Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Goodbye 2013 - We will remember you fondly!



Here we are on the very last day of the year - it's been a good day, as have many this year!

We had a sleep in followed by a visit to my parents for Icelandic pancakes with sugar, cream and strawberry jam! Yum, yum!

I have just spent a little while giving the blog page a little facelift to usher in the new year - you like it? I decided I wanted to go with a dandelion header because our front yard is teaming with them, and they are a symbol of wish making and wish fulfilment.

We've had such a fantastic year!


I'll do a little round up, but I know I'll forget stuff, it has just been so jam packed with goodness, but here goes…


  • My parents moved back to Melbourne! This has been a source of much joy! First and foremost because we get to spend much more time with them. All the boys have gotten to know them a whole lot better. It has also meant The Grumpy Old Man and I have a larger support circle. We have people to come and stay with the kids if we need to get out without them, we have more people to come and celebrate big events like birthdays, and holidays, and the Grand final and graduations. Ari was able to have his grandparents come along for 'Grandparents Day' at kinder, it was awesome!
  • We were given a car! This has made an immeasurable difference to our lives - for one thing we seem to spend half our working week in the car (but we're absolutely not complaining!). We have been able to get out as a family without even a fraction of the stress or time it would normally have taken us. We took ourselves off to the beach for the very first time! In the last week of school this year, the Grumpy Old Man was even able to help out at the primary school by ferrying several kids to and from a 'free day' event! We've done so much more as a family this year because of the car!
  • I was accepted into a PhD at Deakin University! This is a dream come true, it really is. I have held the goal of completing a Doctorate for the past twenty years, and it's been a long and winding road, including having to undertake two separate Masters degrees, but now I'm in the Doctorate and it's all happening! I'm am so thrilled words cannot express! As well as this, I am the recipient of a bursary which will allow me to purchase a range of adaptive technologies!
  • We moved house. The process of moving house was very quick and relatively simple because of the car. We found an amazing house in a lovely suburb we previously would not have been able to consider due to relative lack of public transport. This house is so much nicer than our previous house, even the removalists commented on the upgrade! It was as if it was just waiting for us to be in the market and then it appeared - no one else even got a chance to check it out! We have so much space here and it has a dishwasher (I can't tell you what a difference that has made to our lives)!
You know, these points, so far, only take us up to the middle of 2013! The second half of the year hasn't see as many changes, more a consolidation of all the awesome changes from the first half of the year. We have settled into the house, and Erik settled really well into his new high school. Lukas also gained a place there and is looking forward to starting next month. Ari had an awesome time at kinder and cannot wait to join Bryn at primary school next month. I made so many new friends at Uni and have generally met a lot of lovely people and become involved is some great groups and activities. 

The boys all ended the year with good marks, including a sprinkling of As and Bs - which is not something we take for granted in this household!

Lukas had a great graduation, and performed a little dialogue with two of his friends (he's such a natural on stage, I'm kind of hoping he might consider drama at school, we'll see).

Having two families Christmases just topped everything off nicely! Oh, and did I mention we drove over to my brother's in Tullamarine on Sunday? We did - or rather the Grumpy Old Man did -, so if we can do that, we drive anywhere! Woot!

As you can see, 2013 has been a bumper year for us - such a delight after the preceding four years. My wish for 2014 is that things continue along the same theme - health and happiness for our little family! Maybe some work for the Grumpy Old Man and/or I would be fantastic as well!

I hope 2013 has been one of your better years, as well, and that 2014 brings even brighter times for all of us!


Friday, December 27, 2013

Banging your head against a brick wall a.k.a. parenting…

So, I find myself writing a second blog post today - it's been a while since I last did this…

Tonight didn't end so well in our house. In fact, it ended with the Grumpy Old Man and I completely losing our collective shit and yelling, loudly, for all four boys to go to bed, RIGHT NOW!!!

You know what Christmas can be like with kids - well, if you have kids, you'll more than likely know what I'm talking about, anyway.

There is so much excitement. Whether or not you go in for the over-the-top presents and travels here, there and everywhere to celebrate or just have a quiet family get together with a few modest presents, most kids get excited beyond all hope of actually having their expectations fulfilled.

