Thursday, 23 March 2017

Returning to middle earth with a thud

Last week, the husband and I went away for a week. It's the longest we've spent away from the kids since Lil-lil arrived 10.5 years ago.

Returning this week has been a thud back to reality - school lunches, tuck shop duty, parent/teacher nights, netball organisation, bath/dinner/bed routines, being woken up to  "Muuuuuuuuuuum" in the wee hours of the morning. Winery lunches and late nights at whisky bars it's certainly not.

Of course, coming back filled me with all the things I need to focus on and would like to achieve for the rest of the year. Becoming an employed member of society, making our home more of a home, expanding our social circle, entrenching ourselves into life in Brisbane, worrying about the kids.

Feeling like I haven't ticked nearly enough boxes and feeling a little of the post-holiday blues, I've been rather down at the mouth the past couple of days. Those times when everything just seems like too much or too much hard work or too something.

As hard as the post-holiday blues are, it's worth it in so many other ways. Spending time with Skip, seeing new sights, just chatting away or soaking up the spectacular scenery in comfortable quiet, being adults -  not mum & dad. Doing what we want on the spur of the moment and not having to hear "Can we go home now?" Now that's special.

Next week, we'll have been married 12 years. This is our 20th year together. So many stories, adventures and life tales we've created together. We've lived in many different cities and even countries together. We've packed a lot into the half a lifetime we've spent together. It's a rich story. Above all else, he still makes me laugh.

On the plus side of returning home was seeing the kids. I've had a whole week of being appreciated, which is almost unheard of! The eldest keeps telling me how happy she is to have me home, she even stopped and chatted with me at tuck shop today rather than pretend she didn't know who I was. The middle one keeps giving me little notes that say "Even though I don't always like you, I love you more than anything". The youngest keeps cuddling me and telling me "You're the best!". So I'm soaking up the love before it's replaced with eye rolls, door slamming and "Mean mummy!"

Life can never be all winery lunches and whisky bars, or I love you notes and adoration. It's mostly scrubbing pots at tuckshop and remembering to have clean uniforms ready for the morning. It's scraping uneaten dinners that were lovingly made into the bin. Arguing over whether "Neighbours  really existed in the olden days" (it did and Toady was in it even then) and buying outrageously expensive netball uniforms. It's about explaining why you can't tell the tuck shop that you were supposed to have tuck shop when there's a bread roll you know full well about sitting in your lunch box and there must have been 'some kind of mistake'. "Real life" is annoying and frustrating and unpleasant and boring, but at the end of the day as I scrape those uneaten dinners into the bin I hear that laugh. That laugh that makes me sigh deeply and then chuckle myself.


Tuesday, 7 March 2017

One man's tip...



Today, I was weeding in the garden while also gathering up a mighty pile of old palm fronds. This is without doubt one of the my least favourite things about living in a house. As I painstakingly pull out tiny weed after tiny weed, I mull over how much I wish I was back living in a Dubai skyscraper where weeds were someone else's problem.

Then I looked up to see the mighty pile of palm fronds that I'd been gathering at the side of my house, wondering what kind of wildlife had been making its home in there or what kind of fire hazard I was creating. Way too much 'green waste' for our fortnightly collection, I literally shoved it all into the back of the car, squirming and itching as bugs and dust showered over me.

In my mobile jungle I made our way to our local Refuse Recovery Centre (aka The Tip). This may surprise you to hear, but the tip is one of my most favourite places. Sure, given the choice I would probably go to Venice or Vienna over the tip, but given the choice between pulling out weeds and going to the tip, the tip would win every time.

The first time I went to the tip was up in the northern suburbs of Sydney, in Belrose. We got to drive past Paul Hogan's house and then we drove down a windy dirt track to what I can only describe as one of the most glorious sights I'd ever seen. Piles and mounds of stuff! There were piles and piles of unused colouring books, there were toys and bikes and bits of colourful plastic. "People are throwing this stuff away?!"I thought to my five-year-old self. It was like a shop where you didn't have to pay for anything, except my mum wouldn't let me take home any of the treasure I found. For months after I dreamed about going back and and climbing the mounds looking for treasure. I decided that it might even be a good idea to have my birthday party there. It was just the most magical place in my young imagination.

A few years later we to another refuse centre, I was buzzing with excitement. What would I find this time? Except when we got there it was just a big concrete-lined hole with a mechanical compactor. There was no way for me to touch my treasures, I just had to watch as it was all squashed together. It was most disappointing.

As I drove up to the tip today and I smelt that distinctive smell, I won't deny that I got a little excited.  It was all so organised and I eagerly looked around at all the signs "car batteries", "mattresses" "green waste", "recycling". My five-year-old self wanted to run around and see what everyone was throwing out. Seeing the cars and trucks and trailers with their hauls driving here and there to right locations, I have to admit that I had fun! As I pulled out the palm fronds one by one and threw them high on to 'green waste' mound, I was smiling widely to myself.

