Saturday, 18 December 2010

A little request when you're doing your Christmas shopping (or any shopping really) ...

Big confession here: before I had kids I was one of those people who would shake their head and tut loudly at other people's children being loud/naughty/disrespectful in the shops.

I would sometimes even catch the eye of the person next to/in front of/behind me and make a comment along the lines of "I know what I'd do to the little darling" or "why doesn't the mother do something?"

I would vow and declare that none of my kids would ever dare to behave like that in public. Even after I had my kids and ended up with an Olympic class tantrum thrower (Karma really does come back to bite you doesn't it?), I would still wonder at the people who just stood and ignored their child's behaviour and silently mutter a pox on all their houses.

But somewhere along the line, I realised that everything is not always as it seems. Children who look 'normal' quite often have little (or not-so-little) issues that aren't immediately obvious.

I think having a child with autism, admittedly very mild autism, but autism nonetheless, has encouraged me to, when faced with difficult behaviour, take an extra deep breath, count to five, breathe out slowly and smile. Key word there is smile .. not sneer, grimace, frown, snarl or any of the other negative possibilities. It may make you seem like you've escaped from a lunatic asylum, but realistically, you're shopping at Christmas time .. you've escaped to a lunatic asylum!
(The anti-depressants have also helped majorly in my case ... I'm no longer at risk of expelling my vocal chords out of my throat and onto the floor due to screaming at the children. I can usually deal with most things in a relatively calm and rational manner. Now I just have to worry about my mind wandering .. it's too small to be out wandering on it's own!)

Now I know that at this time of the year, there will be heaps of 'little darlings' everywhere you turn and there will certainly be a hefty percentage of spoilt rotten little brats chucking tantrums to get what they want. You'll usually be able to hear them the second you walk into the shops and you will probably know their name within the first ten seconds as their parent or guardian threatens increasingly dire consequences if they don't "!"

However, there will also be a much smaller group of kids whose parents are seemingly ignoring the escalating wails or throwing of things out of the trolley. These parents may look slightly shell-shocked, have a look of steely determination or one of total resignation. Some of these parents are trying out a new tantrum control method (usually on their under-3-year-old) and the rest of these parents are probably like the long-suffering woman I saw at Kmart last week.

She had three children, two boys and a girl, all still in their school uniforms and all between about 7 and 11 years old. Important note here: all the children appeared 'normal' and by that I mean no obvious physical disabilities or any of the more common signs of mental disabilities.

The boys were waiting patiently for their turn to have their items scanned while the girl was chucking a major hissy fit about having her shopping taken out of her bag to be scanned by the very annoyed checkout operator. Her wails of displeasure were getting louder and louder and people were turning to stare and starting to mutter those immortal words of "what that child needs is a smack", "spoilt brat" and the perennial favourite of "I know what I'd do to her". I have to admit, I was getting a bit annoyed myself as I already had a headache and the noise certainly wasn't helping.

It was at that point that I saw the despair on the mother's face as she registered all the murmuring and tried to restrain the little girl from taking one of her brother's toys to put in her bag. I then watched as she leaned down to the oldest boy and said quietly "you know she doesn't understand, don't you? Thank you for not yelling at her and making it worse."

I then realised that in all the noise, I hadn't heard the girl speak a clear word; it was all just noises of distress. The mother was trying to apologise to the checkout girl for the noise by explaining that her daughter was autistic, couldn't speak and didn't understand why she had had her shopping bag emptied. (If the checkout operator had moved faster than the speed of dead and allowed the little girl to put her things back in her own bag, instead of insisting that they all go into a plastic bag, most of this could have been avoided!)

Due to the level of noise the girl was making, no-one else heard the explanation so the muttering and murmuring was still going on. I turned away, feeling suitably chastened as I had 'been there, done that' and knew how it felt and was silently beating myself up for not being more understanding in the first place.

The woman next to me, who had been waiting there with her three perfectly-behaved Stepford children, caught my eye. She frowned, shook her head and said "I know what I'd do to her".

My reply? (said loud enough for all to hear)

"There's no point in smacking her. She's autistic and doesn't understand."

Most of the murmuring stopped immediately and there were a few other chastened faces in the crowd.

Feeling a bit embarrassed for having spoken up, I turned around just in time to see the look of relief on the mother's face. I shrugged and smiled and watched as she walked away with her daughter now happy because her shopping bag was once again full.

So to get back to the request I mentioned in the title:

When you see a 'normal-looking' child misbehaving or making a lot of noise for what seems like little reason, remember, everything isn't always as it seems.

Stop, take a deep breath, count to five, exhale and smile. If you can't do that, walk as far away as you can.

And give the parents the benefit of the doubt. (I wish more people had done that for me!)

They are doing the best they can.

The school holidays (with major apologies to Billy Joel)

It’s nine o’clock on a Saturday
The regular crowd staggers in
Wiping sleep from their eyes, they all stare at me
Then, as one, they all begin

Mum, can I have lollies for breakfast?
It is school holidays you know
And you promised that we could go out today
But not ‘til after my show.

La la la, de de da
La la, de de da da dum

Give us some food
You’re the mother here
Give us something to do
We’re all bored out of our tiny minds
And it’s your job to fix up our blues

Mum, I need something to do right now
I’m bored and I don’t want to think
So what should I do with myself today?
Yes I know there are dishes in the sink

But what does that have to do with me?
Why do I always have to clean?
It’s not just me that made all this mess
So why do I have to make it gleam?

Oh, la la la, di da da
La la, di da da da dum

Mum, I have nothing to wear today
Where are all of my jocks?
Whaddayamean they’re all on the floor of my room
Right next to my very smelly socks.

You should have washed them all by now
It is your job after all
Hey Mum, why do your eyes look so weird right now?
Mum, stop banging your head against the wall!

