Tuesday, 26 March 2013

Fostering sibling unrivalry.

One of many, many 3 Christensen shots.  
At school today at drop off, Josh and Issy gave each other enormous goodbye hugs causing one of the Admin ladies to melt as she walked past.

They often do this, to Sarah especially if she is leaving early for dance or band.  Sarah's response to last minute affection is variable, but mostly positive, it depends on how late she is running.

When Sarah is at a sleepover, the other two comment frequently on how they miss her.  We call it the 'Sarah shaped hole' in the house.  It applies to any family member who is missing for a lengthy period of time.

For example, Mike has left a 'Daddy shaped hole' for the last 5 days as he has been whooping it up in Hong Kong.  He is due back this evening.  What's left of him.

Sorry, got distracted.

I am frequently amazed by how much I love my kids.  Every bit of them, all the time, no matter how heinous their behaviour.  You know the drill.

I am even more amazed at how much they love each other.  Mike and I wanted to have them but they didn't ASK to be siblings.  But they really seem to like each other.

Of course they fight, horribly and often.  And then they play, loudly and messily.  But their love for one another is deep and (I hope with all my heart) unbreakable.

This is our job, Mike's and mine, I think, to make it so.  

At the Show on Sunday, the rides were populated with siblings.  The show is a bit of a family thing, and I would be reluctant to take anyone else's kids in case I lost them.  I'm not averse to going with another family of course (any takers for two years time?).

So there were lots of little people, hands held tightly by similarly featured slightly bigger people, being funnelled onto rides and off again.  Lots of parents around the perimeter taking photos.   The bigger kids were gentle, considerate and very responsible.  Some of them were no more than 6 or 7 olds leading 3 year olds.  Tiny kids, both of them.  But the little one would tag along faithfully, trusting their big brother or sister to keep them safe.

And all the parents watching would do lots of that kind of waving you do when your kid is on a rotating ride.

WAVE...wait...wait...wait...SMILE and WAVE...wait...wait...wait...WAVE and SMILE...wait...wait...wait...WAVE and blow kisses...etc.

These siblings, they were everywhere.  Some were dressed the same (I have an issue with this but I know some people love doing it).  Some just had the same hats or exactly the same eyes.

  "I so deserve this adoration", she thinks. 
Mine of course, look like they were cut from the same cookie cutter.  No mistaking a Christensen.

Your sibling relationships are fundamental to your life.  Your siblings impact on your self esteem, your tolerance of others, your compassion, your ability to share, even sleep.

I am a hopeless sharer.  I grew up as essentially an only child (4 siblings at least 10 years older).  I never had to share.  Now I am a grown woman who always wants her own meal/room/bed/suitcase/headspace.  Can't share.  

As I parent these three I realise I'm not just parenting them as individuals, but as an ever evolving combination of three separate souls, brought together by chance, bound together forever.

None of them can remember life without the other two.  They are already better sharers than me.

Sharing a Christmas moment. 
When they grow up, they will need to lean on each other, depend on each other.  Mike and I won't always be there, and even if we are, we may not be the right person to help.

So far they love each other.  My goal (and Mike's) is to make sure they continue to do so.  I know tougher times are ahead and they may go through stages which are less than harmonious.  I hope we can come through them as a tight family unit.

Sunday, 24 March 2013

A bunch of Showponies.

Every second year we go to the Show.  Because going every year is unthinkable.  Even every second year seems to come around far too quickly.  

We first went the year Sarah was nearly 4 and Josh nearly 2.  We went to the kids rides section and every ride she went on, he went on.  If she loved it, he loved it.  She was like his fun barometer.  

Two Dora the Explorer bags later and a few baby animals and we were done.  

These days they're much more picky about their ride choices. They have to be a bit scary. And Issy won't go on anything.  Or very little.  She is very selective.  

That's them, in the distance, on a mad pirate ship. 
We made an early start, having only 4 hours to spend.  
Ready for action.  9:02am.
Straight to the rides, so I didn't get nagged for them while we did the animals.  

Issy, on one of the two rides she considered suitable.  
Even I went on this one. No idea what it was called.  It had lots of tricky floors that twisted and spun and went up and down.  

We got ripped off on a duck catching game, and then on a fish catching one.   That's $20 I'll never see again.

We went to pat baby animals.  Issy and I both learned why it's not advisable to wear thongs to the Show.  All that sawdust.  I can only imagine what it's soaked up.   

Yuck.  Just...yuck. 
We also learned that some kids really don't like animal nurseries.  Like, REALLY.  So much screaming.  So many parents still trying to get them to pat a goat, when they are hysterical with fear.  Laughing even, like watching their kids in utter terror is funny.  It's a weird world.  

We saw the big dome with the fresh produce.  We saw cake decorating and photos and paintings.  Not enough time spent anywhere due to our time constraints.  Last of all was a showbag each.  The girls both got sunglasses in theirs.  

