Saturday, 31 January 2015

Funeral and Start of Vintage

On Monday this week, Tony and I drove to Bathurst to attend a funeral on Tuesday. An old friend of ours, someone we hadn't seen in many many years, was killed in a road accident 10 days prior. The funeral was incredibly sad, I don't know if I've ever cried so much at a funeral, or seen so many other people crying. His wife (who was a very good friend of mine when we were in our early 20s) and his 3 kids (aged 14, 12 & 9) all spoke or had things read out, his wife sang a song she wrote for him, and some friends and family spoke. It was a beautiful send off.

In the days after I learnt of his death, I had several anxiety attacks - some about driving, some thinking about how I would cope if anyone important in my life died - and I was able to work through them without them taking hold too much, and now concentrating on the other reminders that our friend's death has given us - to appreciate our loved ones, to really live the life that you want to live, that friends and family really matter.

Despite the sad nature of our trip, Tony and I really enjoyed our time together in the car on the way up and back. 8 hours each way to chat, listen to music, and laugh (a lot). It was a great reconnection time for us, which is especially helpful given that Vintage is now upon us.

Tony came home from work on Thursday (he'd had Tue and Wed off, and Mon was a public holiday) and said that Vintage was starting Friday. He worked 12 hours yesterday and is working both days this weekend. So we're straight into it (although he thinks that this coming week won't be too intense). I'm feeling quite positive about it - I think I've organised our activities so there aren't too many and won't be too difficult to manage on my own, and I'm feeling confident that I can say no to extra things that are too hard, and concentrate on doing things that really nurture myself and the kids.

Sunday, 25 January 2015

Fire drill and a party

Everyone except me had a lovely long sleep in yesterday, so I had a couple of hours alone to go for my walk (and I saw lots of kangaroos), catch up on emails and Facebook and do some other things on the computer that I haven't had much of a chance to get to lately.

Millie wanted to watch 'Daisy, a Hen in the Wild' (which we've seen before - at first I thought it was a poorly made animation, but as we've watched it each time I've come to appreciate it more - the animation is very simple anime, but the story is complex and engaging) so I put that on and LiAM and Caitlin soon came out and watched it as well. At one point in the movie a duck asked another duck how he learned to fly like that (he'd just won a flying competition), and the 2nd duck said 'I just figured it out myself'. The 1st duck said 'Imagine if you'd had lessons!' and LiAM said 'well he wouldn't have been as good then, because he would have learnt how someone else did it, not figured out his own best way'. Which is exactly what I was thinking myself!

After the Daisy movie we put on the Moshi Monsters movie - we've had it from Quickflix for ages and the kids wanted to watch it one more time before sending it back and we kept forgetting. So it's watched now (and enjoyed again) so we can send it back and get something else.

Tony and I finished putting the camper trailer away and then went and checked on the chickens and the new chicks. The mother of the first chick was attacking the 2 brand new chicks - so we decided to separate the mothers (with their own chicks) by putting a chicken wire wall across part of the pen and moving Darkness (the one who was attacking) into the new section. Installing the wire wasn't too difficult, then I grabbed Darkness - who can be rather aggressive - and Caitlin and Tony tried to grab the chick. It kept running out of reach, and Darkness was going crazy in my arms, then one of the other broody hens bit Caitlin... We ended up bending the new wire wall and kind of pushing the chick through underneath it... It promptly went back under, away from it's mother again - so we left them to it, to figure it all out themselves. Once they'd calmed down everyone was where they were supposed to be and the new little chicks are safer. It amazes me how experience and practice can make a difference - there is no way I could have calmly (or at all) picked up an angry mother chicken a couple of years ago, and held it while it flapped and squawked and tried to bite me. It's encourage when I realise that I have learnt how to do something or that I have lost my fear about a situation - it helps a lot when I'm feeling frustrated about something I don't yet know how to do or have the courage to do, to remember that it's possible to learn and change and if I trust the process I can get to where I want to be.

