Tag Archives: minecraft

10 Outragiously Simple Ideas To Rescue Kids From Turning Into Digital Zombies

It’s school holidays here and I appreciated these tips for getting the kids away from their technology. I’ve had a recurrent cough for some time so I need to start getting myself back out there too!
xx Rowena

creativityamongdigitalchaos

I know a lot has been written and said about the effects of digital gadgets on Children’s physical and mental health but we as parents and communities are still weary of shielding them due to the enormous power of connectivity and global knowledge that it has to offer. With educational institutions relying more and more on digital platforms to impart lessons , parents are unable to shrug off the pressure of keeping up with the fast evolving digital culture and thereby exposing children to hours of screen time that can leave them over stimulated ,irritable and sleep deprived. However just a little bit of regulated screen time and incorporating a few holistic habits into our Children’s everyday lives can help us enjoy the benefits of the digital revolution that our kids are lucky to be a part of without the guilt of unattended screen time! Here are 10 simple ideas…

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Diagnosis: A Rough Week!

Just because things could always be worse, that doesn’t mean they couldn’t be better! Or, that you haven’t been through some kind of traumatic “Beam me up Scotty” experience where only bits of you have returned back down to earth. You’re feeling strangely fragmented and more than a little bit shell-shocked.

You should never have to apologise for these less than spectacular moments just because they don’t turn out to be something major. You are still having to go through the same hoops and they aren’t usually much fun in themselves either.

At the same time, these stresses can create post-traumatic growth because even though you might feel dreadful at the time, you are actually becoming “Tonka tough”. Through building up resilience, hardship adds new whiz bang state-of-the-art equipment to your personal tool box so you can fly and literally soar beyond all the crap and off into the blue yonder. That is, once you’ve cleared the ground.

“The heaviest of burdens crushes us, we sink beneath it, it pins us to the ground. But in love poetry of every age, the woman longs to be weighed down by the man’s body.The heaviest of burdens is therefore simultaneously an image of life’s most intense fulfillment. The heavier the burden, the closer our lives come to the earth, the more real and truthful they become. Conversely, the absolute absence of burden causes man to be lighter than air, to soar into heights, take leave of the earth and his earthly being, and become only half real, his movements as free as they are insignificant. What then shall we choose? Weight or lightness?”
― Milan Kundera, The Unbearable Lightness of Being (somewhat chauvinistic but still a good quote.)

We’ve had a pretty grueling week taking our 9 year old daughter to have a Barium Meal and an endoscopy to test for things like coeliac’s disease and other gastric nasties  So, it’s no wonder I’m feeling awful and I’m left wishing I’d snatched the anaethesetic mask off her face and breathed deep, so deep that I’d still be asleep. Not that I want to make it permanent. It’s just that after all this stress,  a good dose of anaethesetic is just what the patient’s mother has ordered.

“Name…Date of Birth…” Asks the nurse.

Damn! It’s pretty obvious I’m not a 9 year old girl.

Neither of these tests were nice or something you put your child through unless you’re pretty sure there’s  a problem. After all, they’re not an ice cream taste test challenge. In the case of the Barium Meal, it involves feeding a little person who is quite the non-eater  yucky, chalky tasting stuff. In the case of the endoscopy, they’ll be shoving a camera down into her stomach on a long tube. On top of that, there’s also the scariness of going into hospital and her terror that if she’s coeliac, that she’ll have to be gluten free and “never be able to eat party food ever again”. I don’t think the whole thing of having a camera fed done into her stomach had even sunk in and we certainly weren’t pressing the point. She was being so brave and courageous but she did want it over and done with.

As I said, you don’t put your child through all of that without very good reason. Our Miss is quite underweight and has trouble eating more than just a sparrow-sized meal. I have written sagas about sandwiches returning home untouched. That’s annoying and wasteful. However, the real gripe with all of this, is the shocking bad moods as her blood sugar plummets and Miss Jekyl returns home. These mood swings alone justify a swag of medical tests as they can be very draining.

By the  way, I should also mentioned that I’ve been through these tests myself. I can’t really remember the Barium Meal and I just remember the post-anaethesetic haze when I woke up from the endoscopy. I’ve been through much worse and they really are relatively minor tests but it’s very different watching your 9 year old daughter going through it than doing  it yourself. Indeed, so much worse that I really could have used that anaethesetic.