Give us some food
You’re the mother here
Give us something to do
We’re all bored out of our tiny minds
And it’s your job to fix up our blues

It’s a pretty good crowd for a bail hearing
The defence lawyer gives me a smile
'Cos she knows I’ll be free 'fore the clock strikes three
Every mother’s been there for a while

In the place where chocolate is your best friend
And sedatives are nothing to fear
Where you sit and stare blankly at these four walls
And wonder how the hell did I get here?

Oh, la la la, di da da
La la, di da da da dum

Give us some food
You’re the mother here
Give us something to do
We’re all bored out of our tiny minds
And it’s your job to fix up our blues

Happy School Holidays everyone!

The Twilight zone ...

Cue music ....

I have typed up several posts over the last few weeks and I thought they had posted, but they have disappeared into the ether.

I will endeavour to find them and re-post them over the next couple of days 'cos I know you're all just dying to hear my incessant, sarcastic, cynical ravings on life, love and the pursuit of sanity.

Failing that, I will just have to find new material to blog about.

Be afraid ...

... be very afraid!

Monday, 6 December 2010

What I've been up to ...

You may have noticed, over in my sidebar, there's a link to a wonderful site (and person) called Bakerella. She makes the cutest little things called cake pops and I, having oodles of spare time (snort!), decided to give them a go.

My first attempt was at the (what I thought were) easier version called cupcake bites. (Having now made both kinds, I think the pops were the easier of the two; especially when dipping them in the chocolate!)

And then the Christmas Pops:

All packaged up and ready to go!

Frosty the Snowman
Christmas pudding

I cheated a bit (OK, a lot!) and used store-bought mud cakes for the centres. Woolies sell lovely mud cakes in three different flavours and the cost is very reasonable (less than it would cost to make them myself!) I used white mudcake balls for the snowmen, chocolate mudcake balls for the Christmas puddings and caramel mudcake balls for the reindeer. A little handy hint: when you crumble the mudcake before rolling it into cake balls, make sure you crumble in the icing too. I didn't do that with the first batch and they dried out and crumbled a bit before I could dip them all.

They are a bit fiddly to make, especially when you have to keep smacking boys' hands away from the decorating ingredients bowls, but are oh so much fun! And the looks on people's faces when presented with the finished product makes the work worthwhile.

I did find we are slightly more limited in our choice of decorating bits and pieces than our US counterparts but managed to find suitable substitutes for most things. I haven't yet attempted colouring chocolate (and I refuse to pay the $10 + per 200g bag for the pre-coloured choc melts off the internet) but as I have now finished working at the school for the year, I may give it a go soon. I'll keep you posted!
And yes ... they tasted as good (better even!) as they looked!

Thursday, 2 December 2010

Another one of those "I'm feeling so old" posts but about Lurch this time ...

... oops I mean Alex. Peter has taken to calling him Lurch (from the Addams Family TV show) because he towers over both of us and does that shudder/groan/grunt thing so well! But back to the original topic, which was of course, me and how I'm feeling so old!

Alex had his Year 10 River Cruise last night and actually allowed me to take a few photos on the proviso I didn't put them on facebook. This isn't facebook so I figure that means I can post them all here. OK, maybe not all as blogger only allows five photos per post, but that should be sufficient to throughly embarrass him get the general vibe.
Alex and his best mate Chris being 'serious' for a minute:
(Yes Chris is rather tall .. 6'2" at last measure and he's still growing!)

He scrubs up all right, doesn't he?
(even with the silly face he's pulling!)

The whole gang:
Some of the Barbie dolls other girls:

I was sure they would all freeze because it was very windy (and I was cold standing around in jeans and a polar fleece jacket), but Alex said it was warm on the boat and they all did heaps of dancing to warm themselves up, which then prompted the thought that I hoped they all had very good 'support garments' under those strapless dresses.

Apparently they all had a great time even though it was so windy and choppy that the captain abandoned plans for a cruise down to Fremantle and just did giant bog laps from South Perth to Burswood and back to the Barrack St Jetty. Alex managed to get one picture of the lights ...
which lights I'm not sure but hey, he took a photo for me!

Chris's mum Julia picked both boys up and Alex stayed there for the night and most of the next day while his brothers had to go to school .. a fact he took great delight in rubbing in every time they mentioned anything to do with school. "No more school for me-e! You've got school tomorrow! No more school for me-e!" You'll just have to insert your own visual of Lurch trying to do a conga line on his own while singing the above chant ... you're welcome!!

Tuesday, 30 November 2010

I'm feeling so old ... my baby is going to high school next year!

Brad had his valedictory service last night so now it's official ... I no longer have any kids in primary school. Waaahhhh! I'm so not ready for this .. because we all know this is about me and how I'm feeling and nothing whatsoever to do with Brad and his feelings about moving on to the next stage of his academic and social lives.

It was a lovely service with lots of photos of the kids throughout the years of their time at the school. We've only been there for the last five years but quite a few of the kids had been there since kindy (eight years in total so far) and it was really good to see how they've all changed and matured over the years.
There was the traditional handing out of graduation certificates by the principal of the whole school as well as the Head of Primary but unfortunately, the lighting isn't the best inside the chapel and the angle was all wrong too, so my photo of Brad receiving his certificate didn't work out (tragedy for a scrapbooker like me!)
Then came the candle ceremony. Each graduating child is given a votive candle and candle holder with their name on it and Bradley didn't want to blow his candle out after the ceremony. He was going to keep it lit until there was no more candle left. I managed to persuade him that trying to eat the supper afterwards with a burning candle in one hand and his (flammable) graduation certificate in the other, would probably result in damage or injury, so he finally allowed me to blow it out. I then had the privilege of carrying it around for the rest of the evening, which was actually a good thing because it meant that it definitely came home to be put away safely with his brothers' ones.
So here you go: my last baby leaving primary school (note the still lit candle!)
Good luck for high school Bradley! Just try your best and we'll be happy!

Wednesday, 24 November 2010

Monday, 15 November 2010

Dear Donna ...

Long time no see speak! In case you hadn't gathered, this is the Universe popping in for one of my little 'helpful hints' talks. Let's get started shall we?

