Category Archives: Kids

Two of them

thunder chocolate and zack

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Today we said goodbye to two members of our family: Zack and Thunder Chocolate, the kids’ guinea pigs.

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Thunder Chocolate is Zack’s father, and the two of them will not be split up.  They have been through a lot in the past week, losing their hutch to the weather, they were locked inside the laundry during howling winds and pelting rains, wondering why they weren’t getting their usual green beans and carrots every day.

Unfortunately for them, I had 2 weeks’ washing to get on with, this gorgeous sunny, windy weekend, and need my laundry back.  No that sounds too callous!  Really, I considered buying a new metal hutch which wouldn’t warp in the rain, but that would set me back at least $300.  They would be worth the expense if the children paid them any attention at all.

As parents, I am sure we go through the same routine over and over again.  – Promise you’ll feed them every day, wash them and clean out their hutch? – Yes Mum we will.

For all of 2 days.  Then it was up to me.  On top of everything else.

So we took them back to the Produce store we bought them from last year.

Despite knowing this all week, the kids hadn’t bothered even going to the laundry to pet them, until this morning, when I made them.  R1 was overcome for a moment.  ‘Oh Zacky, I am so sorry I did this to you.’

I am glad she took some personal responsibility, as that is one lesson that pets bring to children.  Unfortunately, a little too late.

Leaving the Produce store R1 was wailing and sobbing her eyes out.

But by this afternoon, the kids had captured 2 tree frogs from our spa and built a little tank for them.  Freddo and Freddy frogs.

refresh

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If I cannot keep my 6 year old away from alcohol, then I have to refocus on what I can do, to ensure that the world my children live in is as sustainable and healthy as possible.

So I am hitting the refresh button today, and refuse to give way to anger and loathing.

In the last 12 months I have been continually refreshing, resetting and revising our lifestyle choices.  This has mostly been reactive, as a response to a new author or blogger I have discovered.  Of course, credit where credit is due.  It was Rhonda’s blog http://down—to—earth.blogspot.com.au/ which started me on this path, and her ethos is that simplifying your life is a step-by-step process.

Here are the steps I have already walked this past year:

  • cut out kitchen sponges and wipes and knitted my own dishcloths
  • cut out chemical cleaners and made my own laundry detergent
  • eliminated paper towels
  • avoided takeaway coffee
  • reduced packaging of bought goods, especially plastic bottles
  • refused plastic bags
  • reduced indiscriminate hobby spending drastically
  • reduced meat consumption, and only organic when we do eat red meat once a week
  • stopped flushing the toilet and use buckets of bath water instead
  • baked every loaf of bread since June

But looking into the next year, I am making a list of other conscious steps I want to make towards a simpler, greener, cleaner, freer life.

These include ridding our home of tupperware / plastic containers; cling wrap; canned food and petroleum-based candles.  We will eat more solely vegetarian-based meals – this on request from R1 who is starting to realise where meat comes from.  Any meat we do eat will come from animals who have lived in our valley.  We will also cut down on any non-essential travel, and particularly air travel.  I feel so guilty and flying 4000 kms for a long weekend a few weeks ago. The last time. I am also going to go one better than the home made laundry powder which has borax in it, and will buy some soap nuts, which can also double as head lice remover – school goes back next week!!

I still feel very guilty about small habits which I can’t shake, one of which is my Nespresso coffee machine with its dependency on capsules bought in a store which makes my skin crawl with its ostentatiousness, a cathedral to consumerism.  But today while stocking up my habit, I found out that I can recycle the capsules at the store and the aluminium will be melted down.

So tick, I have solved one tiny dilemma today. And also made an inroad on my first step for 2013 – I bought metal and BPA-free tupperware for the kids’ lunch boxes (yes more brand new spending, but will hopefully last a school lifetime).

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co-parenting

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I need to vent today, so please excuse any ensuing ramble.

I am not a parent any more, but a ‘co-parent’.  What this means is that nobody is parenting my children, as I cannot make any long-term decisions regarding their welfare without his acquiescence / veto.  And I cannot talk to the man.