“for there is nothing heavier than compassion. Not even one’s own pain weighs so heavy as the pain one feels with someone, for someone, a pain intensified by the imagination and prolonged by a hundred echoes.”
Milan Kundera, The Unbearable Lightness of Being

Anyway, the tests began with the Barium Meal swallow on Monday. Needless to say, I worked myself up into quite a frenzy, wondering if she’d actually swallow the stuff or stubbornly refuse or even throw it up? I expected tears, protests and the biggest tantrum ever recorded and was truly bracing myself for the worst.Consequently, Geoff took the day off work and came with us and I’m sure that helped to maintain the peace because she was fine and handled it all like her mother.

Then, we had to wait for the results..

Stick any sort of probe into your body’s dark and mysterious innards and you have to be prepared that they’ll find something you might not want to be found. Now, I’m not talking about that secret pot of gold you buried in there years ago or other forms of hidden treasure. I’m talking about all those potential nasties which could be lurking in your body that you don’t want to know about. You have to be prepared that one of these has moved into your body and may not be willing to leave. Of course, Google fuels all these fears better than kerosene hurled on an open fire, lading to all cyberchondria is all it’s numerous mutations.

For our daughter,  the Barium Meal test was looking for structural anomalies such as a twist in the oesophagus. I quickly decided that we didn’t want this…especially when I read that the appendix can also be in the wrong place and need to come out as well. All of a sudden, I pictured our precious baby girl being carved up like a lamb roast as they seemingly rearranged and extracted her insides. My goodness. I quickly exited that diagnosis. Yes, we were definitely not having that…not that you can pick and choice your diagnosis or its severity but we all like to think illness is like a shopping list and we can have some degree of choice about which diagnosis we put in the trolley. Ha!

When it comes to medical test results, there’s the good news, the bad news and the inevitable inconclusive question mark. Obviously, we all want the good news but if everything was fine why was there a need for the tests in the first place? As long as there’s effective treatment, the bad news may not be quite so bad as it first seems if the problem can either be fixed or managed. However, the more I think about it, the inconclusive question mark might just be the worst result of all. Being neither good nor bad, this can easily fall into the rare disease category where you start hearing phrases like: “we don’t really know” and “I’ve never seen this before.”

Trust me! I know all about that!!

Anyway, the Barium Meal test went well and was relatively uneventful, although she did complain about the taste.On the other hand, she said that the x-ray equipment was great fun because it twirled her around. That was an unexpected joy so you can’t predict how these things are going to pan out!

The results were great and came back without a glitch!!

With Thursday being the endoscopy down in Sydney and a hospital admission and all, I just wanted Wednesday to go smoothly without any complications and for everything and everyone to leave us alone so we could be prepared. Of course, this is almost like an invitation for all those nasties concealed in Pandora’s Box to suddenly fly free and attack and that’s exactly what happened.

Our daughter was feeling sick and so she stayed home from school. Our son, who is notorious for being unable to find his shoes, was missing one shoe and saying he couldn’t go to school. What’s more, he was really starting to rev up with something of an Oscar- winning drama performance  and was refusing to look for the absent shoe  and was leaving me to do all the hard work, while throwing out incendiary devices such as: “You hate me!” Did I mention that he was still playing Minecraft through all of this? I was fuming!!! I was pulling out every trick in the book to get him to budge and eventually he moved. Found his shoe in a completely different room to where I’d found the other shoe and he was off to school. That drama was frustratingly stressful and very, very draining.

After a recharging cup of tea, the day was proceeding well and we were mentally psyching ourselves up for the big day.

That was until the phone rang. It was the school. I don’t like it when the school rings because they obviously never just call up for a social chit chat. There’s always a drama involved and while sometimes it’s simply a one Act play. More often than not, we’re talking the full four acts and an encore performance.

Mister had been hit on the head with a didgeridoo and wasn’t feeling well. Could I come and pick him up. What the @#$%?!!!! What were the chances?

It could only happen in Australia! Moreover, it could only happen to our son and at the most inconvenient moment. We specialise in statistically rare disasters in this house.