  1. First and foremost: when moving house, make sure you are wearing underwear that actually fits and is comfortable! Spending most of the day trying to find a quiet corner to discreetly deal with the mother of all wedgies is not conducive to actually getting anything done. Spending the rest of the day trying to prevent said underwear from falling out the bottom of your 3/4 pants is also not exactly productive. And for heaven's sake, don't wear a new bra. It will dig into places you didn't know you had and cause bruises you will take weeks to get over. Both undies and bra will make for some embarrassing moments with the removalists. Hopefully your face is back to it's normal shade of pink instead of the flaming red you wore for most of the day.
  2. Asking the children to 'put things away' in their new rooms is bound to result in stuff being thrown through in the doorway and left wherever it lands. I realise this is not that different from how they used to put things away in the old house, but as you are still trying to move furniture and large, heavy boxes, it may be advisable to be a bit a lot more specific about where things should go. For example: "Put your clothes into the correct drawers of your chest of drawers and not on the floor" is going to save a least four ankle turns, two stubbed toes and one almost broken arm.
  3. You can survive without a phone and internet and for longer than you think. However, your children will think their eyes have been gouged out with a rusty safety pin if they go more than 12 hours without access to facebook, runescape and a various assortment of mind-numbing flash games. All I can say to this is stock up on chocolate, Valium, earplugs and tranquiliser darts. Oh, and make sure you know which box the alcohol is in!
  4. Next time, try moving a bit closer to Christmas. The children will find so many things they had 'lost' that it will save you money on Christmas presents as they will have heaps to entertain themselves with (and to fight over who it actually belonged to in the first place).
  5. Even though your kitchen was the first thing to be moved, make sure to claim ignorance of where anything is placed in the new kitchen. This will ensure takeaway (and no dishes) for at least four nights after you move in. This will unfortunately leave a rather large dent in the food budget for the week but it is worth it to save your sanity. Oh, and find a rental with a dishwasher next time (not that there will be a next time but make sure the new house has one before you move in!)
  6. Get used to the fact that you will be living in a house full of boxes of stuff you 'need' but don't have a space for ... yet. Just tell the children that the boxes are giant cardboard Lego pieces when they start to complain about the boxes blocking the view to the TV and suggest that they build themselves a nice jail cell soundproof room 'cubby house' instead of whingeing whining moaning politely voicing their discontent.

Now that we have some of those things settled, I would suggest that you keep this list handy for next year when you get to do it all again.

Your friend,

The Universe

Tuesday, 2 November 2010

The things you do when you should be packing ...

I wrote this the morning of the actual move. When asked to justify my actions, I explained that it was to be my last creative effort for quite some time and that the internet wasn't going to available for an eternity a couple of weeks so I had to get in while I could.
Anyway, here's my attempt at creativity from 6am yesterday with sleep in my eyes and a frantic husband yelling at trying to organise everyone else in the house ....
Dear friends, please note that our address

Has changed since last you were our guests

When you walked in through the door

And one hour’s stay turned into four.

We emptied the cupboards when the kids went to sleep

And soon found ourselves buried knee deep

In stuff we just had to have at the time

But now just makes us whinge and whine

Oh all the packing we have to do

And oh the dramas we’re going through

It will be worth it in a while

But for now, it’s hard to smile

To try to get the phone connected

Is like trying to get a fly elected

To the exalted office of Prime Minister

You’d think we were trying something sinister!

Our internet has gone away

And won’t be returning for many a day

About fourteen at latest estimate

So please don’t send us many messages

As yet we have no new home phone

But please don’t leave us all alone

We can still be reached on our mobile numbers

Just try not to disturb our much needed slumber!

We’re almost packed and on our way

To the beginning of a brand new way

Of life, of love and many guests

Please come visit us at our new address!

Saturday, 30 October 2010

Nostalgic mood is now kicking in

We are starting to move house today and I am feeling ever-so-slightly unsettled. We have been in this house for ten years and I, for one, am going to miss it.

When I told Peter that I was feeling 'fragile', he replied "the day has arrived and it's time to evacuate." (sounds like an emergency drill not house move!) then said "we didn't conceive any children here but it has been a good house."

We may not have conceived any children here (thank goodness .. three is enough!) but the ones we had already have changed so much in the past ten years that it seems like an entire lifetime ago that I was stressing about the last move.

A few of the big events from the last ten years that jump to mind:
  • My Dad passing away six months after we moved in. I'll always remember the conversations we had when we were painting the boys rooms and my grudging acceptance of his near-enough attitude to cutting in. He was right .. it doesn't really matter in the long run.
  • The boys all starting 'big' school. They've all grown up way too quickly!
  • Alex being diagnosed with autism. I can still remember coming home from a very unproductive meeting at his school and standing in the carport crying on Peter's shoulder about all my fears for him and his future.
  • The births of Mark and Bec's children. So wonderful to see them become a family of four and then five and it really didn't hurt that they're all cute!
  • The horrible phone call in the middle of the night to let me know that Pete's Dad had passed away. It felt like Pete was on the other side of the world even though he was only 700km away and all I wanted to do was to bring him home and make the pain go away.
  • All of the other seemingly small moments that added up to a sometimes painful, yet still wonderful, ten years.

Apparently that's enough reminiscing for now as we have boxes to move and 'stuff' to sort. The slave driver awaits ...

Thursday, 28 October 2010

Saturday, 23 October 2010

Out of the mouths of babes ...

Being the ever-so-slightly OCD type that I am, I decided to use a colour coding system on the proliferation of boxes that have taken up residence in every room of the house.

I thought that by giving each room/area a colour and labelling the boxes filled with stuff from that room/area with aforementioned colours, it would make it heaps easier to deal with the chaos that is moving house. Having so much more 'stuff' than the last time we moved house was frightening me just a wee bit because I could envision many complaints of "I can't find my ..." and "Why has he got my stuff?"