Loving themselves sick.  
It was a bit of a rush.  And it was very hot.  But we've done it.  And everyone's happy.  Tick that box.

Thursday, 21 March 2013

I am helicopter parent. And band parent. Oh many hats.

Bearsy.  Bless him.  He's a bit worn.  
Part 1: My Helicopter Mummy Moment.

Josh wants to take his favourite (only ever) sleeping toy "Bearsy" for news (he has to take a special artefact and Bearsy is the most precious thing he owns).  I am worried for Bearsy, just in case he is not treated with the respect he deserves, long suffering and loyal friend that he is.

Because he's a stuffed toy, and in some 7 year old boy circles, stuffed toys aren't cool.  Neither, apparently is holding your Mum's hand at school.  Heavy sigh.

I know most of the kids will understand the importance of a Bearsy and treat him with respect, but we only have one of him, despite my best efforts to buy/order several (hundred).

And he is in the appalling condition that can only come with 7 years of constant attachment so a new Bearsy just wouldn't cut it.  And he's a bit fragile.

So I've made a big decision, which goes completely against my parenting tenets.  I am going to helicopter parent for this one, I'm taking Bearsy up to school for news at 11, and I'm taking him home straight after.

Because if that bear gets lost I don't think Joshie or I will be able to cope.

In better days, with my Mum.  Josh is 18 months in this pictures, so Bearsy has been around a while.  
I am helicopter.  Just for tomorrow.  Just for half an hour.  Forgive me.

Part 2: A few notes from senior band (pun fully intended).

Wednesday is the morning I supervise senior band practise.  Because I share the role of Senior Band Coordinator.  Because I am mad.  And very fond of the person who asked me to share the job with her so I was never going to say no.  And it's not bad fun really.

So, each Wednesday I get all three kids up, dressed and breakfasted and we walk out the door at 7:30.  I am getting better at this and am becoming slightly less shouty about it which is much nicer for us all.

Senior band is not very senior.  It's just more senior than junior band.  The musicians are aged between 8 and 10 and they behave accordingly.

Some of them are impeccable, some are appalling, and the vast majority sit on the bell curve in between.  

For example.

I know a clarinet is roughly the same size as a gun.  It's long and fits nicely on the shoulder.  But it is not a gun.  It is a musical instrument.  An instrument of peace if you will.

But I know you will try and use it like a bazooka because you are a boy and you are 9.  And I'm saying it here and not at band practise because I understand the futility of what I'm faced with.

The same goes for a flute, while we're at it.  Not. A. Gun.

You cannot play an instrument while you are facing the row behind you, talking to your friends.  The same goes for the kids you're talking to, because you're playing woodwind and brass which need your mouths to operate.

I would love to say this to them, but I can't get in there because they are right in the middle of the band and to continually admonish would disrupt everything (which is already being disrupted).

Sometimes I stand, like a malevolent ghost, just behind the incorrigible talkers.  But as they are incorrigible, it makes little difference.

Standing near the door at pack up time prevents quite a bit of child leakage as those who feel it is not their job to pack up the band cannot escape.  They then out manoeuvre me by taking an excruciatingly long time to pack up their instruments, finishing just as the last chairs are packed away.

They are clever little tykes.  And I admire that.  They will go far in life.  They're just not going out of the hall a minute before I am willing to let them.

I don't care how cool your bass guitar sounds, please don't strum it when the conductor is talking.  Just don't.  Please.  

And finally, when the talkers stop talking and the weapon masters use their instruments for the purpose they were intended and the bass guitarist plays with the rest of the band, they are sounding PHENOMENAL.

There's talent in that there band I tell you.  

Wednesday, 20 March 2013

The fictional rabbit and the real man in the red suit.

Today we had "the conversation".

Not the one about the birds and the bees.

The other one.

It all started when Josh decided at dinner to mention, casually, he'd stopped believing in the Easter Bunny.  I shut him down quickly, given the presence of one fully believing 5 year old at the table.

We took it to the spare room.

He sat on my lap and told me how he didn't see how a big bunny could possibly jump all over the world handing out chocolate eggs.  

It didn't make sense to him.  And he's right.  It doesn't make sense.  Especially to a hard line practical fellow like Josh.

So I told him the truth.  And he was fine with it.

He is sworn to secrecy.

And as he hopped off my lap, and ran off, he told me he definitely still believed in Santa.  Santa, apparently is an entirely credible concept and an all round great bloke.  Fantastic.

Off he ran, seeing nothing at all bizarre in his imaginary creature belief system.  

Next Sarah followed me out to the balcony and told me frankly, that since I left a Book Depository UK receipt in her book from 'Santa' and told her I'd made a mistake giving her Red Dog because it was too sad (I should have said Santa made a mistake), she'd had her suspicions.

I'd make a terrible spy wouldn't I?  Can't keep my story straight.