When you think about your child’s head doing battle with a didgeridoo,  being a hollowed out lump of wood, you don’t need much imagination to start seeing stars, concussion, a fractured skull, emergency brain surgery and,,,and…and…Oh yes! There’s also missing the signs of all of the above and we all know what that means.

I didn’t need to be thinking about taking our son of to Emergency with a suspected skull fracture not to mention bleeding on the brain the night before we’re taking our daughter off to hospital. I understand that parenting often involves a lot of multitasking but seriously this is all a bit much for even us to handle at once. We’re only human. Dear Lord, please remember that. We’re only made of flesh and blood and we can only take so much.

However, he refused to go to the doctor and perked up and went off to the cafe with my mum and Miss, while I went and had my blood test in preparation for my specialist appointment. Then I was off to my violin lesson and a talk at the high school. It was a very busy night…especially when, as I said, we just wanted peace..peace almost at any price!!

But this is my life we’re talking about and it is heavily influenced by Mrs Murphy’s Law. That’s right. Mrs Murphy says Murphy was an optimist.

Staying up way too late again writing on the blog, I was just getting out of my chair to go to bed when my good ankle crunched and I was in agony. Not as bad as when I broke my foot but certainly up there. I started to wonder what the chances were of breaking the 5th metatarsal on the left foot while the right foot was still healing? Then again, there’s odds and statistics and then there’s me.

My mother often says we were born underneath an unlucky star and as much as I try to prove her wrong, sometimes I succumb. Putting my good foot out of action the night before Miss goes to hospital…this was no conspiracy theory. Bad luck not only follows me. It eats me on toast. Not that I’m complaining or whingeing. The situation is what it is but as much as I have rotten luck, I’ve had so much experience fighting back and overcoming all this crap now, that I’ve developed a fight back routine which not only puts me back in the box seat. It also makes me better prepared for the next round.

So, after somehow getting through Wednesday, it was Thursday and we were off to Sydney to take Miss to hospital for the endoscopy.

By this stage, I’d all but decided our daughter has coeliac disease and I’ve been trying to get my head around becoming gluten-free. She has been very upset about the possibility of having to be gluten free and had a complete meltdown over never being able to eat party food again. These are big things for a kid and not easily dismissed with the usual Australian cop out: “she’ll be right, mate” and I didn’t try either.

Rather, I suggested that she try not to think about it too much and get busy doing something else and if she’s gluten free, we’ll deal with it then. I also reminded her that other people we know are gluten free and they still have yummy foods. It’s not the end of the world. Actually, coeliac’s disease can be quite serious but I didn’t want to stress that. From my experience, coming to terms with bad news is a bit like trying to eat an elephant. You’re best digesting it one mouthful at a time and not in one, painfully large gulp. This, of course, is the danger of Googling your symptoms and doing a selfie diagnosis. You can read the very worst cases and swallow too much information at once and even make yourself terminally ill!!

We are still waiting for the final results. So far they haven’t found signs of coeliac’s  but it seems her stomach may have delayed emptying. We’ll just have to wait and see, which I hope means whatever it is, it isn’t too severe.

Meanwhile, although I’m not superstitious but it’s Friday 13th today and of course the bad luck didn’t leave me alone. I might not have seen that wretched black cat cross my path but I know it was there. Otherwise, how would you account for yet another nasty fall this week and my right  foot back in the boot?

That’s right. The boot is back on the right foot.

Yes, I am feeling annoyed about it all and just because these falls are frequent, it doesn’t mean they don’t hurt even if I’m smiling. That I don’t need a hug or a bit of TLC. I might be strong but I’m still human and I bleed.

Do you have any experiences you would like  to share? Living with ongoing, resistant adversity isn’t easy though we triumph and inspire. If you are also traveling in this boat along with us, we send you our love, compassion and understanding. Take care!!

Love & Blessings,

Rowena

PS: BY the way, I just found out that it is ironically National Coeliac Awareness Week in Australia 13=20th March. See here for more information:

http://www.coeliac.org.au/

Life Lessons from the Cupcake Catastrophe.

A few days ago, I survived the Orange Cake Catastrophe (see previous post). As you may recall, the mixture spiraled out of the bowl and splattered all over the kitchen. The poor dog, who usually hovers around while I’m cooking, even ended up with a Rorschach-like splat painting on the back of her head. A seeming miracle, I somehow patched it all up and the results were perfect. The cake even had an even texture which any show cook would be proud of and the squeeze of orange juice in the chocolate icing was inspired. I was very proud of my Choc-Orange Cupcakes and my ability to recover from yet another catastrophe in the kitchen.

