August 27, 2011

all work and a bit of play

We have been doing very little other than working and churning through meal times, chores and time with the kids lately.  I've had a busy few weeks at work, the last two in particular, and it's been ok, but it's also been challenging, working an extra day a week, finding time to fit in the housekeeping and blogging.  So although I've had posts on my mind, I've been tired, not necessarily overworked, but definitely under a lot more pressure than usual to deliver at work and at home and my time on t'internet has been limited and it's set to continue for a little while longer.

It's a tricky thing, my job.  I feel as though I need to work full time in order to do a good job but with the boys, it's just not possible (and not something I particularly want to do).  When I'm with Ollie and Max, I'm thinking about work and when I'm at work, I'm thinking about the boys and it's still a work in progress to strike that balance. Recently, and in an effort to kickstart our plan to be debt free, Will and I decided that he will work a day less and I will work a day more.  It should take some of the stress out of my job knowing I have a bit more space and it will make a big difference to our income, but shouldn't affect the boys at all, who will still spend three days with Sue and then a day with each of ma and pa.  By all accounts, they should be happier, because Will's far better than I am at keeping them entertained and well, Max, he loves his dad.  And Will is looking forward to his Fridays with the boys too, and I am going to try and take a Friday off every month or six weeks or so for a long family weekend together, even if it's just hanging out in the garden, though I'm hoping we will start up a summer of weekends at Straddie as soon as it starts to get warmer.

As for play, it's all about the drawing with the kids.  The pens and crayons and painting and books.  In particular, the Richard Scarry book Ollie borrowed from the library.  And Max wants to read nothing but Emergency! and Dig Dig Digging (both of which Ollie recites from memory) and Max walks around with the most tattered copy of Thomas you have ever seen, but it is his absolute favourite.  Oh, and then there's the $10 wheelie bin from Target that has kept Ollie entertained for the last week. It gets wheeled around mainly full of cars, trains, books, crayons, clothes, Tigger, more books, spatulas and other kitchen utensils... basically if you can't find it, it's probably in the wheelie-bin.

And in other news, the boys had their first taste of lollipops today, when we succumbed to Ollie's charm and manners at the supermarket, as he picked up a Chupa Chups and said please.  Predictably, they were a hit. They were also very sticky.  But they were silent and completely happy to do whatever they were told for about 30 minutes.  It will be a long time before they have them again, but it sure was nice to give them a treat.  Even if I did make them brush their teeth afterwards.

August 18, 2011

the hope

I have never been one to cope with news that involves violence, unrest, children and poverty to name just a few topics.  Since giving birth to my children, most movies are now ruined for me, since even the most innocent reference to a child's suffering, or the possibility of evil actually triumphing over good is too much for me to bear and I have to check on my little boys sleeping before I find some Gilmore Girls to purge any disturbing thoughts that might leave me fretting.  Remember Slumdog Millionaire?  That uplifting movie about the kids in the slums that come good?  We watched it shortly after I gave birth to Ollie and that scene where those heartless bastards are blinding the children... I had to walk away and look at pictures of kittens.

The news lately has been about as difficult for me to cope with as ever before.  It feels selfish to be complaining about having to merely listen to what the world is going through but I don't mean it that way.  It's not that I am writing about feeling sorry for myself, I'm writing about the helplessness I feel when we wake to news of rioting in England, the famine in East Africa, the debt crisis and the possibility (probability) of another recession.  There is little I can do about these things and it is filling me with despair for our future, the world's future, the future we are shaping for our children and their children.  I am and always have been a doer.  I get things done.  I organise things, fix things (or get my husband to fix them), but that I can't do anything significant to fix these problems that we wake to every morning... it is slowly ebbing away at that thing that drives us all, whether we see the glass half full or half empty... hope.

Even as a worrier, I have always felt the future was bright.  After all, isn't the world a better place than it was 100 or even 50 years ago?  I used to think so, but I'm not so sure, and I'm also not so sure it's not because I am getting older and seeing the world the way my parents would have viewed it when we were growing up, listening to them about the demise of morality and the state of the world.  I'm beginning to sound a lot like them.  But I think it probably is a better world and almost certainly no worse.  The problems of our parents' and grandparents' generations have always existed - the demise of morality, the destruction of our planet, the bollockiness of politcs, the increasing divide between the wealthy and the poor, society that measures success by how much money you have, the accountability of individuals and communities to make the world a better place and the suffering of the deprived, uneducated and poor... I could go on.  These problems have always existed and it's not that they are going away, it's that we aren't necessarily getting better at dealing with them.