I even made a pretty little chart with the colours and areas clearly labelled so when the removalists got to the new house with the boxes, they would be able to easily find which room to put each box into ... see:
I was feeling quite proud of myself for being pro-active instead of reactive for a change until Andrew asked the blindingly obvious question:

"Mum? What happens if the removalists are colour blind?"

I think I'm just going to go and cry in the corner now. Please call me if you find removalists who aren't colour blind ....

Wednesday, 20 October 2010

Plague proportions ...

Every room I walk into lately has one of these in it:

Even the hallways have sprouted these unusual growths:

Some areas have been more badly infected than others:

And this room appears to be beyond all but the most professional help:

(Take note of the smaller wild versions making a break away from the main group)

Luckily help is arriving soon ... I hope!

Tuesday, 19 October 2010

Another step closer ...

The termite inspection guy has been and gone with the oh-so-wonderful news that the house is not infested with termites or any other nasty multi-legged creature (except for Brutus who took an instant dislike to him, as he does to every other male that comes within ten feet of the outside of the front door. Once said male is inside the front door, he couldn't care less .. great guard dog huh?) This means that we are now free to progress to settlement, which has been delayed two weeks due to the buyers changing their minds (and even though they changed them, they still don't work the way I want them to!!) about renting back to us for two weeks. I know they are perfectly within their rights to want vacant possession at settlement but why agree to let us rent and then change their minds? I'm a forward planner people .. I need to know what is going to happen so I can finish picturing the worst case scenario and implement the many and varied back-up plans in plenty of time! Don't mess with the system ... please? (warning .. breakdown imminent .. take evasive action .. warning .. meltdown in progress .....)

OK .. meltdown over for now. Clean-up crews have started fixing the damage ...

So from the very beginning, we/I have:
  1. agreed to the sale of the house
  2. agreed on a settlement date with us renting back for two weeks
  3. granted access to the building inspector as requested by the buyers (and then wondered why they wasted their money seeing as he was here for a grand total of 17 minutes with literally 2 minutes spent in the roof)
  4. found a rental and booked a date to move (after settlement, when Peter is home because I'm damned if I'm moving this all myself! What's that saying though ... damned if you do and damned if you don't!)
  5. been told that we are no longer able to rent back resulting in me burning a whole tray of pizzas at work as I was contemplating aforementioned worst-case-scenario of being homeless with all this crap junk stuff
  6. finally agreed on a (later) settlement date meaning I had to pull oodles of money out of my backside 'find' the bond money and payment for the removalists elsewhere
  7. passed the termite inspection (feels like being back at school .. passing this test and that exam!)
  8. packed enough boxes to deforest a quarter of the Amazonian rainforest (is it still called rainforest if it's been deforested? Always the deep questions here people!)
  9. freaked out about how I still don't have enough boxes to pack the rest of the crap 'valuable and vital items of everyday life'
  10. written long and rambling blog posts about how I've done so much whilst not actually achieving anything
  11. snarled at children who dare to interrupt my whining at the world to ask permission to make chocolate crackles as a treat for me for afternoon tea
  12. apologised to said children for snarling and grant them permission to make aforementioned chocolate crackles so long as they are delivered with a cup of tea
  13. decided to wind up blog post as I'm starting to sound ever-so-slightly mad like a raving lunatic who needs to be packed into a padded box for transport to a secure facility.

Off to have chocolate crackles ...

Mmmmmmmmm ... chocolate crackles ... yum!

After the week I've had this is oh so apt ...

funny dog pictures-Does stoopid hurt?  Would you like an Advil?
see more dog and puppy pictures

Sunday, 10 October 2010

Boxes, boxes, everywhere ...

Woohoo!! The buyers have finally had their finance approved (after a week's extension) so it's official ... we've sold the house! I have also managed to find a rental house and been approved for that too. Now I'm just madly packing everything that stands still long enough, which may be Peter if today is anything like yesterday.

For those whose husbands/partners aren't into motor racing, lucky you! It's Bathurst weekend when the V8 Supercars go round and round and round 161 times. However, that's not the most mind numbing part. That would be reserved for the endless discussions about the merits of this tyre versus that one, who was 0.001 of a second in front of or behind who, how long it took to build this car, how much it cost to build that car and we can't forget the endless repeating of the positions/times/leaderboard throughout the whole thing.

It does have benefits though ... Peter will agree to almost anything to get me to move out of the way of the TV! And apparently it's very educational though I'm not sure I want Drew to know just what these are supposed to be educating him about ...

(Is it just me or do most of these girls look constipated or like they're having some kind of fit?)

I'm sitting here listening to the occasional outburst whenever someone overtakes someone else and the running commentary from Pete, explaining all the minuscule details to the only one of the boys who is vaguely interested (Drew). I think they're both just waiting for the inevitable bingles and crashes that are bound to occur in a race of this length. That's when it really starts to sound interesting.

Bradley came into the study about three minutes ago and I sent him off to say good morning to his father with the instruction to stay and watch the car racing with him. Brad's response was "If I have to watch the car racing, I may as well go back to bed." Good to see one of my children has some sense!

Seriously though, it's one weekend a year and Pete enjoys watching it. He works pretty damn hard the rest of the time so I don't begrudge him this. It's heaps better than listening to, or worse, actually watching test cricket so I'm immensely grateful that hasn't started yet!

Now I'm off to pack some more boxes and try to work out why I thought it was such a good idea to buy so much Tupperware ....

Sunday, 3 October 2010

Some more show photos ...

Brad in his Viking helmet trying to avoid having a photo taken:

Ninja Brad:

Alex's remote control helicopter (purchased instead of a heap of show bags ..
his sugar rush could have been worse!!):

Amy in her funky new glasses and rasta hat (complete with dreadlocks):

Andrew going all rasta (and his shirt matches too!):

We survived the show. However, the post showbag sugar rush has only just started winding down ...