Then she said she thought maybe the EB was real and was sitting on the fence about him for now.

Okayyy.  That makes total sense.

Now I just have to remember who remembers what.

I never thought it was possible to believe in one of these concepts and not the other.  Yet two of my kids are giving it a red hot go.  And I know I'm not alone.  For many kids the 'believe' to 'non believe' journey is far from linear.

For example, a dear friend of mine told me her son believed in Santa for an entire year longer than his twin brother, because he could not get his head around the idea of all the parents in the world getting their act together to give all those presents on the same night.

It was much easier to believe that one fat guy from the North Pole and 12 flying reindeer could do it all instead.

Come to think of it, all that coordination is kind of amazing.  No matter who does it.

Tuesday, 19 March 2013

How old is too old for an Easter hat parade?

Josh is too old for Easter hat parades.

Much too old.

He doesn't want to be in the parade.

And yet, at our school, it's for kids in K-2.  And he's in year 2.  Suck it up mate.

I'd feel a little sentimental about his last year if he wasn't so desperate for it to be over.

So, armed with my note of suggested hat decorations (which has been the same since forever as far as I know-feathers, colours cotton balls, easter chicks, no chocolate), I hit the two dollar shop.

One of my favourite bloggers, Mrs Woog, has written about her own experience with Easter Hat making.  Her kids aren't nearly as cynical as mine, and armed with a glue gun, she manages to produce prize winning creations.  

She made something amazing for her older son out of a sombrero.  So I bought Josh a sombrero, thinking something big and funny might bring him round.  He was unimpressed.

The rejected sombrero.  Waiting for a Mexican party.  
So I bought him a black trilby.  See top right of photo.  Luckily for me he has embraced the trilby and selected a bag of little yellow eggs he can tie to it, and a large amount of shredded yellow paper.   

Luckily also for me, two dollar shops have an amazing selection of hats.  Fancy a cowboy style, it's there, thinking of a top hat, it's yours.  Trilby and sombrero?  Piece of cake. 

Issy is fully into the whole thing, as indeed a Kindy kid should be.  She is beyond excited to be allowed to redecorate Sarah's old hat and I have bought her an enormous amount of crap to put on it.  

The accepted trilby.  And the recycled Sarah hat.  And the crap. 
I also bought a black boa, which I thought Josh could use to enhance his black hat, in order to create a kind of cynical, ironic anti Easter hat.  He rejected that too.  Issy has commandeered it for her dress up box.  What I want to know is, how did she know how to strike a 'boa' pose for the photo.

Check out the 'tude and the toe point.  What's with that?  
After everyone had selected their hats, perused their hat toppings and everything was put into plastic bags for the trip to school, I sat at the computer to look up ticket prices for the Easter Show.

Issy came and asked me what I was doing.  I told her I was buying Easter Show tickets.  She was very impressed I was paying so much money to watch her Easter hat parade.  And when I told her there were 110 tickets in the prepaid rides voucher, she wanted to know who the other 109 people were who were coming to watch her and Josh.

It took a while to explain my way out of that one.  And my plan of surprising them with the Easter Show trip is in tatters.

And it'll be just me watching them parade in their black and white hats.  Free of charge.  

Monday, 18 March 2013

Doing stuff vs writing stuff.

If I'm working, I feel like I should be doing housework.

If I'm doing housework, I feel like I should be doing stuff with the kids.

If I do stuff with the kids I feel worried I'm not doing any work.

The work guilt has been slightly alleviated by my starting a part time 'real' job, but I still feel guilt for not doing more of my own freelance stuff, or pushing on with some creative projects.  Or marketing myself.  Or writing more, on serious, meaningful subjects.  Doing all the stuff the blogs I subscribe to tell me I should be doing.

They're right.  I should be doing it.  But mostly I don't.

Lack of time, lack of confidence, lack of brains?  Too many excuses?

I've got a massive renovation coming up.  Writing might just have to take a back seat while I sort out where our stuff is going, where we're going, where new light switches are going, where all the money is going.

Maybe I'm just too busy.  I feel like I'm always doing running around like a demented rodent.  There's always several other tasks needing to be done on top of the one I'm doing now.  (As I write, there's a load of clean washing in the machine that's been there since last night- methinks there's a rewash in my future).  It's very easy not to write anything at all and instead spend my time doing other stuff, like helping with homework, watching soccer training, buying birthday presents and all the random bits and pieces that make up our life.

In fact, I am a pro at not writing.  It's a bit like painting, where you spend hours cleaning the walls, prepping the surfaces, and applying undercoat, before you can finally start on your chosen colour.

Incidentally, the one and only time Mike and I painted anything (the large, new main room of our first house in Balmain), I cried as the first coat of paint went on.  I hated it the colour.  

I guess I'm scared I'll hate what I write.  If it's just my own stuff, and not that which has been commissioned or requested by a client.

