Tag Archives: communication

Family Life Lessons in a Game of Cards.

Today, we had a family game of three-handed 500 and had so much fun. Moreover, we even invented a new lexicon, which I’ll blame on the cards rather than the players. They could be incredibly uncooperative!

Although playing cards might sound like an activity for a rainy day, it was windy outside and we could even see the Spring allergens in the air with the naked eye. So, we were hibernating inside. Moreover, it’s not only school holidays here, but also a long weekend. While for some, this would signal an increase in activity, for us it meant doing as close to nothing as possible, which as it turned out, didn’t even come close. Our daughter needed to be picked up, and my husband and son went off to see a movie together. So, we aren’t such miserable sloths after all.

Anyway, with our daughter in Sydney, that left the rest of us playing three-handed 500. I know I’ve played this before, but it never seemed so brutal and unforgiving before. Today, it seemed that the person who won the bidding and played out the game was almost destined to fry and burn, and very promptly end up in negative territory. Naturally, the player most likely to hit rock bottom, was Mr 13 whose teenage love of taking risks got him into considerable trouble, which we ultimately dubbed: “The Minus Club”.

Even now, I still remember what it was like to play 500 as a 13 year old with my friends at school. I still haven’t forgotten the allure of winning the kitty…the curiosity. It had to be a pot of gold and I couldn’t possibly let anyone else pick it up. It was mine. Of course, it helped that we didn’t score our games. So, it didn’t matter if I went backwards faster than a speeding bullet.

However, with my husband, being one of those mathematical counting types with a mental calculator stuck inside his head, after a few practice rounds, we were scoring. Well, HE was scoring. I was jotting down some priceless family gems,  and as this game progressed, the pickings were ripe.

Now, this takes me back to Mr 13 who has been asking me to play 500 for weeks, but didn’t really know the rules. Moreover, he has no idea just how brutal a three-handed game can be, when your rivals pair up and you’re fighting for life on your pat malone.

So, when asked which suit he was going to bid on, he replied: “I’m playing eenie meanie miney mo”.

That didn’t sound like a good start.

Then again, I somehow managed to bid the wrong suit. I blamed that on the coffee not kicking in.

Meanwhile, my husband who is very difficult to beat at cards, Scrabble and chess, was having a bad day. We hadn’t taught our son Masare, so even though he probably had great hands for that, we just stuck with conventional bids. So, my husband’s gems for today included:

“Wanna play snap?”

“Who dealt this mess?”

“Blerk! Waiter bring me a bucket”.

My husband only bid about once throughout this game, which lasted a couple of hours what with my son and I returning time and time again to the minus club and my husband’s score creeping along at a rate of 10 -30 points a hand. That made for a long and very slow road to 500.

I reached my PB or personal best when I romped home getting 10 hearts. Those 250 points just managed to get me out of the sin bin at the time.

Anyway, all of this is leading me towards the grand finale…

I was the Champion!

Of course, I immediately jumped around doing the victory dance, singing “we are the champions”. Not because I’m a bad sport. Rather, it’s a rare moment that I beat my husband at anything. As for the whole thing of needing to beat my 13 year old son instead of letting him win, I say it was good for him. Will put hairs on his chest, as my Dad used to say. One of the most important things you can do as a parent, is to teach your child how to win and lose gracefully. Moreover, as he struggles to beat my husband and I, we’re training him to compete well against his peers. This is his training ground.

Yet, at the same time, nothing beats winning.

Well, that is unless you’re writing some mamby pamby piece about families spending quality time together and learning how to interact and communicate when devices are switched off. Then, it would all just be about bonding, creating memories and you wouldn’t need to keep the score.

Humph! We must be talking about someone else’s family!

Do you have any games you play to the death in your family? What are they? 

xx Rowena

Blank Parenting

Yesterday, I was pretty stoked when I put a white board up in my son’s room. This wasn’t a new idea. Indeed, their whiteboards have been stacked up on top of each other in our kitchen no doubt sprouting cobwebs after I’d appropriated them for my writing.

Yes, like so many best intentions, the whiteboards had been derailed and I guess you could say that the track crew has been leaning on their shovels for more then an extended lunch break!

Anyway, there was just one unexpected hitch. What on earth was I going to put on it?

What with this empty white board screaming out at me,  my mind went blank in what was probably a rare case of writer’s block.

Of course, I could’ve just left it up to him. After all, it is HIS room, HIS whitebard and ultimately “HIS life”.

But, no man is an island…especially a child who is still growing up and needing, at the very least, a bit of steering if not a total re-direction. If your kids play Minecraft of similar no further explanation is required!!