In the afternoon we were going to an 18th birthday party for a good family friend. We were about to leave and we could smell smoke - I assumed it was the bushfire up at Toolangi, then Tony heard and saw the helicopter and went to investigate - the fire was across the road and over the next hill, and the wind was blowing from the fire to us. The helicopter was picking up water from the river and dumping it on the fire, which was exciting to watch but not something we wanted to linger over. I was surprised at how calm I was (although it is often the case, that my anxiety can be quite high when thinking about situations, and then completely gone when I'm in the middle of that situation) and just went back inside and got together our usual evacuation bag - making sure everyone had shoes, something to change into other than our party clothes, the computer, i devices, chargers, our folder of birth certificates etc, my camera, LiAM's medicine, a sling for Millie, and I asked the kids to grab anything that they would want to have with them, say, if the road got closed and we couldn't get back for a few days, and/or their very favourite toys (I know the older 2 were thinking 'what should I take in case the house burns down' but it did feel easier not to say that). They gathered things together quite quickly and reasonably calmly. LiAM was a little panicky which didn't surprise me, but he was still able to get his stuff together and think about what he wanted. By the time we left (about 15 or 20 minutes later) I checked my Fire Guard app and the fire was under control, so the danger was past - but it was a good opportunity for us to practice getting ready and out quite quickly, and helped me clarify again what items I need to have available ready to go at a moment's notice, and what things the kids really wanted to bring with them. I'm surprised by how little I really wanted to take - I thought about my box of diaries and photos and things and didn't feel the need to take it - although if the fire danger had been higher and I'd felt a lot more at risk then perhaps I would have.

So we made it to the party after the extra drama and had a wonderful afternoon/evening. I was able to meet a lot of the extended family of our friends, who I had heard a lot about but never met. There were other friends there who we knew and it was great to catch up with, and new friends to met and get to know. There were lots of kids and all of them got on well, lots of different combinations of children together throughout the party and lots of indoor, outdoor and iPad games played. We were the last to leave and everyone came away tired and having had a really enjoyable time.

Saturday, 24 January 2015

Movie, chickens and swimming

I've been waking up earlyish again lately - between 6 and 7 usually - and I've been going outside and watering my plants, then going for my walk. I hadn't been walking much over the past couple of months and it's wonderful to be doing it again. Going that early too I often get to see the sunrise or close to it, and see the early morning clouds reflected in the dam. There are often kangaroos still up on the dam wall at that time, and the ducks are just waking up. It's a great start to the day and I think it's helping my energy levels and my anxiety overall. (I've had a few anxiety attacks this week and the walking definitely helps me keep things in perspective).

Millie woke up not long after I got back from my walk yesterday, and she sat on my lap while I checked email etc and she played on the iPad. Then we moved onto the couch together which was more comfortable. She was looking at something to do with the moon in one of her games and asked what it was called when it was a certain shape, so we looked up moon phases and chatted about how it changes, what it's called, why we can see what we can. The other two kids eventually wandered out, and we all curled up on the couch and watched 'The Princess and the Frog'. I was feeling very sleepy and dozed in the musical sequences, and managed to watch most of the rest of the movie. A very relaxing way to spend the morning.

Caitlin had commented that our little chick was getting 'so big' after she didn't see it for 3 days when she was away on horse camp. I thought she was imagining it - the chick still looked tiny. However when I went to check on the broody hens yesterday and discovered 2 more brand new chicks I could see what she means - the new chicks are TINY and the older one has grown quite a lot. I love how excited we all feel whenever new chicks are born, even though we've had it happen quite a number of times. They are so incredibly cute and tiny and we all love watching them. We really enjoy watching them grow up too, discovering what colouring they are going to have, and whether they are a hen or a rooster - Caitlin and I discovered yesterday that the 4 month old chick which we were sure was a hen is actually not - he was practising his crowing so looks like he was not the bird that laid the tiny egg we found the other day.