But I got used to the paint at Balmain, and maybe I can get used to my own writing too.

If I'm not hanging out here as much, it might be because I'm writing something...else.

Sunday, 17 March 2013

Truisms of a weekend away

1.  The eating.
Weekends away are rare in my life.  And I'm a firm believer in making the most of the time spent away, with friends and family.  For me, this is heavily related to mealtimes.  I love nothing more than to wake in my short term bed, in my (hopefully) charming accommodation and think about all the yummy things I'm going to eat that day.  Because I'm on holiday, and it's special.  So that might mean three quite hefty meals, and a few snacks.  Two coffees.  Not to mention 5pm nibblies.  Which brings me to number 2.

2.  The drinking.
What would a weekend away be without a few drinks with friends?  Especially now Febfast is long gone.  Together this weekend, we shared a few bottles.  There were 10 adults, so one bottle of wine didn't go very far, leading to many trips to the recycling bin. Almost every weekend away I go on, we settle in at about 5pm for drinks and nibbles.   Because it's special.  And then we might have a few at dinner.  Perhaps a dessert wine?  I know it's not good for me.  But I cannot lie, it was loads of fun.  And yes I'm very stupid.  And red wine is evil.

3.  The kids.
Apart from the excitement of bag packing (Sarah brought 5 pairs of shorts and 3 pairs of long pants for 4 days), the foreign location (including long car or plane trip), the exploration of new digs and discovery of new/old friends, the kids just love a bit of a weekend away.  This weekend, they went nuts, playing for hours together, at the beach, on a long walk, back at the accommodation.  When the weather went bad, they all lay on each other like a litter of puppies and watched movies.  They built a cubby house.  They had pillow fights.  They got on like a house on fire.  Which leads me to point 4.

10 years ago. Spot the Sarah.  Extra points if you spot the duck. 
4.  The relaxed parenting.
I am a lazy parent at the best of times.  Therefore on a weekend away, I am almost catatonic.  I cannot tell you if they bathed.  I know they ate, but mainly meat and carbs, and chips, and chocolate.  I would occasionally see them, but they weren't the slightest bit interested in me apart from as a source of food or something they had lost.  Joshie hurt his foot and needed some TLC.  I threw them a bit of cereal each morning, and gave them a cuddle when I saw them.  They came and found me when they needed me.  But mostly they didn't have the slightest interest in me or Mike.  Not when there were 4 other families worth of kids to play with.

5. How fast it goes.
A weekend away is, by definition, only 2 days.  Ours was extended for two days of driving ridiculous distances and yet still it flew.  Friday we spent almost the whole day outside, taking the kids to the beach, walking around the town, and finished with a long dinner at a waterfront restaurant.  Then yesterday at about one o'clock we settled in around the big table having a chat.  It was rainy and a bit windy and we saw no reason to leave our comfortable position.  Eight hours later, we were still there.  Sure, there'd been a few journeys to the IGA, the chemist and the Thai restaurant in nearby Ocean Grove, but our fundamental position remained unchanged.  We did make a move to the couches when a talented husband built a fire (it was very slightly chilly).  Those hours flew, full of lots of laughter, subject hopping, discussions, and reminiscing.

6. How nice it is to be home.
I'm on my couch.  In my house.  The wind is having a bit of a howl outside.  The unpacking is done, although unfortunately not the washing.  We are home.  We had a ball.  All is well.

Thursday, 14 March 2013

The driving force.

Today was long.  But it had a good ending.  We got here, and it's beautiful.

The enormous scroll.  
Josh started the day with a vegemite scroll, which was, in his words, as big as his face.

We drove and drove, and eventually reached the countryside.

Issy shouted out 'SHEEP!".  But actually it was cows.  

That was a bit embarrassing.

Josh got a sore neck.  I was worried for a a half second until I realised how many hours he'd spent bent over his ipod. 

I thought Mike's bike was about to fall off the bike rack.  I stopped to check.  It was fine.  And it stayed on.

Stephen Fry talked us through the last 5 chapters of Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban.

Someone decided today was a good day to transport a house from Holbrook (just north of Albury) to somewhere south of Albury (which is the same way we were going).  

The submarine at Holbrook.  With added Christensen goodness.
Luckily they pulled over periodically to allow the enormous build up of traffic to get past.  

A house I tell you.  An entire house.  It was MASSIVE.  Took up both lanes.  Entirely.  

McDonalds.  Of course.  Sadly.

And Easter Eggs, and Twisties.  And Coke Zero.  Don't forget, anything eaten in a car on a road trip is non calorific.  It's just a fact of life.

The DVD player started playing up, so we let Stephen Fry talk to us some more.  This time about the Goblet of Fire.

We arrived to find our accommodation neat and tidy, with a delightful ambience.

We walked to pizza.  Which was delicious.

The kids sussed each other out.  They found each other most satisfactory.

