Thursday, January 23, 2014

Taking Stock

It's been a while since I posted, but it's not for lack of wanting to. Just lack of time and direction. So when I found this via Fox's Lane via via Meet Me at Mikes, I figured it was quick, easy and to the point.

 Making : Lists of what needs to be done before the holidays end
Cooking : Curries, porridge and fruit syrups from quickly ripening fruit
Drinking :Soda water with fruit syrup
Reading: These Broken Stars (just finished)and digital magazines
Wanting:  To be pain free to be able to bike ride with my daughters
Looking:  At my scorched garden.
Playing:  Digital scrabble
Wasting:  Food that doesn't get eaten because it's been to hot to eat
Sewing: A foot stool/floor cushion
Wishing: For the holidays to last at least 3 more weeks!
Enjoying: The sounds of summer. (Bugs, birds, neighbours in the pool, lawnmowers)
Waiting: For The Bloke to return with my car so the youngest can get her haircut
Liking:  The cooler temperatures that still allow me to wear shorts
Wondering:  If this school year will be a better one for the youngest
Loving: Not having a schedule
Hoping: That our business doesn't cause me stress like it did last year
Marvelling: At how quickly bugs can strip the leaves off a large tree
Needing:  A tree doctor
Smelling: Lemongrass from my new anti perspirant
Wearing : Loose, comfortable clothing
Following: The changes in my garden
Noticing: The floors that need to be swept/vacuumed
Knowing: That my pain is only temporary and that there are others in a worse predicament than me
Thinking: About drawing
Feeling: Proud that my daughters have been so good whilst I've been unable to do much with them
Admiring: Those that stand up and say "No, it's not okay for yöu to say that about me!
Sorting: Through old school uniforms that are no longer needed
Buying: Books and second hand treasures
Getting: My summer feet
Disliking: Hot driveways
Bookmarking: Pages in a cook book of the new recipes to try this year
Opening: Packages containing  books
Giggling: At our dinner table in-jokes
Feeling: Sore.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Hello June Where'd you come from?

So I'll state the obvious question. Where has this year gone? It's June already. In fact nearly July. Nearly the end of another financial year.  I don't make resolutions in January as I know I never keep them. However, I did say to myself that this year I would achieve a lot. A lot of what, I wasn't sure, but I figured it would be craft or art related. 
Well, I seemed to have fallen in to my old ways. To much viewing and not enough doing. Grand plans , big ideas, high hopes and mighty dreams.
I wake with nervous anticipation at what I will achieve throughout the day and each evening I retire to my bed feeling deflated and under-achieving.
I'm restless. Distant. Disconnected.
In a fog really. Not a zombie, not depressed. Just not.........connected.
There have been a few bursts of creativity.
I started a painting without any real direction of what I wanted to paint.  It was more an exercise in finding my 'style' more than creating a pretty picture.

It was fun for a while, but then I lost interest as it started to get to busy. It had lost the freshness and spontaneity that I was trying to achieve. So I packed up the paints and filed this away in a folder. I currently have another piece of paper set up on my desk ready to go, but I'm hesitant to start. I know what I want to paint but I'm convinced my lack of technique will let me down.  As will my lack of opening my mind and just letting whatever will be, be.

