lot of my anxiety stems from my concerns about my talented but thrill seeking child. So, she has asked to meet him next week in a more child friendly environment. She would be interested in assessing him and having him undergo IQ testing, which I am very keen to see happen, as well. She seemed to have a theory about what his deal might be, though she suggested it might not be ADHD, or it could be ADHD combined with something else.

At least I feel like I'm moving forward in one area of my life.

Friday, March 08, 2013

International Women's Day and having it all...

From Facebook
First off, Happy International Women's Day!

You may be scratching your head that I, a self-professed non-feminist, would be celebrating this day. I have recently come to the realisation that while I personally don't need feminism, it seems many, many other women really do need it. They really don't believe themselves to be equal, they really don't question the inequalities or demand better for themselves. Until all women do this, I guess there is a need for feminism.

I am still an egalitarian, though, not a feminist.

I really like the message of the illustration above. It came along on my Facebook stream with the following blurb attached.

On International Women's Day, my hope for you is that you will ride in on your own white horse and rescue yourself. 
Choose health.  
Choose relationships.  
Choose the parts of your career that are yours.  
Choose what makes your soul sing. 
Educate the people around you about what you will and won't do. The 'ditch this' list determines the quality of your life. 
Put down the mop and bucket. You are not there to clean up everyone else's mess at work, at home and in your tribe.  
You are not there to swoop on every passive-aggressive cry for help on Facebook and every emergency conceived from others' poor planning. Being brilliant at putting yourself last isn't being liked, it's being taken for granted. 
Fuel your body and mind with the things that make you strong. Fit the oxygen mask to yourself first, and be clear-headed to help those who matter most to you.  
Let go of other people's drama. Let them find their own oxygen and their own feet to stand on.  
Let go of 'martyr' and 'excuses' and 'perfect'. Let go of 'nobody does this as well as I do'.  
Let go of eyeing off other people's greener grass. Drop 'sorry' from the beginning of every second sentence. Roar 'no'.  
Quit running from what you don't want. Stop climbing into bed wondering where the day went. Direct your day with vision and boundaries and assertiveness. 
Live the life you want for the children in your life.  
Tell yourself what you would whisper in their ears.  
Love yourself the way you love them.

This is what I would want every woman to know today.

Be mistress of your life and own all your choices!

Women still seem to want to expect more of themselves than any man would expect of himself, and if there is a patriarchy, and if there are patriarchal constructs, then this would most certainly be one. It would be one of the worst constructs because it dooms women to failure even before they start.

I cannot believe there is still a debate of whether or not women can 'have it all'. Do men ever ask themselves if they can have it all? Do men have it all? Do they work, care for kids and tend house? Hell no!

Good men do what they can.

Lazy men rely on women believing they must strive to 'have it all' to be equal to men.

It is okay not to work.

It is okay not to have a perfect house.

It is okay to have a career.

It is okay not to get to every single event at your child's school.

It is okay to not manage having it all. Women are not goddesses, we do not have superhuman powers, we are not saints. Women are human beings who, when stretched too far, will fail.

It is okay to fail.

Men fail all the time.

So, on this International Women's Day, embrace failure! Embrace being a mere human! Embrace doing your best and still not having it all! Own your choices - they are valid, whatever they are!

Saturday, March 02, 2013

Barritone and Undiebum...

Erik came back from camp yesterday. He rang just before 3pm because his coach had arrived at school earlier than expected and he wanted the Grumpy Old Man to come and pick him up earlier.

I barely recognised his voice over the phone.

At first I thought it was my brother Mike.

It was so DEEP.

Erik's voice has been getting deeper over the past year, but he has this voice he reserves for me which is still quite high, more askance, a voice he uses to get his way. I've pointed out to him that I can tell when he wants something because he speaks in a higher, more breathy voice. He didn't believe me.

When he got home he said he wished I hadn't mentioned the higher voice to him because kids on camp noticed it, too. What one has to do with the other, I'm not sure, but since camp he is all about the deep, deep voice. His voice is deeper than anyone in this house, even mine!


Last night Ari slept in undies.

This marks the first 24 hour cycle in this household since the 6th of July, 1999, that no one has worn a nappy.

Ari stopped using day time nappies on the 1st of October last year. He has had more anxiety about toileting than any of the other boys, but he is also our youngest to toilet train. He hasn't had any accidents, but had been more anxious about going, so we haven't even attempted night time training.

Then just over a week ago, the Grumpy Old Man noticed his night time pull-up was dry. It has remained dry every night since, so last night when we ran out of pull-ups, Ari went to bed in undies, and woke up dry this morning.

13 years and just shy of 8 months of nappies. I've worked out that's 4988 days of nappy changes, which is about 30 000 nappies if you consider that for many of those days we had two and even three children in nappies, I'm averaging out to about 6 nappies a day.


Our boys are growing up.

Friday, March 01, 2013

Systems which encourage failure...