I caught up with people I love.  It was grand.

Wednesday, 13 March 2013

On the road again...again

I think I'm beginning to be an incorrigible traveller.

I keep driving my kids up and down the Australian East coast.

I know it's mad.  But I keep doing it.

Tomorrow we head south.  In an (possibly useless) attempt to save money, I am driving my three offspring to Melbourne.  In one day.  Not just Melbourne, Barwon Heads.

You see, we're about to renovate (newsflash!).  And I just couldn't justify airfares for all of us.  But I really wanted to go.  So this was the solution.  It seemed a great idea in November.

Anyway, getting all four of us to the airport, onto a plane and off again is really a drag.  I'd rather drive.

Mike will fly in to Avalon airport on Friday after work and spend just over 24 hours with us before we head north (together) on Sunday.  I call the drive: quality time.

I don't know where Barwon Heads is exactly.  Thanks to one of my Coastrek mates who showed me a map of Port Melbourne on her iphone at dinner last week, I have a rough idea.

And in 24 hours I expect to be there.  Such adventure.

Looks pretty. 
We are meeting Mother's Group for a weekend celebrating the fact that we have nearly 10 years olds and nearly 10 years ago, we had tiny, weeny, unfathomable newborns.

And based on her recent behaviour, mine is still quite unfathomable.  Pre teen hormones anyone?

I have snacks, I have DVDs, I have Harry Potter 3 and 4 read by Stephen Fry.  I have a new song playlist and lots of fruit.  I am not against McDonalds.

I have promised to stop at Holbrook to see the submarine buried in the ground.  I still don't know why it's there.

I may not stop to see the dog on the Tuckerbox but it may just prove irresistible.

We've already been.  Do we have to go again?
Did you know, any food eaten on a roadtrip is non calorific?  Bring on Twisties, Kitkats and various other heinous foodstuffs.

Cheese.  Not chicken. 
See you in Barwon.

Tuesday, 12 March 2013

Time is flying. I am flapping.

My kids are growing up.

Things are getting easier.  Sort of.  And harder.

New stuff is happening and changing, inside their heads and inside mine.

They text me.  If I'm out and they're home.

Sarah knows her library day and does her own hair (mostly).  She is beginning to read Judy Blume books.

When she gets into my lap for a proper cuddle (as she badly needed this morning), she's so long she overflows all over the place.

Josh is appalled because he has to be in the Easter hat parade.  It's just Kindy to Year 2 kids so Sarah is out.  Issy is beside herself with excitement about her first foray into the world of Easter hats, but Josh says he's too old.  He thought so last year too, but this year he's really adamant he's not doing it.

I told him I'd buy him a cool black sombrero.  I told him he'd be able to make something really cool.  And manly.  He's not convinced.

As far as I know, if you're in K-2, participation in the parade is compulsory.  And I'll be there to watch him.  Because it's Grandparents Day and I'm the token Grandparent.  Now with three classrooms to visit in 30 minutes.

I remember Sarah's first Easter parade.  She was so proud.  With eggs dangling from her straw hat like corks on a swagman's.  She's not cynical.

There she is.  So totally cute.  She fit in my lap back then too.  
Josh is starting to let my hand go as we approach the school.  He sort of rubs his head on me instead.  

Issy goes off on playdates to her new school friends houses.  I don't know them terribly well yet and  I'm worried she's not an easygoing guest.   That she continually asks for food, and says annoying things like 'the guest should get the best' (which is our rule at home but may not be other people's).

She is too small for Sarah's old winter school uniforms.  So I've given Sarah's away and called in the size 4 and 5s from a kind friend.  Check out the size 4.  

Small in body but her mind has teenager qualities already.

The passing of time is inevitable and uncontrollable.  But I'm struggling.  Each day is a battle to get through what must be done.  Each week is a series of goals and deadlines and obligations.

Right now, there's no stopping, no rose smelling.

It's fun, it's positive and constructive, but time is passing too quickly.  I feel like I'm missing my own kids, even though I'm with them every day.

At least, on Thursday, we're spending all day in the car together.   That should get me over any foolish sentimentality.

Sunday, 10 March 2013

When too much sport is totally enough.

Once upon a time when the kids were younger, we dreamed of the day when they would be old enough to join a sporting team.  For Sarah I nurtured vague dreams of netball (although my own experiences as a child were less than fond), and of course, Josh was destined for the rugby field from the second his father saw his defining feature at birth.

Luckily for Mike Josh loves rugby with all the passion the only son of a rugby tragic, himself the only son of another equal tragic, can.

Yep, it's just luck.

Josh started rugby when he was 4.  In his last year of preschool.  He did under 6s twice.  We were so excited to be beginning the Saturday sport slog, we didn't even wait for him to be the right age.

What utter idiocy.