What a waste of good mixture...Attack of the Killer Orange Cake Mix.

What a waste of good mixture…Attack of the Killer Orange Cake Mix.

It was confirmation that “all’s well that ends well” and not to get too upset about the bumps along the road even though they might feel like the end of the world at the time.

Since becoming a parent and slipping out of the full-time workforce, I have become more and more aware of the intelligence, the life lessons that we pick up on the road. That life can’t simply be learned through a book. As a well-educated and avid reader who has devoured a smorgasbord of philosophy and instructional books,this change has been a cosmic shift. After all, Kahlil Gibran’s: The Prophet is my favourite book and Malcolm Gladwell’s: Outliers has been a serious life changer as well. The thing is that no matter how inspiring and life-changing these books might be, we still need to experience the practical and everyday so we don’t trip over both feet and not know how to get up.

There is also a risk that by worshiping the big name intellectuals and speakers, we can miss those small but equally essential life lessons which are learned in the school of hard knocks.”A man gazing at the stars is proverbially at the mercy of the puddles in the road” (Alexander Smith) and the image of the astronomer walking at night stumbling into an open well while looking at the stars, goes back to the ancient Greeks.
Yet, do we adjust our focus as we walk along the road with all of its obstacles and bumps while gazing at the sky at our visions and dreams? Do we manage to observe and process all aspects of the picture…both the big and small? Or, are we too focused on the bright lights to look where we’re actually walking..at our feet?

I must admit that I’ve had more than my share of scraped knees and sprained ankles caused by too many cracks in the footpaths…or perhaps the problem has really been chasing too many clouds in the sky!

Eight years ago, I read a wonderful book called: Letters to Sam by Daniel Gottlieb. Gottlieb, a psychologist, became a quadriplegic through a car accident. Due to his health, Gottlieb doesn’t know if he will be around to see his grandson grow up and decides to write him a book of life lessons. He naturally wants to share the benefits of his experience. As the book unfolds, Sam is diagnosed with a form of autism and Gottlieb addresses what it means to live with a disability. What I also like, is Gottlieb’s Jewish cultural references which add a lot of depth and character to the story.

Inspired by Letters to Sam, I started writing my own book of life lessons for my kids and wrote about 50,000 words which I’ve never revisited (must get back to that. I can be my own worst critic.)

Anyway, when I found out I was having chemo to treat my auto-immune disease just before Christmas last year, all my memoir activities notched up several levels. I only had three days before chemo began and what if instead of saving my life the chemo took me out instead? In that case, I potentially didn’t have time to record anything…just tie up a few loose ends and it would simply be: “Game Over”.

Sometimes, we run out of coins before we know it.

Sometimes, we run out of coins before we know it.

What was something really, really important that my kids needed to know which I could teach them quickly in less than ideal circumstances? My kids were spending weekdays with my parents at the time so I wasn’t even going to be seeing a lot of them either.

In this is pressure cooker environment, I decided to teach my kids how to cook. This wasn’t intended to be some lofty, philosophical project. It was practical. My family needed to eat and I might not be there to do it. Their Dad can cook and reminds me that he wasn’t starving during the 10 plus years he lived out of home before we got married but I figured the kids could be useful. That they could extend themselves beyond cyber-reality on Minecraft and do some real chores.Nothing more annoying than seeing them feeding the dog on Minecraft and forgetting to feed the dog in real life.

The Abominable Doughman

The Abominable Doughman

What I didn’t consider when I launched into this project. was that you actually learn a lot of valuable life skills through cooking. Moreover, after surviving the ravages of chemo and chemo brain, these were important skills for me to develop as well. After all, while the chemo had “fixed” my auto-immune disease, it had destroyed all sense of time and I really struggled to multi-task. Even just by cooking your basic roast, you are learning to juggle tasks and manage your time. After all, you want the meat and veggies to be ready at the same time and this is not as easy as it looks.

I also enrolled the kids in Sea Scouts for some outdoor activities but that’s another story.