... and I am ready to kill the inventors of M&Ms ... specifically the person who decided bright blue food colouring was the ideal coating for a chocolate filled sugar coated sweet. Alex's teeth and lips are a beautiful shade of mottled blue. If we lived in a cooler climate I would be taking him to hospital on suspicion of hypothermia!

Then the fact that he is a teensy bit slightly OK, majorly 'sensitive' to blue and yellow food colouring, has meant an interesting couple of days. Yes I know I could have taken them away from him, but where's the blog post fun in that? (I tried to get a photo but retreated before he literally broke the camera. Teenage boys don't seem to like having their photo taken, as is evidenced by the number of photos of hands in front of faces that are now languishing in my archives.)

Overall though, we had a great day out and were home by 3pm. We arrived nice and early (9:20am) and managed to look at everything we wanted to see before the real crowds started arriving just before lunch. The first stop was the cake decorating (which all the kids had asked to see .. I know .. wonders will never cease!) We all had a laugh at the look on this groom's face:

and this couple:
Very well made, but my favourite was still the little mice peeking out from all sorts of places in this farmyard scene:

After the cakes, we checked out the sheepdog trials, log chopping, needlework/craft display (for Bec's gorgeous cross stitch sampler) and the dairy pavilion. Then it was on to the worst best part of the show ... sideshow alley. Thank goodness we were there early otherwise I would be writing this from the East Perth lock-up or Graylands Mental Hospital ... no sensory overload issues here!

Brad and Amy went on the bumper cars then had a go at an air powered cannon/gun thing where Brad won his new favourite stuffed toy, Whipper the dolphin. Then it was on to the laughing clowns where he won the only thing he wanted to buy ... a ninja sword. (It didn't stop him from buying another two anyway!) Amy had a go at climbing a horizontal, rotating ladder (and fell off) and Alex made his way around to the Scouting display and tried to go the whole distance around the rock climbing wall without touching the ground. He probably would have made it if there weren't so many little kids .. how rude!! :P

While Andrew ate lunch (no-one else was hungry ... weird!) we watched the dog judging then I sent the kids off to buy show bags while I wandered for a while on my own (bliss!). I checked out the photography and art exhibitions, the "only at the show" specials pavilion and the baby animal nursery before meeting up with the now-broke children. Much to my surprise, they said they'd had enough and were quite happy to go home with their diabetic-coma-in-a-bag spoils.

We caught the train home, where I retreated to the safety of my lounge chair with a magazine for some down time. When it got a little bit too quiet, I ventured down to the games room and found the spoils of the day spread from one end of the room to the other. Oh well, at least they had fun picking out the bags even if the contents only last a day or two.

Now I just have to get a job to pay for next year's expedition!

Thursday, 30 September 2010

And it's not even halfway through the school holidays ...

funny dog pictures-yes, yes, i'm listening
see more dog and puppy pictures

...usually Yu-Gi-Oh

or Pokemon

or The Simpsons

or Runescape

or bodily functions ...

Tuesday, 28 September 2010

Today is the day ...

... we find out if all our hopes and dreams, well the ones about building the new house anyway, will come true. Nothing like a bit of pressure there Universe!

The people wanting to buy our house have until close-of-business today to let us know if their finance has been approved. I admit I have been and, truth be told still am, a little bit worried that it may all fall through.

It's the pessimist in me; the one I try not to let out into the bright light of day but that somehow still manages to escape the confines of my happy pills and rear it's very ugly head at the most inopportune times ... like now!

Today is also the last day I can use 'not going to the Royal Show' as a threat. It has come in handy these last few days and has even motivated Alex to listen to my request for him to mow the lawns. I've been asking him to do it for the last two weeks, so the fact that he is currently outside battling with the triffids masquerading as lawn, shows how seriously he takes the possibility of missing out on enough fairy floss to induce a diabetic coma. Ooh, that reminds me, I must find the tranquiliser darts and gun before tonight to make sure I pack them into my bag for tomorrow.

The other two slaves children are currently vacuuming and polishing anything and everything that stands still long enough ... including the poor dog! I don't think Mr Sheen furniture polish will do much for the shine on his coat but I suppose it's worth a try. (j/k ... he escaped long before that was even an option. You can put the phone down now .. no need to involve the RSPCA!)

I am wondering about what evil little impulse prompted the Universe to make me offer to take the children to the Show. Am I being punished for some past life transgression or was it the optimist in me taking over briefly with a reassurance that 'surely it won't be as bad as last time'? I mean yes, they are another year older and hopefully another year wiser (a girl has to have dreams!) but that also involves wanting more freedom to not look at the things I want to see. Luckily, at least two of the kids coming with me, and teenagers at that, want to see the cake decorating and baby animals so I will count myself amongst the fortunate!

Now I am off to:

.. do some more of the Mt Everest of washing that always seems to appear at school holiday time

.. go to the tile shop to work out exactly how many square metres of tiles we require to make the new house habitable before moving in. (Not doing the living on bare concrete floors thing again .. the hay fever was unbelievable last time!)

.. buy the necessary flavoured milks to enable 'free' entry into the show tomorrow (saving me a whole $36 so it's well worth it!)

.. pack a couple more boxes of stuff that we absolutely must keep but don't use.

.. bath the dog (or make an appointment at the doggy salon for him to have a bath and haircut .. option two sounds way more appealing!)

.. other stuff that I know I have to do but can't think of right now...

Enjoy your day and if you don't hear from me by the end of the week, my new address will be c/- Graylands Mental Hospital, Perth WA.

Monday, 27 September 2010

Thursday, 23 September 2010

What a difference a week makes!

This time last week, I was despairing of the eldest child's lack of concern about his English assignments.

I was ready to impose the worst restrictions ever ... no access to anything with a screen and was going to remove (and pack!) everything from his room except for his school uniforms and pj's.

I was wondering where I had gone so wrong that a child of mine would seem to despise the written word so completely.

I was envisioning a future with an increasingly belligerent teen being forced to repeat the same things that he hated this year, over and over again.

And then his medication kicked in, along with an attitude adjustment.

