Tag Archives: family

Weekend Coffee Share – 4th February, 2018.

Welcome to Another Weekend Coffee Share!

So, how can I tickle your fancy this weekend? Coffee, tea, Bonox? A slice of Vegemite toast perhaps? I’ve never had too many takers for the Vegemite toast on the Weekend Coffee Share, but if you want to walk like an Australian, you need to flood your bloodstream with the brown stuff and toughen up. Just think of it as chocolate sauce and ignore the taste.

Well, if you joined me for coffee last weekend, you might recall that the “kids” were heading back to school for the new school year and that my daughter was starting high school and our son was already there. That’s right. We now have have two high school students in the house and with that my responsibilities have gone up quite a few notches. No arriving back from holidays the night before and winging it with last year’s uniform on the first day. No, we had to be organized. Indeed, it was time to become anal about the whole thing and climb in the proverbial straight jacket.

You can  read all about our organizational efforts Here. Actually, I think that should read MY organizational efforts.

Anyway, after all of that, Tuesday was here and it was time for our daughter’s first day. I can barely remember how it went now, except that we took a few photos out the front of the house, without her brother because he was conspicuously scarse in case he somehow got roped into helping out. At their school, they have the Year 7s starting two days earlier than the rest of the school. So, big brother was making the most of time at home without little sister.

After taking some photos out the front of the school and greeting the Principal who we already know quite well, the students lined up in their form classes and I have to confess, that I was among a handfull of Mums were were clinging on so tight to their precious offspring, that we were almost part of the line. Although that might have been a bit pathetic, I didn’t cry.

Day 2, we our second day back at school had a bit of unplanned drama…a local blackout. Fortunately, the alarms all went off but making breakfast was tricky and we were eating by candlelight. It was all quite an uncomfortable experience, especially when we were still reeling from the shock of going back to school but we survived and she was at school on time.

She has settled in well and is making new friends and picking up with a few old ones and I’d say by the end of this coming week, she’ll be good.

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Meanwhile, Rosie our 6 month old Border Collie x Kelpie was also keen to get an education. She managed to pluck a pink highlighter pen out of the pen jar on the kitchen table and chewed it to death. There was a puddle of fluoro pink on the floor and spotches of pink on her paws…a photo opportunity.

Another funny incident around here this week, was a discussion with my daughter about the band INXS. “Devil Inside” was playing on the radio and she asked me whether he was singing “dead inside” or “devon inside”. If you’re not from Australia or New Zealand, you might not be familiar with Devon but its a cheap and nasty meat sandwich sausage often splashed with tomato sauce. This initiated a bit of a discussion about the late Michael Hutchence, which of course, became rather complicated but lead me into a reflection about the Americanization of Australian culture. You can read more about that Here.

It was fortunate in many ways that I could focus on their return to school and get things pretty much in order. I didn’t mind putting myself aside for a few weeks, because it’s a big change to start high school and a time where you need your parents on tap. You need them to be flexible and to understand your 1000 mood variations in 15 minutes without getting stroppy or needing to be the centre of attention. It’s the same when anyone starts something new. You often need that extra TLC and ideally those around you can give you that. However, with the cost of living these days, that’s becoming less possible. Everyone needs to work, even the dog (es[ecially when they keep chewing through highlighter pens!)

However, I can report that I did manage to have my first beach swim of the season on Tuesday afternoon. It was great until I waded in around waist height and then I chicken out and was reminded of my dog who didn’t like to get his paws wet and was feeling tortured as his beloved tennis ball drifted out to sea. I was pathetic, but I eventually dived under the water and survived. By the way, the surf is pretty flat at our beach and very non-threatening. Yet, you still hear about the odd rescue or drowning and it is a patrolled beach.

Anyway, I’ve decided that I need a holiday or an adventure, but don’t know what that’ll entail yet. It might just be a coffee down the street, but I’d like to think I might get further afield.