Coming back to my cupcake fiasco, I’ve learned that baking a cake while making dinner may not be the best idea, especially when I’m using a new and unfamiliar recipe.

Do one thing at a time. Seriously, who really can multitask well anyway?!!

I’ve also learned that as much as we would like to get it right the first time, that there are often mistakes along the road and we need to learn how to address and overcome these hurdles to achieve success…not just fall in a screaming heap when the going gets tough. I turned the beaters back on, finished the cake and kept going.Oh yes, I also cleaned up the mess!

The epitomy of  perfection: my Choc Orange Cupcake.

The epitomy of perfection: my Choc Orange Cupcake.

Also, that when we look at the achievements of others, we often put them up on a pedestal thinking they’re perfect, their lives are perfect and being only too aware of our own faults, feel like we’ve failed. We’re losers, inept. But we don’t know what they’ve been through to get where they are now. You would bite into my sweet little orange cupcake with the scrumptious chocolate icing with that expert squeeze of orange juice and tell me they’re perfect. You’d be overflowing with praise. “Have you considered selling these? You could certainly sell them to a cafe!” Nobody eating the cupcake would have any idea of the catastrophe along the way. That these cupcakes really were what you’d classify as a disaster.

Never look at other people and think their lives are perfect and they get everything right the first time. Once you scratch the surface, you usually find they also have feet of clay. Everybody makes mistakes!!

I was also encouraged by my fellow bloggers to believe in myself. While I hadn’t made something fancy like Duck a L’orange I’d intended with my stash of oranges and had almost botched up a simple quick mix cake, they still praised my efforts. I could have just cut the oranges up or even left them in the fridge until they were bin fodder. We all know that we can be our own worst critics but the challenge comes in how to be more accepting of ourselves.

Even when we do some crazy, weird and zany stuff and cake mixture splats in our face, we are still valued, precious human beings and these so called catastrophes really are insignificant in the overall scheme of things. Or, they live on as funny stories. That’s what I like to do with my disasters.

I would love to hear any stories you’ve had about overcoming similar “disasters”.

Have a Great Day!

xx Rowena

Cooking: creativity in action!

Cooking: creativity in action!

Mutiny on the Kayak

There is something so gloriously serene about kayaking across a beautiful diamond carpet of almost still water on a glorious, Spring morning. You’re almost inhaling all those positive ions and good vibes and feeling absolutely on top of the world. It’s just you and the sea and you’re floating along so effortlessly, almost levitating on a magnificent sea of calm absorbing all that superlative beauty.

However…

Add two reluctant kids to the mix, not unsurprisingly, the experience can quickly turn on its head. Instead of everybody moving in sync, we ended up with Mutiny on the Yellow kayak…especially when two dogs decide to do a bit of kayak bombing!

Here's Bilbo our Border Collie swimming out towards our kayak. This was a huge step forward for scaredy-dog although not such a good move for Mister in the pink single kayak.

Here’s Bilbo our Border Collie swimming out towards our kayak. This was a huge step forward for scaredy-dog although not such a good move for Mister in the pink single kayak.

Welcome to my nightmare. Trying to set off on a simple kayaking expedition with my kids in Careel Bay, just off Palm Beach in Sydney. To put you in the picture, this is right near where they film the Australian drama series Home & Away except we’re on the Pittwater side which is just perfect for all sorts of water sports (other than surfing, of course).

I don’t know what it is with my kids. Why they don’t jump at the chance to get out there onto the water and carpe diem seize the day? Why do they prefer virtual living to the real thing? By virtual living, I’m of course, referring to playing x-box and Minecraft and all those electronic gadgets too much. At least, I’m blaming the gadgets.

When I was a kid, I couldn’t wait to go to the beach. Get into the sand. Go outside. The only time we ever stayed inside was when it was pelting down with rain and my parents practically had to bolt down the doors to keep us in. There was also the odd bout of sunburn which put us out of action as well. Instead of the parents hassling the kids to get out, it was the other way round. “Come on, Mum! Dad!” I remember a particular beach holiday when my Dad locked himself up with a very, very large doorstop of a novel called Shogun and that was the end of him for the holiday although he might have taken us fishing. We were trying to drag Dad out into the water. It certainly wasn’t the other way round.

