Just an ordinary day

As we lay in bed last night, grateful that the day had ended and that it was late enough to justify retiring (9pm – don’t judge me), C and I reflected on our day with the boys. Often we pass the same comments back and forth – ‘What a day!’, ‘Man, I’m glad this day is over,’ ‘It’s so nice to finally be in bed,’ ‘ Tomorrow has to be an improvement right?’

But, in response to another ‘what a day!’ it occurred to me that our day had been a perfectly normal, crazy, upside down, tiring, maddening, fun, joyous and hug-filled day. ‘You know what, today was a totally normal day for us.’ C agreed, ‘Yes, they were so awful and so beautiful.’

I have finally realised, despite the knowledge and faint understanding of Newton’s law of motion, that with the good (necessarily) comes the bad and with the bad, blessedly so, comes the good. One day is never completely awful and neither is any day consistently awesome. Sure, the days often lean towards one or the other but, on the whole, they’re pretty balanced. And that, I’m sure, is the definition of as good as it gets.

On a train into the city to see the Christmas windows yesterday morning, an elderly couple sat opposite us. The boys were very happy to be on a train (they love public transport which shows that we don’t use it enough) and we had just enjoyed pancakes at the markets. The sun was shining and we were doing something new. It was all great. And so were they. I saw them through the eyes of the couple opposite us who commented to each other how sweet the boys were and how well behaved. They were all these things and it was really very nice. I was determined to hold that moment because I need to remember, when things are going awfully wrong, they also have the capacity to go awfully right. So right, in fact, to prompt comment from members of public.

The train trip back was not so pleasant but, given they were all getting tired, not heinous either. However, I just knew that it was the foreshadowing of something to come. And come it did, a complete melt down by all in the park and a quick removal home to bed as punishment (and our hope of a well needed sleep). This moment was bad, really bad. Violence, awful behaviour, rudeness and meanness to each other.

But this is the ebb and flow right? You simply can’t have one without the other and my awareness and true acceptance of this has made things a far sight easier. So, this morning, after we were all woken by Lbaby at 4.30am and most of us failed to go back to sleep, we made a totally failed attempt to go to the local street fair. It was terrible in all senses of the word but we just came home and everything settled down and I know, writing this as all my babies enjoy a sleep, that this afternoon will bring something else entirely. Karma or Newton would say it has be better than this morning, just to balance everything out. Maybe it won’t be. But I know we’ll get another glorious moment all together soon. Maybe that moment will be big and we’ll enjoy belly-shaking laughs and bear hugs. Or, maybe, that moment will be small, closing the storybook at bed time and leaning in for a kiss, or rubbing a baby dry after his bath. Whatever it is, it is a moment not to be lost or forgotten. It is what it is but it is mine and I must hold it. Always.

 

7 tips when moving with children

We have moved and it was fine and it it’s even finer being in our new house but I’m afraid TPG just don’t share our enthusiasm and have decided to leave us without internet for 3 weeks. Ho hum.

Which means it’s pretty hard for me to find time to sit in an internet cafe updating this lovely blog.

But, I have a little bit of time now and I wanted to share with you some tips I’ve learnt when it comes to moving house with children.

1. Make sure all children are in some kind of offsite care on the day you move. We managed to get the youngest two into daycare for the day and the Abomb would have been in school if the teachers hadn’t decided it would be a good day to strike here in NSW. It was hard, even though he’s five and pretty mature. He was not remotely excited and insisted on playing with all the toys that were packed neatly away in sealed boxes. When told this was impossible, he resorted to a series of tantrums that we just didn’t need. We had to find a way of occupying him which meant we lost a very helpful pair of hands in my mother for some of the day.

2. Pack their toys at the last minute. It means they always having something to occupy them and you avoid the tantrums mentioned above. I also found that playing with their toys lessened their disorientation with the move significantly. Interestingly, this disorientation has been quite marked but I’ll chat about that later.

3. Give ‘housewarming’ presents. We promised the boys housewarming presents and, though I hate to admit it, they proved very effective leverages when it came to behaviour control, both in the lead up to the move and especially on moving day. We bought them each a toy and for the Abomb, we made sure it was Lego so he actually had something to occupy himself with as we unpacked. Sdash is a bit small for Lego but his present we knew would occupy him equally, and it did. So the purpose of these presents were two fold, well three fold because we did want them to feel excited about the whole thing as well. They worked a treat.