Being Friday, Tony was home around 2pm which is always lovely. He played Terraria with the kids for a while, then he and I played Donkey with Millie. Tony had a nap while I played Go Fish with Millie. I had a lie down myself (still feeling sleepy) and the kids played Test Match and did some drawing. Caitlin was very keen to go for a swim and it was quite a hot day so when I got up we rushed around and headed back down to Healesville outdoor pool. (At first I felt like it was too much effort, and felt that we'd planned to have a day at home so we should stick to that. Then I realised there was really no reason for us not to go, part of having a sparkly, joy filled life is to take opportunities when they come up, so it was ok to change our plans and do something that one of us really wanted to do. I'm so glad I chose the joyous option and not the default option.) Tony came with us too. Millie and I played around in the shallow end of the big pool, she practiced swimming out to me from the steps, and was also a dolphin who loved to eat catfish and I was the human supplying her with the catfish. The other 2 kids found some friends - two boys who had been in the Chicken Little play with Caitlin last October - and played with them and bit tyre tube up in the deep end. Tony and I each spent a bit of time with the big kids and a bit with Millie, then Millie put her backpack on and came up the deep end with all of us. We stayed until closing time (6pm) (we'd gone quite late), then bought pizza and went to the Train Park to eat it. It was a lot cooler by this stage and sitting outside felt lovely (apart from the wasp who wanted to share our dinner). After eating the kids and I walked the labyrinth, trying a few different techniques, then played Hide and Seek and then 40-40.

Back at home people played Terraria, I looked up some Terraria information for LiAM, Caitlin played minecraft and looked up dresses on the internet, Tony and I put away the camper trailer, we watched the cricket (quite exciting, Australia won in the last over) and the tennis then wound down and made our way to bed.

Friday, 23 January 2015

A busy impromptu day

Earlier in the month Caitlin started to take part in a summer library activity. There were activities to do each week and she could get her passport stamped at a library once she had completed each stage. We did the 'in library' stuff last week at Healesville, and she had some things to look up on their website at home, and some books to read, and the final stage was attending a Story Time activity - the closes one being in Healesville yesterday. We had planned to attend, then she was so tired on Wednesday night after 3 days at Horse Camp that I decided to see how things went on Thursday morning, rather than suggesting we go.

Millie was up early and we played on the computer for a while then played in the lounge room. When the others got up they put on Barbie Thumbelina as Caitlin hadn't seen it yet and it was due back at the library. Afterwards they went outside and played a spy catching game, and asked me to come and join them, so we all crept around the yard trying to catch each other, then sat in the shade of the camper trailer (set up so it can dry out from our camping trip - it's probably dry now!) and had a drink of cold water - it was a hot morning. Suddenly Caitlin remembered the Story Time and said she wanted to go. It was after 11.30 by now and the activity started at 11. She started to get upset, then I said we could still try to get there - so we rushed inside, she finished off the rest of the passport activities, we all got dressed, I threw the swimming bag in the car (just in case) and we made it to Healesville a bit after 12. There were a few library ladies there chatting, but the activity had obviously finished. I suggested she go and apologise for being late and see if she could still get her passport stamped. She wanted me to ask, so we all went over and explained that we hadn't made it in time but she'd still done the work. They were lovely and told us all about how the activity went, and said that unfortunately they'd already drawn the prizes - then they said that not all the prizes had been claimed, so we could have one, and they gave us 'The 13-story Treehouse' by Andy Griffiths. They took a photo of us as prize winners and everyone was very happy.

We drove back over to the shops, Caitlin reading the new book to everyone and causing lots of giggles (it's a funny story!), and got some hot chips. While we were waiting for them the kids started talking to a lady in the shop eating her own chips, and we ended up sitting and chatting with her until she left. She said several complimentary things about the kids which is always encouraging. From there we went to the library, the kids watched youtube videos, played Sonic Lightning on the PS3, and played with duple. I read my book and chatted with them about what they were doing.