In the process of getting a child evaluated for a behavioural disorder, professionals like to interview the child, the parents and also the child's out-of-home care environment; being it a childcare centre, school or high school, or even extra curricular activity provider. The purpose of this is to show a pattern of behaviour over a range of environments.

I think this is probably best practice, as it rules out some environmental causes, sometimes. However, we have also come a cropper of this.

When Erik was eight and we first sought an evaluation, we were given a survey to give to his teacher to fill out. We had a problem in that his teacher at the time was actually a temporary stand in for his usual teacher who was on long service leave for a term. The stand in teacher had the attitude of not wanting to 'label' children. We had already encountered this when two children attacked Erik in the school yard, and we asked the teacher to investigate and found out later that he had not sent the two child attackers to the principal because, 'They're up there every day, already.' We were outraged that nothing was done about the attack against Erik.

The teacher filled out the form and marked all of Erik's behaviours as being within the normal range of behaviours in class, when we knew categorically that Erik was distractible, had a tendency to day dream, was not able to follow instructions, was slow to start activities and rarely finished them in time. These were issues his teachers had repeatedly mentioned to us.

Because the survey from the teacher and the one from us did not match up, the doctors evaluating Erik pretty much assumed we (his parents) were the one's with the problem - that we had low parenting skills because the teachers seemed to be managing Erik quite well.

Over the intervening 5 years, I have worked very hard with Erik. Partly because I do second guess myself and wonder if I'm not projecting, but also because there comes a point when it is easier to just manage a distracted, forgetful child than deal with the constant stream of complaints from teachers and the child labelling themselves as simply not being able to do what is expected of them.

I read an article this week about parents of children with special needs doing too much for their child. The article really got up my nose, partly because it happen to appear on my timeline on a day when I had been complaining that people often didn't realise how distractible Erik is because we - his parents - constantly remind him and manage him, and so this article felt a bit judgy about us doing this, and partly because, well, what is the alternative?

We don't make Erik's lunches for school, and we don't do his homework for him, but we do push him to do his homework, for example. We remind him, and monitor him.

We have started doing this fairly recently, we didn't used to, but then we realised that instead of learning to do for himself, he had started to simply identify as 'not able to' [fill in the blank]... He didn't strive for anything because he believed himself to be limited. Under his own steam he didn't have enough foresight to initiate goal setting or organise a plan and stick with it and he also could not see the point of doing this. He didn't know what is was to have personal success, but he was becoming quite accustomed to making excuses.

So, we decided excuses were not going to continue. Instead we made a fairly big commitment last year for him to do a painting for the local landscapes exhibition. This was part of a bigger plan to get him into a high school he didn't even want to go to because no one he knew would be there.

Had we just left him to it with the painting, he wouldn't have finished it. He would have dropped the ball - there is no question about this. He wanted to quit many times. He fears failure because he knows it so well, but instead of trying harder, he disengages. He can be the master of, 'I don't care.' It's a defence mechanism and it doesn't serve him or encourage him.

So, we pushed and reminded and made him sit down and work, and slowly, slowly it came together and then people started to be impressed because he really is quite talented, but he didn't even realise this because he had never finished anything in all the time we had just 'left him to it'.

In the end, he had a lot of success, he won an award, and he actually wanted to do another painting. The second painting also required us to sit with him night after night, encouraging him, and sometimes getting quite terse with him because he gets so bored so easily and he still has the reflex of wanting to run from a challenge. He did finish that painting too, and sold it, and bought himself some much wanted Vans shoes.

The taste of success has spurred him on. He got into the high school, and he is so happy there and so grateful despite none of his friends going to that school. He has started planning his third painting, and this time he is taking more of the initiative because he knows he can do it! We know we will still have to remind him to do the work, and many nights will still be spent repeatedly helping him refocus on the work, but maybe a little less than last time.

There are benefits to doing for your special needs child, but it's a balance, knowing when to step in and when to step back.

What really gets my goat is that in order to get professionals to recognise that he has many challenges which will affect his adult life when we are no longer there to be his personal assistants, he cannot have success. He must be failing in all areas of his life to qualify for recognition of his disorder. We are encouraged not to help him, not to try and teach him skills to cope. If we don't though, we are also at risk of being labelled useless parents. The significance of his challenges are no less simply because we are conscientious and want our child to taste success so that he might see the value in striving.

This phenomenon is wide spread in our society - the Grumpy Old Man and I encounter it quite a bit. My brother is struggling at the moment. Things have taken a bad turn for him and he is in financial strife, but Centrelink won't see him for three weeks. He asked them what would happen if he became homeless in the meantime and the answer was, 'Oh, then we can help you straight away.' Fair enough, they need to prioritise who they help, but they unwittingly encourage people to fall apart in order to gain assistance, instead of encouraging them to pull themselves together before their need is dire.

This seems very inefficient to me. Why are people not encouraged when they try to help others help them? It simply makes no sense to me.


Good Job!