Saturday, January 29, 2011

To butt in, or not butt in? That is the question....

Today I was a Nosy Parker.

There I was, patiently waiting in the queue at my local Aldi. (There was only one check-out open as usual, so it was a rather long wait.).

For entertainment, the entire check-out queue watched a frazzled Mum deal with her kids and her purchases.

One child was a toddler, the other was about four. They weren't doing anything particularly naughty; just running up and down the front of the store a bit, and clambouring under the counter where Mum was packing up a gazillion dollars worth of groceries. Just like kids do when they're a bit over-tired or have excess energy because it's been too hot or wet to play outside.

Mum begged, she pleaded, for her kids to calm down a bit, and wait patiently while she packed up their purchases. Inevitably, they did not obey, and a couple of times, the little one got hurt. Nothing serious, just fell over racing her brother, and bumped her head on the packing counter as she went to hide beneath it.  (I told you it was a long wait.)

I watched as a couple of middle-aged-to-older ladies loudly tutted (really they did). Smiling knowingly, they shook their heads, and raised their eyebrows, as they waited for their partners to pay for the lamb roasts and potatoes. Those ladies really annoyed me. They weren't doing anything. I would have thought they might have rocked over and offered that lady a hand rather than smirking at her obvious frustration.

Most people made an effort to ignore both the ladies and the Mum and kids. The check-out dude gave Mum an exasperated glare every time she told the kids to quieten down and wait, and the older one trotted out silly replies like: "I'm gonna put a tomato all over your head!" No one laughed.

Me? I felt sorry for the woman. She looked close to tears. And did I mention it was really hot, so hot the air-conditioning wasn't quite up to the job. And she looked tired. Like she just needed to go home and put her feet up for a while.

The mother in me wanted to go over, look after her kids for a minute, or help her pack up her stuff. But I wasn't sure. Would she be offended, or think I was interfering? Would I cop a mouthful of abuse? (And to be fair, maybe that's why the other women didn't offer to help either, though they could have been nicer about it.)

My mind was made up when, just after I paid, the little one landed on the floor and burst into fresh floods of tears, metres away from her Mum.

I could have gone past, but instead, I helped the little girl up, checked she was okay, and told her I thought Mummy was feeling sad too, and perhaps we could go and make her feel better. She looked at me through her tears and nodded.

The I took her brother's hand and told him that Mummy had so many groceries to pack up, I bet she needed a big boy like him to help her.

He went straight over to the counter and started very carefully picking up products and passing them to his mother.

"Thanks," Mum said, looking at me gratefully. (Yay. No slap in the face for me today then!) "You've got no idea what's it's like."

"Actually I do," I said. "We've all been there."

And we have, haven't we? 

I'm not perfect, and I never will be. I'm not better than that woman, or worse. Like her, I'm a parent who just tries to do the best I can. Like we all do. And it's nice to be given a hand-up occasionally, rather than a collective thumbs down.

If nothing else, I thought the Queensland floods had taught us the value of mateship and helping each other out.

On a lighter note, my bloggie and twitter mate Nooska, made me laugh this week when she included this map on a post at her lovely blog My Life Starts Now.

Sadly, there are two cyclones on the horizon which Australia has to contend with, and Queensland Premier Anna Bligh has warned we are in for more tough times.

Yep, sounds like we are pretty much fucked.
Keep us in your prayers or send positive vibes or whatever you believe in peeps. Thanks.

And Mother Nature? We're tougher than you think.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Happy birthday baby ...

Pardon the pun, but I've laboured over this post.

Ever since I started blogging, parents, many far more eloquent than I, have described just what is special about the children in their lives.

In some cases, there have been birth stories; in others, life stories. Some kids have overcome awful illnesses or injuries; others have just been awesome.

Always, the children change the life of the parent. That much is sure.

And always, they are special.