We borrowed some books and DVDs then went over to Healesville Outdoor Pool (it's only open in the afternoon, only in the summer). The water was freezing as usual, a big contrast to the hot, muggy day. It was so much nicer swimming outside than an indoor pool, very glad we decided to go. We saw some friends there, 13yo twins from karate, and Caitlin & Liam played with them for the afternoon (LiAM is so confident in the deep end now, I am astonished at how quickly that happened). Millie and I had races in the kid's pool, played sharks and dolphins and humans and were in and out of the big pool with the other kids. We also sat and chatted to the twins and their dad for a while. Once Millie had had enough swimming we bought some snacks, she ate them and played on the grass and I read my book for a while, then we all headed home.

The kids had a play on the computer and outside and watched the tennis with Tony once we were home, and I went out again to an ABA Regional meeting. When I got back Tony was watching the Australia v China soccer match, and C and L were playing cards in the camper trailer where they were planning to sleep. Millie was already asleep there. The kids came in after a while, a bit spooked by what they think was a kangaroo close to the tent. They calmed down and went back out, then there was lightning and thunder and other noises so everyone decided to move back inside and sleep in their own bed (and Millie was moved as well)

Thursday, 22 January 2015

Make Believe Story Games

Lately Millie has been playing her make believe games a lot, many many times a day. The lego game she started a couple of weeks ago has developed into a complex story with lots of side plots and many changes to the main story line every day. She loves to have people play with her and we've all spent many hours playing over the past couple of weeks. I admit I don't find this type of game very easy - I get distracted quite easily, and I'm not very creative at making up the dialogue of my characters or keeping track of what everyone is supposed to be doing. If I was to choose a make believe game I'd prefer to be acting out the characters ourselves, rather than using lego or toy animals to be the characters, moving them around and making them talk, but even with the acting out games I'm not very comfortable. So I've found this game quite challenging. However I have tried to say yes every time she's asked me to play, and occasionally I've even offered to play when she wasn't asking.

At the moment this type of play, and this game, is obviously quite important to her, and I'm happy to be involved in (and want to be involved in) things that are of value to my kids at any given time. She enjoys the connection that we have when we are playing, and it is going to be much more valuable to her if we have that connection while doing something she wants to do, rather than me convincing her to join me at something I want to do (my game choice would be a board or card game, or a puzzle, or building something. Something more concrete...). I love listening to her making up the story and rejecting or changing ideas as she goes, and keeping track of who all the characters are and what they are doing. She will accept new ideas from other people sometimes, or say no if they don't fit with her idea of where the story is going. She becomes completely immersed in it at times and is really talented at setting up the story and developing her characters. Just being with her while she is having so much fun and doing amazing things is worth it even if I am not enjoying playing the game myself - I can concentrate on being with her and watching her, and then the playing bit can happen without me thinking too much about it and I no longer feel so self-conscious or uncomfortable.

I often find that after I've been playing with her for a little while, one or both of the other kids will join in as well. After another little while, they will tend to take over my characters (because they are both good at this sort of play as well and they all get a little frustrated with me when I can't keep up with the story) and there will usually be an opportunity for me to move away and do something else, without anyone being upset that I am leaving. Sometimes I can incorporate what I'm doing (cooking, cleaning, playing the piano, tidying up) into the game as well, I can be contributing something without needing to sit on the floor and move the figures around.

The more I play with Millie like this the calmer she is. She has seemed to strongly need the connection lately and there were a few days when we played this game nearly all day. The last couple of days she's still playing but for shorter periods and less often. The game has moved on a bit too from using the figures to her sometimes being a seal and me trying to find her. It's been a great reminder to me that saying yes as often as I can and meeting the kids where they are can be beneficial to all of us. It deepens our connection, it shows that I value what is important to them, and it can meet other underlying needs and help everyone be calmer. Millie is playing by herself a lot more over the last couple of days, or asking for books to be read or to do other activities together (we've done puzzles and some great drawing) - so that is also good to remember - sometimes it feels like an interest will last forever, I had moments of thinking I'd be sitting on the floor playing lego stories every day this year - but interests peak and flow, and immersing myself in the kids interests as much as I can when they are peaking will always be an investment that will pay off - they will feel valued and know that their needs and wants are important, and they are able to move between interests without leaving one feeling that they didn't quite receive their fill.

