Wednesday, 22 February 2017

Hearing aid



We're at that busy time of the year, where school routines have settled down and sports training has just started up. It's going to be a busy year for us with netball, soccer, swimming and young innovators (coding and computer stuff).

I love the kids to have the opportunity to experience things and discover what talents and passions they may have. I'm also always conscious that they need time to chill out and be bored, because when they get bored and are forced to used their brains this is when they discover the really good bits about themselves.

I don't want the kids to be overloaded with extracurricular activities, as they get worn out enough with school. Still there's always that creeping doubt or guilt or something in the back of my mind "What if they are dancers/cellists/rock climbers and I've never given them the opportunity to discover that?" Oh what a privileged problem to have, I know.

In reality, though, all they really want the most is our time. Just to sit and chat and work the world out. I get that. All any of us really want, at any stage of life, is to have the people who mean the most to us just listen to our thoughts, feelings and dreams. I've been trying to have some time with each of the kids every day to do this. Just chat. Or laugh. Or discuss. Mainly, just to listen. It's so easy to neglect this, when there is so much other stuff that needs to be done, ticked off and crossed out. Or sometimes you're just not in the mood to hear about what Oliver did at morning tea, how this Lego set is awesomeness or how terrible it is that they can't have a playdate every day of the week. The results also mean that the kids are just so much happier and easier to deal with when they've had these chats. These moments to be listened to. When big sister isn't butting in or little brother isn't yelling over the top. When they're more than just one of the kids, battling to be heard.

More and more, I'm beginning to realise that this is how they develop who they are and their place in life. Just as much as joining a team or playing an instrument or perfecting a plie.

My middle girl and I had a conversation the other day about the difference between listening and hearing. We agreed that it's easy to hear anything, but it takes much more to really listen to something or someone. I then realised that my 8-year-old was actually teaching me something.

Having kids is noisy, I know of a dad who wears earplugs just to block out the racket of having kids. I know that I relish the quiet for a few minutes in the morning after the kids have gone and I eat my breakfast between the remnants of bowls of Weet-Bix, toast crumbs and homework sheets. It's so quiet that my ears begin to ring. But when they are here, I need need to make sure at times that I step through that noise and listen to the words. Drown out the "It's not fair!" and listen to the much quieter: "I'm worried that my friends think I'm strange". Hearing the "I don't want to go to bed yet" but listening to the "I'm so happy that I reached next reading level".

Looking back I think there are many times I've heard their words, but probably haven't really listened to them. Often the day becomes an obstacle course, all the traps and hurdles put in front you to dodge and weave, that I'm focusing on the finish line and blocking out everything else. Just trying to reach that moment when I can clock off before it starts again.

The other day on Facebook one of those memories popped up of Lil-lil at one wearing her first pair of proper shoes. I smiled as I remembered how proud she was of those shoes and how she kept lifting her feet up to look at them. It felt like such a short time ago. Then it suddenly hit me, if I fast-forward the same amount of time, she will be an adult. So here and now is the time to both hear and listen.

Image: FreeImages.com/Ian McKend

Tuesday, 21 February 2017

Community centre


I'm not what I would describe as a joiner. I'm much happier hanging out on the periphery, taking in a scene rather than creating it. I don't feel a need to be the centre of attention, in fact I'd much prefer to just bask in reflected glory. Up until recently, this is how I lived my life.

The thing is, this is all well and good if you've put in years of standing on the sidelines. On the sidelines, you'll find likeminded people who you have time and patience to get to know. You can create little routines and slowly build your spot around you. When you're flung into a new place, this isn't possible. Living somewhere where I knew no-one and no-one knew me, meant putting my hand up more times than was comfortable.

Last year was very frustrating, because I kept pushing myself out of my comfort zone to meet people, to build a spot in our community. Time and time again, I felt like just as I pushing through the door it was slamming back in my face. Many, many times I felt completely invisible, just chatting to myself. It was pretty demoralising. I really began to feel that I just didn't fit and possibly might never fit.