So when it came to post on Australia Day - and I am incredibly patriotic - it took second place, because I was also celebrating the life of Mr 9 who turned into Mr 10 that day.

It was about enjoying the moment, yet today I feel I can't let it go by without posting something.

Because MIA is my blog about us. And one day, if either of my kids want to look up how I felt about them at any particular stage in their lives, I want it to be right here waiting for them.

I can't possibly write the perfect post about how much I love C. Nor how much he has changed my world. I would be writing forever, trying to get it just right and probably failing. And then I'd have to do the same for his sister.

Somehow, in my heart, I feel it may devalue our relationship to try and wrap it into a tidy post, and also, now C. is Mr 10, he's getting to the stage where he has the right to censor anything I write.

Don't get me wrong: He loves me writing about him. He loved getting birthday text messages from a few of my internet friends, and pages full of greetings from my twitter mates. He often asks me to take photos to put on the blog or to tackle subjects he's into. Or to ask questions of my twitter friends, who to him, are like a living, breathing encyclopaedia of wise peeps.

But I do feel there are some things that should stay private.

Instead I thought I'd list 10 things - because he's 10, d-uh - you may not know about C.

- He loves to cook and to eat. His specialties are omelettes and sushi, and he makes a great coffee or tea. (Under supervision of course).

- He loves animals. The third word he ever said after 'Dad' and "Mumma" (and I'm still Mumma or Ma), was Dei Dei. This was his name for our beautiful labrador Daisy.

- He has Aspergers Syndrome but it doesn't have him. It is part of what makes him who he is, and I wouldn't change it for the world.

- He likes order. He may find it hard to tidy his room, but if I help him, he loves it and feels settled and TRIES to keep it that way.

- He is anal about cleanliness. To the point where he won't eat anything unless he or I have prepared it (or he's watched it made in front of him.)  (It's part of the ASD). (He's also anaphylactic to tree nuts and allergic to loads of foods, so there is reason behind his fears).

- When he was a baby and suffered extreme eczema, the paediatrician told us to bath him without soap and then rub him with olive oil. I turned that into massage sessions and he would always cry: 'Oil, Oil, Oil' as I took him from bath to change table. He still loves a good massage.

- He's very sensitive and spiritual, and loves yoga and meditation.

- He might not eat everything I put in front of him, but he will try anything at least once. He particularly loves spicy foods, like garlic, wasabi, and soy.

- He hates cake, much to his grandfather's consternation. (It's a sensory thing).

- He hates sandwiches, but if you toast them or put the contents into wraps, he will devour them with gusto.

And finally, oops, this is number 11, he can be the sweetest, most loving boy you can ever meet. As in giving all his pocket money to the victims of the floods, or giving little friends treasured toys they take a shine to. When we're out, and his little sister gets tired, he immediately stops and gives her a piggyback.

God, how I love him.

He is a mass of contradictions, and strength, and sensitivity, and I could not have hoped for a better son if I tried.

I love him all the way to the moon and back, and even more than that. 

C. has taught me far more than I have taught him, and I treasure him. Every single day. Even when he picks on his sister or puts on a sulk or does the stinkiest farts known to man. And cupcakes me.

And I always will.

Happy birthday Chasely. xo


Sunday, January 23, 2011

Holiday high-jinks

I've had so much fun going through our school holiday photos and working out which ones to share.

There are way too many to bore you with, but in the interests of journalling our lives, I'm including a few here, in part two of our School Holiday Fun.

Despite the floods, we really managed to cram a lot into our holidays, and I loved hanging out with my kids without the stress of getting breakfast into them, bags on backs and out the door to school.

We've had quite a few sleep-ins (bliss), and the odd late night (fun), and it will be a big shock when the holidays end this week.

Here are a few more ways we passed the time:

There was the yearly Christmas Eve letter to Santa (complete with snacks for Santa and the reindeer).
Translation: 'To Centeare, I hope you have a good flight. From Chase and Mum and Harmonie.'
Bless her.