Times have changed. Now, it’s me the parent doing the dragging or should I say still doing the dragging. Doesn’t anybody else want to get out there? My husband certainly does. He might not be the original Solo Man but he has kayaked down the Tasmanian rapids which Grant Kenny traversed in the commercial. My husband had a real thirst for adrenalin and loved pushing himself hard before he was consumed by the rat race.

Miss and I in the kayak with Lady.

Miss and I in the kayak with Lady.

Although my kids are in the sea scouts and seem to be happy enough out on the water there, for some reason our daughter is often terrified of going kayaking with me and today is no exception. She brought up almost each and every fear known to man and although there was a bit of wind out there she wasn’t going to drown in knee-deep tidal water especially when she was wearing a life-jacket. She wasn’t going to get killed by stingrays either, which seem to scare her more than sharks but then again there is what happened to Steve Irwin. That certainly added stingrays to the Deadly 60. Last but certainly not least on her list despite their size, was the vast army of soldier crabs which were hiding in their crab holes underwater. They were all about to come out to get her. With all these worries being brought up while she begged me to turn back, it was like she had swallowed the DSM manual. You know the great book the psychological professionals use to classify and define all your weird and wonderful idiosyncrasies. She was absolutely gripped with fear and all teary but her wretched mother kept going because if you keep avoiding fear, you never develop the neuropathways to overcome it.

I know I’m hardly Robinson Crusoe with my lifelong phobia of false teeth and the incredible fear of dogs which I had growing up but other people’s unrealistic fears always look much more surmountable than your own.

Anyway, as you can appreciate, Miss really, really didn’t want to go kayaking.

While Miss and I were in the yellow double kayak, Mister was on his own in the single kayak. These kayaks had been left behind by the previous owners. They’re certainly not the latest and greatest craft and do have a certain bathtub look about them but we love them and they have taken us on some fabulous adventures. We’ve explored the mangroves. We’ve also paddled back and forth across the bay trying to catch glimpses of the great giant flathead and the amazing flying mullet. Of course, their mythical proportions rival the likes of Nessy[1] but you know how kids can turn hyperbole into fact. Mister’s been out there very determined with his net but the giants of the deep have eluded him and retained their precious secrets. I have also been on a number of very serene solo expeditions and it’s so relaxing just to float on the water and drift. Simply drift.

So Miss and I are paddling along. There’s a strong headwind and so we’re not moving very quickly and I’m talking her through her fears and encouraging her when I notice Lady, one of our dogs, has just launched off the boat ramp and is paddling out to join us. We’ve only had Lady two weeks and we’re still getting to know her. She’s two years old and she comes from a farm and is quite a bundle of surprises. Yesterday, she leaped up off the beach and successfully landed on top of a 3 metre high retaining wall. She really does make anything look possible and is quite a gutsy, spirited dog.

While you could wonder about the logistics of having a dog in a kayak, I thought Lady would be okay. I haven’t weighed her but she’d probably weigh something like 10-20 kilos. I certainly have no trouble lifting her up. Consequently, when she decided to “kayak bomb” us, I didn’t really hesitate to pick her up and help her into the kayak. Geoff and I have been sailing on the little Laser with Bilbo onboard before so I though Lady would be fine and she was. She sat on the front of the kayak in front of me as I awkwardly paddled around her.

Mister kayaking along with all 40+ kilos of Bilbo our Border Collie...the calm before the splash.

Mister kayaking along with all 40+ kilos of Bilbo our Border Collie…the calm before the splash.

Meanwhile, when Bilbo saw Lady kayaking with us, he somehow overcame his huge fear of even getting his paws wet and launched himself into the water. I saw him wading out with all his fur billowing out. I’m not sure I’ve ever seen him swim before except for the time he fell in the swimming pool chasing his tennis ball. Even for a Border Collie, Bilbo is a big dog and dry he weighs around 40 kilos so with his very thick woolly coat soaking up all that sea water, he was getting very heavy indeed. Well, he ended up on the single kayak with Mister who also weighs around 40 kilos. Mister is quite good on the kayak but not unsurprisingly Bilbo managed to capsize them and dog and boy were in the water. Bilbo managed to scratch Mister on the way out and apparently also tried to grab hold of him. It was only shallow water where at least we could all stand up so there was no risk of anyone drowning but there was certainly plenty of pandemonium.