Sarah's tried soccer (a lot of eager running, no ball connection whatsoever), then netball (gorgeous team, she loved it even if she isn't quite a natural).  And so for two years we've done an entire season with two kids doing sport in different places at roughly the same time, and one car.

This year it ramps up.  Issy has joined a soccer team.  She is an under 6 Unicorn.  She has cute boots.

The shoes.  Pink yes? 
Three kids, three sports, three times, locations and one car.  It's going to be an interesting winter.

So yesterday, as a tester for the season ahead we had a day of sport.  The beginning of netball season means lots of grading and development days as the teams are sorted and settled.  The end of tee ball season meant the annual presentation day and end of team get together.

Because we are bonkers, both older kids are doing 'interim' sports for a few weeks.  Josh is in a tennis comp with a short 6 week season, and Sarah is absolutely LOVING an 8 week sailing course with one of her besties.

So yesterday.  We woke up, Sarah at a sleepover at a friends, we had the friends little brother with us for the night.  First we had to swap kids back.  A bit of a chat and we were already running late.

I picked up Sarah's sailing mate and dropped both at sailing

Then we drove to a local park for the Under 6 Unicorns get together/meet and greet.  We came away with a coach, a manager, a training time and location (nearly).  It was a very efficient hour.   I am neither the coach or manager, but a very enthusiastic car pooler for training.

Josh's tennis game was next, the first in three weeks that hadn't been rained out.  We were there on time, and he played his guts out, enjoying a singles win and a doubles draw.  We also enjoyed 2 hours in the hot sun without hats or enough sunscreen, which just shows what parenting tennis amateurs we are.

Issy wangled herself a playdate in a house adjoining the tennis courts and when I went to collect her, was dressed in a leopard print frock with full gothic eye makeup.  She was quite a scary sight and when she refused to come with me, I left her for another hour, because she was so terrifying.

From tennis Josh was ferried straight to a mates for a pre arranged playdate.  Sarah had been returned to us from sailing and had to be readied for her netball development afternoon.  Luckily a friend had offered to drive her.  I rushed her home, dressed, shoed, haired, fingernailed, snacked and of course sunscreened.

Keen as mustard.

Issy was finally retrieved from her friends house and I removed her eye makeup in time for her to receive her next guest, a great friend and little sister of another netball player.  They had maybe half an hour of peaceful play in the house before we were off to the teeball end of season bash.  We collected Josh and set off to our destination, which happened to be part of the same playing fields Sarah was developing her netball skills in.

See you later tee ball, you were fun.
After a very pleasant catch up with our lovely tee ball players and their families including gifts for the tremendous coaches and manager, we settled in for the teeball AGM, at the end of which there would be a trophy for each boy.   Excited by the thought of trophies the boys sat, and were bored to tears for an hour.  I was so bored I left and walked to the netball, where lots of red faced girls ran valiantly around the courts.

Finally, the end.  We retrieved our children, returned our little guest to her parents and headed home.

Totally sported out.  Sailing, soccer, tennis, netball and tee ball.  All in one day.

Anyone else got any mad overcommitment stories to tell?  I'm sure you do.

Thursday, 7 March 2013

Cross dressing dolls and parents acting like teenagers.

 While tidying up the horrendous bomb site that is our playroom (soon to be our master bedroom) on the weekend I discovered Isobel had kindly dressed Barbie and Ken for Mardi Gras.   We don't really talk about Mardi Gras much, apart from admiring all the costumes on the news the next day.  And it was Sunday morning so we hadn't seen the news.  So I'm not sure what prompted her.  Just her own head probably.

Unprompted cross dressing.  Don't they look great?
Yesterday morning this was the view from the park near our house.  Utter stillness and peace.  Oh Coastrek if only it had been thus.  

No rain, no wind, no surf.  Perfect temperature.  Rub it in.
 I have a particularly busy day on Wednesdays.  It starts early and finishes late.  Dinner is often forgotten until dinner time.  Yesterday I made the effort and went to buy some.  Judge me.  I dare you.

No vegetables in sight.  Sue me.
Issy has begun a career in soccer.  She has extremely cute little white boots with pink trim and a new mini soccer ball.  She and Josh went out last night after their carbo loading experience to work off some sugar.  
Nothing like a bit of soccer in your nightie.  
I have also realised I often, rarely sometimes say 'whatever' to my kids.  As in, when Josh is still talking about Skylanders Giants or Trashpacks or handball to me after approximately 10 minutes, I say it.  In exactly that tired tone of voice.  Because I really don't care.  I can't blame them for doing it to me, when I taught them can I?

Last night at swimming Sarah was doing her laps and as she neared the centre of the pool she met her friend going the other way.  They stopped,  embraced and had a quick chit chat before continuing on to their respective ends.  They had just come to swimming together IN THE SAME CAR.  Yet they missed each other enough to have a little pow wow.

Also at swimming, Issy wrote I love you mum with her finger in the air while she was waiting her turn. She can write!  At least, with her finger.  In the air.  And I think that's what she said.

