I need to clear my head... You have been warned!

Hi guys,

I've been a bit quiet recently, and I'm sure some of you are thinking here we go again, she's gone AWOL.

No, no, life has just been very business - it's always busy, with four kids, PhD, MIL, various skills training for vision loss, yeah, it's always busy - but actually, it's been a bit more busy, lately.

I took a trip to Canberra to spend a couple of days with good 'ol Robbie before he deserts me flies off to new adventures in Europe and Asia for the next year or two, or maybe more. Robbie managed to walk me ragged while we were in the nations capital - I still have a very sore blister on one of my toes ten days later, I may have to amputate. One day we walked over 50 000 steps. The last 30 minutes of that walk were sheer hell! We were both concentrating on putting one foot in front of another just to get back to our Airbnb apartment. We soaked our tortured feet in the pool - which was icy - for about ten minutes and then sank into the couches inside. Mind you, exhaustion didn't deter us from dragging ourselves out to the movies that night, where we struggled to keep our eyes open, ha!

Fun times!

I stole toilet paper from Parliament House. You can't take me anywhere. I also found a very cool present for the Grumpy Old Man for Christmas - nothing spectacular but, at least it won't be socks, or was it...

We've had a fairly rough time with three quarters of the kids this year. Only Lukas has been, relatively, easy going. It's been a tough year, a lot of stress at home; my seizure, Dave being carted off to hospital, mum's chemo... They've all felt the stress, I'm sure. Also, moving Bryn and Ari to a new school - which seems like something that happened last year, now - that didn't help. Let's not forget all my absences from the house; the conference late last year, the guide dog introduction session in June, a month in Europe in August... The kids aren't used to me being away. Though they are fine with the GOM, it's still a wrench when one parent goes away, especially for several weeks. That said, I know, with complete certainty, that my thesis needed me to go to Iceland!

The Grumpy Old Man and I have been pulling our hair out over Erik's behaviour. Sure, he's not doing drugs, or alcohol, but that doesn't make it easy when he does other stuff that impacts all of us. Some of it can be put down to Aspergers - not showing up for classes because he a) isn't that interested in the classes he chose at the beginning of the year, and b) because he's in the resource centre working on assignments for classes he enjoys (which, to him, means he's not dong anything bad). He basically didn't hand in assignments for any classes except Philosophy. He completely rocked Philosphy, his Philosophy teacher was shocked to hear that he was flunking everything else and giving all his other teachers the short shrift. Sadly, all this other teachers suffered for his dedication to that one class.

Erik was all but expelled from the brilliant school he's been fortunate enough to attend. Had that happened (and it still might), then I'd be forced to homeschool him as we actually cannot afford to move him to another school. I don't mind having to homeschool him - though I'm sure he would mind - but honestly, I have more than enough on my plate at the moment as it is.

Then there is Ari. Erik and Ari have so much in common. Ari's new teacher in the second half of the year (so, at the new school) has been lovely. While she is certain he has 'something going on' and doesn't shy away from the suggestion it might be ADHD, she is also active in working with his needs. She took on board the suggestion of giving him a responsibility in class, as both he and Erik respond well to having some sort of responsibility. This has worked well for Ari. His responsibility was to take paperwork to the front office every morning, but only after he had chosen a new reader (something he routinely would forget to do). Ari is generally liked by the students and staff - the principal calls him 'the smiling assassin' but with no trace of frustration. Kids call out to Ari as he enters or leaves the school yard, 'Hi Ari!', 'Seeya Ari!'. Mostly he doesn't bother to respond. This is so much like Erik, and yet, also like Erik, Ari has no friends group. He doesn't get invited to parties (in contrast Bryn has already been invited to four, as well as a few playdates and sleepovers). I sense that Ari is very aware of this, but he never talks about it.

We have Ari signed up for a formal assessment but the cogs turn slowly in the public school system. Academically, he's doing brilliantly well. He is well ahead of peers in reading and maths - his writing needs work, particularly legibility. His teacher told us another child with similar behaviours to Ari (getting out of his chair all the time, taking ages to settle into a task, and then being distracted by the tiniest of things) was diagnosed with ADHD and put on Ritalin and the change was extraordinary. The child was able to focus, his writing because legible, he sat in his chair, and so on. I have to admit, just the thought of Ritalin frightens me. Ari is still so young, his brain is still so immature, and Ritalin is a strong drug. That said, my cousin says it has worked wonders for her child (who is a year older than Ari). My cousin's child is a bright and engaging eight year old, who I instantly loved on our first meeting.

Bryn, oh where to start with my heart. This boy, who taught me I'm not a hopeless parent. This solid little soul who showed reason at such a tender age. This year has been tough on him. He wasn't keen to change schools even though his circle of friends at the old school was quite volatile. He's made a great circle of friends at the new school and feels very much part of something there, but still gets melancholy if we reminisce about the old school. For this school, he seems to have chosen the role of James Dean in his classroom. He has developed the habit of deciding something or someone is 'stupid' and therefore he needs not engage with it or them. He back-chats his teacher - a lovely woman, who is a puppy raiser for Guide Dogs (if that isn't a recommendation, then I don't know what is!). Bryn is a worry. I know for certain the stress at home has affected him because he has told me. It keeps me up at night.

Yep, it's been full on. Hopefully 2016 will be a bit more settled. At least we didn't have to move house this year, ha!

The excitement is really building for the dog! We're getting in a little animal-care practice by way of cat-sitting for eleven days over Christmas. The kids don't know yet, so that will be a great surprise for them.

In relation to the guide dog training, I have applied for, and been granted, a short intermission for January and half of February. With the annual leave I can take over Christmas (we have 20 days a year annual leave), I'm now 'on holiday' until February 12th. This means I can give my full attention to all the stuff here at home and, in January, to guide dog training. Of course, it's not like turning off a light. I can't just STOP thinking about my thesis, but maybe I can wind back the panic a bit, ha! The intermission time gets added to the end of research time, so those six weeks aren't lost. The annual leave does not get added to the end, so I can still do some work in that time. I'm not allowed to work on my thesis during intermission.

Yes, so that's life at the moment.

And then there's Christmas... We started our Christmas shopping on Friday night - a week out from Christmas Day (and only 6 days out from when we actually start Christmas in this house). Tomorrow will be the big day of present shopping. Food shopping must be finished by Wednesday night. This house must be CLEAN - not GOM clean, not boys clean, it has to be Sif clean - by Wednesday night. Then it'll be a couple of days of eating and sleeping. Then some down time, and in early January we're driving over to Warnambool to visit an old friend of the Grumpy Old Man. When we get back I have a radiography scan of my right tear duct (there is something going on, it keeps weeping without obvious cause - don't worry, they're pretty sure it's not a tumour). Then guide dog school. Only three weeks from tomorrow! I'm more excited about guide dog school than Christmas!

Our 2015 Christmas tree


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