Monthly Archives: December 2012

Sunday log

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I’ve decided not to cling too rigidly to the days of the week… Monday can be Sunday or any day, at least it feels like that when I’m free from working for the man for a bit.

This week has been like that, days merging into each other, all seemingly the same routine of waking with the kids in my bed, lying in, watching the same DVD twice in a row, then playing with the kids next door, a bit of gardening, lunch somewhere in there, then swimming in the afternoon.

Steps forward.

1. Despite the feeling of sloth, I have been quite productive with my week.  I finally painted a desk I bought on ebay for R1 (which was supposed to be for fourth term homework, but oh well, the new term is not far away).  I also established my new garden beds, with manure and mulch in one, ready for autumn planting in March.  I had to drag the tomato bushes from the centre and they don’t seem too happy with the move… 😦 A bit droopy.

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2. School holiday memories.  My kids have a shorter holiday break than others due to vacation care, etc, but I am trying to instil a sense of normality.  This week of ‘nothingness’ has actually been intended.  I had thought of the theme parks, movies, museum trips, railway workshops, etc route, but they have so much structure in their ordinary lives, I want them to think back to their school holidays and not remember specific day trips, but instead, the feeling of languor, of not having to be anywhere, where they can roll from one activity to the next, without any pressure.

I got the spa clean and working this week and had decided to get rid of it as the filter and heater need replacing, and it didn’t really seem to contribute to the downshifting simplifying life I am trying to achieve.  However, watching the kids splash around with the neighbours and their cousins who were staying, afternoon after afternoon, I have changed my mind.  There could be a sensory memory being made in the chlorine smell and the wet popcorn strewn all over the deck.

Step backward.

1. I took all the kids out for a walk up a country road.  It was almost a ‘step forward’ moment filled with tadpole catching, rockclimbing, etc, but then a dog became attached to the girls and we couldn’t shake it.  It didn’t help that one of the girls was adamant that her mum would let her keep it, and another said that there had been a lost dog sign.  So I let them walk it home.  Unfortunately, I didn’t think this through rationally and there was a bit of a confrontation with the neighbours at the other end, who ended up driving the dog back quite angrily.  I was lectured about being the only ‘responsible adult’ out on the walk.

I was quite gutted by this turn of events and started to question what sort of parent I am.  It is true that my own children will not listen to me and do a single thing that I ask.  When I am told by others that I have to discipline my kids more (yes it does happen), I wonder, how on earth can I be stricter or firmer – how far do I have to go?  I have nothing to enforce what I say to them. If they decide they don’t want to listen then they don’t. And when I tell them to go to their room, they keep coming out.  I cannot lock the doors.  And no matter how loudly I then have to shout, they still refuse.

I feel I am missing essential components from my parenting armoury.

Christmas also happened this week.  I made a mango trifle and set the table for a change.  In the afternoon we swam in our neighbours’ pool when they went out.

IMG_0978 IMG_0990 pulling R2 home on her boogie board 'sleigh'

R1 pulling R2 home on her boogie board ‘sleigh’.

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curls get the girls

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I have a beautiful son who looks like he has stepped off the front of a Victorian chocolate box.  Blue eyes and long golden curls.  He plays to character and gets away with being carried everywhere and cradled in my lap on the couch or in his bed.  He plays ‘goo goo’, and never has to grow up (he is 4 years old for crying out loud! I was walking to school alone by then, pretty sure I had my first job).  His naughtiness is rhymed away with ‘there was a little boy with a curl in the middle of his forehead, when he was good he was very very good, when he was bad he was horrid’.

Today was the day when he went from this:

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To this:

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Because I caved to peer pressure – or possibly my own self-imposed pressure from the continuous commentary on his ‘girliness’ or ‘baby-ish’ looks.  Admittedly, these haven’t been as bad as those I got before he turned 3 when he got his first hair cut ever.  Many quizzical and very hesitant ‘boy?’ labels, as well as references to my girls plural.

But also because I feel he needs to ‘man up’.  My daughter never cried at everything and anything.  A shoe that won’t go on.  A missing horse figurine.  A couple of millimetres less juice than his sister.  It seemed almost symbolic to me that he had indulged in a major crying session just minutes before the hairdressers appointment, courtesy of running out of a shop while my back was turned and being found by centre management.