Wednesday, 14 January 2015

Sleepovers, playing and numbers

On Monday the kids had 2 friends (brother and sister) come over for the day. They spent a lot of time playing Terraria, connected to the same world using 4 iPads/iPhones, all 5 kids curled up together on the same couch, Millie watching and commenting even though she didn't have a device to use to join the game. The sharing, negotiation and respect that was obvious in the constant chatter that accompanied the game was inspiring to listen to. In between playing Terraria they were outside eating ice-blocks and playing on the swings, listening to music, talking about all sorts of things, making up dances, checking on the new chick in our chicken pen, playing the pokemon trading card game, playing with lego and other toys around the house. Mid-afternoon we all headed in to Yarra Glen and went to the chemist and post office, then down to the library where they watched Minecraft videos on You Tube, played the piano in the hall, made up more dances. From there we went up to the friends' house and had a bit of a play, then S (the sister) came back with home with us for a sleepover, while LiAM stayed at their house for the night.

Back at home the girls made up more dances, and traded animal cards that they had gotten from Woolworths. After dinner on a rather hot day Tony and I took the 3 girls down to the dam for a swim. The water was a lovely temperature - a few cold patches if we went out a bit deeper, but lovely to get in to near the edge. Swimming in the dam at sunset is a glorious experience, the light and the view are amazing, it is peaceful and refreshing and I'm so happy that we have this experience available to us regularly. We even had ducks swimming towards us on the water, they didn't come all the way over to us, though it really did look like they were checking us out and coming as close as they felt safe. I was also impressed with Millie's swimming - last time I took her to the dam she stuck her toes in and then played on the dirt at the edge. Tony has taken her a few times, and she has obviously gained confidence. She asked me to carry her in, then took the kick board and lay on it and kicked around confidently and happily, even in the deeper water. At the end she did a little bit of swimming back and forth between Tony and I, she scared herself once by going under but then had another few goes. Back home (Caitlin and S and Tony rode their bikes) for a shower and to watch the cricket and then the Asia Cup summary then the girls went to bed on the sofa bed - and didn't stay up talking very late, I think they were both pretty tired!

Yesterday we watched a Barbie movie (Barbie as Rapunzel) and then Another Cinderella Story, which is my favourite of the many cinderella themed movies we have watched in the past several months. When it finished we watched it again. The girls and I continued playing the lego/skylander/toy animal game that has been going for about a week now. There was more playing on the swings and listening to music and dancing, including dancing with Dance Star on the Playstation. The boys returned here about 2.30 and the other kids stayed until about 5, lots more playing on the swings and playing Terraria and watching a few Minecraft videos.

Last night we kept playing the lego game and finally got Plants v Zombies Garden Warfare set up to work on the Playstation. I was surprised at how excited I was to actually get it working, and we all enjoyed watching LiAM play. It was interesting how we could all change allegiance so easily as he kept switching sides and the side he was on always seemed to be the 'best' side.

Millie and I had some great conversations about numbers and letters. When Plants v Zombies was installing she came and told me it was up to 79%. I said I wondered if it was up to 80% yet and she said 'or 81. or 82. or 83...' and continued until she said 'or eighty-ten' Then she laughed and said 'eighty ten isn't a real number'. I said 'What would eight-ten really be?' and she said '90'. Then she asked me to keep going with saying eighty-eleven, eighty-twelve and so on, and she told me the 'real' number (91, 92...). She went all the way up to eighty-twenty five (105). She spends a lot of time counting and adding and subtracting and is starting to be able to go up to the next decade after she reaches a number with 9 in it. She was playing Pixelmon on Minecraft in the morning and wanted to spawn a pokemon called Eevee.  She knows how to get up the command that brings in the new pokemon, and she had figured out herself that Eevee might be evve. I think that's her first attempt at writing a word on her own and it shows that she really does understand how letters work together to form words. Every day I'm amazed at the developing mathematical and literary skills of all 3 kids - it's so exciting to watch and be part of.