If I had put in that much effort in Dubai, I would have been full-blown centre of attention with social dates every day of the week. In Brisbane, loneliness was my constant companion.

This year, all the seeds that I've sown have finally begun to sprout. All the doors that I've pushed are starting to fling open. Volunteering, class parent, tuck shop, organising, helping out, sports teams. All the things that sent shivers up my spine and are so not "me", are now crammed into my day. Yet, slowly, slowly things are beginning to change. I stop for multiple chats on the school run. People thank me for things I have done and ask my opinion on things. When Darbs broke his arm at school, word spread and I had people texting and emailing to see if I needed help. Some of the people I had never met.

Gradually we've become part of the community. We're still the "new" people, but we're not invisible any more. I look at the names scrawled across Darbs' cast, names of people of all ages who've become important in his little life, people who a year ago we didn't know existed. That little symbol alone feels like we're creating something.

It would've been easy for me to not step up. To not fight every part of me that hates volunteering and being "that" mum. With no friends or family around us, we had to make an effort to create our community. It's not just about having people to chat with, it's about having people I can call out to as I'm jumping into the back of an ambulance to look after my older kids and know they'll be OK. People to rely on, when family is 1000km and more away.

As I walked Lil-lil into school late after an appointment this morning, I saw the school principal for the second time that day, he yelled out to me: "Oh my goodness, I'm going to have to start charging you rent!" Still rolling my eyes at his lame joke, we walked into the office to get a late note, which was handed over before Lil could even utter her name. I guess we really are no longer invisible!

Friday, 3 February 2017

Points and dots


  • What a weird week it has been in the news. The old saying: "Truth is stranger than fiction" rings so true at the moment. In between watching the news and watching House of Cards, it's really hard to decipher which one is the fictional TV series. I was talking to an American friend at school drop-off this morning who was about to go for a run and listen to a news podcast and we both decided that it was hard to tell the difference between the real news sites and the satire news sites at the moment. God knows where this will all end up, but buckle up because we're in for a ride!
  • I've been putting together some flatpack furniture this week and have been listening to old Conversations episodes, including one with former PM Paul Keating. It was fantastic to listen to, what he lacked in charisma and charm, he made up for in policy production and grit. It's five years old, but he makes some great points that are still relevant, if you're interested take a listen here. There don't seem to be any politicians like this around at the moment. 
  • It has been hot and humid in Bris Vegas this week. Just that still oppressive humidity that covers you like an old damp doona, where you sweat a lot and not much else. Still, it doesn't come close to a Dubai summer, so I'm thankful for that and the fact that the kids can still play outside. 
  • Another podcast I was listening to this week was of Waleed Aly and he said something along the lines of, you don't really know a subject or an idea until you write about it. Explaining that he has what he thinks are great, sound ideas all the time and then he starts to write about and realises that he has no clue. That rang so true with me as I keep having 'flashes of brilliance' and then I start to write and they kind of just trickle off…. and I realise they're not as brilliant as I once thought. Maybe I should just Tweet….
  • So here I am, just writing. Writing anything to just get the words and the keys tapping. In an attempt for the ideas and the word to work cohesively in my brain. In the hope that soon the words will start flowing out better once again. So bear with me. 
  • It's been so great seeing all the 'first day' of school photos on social media this week. So many of my friends have their kids starting school this year. There is nothing better than seeing them in their enormous school uniforms, over-sized backpacks and excited grins. One of the oldest and dearest friends had her third child start school this year like me. We actually met on the very first day of Kindergarten back in 1982 and we have remained friends ever since. I saw her first day photos of her three kids and I got a physical jolt because when I saw he second-born child I could have been looking at a photo of her from 1982. When she messaged me and said it was cool that we were still friends after all these years, I reminded her that I was lucky she became friends with me at all! I believe the first time she ever saw me I was throwing up into a school rubbish bin. I'm nervous chucker and have marked every big occasion in my life by vomiting. 


If you've got this far, well done! I'm impressed. I promise to lift my game soon.