We might be in a recession but it's no different to recessions we've had before. Maybe the difference is that our greed makes the lack of work, the cost of living and having to do without so much harder for us than it was for our parents - we've never had to do without.  As for the state of morality... I take solace in the fact that each and every one of the people I know upholds the highest regard for doing the right thing and all I can do is teach my children what I believe to be right from wrong and lead by example.  That's not to say I can (or should) protect them from everything.  The riots in England have made us question whether it really is the right thing for our family to raise our boys in the UK, but for me, the answer is still yes, it is. The 'sick society' of the UK is no different to the sick society in any western country, the difference is that the UK's problem is way ahead than the rest of the world's. It's going to happen here, there, everywhere, this uprising of disenfranchised youth.  As a parent it's up to me to make sure my kids understand why this reaction is plain wrong, and perhaps seeing it first hand will be a part of that education because God forbid my children should be ignorant of the problems of the world.  Perhaps I am being naive, but I can't run away from the place I call home because life is harder there.  That would be wrong.  If anything, and just like anything else in my life, I want to be a part of fixing the problem.

And much as I wish I could, I know I can't fix these problems on my own, just like I know that my tiny monthly contribution to Unicef isn't going to fix the famine in East Africa, but it's something and not one of us should sit back and do nothing at all.

So, I won't stop listening to the news just yet, although I have considered it.  I need to know what is happening in the world outside.  I need to know that there is more than despair out there.  Because, for all the stories that leave me desperate, it's all an education, one that I need in order to do the best I can raising my children, who, oblivious to the problems of the world get on with their lives, pottering about our house, playing with this and that and... life goes on.  And for all the stories that leave me feeling helpless, there are the ones that leave me with hope, like these images of the Londoners that I know and remember, rallying together to do the right thing.  Images of that hope and optimism and power of people.  We might not need the news, but we definitely need that hope.

August 14, 2011

new camera

Well, we did it.  We couldn't exactly afford it, because we also bought a new fridge to replace the dodgy old one that we had, but thanks to the charms of interest-free credit, we are now the very proud owners of a new Nikon D7000.  I am amazed at the lack of indecision involved in buying this camera.  We are usually hopeless at making decisions but this one was within an acceptable price bracket (that's not to say it was cheap, unfortunately), and unlike it's cheaper little sister the D5100 it is compatible with my old Nikon lenses from the days of my manual Nikon SLR and so that was that.  We actually made a decision without dithering for weeks.

What is even more amazing is just how good this baby is.  I know nothing about cameras and couldn't tell you how to buy one, but the gazillions of megapixels, the absurdly high ISO capability, the humungous screen, the oodles of focus points, the lovely squishy button... the images we have taken so far have been damn near perfect and that's before we've even worked out what we are doing (that's where the 326 page manual comes in - and it's all in English).  You know with our old D90, taking photos at night time was hopeless.  The flash was so harsh, the colours so stark, we couldn't get it to do what we wanted (our wedding photos were a total disappointment because they all looked like we got married in the middle of a creepy night instead of at magical dusk, how I wish we'd organised a photographer), but this new camera has a much kinder flash; it's yellower - and mellower (I just thought of that!) and the images are so much more true to life than flash photography can often be.  We've taken some gorgeous shots of evening time in our house, capturing that lovely time after the kids are bathed and squeaky clean and dressed and ready for story time, and these shots of the newly configured bedroom of Ollie, which I'm hoping will soon become Max and Ollie's room so we can get some precious space back into our lives.

So, we are revelling in taking photos with this amazing beast, but having to be quite selective when we download them, because each image takes up way more space than our old camera did, even at reasonably basic settings (and it's meant we've had to buy extra space, too).  Poor old camera.  It's so utterly rubbish compared with our new mate, but we have had some good times with old D90, some very good times.  We must have taken at least 100,000 photos with him, he did us good, but boy are we wondering why we didn't upgrade sooner.  So go on, if you're thinking about a new camera and don't think it's worth it just yet, think again.  You'll wish you'd done it ages ago.

August 5, 2011

do-a-dot digression

I admit to splurging a bit and buying those do-a-dot markers that you see around (for the boys, of course).  I've had my eye on them for a while now, knowing the kids would love them and knowing they would make a change from the crayons he loves so much.  Ollie is always asking to 'do some drawing' or 'want to play with the crayons' but lately I think he's been a little bored by it and a bit frustrated by the marker pens fading away.  So I promised him we would go to the craft store and buy some more, which is where I got lured by the do-a-dots.  We came away with new felt pens, new chubby colouring pencils, the do-a-dot markers, and in a momentary lapse of judgment, a colouring in book devoted to trucks.  He loves his trucks, does Ollie, and I am finding I am trying to go out of my way to encourage an interest in something else, anything else, and I have never liked the idea of colouring in books, preferring instead to let Ollie's own creativity take the lead, even if that means scribbling like a maniac before tearing up the paper and sticking masking tape everywhere.