And why wouldn't they? Christmas starts in August these days, I kid you not - we saw our first Chrissy advertising at the end of August this year. By November it's in full swing with the malls all decorated and Christmas carols and songs being played until they begin to sound just like crappy elevator music.

All the talk at school is about 'getting'. 'What are you getting?' 'I'm getting such and such, for sure!'

Then there are the seemingly endless rounds of Christmas parties, at school, with friends, at work.

And then there is the high pressure of the actual day - or if you're European, like us - DAYS of Christmas; and being expected to behave, and be polite, and be grateful (even when you don't feel it, because that's the done thing, and why wouldn't you feel it, are you a brat???).

So, yesterday was rather quiet with post Christmas comas enveloping all of us - my theory it that is something akin to shock after the fact…

Oh but today it all started to come out - like a festering boil. The short tempers, the resentments (why did he get that, it's not even for his age group?), the greed (but I was moooooooore!), the letdown (but I thought you said I was getting the other thing?). It just all came spewing out.

Finally, in the late afternoon, the Grumpy Old Man retreated to the study and I tried to engage the boys in a game of Doctor Who Monopoly - which we had all been looking forward to playing since Christmas Eve - and then they got the sillies. Everything was a joke, and everything was met with outrageous reactions of semi-hysteria until one of the boys pushed another boy's head into the back of a dining chair which earned the first boy a trip straight to his room - do not pass go, do not collect $200.

The rest of the game was more subdued, but then it wasn't much fun either.

So, we had dinner.

Then the boys settled in front of the television, but within ten minutes, someone had annoyed someone else, and then that someone had threatened the first someone causing him to begin wailing like a stuck pig.

The Grumpy Old Man couldn't not take another second of the arguing, he was on his feet and heading for the lounge room and I was hot on his heels. Boys was bundled to their respective rooms where they all received stern, somewhat - okay completely - shouty lectures on brotherly love and how from this point on we only wanted to see consideration and kindness from each one towards the others for the rest of the holidays - REGARDLESS OF HOW THEY ACTUALLY FELT!

Argh! This is not how we want to parent.

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Some days I wonder where we're going wrong that our children can be so heartless to one another. Other days they are lovely with each other, but sometimes that feels more like a fluke than any kind of parental design.

We don't spoil our children, not are we cruel to them. We set very clear boundaries, and we also give them plenty of autonomy within those boundaries. We talk and we let them talk. So, why is it so hard for them to show a little tolerance and compassion - we certainly try to model these behaviour for them.

Tomorrow is a fresh day, but I still feel like we're standing in the shadow of that brick wall - anyone else?

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Are You and Soufflé or a Fruitcake?

Was talking to mum this morning, telling her the Grumpy Old Man and I are just not the sort of people who need glamour. Neither do we feel the need to look glamourous, nor do we aspire to living a glamourous lifestyle.

To my mind, this is not the same as not appreciating quality or beauty, both of us like to have quality and beauty in our lives, but we're just not the sort of people who need to go out to dinner often, or be seen driving expensive cars or wearing expensive clothing.

We don't get a thrill out of people envying our lifestyle at all. Other things motivate us.

We're very much about turning over ideas in our head, introspection and discourse interest us. We are definitely into social justice and politics, but we're very much left of centre and very much about helping out those who cannot help themselves due to the hand they were dealt. We would still feel the same way even if we were self-made millionaires. Dick Smith is our kind of millionaire, not Gina Reinhart.

We are all for working hard, but we do not necessarily believe that hard work always pays off - not in cold hard cash, in any case. We certainly do no believe the financially poor are financially poor because they lack vision or drive. We do not believe success is measured by financial wealth.

If we won the lotto, there would not be holiday houses and world trips, or luxury cars or designer wear in our future. We very much expect we'd get a house, and maybe a second, smaller car, probably something electric or hybrid, for when we weren't driving the whole family around.

I guess I'm saying, we feel no need to impress others - our sense of self comes more from what we think than what we have.

This is what we want our children to know. I was telling s-dad the other day that even if we had the money to give our children pocket money, we wouldn't, and certainly not for doing jobs around the house - their own community base - we would want them to contribute because they value their home, not because they were being paid to. We will always encourage them to earn money outside the house for their wants - as Erik has through his painting - but while our children are still legally children, we will provide for their needs - and we don't feel they need cool clothing or the latest mod-cons.