I have just found out that their other ‘co-parent’ is moving into a [$2.9 million] share house with 2 mates, and he has the children almost half the time.  I may be overprotective, but I am not happy with this arrangement, not just for the oh my god what could happen overtones, but for what this will mean in terms of any boundary setting such as ‘bed-times’, if there are grown men who work in the mining industry (please ignore overgeneralisations) playing loud music, drinking beer, etc, on weekends.

I also found out that on the children’s recent holiday with their ‘co-parent’ to the co-parent’s parents’ house, one of the grandparents mixed an inch of white wine into my (6 year old) daughter’s juice and didn’t tell her until afterwards.

WTF!!!?

And I can’t do a thing about it legally.  As the orders he won against me state that he has 100% decision-making over their daily lives while they are in his “care”.

Yet I cannot exercise  my duty of care for my children which I cannot switch on and off according to ‘access days’ and my heart is breaking.

magic happens

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I was reading a blogpost by Tanya at Suburban Jubilee last night who has created a fairy kingdom in her garden for her nephew and asked if others are doing the same. http://suburbanjubilee.blogspot.com.au/2013/01/the-fairy-garden.html

For R1’s birthday last year I bought her a set of 5 fairy toadstools which I had desired ever since seeing them at a local market near my mother’s, but which we didn’t have a garden for until now.  When R1 created this garden, ‘suddenly’ 2 fairies took up residence – Lilly and Lucy.

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While eschewing fairy gardens as being too ‘girly’, R2 was feeling left out. So the kids created a little garden for male fairy Max and his fairy horses on the other side of the below ground tank.  Being a bloke, Max clearly needed his own man fairy space.  The fairy horse watering hole was circled by stones painted with white paint mixed with glitter.

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In these two spaces, the kids organise the furniture, decorate the scenery, dig swimming pools and hang up ‘tyre swings’.  Fairies are high maintenance creatures!

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Just ask the girls from next door…. When these gardens were first created, they would have to come over every day after school, while mine were still at after school care, to deposit messages from the fairies and sprinkle around a few flower petals, in order for R1 to elatedly cry out that the fairies have been to visit.  When the girls started to tire of this, R1’s daily expeditions out the back resulted in cries of ‘the fairies hate me, they don’t come any more’.

Conveniently, the fairies returned with a note to say they were heading off on summer vacation for a while.  A slight reprieve for the girls.  Until 2 days ago, when R1 happened upon a torn note amongst her fairy toadstools.  Then the welcome wagon came out and signs were painted.

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And I got in on the perpetuation of the magic as well – R2 got to see the fairies flitting about the garden courtesy of the sunlight glinting off my watch.

This is a beautiful age, when they truly believe.  But it takes a bit of work in keeping the magic alive, a support network with a common purpose in keeping the belief going.

It is not helped by random external intrusions from the disbelieving world such as my father stating facetiously to R1 in response to a childlike query: ‘And I suppose you still believe in the tooth fairy as well…’.  Gasp. Horror.  The web of wonder can disintegrate in moments.

baby sea turtles

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Today was my last day of holidays before heading back to work tomorrow (for 7 working days, before taking another break, but nevertheless still traumatic).  More significantly, tomorrow the children go to their dad’s for their first annual holiday with him in 3 years and won’t be back until the 13th January.  So I needed to do something special today, something a stay at home mum would do, something creative, something promoting togetherness, something memorable, something fun.  Ok, all I could think of was making cupcakes.

I had never made cupcakes with the kids from scratch before, so this was different.  R1 came up with the recipe from her Dora and Diego Let’s Cook cookbook which Santa brought in 2010, but as yet had not been utilised.  Baby Sea Turtles.  And I liked the fact that it used wholemeal flour.  Healthy 🙂

The kids, of course, helped.  R2 was so adept at getting the mixture from the bowl to the patty cases with the spatula that he declared he will be a chef in a restaurant when he grows up.

