Many moons ago, I used to lament not having that special someone, and being able to go out for that much longed for dinner for two. These days, however, Geoff and I have been married for just over 20 years, and those days are long gone. Indeed, these days a family birthday dinner out is our mission impossible. Traditionally, these have included my Mum and Dad taking the festivities to six. However, thanks to a nasty combination of covid and covid lockdowns, Mum and Dad are still in isolation and the “kids” wanted to celebrate their birthdays with friends and also have oodles of activities on. This means the family dinner has been hard to squeeze in.
However, we finally managed to get out to what is most definitely a young person’s hangout, although they didn’t turf us old fogies out. Well, make that one old fogey and one well camouflaged one who apparently lost ten years a week or so go when I got my hair done again.
So, we ended up at Milky Lane in Terrigal. You might recall seeing Terrigal Beach during my recent beach-crawl driving round and round with our daughter who is learning to drive. Milky Lane classes itself as a “burger restaurant”. However, that’s the understatement of the century. McDonald’s is a Burger restaurant and Milky Lane is in a different league. The only trouble I had was trying to ensure I didn’t fill up on my burger, and miss out on dessert. Or, worse still, overeat and make myself dreadfully ill.
Meanwhile, while I throw rapturous praise around the food, the decor was out of this world, and so mind-blowingly atmospheric and a great backdrop for photography, especially if you could find more enthusiastic photo models. People who aren’t more interested in eating their meal (what I came here for) than having their photo taken. I could’ve taken photos for a decade in their especially if I had a revolving cast.
Obviously, the last two years in more on than off lockdown has knocked me about. I’m not what I was. Who is? Two years is too long for anyone to sit still anyway.
Anyway, we had a wonderful night out, and afterwards we crossed the road and walked along the beach a bit.
There was an almost full moon which was hanging over the beach like a golden beacon. A row of ships waiting to access Newcastle Harbour to the North were lit up in lights, and along the promenade a row of massive Norfolk Island Pines were lit up in lights like Christmas trees, although it’s March. The Rainbow Lorikeets had also congregated in the tree and were conducting a noisy chat. The waves were rolling in, and I could’ve stayed there for hours, but the kids wanted to go home.
The last week here has been somewhat obliterated by the news that legendary Australian cricketer, Shane Warne AKA “Warnie” died suddenly of a suspected heart attack on Saturday while he was on holidays in Thailand. It came as a super shock, that someone relatively young with so much life and vitality got snuffed out like that. Warnie was also a couple of months younger than me, and seemingly in much better health. So, it just goes to show, you can never know.
Meanwhile, Miss has passed her Learner’s Permit Test and has been out driving for a couple of hours most days. Ironically, almost all this driving has been done at night under wet conditions which you would see as ideal for a new driver. However, the roads have been virtually empty and it’s give her a chance to build her confidence. She also had an opportunity to go over the curb, but all things considered, she’s doing very well. She’s so proud of herself to and chuffed when she drives to qa new place and extends her range further. She was really happy to take on the Drive Thru at McDonalds where she works, and that one of her friends was on at the time and saw her. She needs to get up 120 hours of driving time and has to wait 12 months before she can sit for her Provisional Licence, but she’s made a solid start.
Tomorrow the infamous “Mister” turns 18. I can’t believe it, and I know many of you who have been hanging round here for quite some time, can’t believe it either. He will be old enough to vote, buy alcohol and if it hadn’t been for all the covid disruptions of the last couple of years, I’d also say be independent, but that will come. He’s having a small party tomorrow night and apparently our family dinner has been deferred to next week.
I probably shouldn’t put this so far down the pecking order. However, yesterday I attended a writing workshop with bestselling author Graeme Simsion who wrote the Rosie Project, which has evolved into the Rosie Series. He recently released The Novel Project, and this formed the basis of the workshop. A copy of the book came with the workshop, which was great but I hadn’t had a chance to look at it yet. However, in a nutshell, Graeme had done a scriptwriting course and the Rosie Project had started out as a script, but he dramatically reworked it and produced it as a novel but hd used the classic three act scriptwriting structure, and it’s really worked for him and a number of successful authors. I first got onto this at a writing workshop at the Sydney Writer’s Festival conducted by Director and author, Mark Lamprell, who was seemingly part of the furniture at my grandparents home many moons ago. All this structure, is good for me in a way because I unashamedly write from the heart, the soul but am coming a cropper when it comes to larger works. All this structure could well be good for me. Yet, at the same time, it seems rather mechanical and like a factory processing line what with writing on all these cards. However, it’s probably a process I’m currently doing in my head as I edit and reedit my work, and it might actually be rather helpful to extricate that process out of my head and put it down on paper where I might also be able to come back to it later. Trying to stop writing without losing the thread and being able to pick up where I left off, has been a big problem, especially with my more detail WW1 history bios. I am often writing late into the night bleary-eyed not wanting to let go. So, I will try to dig out the cards I bought after attending Mark Lamprell’s talk, and really give them a go this time.
By the way, I’d be interested to hear what you feel about a tightly structured approach to writing a larger work like a novel. Does it take away all the fun? Or, is it the secret ingredient for converting good writing into a finished book?
Meanwhile, last Wednesday night, I found myself wandering along the streets of Pisa, Italy looking for inspiration for a flash fiction prompt for Friday Fictioneers. This week’s photo was the Leaning Tower of Pisa, and no immediate inspiration came to mind. So, I fired up my rocket and zoomed over to Pisa via Google Earth and touched down outside a chicken shop. I wandered round the streets for an hour expecting to see the tower any minute. After all, how could I miss it? When you see it in photos, it seems to be on a patch of grass and standing alone and isn’t crowded in my more recent newcomers like so many modern cities. Anyway, I gave up trying and went back to the search and this time when I opened my eyes I was right there about a nose length away from the tower itself. Wow! It was a mind-blowing experience. There it was. I also came across the Cattedrale di Pisa which was basically next door, and Trent let me know that the Leaning Tower of Pisa was actually constructed as the bell tower for the Church. Makes sense, and it too has a slight lean btw. Anyway, I came across a Youtube video about climbing up the tower and that helped inspire my story: https://beyondtheflow.wordpress.com/2022/03/03/stairway-to-hell-friday-fictioneers-3rd-march-2022/
How are you? Hope was your week? I hope it went well.