We don't feel a flashy car or big house is a measure of success. Kindness and empathy are great measures of success though - and everyone has access to those no matter their social status…

As I read on Facebook the other day…


It feels like so much of our society is about the bling, about impressing other people with stuff, with glamour, with, with… Fluff!

Ask yourself, do you want to be a soufflé or a fruitcake? Soufflés are pretty, but essentially they lack density and they are ever so fragile and deflate at the slightest of bumps. Fruitcakes are all density - a little fruitcake goes a long way! They can certainly be nutty, but they're solid to the end - and they don't take themselves so seriously. I mean, how can they given they're so fruity…


Thursday, December 26, 2013

Happy Slacky McSlacker Day!

So, who else joined us in a day of sloth?

The last month has been frantic, hasn't it - or is that just us?

On Christmas Eve we hosted a sit down dinner for nine.


On Christmas Day we hosted a sit down dinner for seven.


We made Icelandic laufabrauð (leaf bread) and I was enormously proud of Erik's effort, especially considering he had never made these before and the patterns can be quite difficult to get your head around the first time!

Erik's laufabrauð - he created this pattern of the top of his head!

After being deep fried.
 I also made chocolate ripple, apple and cherry pudding - pretty, huh? It was so yummy, I wish I'd made two! I think I'll make another for New Years Eve!


We had planned to have a very low key Christmas, present wise, this year due to tight finances. I viewed it as something of an opportunity for the boys to pare back their expectations a little… But then my brother came to their rescue and got them a PS3 and three games - cheeky thing!

Ari isn't coping too well with all the excitement, for three days in a row he's needed a long nap in the afternoon and he's developed something of a bratty, demanded, petulant demeanour. I know this is a passing thing related to the upheaval of the year coming to an end and saying goodbye to his lovely kinder, but I'm keen to get through this stage and move on to a somewhat better adjusted little five year old!

Ari at Kinder before Christmas
Ari with Andrea (Kinder Assisstant, left) and Katherine (Kinder Teacher, right).

Ari with his kinder Christmas present (anatomically incorrect dogs, as he pointed out).



So, today has been about reading, watching the cricket, dozing, listening to music and eating leftovers. I finally got to stuck into the absolutely DIVINE salmon dip my friend Vanessa brought over on the 23rd.

The Grumpy Old Man was gifted two bottles of Bailey's for Christmas (one from my parents and one from his mother) and he has PROMISE to share - and he'd better!

Tonight is the Doctor Who Christmas special in which we bid farewell to Matt Smith and hello to Peter Capaldi, I'm very excited - and a very sad, too! That will be followed by the Call the Midwife Christmas Special, as if too much is never enough - and it is not! Tonight's TV viewing could only have been surpassed if they had also screen the Downton Abbey Christmas Special as well (but they're going to make us wait until next year for that!).

So, I hope you have all had a lovely Christmas - as we certainly have - and that you have managed to sneak in a nap and some leftovers today while the kids occupied themselves!

I'll leave you with the fairly decent Chrissy photo I managed to get of my boys (without too much cajoling)!




Friday, December 20, 2013

Humility…



Christmas is almost upon us.

Being a pagan, I do not celebrate the birth of Christ as my personal saviour. That said, I believe, if anything, we can take away from the Christian understanding of Christmas, a message of humility - of a perfect king born in stable who grew up, in all his perfection, to live a life of humility - not judging people for their life circumstance. I feel Christmas is a time to celebrate family, togetherness, and love. All these things require humility, to my mind.

Family can be hard work. I was talking to my mum today (yesterday actually, but at 3am it still feels like it was today) about some of the difficulties of family. Being a blood relation is no guarantee of getting along with someone. Time and again I've seen siblings fight one another with a passion not so much bordering on, as being, hatred. Even amongst my own boys we have an instance of a clash of personalities which breaks my heart. Boys from the same blood lines, brought up in the same home, with the same opportunities, and yet they just don't seem to gel. Wounds developed in childhood can form scars which become more and more impenetrable with time. Humility is a salve that can soften the scarring. Humility is the ability to accept that another person has a reality that you may not be able to fathom but which you are willing to respect because you are ultimately no more perfect that the next person. Even when that person is your brother and all you see in them irritates you.