Ok, that one was scary, especially for me.  Why on earth he thinks I will have left him in a shop to go on my merry way without him, I do not know.  But I am watching for abandonment issues now.

Sadly, the symbolism was lost as he had at least 2 more crying fits later in the day.  The girls from next door were running too fast for him or something.  But when he put his arms up to be carried, which the girls normally obliged, this time they refused.  You’re a big boy now R2.

He looks pretty handsome to me.  Amazing the power of a haircut in dictating how others treat you.

all i want for Christmas

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This time of year is for yearning.

Yearning for togetherness, with those already in this world, and those long dreamed of, but who haven’t arrived yet.

I was chatting with my sister last night and the topic of her relationship was brought up.  Despite having semi-regular phone catch ups all year, somehow the fact that she has broken up with her partner, who still lives with her, had not been mentioned.  She corrected me, they are ‘broken’ not yet ‘broken up’.  A question of semantics and logistics to me.

But there went my hope.  My sister had found her ex-partner (it’s my blog I can call him this) on RSVP in September last year and within weeks he was declared ‘the one’.  By the time I met him at Christmas, there was open talk of children.

I first went on RSVP 2 days after I separated in early September 2009.  This was followed by match.com, Oasis, eharmony, and plenty of fish.  Night after night I responded to ‘kisses’.  I met a handful, but apart from the first which lasted 6 weeks, none went more than the third date.  I even had one call off a first date due to having had a ‘heart attack’ that day.

My hope was spurred by a new colleague who only last week left these shores for North Carolina to be with her Man forever, whom she met on POF in June this year.  But I have now pulled my profile from all these sites.

I no longer have the energy to respond night after night, especially as some people were just not civil.  I felt like I was fraying my energies, and it dawned on me that if I refocus these onto my home and my family, then I can tractor beam my ‘soulmate’ to me.  Besides, I really do not have time for a fledgling relationship, men seem to need more attention than babies… A man is going to have to ingratiate himself into my life so slowly that I won’t even notice he is here. The ideal arrangement would be ‘fly in fly out’.

Learning of my sister’s news (which came via my father btw), I then had to break it to the kids that ‘Uncle Y’ was not coming to visit at Easter or anytime.  While they had only met him once, I create a family for them by talking about the extended relations over on the other side of the country constantly, so they are never out of mind, and to ensure the kids grow up knowing that they are a part of a larger whole.

My sister’s biggest regret about having spent over a year financially and emotionally supporting a grown adult who wouldn’t get a job? That the likelihood of her having children is now slimmer.  Her lights are on.  The proverbial is ticking.  And the yearning is intense.  She even mused that she would have sex with her ex-partner one last time to get pregnant before he moves out, but for the fact that a) it would give him false hope and b) she can’t stand the idea physically.

My father failed to mention that he had offered to pay for a sperm donor for my sister for Christmas….

This would ordinarily seem bizarre, but I am related to this man.

And it is not out of the question.  Far from it.  My sister and I discussed doing this together the year I turn 39 (and therefore my last chance) and when she is 35.  If, you know, things don’t happen in any other way.  Single motherhood does not scare me in the slightest! But not having any more children does.  My sister reminded me that my situation was not as dire as hers as I already had two.  But the yearning is no different.  I have always wanted 4, ever since I started naming them and spacing their years of birth as an 8 year old.

This had been the plan with the kids’ father, but only because he came along when he did.  (Actually, to nutshell it, and flag for another day – he was the one who pressured me to have babies after 10 days, and had been on the look out for an incubator ever since he split up with his previous girlfriend who had had an abortion.)

My family is not complete, and I will continue to yearn.  But I need to know what it is like to have a baby with someone I love.  The two I have take the pressure off, biologically, so I can take the time to ensure that I have met my life partner.

Sunday log

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I have not really ‘lived’ a week this past 7 days.  It has been a blur, a rush, an avoidance, anything to get me past the Christmas period, so that I can hit reset, and get back to living my routine life.  The expectation that Christmas is a ‘time out’ from routine has upset the precarious balance I have established to get us through life, and I am overwhelmed by it.  So I have shut down and covered my eyes, because if I can’t see Christmas, then it can’t see me.

Steps forward

1. After purging my week’s stresses re the children’s father to my neighbour on Thursday night after bumping into each other at the shops, I took myself to the Chinese massage parlour for a 20 minute neck, shoulder and back massage which shattered me. It drained and exhausted me. But it brought up whatever I was burying and I feel a little less tired now, days later.