And we have completed all but one journal entry and both major assignments. (Yes, I did say 'we' because I sat with him as scribe during the brainstorming sessions to help him capture the thoughts before they ran away!)

And all is now right with the world English teacher.

Well done Alex. I'm proud of you!!

Wednesday, 15 September 2010

Deja vu .. all over again!

This week has been a repeat of 'being pecked to death by a chicken' and I'm really, really over it. I found out that Alex is going to fail English if he doesn't extract his head from his behind and do at least some of the work he's avoided up 'til now.

The deja vu part is that we went through the same thing last term, first term, last year and the year before. I know, I know, which part of autistic and ADD aren't I getting??

I'm just frustrated that the teacher, knowing his history with work avoidance and lying about it, didn't let me know that he hadn't handed anything in this term ... and when I say anything I mean not.a.single.thing!

I tried explaining the consequences of his actions (and lack thereof) in simple terms...

"If you don't pass English this term, you fail English completely. If you fail English this year, you can't go on to Year 11 ... at all!"

This was met with blank looks so I amped it up a bit.

"If you fail English, you will have to repeat Year 10."

More blank looks...

"At another school."

Slightly panicked looks...

"And you won't be able to the computing course you want to do at TAFE."

Awareness starts to dawn that this may be serious...

"So what are you you going to do about it?"

Back to the blank look...

It was at this point that something stopped me from committing actions I would no doubt regret once I was put in prison for them and poured a bucket of ultra-calm over my head. (It must have been his guardian angel! Thanks whoever you are!!) I was then able to calmly sit and discuss the various options available to him (all of which included him doing the work, much to his disgust!) and reach a suitable compromise (none of which included doing him bodily harm, luckily for him).

In all seriousness though, I am worried that we, as parents, and the system are both failing him. If he, someone with a 'label' and a rather vocal mother, is falling through the cracks, what chance do the quiet, struggling students with disinterested parents have?

I realise that some of his behaviours are typical of teenagers but I am concerned that I can't tell which ones are teenage rebellion and which ones need active specific intervention and help. It's very much a deal with them on a case-by-case basis and hope I'm not totally screwing him up in the process.

I also realise that the teachers have many students with differing needs and abilities and are probably overwhelmed with everything they have to do. Yet I am incredibly frustrated that some of the teachers he has had repeatedly for the last almost three years, still don't understand how difficult it is for him to do some of the things they are asking.

I'm not asking you to give him a free pass or straight A's (especially seeing as he hasn't done the work!) but when I ask for more information to help him with a task, please don't act as though I've asked you to donate a lung to a chimp with a 40-a-day smoking habit. All I need is clarification on a couple of points or a more specific set of questions for him to work with and I'll get out of your hair!

Another thing I discovered in amongst everything else, is that he hasn't been taking his ADD medication. We had discussed this earlier this year and he wanted to be responsible for administering it himself. I allowed him to do it under supervision for a couple of weeks then left him to it. Apparently he decided some months ago to only take it every now and then which, of course, doesn't do much to help him at all. One day back on his tablets and he's been able to write almost two pages for one of the assignments with no arguments, backchat or dramas. What a difference a day (and some severely restricted pharmaceuticals) makes!

Now we just have 5 journal entries (at least a page of handwriting each) and a major assignment to finish before next Friday. Wish me luck!!

Sunday, 12 September 2010

Friday, 10 September 2010

Almost there ...

  • ... with selling the house. We've accepted an offer on the house and are now just waiting to hear back about their finance. Please keep your fingers crossed just a little bit longer!
  • ... with handing back the books for the canteen at the school that my kids don't go to. I've been thinking about 'chucking it in' for a while and have finally bitten the bullet and resigned as canteen treasurer. I don't have any vested interest in making it work and to be perfectly honest, I'm totally over all the 'office politics' involved.
  • ... with starting to build the new house. We have the final draft of the floorplans and the costing. (Anyone have a spare kidney I can have? I've sold both of mine to pay for the house!!)

I can't believe how quickly this school term has gone by. It seems like only yesterday that I was wondering if I was still required at the canteen, seeing as it was a new term and I was technically only employed up to the end of last term. I have really enjoyed working there and will miss it next term when the new contractors finally take over. Mind you, that was supposed to happen at the end of term 2 and we're still there at the end of term 3!

Alex is now officially 15 years old! My first little baby now towers over me and he hasn't stopped growing yet. Despite the occasional hiccup, which we all have with our teenagers, overall he's growing up to be a lovely young man. He bought himself an iPod Touch with all his birthday money and unfortunately has dropped it already! It's not badly damaged but now can't be locked (what a shame .. nothing to keep Mum's prying eyes out!) so he rang the nearest Apple store to find out how to get it fixed. Upon being told that it wasn't covered under warranty, he politely asked if they knew of anywhere else that could fix it, took down the details and hung up. He then came into see me and question what was the point of a warranty if it didn't cover damage? He now understands the difference between warranties and insurance which is more than I can say for a lot of people out there (having worked in retail, I would estimate 90% of them didn't understand the difference!!)

Bradley is currently the walking wounded due to taking a spill off his bike yesterday afternoon after being out in the sun for most of the day at his school's junior sports carnival. He has a beautiful burn 'tan' line across his forehead where his fringe was sitting and the rest of his face looks like he just walked out of a sauna. Add that to the nasty grazes on his left hand and right elbow as well as the multi-coloured but mostly black bruises on his thigh where the handlebars hit him, he really looks like he's been in the wars. The saddest part of it all was that my second response after "Are you OK?" was "Don't bleed in the grout. It's too hard to get out!"

Anyway, had best be off to school to pick up 6 boys (Alex is having some friends over for a sleepover/birthday party). Anyone have some Valium I can borrow to get through the night?

Saturday, 21 August 2010

The oh-so-enlightening speech patterns of the adolescent male ...

Found this on the website of a motivational speaker whose talk I attended last week. It really struck a chord with me probably because I'm not living through it at the moment.