Togetherness requires a lot of humility because to be with other people you have to be open. You literally have to trust one another with your vulnerabilities. You have to let go of your ego and understand and accept that everyone is different but humans need one another to thrive. Without humility, people will tend to want everything on their terms. Everyone must always agree with them, see the world as they see it, and forego their own needs to feed one ego. Togetherness requires humility. It requires that people let go of their ego - set it aside for a while and be open to the world view of others, if only to accept that others have a different world view (no one is being asked to adopt the world view of others for the sake of togetherness, only to not force their own world view on others).

Love is all about humility. Love has no ego. As is put so eloquently in:

1 Corinthians 13:4-8
New International Version (NIV)
Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs.Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.
Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues,they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away.

While this is a passage from the Bible, I know it to be a global wisdom beyond the boundaries of Christianity alone.
So, to celebrate Christmas, even without a belief in Christ as a personal saviour, for me, is about having humility. In a way, Christmas, for me, is a meditation on humility - and it isn't easy, because I have an ego, too. But to constantly refocus my mind on having and practicing humility, so that I am able to celebrate family, togetherness, and love, that is what I feel is important this time of year. That is what I want to teach my children about Christmas.


Monday, December 16, 2013

Growing older does not necessarily mean growing wiser…

I had a lovely birthday on Saturday. I was brought breakfast in bed by the Grumpy Old Man and the boys and received some lovely presents!


Japanese inspired candle holder.

Ishka scarf

This one is pretty self-explanatory!

My mum and s-dad came over in the afternoon and brought with them this balcony herb garden for me! This was very exciting for me because I've been talking about starting a herb garden for years - literally YEARS. I've always been a bit intimidated by gardening though, and going into gardening places and selecting soils and plants and pots and so on. According to the labels on the plants I have (from left to right) coriander, oregano, and parsley. I think the oregano taste like mint though.


Check out the look of consternation! Gardening is serious, you know!


While I had the soil available I decided to repot the poor little piece of aloe vera that has been languishing in a bowl of water in the laundry for the past 18 months - and that is not to say it was constantly in water, I watered it twice and let the water dry out completely twice - and there wasn't even any soil around the root. I'm amazed the aloe vera didn't die - those plants are extremely hardy!


Yesterday I went to a friend's baby-shower-cum-blessingway. We all had a lovely BBQ picnic in a park and I managed to get myself absolutely scorched! This was a fail on an epic scale! I didn't sleep very well last night and have been very sore all day despite slathering my skin in aloe and hydrating lotion… 


Wisdom is not a given as you grow older, that's for sure!

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Another Turn of the Sun…

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Today, I have travelled around the sun forty-two times - I am well travelled!

The last turn of the sun has been pretty good on the whole. I was pretty stressed this time last year, but many, many things have improved. We have a car now. We are living in a house without fear of being turfed out suddenly. I am doing the PhD I have dreamed of doing for the past thirty years. Erik has just finished his first year of high school and did so with two As, a B and a host of Cs - which is outstanding for him. Moreover, he made friends easily. I have some answers with regard to his idiosyncrasies, which has helped, though there is still a ways to go. I have been blessed with a great circle of friends, which has only increased this year. I feel appreciated and cared for, and a valuable member of the communities I participate in.

Dave and I celebrated 15 years of marriage last month. I feel blessed that our relationship forges ahead with a strength I could not have imagined. All I wanted, from a very young age, was to meet someone to share my life with. Dave wasn't who I expected, but as it turns out, sometimes you don't always get what you think you want, but rather what you actually need.

Mum and Lester moved back to Victoria and having them close by has been amazing. The sense of extended family, getting together regularly, celebrating events together, even just having someone around to help with the practicalities of running a large household - it has been life-affirming!

My dad joined Facebook, and I'm sure he doesn't even realise it, but having him comment on posts from time to time is very reassuring to me - knowing he's out there watching.

Dad apologising to Mum and them reconnecting, even just in a limited fashion has been like a dream come true.