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And R1, well she was handy in ensuring that nothing went to waste.

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Both kids were eager to ice and decorate the (forgot to cool first) cupcakes, especially with the rule that dropped smarties could be eaten.  Unfortunately, this rule was exploited resulting in some naked turtle backs.

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They didn’t quite turn out like the picture in the cookbook.

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But a successful activity anyway.  The proof of this wasn’t in the pudding, unfortunately, as the wholemeal flour angle kind of made them inedible, but in the participation level of the kids.  Special credit to them for withstanding the heat in the kitchen on a humid 40 degree Celsius day.

At least I now have a trail of cupcake crumbs all over the house to remind me of the children over the next week or so.

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.

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

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.

Christmas present

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Having just come back from the second school Christmas concert in as many evenings, I thought it was about time that I acknowledge it is that time of the year. Like the energy sapping heat that has come up on us, so has Christmas.

I am big on traditions. Most of the time I tell the kids that our rituals have been passed on from generation to generation and woe betide anyone if they are not carried out to the letter, but they are either ones I have made up or some variation on those I had as a child.

One such, of course, is the Christmas tree. And it has to go up on the 1st of December, come what may. Except it went up the 2nd of December this year as that’s when the kids got back from their dad’s.  I can’t get hung up on the rigidity of traditions.  So it went up as close to the first as possible, despite crushing humidity, sweaty faces, broken airconditioning and a very cranky mama.

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Over the past 3 years the collection of handmade Christmas decorations brought home from kindy, etc has grown. Usually, I sort them into three piles: for the tree, family Christmas presents, and ‘filing’ (aka as the bin – how many pages of heavy green texta does one need?).

Apart from a few shop bought ones – just to polish the look – the majority of our decorations reflect the different stages of the kids’ artistry and creativity, and a special tradition invented last year was to go to the craft shop and select an ornament project to make, colour, glue.

These traditions are important in providing continuity for the kids. As I was putting up the tree, I mused to my daughter that this was the second year that we didn’t have to put the playpen around the tree to protect the bottom layers of lights from being mauled by destructive toddlers, and also the sixth year I had put up the tree.  This is also the sixth home that it had lived in.  And hopefully the last for quite a while.

Spending Christmas in a different place each year is not quite the thrill it once was.  In my 20s I spent Christmas in Kathmandu, Dhaka, Bangkok, Casablanca, Canberra, Melbourne, Perth x 2, Warrnambool, and London.  The only tradition was to be somewhere different each year, and to drunkenly phone my mother at 2 am no matter what time zone I was in.

While I loved travel for the experience of different cultures, it is having children which has taught me about interconnectedness.

I figure this photo from the concert tonight is blurry enough to protect everyone’s privacy.

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So proud of my son for even getting on the stage in front of hundreds of parents, he is the one in the middle looking at me.  This was the 4th concert I had seen on that stage.

And the first year of Christmas concerts at the local school.  Santa has come early this year.  This is what it is all about for them!

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family hour

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Normally, my children go to their father’s house every second weekend and every Thursday night.  This makes me a part-time mum.  But I do have to be ‘on call’ day in day out, in case their father can’t take them for whatever reason.  So the last three weekends in a row I have had the kids home.  Just before the first of these weekends I read about a concept called ‘love bombing’ and a ‘green hour’ over on the littleecofootprints blog.  Basically saturating the children with attention.  Of course, as all things in life do, this coincidentally came to my attention around the same time my daughter, who is a deep soul and very astute about what is happening around her, stated that she never got to spend any time with me on our weekends as I was ‘always in the garden’ (it needs a lot of work – more on this another time).  At the time, I replied that it was because she never wanted to hang out with me as she was too busy tearing around the bush making hideouts, or crafting away in her art studio (yes). But her statement cut me so deeply, as we don’t have quantity time, so why am I ‘letting her do her own thing’ during our precious little time together?