My week has rushed by in a blur, and it feels like I’ve done nothing, achieved nothing and have simply been hovering in suspended animation. That’s not depression talking, butt more a state of conscious forgetfulness. Where was I last week? What happened’/ sometimes, it’s also a case of : “Who am I?” and it’s just as well my name is written down somewhere close by to remind me.
The reality is that I was actually rather busy. We are a family of four humans and three dogs. My husband works in IT for a university in Sydney with a hospital attached and has been the only network engineer available to go on site because his colleague is unvaccinated. Two people is pretty understaffed anyway, but with the overseas students being axed for the last two years, the universities have been a severe casualty in so many ways and the axe has been falling everywhere. We also have two teenagers – our son is now 17 and has always been known as “Mister” on here but he turns 18 in March, and has rather outgrown it. Miss is now 15 and working part-time at McDonalds and still dancing up a storm. So, we’ve been busy with end of year dance concerts, Geoff has end of year Christmas parties this week and I actually managed to post 17 Christmas cards.
Are you sending actual physical Christmas cards this year? Do you write a Christmas newsletter? These have always been big traditions for me. However, I don’t believe I sent more than a couple of Christmas cards over the last two years and I might have forgotten to email out my Christmas newsletter last year.
I’ve pulled my socks up this year, because I’ve realised that these Christmas cards are doing so much more than simply adding to Hallmark’s coffers every year. They help us to stay connected to a host of people who still mean the world to us, but we don’t see very often. They’re particularly important with people who aren’t online or Facebook. I don’t tend to ring people just for a chat anymore like I used to either. Here in Sydney we’ve had that massive four month lockdown. We live a bit North of Sydney in what in termed Greater Sydney. Now, Geoff is usually commuting to Sydney five days a week for work and I’d be down there at least once a month. However, we’ve only been down there once since the end of June and that was to see my parents and brother. We didn’t go anywhere else. We’ve also been laying low at home, and haven’t been back to physical Church so that’s a whole different swag of people we’re not seeing. So, the Christmas cards and the newsletter feel particularly important this year. We need to connect!
The weather has been pretty lousy lately but it’s a bright sunny day outside, and here I am indoors tapping away. The beach is only a few blocks away too. However, I have a support worker here today, and will have to wait til she leaves at 5.00pm. Meanwhile, there’s a pavlova cooling in the oven for our son to take to his Venturer meeting tonight, and then I’m onto preparing the fruit for the Christmas cake. I know it’s a bit late by most people’s calculations. However, Mum often rushed it through the night before Christmas so I’m way ahead.
Before I head off, I’ll leave you with a photo of the formal dress I picked up for our daughter for $20.00 at the opportunity shop last week. She doesn’t have a formal this year, but got all dolled up for photos with some friends who had their graduation formal. Here’s a pick:
Hope you’re going well and I look forward to hearing from you!
Late yesterday afternoon, Geoff and I made a hasty getaway to fit in a sunset walk over at Hardy’s Bay, about a 15 minutes drive away. Our kids are now 17 and 15 years old and hardly at that really young stage where we can’t get away without a minder. However, that doesn’t mean we’re not still attached to the leash. We are always only a phone call away.
As those of you who have lived through the teenage years can no doubt attest, you’re still not absolved of your responsibilities as a parent. Indeed, in some ways things can even ramp up. Even if the law doesn’t require you to provide constant supervision and your teens probably couldn’t think of anything worse, you’re still on a leash. Moreover, when they’re small you can delegate much of your supervision responsibilities to daycare, after-school care and grandparents. The former expire once your children start high school, and grandparents while willing are more than likely to be less mobile than they were once upon a time. Indeed, they could well appreciate a helping hand from them.
When it comes to Mum and Dad, they might not want to know or talk to you much of the time, but when trouble strikes, they certainly know how to find you. Overall, you want that. I want that. The alternatives can often be undesirable, and at worse, fatal. You don’t want teenagers in trouble trying to nut out complex situations for themselves, especially when they’re under the influence of drugs, alcohol, peer pressure, fear of being found out and the list goes on. It’s usual for me to pick my daughter and her friend up at odd hours. I never complain. Never lecture. Well, maybe sometimes. I do ask questions. Try to ensure everyone’s okay. I don’t portray myself as the cool mum, but I want them to know I care and I’d rather be the biggest dag and very uncool, and have them feel loved and valued.
However, at the same time, we parents also need a break, a breather. We need to be able to walk out the front door and have a bit of down time. Of course, going on a date with my husband would be nice (especially after 4 months in lockdown). However, as I said, I’d much rather come home if there’s a problem. I’d much rather be there for our teens in the event of an emergency. I really do. You do believe me, don’t you?
Last night, Geoff and I headed over to Hardy’s Bay for a walk and to watch the sunset. However, we’d just managed to set foot onto the jetty and I’d managed to take a couple of photos, when the phone rang. I’d initially thought it was Geoff’s work. He’s in IT and on call. That could mean a trip into Sydney. However, this time it wasn’t work. It was Mr 17. He had a fire pit running at home. It all seemed pretty safe and he’s a scout, and Geoff made sure he had he hose set up beside him. What else could go wrong? Well, it turned out some burning coals had jumped out and he’d stepped on them. Of course, he was barefoot. That’s not because he wasn’t advised to put shoes . Of course, he knew better and living right near the beach, we’re pretty casual with out footwear and I must admit to going barefoot a bit myself, especially when I was younger. I don’t think you’ll ever catch Geoff without shoes on, although I just peered over to check and sure enough…bare feet. However, his shoes are right there beside him and I think he puts them on just to walk around the house. You know, it’s a minefield around here.