There was ice-cream eating. This is a cookie dough ice-cream from Wendys.

 He's a big boy but Mr 9 still likes to play with his food...

 We watched loads of sport on the telly. (Some male-bonding going on here, except for Zsa Zsa the toy poodle).

 It wouldn't be Christmas without my big sister's mini caramel tarts. This year she handed the recipe on to Miss 7 and her cousin, P.

 They were definitely a hit with the kids!

 Of course we visited and stayed with my oldies ...Grandma and Pa-Pa.

There was plenty of stormy weather. This shot taken from my big sister's farm.
 
And of course, there were floods. We were lucky enough to be marooned only a few times, and to make it safely home.

Readers, are you sad or glad that the school holidays are over?

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Too cool for school ...

As the school holidays draw to a close (can you believe it?), I thought I'd give you a peek at how we passed the time.

We will never forget out wettest, most tragic Queensland Christmas holidays, which were marked by devastating floods, empty supermarket shelves, lack of power and internet, and being marooned at various places for days at a time.

I will never forget the experience of watching army trucks rumbling through our muddy, smelly, ruined city streets. Nor the sight of the thousands of mud-spattered, exhausted volunteers, working endlessly to help strangers and mates alike. (And next week, I hope to roll out a week of giveaways for survivors of our natural disasters.)

But for now, I wanted to assure readers and loved ones that my little family was lucky, and we remained safe and dry.

And despite the wet, we managed to have a Jolly Good Time with Lashings Of Fun. (Yes, I'm an Enid Blyton girl from way back.).

Blogging for me, is partly a way of journalling our lives, so that the kids have something to keep their childhood alive forever.

So today I'm sharing some of the highlights of our school holidays. (Northern hemisphere friends: Our summer holidays are six to eight weeks either side of Christmas. And when you're a child they are endless. Okay, sometimes for parents as well, but in a different way!)

As I've been uploading photos, I've been delighted to discover there are way too many for just one post. Who knew we'd been so busy and had so much fun?

So I'm afraid I'll be inflicting at least one more post of happy snaps this weekend. Meanwhile, take a look at these little beauties ...

Mr 9 introduced Hannah Kitteh to the delights of Pokemon

 Our foster kitteh Russy finally began to accept us as his temporary family, and wasted no time making himself at home.

 The kids spent hours doing science experiments. (And I spent hours supervising them)!

 Polly Pig, our foster guinea pig, was the recipient of endless pampering, including baths and grooming sessions.

Miss 7 lost a tooth, just as she was about to bite into her lunch at a suburban supermarket

We took a last-minute break via http://www.wotif.com/ and ended up at Jupiters Hotel and Casino on the Gold Coast. Initially I worried it may be an odd venue for a family holiday, but it was awesome. The kids loved the practically deserted pool, and made the most of it. This was taken on probably the last really nice day before the horrid weather set in.

Hannah Kitteh eschewed all her expensive toys for an old cardboard box. (Yes, my cat likes to play in boxes).


We took the obligatory school holiday trip to the Queensland Museum, at South Bank, Brisbane. (Before the floods obviously. The museum is currently closed until further notice. Sad.)

As well, there was the annual Christmas holiday trip to visit my parents, sister and family in the South Burnett. And it just wouldn't be cricket without a backyard game of, erm, cricket!

There were a few meals out. This one was at the Queensland Art Gallery, South Bank. Also closed until further notice due to flood damage.

 
Mr 9 used his Christmas money to buy himself a pet finch he named Cynthia.

We were invited to a Christmas party for the polar bears at Sea World on the Gold Coast. Icy presents and all! (This photo courtesy of Sea World media and publicity department)

Readers, what are some of the highlights of your holidays?