2. We started a new tradition, or maybe just had a great community night last night. My neighbour’s husband was out, so she brought the girls over for pizza.  I had found a new pizza dough recipe which worked, hurrah!  Slightly the worse for wear after one cider, I confessed to my neighbour that I finally had a sense of family – their family was my family now.  Not knowing I had stayed for a massage, she had been worried about me on Thursday when I hadn’t come home from the shops soon after her.  I can’t remember someone looking out for me. When her husband is not home, she looks to the lights on in my house for comfort.

Step backward

1. Any communication with the children’s father. Still.

guns

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Not a topic I usually think or talk about, and certainly not one that I have any substantial experience or conviction about in order to participate in topical debates.

However, topicality (topical-ness?) is what this entry is about today.

Guns, their use, control and regulation, and the need for their ubiquity, is certainly topical; and I am distraught as a mother for the parents of the kids who died in America over a week ago.  Today, I am writing about something quite separate from this tragedy, and I don’t intend it to be related in any way.

However, when the news events watched on tv, things you read, listen to and hear about in other people’s conversations are about the same theme over and over again in the space of a week, they become connected –  it is like the universe is trying to send a message.  For me, these last 10 days have been about guns, and their uses.

Like I said, this is not a topic that usually, even remotely, ever touches my life. So with this synchronicity of messages, I thought I should start paying attention.

I live in a country with gun control.  I had never known anyone who owned a gun. I had never ever ever had the urge to go near one myself.  I ban toy guns from our house.  But now guns have entered my personal existence.

Just after the tragic shootings, I heard of the theft of my neighbour’s guns at the top of the valley. My sleepy valley.  I had been aware that all my neighbours owned guns, and it bemused me in the kind of, I live in the wild west but not really, way.  My neighbour pretty much knows who it was.  But I wondered – why on earth did he need 5 guns?? What sort of frontier land was I living in?

A playdate with other children found my son running around with one of their toy guns, and my inevitable awkward conversation where I start with the fact that I have banned toy guns, then realise that this is a mother who has bought a toy gun, and I continue with, ‘but he seems to have always picked up sticks, pointed them at others and made a ‘pew pew’ noise.’ And then the shared conclusion that it must be innate in boys…

Then I watched a Louis Theroux episode the other night on game hunting in Africa.  And it left me pondering and bringing up arguments pro and con for days after.  I was annoyed with the attitude that Louis took from the outset: a ‘humanistic’ approach which I usually agree with, and I why I like his take on different topics.  Not so this time.  I didn’t even think I would have enough interest to watch African game animals being shot by American hunting tourists.

But I watched it, and found myself nodding in agreement with some of their arguments.  The game animals range freely, their meat is then given to villagers, the sport provides income where cattle farming has failed.  What is the difference between raising cattle or lions to be shot??  Apparently, according to Louis, a lot.  The hunters trotted out the same argument I have heard from vegetarians – the hypocrisy of people who will eat meat from the supermarket, but find the practice of killing animals for meat abhorrent.

And I agree.  And so does the guy from Whole Larder Love.  A blog I accidentally stumbled across this week written by a ‘survivalist’ who hunts his own meat, mostly rabbits and by the looks of it, snails, and provides sumptuously photographed recipes.  He has a book which I was compelled to purchase as a Christmas present to myself, despite the niggling voices – maybe I should become a vegetarian to lighten my footprint, be more ethical, etc etc.  And of course, the question, could I even skin or pluck an animal myself????

The next missive from the universe came yesterday when I walked passed a brown snake next to my vegetable beds.  Moving breathlessly and slightly panicky-ly inside I told the kids.  Like it was the end of the world.  One of the kids from next door helpfully asked if I wanted her to ring her dad to bring his gun over.  Not a second thought went into it.  So over he came and shot the gun twice in front of my kids, who were thrilled by the booming noise up close, and me slightly concerned about potential holes in my water tank.  But also secretly thrilled myself as I have never ever ever seen a gun go off in ‘real life’.

This realisation shook me. And that’s when all the other pieces of the week started to form a pattern.  I had been anti-guns when they never touched my suburban life.  But now that I am living a more ‘raw’ life, where shooting is for protection and sustenance of life, guns are making a little more sense.

When I told my sister this, she asked me if this means I am going to go down to the shooting range. No. But I am now more open to discussions about appropriate gun use.