I decided that this was also a good time to get Lady back on terra firma. The novelty of trying to paddle around the dog was wearing off, especially given my daughter’s catalogue of fears and I didn’t even want to consider how she’d react if Lady capsized our kayak. Needless to say, Geoff put the dogs back behind the fence before he headed out for a paddle.

As much as I enjoy a relaxing, solo paddle soaking up all that serenity, there was definitely a certain “je ne sais quoi” with this mad scramble of kids, paws, paddles and of course avoiding the huge ginormous Giant Stingray which is out there somewhere lurking in the very shallow depths.

It’s crazy experiences like these that become the great family legends. I can already hear everyone gathered around the family table laughing about the time Bilbo jumped in the kayak with Mister and they capsized and everyone roars laughing.

So much for peace and tranquility but as Helen Keller said: “Life is either a daring adventure or it’s nothing.”

I’d love to hear of any of your family adventures, especially family holiday antics!

Xx Rowena

PS Kids still aren’t seeing the funny side of things yet. Miss just told me: How would you like it if you capsized and the dog scratched you with its claws? Mister was also fairly gloomy about the experience as well. It seems there is a fine line between humour and trauma that we still need to work on. After all, your disasters always make the best stories.

[1] The Loch Ness Monster.

Love Spawned…Embracing the Great Minecraft Challenge.

Love is a seed. For love to keep growing and ultimately survive, you have to keep watering it. That’s the hard part. Keeping up all that boring maintenance…especially long after all the flowers have died and what’s left of the plant should be kept well and truly out of sight until next spring.

I don’t know about you but I’m not good with all that long term, routine kind of stuff.  As much as I love gardening and all my pretty flowers, I must confess that I’ve had quite a few plants die of thirst right next to a tap and I’ve felt so bad!!

You would think that I could make that very small effort to give them a drink, especially when I didn’t even need to go out of my way?!!

Yet, sometimes even those small, seemingly painless steps are too much even for the strongest and deepest kinds of love which go way beyond seeds, plants and gardening and involve the very people we love and cherish the most.

For me, learning to play Minecraft was about watering these seeds and nurturing our family, knowing full well that it would catapult me right out of my comfort zone and dump me into hostile, crocodile infested waters. Snap! Snap! You’re gone!

I have to admit that I was quite terrified of playing Minecraft, especially after my introduction last week. It was nothing like Space Invaders. Nothing like Space Invaders at all!

I’m not going to go into the ins and outs of Minecraft because you can Google that or check it out on Wikipedia. That’s what you do when you want to learn a new computer game, isn’t it? Apparently, it’s not. Most people actually play the game and don’t feel compelled to write about it either. It’s just me.  Geoff said this proved that I didn’t “get” Minecraft or I’d be playing it instead (and hooked on it like the rest of the family!!)

Well, he has a point!

When my great Minecraft challenge began, it reminded me of arriving at the dentist knowing I was about to have root canal. I sat in my chair and the iPad was put on my lap. As much as I knew it was going to hurt, I knew the alternative would be far worse (something like tying a piece of string around the offending tooth and slamming the door shut without any form of anaesthetic.)  I had to go through with it. Waves of panic completely overwhelmed me. I’d been catapulted so far out of my comfort zone and wanted to boomerang back there again. But writing about doing things with your family is no substitute for spending time together. I just had to do it. Embrace all those horrible, uncomfortable feelings and walk with them hoping that as time went by, I would somehow feel more at home.

The trouble with Minecraft is that is involves a number of my weaknesses and while working on these would ultimately help them to improve, getting to that point is hard, frustrating work. It’s like scaling Mt Everest using your bare fingernails and who doesn’t want to avoid that kind of stress?

It wasn’t just a matter of learning Minecraft. I didn’t know how to operate the iPad either. Not that it should have been that difficult because it is like my mobile phone. However, trying to learn Minecraft at the same time, seemed to compound my difficulties and the whole thing felt crushingly difficult. I was freaking out. I have no shame. I really am one of those old dogs who doesn’t like new tricks.

However, as Mister so kindly pointed out: “Mummy, you can’t runaway from Minecraft. It’s coming after you.”

He was right. I persevered. I embraced the terror and kept going. That said, I did have the timer going. I was going to be playing Minecraft all day!!