Friday, January 14, 2011

Marooned

Bugger it, I tried!
Tried to get to the dentist who is supposed to be working wonders to cure my TMJ. *
Roads cut at every turn.
Tried to get to the medical centre so that I could get the prescription painkillers I need until I get to the curing-TMJ dentist.
Different roads cut at every turn.
(Might I mention my usual GP clinic is completely under water? So I can't even get close to that one).
Tried to get to the nearest pharmacy so I could get the best damn over-the-counter painkillers they have.
You guessed it. Roads cut, traffic jams, people getting antsy and impatient.
Tried to get to the part of Brisbane where I used to live to help friends help clean-up.
No way in or out.
Sigh.
In the end I drove home, and snaffled the last packet of nurofen at our corner shop. Plus paracetamol. The shop was out of fresh milk or I would have grabbed some of that too. The shop owner was cranky because despite being a long-standing customer, the milk company keeps delivering fresh milk to a rival store, even though they can get through to his shop.
I'm not having a whinge for once. I know I'm lucky, so lucky.
But I am trying to show the extent of this disaster in Brisbane.
People can't get to their jobs or appointments; shelves are empty; highways are rivers; elective surgery has been postponed; thousands are still temporarily homeless and when they do return, it will be to a stinking mess.
Weeks and months (some say two years) of cleaning up is just beginning.
And I'm extremely pleased that authorities are doubling the prison time for looting from 5 to 10 years. Selfish unAustralian bastards, may you rot in stinking, disease-carrying flood water hell.

*TMJ is an absolute shit of a problem which in my case, is mostly caused by anxiety from the past when, instead of slapping someone silly, I gritted my teeth and said and did nothing. And then, I would grind and clench my teeth all night because I was so stressed because of the hell I was going through.
Earlier this year, it came to a head, when my dentist found I'd cracked several teeth, such was the fervour of my grinding and clenching, which was done at night when people traditionally deal with stuff that happens during the day. No wonder I had so many bloody nightmares.
And it got really, really painful. I cannot believe the pain of this condition. I have had two babies naturally. I have arthritis. I've had a dysfunctional pelvis (I know), RSI, and fibromyagia. I'm not a wimp and this is bloody painful. (Oh and I have a bulky uterus, but that's another story ...)
A special TMJ dentist was called in by my normal dentist to help, and he made a little thing out of aeroplane window plastic for me to wear at night to stop me grinding and clenching. (Just another good reason not to have a male friend. Not exactly sexy.)
Except that one night I took it out in frustration and flung it across the room and we think perhaps the dog may have eaten it. (Apparently dogs find expensive occlusion devices, as they're called, very tasty). Story of my life right?
I did get some treatment from one of the guys at my fave shopping centre (Mt Ommaney since you ask), and it helped a lot, but of course I can't get there right now.
And I have the number of a great TMJ physio who I will see when the river finally subsides.
Until then, I'm popping painkillers like they are lollies.

Readers, what do you miss most during times like these?
There's a limit of two milk containers per customer.

 Except that there wasn't any ...
 Nurofen, I haz it. The very last pack.
This should keep me going ...

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Crappy New Year

Since my last post, the chaos of the Brisbane floods has meant I've been unable to blog. (And yes, everyone, we are okay; thanks so much for checking up on me!).

And so it has taken me some time to confirm the sad news that Lori's husband Tony has passed away.

I can barely begin to understand what that must feel like and how much strength Lori will need to get through the next few hours, days, weeks, months ...

She will still need money, to help pay for bills and necessities while she works out how to go on from here. But most of all she needs our prayers and/or positive thoughts. Money may be short, but we can all share time to light a candle for Tony and think of Lori as she starts another chapter in her life. And I know comments and support people have given to Lori have helped give her strength when she has needed it most.

Seriously, life is so unfair sometimes.

Here, so many of us kicked 2010 out the door, hoping 2011 would be kinder. It's not been a hopeful start.