Anyway, Mr 17 had Googled his burn and rated it a second degree burn, and there were blisters. That meant a precautionary trip to hospital. Of course, you can just imagine the moans and the “here we go again”. It’s only been a few months since we were back there with our daughter. Surely, we don’t have to run up frequent flyer points going there? Geoff was all set to go and looked at me and said: “You’re not coming?” Well, I felt a bit of a piker. However, I needed to drive our daughter to dance and I’m immuno-repressed and it’s best for me to stay away. Of course, it would’ve been better if we could all have stayed away, but better to be safe than sorry. Geoff and Mr 17 were on their way. I expected to see them in upwards of 3 hours. It no longer amazes me that an emergency can proceed at a snail’s pace.
However, miracles do happen. Not only did they have an express trip through emergency. His foot was fine. Dad’s bandage and the betadine ointment would do the trick. By the time Geoff returned from parking the car, he was through.
We had intended to get out tonight, but time ran away from us. I had a very relaxing time reading out at the new table out the front, and then we had lunch together out there as well…a home date.
How do you find parenting your older children? Any stories to share? I’d love to hear from you.
You’re in luck again this week. I can offer you a slice of double-layer banana cake with passion fruit icing and filled with whipped cream, which has now been soaked up by the cake itself so it’s very creamy. It’s not rocket science, but it is particularly good, and the passion fruit icing really reminds me of my mum whose speciality is sponge cakes with passion fruit icing and cream. I doubt passion fruit is native to Australia, but it feels Australian, and especially suits our balmy Summers. (Turns out it’s actually native to southern Brazil through Paraguay and northern Argentina)
Sorry, I forgot to ask. Would you like tea or coffee with that? Or, perhaps you’d like something else?
How was your week? I hope it’s been good, and that Covid isn’t interfering too much.
I went for a swim at the beach this afternoon, which was incredibly relaxing, exhilarating even, and the effects lingered on for hours. Indeed, although the water was a bit chilly (no doubt from all the rain we’ve had lately), it still inspired me to go back more often and to get over my aversion to getting wet. It’s so stupid, and my husband, Geoff, will tell you that you should’ve seen me inching my way into the water even at ankle depth looking like a human chicken. I was hopeless, and didn’t even put my head under. Indeed, only the tip of my ponytail got wet. So, I suppose some of you will tell me that I didn’t really got for a swim at all, and that all I was doing was stand-up comedy. Well, each to their own!
It’s been a busy week. Our teenage kids went back to school on Friday. So, last week I was busy organising uniforms, books, and also driving our daughter to dance privates to prepare her for next Saturday’s dance competition. She is entering in a new section this time for student choreography, and this required a few more lessons. However, it’s an interesting area to get into, and something which appeals to my creative mind, even if the body isn’t willing.
On Tuesday, it was Australia Day, and we had a public holiday to either celebrate, mourn, or ignore the anniversary of the 1788 arrival of the First Fleet at Port Jackson in New South Wales, and the raising of the British flag at Sydney Cove by Arthur Phillip. As this also marks the British occupation or invasion of Australia, it’s also known as “Invasion Day” or “A Day of Mourning”. I don’t really celebrate it anymore, although either my son or husband have gone in the Australia Day Regatta at the sailing club over the last couple of years, and we do deck the boat out in Australian flags etc. By the way, my vote’s on Australia becoming a republic, and embracing more of our Indigenous culture and history. However, I’ve got too much going on at the moment to fight for our independence. So, myHowever, that’s where I stand from more of a theoretical standpoint.
Meanwhile, I’m trying to get organized for the new school year. I dropped another car load of stuff at the charity shop during the week, and you must be wondering if we have anything left by now. However, let’s just say things were rather “cosy’ before we started all of this and there’s still a way to go. Actually, I must confess that I’ve also been inside the charity shops this week and had some excellent “finds”. That includes two suitcases from maybe the 1940s-1960s. They were only $15.00 each and about the same price as a plastic storage crate, except they clearly have much more character. I left them in the car until my husband went out and introduced them slowly the way you might introduce an unexpected kitten…”Oh! What’s that doing over there?” Anyway, aside from being somewhat useful, I get very nostalgic about old suitcases, and suspect they remind me of my grandparents coming to stay. That was just so exciting, and twenty years after my grandmother passed away, it would be just incredible if my grandparents as they were when I was little and my grandmother was still full of beans and racing round the shops like a rocket, before her health nose-dived and there were open-heart surgeries and ultimately a series of cruel mini strokes. My grandfather developed Alzheimer’s, but he was 95 when he passed away.
See why I have so much trouble parting with the things I already have, as well as with bringing new things into the place. I connect meaning, memories, people to these objects even if this thing is sitting in shop and has had nothing to do with them before and might even only have a very slight resemblance to something to do with them. This is, I found out, one of the danger areas which leads to hoarding. Interesting, because if you reverse that thinking, you could say that these hard core declutter types lead meaningless lives, or at least have less meaning, or they can simply compress their meaning into a smaller amount of space, or they have a bigger space to hold it. Perhaps, you are one of these declutter Nazis, in which case I sort of apologise. It’s not you. It’s me. That’s what makes me an endangered species and I’m even trying to wipe myself out.
Gee, I think that might be what you call “overthinking”. I’m pretty good at that too. Indeed, that could also explain why it’s taking me hours of journal writing not to get to the point.
However, my excuse on that front is that a lot’s been going on. Not just for me, but for other people.