So, how was your week? I hope you had a great one and that the week ahead goes well for you. Got anything planned?

Well, I’d better head off.

This has been another Weekend Coffee Share, hosted by Eclectic Alli.  You’re welcome to join us. Just click through to the Linky.

Best wishes,

Rowena

Back to the Real World…a new school year.

It was the massive jolt that had to happen. The kids went back to school this week and the dreaded inevitable hit me like a Mac truck, as we switched from Holiday Mode to School Time looking and feeling like the zombie apocalyse.

Waking up at 7.00AM again was brutal. We’ve mastered the sleep-in over the break and while the kids went off on a few camps, I stayed put often staggering out of bed at lunch time, making the most of an empty diary.

While I’m sounding like a human sloth, I’ve actually spent much of the holidays trying to get the kids, house, bedrooms ready for the new school year. In keeping with my belief that we are reborn on January 1st each year, I knew it was entirely possible that we could pull off the seemingly miraculous. That can all be encapsulated in one simple word…ORGANIZED.

Unfortunately, being organized for school isn’t as easy as it seems. It’s not as simple as making sure they have their uniforms, shoes and socks all set out. Of course, they also need the laptop, pen, paper, books, backpack. But that’s not the end of the list either.

“Wait. There’s more!” Since we’re going back to school, I can’t throw in a set of steak knives. That said, school wouldn’t be school without a metaphorical knife in the back, more likely from a friend you’ve loved and trusted, rather than the proverbial bully. Most of us are also pretty good at shooting ourselves in the foot too.

Going back to school is also about a place for everything and everything in it’s place, which means a clean, neat and tidy bedroom…and kitchen table for many of us and some way of making sure the dog doesn’t eat the kids’ homework as well.

That’s just the stuff you need to get sorted before the kids have walked through the gate.

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It’s only been a couple of days and all the gumph hasn’t come home yet. This has given me the chance to do what I fully intended to do two years ago when our son started high school. That is, draw up a grid showing the weeks of term on one side and the subjects on the other side. When I’d finished, I printed it out and suddenly my mind went blank. What was I supposed to do with it now? How were the kids supposed to use it? I had no idea. My mind went blank…an empty whiteboard with all of it’s circuits removed.

It was time to phone a friend.

I don’t know about you but how often to you come up with these wizz bang systems but don’t know how to implement them? How to convert dreams/plans into action?

I’m the master. A frequent visitor to organizing stationery shop Kiki K, I have all the tools to plan my week, menu, set goals, and even fly to the moon. Well, that is, if only I could ever get started.

Anyway, the subject grid is now sorted and we’ll write the big assignments and tests in there so we can trouble shoot and plan ahead instead of falling in a screaming heap, which has been our usual modus operandi. With both the kids in high school now, this planning will also help us identify times when they’re both going to be hitting the panic button and we can hopefully prevent a monumental meltdown x 2. After all, each of the kids isn’t living in isolation, but as part of a family and by getting the family machine well greased and in peak fitness, hopefully it will support them. Bring out their best. I feel it’s been holding them back in the past with four individuals coming and going and all sorts of unexpected hazards side swiping us while absorbed in something else.

Clock Sculpture Paris

This brings me onto what is a bit of a swear word around here…time management. How do you help them complete tasks in a timely manner? This has been a real struggle for me and this is what inevitable takes me into Kiki K.pomodoro timer

 

Recently, I was put onto a time management system called the Pomodoro Technique. This uses a tomato-shaped timer which you set for 22 minutes and then you focus on one task during this time. If you have an idea about soemthing else during this time, you jot it down on a post it note and keep going on the original task. When the time’s up, you can take a 5 minutes break. After four consecutive sessions, you can take a 20 minutes break. I spoke to my son’s teacher and she said that they basically do this and they call these 5 minutes breaks: “Brain breaks”. I also use a device called a Time Timer, which is a visual clock and shows how much time you have left in red and you can immediately see how much time you have left and can plan accordingly.