It might have been whatever.

Tuesday, 5 March 2013

My 7 year old: His playground perspective.

Handball, Trashpacks, Minecraft? We don't care, we love him anyway. 
Life surprises me every day.

I'm constantly gobsmacked by our little microcosm of the world.  And my life really is a microcosm.  I don't profess to have many wider world views.  I can't add too much value to the world at large, but I can add loads of value to my kid's world, their experience of it and how they view it.  So that's where I keep my focus.

Until they don't need me anymore...sniff.

Today I've been given a lesson in group dynamics by my 7 year old.

Joshie today gave me an analysis of the groups of kids he sees at school.

He told me how he is in the 'handball' group.  He sits with them at recess, lunch, and plays with them before and after school.  He says there are a few boys in this group who do most of the talking.  And he says he mainly keeps quiet.  He's worried they won't laugh at what he has to say, and he's worried they might just ignore him.

Some friends I reckon.  He says when he plays handball, he does OK, he just doesn't get much of a look in with the talking part.

So I suggested he play with some other kids.  I asked him who else he might hang out with.

He said there's the 'Trash Pack' kids.  Apparently, they all have the latest series of trash packs, the garbage trucks, the street sweepers.  He says he could join them but without the latest series he'd feel unprepared and behind the times.  I asked was he sure they ALL had nothing but the latest series?  He said he was.

Personally I think that's bollocks, knowing how most Mums in my experience feel about spending much money on plastic crap.  I said as much (gently).  He said he'd stick with the handball kids.

There's also the minecraft kids.  They talk up their exploits on Minecraft.  They are apparently really good at it and play it all the time and talk about nothing but Minecraft all lunchtime.   He says he's not as good as them, and he isn't allowed to play it that often (my fault, clearly) and anyway, he reckons they all play it on their computers (I only let him play it on his iPod, when I do allow him).  

I suggested they weren't as good at MC as he thought, knowing as I do many other families share our strict no screen during the week decree.  I thought he might try hanging out with them.  He said he'd stick with the handball kids.

I assume there's also a group of kids who just run around and play tip.  There always is.  I'll ask him about that tomorrow.

I told him if he wasn't happy with the handball boys, or if he felt uncomfortable, he should go and hang with the trash packers or the minecrafters.  Or any other group he could find.   He's named blokes in each one who he likes, and who like him.

But for now, he says he's sticking with handball, except some clown kicked his new Manly Sea Eagles ball into the bushes at lunch and he lost it.  See what I mean? Not so lovely.  He's determined to stick it out though, bless him.

And I thought life was tough at 41.

Monday, 4 March 2013

Miscellaneous First World Concerns

My Worrier For Australia Trophy. 
Now Coastrek is over, I have so much more brain space that was taken up with worrying about how it was going to pan out, would I have enough food/clothes/socks/mental fortitude?

And as you know, the reality was far, far worse than anything I ever imagined, so all that worrying was for nothing.

Now, I have other fish to fry in the worrying department.  I can worry for Australia.

1. I am really worried our birds are a girl and a boy.   I have no idea what to do if one of them lays an egg.  I can't just throw it out after she's gone to so much trouble can I?

By the way, did I mention our birds are called Nibbles and Noodles.  Have you ever heard stupider names for birds in your life?

2. I am worried that Joshie isn't going to get into Aloysius.  Almost as much as I'm worried he is going to get in.

3. I am absolutely terrified I'll be given a start date for the renos and simply won't be ready in time. I have to pack up our entire living floor, retaining the items we will need during our top floor apartment living stage and then remove the unnecessary items from upstairs (like 60 billion toys) and put them in the garage (or, just quietly, in the skip).   We then have to live up there for about 4 months while they destroy and rebuild the middle floor and basement.  Then we move to the middle floor (another worry in waiting) while the top floor is rejiggered.

4. I am worried, every day, that I won't get everyone to where they have to go, and back again, and out again, and back again, with the right equipment, clothing, drink, snack.  This is an ongoing, perennial worry.

5. I am worried my children will reach adulthood without the skills necessary to navigate their way through life.  How many times do I have to remind them to leave the house in the morning with shoes.  Or to remember their lunch?

Are they going to grow up into adults who arrive at work shoeless with no food?

Big worries. HUGE.

Sunday, 3 March 2013

Coastrek: The highs, the lows and the chafing.

Raring to go!  6:55am.
Thank you for reading this, it is very self indulgent.  But I have to download my experience somewhere and so here I am.  
The start.  Our wave.  Palm Beach and Careel Head.  

Of the nearly 13 hours we walked, it was raining for about 9 of them.  It would have been pouring for about 2 of them.  Big drops.  Sometimes horizontal. 

The rest of the time was a sort of uneasy not raining state which could change at any time.  In fact, if a big wind blew and you were on a bush path, the trees threw so much water around it may as well have been raining.  