Fed up raving at the kids like a rabid dog,  I was tempted to simply repeat the list of actions which has been laminated and parked on the kitchen table to ticked off.

However, I also wondered whether I should write some encouraging messages on it. That it should be a happy board, not a grumpy one.

I ev en wondered whether writing “I love you” would probably have a much better impact than “make your bed, tidy your room. Have you done your homework? Stop hitting your sister!” Don’t you think?!!

Besides, if he feels loved, he might just do all of the above because he feels valued, appreciated and wants to be part of the team.

Yeah! Yeah! Yeah! I’m sceptical too!

Yet, as much as you might be loved, what matters is that you feel loved and too often that gets lost in the translation. So, a few reminders, even if they seem a little cheesy, wouldn’t go astray.

At this point, I started to wish Mr Squiggle was still around and he could come and help me out. He’d know exactly what to do. As for me, I’m still feeling overwhelmed because, like so many of us, I am so caught up with getting it right.Indeed, too right and dare I mention the p word… perfectionistic!

Mr Squiggle...I still love the little guy. He was incredible!

Mr Squiggle…I still love the little guy. He was incredible!

If you are not Australian or of a certain age, you won’t have heard of Mr Squiggle. So, here’s a quick introduction.

Mr Squiggle was a marionette with a pencil for a nose, who visited his friends from his home at 93 Crater Crescent on the Moon, flying in his pet rocket (named Rocket). Mr Squiggle was a cheery, scatter-brained character who would often be distracted and would occasionally go for “space-walks”, and his assistant would need to calm him down to get him to focus on the task of drawing.

Mr. Squiggle was created by Norman Hetherington, and the character first appeared on the Children’s TV Club on ABC TV but was spun off into his own programme which first aired on 1 July 1959. Children wrote in with their “squiggles” and Mr. Squiggle would turn them into recognisable drawings by connecting lines with his pencil nose. More often than not, the picture would be drawn upside down and then Mr. Squiggle would gleefully declare: “Upside down! Upside down!” – asking his assistant to turn the picture the right way up and reveal the completed drawing.

The last episode went to air just over 40 years after the first, on 9 July 1999.

So, inspired by Mr Squiggle, I could draw Mister a picture. I could even draw a picture of him. He’d love that and indeed, he’d probably like to draw on there himself. Have some fun!

I could also say I love you.

Moreover, being an 11 year old boy, I also opted for a joke:

“What does a computer do when it’s too hot?”
“It opens Windows”.

I am also going to write important reminders on there. Not just pick up your putrid socks and undies and put them in the basket but “Scouts Tonight”.

If all of this fails, I might just have to resort to employing Mr Squiggle’s enigmatic co-star, Bill blackboard. Bill, who was a rather grumpy, cantankerous character who contrasted well with Mr Squiggle’s friendly, dithering creativity, could well have been the inspiration behind Grumpy Cat and certainly could use a motivational coach.This grumpy blackboard’s catch phrase was: “Hurry Up”.

The rather cantankerous Bill Blackboard.

The rather cantankerous Bill Blackboard.

I hate to admit it but Bill Blackboard could well be impersonating me on a weekday morning!!

Anyway, here’s my end product:

The finished Whiteboard: a joke, a drawing and love from Mummy!

The finished Whiteboard: a joke, a drawing and love from Mummy!

The joke went down very well but when my daughter saw it, she said my writing was too big and it didn’t have anything he needed to do on it. So, Miss 9 was instructed to re-do it but leave my picture alone. This was her contribution:

I should have waited for Miss 9 to get home from school. She did a great job with the whiteboard. She even added the date.

I should have waited for Miss 9 to get home from school. She did a great job with the whiteboard. She even added the date.She left my drawing alone.

All this goes to show that I can take a mole hill and turn it into a mountain and truly stress myself out in the process. It also shows that I need to consult the kids more in the decision-making process and that they can make some veryt useful contributions. After all, they’re growing up!

By the way, in a previous post I wrote about moving on some of the toys the kids have outgrown to make way for growth. Although the car bed is still parked in the lounge room, the dolls’ house left today. I am not only proud of Miss for being able to let it go but she also used her knowledge of knots from cub scouts to tie the dolls’ house on my friend’s roof racks. Well done! Very impressed!

xx Rowena

Things Teachers Want Parents To Know

As a teacher, Suzie had some invaluable insights into building better relationships with your kids’ teachers xx Rowena

Suzie Speaks

imageThe other day, I attended Parents Evening for a cohort of my students. After nearly ten years and about seventy similar events, I realised that this was my last ever set of parental meetings. It was quite an unusual revelation. Of the thousands of conversations that I have had with parents over the years, there are things that, from a teacher perspective, I and many of my friends and colleagues want them to know.

