Thursday, August 31, 2017

A week until my book lauch...

My book launch is on next Thursday evening. In case you're interested in coming along and saying, 'Hi!' (I always love meeting my readers), the details are as follows;

Where: Readings Kids Bookshop - 315 Lygon Street. Carlton, Vic

When: Thursday 7thof September - 6.30pm start

Drinks and refreshments will be provided. Authors will be present for book signing

As you can see, I'm sharing the spotlight with another Melbourne author, Melissa Gisjbers.

To be honest, now that it's a week away, I'm getting a bit nervous. We were asked to read aloud from our books, and because of the small print size I said I couldn't do that. I was asked to find someone else to do the reading but honestly, I can't think of anyone I could impose that role on. So, now I'm thinking I might have to just print of a segment in large print and attempt to read it myself. I'll have to practice because my reading out loud talent is basically non-existant. 

So, maybe it'd be fun to come along to bare witness to that travesty.

In any case, welcome one and all!

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Was I ever like that?

I had a bit of a reality check the other day.

Dave and I were in Ikea, and had just spent about three hours on our mission to get all the things. I had compiled a list on the Ikea site - because I've nominated myself for spouse of the year - and printed it out. That being said, Ikea is still a huge place and there were still things on my list which were not accompanied by the handy 'where to find this item' that comes with the warehouse part of the expedition. So, by the time we reached the warehouse, and despite the obligatory break for meatballs in the food court (with the also obligatory screaming, overstimulated and tired children) - we were pretty tired.

I had a trolley packed with all things Scandinavian chic, and Dave was lumbering behind me with an equally large, though significantly heavier and therefore more unwieldy, trolley full of Besta tv cabinet packages. In addition we had Harlem obediently heeling by my side and attracting all the 'ooh's and 'aah's and threatened patting incidents to draw his attention (he truly loves people and despite his pawsome training was also tired and distracted by all the hustle and bustle).

Therefore, when I encountered a miniature human, around 18 months, skipping and tripping around the busy warehouse isle, I called back to Dave, 'Beware the free ranged kid!'. There was nothing judgemental in my warning, it was just a warning so my hyperfocused husband didn't inadvertently barrel into the toddler if the tot suddenly popped out from behind a display of Kallax shelving.

The proud father, who had not appeared in any way to be following the actions of the little person, even by eye, felt the need to correct me, 'Yes, the free range CHILD'. Evidently, he had attended the advanced course in 'stick up your butt, defensive parenting techniques'.

I didn't acknowledge him. It wasn't worth it. What was I going to say? 'Oh, I totally get what you're doing, I also brought my children up in the 'Continuum Parenting', 'Free-range' (trademark) tradition, I'm certainly not criticizing you, I just didn't want my husband to maim your CHILD, because it seems you would probably sue us, you great entitled asshole.'

I have to wonder, was I ever like that? Did I ever look down my nose at people who used words that were not culturally offensive, but didn't fit in with my parenting religion?

Gee, I hope not.

Maybe this was Karma?

In any case. Woe-behold the person who does run that poor little innocent over because daddy doesn't get that those Continuum CHILDren in the Amazon, were never expected to navigate the treacherous terrain of an Ikea warehouse at 5pm on a Saturday afternoon. I mean, tigers are nothing like tired nine-month-pregnant ladies with sore feet and itchy bellies, let alone their grumpy, 'How much longer is this going to take? My god, she said just a few things!' partners.

Oh well, he'll probably get over himself by the time Precious is running rip-shod over the 'inclusively consulted and agreed upon' social behaviours in the home...

Good luck to him.

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

I've been doing it right all along!

Yesterday I read this article about what the most successful people in the world all do.

It seems they nap. I nap, every single day! Honestly, I couldn't get through my day without a nap. Getting up at 5am isn't for the faint hearted. Turns out this increases both productivity and creativity! I will no longer apologize for napping!

They keep a journal. Tick. I've kept a journal since I was at least 15. I really enjoy reflecting on stuff in it, and writing stuff I can't write here. It's a conversation with myself that often results in new ideas, new linkages, and new understandings of aspects of my life and of the working of the society I live in.

Walking for fifteen minutes a day. Admittedly, I don't walk for fifteen minutes every day, well not purposefully in any case. That is something I will have to make happen.

I do however, have a conversation partner. This is Dave, always has been. We sit for hours in the evening discussing a whole range of things. A lot of it is talk about the kids, but even then it's about what affects kids these days, how society impacts on kids' perceptions of the world. We also talk politics. We talk politics a lot, actually. And then there is all the philosophical conversation, the big questions, and the little ones too.

I am also definitely the sort of person who isn't afraid of failing, who will get up and 'try it a different way' until I get the result I'm looking for. I love to meet a challenge head on. But mostly, failure doesn't scare me. I view it as another lesson learned.