Speaking of which, when I get a chance I'll be posting about the devastation which has hit Queensland. I've emerged from it safely, despite some inconvenience, isolation and lack of power; but I'm mostly dry and I'm safe at home. I cannot get to my kids for reassuring cuddles, but they are safe and dry with their Dad; not stuck on a roof somewhere, or being evacuated to an emergency centre. We are among the lucky ones.

My heart bleeds for those who have lost or who are losing everything. As our premier Anna Bligh put it:  Mother Nature unleashed something terrible in Queensland. (And can I mention my admiration for our Premier who has shown herself to be a strong, effective and very human leader during this tragic event).

I've never actually been at the scene of a natural disaster of this scale. The closest I've ever come was arriving in Samoa, a few weeks after the tsunami hit. That was sobering, but it was after the event, and so much of the islands were not damaged and were as beautiful as ever. And the Samoan people were very upbeat about the tragedy and about moving on as quickly as possible.

At home, the fear and devastation of our own natural disaster, has been unbelievable. But so too, has been the courage and mateship.

We may be down, but we'll give it a good Aussie go at getting back on our feet, and into our homes.

Meanwhile, thanks to all for your messages of support and concern.

There are loads of chilling photos available online, so I won't offer mine here.

However, I will include a few from our trip home to Brisbane from the South Burnett, where we had gone to visit family.

Roads were cut for several days, but after a break in the weather and a chat to the local police, we decided to try the most likely route home. We were among the last cars to make it through before the highway was once again closed by raging waters. (And remember, I have a small and low Mitsubishi Lancer, not a 4WD! I took it slowly, and stopped at every town to check that the next path through was safe and clear.)

It's not an experience I would like to repeat any time soon. At this stage, all roads into and out of the area where my family live are still cut. But again, we are all safe. And as anyone who has lost anyone this year for whatever reason: That is the main thing.

 A rainbow after a storm at my sister and brother in law's farm the night before we left for Brisbane.

Miss 7 was desperate to find out what was at the bottom of the rainbow ... I felt it was a ray of hope that things will get better.

This torrent is usually a trickle, often dried up completely, but covered the road for several days.

Along the way ... the waters had receded just enough for us to drive through. (Mr 9 took this photo from the window).

And here. (Miss 7 took the photo).

 I think someone was looking after us that day...

Readers, how are you surviving, and how can we help?

Monday, January 10, 2011

Helping a friend

My non-bloggy, non-tweeting friends often look at me like I have two heads when I talk about why I blog and tweet.
It's hard to explain the friendships I've forged, with people I never would have met 'in real life', via the net.
I'm not talking the falling in love, long-distance relationship with someone you eventually leave your spouse for. (Though I do understand how that happens).
I'm talking friendships with like-minded people. People who are smart and funny, with whom I have loads in common. People who are kind and supportive. People who are parents, or not, People in relationships, or not. People who do what I do, or relate to me. People who take the time to reply to tweets or comment on my blog posts. Sometimes, I've met them in real life, and found them to be just as charming and wonderful as they are online.
Sometimes, due to geography or personal circumstances, we simply 'chat' online. Doesn't make the connection any less.
Right now, one of my blogging sisters needs our help.
Lori, of Random Ramblings Of A Stay At A Home Mum, is currently by her husband Tony's side at the ICU.
Something horrific has happened, and her husband is not expected to survive. Lori is praying for a miracle, and has asked the internet community to do the same.
And we are. The hashtag #prayingforTony has been trending on twitter - to non-tweeters, that means loads of people are talking/tweeting about it and supporting the cause.
A few lovely peeps have even started a campaign for donations - not that Lori has asked for these - so that Lori won't have the added pressure of worrying about bills during this horrendous time.
If you can, spare some loose change - every bit helps - or at least say a prayer. The widget is on the side on my blog.
I have never 'met' Lori in real life, but I've had some wonderful, warm conversations with her. She has given me messages of support and shared her wisdom at times when I've needed it. She has made me laugh and made me cry. She is real and she is in pain.
No offence to real-life friends, but she probably knows more about me than most of them.
At a time when so many people in Australia need our help, thanks to acts of mother nature and God, please spare a moment to think about Lori and pray that her husband survives.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

New year, new life ...