1. I genuinely care about your child and their well-being. I believe that your child has the potential to become a well-rounded, successful human being and I work hard to help them in their journey.

2. Teacher training days are important and aren’t there for the purpose of inconveniencing you. Most professions require training and professional development on a regular basis and we have them to develop our ability to support our youngsters in every aspect…

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Nurturing Love: #1000speak

“We’ve got this gift of love, but love is like a precious plant. You can’t just accept it and leave it in the cupboard or just think it’s going to get on by itself. You’ve got to keep watering it. You’ve got to really look after it and nurture it.”

John Lennon

Are you sure we didn't miss the turn off?

Are you sure we didn’t miss the turn off?

The dogs love being able to run around at low tide when we go to Pittwater, Palm Beach. the rippled sand is pocked with soldier crab holes and as the sun sets, the place is quite a moonscape.

Bilbo (right) is striding straight ahead and while I was flicking through possible Rumi quotes, my husband suggested:

“Are you sure we didn’t miss the turn off?

I shouldn’t laugh.

My husband and I have had many explosive moments with me in the navigator’s seat. I don’t know why I always end up navigating because I get lost in the shower and even struggle to follow a map when I turn it the right way up (OK folks…I mean “upside down”.)

I know we probably should invest in one of those GPS thingies for the sake of our marriage but after experiencing the possibilities of neuroplasticity personally, I had hoped that with a bit of practice, that I’d miraculously find my way.

Moreover, I was also concerned that if I gave up, my sense of direction could even get worse. In that case, I might even need GPS to find my car parked in our own drive way.

I shouldn’t jest!!

Anyway, Bilbo looks hell bent on going straight ahead but Lady isn’t quite so sure: “Are you sure we didn’t miss the turn off? I can just see Bilbo, who is a much more introverted, serious dog grumbling back to her:

“We’re fine. I checked the map before we left. I know exactly where we are.”

Then I can see Bilbo quoting Daniel Boone:

“I have never been lost, but I will admit to being confused for several weeks”.

As much as I love John Lennon’s quote Life is what happens while you are busy making other plans,” sometimes, you just want to reach your destination!

Do you have any navigation dramas to share?

xx Rowena

Anything for Love… the Great Minecraft Challenge.

Would you do anything for love? Anything at all? Whatever it takes?

Or do you, like Meatloaf, have an exclusion clause:

“I’ll do anything for love but I won’t do that.”

Stop! Pause. You can lie to me but you can’t lie to yourself. Well, not for long!

What is your “that”? Where do you draw the line? What are the boundaries to your love?

“I love you but…”

You’ll often hear people say: “I’d do anything for my kids”. But do they really mean it?

I don’t think so.

I’m no saint.  I am just as guilty. I’m writing this blog post at the kitchen table on a Saturday morning while our son is trying to talk to me and give me some more advice on how to play Minecraft, which he lives and breathes at the moment. So while I’m writing about doing anything for love, I’m lost in my own little world writing and not really listening to my boy.

Shame! Shame! Shame!

But at least I’m honest. I wouldn’t give up my writing for anything and I don’t think I could stop writing even if I tried. Writing is like breathing to me. It’s part of who I am. It’s etched into my DNA.

However, I acknowledge that you can pay a high price for being a writer and that can include being permanently left on your Pat Malone (I’m not sure whether that phrase is an Australianism but it means being all on your own). There is that mystical balance between belonging and being part of the herd and needing time to yourself. I am quite a people person so I do try to structure most of my writing around times around when I’m home alone so it doesn’t interfere with my relationships but you can’t always control when creativity strikes. It’s like falling in love…that sudden coup de foudre. Bang! The muse strikes and I’m her captive slave. I quickly get it down before the words fly out the window and scatter in the wind. Naturally, I do this for the greater good. You never quite know what kind of impact such inspiration might have. It could actually change the world and it would be a shame for these precious words of wisdom to go to waste.

Anyway….

Aside from giving up my writing, I am making the ultimate personal sacrifice. I have promised the rest of the family that I will learn to play MInecraft, their favourite computer game. For me this represents some serious selling out because I’m ideologically opposed to computer games just like I’m opposed to Barbies and kids playing with guns. I obviously have no moral fortitude though  because a few years ago, I bought our daughter a crate with around 20 Barbie dolls, clothes and shoes for the grand total of $20.00 at a garage sale. I have also bought our son a few of those Nerf guns. That just leaves the computer games. Well, I’ve already fallen off that wagon. I had a good dose of Mario Kart Wii when I was crook the Christmas before last and all I seemed to do was crash and dive off the edge. I’m surprised the kids ever let me drive them to school again.