Yet, along with all this organization and the home study machine, we still need to have fun. We still need chaos, antics, laughter because we’re not machines.

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For better or worse, our dogs are very good distractors, comedy and stress relief while also adding fuel to the fire. Today, Rosie one of our 6 month of Border Collie x Kelpie pups, helped herself to a fluoro pink highlighter out of the pen jar on the kitchen table and chewed the thing to death. There was literally a pool of pink ink on the kitchen floor and splashes of ink on her paws. She was a very naughty girl, but she looked so funny that I had to laugh and photograph the proof.

I also went for a swim at the beach this week and it was so therapeutic just to feel the stress fall off my shoulders and drift far out to sea. Phew! What a relief.

A relief and a reminder that it’s all too easy to get too wound up and perfectionistic about all of this. Being organized is good, but it needs to serve a purpose and there comes a point where you have done enough and it’s time to let go. Step back. How far back, I guess depends on how the kids respond. However, experience to date, has shown the need to keep checking back in and knowing when those deadlines are coming up, even if it;s only to prevent a serious bout of gastro, asthma or the like leading to extended absences and avoidance.

It could also be helpful to reflect on our own less than perfect school days and give the kids a breather. They’re not 40 or 50 something and tackling their high school days for the second time. Rather, they’re teenagers on their first way through who also need to learn from their mistaks and find their own way through. By doing everything for them, it removes responsibility, and doesn’t allow them to think for themselves, which could well have greater long term consequences than a few late assignments.

So, as you can see navigating your way through the whole parent teen study thing is riddled with contradictions, but defintiely worth thinking about and not simply going with the flow to give your children the best chance of doing their best.

I would love to hear any tips you might have as either a parent, teacher or student which may be beneficial.

xx Rowena

 

Farewell 2017!

Before we launch into 2018, thought I might ask what you were most thankful for in 2017? What was the stand out?

Personally, I am thankful that my family is still standing after some trying times and I am also thankful for our beloved dog, Bilbo, who passed away in June and for the puppies who have helped to heal our broken hearts. I’m also thankful for our three week trip to Tasmania in January. We had an amazing time.

A tribute to Bilbo.

The pups. Rosie has the white stripe on her head and Zac has the white on his nose. The tan and black puppies were fosters who’ve now gone to their forever homes.

Well, I apologize for being overly thankful. How about you?

Wishing you and yours a wonder-filled year ahead in 2018!

Love and best wishes,

Rowena

The Prodigal Violinist.

Last Sunday, I performed Bach’s Jesu Joy of Man’s Desiring at “MY violin concert”.

Before you start asking me for the details of my national tour, or how to order copies of Ms+e shar them in the comments. CD, in the interests of brutal honesty, I should confess that it wasn’t actually MY violin concert after all. Rather, I was performing at: “Music in the Orchard”, put on my the music school where I learn the violin. I know that’s just a minor distinction. A question of being in the fine print, instead of having my name up in lights, but a point needing clarification.

Anyway, as it turned out. I deserved to have my name my name up in lights,and that’s just for turning up. Ironically, playing my violin turned out to be the easy part.

You see, our household has a thieving poltergeist, and last Sunday morning it gave its best performance yet.

The nightmare started when my glasses went missing. Indeed, it hid my glasses  so well, that it took three people to find them. Every night, I put my glasses on top of the pile of books beside my bed. However, it’s not uncommon for me to send them flying during the night, but they usually land in the same old, predictable places i.e. down beside the bed or under the side table. However, this time they travelled further afield and had actually dived into my shoes. In an embarrassing moment of capitulation, I had to call my husband home from Church to find them.

The poltergeists next target was my daughter’s tap shoes. As no day is sacred in our end of year schedule and we’re double and triple booking and splitting the kids and ourselves up between us, my daughter had dance photos on the same day as my violin concert. While I’d really been looking forward to her hearing me play and being a part of my special day, I dropped her off at the dance studio as I headed up the hill. By this stage I was running late for my concert, but I figured that I wouldn’t be the opening act and would be well down the pecking order towards the end.