I have one adolescent male who never seems to be quiet but now that I reflect on it a bit more, he's not actually that different. He's just more of a politician .. you know, says an awful lot of words that never seem to answer the original question and more words that aren't related at all. I'm thinking it would be easier (sometimes anyway) to have one that spoke in monosyllabic utterances! Mind you, with a mother as verbose as I am, he didn't really stand much chance, did he?

The motivational speaker, Graham Hyman, gave a talk called "Living with your teenager". The title alone was enough to rope me in and then hearing that he was funny as well sealed the deal. I picked up Elle (mother of two teenage boys) and Betty (mother to a 20yo son and 16yo daughter) and headed into the dark and dismal night, not really knowing what to expect.

We all had a ball and came away from it with some useful information and strategies for fostering healthy relationships and self-esteem whilst not killing them. It was very comforting to realise that we're not doing anywhere near as bad a job of parenting as we all thought we were and were actually using a lot of these techniques already.

The brief overview (at the risk of breaching copyright .. um-ah!) is basically:

  1. Talk to your kids .. all the time; not just when you want them to do something. Make time to talk about stuff that interests them; make time to just be in the same room; gossip with them (as in ask about other people and do it nicely .. no negatives) listen when they do talk (even if you consider it dribble!). Being around to talk to about the silly stuff will allow and encourage them to talk about the more serious stuff should the need arise. One I try to practice but sometimes the 'dribble' just gets to be too much!
  2. Pick your battles, otherwise you'll be battling all the time. Something we are repeatedly told as parents and one which is so much easier to say than do! I try to use the 'Rule of Fives' .. will it matter in five minutes? Five hours? Five weeks? Five months? Five years? If the answer is yes to weeks, months or years, then you need to deal with it and deal with it now. Otherwise, bite another hole in your tongue!
  3. Break the no-talk rule before it breaks your family. Be prepared to discuss anything and everything and then make sure you do so! Kids, teens especially, are going to push limits and boundaries so making or taking the opportunity to discuss sex, drugs and alcohol is important. Listen to their point-of-view without just declaring they're wrong/stupid/etc. but stand strong on your own moral principles. I try with this one but it is hard! Trying to let your teenage son know he can talk to you about anything including bodily changes, feelings or other sexual-type stuff can result in nothing but a very clammed-up and embarrassed teen and an equally embarrassed mother. Apparently, that's what Dad is for!
  4. Don't handicap teenagers by making life too easy for them. Let them accept the consequences, be they logical or natural, of their actions. So many parents these days step into the breach every time little Johnny hits a bump in the road (usually of little Johnny's own making) that he never has to accept responsibility for anything. Not much chance of that happening here. I will admit that I am a lot more lenient on the boys in certain areas that annoy my darling husband, but it comes back to the whole 'pick your battles' thing. Overall, I think I'm picking the right battles.
  5. Catch your teenager in the act of doing something good. It helps to reinforce the good behaviours whilst letting the teen know they're good for something after all (contrary to their own slightly warped beliefs at that age!) The only problem with this is that every time I praise Alex for good behaviour, he seems to take it as a challenge to then behave as badly as possible! Breathe in 2, 3, 4, 5 .. breathe out 2, 3, 4, 5 ....
  6. Remember - the Lone Ranger never had kids and neither do most superheroes. Being a parent is a tough job and parenting a teen (or two, or three) is tougher. Accept that sometimes, you'll need help and don't be afraid to ask for it. This is another tough one for me to do. I don't like to ask for help but luckily I have a very good support network who can usually see when I am struggling and reach out to lend a hand. Thanks people .. love yous all!
  7. Something is always better than nothing. Parenting your teen will test you but don't expect too much too early .. growing up takes time! Be patient, keep your sense of humour, be forgiving, communicate unconditional love and learn to trust. That last one keeps saying to me: learn to let go. Being the OCD control freak I sometimes am, that's the hardest for me to do. My babies are growing up too fast and whilst I know that they will eventually escape from me leave home, I'm nowhere near ready for that to happen, hence the hanging on with both hands.

So that's it in a not-so-small nutshell. Obviously it's not the be-all and end-all of parenting a teenager, but it made sense to me and the delivery of these ideas was done very well. We all had a good laugh, (at ourselves, others and the whole situation/process) and came away feeling re-energised to tackle the next worthwhile battle.

If you ever get the chance to go see this guy give a talk, go! It's well worth it, if only for the laughs!!

Saturday, 14 August 2010

I don't know ...

  • if I'm cranky because I'm tired, stressed about the home open tomorrow or not eating the right foods. I just know I'm cranky!
  • why I continue to do things that I know are bad for me. I just know that I need to change the habits of a lifetime and it's hard.
  • how Alex manages to be so helpful one day and so darn irritating the next. I just know today is 'the next'.
  • where this year has gone. It seems like only yesterday that the boys were starting the new school year. I just know that the year is flying by way too fast.
  • why Bradley has been so cranky with Alex (and to a lesser degree, me). It's not for the usual reason (bowel problems) so I'm at a bit of a loss. I just know he needs to change his attitude soon or there will be serious repercussions.
  • what we're having for dinner tonight. I just know they will want to be fed .. yet again!

Tuesday, 10 August 2010

Missing in action

.. and boy, so much action!! (and not the kind of 'action' that half of you are thinking of, so get your minds above the belt and with the program people! Sheesh!!)

Anyway, as I started to say before your dirty minds led us down a whole 'nother road of moral issues, we've been busy around here lately. I can honestly say that my house hasn't looked like this in ages in a very long time ever!

I'm actually scared to let the children into the house for fear they will breathe and all the banished dust bunnies and spiders will use that little bit of extra oomph to stage their hostile takeover, rendering all our hard work a total waste of time. However, they (the children, not the dust bunnies) objected to sleeping in the car park next door so I had to let them back in, with strict instructions to keep a look out for rampaging hordes of disgruntled evictees.