I can't remember what else the article said - I probably need a nap - but overall I know I ticked of most everything on the list which means I should be very successful very soon, right?

In other news, it seems there was a little promotional blurb about my book in one of the papers over the weekend. I can't remember which paper, but I suspect it was from Readings promoting the launch. Thank goodness I convinced the publisher to give up on the idea of having the launch in a church hall in the far south-eastern suburbs. I mean seriously, what kind of professional publishing company does that? Anyway, all's well that ends well, and a pat on the back for me.

I am also being interviewed for an interview (?) at a radio station. This is another self-promotion effort on my part. I guess it's all a learning process.

I have the germination of an idea for my next book. It's in the following lines:

'She leaned into the wind, head down, spine rigid, soul determined. She would make it home this time.'

I know the plot of this book, but now I have a couple of opening sentences. Which feels good.

Thursday, August 24, 2017

Today I'll be buying a ticket in Tatts...

Yesterday was an absolutely horrendous day.

I realised on the way to work that I had forgotten to bring my lanyard with me. Besides having my travel pass on the lanyard, there is also - of course - the swipe key to the office. As I'm the second person into the office at about 7.15am, and the first person who is always there is actually on leave at the moment, I figured I'd be standing out in the cold for about 45 minutes.

Luckily for me, just as I turned up, another employee from a different team also arrive and could let me in. Good luck no.1.

At around 8.50am I was headed out of the office to a meeting at Monash university. I wasn't suppose to leave for another 30 minutes but I had to give myself enough time to go buy a metcard. After I got to Oakley station, there was a bit of a wait. Then onto a bus. About five minutes into the ride I realised I didn't have my back pack on. I had to get off the bus, cross a high way, get on another bus and just hope the bag hadn't been stolen. After a very stressful bus ride back to Oakley station, I found it still sitting at the bus stop where I'd been waiting for the bus to Monash. Good luck no.2.

On the way home I take two trains and a bus. On the last leg of the journey, I was on the bus when I realised I had done it again! I had left my bag on the train. I could not believe it. I was horrified. I had a small mental breakdown on the rest of the trip - I'm sure the other passengers thought I was nuts. I had to called the PTV for the second time yesterday and ask to be put through to the relevant station. A lovely guy at Belgrave picked up the phone and after I explained my situation, he said he'd search the train when it arrived at the station. He'd call my back in about 20 meetings. He also said it may have been handed in at another station in which case I could call 'lost and found' at Flinders Street station at around midday today. I honestly did not think I would see the bag again.

Twenty minutes later, as promised, Liam called back and said a man had handed in the bag at Belgrave. I could hardly believe what I was hearing! After being so careless three times yesterday, I had been extremely lucky three times as well.

So, today I'm going to buy a ticket in Tatts.

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

What's wrong with young people today...

Nothing. There is nothing wrong with young people today.

Today it is, in fact, much much harder to be a young person.

I had to have a tough conversation with Luey a couple of days ago. On the whole, he is doing alright. His last WASHI was released yesterday and he had, again, received a solid 2.1 out of 4. 1.33 is considered a pass mark. So, he's doing alright. However, he has not been turning up to math at all. I actually thought he had withdrawn from math and taken up a new subject, but it appears he never got so far as to make it official, and so he's just not been turning up. This is very upsetting because it smacks of Erik's choices, and well, we know how that is turning out. Luey is also not signing in to Private Study, which is not marked, but still, there's the principle to consider here.

So, I had to have 'that' conversation with him. The conversation I never thought I'd ever have with my kids. The 'Education is very important, what you do at high school is very important, you have to take it all seriously.'

Okay, so this probably seems kind of 'so what?' to many of you. The thing is, I've always told my kids there is no last chance. I've always said it is more important to follow your heart and do what inspires you. I still wholly believe this.


Here comes the 'but', it's not like how it was 'back in my day' when you could leave school at the end of high school and pretty much expect to be able to find a job. Now, everyone is expected to go on to some sort of tertiary education - and - it's not that easy to get in anymore. There is a lot of competition now. For many courses there are fees not supported by the Government.

Then a student graduates from whatever they managed to do for tertiary education and the labour market looms to break them down. There are about three times the number of job seekers than there are jobs to apply for. The average graduate can expect to wait five years to get into gainful employment. The number of 'under' employed people in our society is rapidly growing.

It is also difficult to find housing. Many landlords do not want to rent to students or single young people. Even if a young person can put together a group household and secure a place to live, they can expect to be paying upwards of $150 a week just for the roof over their head - most often more than this. Utilities are rising in cost at a phenomenal rate - even people with good jobs are shocked by the rises. Then there are other costs; costs including food, the expectation that every person must have their own mobile phone, upkeep of a car, or the cost of public transport (and considering livable rents are mostly found in the out-lying suburbs, transportation can be a significant percentage of their income).