No such luck!

No sooner had I got there, and I was tuning up and praying to whoever it is who takes pity on mothers trying to pull off a performance while supporting their children and is lucky to be dressed at all, let alone made up. And, as for getting those fingers, strings and bow to cooperate, it was, going to take desperate prayer and serious pity. A case of the prodigal violinist… “I know you haven’t practiced enough, but I’ll help you play those strings and together we will make sweet music.”

As it turned out, I did have a guardian angel and that was my teacher, who was not just playing a duet alongside me. She was my accompaniest and a good accompaniest enhances the performer and compensates for their mistakes to make them look better. I knw she had my back, which gave me the confidence to get up on stage at all when I was only just adequately prepared.

So, let’s fast forward to my actual performance. I was playing Bach’s Jesu Joy of Man’s Desiring. It is a fairly difficult piece, but it starts out relatively easy and gets more difficult as you go along. I usually managed it through the first page alright but struggle with the rest. Indeed, we had been looking at cutting out the middle section, but I really liked it and found it very dramatic so I bumped up the practice and went into prove it mode.

However, after all the stress of actually just getting to the venue and trying to find my bearings, I started stumling right from the start and my fingers weren’t getting into gear. There was part of me which was starting to feel my performance was doomed. That if I couldn’t even get the start right, I was really going to botch up the other bits. It was that same kind of dread which overtakes your stomach when you’re on a rollercoaster  and your peering straight down over the edge of the very earth. You are going to die! Yet, at the same time, there was also that awareness that the show had to go on. That I couldn’t give up. I just had to make it to the end.

Then, the strangest thing happened.

After stumbling at the start, I actually nailed the rest of the piece and it really did sound sensational as a duet.

I have a very patient and encourging teacher! A veritable angel!

Do you have any performance stories you’d like to share? Please share in the comments.

xx Rowena

 

 

Our Son and the Rescue Pup.

This afternoon, I was tapping away on my laptop, when I glanced over and spotted a priceless moment. Our son was snuggled up on the couch with our Border Collie pup, Zac (ie Isaac Newton)  watching The Good Doctor. It’s Sunday afternoon, which quite frankly should be declared a “snooze zone” before having to return to the realities of “The Week” on Monday. Hence, I’d slept in, and was still in my PJs. That explains how I managed to capture the moment. I didn’t need to leave the house, or even my chair. My camera was sitting faithfully by my side, just waiting.

Zac is almost 4 months old, and we’ve had him since he was a little 6 week old pup, along with his sister Rosie. Rosie was meant to be a foster pup, and simply passing through. That was before she got caught in our heart strings. Zac and Rosie have also become inseperable. After all, they’re more than brother and sister. Now that the rest of their litter has dispersed, they’re “twins”.

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Rosie (left) Zac (right). Not quite identical twins.

Of course, with such young pups, you don’t know anything about their personalities, psychology or outlooks on life. You can only base your selection criterion on things like markings and which pup comes to you first. I was the one who chose Zac, because he had distinctive black and white markings, which I thought looked more like Bilbo. Our daughter chose Rosie as she has a broad, white stripe on her face, which she thought looked like Bilbo. Rosie also has black spots on her legs, which I wasn’t too sure about, but others loved. Both dogs were looking short-haired and Bilbo and every other dog I’ve ever had, has been long haired. However, I reasoned that short hair is better suited to our beach lifestyle. It was a tough choice.

Zac was instantly “my dog”, and he was also the pup most determined to turn a  recalitrant, growling Lady, into “Mum”. Rosie palled up with the rest of the family and was a little more cautious about turning to Lady for love. It soon became clear that Zac and Rosie were inseparable, and that having both dogs could be much less work than the one. They could occupy each other.