Anyway, I made some interesting observations during my time in Minecraftland:

Firstly, if you keep focusing on your feet, you have no idea where you’re going. A few times, I was wondering why I couldn’t get through a doorway when I was actually bashing my head against a dirt wall. It always helps to see the bigger picture.

Secondly, beware of the power of touch. I would be tapping on the screen trying to open or close a door and instead, I accidently dumped a mound of dirt in my tracks. I also accidently bashed a few holes in the wall with my wooden pick axe. Such acts of wanton vandalism aren’t usually appreciated by the other players.

Thirdly, despite being in a virtual world, you are still “you”. With my poor sense of direction and spatial reasoning, I get hopelessly lost in real life and the same applied in Minecraft and it felt just as awful. I was constantly lost, which felt really, really unnerving. Nobody likes getting lost even if it is just “a game”.

A few times I wondered what on earth I was doing in my lost state and Geoff would call out: “where are you?” I was so lost that I’d somehow become “beyond lost”.

Anyway, I just found a story I read about rescuing missing bushwalkers and it gave me a bit of insight into my “lost” behaviour:

“They say to find a missing bushwalker you first have to try to think like one. “We try to get in to the psychology and understanding what common mistakes people would make while they are walking. People do unusual things when they are lost,” said rescuer Caro Ryan.

People will unintentionally make themselves more lost. They will make decisions you don’t usually make.[1]

Geoff must have picked up on this because it didn’t take long for him to suggest: “Follow me!” It was as close as he could get on Minecraft to actually holding my hand. He was protectively and encouragingly lead me not only through the house we’d built but also though the minefield which had become Minecraft. There was so much to learn.  I had to follow him very, very closely and he really looked out for me too which was nice.

I also learned that the kids don’t close doors in Minecraft just like in the real world. In real life, they let the dog out and in Minecraft, they let the creepers in. Grr!

Yet, probably what I appreciated most is what it actually takes to get someone you love to take on your interest to a point where they can truly understand and enjoy it, join in and want to do it again. You need to put yourself in their shoes and somehow walk at their pace even if it might be excruciatingly slow to the point of irritation. You might need to steps down into bite-sized chunks or even micro-bites so they can pick it up and feel they can do it. You want them to feel good about what they’re doing! When I was lost and Miss took me off on a wild goose chase leaving me vulnerable to the creepers, Geoff firmly explained to her that if you want Mummy to play again, you want her to have a good experience. Enjoy it and want to come back.

Harper Lee summed this up pretty well in To Kill A Mockingbird:

“You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view… Until you climb inside of his skin and walk around in it.”

DSC_6402

Big shoes…Little Feet.

Another thing I found interesting was juggling the balance between caution and risk. In Minecraft, you need to build defences to protect yourself from the creepers but you also want to actually do some stuff.  The first time I played, I found myself a nice deep tunnel and stayed inside. I was surrounded by stone walls on almost all sides and I was very safe but I was doing nothing. I was just sitting there in the dark waiting for the sun to rise. With all that waiting, the iPod went to sleep and disconnected from the server. This meant I’d lost all my tools etc and had to start over.

Being so safe was also pretty boring. It was like when you’ve found a really good hiding spot in Hide & Seek that you’re still hiding there when everyone else has moved onto the next round. It gets a bit boring after awhile. Beign so safe was pretty boring and I did start wondering whether it would be more fun outside chasing creepers instead…even if I died!  Besides, you don’t actually die in Minecraft. You respawn but you come back with nothing and have to start over.

Lastly, I don’t really see the excitement in doing all these virtual jobs on Minecraft. Even virtual jobs feel like too much hard work. Moreover, if Geoff and the kids enjoy all those jobs so much, they should get started on the house but I guess real work doesn’t quite have the same appeal.

I don’t think they’ll ever make a gamer out of me but at least I’m having a go. I’m watering the seeds. You never quite know what is waiting around the corner and when those few minutes of my time might actually make the difference.

Moreover, by seeing me attempt to do something I find difficult, it shows the kids to persevere, keep fighting and as Pink so aptly put it to: “Try! Try! Try!”

xx Rowena


[1][1] The Sydney Morning Herald, February 23-24, 2013 pg 11.

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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