I don't usually make New Year's Resolutions.

Mainly because I tend not to keep them.

But this year, inspired by @bigwordsblog's latest post, I thought I'd join the blog hop.

So New Year's Resoluations/themes for me have to be vaguely achievable. For example: I wouldn't aim to look like Jen Hawkins and have her massive rock, bank balance, and fiance. But I might aim to get fitter and slimmer in a bid to continue my Battle With The Boombah.

And I'm not going to choose obvious ones, like spending more time with my kids. Because that's a given. I'm ALWAYS wanting to spend more time with my kids, and I'm ALWAYS trying to be the best mum possible for them. I love our relationship, and I don't have to aim to work on that, because it's just part of being a mum and a family.

With that in mind, here are my vaguely achievable aims for 2011 ...

Be nice, not a walkover.
During a surreal stay at one of the country's finest mental health institutions at the start of last year, I discovered I had spent most of my life trying to please people. And when people were mean to me or took advantage of me, I would 'turn the other cheek', and let them have another bloody turn at knocking me to the ground.
That hospital stay was possibly one of the best investments I've ever made in my life, because it taught me a lot. Like it's okay to say no; it's perfectly reasonable to expect to be talked to and treated with respect; and it's never okay to be bullied.
I want to continue practising being a good, decent person, but to find my balls and use them whenever the occasion calls for it.

Make my mind up
I've been dithering over whether to give one of the several novels and two non-fiction books I've been playing with a  proper go and getting them to the stage where I can send something to my agent, as I've been promising to for, oh, several years now. But then part of me would like to go back to uni as well, and there is one just around the corner ...
(Please don't say do both, because I won't be able to manage it. Remember: These are vaguely achievable goals, not impossible ones!)
I need to figure it out and get working on it. (At this stage, I think the writing will win, because my characters keep calling me and telling me stuff to write. Either that, or I am going insane!).

Be more patient
With others, with myself, with my kids, with life. I feel like everything takes too long and I don't have enough time to fit in everything I want to achieve.

Live Mindfully
Having done two courses in Mindfulness this year, I practise it regularly, and I've found it invaluable. But I still could do it more, particularly when I'm having a busy and/or stressful day. This isn't airy-fairy hippy stuff either; there is a mountain of proof on how Mindfulness can reduce stress and boost happiness, not to mention 'build' parts of the brain.

Get off my fat arse, and work off my fat arse 
Again, I do a little of this but not enough. I'm aiming to visit the gym at least 4 times a week this year.

Sort my crap out
My office and my inbox are full of things to be filed, discarded, seen to, whatever. I need to deal with stuff as it comes in rather than it build into a hideous pile of overwhelming files.

Become domesticated
(Just a little)
I cook, I clean, I parent and I care for pets, but I don't have that special touch that allows me to put a piece of fabric over a pouffe, chuck a few coloured stones into a vase, or place a jug of iced water on a table, and instantly transform a room into something off a Better Homes and Gardens set. Nor am I prone to making zillion layer cakes, a la Donna Hay.
No, a tidy room, and a one layer cake - okay, two to be fancy - would be fine for me. I want to get closer towards getting there without swearing, burning a finger, or messing up the kitchen.

Lose the guilt
My head knows it's okay to not be able to build Rome (or a tidy house) in a day. To not be young and gorgeous. To say no. To take time out for me occasionally. But I still need to get around to accepting that.

To travel more
I'm a Saggie and love to travel, and I've already gone one certain trip in the diary. But there are a few more I'd love to do, a couple in particular. I don't want to jinx them, but I'm hoping later this year I'll be riding on a big jet plane ...)

So readers, do you make resolutions? And do you want to share them?