Back at the end of June before the pups came along, our beloved Border Collie Bilbo passed away. He was 11 years old and we’d had him since a pup. Back then, our son was 2 years old and our daughter was crawling. So, not only had Bilbo seen the kids go through the childhood years, he’d also been with us through each and every up and down with my severe health struggles. I don’t know whether all of that made him a sensitive soul, but he certainly was a very special dog.

And, Bilbo was also a survivor himself. Indeed, he was only a young pup when I was admitted to hospital for about eight weeks and he went from having the kids and I at home almost every day, to me being in hospital, the kids staying at my parents’ place and Geoff getting home super late from work after touring Sydney seeing the rest of us every day. On top of that, the pup also lived through the trauma. A stress beyond stress.

 

Above: RIP Bilbo.

At least, that’s how we explain Bilbo’s act of determined destruction, which could have killed the wee pup. Bilbo went exploring under the house chewing the the wifi and computer network cables. When an exhausted and irate Geoff retraced his paw prints under the house, he found that Bilbo had even started chewing on an electrical cable and must’ve received a slight zap, which made him stop.

Obviously, that wasn’t the best of times for us.

So, when Bilbo passed away, he took a lot more than memories along with him. There was also the deepest and most compassionate empathy, and an understanding of us which came with walking through the valleys and mountain tops with us and in our hearts.

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Lady.

While we have another dog, Lady, she doesn’t have that same sense of empathy or emotional depth…and isn’t quite so melancholy either. She’ll greet you with an uber-enthusiastic wag of the tail, which could almost take your leg off. She has different talents, but she also doesn’t fetch which was a rather difficult gap for us to ignore. We are a ball throwing family and that requires a dog to fetch, even if he was an annoying, obsessed maniac  more often than not.

Zac & Rosie

Zac & Rosie when they first arrived, aged 6 weeks.

Wanting to let our emotions heal before we adopted another dog, we were going to wait until next year and get another pure-bred Border Collie. However, I got word through the pet rescue group that some Border Collie x puppies were coming in. I could also see that our son could use another dog  now. At the time, this was more of a vague hunch than a neon sign.  although until Zac settled in, I had no idea that he had such a special capacity to heal. A capacity not unique to him, but not universal among dogs either. That he has a gift.

Reversing up a bit, not long after Bilbo died, I caught the flu and a nasty respiratory infection. With my underlying health issues, such infections become life threatening and I developed a powerful, incessant cough which was absolutely terrifying. After losing the dog, the kids were particularly concerned this year and didn’t have Bilbo for support.  After all, it was hard times like this, that Bilbo had always been there for every single one of us. Shaken by such fear on top of grief, our son in particular needed the love only a special dog can give.

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That’s why I was so stoked to see our son so snuggled up and entwined with the dog today. As a parent, we so often feel like we’re flying blind.Even when we know we’re doing our best, it’s all to easy to feel like we’re floundering. That despite our best efforts and utilizing every single resource we’ve got, that we’re still getting sucked into the vortex and drowning…along with our beloved child. Seeing our son so relaxed, content fused with the dog and knowing we’ve all made it through the storm, was such a relief. An answer to prayer in a way that made so much sense and yet seems hard to put into words on the weekly praise list…RESCUED DOG SAVES TRAMATISED CHILD.

And, so I’m happy.

In addition to sharing my joy, this photo marks Day 4 of the Seven Day Black Photo Challenge, which a friend roped me into on FB. The idea is that you post a B & W photo every day for seven days and you nominate someone new to take up the challenge every day. Today, I’d like to nominate Trent from Trent’s World.

Have you have a special dog or pet who has whispered magic into your life? Please share.

xx Rowena

Gloat- Day 2 B& W Photo Challenge.

You have to congratulate me on today’s photo. Not because it’s particularly good and when I think of all the millions on photos on my hard drive, it wasn’t even among the best. However, I did think the Scrabble letters would translate well into black & white.