It is really no wonder young people give up before they even start. Growing up is more overwhelming than it has ever been in modern history.

So, there I sat on the end of Luey's bed and heard the words come out of mouth, 'Don't be like Erik, Erik is a loser.' By loser, I certainly don't mean he has no friends or is uncool. By 'loser' I literally mean, he is losing at life right now. With his current attitude - with not taking life seriously - he finds himself in a situation where he is essentially homeless. He is relying on the kindness of friends for shelter - and free utilities. And it cannot last.

Luey told us last night that Erik is exchanging the benefits of his age for shelter. Basically, he is being the messenger boy for his younger friends, buying alcohol and cigarettes for them (with their money, that is). His friends are using him. Would they be as willing to have him around if they didn't need him to do this for them? Who knows.

So, there you have it. Young people are caught between a rock and a hard place, and it seems parents are having to be the hard place. I know some parents are happy to be the soft place for their kids to fall - those parents often don't realise just how privileged they are. If they can afford to keep their children well into their adulthood, they've got to be doing alright themselves. The rest of us need our kids to grow up and step up, and support themselves.

Friday, August 18, 2017

Movement at the Station

It has been a somewhat distressing time around these parts in the past couple of weeks. We have found out that Erik is couch surfing. He still has a room at Sam's but apparently it has been decided he should 'stay away' for a little while. Why this is so is unknown to us. We know he is staying at a friend's house this week and then he is moving to another friend's house next week.

In addition to this his marks have taken a dive through the floor in the past few weeks. He is apparently at school, but not attending many of his classes. He failed three VCE classes in semester one. The child is in year 11, so failing three subjects now means he'll have to repeat next year. He is already a year older than his peers, so they will be finishing year 12 next year at the age of 18 and he'll be 19. Now, it looks like he won't finish until at least the year after, when he is twenty.

That is if he finishes high school at all. Of course, there is TAFE, but do successfully gain his VCE, he actually has to do some work at all.

We suspect he may have been rejected by Centrelink in his application for Youth Allowance. He didn't meet any of the criteria because he is quite welcome to live at home, and his dispute with us falls under the category of 'normal teenage dissatisfaction with household expectations'. Having been rejected for this, we are wondering whether Sam and Erik's school mentor are colluding to have it appear as if Erik is homeless, by having him couch search for a while. Erik is not meeting the requirement of that eligibility either as there is no need for him to be homeless.

We believe Sam and his school mentor have attempted to convince Centrelink that we have abused Erik. If this is the case, I am absolutely stunned at the behaviour of his school mentor. No one is consulting with us at all.

Ironically, the school just sent out an email to parents stating that they are compliant with the 'Child Safe' policy mandated by the Government under Ministerial Order 870. I will address each of the following in bold print.

The stated Templestowe College policy is that 'staff should not develop any 'special' relationship with students that could be seen as favouritism (for example offering gifts or special treatment to specific students)'.

Erik himself reported to Lukas that Erik's mentor had accompanied him to Centrelink to put in the application for Youth Allowance based on the allegation that Erik was not able to live at home. This was confirmed by the social worker who called us to ask if Erik was indeed not able to live at home. She was satisfied with Erik's safety after a conversation with Dave and the matter was not taken any further. Accompanying Erik to Centrelink is definitely an act of favouritism - not part of usual teacher/student behavour. 

'Should report any allegations of child abuse to leadership, and ensure any allegation is reported to the police or child protection'.

In addition, because they applied for youth allowance before Erik was 18, they needed to claim he was eligible for the payment because he lived too far from work, he was homeless, he was being abused, he was abusing his family. The only one they could possibly claim was that he was being abused, in which no one reported on for over a year.

'TC is committed to preventing child abuse and identifying risks early, and removing and reducing these risks'.

How is this being applied with regard to Erik ostensibly needing to couch surf at the moment? Is Sam being reported for this?

'Our Leading Teacher Community and Educational Psychologist are responsible for delivering Professional Development to staff and providing information to students and TC families'.

Where is the provision of information? We have been completely cut out of the loop without having the chance to address any allegations made against us to the Leadership Team. They seem to have forgotten that Dave and I are Erik's guardians. Not Sam, and certainly NOT Aaron Floyd. The law has not appointment them his protectors from us and more to the point, Social Services have investigated their concerns and decided they are unfounded.

How is it that Erik can be couch surfing despite having a room at Sam's? How can it be that we are not being communicated with at all? Erik obviously has no issue with us knowing, or he would not have told Lukas. Why is the school keeping us out of the loop?