The wind was pretending to be a hurricane all day, but our path was often sheltered by the varying angles the coastline takes.  When we did come upon an unsheltered spot, we knew we were alive.  

The best part:
The second headland, between Whale and Avalon beach is called Bangally Head.  It consists of about a hundred million vertical steps.  Pure steepness without a break forever.  

We were dreading it.  It was almost the end of us during our last training walk.  

But wait!!  What was the friendly, smiling man standing at the path's entry saying?  

Is it true?  Path closed?  


The torrential cyclonic conditions during the night had rendered parts of this either unsafe, impassable or something.  I don't care.  We didn't have to do it, and were allowed to walk on a road instead.  I know, a road.  

There were plenty more bush paths to come and they weren't closed.  And they weren't pretty.

Every single one was flooded.  Massive pools of water lay in our way.  They stretched the width of the path, and were often several metres long.  We would leap, like (un) surefooted gazelles, from side to side on the path, avoiding these puddles, and ultimately it was completely futile.  

Just one example of what we were dealing with.
Our shoes were soaking.  No matter what we did, we'd eventually misstep and end up with a shoe full of water and mud.  Yet still we tiptoed through the tulips. 

Looking down at Mona Vale Beach.  When we were 3. 

The worst part:
After 12 km at Mona Vale, our gorgeous, beautiful and talented team mate, who shall here only be known as K, had to withdraw due to tonsillitis that refused to play nice.  She had rested all week, she had stuffed herself with antibiotics and vitamins, it wasn't enough.  Normally one tough cookie, she came to a stop on the beach and couldn't take another.  

Our support crew, our fabulous and sensational fourth member whose nearly broken toe prevented her from going further than the first part of Palm Beach (she had known this and made her peace with it) came and rescued us.  She brought coffees and a warm car.  K climbed in and was whisked away from us.  It was a sad moment.  

So then there were two.  For 38km.  If I had to spend 38km on a rainy, windy walk with someone, this chick would have been in my top 3 anyway.  Now she was number 1.  

Now, another good part that makes up for the above sad part:

The awful conditions, combined with a massive tide and huge surf, meant many of the beaches were impassable.  The worst one, Narrabeen/Collaroy is four treacherous kilometres of soft sand and uneven terrain.  It is by far the worst part of the entire 50km, it's worse than Bangally Head and that's saying something.  

If we'd been in the first wave of walkers at 6:30 we would have had to walk it, because the tide wasn't as high when they arrived.  An hour later it was impassable and the powers that be decided, too dangerous for walking on.  

Another VERY exciting moment.  Although we did feel bad for those who went before us.  And I reckon it sapped their energy badly.  As if the horrendous weather wasn't already doing that.  

At Dee Why our stupendous support crew G, met us with hot chips and loads of encouragement.  We changed our socks.  And were amazed by how lovely our feet felt.  This lasted about 5 minutes until we took on the Dee Why Headland and discovered worse puddles than we'd ever seen in our lives.  

By North Head, we were walking straight through puddles.  No longer giving a s**t.  Just trying to get there. 

Another best part:

At Clontarf our gorgeous families and as an added bonus, two girlfriends and their kids came down to wave us on.  It was a badly needed lift.  Seeing them all jumping up and down as they recognised us was a massively excellent moment I won't forget in a hurry.  We had lots of cuddles and love and energy from them.  The energy rush they gave us, helped us get through the final bit of bush between Sandy Bay and The Spit.  

And then there was the chafing!  Oh the chafing.

When you are soaking wet to the skin, your undies are wet too.  And wet clothes cause chafing.  Nearly 13 hours of walking in this state can cause some serious damage.

I call it...the RING OF FIRE!!!

When I showed my husband, the only person in the world who I can show, he was suitably horrified. 

As we approached the finish, I could tell I was not the only competitor suffering from their own ROF.  You can tell by the walk.  It's like trying to walk without moving your legs.  Completely futile, but still you try.  

At 48.5 km we were so exhausted, in pain and stiff we wondered if we could break into a run to save one of our kids.  We decided we'd just shout loudly and break into a fastish shuffle.  

At 49.5km families joined us for the final stretch.   We really needed to be held up at that point so it was lucky they came.  Joshie kept running up and throwing himself on me and I nearly fell over about 5 times.  

My balance was gone, my strength was gone, my will to live was fading.  

For the final steps, C and I held each other up, and crossed the line.  It was over. 

If someone had said, actually let's do the 100km I would have dropped to the ground sobbing.  I have NO IDEA how anyone did 100km.  I couldn't have done 50.1km.  They must have, at the very least, changed into dry undies a few times.  

Ate hot pie, drank one glass of French, went home, had hot bath, attempted a red wine.  Got out of bath, nearly threw up.
The end.  At 19:50.  That's nearly 13 hours. 

Went to bed.