The real reason you have to congratulate me, is that I didn’t post another B & W dog photo. That I was able to pull myself away from the five beautiful dogs chewing on my socks and feet (well, make that the four pups. Lady is too busy sleeping or growling at micro pups who are still convinced this old cranky puss could still be their friend.)Yes, I was able to think about something else.

Well, I have been thinking of a few other things, such as my Irish Famine Orphan research project. I am researching and writing up the stories of around 25 young women who emigrated from Middle Workhouse, Cork to Sydney onboard the John Knox arriving in 1850. I am approaching this as a you have 25 people in the same boat and what happens when they all get out retrospective social experiment type thingy. To get to the story part, I also have to do the geneology of each woman and not having a huge budget (ie $0.00), I’m doing a lot of sifting and my head has become some kind of tabulating machine process names, dates, deaths. Or, in too many cases, being unable to find who she married and their story ends as soon as they get off the boat. That frustrates me no end, because it could well be these women who have the most exciting stories to tell if only I could find them. I am also a tenacious idiot and won’t give up long after it’s become such a cold case, it’s frozen over. BTW, my 4th Great Grandmother was one of those women hence my interest.

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Getting back to Scrabble, I managed to spell out GLOAT in a Scrabble match against my husband and son a few months ago. I don’t get to gloat very often when it comes to playing Scrabble against my husband but from memory, I actually won that round. My husband grew up in rural Tasmania and what with all that cold weather in the days before computers and electronics, they played a lot of Scrabble. Indeed, his mother who was a former school teacher, had a massive Webters English Dictionary they used. It’s almost the width of two house bricks.

Our 13 year old son loves playing Scrabble, and wandered into this brutal battleground. Feeling discouraged, I told him that we were training him up so when he played someone else, he’d beat them. I don’t know if that’s the sort of approach you’d find in the parenting textbook. However, my copy must’ve got lost in the mail years ago, because it’s never arrived. How about yours? Do you have one?

Anyway, I have to admit (or more like “confess”), that I was gloating when I finally beat my husband. I knew it was only because he got bad letters, and that he’d soon reclaim his crown. Yet, victory was sweet.

Do you enjoy playing Scrabble or other board games?

BTW I would like to nominate Kathy from Time No Matter to take up the Seven Day Black & White Challenge today.

xx Rowena

Love For A Thousand Years…Friday Fictioneers.

Being detained for importing acorns into Australia, Ciara had simply snaffled a few back from the family churchyard in Cloyne. She didn’t know how old that gnarled and crooked oak tree was, but had no doubt that her grandmother’s great grandmother would’ve climbed it as a little girl. After all, an oak could live for a thousand years. Now, Ciara planned to grow her own and watch her children, grandchildren and great grandchildren climb its branches and feel her arms wrap around them, even  centuries after she’d passed. They would know and feel her love…a love stronger than time.

……

This has been another contribution to Friday Fictioneers hosted by Rochelle Wishoff-Fields. This week’s photo prompt is © Sandra Crook. Thanks Sandra for sharing this image of a very striking tree.

Perhaps, many of you are unaware that Australia has  very tight quarantine restrictions, which are strongly reinforced. Indeed, perhaps you might’ve heard of how Johnny Deep and his girlfriend brought their dogs illegally into Australia, which potentially could’ve introduced rabies with catastrophic consequences.

Many years ago, my grandmother brough heather back from Scotland in her luggage and planted it when she arrived home. She was her own woman right to the  very end and I guess so many of us feel that something small and seemingly insignificant couldn’t possibly cause an environmental disaster. Yet, it can.

I am in the process of tracing the journey of my 4th Great Grandmother through the Irish Famine and out to Australia. She was born in Midleton, County Cork and lived in Cloyne nearby as well, which has the most imaginative round tower and churchyard, which inspired my take.

BTW I have become a foster carer for an animal rescue group and we are currently fostering 5 week old kelpie pups, who are still largely bottle fed. Alot of fun but time consuming.

xx Rowena