Writing in my journal regularly was one of the few goals I’ve set so far this year. I did that because I sensed there was a lot of stuff stuck inside and it needed to get out. In some ways, then, writing in the journal is like decluttering the soul and just like throwing all those extra physical items into the clothing bin and clearing the decks at home, by putting all these thoughts, feelings, events, conversations into my journal, I’m clearing out the soul and I’m able to move around again. See more clearly and walk around without knocking a gazillion things over. This is if you see your soul like a room. Maybe you don’t. Anyway, clearly my soul’s room is overflowing with verbal diarrhoea. Of course, I’d kill anyone else who said that about me, but this is just the two of us and the entire world wide web if it actually bothered to turn up.
Anyway, one good outcome of my journaling today, is that I’ve decided to base our household’s daily routine around my husband’s schedule. I’ve been trying to work out routines for the kids and I. However, the trouble is that no two days are the same and we’re like three moons who’ve escaped their orbit and are drifting randomly through space. However, Geoff is exceptionally well structured, even working from home. His routine is still very much set in stone and he doesn’t work from home in his PJ’s either. That’s me. So, I’ve now decided that the rest of us are going to piggyback onto his routine and we’ll start off from there. The only trouble is he gets up at 7.15am, and some days I’m not up before midday. I have been trying to change that for awhile , but it’s so difficult. However, as we all know, a new year brings about a whole new you and anything is possible. Well, it is before February, maybe March.
Meanwhile, news came through today (now Sunday), that much of Western Australia is going into hard lockdown after a security guard in quarantine caught the more virulent UK form of the virus. They really should have Nigel No Mates working in these quarantine hotels. That way if they catch the virus, it goes no further. This guy was working two jobs and living in share accommodation. Enough said. Of course, the rest of Australia feels real sorry for those smug West Australians who locked the rest of us out and threw away the key. Thought they were above getting covid. It’s a lesson to the rest of us. Even if covid isn’t spreading like wildfire here as it in in much of the rest of the world, lockdowns are. We’re now back to being able to have 30 visitors at home, a big leap from the previous five. Most of us aren’t going to invite 30 people over in a hurry, but five didn’t allow a lot of scope, especially in share houses, families with older kids etc. Personally, I’m still lying low.
Anyway, that’s about it from me. I look forward to catching up with you and hearing your news.
Well, I’m not quite sure what to offer you with your cuppa tonight. On Friday night, I made a Bombe Alaska for my friend’s 60th Birthday. Unfortunately, the meringue slid off the ice cream centre and the brandy wouldn’t light. So, you could say that it was “Fizzer Alaska” instead.
However, it tasted good anyway. I’d added a few extras like a layer of Nutella Butter Cream and roasted hazelnuts over the cake for extra lusciousness. It was yum and a lot of fun, even if it didn’t go according to plan. By the way, if you’re a keen baker or fancy a bit of dessert, you might like to check out my previous post.
Last week, was fairly difficult overall. Our teenaged kids are keeping us on our toes with our son not seeing the point of doing his final year of school and looking at TAFE to pursue sound engineering. It sort of makes sense, but it’s still a big decision and it’s taking me time to get my head around the ramifications of it all. As if that wasn’t enough to think about, our daughter has been making some poor choices of late, and we’re needing to get our heads around that too. Long gone are the days where we could physically pick up our children when they were running off the “wrong” direction. Now, we’re needing to try to work with the teenage brain, which science tells us is potentially incapable of making good rational choices until they’re 25. Yet, this unregulated teenage mind is moving forward at full throttle thinking it knows it all, knows what’s best and can do anything it likes. Sometimes the only thing standing in the way is their hapless parents, school authorities, or when things go really pear-shaped, the police. Meanwhile, I keep dropping what I view as pearls of wisdom into the hapless subjects’ minds while driving them from A to B. It’s a bit like dropping coins in a money box, except it seems that the plug at the bottom has often been pulled out and lost. Consequently, the coins are often falling straight through and rolling away. It’s not a very encouraging picture. However, somehow most teens and their parents survive to adulthood so it’s not all doom and gloom after all. I live in constructive hope.
In addition to doing my baking at home, I’ve also loved watching Junior MasterChef and tonight is the Grand Finale. I’ve been so incredibly impressed with the dishes put up by the kids. They really knocked my socks off. If you’d like to watch any of the past episodes, here’s the link: https://10play.com.au/junior-masterchef-australia and you can find the recipes there too if you’re feeling particularly daring. Just because these cooks are young, doesn’t mean their dishes are any less impressive than their adult rivals. These kids are potentially the great professional chefs of the future and this pool of talent is a cut above the usual contestants for the adult version of the show. indeed, they’re absolutely mind boggling. I can’t wait to see who is going to win, and how the show is going to unfold.
However, before I move on from Junior MasterChef, I just heard the most priceless comment from one of the contestants, Georgia. You see, they’ve invited their mums onto the shows for the finale. Now, these kids have been doing just fine without their mums on set for the entire series, and have been able to go it alone. However, now they’ve reached the finale, mum is calling out from the gantry. My message to the mums is to back off. I think they know what they’re doing. These thoughts were going through my mind when Georgia piped up and said: “Who invited our mothers along?” Well, at least Filo is pleased his mum’s there.