So my version of lovebombing and the green hour was this: I called it family hour as I couldn’t really spend one-on-one quality time with two children.  Each weekend I told them we would altogether spend an hour doing whatever each of us wanted.  The first weekend, we pulled names out of a hat to see who would get to go first. Me. So my hour was spent gardening. The kids put in the hour planting out tomatoes in their raised beds, watering the herbs, and helping me remove the mulch where our lawn is going to be.

When the kids from next door came over to play, as they always do when the kids are home, R1 told them she couldn’t as we were having ‘family hour’.  Then we started on R1’s hour which was craft.  Somehow, we picked up an extra family member from next door for this one, and then lunch interrupted, so in the end R1 got 40 minutes of her hour.  After lunch, while the others continued doing craft, I started family hour with R2 as he wanted to play knights with his miniature horses.  We did about half an hour of this before he ran off to play next door.

Oh well, we still had two more weekends to go.

The kids spent the week discussing their activities for the second weekend’s family hour.  We spent the weekend saying that family hour was coming up ‘after I hang out the washing’, ‘after Black Beauty has finished’, ‘when I get back from next door’.  I may have played horses for about 20 minutes.

We are now halfway through the third weekend, but ‘family hour’ is no longer being mentioned. During the last week R1 said she didn’t want to do family hour as she wasn’t interested in R2’s or my activities.

So today I shovelled mulch while R2 played with his stables and R1 was painting her little heart out. And while eating dinner (pizza at the kindy’s outdoor movie night) she said she had had a great day.

I have learnt that we are a family without having to force each other to spend our time ‘being a family’. I love where we now live, as the kids and I have organically found our ‘own thing’ which we can be absorbed in, knowing that we are together.

Gosh I am looking forward to next weekend though 🙂

fairytales and lessons

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Last night’s dinner conversation…

R1, my 6 year old preppie, told us that Wednesday is her favourite day of the week because that’s when Xavier goes to after school care- just to be with R1.  Last weekend, Xavier’s mum told me it’s costing her a fortune for Xavier’s ‘playdates’.

So of course, maturely I start teasing her..R1 and Xavier sitting in a tree, k-i-s-s-i-n-g, first comes love, then comes marriage, then comes R1 with the baby carriage.  Her little brother, 4 year old R2, never one to miss a teasing session, especially one obviously endorsed by his mum, joins in with his own refrains.  ‘R1 and R2 sitting in a tree….’

It has been his lifelong desire to marry his sister.  Though sometimes in quiet confidance he does admit that they can just live together when they grow up and not get married.

All of this makes me very happy.  Firstly, we are talking and sharing ‘our day’ at the dinner table, rather than R1 trying to play reading eggs on my computer, R2 trying to slay everyone with his knight’s sword, and me, well I have usually finished eating and am doing the dishes by the time they have swallowed their first mouthful.

And secondly, I feel part of a chain of mothers and daughters, passing on my childhood rhymes.

But then. My daughter joins in. ‘Mummy and daddy sitting in a tree…’ I reminded her that in our case it was, ‘first comes mummy with the baby carriage, then came marriage, but sadly because it was all in the wrong order, love never came’.

So then the conversation became a lesson.  I consciously have ‘teaching moments’. I have a strong need to imprint some of my moral code on my children as they have so many other teachers and carers in their lives. I want them to feel about the world a little like I do, I guess.

So, the lesson was, that for true happiness, things must happen in the right order.

But this made me feel uneasy. Since they were small, while other people played eye spy on car trips, we played the ‘families game’.  R1, what type of families are there? A mum and a dad in one house, a mum in one house and a dad in another house, 2 mums in one house, a mum, a cat and a grandma in one house and no dad, etc etc. And I tried to make each scenario seem equally as valid a family structure.  Because I knew that they would start to see the differences between their homes and others.

In that case, so why should love come first, then marriage, then the ‘wife’ with the baby carriage????  Is that not another fairytale – what little girls dream of for their future happiness? Is it right to teach them about doing things ‘the right way’? After all, even after love, marriage and a baby carriage, there can still be affairs, alcoholism, legal fees, homeless shelters and divorce.