Image courtesy of FreeImages.com/John Nyberg

Wednesday, 1 March 2017

Perspective

Across the front of today's paper is splashed: "Hottest summer in Queensland's history!" I was chatting to some mums at netball the other day and they were all complaining that it was the hottest summer they could remember, not having anything to compare it with I had to trust them and it appears they were right. There were 64 days above 30 degrees. That's a lot of sweating!

It's funny, because while it was hot, it didn't feel especially hot to me. Sure it was warm and I sighed in the humidity, but I also noticed that my kids could still play outside and there was a breeze and cool changes. I guess those long, long hot Dubai summer's have steered me well. Before we moved to Brisbane, so many people said to me: "Why would you move there, it's so hot!", but when you live through months and months of temperatures that never dip below 38 day or night it's a relative thing.

My kids, like most kids, are prone to a hyperbole. They often have "the best day ever" or "the worst day of my life" or "the toughest life". I often irritate them when they say something is "the worst thing ever" that their life must be pretty good that's as bad as it gets.

Us humans generally go through life looking out from just one perspective, after all, that's what we know. Then occasionally we're shown another perspective or viewpoint or something changes our perspective and it's like waking up. Oh my goodness, that same old outlook appears completely different! It's like being in a new world and we can't remember how the old view looked.

Over the weekend, I jumped into the pool by myself a couple of time (being the hottest summer ever, after all). I floated and looked up at the clouds and they swirled in the blue above me. I started to feel a little queasy as I wasn't exactly sure where I was as floated around, was I about to bang my head on the wall? Which way was which? It was relaxing and unsettling at the same time. The pool that I look out at each day seemed like a whole new place.

Most arguments we have are because we feel like people can't see the world the way we see it. And, of course, we believe we're seeing the world in the 'most true' way. I know that I get so frustrated when I look at people who are bogged down by what they see as 'the right thing', not realising what they're missing or who they're hurting, wishing they could see something just out of their line of vision. Thinking that if they took a look from a different angle, or from a different viewpoint a whole new world might just open up.

I need to remind myself of this constantly, even if it feels strange or makes me queasy. We might not want to look from another perspective, we might be afraid that we'll discover that our vision isn't quite what we thought it was. That thing we felt was so strong and so true, that thing that has hypnotised us, actually looks a bit fake. Like when you're in the cheap seats of a magic show and you can just see the fishing line the magician is holding. Or when you're on the side at the theatre and can grab a glimpse backstage of the actors changing costume.

Perspective changes everything.

Tuesday, 28 February 2017

Lose yourself



Walking up through the schoolyard today, I spotted Darbs' best mate. A gorgeous little boy who has been over to play, who was there when Darbs broke his arm and as Darbs says: "We're old friends. We've know each other ever since kindy" (which was just last year). This little guy saw me, gave a big grin and a wave, yelling out: "Hello, Darby's mum!"

From the moment you're born, life is working out who you are. As a baby, these weird things fly in front of your sight and you discover they're attached to you, they're your hands. Then you learn your name, your place in the family, what you like to eat and the list goes on and on.

The more you grow, the more you put into yourself. You're told it's about growing yourself. Getting to know yourself. Once school finishes, you spend your late teens and twenties 'finding yourself', discovering who you are.

Then you meet a partner and you show off the best of yourself and you find out yourself as a couple.

Eventually you may go on to have children. This is when it all goes awry. All those years of developing yourself and finding yourself and discovering yourself go out the window in an instant. You suddenly completely lose yourself. Or, at least, I did.

All those years trying to work out who I was, I suddenly discovered a complete stranger. I suddenly found I had completely forgotten who I was.

Ten years on and nothing much has really changed. I look back at the person I was before I had kids and the essence is still there, but that person doesn't really exist anymore.

Corinne has morphed into Lil's mum, Goosey's mum and Darbs' mum.

I was chatting to a friend the other day, she has kids similar ages. She's been at home taking care of them for the past 10 years, while her husband has progressed his career. She told me it was always on the proviso that one day, she would get her chance to chase the dreams that she put on hold. Now she is starting to take a few steps toward that dream. Excited and nervous, she has suddenly found that all that confidence or naivety you have when you're young has suddenly vanished. She has started to wonder if she can actually get out there and do the things that she would like to do again. If she's still able to use her brain. Be brave. Jump in and think later. She is really scared that she's going to fail.

Being a parent is so much of squashing yourself into a little corner and letting everything else take over. Nappies, meals, story time, playing, swings, kindy, school, homework. It's so easy to let everything wash over and flood your life. Sometimes too easy. I often think I should have tried to harder to hold on to that little part of myself that I spent so much looking time looking for.

Slowly I'm trying to pull her back, or at least create a newer, more improved person. I definitely don't want to be the person I was 10 years ago, before kids, as I'm a much better person now. She was a fairly two-dimensional person, kids and age have given me something. I'm definitely something and someone more than someone's mum though.

FreeImages.com/Griszka Niewiadomsk

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?
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