Sunday, 11 January 2015

Lego and Les Mis

Tony worked yesterday (Saturday - there's a lot of work for them to get done before Vintage starts, so he is at work a lot at the moment) and the kids and I had a day at home. The lego game that they have been playing continued on and off all day, and I joined in several times (although I am easily distracted from it so Millie prefers to have the other kids playing too.) They have been using a duple set we borrowed from the Toy Library, which has a house, car, people and pets. They have built the house and modified the car, and the people go on adventures all over (our real) house. Our Disney Princesses, Skylanders, toy dinosaurs, other toy animals, moshlings, minecraft animals and other dolls are part of the game at various times too. Milllie created a zoo on her bed and all the people went to visit. She hid fairies and animals around the lounge room and all the people went exploring in the woods and found all the hidden creatures and took them home. We've had villains come and trap everyone (Millie likes to be the villain) and the rest of us tried to figure out ways to rescue our friends or escape ourselves. At one point I was able to tidy the kitchen and do some cooking while I played - I made roasted almond butter and then used it as a potion to un-evilise all the bad guys, it was quite fun.

The kids also played outside for a while, drew some plans for something, watched minecraft videos on YouTube, played a new Minecraft Adventure Map on the computer, and played with our new camping chairs.

I did a fair bit of cooking, making the almond butter (I hadn't done it like this before, I'd always used raw almonds - it is amazingly delicious) and then roasted almond slice - also amazing. I wanted to keep eating it and eating it, although I think next time I'll use less honey, it was a bit sweet for me. I didn't actually eat a lot although it felt like it, each piece is so nutty and filling that a few slices did fill me up. The girls and I made cookies and used the new cookie cutters they got for christmas to make lions and giraffes which actually have their markings on them, that was a lot of fun. In the evening I used the left over sausages from the night before to make a yummy curried sausage dish, one of my favourites.

Tony didn't get home from work until after 5 so he was pretty exhausted. We'd had the cricket on (last day of the 4th test) for most of the afternoon and he was home in time to watch the end of the match, I joined him for that and it was quite exciting, with Australia in with a chance to win until the end (it was a draw). He played Terraria with LiAM for a little while then we had tea and he went for a bike ride with Caitlin around the dam. LiAM went with them on foot, Millie and I continued the lego game. Once everyone was home we watched the 2014 movie version of Les Miserables (with Hugh Jackman, Anne Hathaway and Helena Bonham Carter, all actors that the kids know and love from favourite movies). Tony and I had seen it at the movies, the kids hadn't seen it at all. It was interesting watching it again, after being so immersed in Les Mis over the past several months (seeing the stage show twice, the 10th anniversary concert on DVD twice, going to the page to stage exhibition, and listening to the soundtrack countless times). I hadn't realised that they had changed the order of some of the songs in the movie - it flowed well, but was different. I also paid a lot more attention to the set and really felt like it looked like the pictures I'd seen at the exhibition, the depiction of the barricades scenes seemed accurate. I was impressed again by Marius, this version is probably my favourite Marius of all the ones I've seen. Eponine was great too, and Hugh Jackman was awesome as Valjean. It's been a while since all 5 of us have watched a movie together and it was a lovely way to end the evening, the kids cuddled up to us on the couch, joining in the songs and lots of discussion about the story and the different ways it was portrayed. Caitlin even picked out one of the small part actors as someone she'd seen in a Harry Potter movie - I looked it up and she was right! I love the attention to detail the kids employ when watching movies/tv and playing games.