The photos are being taken this morning at 10am and I still have to:
  • clean 2 bathrooms,
  • replace all the mismatched towels in said bathrooms with colour co-ordinated ones,
  • do the breakfast dishes,
  • make the boys' beds to 'mummy' standards,
  • vacuum carpets,
  • mop tiles,
  • dust (again! Where does it all come from?)
  • convince husband to pack up his 'stuff' from the floor of the bedroom,
  • recover from 'convincing' husband,
  • and about a hundred other things that I will only think of once the photographer has left and I am perusing the photos on the website.

Yet here I sit telling anyone who will listen that I have so much to do and so little time!

Oh-oh .. husband is home from taking the kids to school. I think I'm about to get 'motivated' in a big way! If you don't hear from me by the weekend, send in a search party.

I'll probably be buried in the garage under everything else we've 'hidden' down there.

Bring heavy digging equipment and sniffer dogs ...

Tuesday, 27 July 2010

Out of the mouths of babes ...

Bradley came down to my room this morning and said to me through the ensuite door, very seriously, "Mum, we need to replace Dad."

Curious as to the reason behind this sudden pronouncement, I asked him why.

His equally serious response?

"Because he's a pre-1980's gas appliance."

Love it!

(There's a campaign on TV at the moment telling people they have to replace their pre-1980's gas appliances due to some upcoming changes to the gas supply. He's just taken that idea and run with it. Love the way his mind works!)

Monday, 26 July 2010

The boys have changed their names ...

They have all taken to calling everyone Captain something-or-other so now we have:
  • Captain Buzzkill (Alex),
  • Captain Obvious (either Drew or Brad) and
  • Captain Awesome (either Drew or Brad again)

I have asked when the next round of promotions is due because I think Major Awesome and Major Pain-in-the-butt sound more impressive but I just got pitying looks and a slow, sad shake of the head.

Obviously I'm Captain Fail-to-get-the-point-of-this-game.

At least I made it to Captain!!

Saturday, 24 July 2010

The first step is admitting you have a problem ...

The last couple of weeks, which just happened to have been school holidays, have been crammed full of exciting activities like weeding, cleaning out Peter's garage, de-crappifying (yes it's a word 'cos I said so!) most of the rooms in the house and just generally making the house resemble something liveable and appealing, rather than the post-apocalyptic nightmare it was before.

As a result, I have had lots of time to think while performing these not-exactly-mentally-challenging tasks and have come to the conclusion that, as much as I try to deny it, I too am a hoarder. I have been calling Peter a hoarder for years, with very good reason (car magazines from the 1980's anyone?), but have finally come to the realisation that he has rubbed off on me and not just in that way, so get your minds out of the gutter!

I have managed to fill the council wheelie bin in less than 30 minutes with my frantic efforts to reduce the amount of stuff I will have to pack (and yes, it is me that will have to pack as Peter is still working away). The main problem is that I tend to get carried away and fill the bin within 24 hours of it being emptied and then have to spend the next week telling the children to stop creating kitchen waste as there's nowhere to put it!

On a side note, do you know anyone who really enjoys packing to move? If so, they have more problems than me .. yay someone weirder than I am! .. and can you please send them my way?

The children aren't too happy with my new-found de-cluttering skills and have been found surreptitiously sifting through the top layers trying to 'rescue' items they deem to be of extreme value. I feel bad for all of two nanoseconds before encouraging them, in the nicest possible way (snort!) which can probably be heard at least ten streets away, to "put that back right now mister, unless you want to join it!" They couldn't really join it as there's no room for another scrap of paper, let alone a rapidly growing, increasingly hairy teenager or his slightly smaller siblings, but the threat does sound slightly impressive and has worked so far.

As the kind of child who regularly rearranged my room, had my books organised 'library fashion' and who purged 'stuff' on a very regular basis, I am really struggling with the boys' keep-it-just-in-case mindsets. We have found things like a scrap of paper with a hand-written Yu-Gi-Oh game score from more than two years ago, broken elastic bands, bent paper clips, dead batteries, pencils sharpened down to be so small even Tom Thumb would have been able to use them, empty chip packets from before the last packaging change three years ago and various other assorted 'things' that have to be kept .. just in case. Thank goodness they're back at school because now I can get into their rooms with no interference and I have yet to have any of them ask me "where's my ... ?"

I shall have to get them to admit their hoarding issues so we can get some help .. hopefully a bulk discount at the local shrink! While I'm working on that little problem, I'd best go and finish some of the million other things to be done before the house officially hits the market on the tenth of August. Real estate agents can be soooo particular about things .. who says you need to finish painting a half-painted wall?

Or make the beds?

Or weed the gardens?

Or de-crappify the carports?

Or mop the floors?

Oh, potential buyers do. Best be off then .... lots to do!

Monday, 12 July 2010

Woohoo .. the finance is approved!

Now we're in more debt .. oh yay!!

Seriously though, it's great news 'cos it means we're one step closer to moving into the home we have all had some input into. Peter will have his hhuuugggeee garage, I will have my central kitchen, practical linen cupboard and pantry, rooms that aren't traffic areas, lots of storage space and heaps more. Even the boys have put forward several ideas for the new place we're building; some of which have been accepted and more which have not. At least they're helping!

Now we just have to:

  • pick colours for tiles, roofing materials, bricks, bench tops and walls,
  • work out where all the lights and power points are going (and then add more .. can never have too many power points!),
  • deal with inevitable hiccups in building process
  • sort out reticulation and landscaping
  • paint everything
  • actually move in.

And that is after we/I:

  • finish painting this house ready for sale,
  • finish throwing out all the accumulated junk,
  • finish getting rid of excess furniture (anyone need a student desk with hutch/ set of wall units/ extra desks?)
  • sell the house
  • find a rental
  • move into said rental
  • find a job
  • work at said job without killing anyone, least of all self or children
  • survive living in said rental whilst running around like a headless chook organising everything for the new house

Remind me again why we're doing this?