In all of this, there is still no acknowledgement that Erik has autism, and that he is emotionally immature (also stated on the report). Erik has an IQ of 90 and while that is within the normal range it is definitely at the low end of normal. Is he able to properly comprehend the situation he is in? Does he realise that finishing his VCE is imperative - even if he has no plans for formal tertiary education. Does he understand that $3-400 a week (Centrelink + income from one or two days work a week,  which would mean working all weekend if he were to keep attending school, is not enough to live off?

Dave and I are really worried. We are worried that he doesn't seem to be welcome at Sam's house anymore - what happened to 'as long as he needs to'. We are worried that he is doing so poorly at school. We are worried that he might drop out of school altogether. We are worried that no-one is talking to us about any of this despite the fact that Erik is sharing this information with Lukas whenever the conversation tilts that way.

Dave is calling the social worker again. We need some answers. We need someone to know Erik is couch surfing despite having a room at Sam's place.

Hopefully the social worker will contact someone to get some answers.

Friday, August 04, 2017

When will we move on?

This week there has been a lot of discussion about transgender in the wake of Trump announcing that transgender people would be denied the right to join the armed forces in the US. Of course, as Trump is wont to do, he didn't actually consult the powers that be in the military about his decision and they have come out overwhelmingly in opposition to this statement.

On social media there is general outrage. Everything from outright condemnation to discussions about whether or not supportive parents are encouraging their children to become transgender by supporting gender role play in young children - encouraging a girl to 'become' a boy because she is a 'tomboy' who wants to play with 'boy' things, cut her hair short, and be called a boy name. This latter debate assumes there is no such thing as gender dysphoria.

My response is 'Ugh, when will we move past this and accept that gender, sexual orientation, and sexual attraction is not binary, or even trinary, but rather - like autism and the colours - a spectrum'. In Lukas' group of friends there's at least one of the following: a heterosexual, homosexual, bisexual, transsexual hetero, pansexual, a transsexual lesbian, and an asexual - I kid you not! It's quite a point of amusement that they manage to cover so many of the status. Now, some might think this is something the kids are just 'playing at', but in all seriousness this is how they feel and identify.

And why shouldn't they?

Who gets to determine what is right or wrong?

Honestly, I see the place we need to be in this world in Lukas' friends group. They all accept one another, there is no fear or shame, just being and acceptance of one another as they are.

I wear a ring, it is on my right ring finger. It is black and incomplete. There is a gap in the ring to symbolise the gap in our society which does not acknowledge same sex marriage. This ring is called a 'Until we all belong' ring and it is available on Ebay for a very low price. It also represents a movement towards acceptance of the spectrum, we're not there yet, but maybe in the next generation we'll get there - finally.

Wednesday, August 02, 2017

Christmas planning...

It's not August yet, Bryn's birthday is still over two weeks away, but I've already started thinking about Christmas.

I was looking at Christmas trees online the other day. Our fibre optic tree faded and I chucked it in a skip in January last year with the plan to get another one before last Christmas - and then I promptly forgot, which meant in late November when I went to get the tree out of the garage, I couldn't find it anywhere. Now, considering the scale at which we had stuffed the garage, that in itself wasn't surprising, however when a thorough search yielded nothing I suddenly remember myself shotput flinging it in its box over the edge of the skip. I got a couple of trees from a friend who was moving, but in the end they were both too short for our family and we ended up getting MIL's old tree (which I swear was our old tree from before the optic fibre tree). That tree needed a string of lights and I refused to buy the things because of that one time I was electrocuted by one... We missed the lights though, so I'm determined to get a replacement this year.

The other thing we're doing - I may have mentioned this is a post last week or the week before, is that we're going to split Christmas this year. We usually have a Christmas Eve dinner for the whole family, and then back up for a late Christmas lunch with Dave's mum the next day. For the last couple of years we've been wrecked for a couple of days after Christmas. So, this year, we're going to do the Christmas Even dinner on the 16th of December instead. It probably won't be a full family dinner as I can't see a change in the status quo of my relationship with mum, and Michael and his girlfriend Anya will likely want their own Christmas, but it'll be good - we're thinking we'll invite Erik this year, if he wants to come.

This means I'll finally, finally be able to sit down and enjoy the Carols on TV in peace and quiet on Christmas Eve (we will NOT be wrapping presents that night).

Then on Christmas Day we'll be able to have a leisurely lunch with Dave's mum.

With regard to presents, which the boys usually open the majority of on Christmas Eve, we'll have  one present for them on the 16th for after dinner. Then we'll do a Christmas Eve present - which will likely be pjs. Then the Christmas morning stocking, and finally the main presents when Dave's mum joins us for lunch.

I'm looking forward to Christmas this year, already.

Good Job!