Meanwhile, my WWI bio research is going really well. I have no idea how it’s going to find its place out there in the real world, because it’s a bit out there and it seems to sit somewhere in between academic history, creative writing, documentary and a movie script. Each of these things are ambitious on their own, and challenging the world order probably verges on suicide. After all, each of these disciplines is probably in its own box for a reason. I guess I’ll be finding out what happens when I break multiple moulds at once. Well, that is once I get all of this finished…
Oh well. Another week has begun. OMG! Do you ever have Mondays where the prospect of another week just wears you out, as you haven’t had enough time to recover from the week that’s been, or to resolve the splatter on the roof its left behind? Perhaps, I’ve been spoiled for awhile, because in so many ways life has been a lot simpler this year due to covid. While we’ve had to deal with the complications of hand sanitiser, masks, gloves, social distancing and toilet paper shortages, so many activities were cancelled that we haven’t been buzzing off over the place like manic bees trying to get everything done and take kids to three different places at the same time while trying to have some kind of a life ourselves. It’s been nice taking up the piano again, doing my extreme baking and doing hours of research. Indeed, it’s probably been something of a luxury…especially with my husband working from home and not commuting for three hours a day.
PS The last word on the Masterchef Junior front goes to Georgia’s Mum as she ate her daughter’s dessert the “Tropical Mess”…”she’s tricky to make a lunchbox for. She’s very particular with her flavours.” You’ve got to feel for the mother of Junior MasterChef.” I have some empathy with her. My kids have both been super fussy eaters and are very particular even if they aren’t MasterChefs themselves.
PPS I know I haven’t actually finished this post yet. However, I’d forgotten all about touching on the US election. I don’t know if I would’ve voted for Trump or Biden, but I’ looking forward to the changing of the guard.
A picture tells a thousand words, but it can also tell a thousand lies. After all, how many of us stick those perfect-looking family photos up on our blogs and Facebook projecting this idyllic life out to all and sundry? Most of us do it unwittingly, simply sharing the moment. However, how many of us are brave enough to tell the truth? Admit we didn’t have a perfect day?
However, to be perfectly honest with you, I don’t believe online is the place to broadcast the truth either. Indeed, my grandmother who had quite a lot of wisdom stashed under the lid, used to say that you never run down your family to other people. While this can lead to the stiff upper lip and a swag of behaviors we’ve tried to overcome in subsequent generations, it also shows respect and allows family members to have their off days without fearing their dirty laundry will be aired in public and they need to hide themselves away.
However, I’m also mindful that it doesn’t take much to project this image of the perfect, happy family especially if you’re still married to your original spouse and your kids scrub up alright. Indeed, without you even knowing it, you could even become a role model. That’s all well and good if you feel you deserve it. However, a lot goes on behind closed doors. Too much at times and you just can’t spill the beans and get it off your chest because it isn’t your story to tell. Or, as I said, you don’t want to broadcast what was really a blip on the radar…a bad day.
It was much easier to do that when the kids were small. You could share at playgroup about your toddler throwing a tantrum in the supermarket and exchange notes. It feels like more of a betrayal when you spill the beans on your teen. That you need to adhere to the code of silence. This is possibly quite different to when I was a teen and my mother played bridge and tennis with her friends. She was pretty discreet and I can’t imagine her disclosing any of our antics. Indeed, she is known to be very good with secrets…watertight. She doesn’t leak. Besides, I think she was inclined to hold back and keep our family’s business to herself. Indeed, I remember going to stay with her parents being given a list of things not to tell my grandparents for a swag of reasons. However, my grandmother knew I was the weakest link and most of the time I didn’t even need to say a word anyway. She already knew.
Anyway, this Father’s Day was never going to be perfect. By that, I mean giving my husband breakfast in bed, opening presents and for us all going off to Church together. They always have something special at Church and a photo booth, which is lots of fun if your Father’s Day is shaping up alright, but salt in the wound if it’s not. However, only Geoff made it to Church today. I’m still getting over a virus and am taking things slow. Our daughter was off to dance rehearsals for Swan Lake and the curtain opens in only three weeks. So, she was gone for most of the day. Meanwhile, our son couldn’t sleep and didn’t get there either. It wasn’t a great show of family solidarity for Father’s Day and I just couldn’t make it happen either, which I probably would’ve done if I was feeling better.
However, despite a day which was teetering along like an apprentice tightrope walker teetering back and forward from the brink, I tenaciously clung to my plans to cook a special baked family dinner and even a family specialty for dessert…my mum’s sponge cake topped with luscious passion fruit icing and dollops of cream. It was quite an effort cleaning all the paraphernalia and vitally important detritus off the kitchen table and I can’t remember the last time we actually set the table and had a more formal dinner.
The Family Sponge Cake (oops I was struggling to blend the butter into the icing but it tasted great).
I don’t know if good food is a way to the heart, a way of helping people to bond and connect and for some of the walls to come down. However, it seemed to do the trick. Our daughter said the potatoes were the best I’d ever made, which is high praise coming from her as she eats like a sparrow. Our son wasn’t too hungry and was feeling tired and went off to bed without even trying the cake. However, he did start to perk up a bit.
Indeed, they all did after I produced a big photo album and they started looking at old photos of Geoff’s Mum and Dad and the extended family. This was quite intentional on my part because Father’s Day is a hard day for my husband. His father died when he was around 16 just before Father’s Day 36 years ago. He didn’t get the chance to get to know his father as an adult. Obviously, the kids and I have never met him and there is quite an absence there. We don’t have a lot of stories and only a handful of photographs. So, it was really good to see Geoff and the kids pouring over these photographs and he could talk the kids through them. Our kids are a lot younger than their cousins so it was interesting for them to see them when they were their age. Sometimes, I must admit that it feels like our family missed the boat. We just weren’t there.
Meanwhile, there’s my Dad. We usually catch up with my Dad on Father’s Day every year, although there are some years we celebrate on a different day because plans simply don’t come together, which is what happened this year. Father’s Day is held on the first Sunday in September here in Australia, and with the first Sunday falling on the 1st, it caught us off-guard. We didn’t have anything planned.
Dad didn’t mind. He was feeling exhausted as well and was happy to have a quiet day. We all seem to be getting over the Winter colds, which were compounded by heavy rain and winds during the week, which only reinforced our lethargy.