Saturday, 10 January 2015

Chocolate and what to do on tough days

Yesterday was my Dad's birthday. The kids and I had a quiet morning at home, playing lego, pokemon, a couple of iPad games, then we met my parents for lunch at the Yarra Valley Chocolaterie, which is less than 5km from our place. Dad had invited the kids to his birthday lunch but not told them where it was, so it was a pleasant surprise for them to arrive at the chocolate factory. We started with our usual spoonful of free chocolate chips, and the kids had a bit of a run around in the maze then came back and did some colouring in while we waited for our food. The kids had kids pizzas and I had a delicious potato and herb pizza and a big iced chocolate (which LiAM drank most of - I think he enjoyed the taste more than I did, it was a bit too sweet for me). After we'd eaten LiAM took Grandad out to the maze to have a race, then all the kids took him down to the wetlands to have a look at the water. Mum and I wandered through the vegetable garden, which I hadn't seen before. It inspired me to keep going with growing herbs and to get more of a range (mum gave me several herb plants for christmas, so I'm getting back into gardening again, slowly). After everyone joined us in the garden we went back inside and the girls got some takeaway ice cream, and LiAM got a very yummy chocolate brownie with ice cream. I got a box of chocolate frogs to share and to help raise money to save the Southern Corroboree Frog from extinction.
Millie in the vegetable garden after racing me to the end of the path

Back home the kids continued their lego game and also played outside when it wasn't raining. I played on the iPad with Millie for a while then had a nap as I was very sleepy. Tony came home just as I was waking up, then Mum and Dad called in to pick up something. I had a cup of tea with them and the kids enjoyed seeing them twice in a day, and especially at home, being able to show them christmas presents and other new things we've done or made or bought (especially our new camping chairs). After they'd left I had a bath and read my book (Raising My Voice by Malalai Joya) while Tony cooked tea. We watched the T20 game on TV (we'd planned to watch the Asia Cup soccer match but it wasn't on live) and the kids played more of their lego game.

During the day I'd read an article online that bothered me and I wasn't sure what to do about it (this happens a bit). It was written by a mother who had had a bad day with her kids, and they'd been angry with her, and it seemed she was writing to get support for the way she'd handled it. Articles and conversations like this can upset me because the general comments usually are along the lines of  'Don't worry, you're doing a great job, kids have it too easy these days, nobody is perfect, sometimes we need to be mean so that they learn...' etc. I think it's very easy then for parents to not take responsibility for their own actions, and not try to do better. What I think is that yes, we do all have bad days and make mistakes when dealing with our kids. And if I do or say something that upsets my children, I don't want to defend that, nor do I want anyone else to tell me it's ok. I want to stop and look at how I handled it, and see what other choices I could have made. Was there a way I could have helped us all be more peaceful? Did I react quickly without knowing the whole story? Did I consider everyone else's feelings and needs in the moment or only my own? Is there a way I could have said what I wanted to say more gently or at a more appropriate time? Are people tired, hungry, thirsty and just need a bit of nurturing to calm everyone down? Is what I'm upset about really a problem, or is it something that I could look at a different way? Every day I want to be striving towards more peace and more togetherness, working as a team to make my family happy and strong and peaceful - and obviously as the parent I have a stronger role in that than the kids do. They are learning to be more peaceful and to think of others, and the best way for them to learn that is to see it modelled by their parents. I'm trying this year to see the positive side in every thing that happens and to feel gratitude more and more, so despite feeling uncomfortable initially about the article I read, I am grateful for the reminder it gave me - to be more mindful of my own behaviour around my kids (and others), and when I make a mistake, to apologise, not defend myself. To work towards peace, not towards being right. One moment, one interaction at a time, and aiming to keep getting better.