But he loves that book.  I wish he didn't love it as much as he does, but yesterday and then again this morning, he coloured in (coloured over) the pictures of log-loaders, excavators, monster trucks and bulldozers for over an hour until I actually had to make him put the pens away to have his dinner.  In fact this evening, we had to take it to dinner with us and in just 24 hours he is suddenly very good at colouring within the lines even though I have very deliberately not told him about that (there are enough rules in that kid's life).

Max, on the other hand, he loves all things pen.  He loves to chew the do-a-dot caps and then stack them up and walk around the house with one in each hand and wave them around in Lola's face (anything but actually do dots with them).  The mighty pen is our toy of choice when I need him to sit still for a nappy change, when I need something in the high chair to distract him or when I'm trying to get him dressed at his most wriggly time of the day, after his bath.  Of course he's now at the age when there's also a chance that he will fling the pen in disgust and throw a tantrum rather than be captivated with it like he used to be as a baby... that kid's discovering toddlerdom, and I have to say, it's hilarious second time round.  He's nowhere near as intense as Ollie was at that age (and I remember how it used to get me down) and he'd definitely always been a more mellow kid (the second always seems to be?) but he's discovering just how much he can get away with.  The back arching, screaming objections to not being allowed to chew a crayon don't last that long - with Ollie it seemed sometimes that it would never end.  Actually thinking about it now, Ollie seemed so much older than Max at this age, all knowing somehow and I'm certain that fuelled his abnormal levels of frustration.  He amazes me with his incredible memory, his affinity for puzzles and his ability to apply what he knows in order to learn the next thing and I suppose I've always seen that in him.

But Max, you know, he's so different to Ollie.  He's into belly buttons, birdies, pouring water out of the bath and being very deliberately cheeky.  He's less the analyst, more the kid that sees the moment, loves to point at the birdie, the doggy, he loves to clap and wave and communicate like babies do. Ollie's not so much deliberately cheeky as he is just a bit of a pain in the arse sometimes, but he has such a kind nature, often masked by his insistence on doing everything his way or not at all.  Such a bossy little boy.

Anyway, I don't mean to compare and I shouldn't, but it's hard not to.  You are blessed with one happy little healthy child that reminds you of yourself and you think the next one will be the same, knowing full well you were completely different from your siblings and don't know many that are alike.  Then the second comes along and you're blown away by how different he is, but not unexpected, because you see his father in him every day, every time he smiles, every time he tootles around the house, just taking things in his stride and when he bowls everyone over with his good looks and charm.  And then you wonder whether you should ever be so blessed again, because it's hard to imagine that you could be so lucky but amazing to think there's another soul, different again, that might one day be a part of your family.

And so, after you've cleared away the doodles and colouring-in books, found the caps for all the pens and tidied them away, you check on those little boys as they are sleeping, their little chests moving with that sleepy breathing that only children can do with such peace and you think about the mischief they will get up to as they grow older, the books they will read by flashlight when I think they've gone to sleep, the men they will become, the challenges they will face, the people they will love, the good that they will do in their lives and the the tantrums of the day are all but forgotten.

August 1, 2011


Before Ollie was born, before we had decided on a first name, we knew his middle name would be James, after his grandfather, Will's dad who died the year after I arrived in Australia.  I didn't know him long but he was one of the kindest people I've ever met.  I never knew him to do or say a thing that was anything but good.

He was this sort of joining force for a family already close to one another - hard to explain but since he's been gone (7 years ago today), the family has lacked the cohesion that used to be, at least that's how it seems.  Will's dad was the story teller, the speech giver, the chef, the guy who knew all the answers to Trivial Pursuit, the guy who knew about wine, art, science, geography, history... and the one that everyone in the family looked up to.  Including me.  He had an amazing life, one which I know very little about really, which is a shame because it would be a story I would like to be able to tell my children.  He was proud of all his six children, but I always got he sense that he had an extra portion of pride and joy for Will, his youngest son.  I know he would have been the happiest of us all to see him graduate and become a husband and father.

The boys call their grandmother ma-ji and would I guess, call their grandfather baba-ji, just as I did my own grandfather.  I often wonder what he'd think of them, and what they'd think of him.  I think he would have been an awesome grandfather, and I think our children would have loved him.  And because of that, we miss him.
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