So tell me. Is it hot where you are? Are you waiting for the moment that Trump comes out and says "Gotchya, it was all a big hoax"? Do you miss Paul Keating too? Do you have any friends from kindy who are still friends? Are you a nervous chucker, or is it just me?

Monday, 30 January 2017

Monday musings



Ah Monday, Monday, can't trust that day…

As Monday arrived for a long week ahead, here's what was going through my mind.

Healthy eating….
From about August last year, I started eating a lot healthier and exercising most days of the week (aiming for 5-6 times per week). I lost some weight, toned up and felt a lot better. The Christmas/New Year period, plus a two-week visit to good food capital Melbourne, has meant that I've lost my way a little. This week, it's back to solid healthy eating and exercise again.

Telly….
It's been a while since I binged watched a really good telly show (besides re-watching Mad Men over Christmas), so the past little while I've been indulging in The Crown (which is fab), but last week we finally succumbed to House of Cards (about 5 years late, I know). After the first episode, Skip and I looked at each other and shrugged our shoulders but decided to give another episode a go. Hook, line and sinker! It's so good and so addictive. Kevin Spacey's character is delishly bad. We've pretty much watched the whole first series since Australia Day. With Skip away for the week, I have to find something else to watch and save my fix for the weekend. Have you watched it?

School….
Queensland has been back at school for a week now and we're settling into routines again very nicely. Exhausted and happy kids, which is so good after the Christmas holidays. They were happy to get back and see their friends and I was happy to have a few hours away from meal preparation.

Dubai….
It's been a year since we left Dubai and the past few days I can't stop thinking about the desert city and longing for it a little. It's the little things that keep popping into my head, like the supermarkets, restaurants and the streets I used to drive on. I wonder when (or if) these waves of nostalgia and Dubai-sickness will stop?

The orange one….
Even if you wanted to avoid him, at the moment it's impossible not to have Trump on the brain. Every time I see him I can't believe the power that has been given to him. The things he's said and done (especially in the past week) are frightening. Like most of the world, I can't help wonder how this is all going to end up, as I think whatever happens it's not going to peter out quietly. Personally, I'd prefer to watch fictional evil politicians than real ones!

Writing….
I've really missed writing the past 12-18 months and I'm really going to try and set aside some time to write again, whether it's here or elsewhere. I know I've said it before, but this time I will.

And that's my Monday!





Tuesday, 24 January 2017

Stirring the pot

It's a really interesting time in the world at the moment. As I was sitting in the car on the long drive home to Brisbane from Melbourne, we had the radio on and there were many hours of hearing the news bulletins on repeat - Trump's inauguration and the awful event in Melbourne were, of course, the big stories of Friday and Saturday.

I'm a positive person, I'm not someone to start yelling that the sky is falling the moment something bad happens, because the unfortunate nature of our world and of humans means that something bad is always going to happen. On the flip side, something good is always going to happen too.

As we saw on the weekend with the Women's Marches around the world, people were stirred up and being stirred is a great thing. When we get angry, riled, passionate, when we feel something, good things can come of that. We realise the importance of truth, kindness, respect and how not only how fragile those things can be, but also how, in the hands of a majority of people, how strong they can be too.

I know that Trump and the people like him (such as a certain redhead regaining popularity in our country) are going to say and do some despicable things in the forthcoming months and years ahead. In reaction to this I also see a rise in good people speaking out too. I see a rise in people being urged to write and create. I foresee great music, movies, art and literature being created and used as a weapon against ignorance and fear and intolerance. As history has told us bad things happen and nasty people exist, and in the face of it good people dig down and create good things in response – as long as we keep feeling something and not remain apathetic.

Perhaps, it's a great reminder, especially for the younger generation that we need to continue to fight for the things that are important. A reminder that is wasn't too long ago that women weren't able to vote, to easily divorce, have control over their own bodies or their own lives. A reminder that those before us had to fight incredibly hard to gain the rights that we take for granted. That it wasn't so long ago that, shamefully and mind-bogglingly, indigenous Australians weren't even recognised as Australian citizens.