So, it wasn’t a perfect day. However, it did remind me to hang in there, even when things are far from perfect, and keep beavering away towards building connection, bridging gaps, misunderstandings and grumpiness. Never give up. If you think that sounds like a rallying cry, you’re right. I’m still trying to convince myself. However, your nearest and dearest are worth fighting for. Indeed, they are your world. For many of us, our forebears bore arms and defended our country and our principles. However, how many of us would make the supreme sacrifice for our family? I don’t know. Or, perhaps we’re prepared to die for our families but not prepared to live?
“If you bungle raising your children, I don’t think whatever else you do matters very much.”
These are difficult issues. What would I do to save my family? Would I give it my all? Or, would I shut up shop. It’s all too hard. After all, there probably is no perfect family, although there probably are perfect moments which we need to seize hold of and savor for eternity.
Perhaps, we should also abandon the entire concept of the perfect family. Understand that a Happy Birthday, Father’s Day, Mother’s Day might need to be considered beyond the day itself when things turn pear shaped or even go catastrophically wrong. That it’s not just about the date but about celebrating the person and our relationship and might be more about something that happened last week, a few months ago than this particular day.
Naturally, for many father is a stranger. An unknown on a whole range of levels. Sometimes that’ s a ache and other time something not experienced, isn’t missed and perhaps others have even filled those shoes. I will not dare to presume to understand.
So, I guess I’m feeling like making a toast to overcoming disagreements, strained relationships, misunderstandings and working through even times where we are treated badly and a serious apology is in order. That’s not to gloss over the pain, betrayal and disappointment. It’s not to condone and accept domestic violence of any kind. However, it is to encourage working through rocky relationships and trying to nut things out, smooth things over and to keep talking. This is as much directed at myself as anyone else. I find it much easier to retreat inside myself and shut the door. However, love and relationships are the most important things to me and it’s ultimately detrimental to do that. The only way forward is to come out of my hidey-hole and get the ball rolling.
I am hoping you might also find these reflections helpful and you might like to add some thoughts or experiences in the comments. Our families and relationships mean the world to us so let’s try not only to keep hanging in there, but to also bring out the best in them too.
“There are two great days in a person’s life – the day we are born and the day we discover why.”
So what if it’s my daughter’s birthday? That’s hardly newsworthy. After all, she’s not Princess Charlotte, and the only paparazzi hanging around when she blew out her candles, was her Mum.
Yet, that doesn’t mean that her birthday didn’t mean anything beyond our four walls and her beaming grandparents.
Our daughter turned 12 yesterday. While she’s still not officially a teenager, she’s in her first year of high school. So, this birthday marked a definite transition from childhood into something else. Entré into a zone where it can be difficult for parents to find their way. Are we wanted, or unwanted? In the way, or ignoring them and giving them too much space? Are we expecting them to be kids and adults all in the same breath and setting all sorts of unrealistic expectations? Or, are we feeling like little more than a taxi driver? An ATM only good for more money? I’ve heard a lot of parents lament that their teens only grunt, and shut them out. Lock themselves away in their rooms. There’s also the great electronics challenge. How do we tear our kids and teens away from Minecraft long enough to even look us in the eye and say “hello”?
These are challenging times. After all, the teenage years come with the same kind of flashing neon signs as the terrible twos. Having been through that, I’m no idiot. I know it’s virtually impossible to come out unscathed, but I also feel empowered. I make things better or worse.
However, none of that was at the forefront of my mind yesterday. That all came afterwards, as I reflected on how well everything went and how I’ve built connections with my daughter, her friends and their parents. Also, I’m pleased to say we passed muster. So, I’m feeling really stoked…content.
Miss in Saphora Sporting Blue Lipstick.
The big birthday, began with a morning of dance rehearsals and classes for Miss, and I set about trying to find the carpet in her bedroom. Even though the girls would be sleeping in the tent in our backyard under the watchful eye of the dogs, kids always end up in the bedroom and hers needed major reconstruction. I’m still fighting off the sinus infection too so wasn’t 100%. Meanwhile, Geoff was salvaging the backyard from the pups. There isn’t a blade of grass out there, and there was all sorts of chewed up detritus. With only hours to go, we had a lot of work ahead. Fortunately, I did my baking on Friday, making Mars Bar Slice, Pavlova, cup cakes. Dinner would be pizzas.
However, before the party began, Miss wanted to go to makeup Mecca, Saphora, with her friend, so she could go crazy with her birthday money from her Godmother and earn double points and a birthday gift. We also spent awhile in Lush.
An extraordinary moment.
Cartwheels in the sand.
Amelia with Nikon camera aged 2.5
Saphora really is a kind of fantasyland and they let you play around with a kaleidoscope of eye shadows, lipsticks and highlighers so you can even glitter and sparkle in the dark. It was so much fun. After all, how often do we have the opportunity to colour ourselves in using the brightest of brights without any limitations and get away with it? At Saphora, our face is a blank canvas only limited by our imaginations and our arms are our palettes. Indeed, there’s even a word to describe trying out this multitude of product…”swatching”.“
Not unsurprisingly, I don’t keep up with make up or fashion trends. I was chaperone. My daughter’s friend’s Mum likes the girls to be accompanied, and that makes the decision easy for me. I’m a slow walker. So, they’re always a metre or two in front and I probably look more like a stalker. However, this means they have their own space, can do their own thing and have an old head with them if required. You just don’t know what those unpredictables can be, and they’re not quite at the stage where they have the life experience to deal with all of that on their own. Also, my daughter is tiny and younger than many of her friends and I’m quite conscious that a stranger could pick her up and cart her off without any effort at all, aside from her resistance. In Australia, we had a young man called Daniel Morcombe who was abducted from a bus stop, violated and murdered. He was 12 years old. That puts things into perspective for me. While a 12 year old might be sensible, trustworthy and intelligent, they are still a child and need a backstop.