The kids have grown so much this last solar return. Lukas is about to finish up at primary school - I can hardly believe it! He is looking forward to going to high school even though none of his friends will be going with him. He is excited about dedicating time to learning to play the guitar and learning to design computer games - among other things. The past couple of years of primary school have been a challenge for him, with a lot of emotional upheaval (which he always buries quite deep below the surface so only his parents knowing eye can detect it). So going to high school will hopefully offer a fresh beginning for him.

Bryn is leaving junior school. He is excited about moving up, and why wouldn't he be, everyone loves him - his teachers, his friends, his family. He lives something of a charmed life at the moment. I hope that never changes for him.

Ari is finishing up at kindergarten and really looking forward to joining Bryn at primary school. He has enjoyed his time at kinder and had wonderful teachers there. He is such a happy kid. He has longed to make friends and has maybe not been as successful as he hoped to be, but he has persisted being optimistic and open towards other kids and at the end of the year he has finally succeeded in making connections - I think this bodes well for starting school next year.

So, the past turn of the sun has been good for me.

I hope this next turn is just as good, or even better!

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Drained...

I'm sitting here in my office today feeling completely and utterly drained.

A friend was told yesterday that she has cancer. I am angry. She has four small children, she works incredibly hard, she does not deserved this! No one deserves cancer, but seriously, WTF universe? She so unequivocally does NOT deserve this!

I feel so helpless. I don't know what more to write. Yes, we will offer help. Yes, we will do what we can to ease the pain and the distress and the upheaval, but that feel like a drop in an enormous ocean of craptasicity. This is wrong. This is not how things should be. People who are good and kind and work hard should not get cancer, they should get a pass on cancer.

Meanwhile. Mr14 didn't like that he was not getting to go to Fun Fields or Ice Skating with his mates. Instead he was signed up to do Science Experiments (he likes science, by the way) and Animation for free at school. He didn't like this so he didn't hand in his forms this week.

This morning he told the Grumpy Old Man that he didn't hand in his forms because NO ONE was doing the free classes and so they weren't being run. The Grumpy Old Man, of course, completely fell for the this charade and came in to tell me Mr14 would be home today and tomorrow.

I was already angry because, you know, the Universe is a horrible place were lovely, hardworking mother's for four young children get cancer, and so I shot out bed and ordered Mr14 into the shower and told him he WOULD be going to school, and he WOULD be doing the boring, free, school provided activities.

I told him if his bedroom was the Universe, then his personal discomfort over not going to one of the paid activities would be so small as to not even be visible via a microscope. I told him his discomfort over having to do boring school based free activities paled in comparison to the discomfort of four children who today know their mum is very, very sick and needs an operation and has to fight for her very life.



Then we drove him to school and sent to class.

We also picked up his school report at the same time. He received two As, one B, and a number of Cs for the conclusion of his first year of high school. I am very proud of him for the efforts he has made towards his education this year.

So, I arrived later than planned to work today. This is the first time I have sat at my desk in weeks. I had planned to write a conference proposal which is due by Monday, but have spent some time reviewing the schedule of the conference and am now not at all sure it is the right conference for me. In fact, I'm not at all sure if any conferences are right for me. They seem all to be about teaching writing and while I do want to move into academia, my thesis is not about pedagogy. I feel very confused.

And really, is it important when people who don't deserve cancer get cancer?

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Blogging after 1am - a sure sign of a busy schedule!

Hello my patient little readarinos!

Man, I'm totally dropping the ball on this blogging thing, aren't I? And yet, I'm pleasantly surprised, as I check my stats at the end of each night, to see so many of you stopping by - I hope you're not crossing off days on a calendar until you stop checking!

This time of year is crazy, isn't it?

I put up the Christmas tree on the evening of the 30th of November…


I love Christmas and this year it was so lovely to not have to actually move any furniture. I moved out globe tree to the other side of the lounge room but that was about it.

MIL finally came to visit us at this house! It took some work! We had her scheduled to come over on her birthday on the 24th, but just an hour before she was due to arrive, she cancelled. So we made a big deal of her coming on the 1st of December. I think she enjoyed herself and was happy to see us in a house that fits all of us. I think she coped better with all the kids because really, after afternoon tea and giving her her birthday presents, the boys went off and entertained themselves and so she could chat with us fairly comfortably.