I took part in a craft challenge. Often I see challenges on blogs and think to myself, "I really should get involved in this, that looks like fun." Of course, I have a tendency to leave the actual making to the last minute and then get myself flustered when I don't have the right supplies on hand, or my vision isn't coming to fruition. I decided to take part in The Hottie Challenge. An idea came to me easily and seemed like something I could do. I had planned on doing a miniature mounted deer head complete with antlers.  I drew up my design in CorelDraw for scale, cut the hottie body from an old wool dressing gown and made the timber shield from some leather remnants.  Then it sat on my craft table for a few weeks whilst I tried to work out how I would make a 3D deer head with antlers that was soft, sturdy and relatively easy. I decided that I would make the deer head 2D and make the antlers 3D. Of course, I couldn't find the right material to make the antlers so I ended up making the whole thing flat.  I am happy with the final result despite it not being what I originally intended.  I have received some really positive feedback which is also a nice boost to my ego.
I've been trying to get things on my craft list crossed off and have found that necessity is usually the best butt kicker. A weekend spent at The Ridge highlighted the need for a warm throw rug. I had a pile of alpaca wool samples that I had picked up at Creswick Woolen Mills a few years ago. I cut out my pieces, stitched them together and using some batting left over from a previous project, finished my mini quilt in time for our next visit. I was pleased to learn some new techniques along the way, like how to fold the binding to get a neat edge.  I have new found respect for my Mother and her hand pieced quilts after I spent a week wrestling with the heavy throw on my sewing machine.
But despite these mini triumphs (which I am only now realising are quite good achievements), I have noticed a lack of enthusiasm throughout the day. I can't be bothered cooking, housework is the last thing I want to do, and all of the projects on my to do list are just words on paper.  Shopping doesn't thrill me and it's too cold and damp to do anything in the garden.  I did have an attack of wanderlust last week, inspired by the frosty cold mornings and clear blue skies.  I jumped in the car with camera in hand and drove many km's to snap a few frost crystals and breathe in some fresh, clear mountain air.
I did it again the following day, with children in tow. But when I eschewed the housework on Monday in favour of another hour long drive to the mountains, I figured something was up with me. What was I achieving with these long drives to distant places? Then when I woke on Tuesday to another foggy morning, I jumped in the car again and off I sped, despite promising myself that I would stay home. When I found myself on a dirt road in the middle of nowhere (well, not technically nowhere-there were a few farm houses), some 2 hours away from home, I realised I needed to return and work out what the hell was going on.  I didn't get the chance to do much soul searching as an unwell child took the focus off myself.

I know that I have been stressing about stuff that is not really in my control. About a business that is expanding at a rate that I can't keep up with. About my lack of financial savvyness (Spellcheck is telling me that it's not a real word!)
About half finished jobs around the house that have been that way for 2 years or more. Of small things that need doing, which if I could do them myself I most certainly would. But I know from past experiences that stuff ups add to the workload unnecessarily.
I've been stressing about teenagers and their relationship choices. Tweens and their friendship and confidence issues. Men and their views towards women in general and the negative impact that has on impressionable young girls. The fact is, I seem to have temporarily lost my 'spark'. It may be that it has fizzled out or is hidden somewhere in the dark. I need to resurrect it or find a new one. And then I might be able to cross some things off the non existent New Years Resolutions list.

Wednesday, February 06, 2013

Navigating teens and phones.