So as long as we keep thinking critically and logically, as long as we stay stirred up and keep apathy at bay, as long as we aren't short-sighted or have short memories, I truly believe some great things can come about. What do you think?

Saturday, 26 November 2016

The magic of Christkindl

That moment we turned into the Christmas markets at Schonnbrunn Palace. 

Snaps from Salzburg's Christmas Markets

As I was browsing the world wide webs today, I saw a news clip about the opening of the German Christmas markets. My heart jumped a little. Three out of the past four Decembers my little family has really enjoyed the Christmas markets in Germany, Austria and Slovenia. I felt a little pang of disappointment that this year I won't be enjoying a Bratwurst with mustard washed down with a piping mug of gluhwein while wandering around stalls under a cover of twinkling lights.

If you've never been to a European Christmas market, they are held in town centres and squares from the end of November until the end of December. There are little huts serving mulled wine (and on occasion, alcoholic hot chocolates), sizzling sausages, spietzel (a cheesy noodle) pretzels, dumplings and stews. The main attraction are the stalls selling a dazzling array of decorations, tinsel twinkling under the lights. There is always a big Christmas tree, a band playing Christmas tunes and a very festive feeling. People go with their families to get in the festive spirit.

Last December, we were lucky enough to return to the beautiful Christmas markets in Vienna (where we first encountered them a few years before). Before we'd arrived in Vienna we'd had an incredibly stressful week packing, about to move apartments. We were also in a stressful stage of life where didn't know quite where we were headed. I remember feeling pretty wound up and fed up. The first place we went to after checking into our AirBnB was our favourite Christmas market at Schonnbrunn Palace. I will never forget turning through the gates, seeing the giant Christmas tree twinkling with lights through the cold mist. The smell of chestnuts roasting and mulled wine filled my nose. A magical sensation washed over me. The kids eyes lit up as they suddenly remembered this place for a few years before. Every little bit of stress melted away and every little niggle felt worth it for just that moment. That one moment of being in that one magic spot.

A few moments later, Skip and I had gluhwein in hand and the kids were demolishing pretzels bigger than their heads under that giant twinkling tree. I looked over at Lil-lil who kept saying over and over: "I'm just so happy." There's no doubt she spoke for all of us.

I'm lucky enough to have lots of special places that I've been to throughout my life, places that seem to hold just a little bit of magic, places that you just can't explain exactly why they make you so happy. The Christmas markets in Austria, especially those at Schonnbrunn Palace, are high up on that list.


Thursday, 24 November 2016

That time the hotel was full...



Christmas is a-coming as the kids' school schedule keeps reminding me. Concerts, end-of-year assemblies, parties, not to mention endless "Oh I hope I get this for Christmas!"

Now it would be an understatement to say that we're not a religious family. After living in Dubai for a number of years I think my kids probably know more about Islam than Christianity. When we were in Ireland last year, our friends were talking about mass, when one of my Catholic-baptised children asked what mass was. My reply? "It's like Friday prayers, but on a Sunday and in a church rather than a mosque" which was instantly understood.

So I shouldn't have been surprised when the other day, the same child came home from school and was excitedly telling me that next week in scripture class she was pretty sure they were going to tell the same story I had told them once. Confused, I asked, which story was that. "Oh you know the one about the couple who were trying to get into the hotel? But they were all full, so they had to sleep in a shed. It's weird that they know that one too!" Yes, it seems that religious education may not be my forte.

There was also that time I overheard Lil-lil explaining to Darbs who Jesus was. "He knows everything you do, he knows when you're good or naughty. You can pray to him and ask him for things or for help. He has a beard," she carefully explained. Darbs thought for a moment and said: "That's not Jesus. That's Santa!"

So, perhaps, over the next few weeks, it's time to start talking a little more why we celebrate Christmas and what's behind the tree and tinsel and presents.


Image courtesy of Stuart Miles at FreeDigitalPhotos.net
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