Later in the week the Grumpy Old Man and I picked her up and took her TV shopping, so she was ready for the analog TV signal being turned off next friday. A couple of days later we came over and I set up her TVs for her. We did all of this while the boys were at school and kinder, so she was able to have just adult conversation, which I think she appreciated.

As I mentioned in my last post, I've been on a steep learning curve with becoming the secretary of the Mature Age Student Club at Deakin, I think I'm finally getting the hang of it.

That is a good thing because as of tonight I am also the founding editor of their magazine. I was the sub-editor, but the Editor has had to give up her positive for personal reason and so now I'm the Editor. I'm very excited by this promotion! I know it will be hard work, but I'm more than ready for this challenge (it has only taken 20 years for me to be ready for this, ha!).

In PhD news, I've spent the past two week coming to grips with Practice Led Research. My supervisor recommended I doing some research in this area as she felt it was germane to my thesis. To be honest, I just didn't get it. I read and read, and it seemed only to be a discussion of the methodology of creative writing research, more than a theory about it. I thought I was trying to find a relevant theory to either agree with or disagree with in relation to Flash Fiction.

I had a supervisor meeting this morning and my supervisor explained that because creative writing is so new to the academy (that is universities) as a stand alone research area, it has historically had literary theory applied to it, however - and this is my own analogy - that is somewhat like trying to review a meal while the chef is still preparing it. Literary theories are tested against already written and published works, but with creative writing, the researcher is creating the work that is being analysed - while it is being created. 

And so, Practice Led Research is actually a working theory.

Now, there is a risk with PLR that other researchers outside the writing community will not take it as seriously because it can come across as a whole lot of navel gazing (I decided to write this because if that article I read, or that experience I experienced, or because my heritage is thus). I raised this point with my supervisor because ultimately I want to feel as though my research is contributing to a greater body of knowledge - not just talking about me and my peccadilloes, you know?

She said that the very fact this concerned me was a good thing, because she has had students who are more than happy to navel gaze. She reassured me that my interest in identity and history and ambiguity and arguing for greater cohesion within the broad Flash Fiction community will all mean I will contribute to a wider body of knowledge.

Well, phew to that!

I think.

So, remember I was talking about going overseas to a writing conference to present my thesis? Yup, well, I have to submit a proposal by Friday. Scary much! It's only very short, but basically, I will be making a poster and presenting it (sounds like primary school, doesn't it?) and then that will be discussed and I will receive feedback. All good. The scariest thing is travelling to Europe on my own, and staying in Amsterdam for week doing workshops and then this presentation. It's months away, but it gives me the willies anyway - I wish I had someone to hold my hand!

That is, if they accept my proposal.

What else?

Oh yeah. I've come to the conclusion we (parents) pretty much just have to accept that providing devices for children to take to school - whether or not this actually benefits them - is becoming the expected norm. The Grumpy Old Man and I went to Lukas' high school orientation night last Tuesday and to our utter shock and dismay, they are changing their laptop system. Whereas as we paid a modest $250 towards the purchase of Erik's laptop last year (and will again net year and the year after) and the school arranged all the maintenance and insurance, as of Lukas' cohort, parents are expected to provide their child with a laptop and window 8 Professional and have home and contents insurance which covers the devices leaving the house. We had no notice of this whatsoever - forms that went out a month ago said this would be an option but hiring would still be an option.

To his credit, the principal was great when we approached him after the orientation presentation to voice our concerns. He came up with several solutions on the spot as to how we could find assistance getting Lukas a laptop, including the school outlaying half the cost and us paying them back over time. We haven't figured out exactly what we will do yet, but we were impressed with the Principal of the high school as the Principal of our primary school has not even bothered to respond to the letter we sent her two weeks ago requesting a meeting to discuss our difficulty 'opting in' to the iPad program. So much for her open door policy!

I am waiting to hear back from Vision Australia about the bursary I applied for in October. Hopefully if I get that, I will at least be able to give Bryn my iPad2 to use at school (ha! to the trolls who carried on about me buying that iPad two years ago - turns out I may well have unwittingly invested in my child's education after all!).

Finally, tonight I emailed my Masters manuscript to a potential publisher who has expressed interest in publishing the story. Fingers crossed, it would be awesome to be a published novelist!

Teenagers and the failing parent...