I don’t know how parenting a teen will look down the track. Her big brother turns 14 in a few weeks and hasn’t brought us the usual problems of teenagers yet. We tend to be late bloomers in the puberty stakes, so perhaps all of that is just around the corner. You sort of hope it is as a parent, as much as you want to keep pushing it off into the future. After all, they really can’t have a relationship with their electronics. Or, at least not one that’s going to produce any grandchildren (not that I’m wanting them any time soon).
Anyway, my modus operandi for parenting teens at the moment, is to get to know my kids’ friends and their parents. Keep those lines of communication going. After all, what I’m finding so far, is that they’re all quite chatty and we’re all getting on really well and they trust me. This might not matter much at the moment, but it might down the track.
So, I’m now positioning myself as my kids’ parent and their friend. Trying to make the hard decisions and enforce boundaries and deadlines, while also being involved enough that they feel I know them,that they know I have their back and can see their point of view, even if I don’t agree with it. It can be very tempting to think that now our kids are growing older, that we can get more “me time”. Work more. Pull back. I’m not too sure.When they were younger, they could go to daycare or before & after school care but once at high school, they’re home alone…or not. Unfortunately, that doesn’t address the family finances or the need for both parents to work, sole parent families and the complexities of life. My complication is my disability and chronic health, which has ruled out paid work for the last 5 years, although I am now starting to set the wheels in motion. I’m currently looking into freelance writing opportunities.
I’ll write more about how the birthday went in my next post. In the meantime, I was wondering what your view are about parenting teens. What are your hot tips for parenting teens? What helped you? I have definitely found that we often have our best chats in the car or around the family dinner table. I’ve also been playing quite a lot of board and card games with our son lately at his request. That’s usually when the wifi gets turned off, but it’s him seeking me out, not vice versa. These games might be old-fashioned, but we’ve had a lot of laughs, the competition is fairly intense, and I can feel the bonds knitting together on the spot.
On that note, I’m off for slice of pavlova. Birthday party leftovers are the best.
Parenting isn’t a walk in the park and my kids are constantly keeping me on my toes. Lately, that’s even involved attempting pirouettes!
Well, to sharpen my toes even further, my son asked me this curly question today…“Why am I here?”
‘if your life is cloudy and you’re way off course,
you might have to go on faith for awhile,
but eventually you’ll learn that
every time you trust your internal navigation system,
you’ll end up closer to your right life.”
He was in trouble and he mumbled something about dying being easier than living so why bother? It wasn’t a completely dark question at the time…more of an observation. He’s 12 years old and this kind of question goes with the turf. He’s not unique. Indeed, I remember feeling much the same and my Dad saying: “Life wasn’t meant to be easy”.
However, this was actually part of a longer quote:
“Life is not meant to be easy, my child; but take courage: it can be delightful.”
― George Bernard Shaw
Mister in the Climbing Tree 2011, Aged 6.
Anyway, in response to my son’s question my immediate response (which I didn’t share with him at the time) was that he wasn’t here to melt Halloween lollies in my new waffle maker, leaving a layer of sticky tar glued to the non-stick base. That he and his sister were not put on this planet to destroy everything within a 365 degree radius. Indeed, they could keep their sticky fingers all to themselves!!
Yet, I said nothing. Rather, I stared scrawling my frustrations down on paper the way we writers do. While I know that doesn’t achieve anything, at least venting on paper helps me feel better!
“You just can’t sit there and wait for people to give you that golden dream, you’ve got to get out there and make it happen for yourself”
Anyway, when I asked my kids what possessed them to put lollies in my waffle machine, they told me that they’d seen a u tuber melt a Barbie doll in a waffle machine. While I’m no fan of Barbie, melting Barbie in a waffle machine for fun seemed rather sadistic. You also have to wonder what the world is coming to when a video of someone with bad language melting Barbie in a waffle machine gets 2,418,875 views with 94,220 likes. Moreover, unlike some of the crazy stunts your kids might see on TV, there’s no mention of: “kids don’t try this at home”. These U tubers have hero status, yet no responsibility. No accountability.
So, I am grateful that I didn’t find Barbie stuck to my waffle machine instead of just the lollies. With a bit of boiling water and chipping away, the waffle machine is fine and the kids will need to be dead, before they’re allowed to stay home from school again.
Why am I here?
Meanwhile, I still had to answer my son’s question: why am I here?
I told him that this was a question which philosophers, poets, sing writers, The Bible have all addressed for thousands of years. After all, it is the ultimate quest for each and every one of us to work out why we’re here. To find our purpose, our path, calling, direction…whatever you want to call it.
“There is no greater gift you can give or receive than to honor your calling. It’s why you were born. All how you become most truly alive.”
This needn’t be a selfish, navel-gazing process. It can also be about that person who really wants to make a difference, help others, change the world or has spiritual ideas but doesn’t know quite how or where to serve or give. After all, it’s particularly hard for the inspired visionary to live with their vision, without knowing how to execute it. Indeed, this anguish could cause these brightest of flames, to snuff themselves out.
Anyway, to humour myself, I entered: “Why am I here?” into Google. I didn’t expect much, if anything, but Google has surprised me before and has delivered.
That’s was when I was reminded of the power of the personality quiz. These are not only great fun but I swear these quizes know me better than I know myself. Of course, you have to sort the wheat from the chaff too. I found this quiz on Who Are You Mean to Be? from Oprah Magazine http://www.oprah.com/omagazine/Who-Are-You-Meant-to-Be-Self-Assessment-Quiz_1 It showed great insight and no surprises one of my top scores was Striving to Be Creative. I’ve pasted it down below because it really made sense to me.
How creative! Mister turned himself into a Christmas Tree 2006 aged 2.