4. Don’t be too firm about the normal routines. We found letting things flow a bit on the first couple of days was much better. Of course, they still had dinner and baths but we were more relaxed about bed time, how much TV was watched, what they wore (Sdash insisted on wearing his pyjamas all day and then sleeping in his jeans and T-shirt), what they ate (there were sausages two nights in a row) and what they played with. I found that after 2 days, they were keen to revert back to our normal evening and morning routines and this flowed nicely.

I felt very much that it was important to avoid any conflict because I knew they were feeling disorientated and this would have been made worse if I was unnecessarily unyielding about certain things.

5. Avoid conflict. See point above. I really found this helped. It’s so easy to get frustrated and then angry when you’re going through the stress of a move (at least for me) so I had to work hard to avoid this. And while this meant the Abomb enjoyed a strawberry milkshake at quarter past 8 in the morning, so be it. He felt kind of validated and therefore more in control.

6. Have snacks handy. This seems self-evident and I did think about this in my preparation for the move but at the last minute I completely forgot and it was frustrating to keep saying that they couldn’t eat something because we needed to go shopping. Our snacks are pretty healthy so I would also include a couple of ‘treats’ (eg. Tiny Teddies) for them to enjoy.

7. Don’t forget about the children. It’s was so easy in the chaos of the move to forget about the boys and their needs. Just because they’re in front of the television doesn’t mean that they are taken care of in any meaningful sense. I found we got easily frustrated when we’d put on a movie and then they’d keep on with their requests for food or jumpers or cups of milk. Taking 15 minutes to talk to them and even play with them made a huge difference in how comfortable they felt with it all.

Have you got any other tips to add? It would be great to share them.

 

Book buzz: Alfie and the Big Boys

I’m a HUGE Shirley Hughes fan. So is my mother-in-law, which is great because it means between the two of us we’ve managed to collect almost all of her books.

I’ll say here that my boys have never responded quite so enthusiastically to her books as both of us would have hoped. We’ve read them a few times and they enjoy it but they never ask for them again. They are usually only read with my prompting. As a kid, I would lose myself in her illustrations and I hoped that my children would as well.

But recently, we found a new and unknown Alfie book at the library. The Abomb wasn’t with me but when I flicked through it, I saw it was about Alfie starting school so I thought it he might get something out of it.

Since borrowing it Friday week ago, this book has now been read a total of 33 times (to the point where I am almost sick of it, which is saying something when it’s a Hughes’ book). The Abomb loves it.

The book is a very subtle examination of young boys’ behaviour: their propensity to form groups, they’re simultaneous fear and respect of each other, their rough play and their gentleness. And the issue of bullying is given deft touch as it is explored in a refreshing way.

I get somewhat overwhelmed by the constant conversation around bullying. I fear far more that the Abomb may bully than he be bullied. I loathe bullying behaviour. It turns my stomach and is extremely frightening to watch, let alone be the receiver of it. But I also worry that what has traditionally been normal child behaviour (perhaps competitive and even combative, especially for boys) is now labelled bullying and children are being typecast as bullies when they are actually acting out normal, natural impulses to play ‘rough’ or form groups of allies or compete with each other.

I know it’s a fine line and conversations around bullying have to be extremely considered. But, I’ve been a teacher. I believe I can recognise true bullying. I was also always quick to act on it if I felt I saw it. I’d like to be remembered as one of those teachers who actually did something about it.

But, what I love about this book (and obviously the Abomb is getting something out of it given how many times he’s asked for it to be read) is that Hughes looks at the behaviour of young boys, sometimes rough, sometimes a bit frightening, sometimes awesome, sometimes sensitive, as just that. Behaviour. Nothing judgemental about it. She shows us that these children, all children, are just children with contradictory impulses given the situation they are in. She shows little boys enjoying being rough as they also enjoy playing dolls. She shows us a leader of a gang who is both admired and feared but who is also just a little kid trying to make his way in the world. She portrays the intentions (which are mostly benign) of these little boys rather than simply portraying and judging their behaviour.

I highly recommend it for all kids but, especially those parents of little boys, read it with your sons.

What are your current kids books recommendations? Please share!

 

 

What I learnt

 

It’s strange that a change of place; a change of timing; a change of psychic space can totally shift one’s perspective. Amazing that it takes such a change for one to be able to see with new eyes. And these eyes seemed to have given me an ‘aha’ moment, like that moment when you see the 3D visual for all that trying.