I am still trying to work out the message, and why the urgency in sending it to me this week.

berry bad

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Saturday morning started off as I usually do, walking around my garden with my coffee checking out what has grown during the week.  I had been reading about lilly pilly berries on gardening blogs and decided to forage from my lilly pilly tree.  Sure enough, there was a plump juicy berry there among the leaves, so I popped it in my mouth and started searching for more.

Strangely, there were no more berries to be found, so I went back to the original stem and parted the leaves to discover to my horror that I had eaten the berry off a weed, which my ecologist friend had pointed out to me on my first walk around my garden as one to warn the kids about for its poisonous berries!!!

Feeling foolish, I started to feebly heimlich manoeuvre my stomach, before ringing the poisons helpline (Ph: 13 11 26), not knowing how many minutes more I had to live.  The conversation went like this:

Me: This is really stupid, but I was confused and ate a poisonous berry from my garden.

Her: What was it?

Me: I don’t know.

Her: Why do you think it was poisonous?

Me: Because my ecologist friend said so.

Her: There’s nothing I can do without its botanical name.

Me: Please….tell me what I should be watching out for.

Her: One berry is not going to poison an adult.

Me: I feel so stupid, as I have told the kids not to eat this berry.

Her: (not really sure what she said as she cut me off and hung up)

So comforted that it was just one berry I got on with my day and didn’t give it any more thought until 1:30 when my stomach literally blew up like a balloon, distending more and more until I was groaning on my back on the floor. Then I started throwing up repeatedly.

One berry!

Lessons learned:  Do not forage anything that you haven’t planted. Use wikipedia. Know the botanical names of everything in the garden. One berry can poison an adult.

This is not a lilly pilly berry kids.

This is not a lilly pilly berry kids.

Sunday log

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Yes I am aware it is Monday, not Sunday.  But I really could not let myself go near the computer last night for fear of what I might write to the children’s father, due to the intense seething rage I was experiencing.

This hasn’t happened for a while, which is why I am counting it as my step back this week. But it only hasn’t happened because we haven’t communicated that much. The moment we do, he says stuff which twists the knife.

So this time, I got a bizarre email congratulating us for the ‘great co-parenting’ we have done by sitting with each other at the children’s Christmas concerts.  This apparently shows that our children are receiving ‘much more care and attention than either of us ever had’.  I had a stay at home mother until I was fourteen years old, home every single day after school for baking, sewing, French lessons, nature walks and ferrying me to skating, diving, guides, ballet or sleepovers.  She helped out with craft and reading at school and baked for the cake stall.

Last week my daughter had to be supervised by the school office lady for 2 hours on breakup day until the after school care opened.  I am wracked with guilt and shame every single moment of my life at the insufficient and inadequate level of parental care and attention my children receive.

I feel crap that I have let him get to me again despite practising compassionate meditation Saturday towards him. And he won’t get it. Even when I do write the email to him letting him know how I feel, he will still say ‘this isn’t as one-sided as you make out’.  So it is only me who suffers, because I can’t shake the rage.  I have been oversensitive all day, and have a twisting anxiety in my chest.

How to let go?

Deep breath.

Steps forward this week:

1. I found some assertiveness to address a problem I had with my supervisor at work this week, and despite an awkward hour or so afterwards, results have been great so far.  And I received positive feedback from my manager which has boosted my self-esteem. I have only been doing my new job for 4 months, and every day is a learning curve.  I work well with positive reinforcement.

2. My dad came to town and had dinner with the kids and me one night, and just the two of us for his birthday the next.  He is at the age now where he is reflecting on his mortality, so every moment we have together,  though few, has its poignancy.  Plus, I am very happy that I finally gave him a present he appeared to enjoy, and it didn’t cost me a cent! I gave him a punnet of tomatoes from the garden and some pickled nasturtium berries.  Unfortunately, he couldn’t take the food home through quarantine, so he had to eat his presents while here.  But I didn’t get the sinking feeling I normally get after he has unwrapped his presents.

This week’s theme has definitely been about my relationships.

lady for a tradie

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Who does garden projects?

Certainly not people who work full-time, home make, and raise children on their own…

But with a weekend sans children last week, I tackled my most important project, the reason for buying a house in the first place – the first of my garden beds.