Personally, I’d say having to play computer games goes well and truly beyond the call of love. They’re bad for you: addictive, anti-social and the main cause of the childhood obesity epidemic. I don’t think anyone would call me a bad mother for taking a stand here.

However in our household, I’ve now been dubbed “the snob” because I’m the only one who can’t play Minecraft. Today my daughter asked me why I don’t play Minecraft. I was strangely speechless. The rest of them love it and they play joint games together and rather than being anti-social, it actually brings them together and they are learning valuable life skills such as working as a team, respecting each other’s property, problem solving and they are also learning how to make things. They are also learning that there are bad things in this world and how to take precautions and protect themselves and stay safe…and alive!

These are excellent life skills. The sort of thing you used to learn at Brownies or Scouts.

Anyway, in kids’ speak, I’d actually made a promise and had to follow through. A promise is a promise…especially as I’m expecting the rest of the family to play the violin which is my language and it’s only fair that I learn to speak theirs. I also get the feeling that it’s very important that I learn to speak their language to remain a part of their world in the same way my mum eventually learnt to send an email and tackled her own technology challenge. She dived into the great unknown and now it’s my turn.

After all, playing Minecraft isn’t going to kill me…at least, not in real life!

But there is more to my resistance towards playing computer games than just intellectual snobbery. I can’t actually play them. I am fine using a computer for all the usual word processing type functions but I get completely stumped when it comes to anything even vaguely technical. I even struggle to operate our new fangled TV set with its state-of-the-art all-in-one remote. I’ve had to ring Geoff quite a few times at work to bail me out. This is actually quite embarrassing because in real life I’m the marketing manager for a local IT company. I should know better.

I’m also stuck in some weird kind of time warp. For me, computer games mean Space Invaders or Gallaga. Yes, I know they’re oh so retro but there’s nothing wrong with being an 80s chick.

I’ve just been accused of writing about Minecraft instead of actually playing the game so on that note, wish me luck. I’m off to encounter the creepers.

xx Rowena

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Beyond Words…the language of music.

As a writer, words are my thing. Until very, very recently, I thought words were perhaps the only way to communicate. We had to talk about it. I had to write about it. Since primary school, I’ve been writing journals  which are all scattered around the house and are even stashed in crates up in our roof. I’ve also written countless poems and my poor computer is almost exploding with words.

Words!

Words!

My beloved violin

My beloved violin

Words!

However, when I discovered the violin, I found there was something beyond words. Well, actually I’ve always known there was something beyond words because I’ve unsuccessfully grappled with these thoughts and feelings seemingly all my life without being able to translate them into the written word. Rather, they’ve stubbornly refused to be categorised, defined or shoved in a box with a concise label waiting to be filed in alphabetical order.  When it comes to writing, this is the kind of stuff that lies between the lines and seemingly can’t ever make it into print.

Yet, even though I’m a relative beginner, somehow I’ve been able to reach and express these feelings through my violin. Somehow, it seems that notes can bridge the gap between vague and often inexpressible feelings and concrete words. Through playing the violin, even with all its squeaks and mistakes,  I have found parts of myself which had been lost and disconnected, rattling around inside me like spare parts. Slowly but surely, these missing pieces are becoming more integrated. I am finding myself. Freeing myself up.

Playing the violin has not only helped me connect better with parts of myself but it’s also helped me to connect with relative strangers as well.

Last year, I started playing in a violin ensemble. It was the first time that I’d ever played a musical instrument in a group. When it comes to connecting with people, I always thought you needed to speak to communicate and preferably share something personal. However, I felt some kind of unspoken connection or synergy with the other players, even though we barely knew each other and we weren’t doing much talking. We were all just beginner violinists trying to play a half-decent note. That’s all. But I felt a connection that touched something inside. That we had reached a place that wasn’t printed on a map… somewhere personal and off the beaten track. I don’t know if that’s how the other players felt but that’s how it was for me. It was a very special experience.

You see, although I’m something of a social butterfly and very extroverted, I can still feel surprisingly awkward at times and it’s not always easy for me to find my niche. That’s why I have called my blog Beyond the Flow. I’m not quite part of the mainstream. So even for me, this experience of bonding musically was very special and to be cherished.

Have you had bonding experiences like this where communication has involved more than words?

xx Rowena

Playing my violin at Byron Bay Lighthouse

Playing my violin at Byron Bay Lighthouse