Striving to be Creative
You are an artist: You came out of the womb with a paintbrush in your hand. Or maybe it was a flute or a castanet or a fountain pen to go with your poet’s imagination. The point is, you’re an original, and you know it. Even if you don’t have a singular gift, you’re drawn to the arts—anything creative, for that matter— and you have a unique way of looking at the world. Your need for depth and authenticity in relationships can lead to both great joy and profound sorrow, depending on whether others reciprocate. You don’t care so much about adapting to group or societal expectations; your independence and sharp intuition propel you on your own path.
What to watch out for: When fear of conformity overrides your creativity, you can assume the role of “outsider” or “orphan” and end up feeling alienated. You may even go so far as refusing to vote or pay taxes. This lone-wolf stance might be a defense against feeling vulnerable. Try to be aware that blaming others for your banishment, or pushing away those who want to get close, only makes things worse. Also, dramatizing your emotions can interfere with your creativity.
Looking ahead: As long as you genuinely express yourself, you feel like the person you were meant to be. How you do it is irrelevant. A chef or architect can be as much of an artist as a painter or sculptor. Many advertising and public relations executives are also highly imaginative. Beyond work, there are opportunities everywhere you look to coax out your inner artist: Design your own jewelry line, create an innovative blog, dream up a comic strip. Relationships are another avenue for self-expression.
Google also linked me up with some great quotes, which I’ve scattered throughout.
Meanwhile, it’s time for me to think about fueling his physical body as well as his mind. Neither of my kids have ever been great eaters but we think he’s going through a growth spurt. Not only is he eating four Weetbix for breakfast, he turns up in the kitchen hunting for dinner with that same starved look our poor Border Collie had when he was on 50mg of prednisone. It really was quite cruel to the poor dog and leaving a starving teenager roaming around the kitchen, can be dangerous. You just ask Barbie!
Not sure whether you remember me. My Mum used to read Winnie the Pooh to me when I was very small and now that I’ve grown up, I’ve been reading your books and poems to my children. My favourite poems are: Vespers and Now I am Six.
When I was one,
I had just begun.
When I was two,
I was nearly new.
When I was three,
I was hardly me.
When I was four,
I was not much more.
When I was five,
I was just alive.
But now I am six,
I’m as clever as clever.
So I think I’ll be six
now and forever.
Now We Are Six, By A. A. Milne
By the way, in case you hadn’t noticed, my son looks quite a lot like your Christopher Robin. Indeed, he could’ve stepped straight out of the pages of your books.
Well, at least, that was: Once Upon A Time…
Christopher Robin Milne & Winnie the Pooh.
You see, he’s no longer six and we now have to double that score. That’s right! He recently turned twelve and has just started high school, which as I’m sure you’d appreciate, was quite a shock! It doesn’t seem that long ago that he was very young…just like your Christopher! I have no issues about him growing up. Indeed, I’m rather relieved that he’s not out there chasing Heffalumps and Whoozles and looking for the East Pole. That’s enough to give even the most courageous parent a series of heart attacks!
Our son looking rather Christopher Robinish.
Speaking of growing up, I was wondering why Christopher Robin never grew up? Why did you stop writing about him and telling him stories about all his toys? Why didn’t the story telling grow up with him?
It’s not that I mean to be rude but is the reader just meant to passively sit back and not share their opinions or respond to an author’s work in any way? Or, are we allowed to think? Have opinions and instead of just being written to, can we readers actually write back? Express our views?
Well, at least, I think so but perhaps I’ll disagree when I also become “an author”.
Well, being what Owl would call “impudent” and others might consider “thoughtful”, I decided to send you a poem I wrote about my son being 12. You could say that to get to this poem, we’ve doubled Now We Are Six…applying some simple calculation.
Poem: Somewhere In Between.
but somewhere in between…
my feet now touch the ground
though my thoughts are
somewhere in the clouds.
I look out my bedroom window
at the road which lies ahead
wondering how to get from A to B.
Do I really have to walk?
Why can’t I take a jumbo jet?
I don’t have all the answers.
Indeed, I don’t even know
which questions I should ask.
Yet, everywhere I seem to look,
all I find is rules.
Rules on rules on rules!
This is how to do your hair!
Living by this ringing bell,
has to be a form of hell!
but somewhere in between…
why can’t I just enjoy the view
before I grow too big?
I must say that the other thing that I’ve noticed now that my son is 12 and my daughter’s 10, is that I am also being forced to grow up. Just like Christopher Robin has in a sense been immortalised as a little boy, you have also been frozen in that same time warp. You will always be that father of a young boy, bringing the adventures of his toys to life through Winnie the Pooh, Eeyore, Piglet, Tigger, Kanga, Roo and Rabbit.
Most of us do not have that luxury.
It’s been wonderful experiencing my second childhood…building sandcastles, reading picture books and driving along with the likes of Eeyore in my car.That is, being able to do all these fun things without being considered “insane” or “different different”.
So, if you don’t mind me being so full of questions, I only have a couple more.
As my kids grow up, do I really have to grow up with them? Why can’t I just veer off on my own trajectory and keep on being a kid? Do my own thing? Just asking! After all, don’t you still feel like finger painting and making mud pies every now and then?
I thought you might have a plan. Or, perhaps I should be asking Pooh? Despite being a so-called “bear of little brain”, he really is quite a good problem solver.
Thank you very much, Mr Milne! You’re an excellent listener!
Born 18th January, 1882, Alan Alexander Milne died on 31st January, 1956 aged 74. While his ashes were scattered, there is a memorial plaque at Ashdown Forest, East Sussex, the setting for Winnie the Pooh which quotes:
“By and by they came to an enchanted place on the very top of the Forest called Galleon’s Leap.”
Which is your favourite poem by AA Milne? Or, perhaps you relate to one of the characters from Winnie The Pooh?
Personally, I feel like I am a combination of most of his characters…quite a “soup” you could say.