Hammering in the star pickets was not a problem, but then, the chicken wire started twisting and recoiling, slashing me across the face.  Heart break, or rather, chicken wire rage, when the length I had cut was a couple of inches too short. So out came the star pickets and started again.  And digging the trench in heavy clay soils – not really sure what I thought I was doing, but had some inspired genius notion of preventing bandicoots from digging under the fence. Except I dug the soil out on the wrong side, and the chicken wire just bent in on itself..duuuhh.  Swearing a little more frequently and loudly than usual, I abandoned the fencing project for another time. I’m pretty sure it looked a little like a toddler tantrum.

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I had other jobs I needed to get on with: handwashing clothes, vacuuming, present wrapping, baking for teachers’ Christmas presents, and so on and so on.  Why oh why did I think I could add a ‘major infrastructure project’ to my list of jobs and still manage to get it all done???

Because I’m a woman, and I think I can do it all.

Except when I compare myself to much more worthy female DIYers like my friend Kirsty.  She is the type of person who when asked how her weekend was, answers with ‘oh I put up a deck’.  Once I described my vision of creating rooms in my open plan living area, and she stated that we could put up a stud wall one weekend.  We???!

But you see, as Kirsty explains it, she is the handy woman because her partner is in IT. Enough said.  She taught me that I don’t need to wait for a man to rescue my home maintenance and renovations dramas, or to ‘complete me’.  I need to be enough on my own, and then whatever he brings to the table, he brings.

That may be, but I can tell you, if a tradie comes knocking at my door, he would have me at hello.

rescue recipe

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OMG where is the vodka when you need it.

When avoiding or escaping my mounting obligations from everyone wanting a piece of me is not the answer, then I need to have something in my arsenal to face them in one fell swoop.  Brownies.

This one recipe has been my saving grace this week.

I have not been able to avoid the last week of the school year or the emails from the P& C Committee advising parents to give their children’s teacher aides individual presents in recognition of parents’ personal relationships with them….

Or avoid a text message late Sunday evening from my father saying he will be dropping into town on Thursday.  His birthday is Friday, and the realisation has dawned on me that I cannot use the excuse of the combined Christmas/birthday present / only send a card as he lives so far interstate, to avoid the reality of never being able to get my dad a present that he appreciates, even if I had a year to plan…

Or avoid the office politics where I feel unwittingly like a Survivor contestant who hasn’t noticed everyone else has made alliances…

One night of baking and staying up until 11 pm, and all these issues have been sorted.  Brownies for the teachers with Christmas bows, brownie squares for work morning tea, and a small square for my dad. And there are even some crusty edges to bribe the kids with to eat their dinner this week.

One recipe is all you need to get you through LIFE.

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It wasn’t until I got to my son’s kindy this morning that I realised it wasn’t his last week until next week. But bugger me if I am going to spend another night baking, his teachers can get their present early.

Sunday log

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Another week already???

So where am I up to in this creative evolution called life…

Steps forward.

1. I am a mature woman.  I sat beside the children’s father for two evenings’ concerts and made small talk, while he mocked and ridiculed my words for no apparent reason but that he is just not mature enough for the sort of relationship we have, in order for the children to feel loved by both parents, and a little normal like everyone else.

2. I started a few projects. First is my sister’s Christmas present, embroidering a sampler which I hope to get to her by April, and the second a garden project, which did not go wonderfully and I swore a little too much and I have gashed my face on chicken wire, but at least I am turning some long made plans into reality.

Step back.

1. I was bitten by a ‘small black spider’ on the hand last weekend whilst weeding, and thought nothing of it, apart from a strong tingling pain.  By Tuesday I had ulcerations all over the back of my hand and wrist, and am on antibiotics (which I loathe taking) and antihistamines.  The doctor suggested I get someone else to ‘do my garden’ from now on.  Like who??! Besides, this whole life trip I am on right now is inextricably tied to a productive garden.

I’m not sure if this is indeed a ‘step backward’ in relation to the yet to be determined goal, and it vied with many other contenders this week.  Such as the absolute despair over grasshoppers which have destroyed all my herbs and leafy veg, and which cannot be got rid of with ‘companion planting and chili spray’.  See here. Here. And here.

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Or the passive aggressive supervisor who ripped shreds off me Wednesday afternoon for 2 hours because “I’m just having a shitty day”, and then brought me caramel slice Thursday. But no apology.

Looking forward to some positive steps this week.