We have been away for 5 days over the Easter weekend, down south in country Victoria with picture-perfect days of sunshine, a kaleidoscope of coloured trees and green fields. The boys spent their days outside learning to ride bikes, building a dinosaur cave, painting, playing kids golf, kicking the soccer ball, swinging, sliding and generally rejoicing in Mother Earth so completely at their disposal.

We live in the middle of Australia’s largest city, a city increasingly unaffordable and undesirable for young families. Yes, it has beautiful beaches and a harbour like no other, but these things are not near where we live (because we choose to live somewhere which has a community that shares our values) and to access them takes a lot of time and traffic headache. This, together with the fact that three small children pretty much exclude us completely from the artistic and culinary buzz this city possesses, means that the inner-city life is getting tired.

The Abomb did not want to leave the country this morning. We drove out before the sun had risen. Fog lay sleepily across the paddocks as the first rays of sun caressed the gumtrees and frosted grasses. And you know what, neither did I.

We can’t raise 3 boys in the middle of this city. I don’t know that it’s conducive to raising my inner self, or my relationship to be honest.

So, we’re thinking about an alternative. Not too many options available to us but some definitely feel better than others.

I want out. And we all want in to somewhere that makes us just a little bit happier.

An apology

For my absence.

5 beautiful days in the country with the boys’ grandmother rendered me unable to post. And you know what, it was kind of nice. I’ve had so much inspiration for the blog and so many posts have already written themselves in my mind. Sometimes, suspended time and another place are the best ingredients for inspiration.

Here is us over the last few days.

I’ll be back so soon with so much more.

Family fable: 6 things to help Mother Earth

In the lead up to Earth Hour on 26 March 2011

Let us a little permit Nature to take her own way; she better understands her own affairs than we.  ~Michel de Montaigne, translated

I’m pretty damn conscious of environmentally friendly living. But unfortunately, I’m no poster girl for the environmental future. I’m well aware of what I should be doing but there’s a sizeable gap between this and my ecological reality.

There are a few environmentally friendly things I do try and do consistently however. Things I try not to negotiate. I find that if I commit to these things, then adding other ecological efforts (small and big) into our day or our week or our year is much easier. I may not be as consistent with these other efforts but slowly I find myself adding them to my list of ‘non-negotiables’. I’m hoping in a couple of years I can feel confident that our carbon footprint is more of a gentle impression than a firm fixture.

1. Recycling – I’m a stickler for using our recycling system. I make sure that every item is in the correct bin and have been known to go through the rubbish in search of a renegade bottle or tin.

2. Cloth nappies – I’ve used cloth nappies with each of the boys. Their use has grown in momentum over the years. For the first, it was casual. For the second, more part-time and now, with Lbaby, we use cloth nappies all the time. Of course it’s easier now because I do at least one load of laundry a day. In fact, I find using cloth nappies as easy as pie. These are the ones I use. I was given some and others I researched and love. They all work well for us.

3. Environmentally-friendly cleaning products – I make my own washing powder using this recipe. I use bicarb and vinegar instead of multipurpose cleaner. In fact, I use vinegar to clean most things around the house. It works a dream. I also make my own floor cleaner (recipe here). When I find I do have to buy cleaning products, I make sure they are truly ecologically sound even if they are double the price of other brands. We have cleaners who come every two weeks and I am going to start asking them to use the cleaning products I have.

4. Weekly shop at the farmers market – we have a fantastic farmers market every Saturday which is close by. The boys love our Saturday morning ritual of free range bacon and egg rolls with organic juice. Usually there are a few trains taken to play with as mummy and daddy enjoy a coffee and bagel. Importantly, though, I do our fruit and veg shop here. Whether it’s organic or not, the produce is grown locally and each store must comply with certain farming methods in order to be able to sell at the markets.

5. Green energy – we have opted for the 100% green alternative in energy sources.

6. Carbon offset flights – this doesn’t seem a big deal but we fly to Victoria a lot because of C’s family so it adds up.

I find with each of these 6 things I am able to balance their financial commitment with their ecological benefit. This works for us at the moment. But, there are many more things I’d like to be doing. I feel too time and money poor for most of them right now but I know I need to do more research to find more viable options. For example:

- ecological toys

- recycled or handmade clothing

-making more of our own food like bread, pasta etc

- growing our own food (we have not a garden to speak of but I know this shouldn’t preclude our food growing efforts)

What are the ‘non-negotiable’ green options for you at the moment? Have you had any success with those things on my wish list?