Friday, 9 January 2015

Easing into the New Year

Our pace of life has been delightfully slower since Christmas. Tony had almost 2 weeks off work (he went back on Monday this week) and it was lovely having him at home, having lazy days with no plans. We watched the cricket, played on iPads, played outside, listened to music, played board games, watched movies, chatted, read books, I pottered around and sorted some cupboards and tidied things up when I felt like it. Tony took the kids swimming and to a friend's house and he and Caitlin and LiAM went to the last day of the Melbourne Test Match (cricket). I only left the house once in the week after Christmas (I took LiAM and Millie to a friend's house, had a cup of tea, then Caitlin and I went for a swim and picked up our milk, then back to pick up the other kids, then I came home and had a lie down). I was SO tried after Christmas and it really took me a bit over a week of having no schedules before I started to feel OK again.

This week I'm feeling much better, and I've decided to go with the no schedule thing as much as possible. I've made vague plans with people for a few things, which will be confirmed on the day and no sooner. I don't want to push any of us more than we feel like being pushed. As it is we've had a busier week, which has been fun and manageable, with all our decisions about outings made on the day.

On Monday we went to Melbourne Zoo and met up with some other homeschoolers. I was reminded why I usually choose to avoid the zoo in school holidays - there were so many people there and we all felt overwhelmed. It was an enjoyable day though, especially for LiAM who met a couple of other boys his age and spent most of his time with them - great to meet another family who we click with. On Tuesday we went to a friend's house, lots of iPad, Playstation, jumping on the trampoline, make believe games, water play, while my friend and I caught up on lots of chatting and tea drinking. We've been to the library a couple of times this week - our closest branch had been closed over the holiday period and everyone enjoyed being back there, reading, borrowing new books and DVDs, using the internet (ours has been incredibly slow for the last couple of weeks as we used our allowance very quickly this month), and even catching up with friends. Yesterday we spent most of the day at home, watching movies, playing minecraft, playing with lego, reading books. When Tony got home from work we all went shopping and used some money we got for christmas to buy some chairs to take camping with us - we had a table to go with our camper trailer, but no chairs. I also did a grocery shop as we were rather low on a lot of items - now we have lots of food and I can make some things I had requests for during the week. Oh I did make a caramel slice yesterday which has been very popular! (Even without the chocolate icing. I only had dark chocolate and LiAM would prefer me to use milk chocolate, so we left the icing off and the slice is quite delicious as it is. It was funny too, when I gave LiAM the first piece, he said 'I don't like it as much' and put it down after 1 bite. My initial reaction (which I held back) was to feel frustrated as I had especially made the slice for LiAM. Then I thought 'I chose to make it for him, as a gift, that doesn't mean that he has to like it - someone else will eat it anyway'. Then I was glad I hadn't said anything because he clarified 'Oh it's really good, I just don't like it as much as the condensed milk by itself' (I had let him clean the tin with a spoon). And he loves the slice and ate several pieces throughout the day. It was a good reminder for me to take a moment to breathe before reacting, especially when I start to feel defensive,  and also not to have attachment to any expectations of how things will work out when I do something - that can simply create pressure on others and lead to tension. I'd prefer to have peace, which I can help to achieve by doing things because I want to do them, and not needing a positive response from others to make it worthwhile).

The weather has been quite warm this week (high 30s and up to 40 on some days) and a change came through last night. We are expecting a lot of rain over the next couple of days - will be great to see our lawn growing again and a bit of relief before more hot days I'm sure that will be coming.

On the hottest day (last Saturday), when the fire danger was extreme, none of us wanted to be at home (although home is slightly more bearable on hot days now thanks to a new blind outside our kitchen window, made by my good friend L), so we went to the movies. The boys wanted to see The Hobbit, while the girls were not keen, so Tony took LiAM to The Hobbit and I took the girls to see Annie - I was really impressed with it, enjoyed it a lot. Afterwards we met up, bought a hot chook and a tub of ice cream and went over to Ringwood Lake for a picnic tea and a play in the playground. A very pleasant way to spend a very hot day.