My eldest Girl Child is 13 and doing Year 8 at High School this year. She has a phone. An iPhone, to be exact.  We bought her a phone when she started High School so that she could contact us if there was an early dismissal, or if she wanted to go to a friends house or something like that.  I wanted her to get a simple talk and text phone, but The Bloke overruled me and got her an iPhone, under the strict instructions that she was not to use it for watching YouTube videos or other data chewing apps,  She was to tell us her password whenever she changed it and she needed to keep the lines of communication open with us. Any sneaking around or using her phone in her room would mean it would be taken off her.
As with anything electronic, she took to it like a duck to water. When I started to get text messages from her during class time, a talking to was required.  She was constantly attached to the phone.  I would have to tell her to put it in the kitchen as soon as she got home from school. We couldn't even take a trip to the shops without her having her head buried in her phone. She was becoming anti-social towards the family and I was becoming increasingly sick of it.
Another talking to was required, a bit sterner this time.
Towards the end of 2012, we bought a holiday property in the bush. One of the things I love about visiting this place is that we don't get phone reception, so we can go away for a weekend and the Girl Child has to find things to do that doesn't involve texting friends or downloading more music.  I'm very old school when it comes to kids and free time. If my girls complain that they're bored and want to watch tv/play computer games/go on the laptops I will tell them to clean their rooms, wash the dishes or find something to do outside. I hate that many kids have lost the ability to use their imaginations. I also hate that they have lost the skills to problem solve on many levels.  Anyway, I've digressed.  Getting back to my gripe about phones....
EGC came home from school and asked me if she could have Instagram on her phone.  I said yes, provided she abides by the rules I set out for her. (Private account, only accept friends that you personally know, limit the number of Selfies posted etc.)  As I was on Instagram as well, I could keep track of what she was posting and let her know what was appropriate and what wasn't and warn her if something seemed creepy. She had it for a couple of weeks and most of the stuff she posted and liked was pretty harmless. On the odd occasion she would have a follower that we didn't know or who had objectionable content (swearing etc.) so we blocked them and moved on. Then one night, after having an argument with her younger sister about a photo she posted, The Bloke and I decided that rather than listen to these silly arguments (it wasn't the first time), she was to delete Instagram off her phone.  I have just discovered that she is still on with 2 different user names and neither of those accounts is set up as private.  One has about 20 Selfies of her and they have been liked by complete strangers in the US and UK.  Uuuuurgh!It makes my skin crawl to think that these photos are being viewed around the world!!!
Also, Instagram led to Kik messenger, which I've heard can be a trawling ground for paedophiles. I've asked her to delete this from her phone but she's probably reinstalled it.
And now we come to the latest incident.  I've tried to trust her with messaging and allow her some privacy when she chats with her friends via text.  She tends to have group chats with friends from school and once again, I have made it clear to her that we need to keep the channels of communication open and if she gets a text that seems inappropriate or makes her uncomfortable, she is to let me know.  She has a boy in her class that I think is trying to be seen as more gangster than he actually is, and I think he comments or posts stuff before he's actually thought it out.  He made a derogatory comment about a girl in their class and she got really upset and an online argument ensued. EGC joined in but it was a lot of shouting and not much valid content. I told her to tell the boy that comments like that will make people think he's misogynistic and to Google it if he didn't know what that meant (This was before the whole Tony/Julia thing.)  His online comments have been much more thoughtful and less damaging since then.  But he still posts without thinking. And yesterday, he sent EGC a porn parody. (Google SFW on YouTube if you want the details. Warning, not safe for work.) She was waiting for me to finish tennis when she received it.  Her comment of "Well, that's seriously inappropriate" pricked my ears and I asked her what was going on. She said she had been sent "something" from A**** and then handed me the phone.  Although much of the imagery is covered, it is clear what the people in the clip are doing. And although it is a parody, I still didn't think it was appropriate to send it to my daughter.  I asked EGC to ask if his parent's knew that he was sending this sort of stuff. His reply was, "Why would they?' She then told him that she had showed it to me and that I wasn't impressed. His reply; "You did what????!"
So now I'm seriously considering taking her phone off her. Completely, or replacing it with an "old school" talk and text only.  Am I punishing her for something that someone else did? Or is this the straw that broke the camels back? When should parents, teachers or authorities become involved? Despite reading many online forums about kids and phones, it is such a minefield to navigate when it is your own kid.  And with Youngest Girl Child starting High School next year, I kind of want to get a handle on things sooner rather than later.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

To give or not to give.....

I shall start this post with this statement.
I'm not a fan of Christmas.
"What?", I hear you gasp.
"How can you not like Christmas?"
Quite easily. I'm not sure where it stems from, but I just find Christmas to be an extremely stressful time of year.
The kids are completely strung out from all of the end of year activities at school and hot and tired from lack of sleep on balmy nights.
The Bloke is pushed to the limit trying to please everyone and get all of his jobs finished because everyone wants everything done last minute.
Running our own business means that we are dependent on our customers paying us on time so that we can pay our subcontractors on time. More often than not at this time of year, most businesses hold out until the last possible moment meaning that I usually spend Christmas Eve on the computer trying to pay the bills.
Add to the the fact that it gets harder and harder to organise the family lunches/dinners. This year, it looked like we weren't going to be spending Christmas Day with any other family members, but I think now we might be. It's just so hard to keep everybody happy and feel like you're doing the right thing by everyone.
So that is some of the main reasons why I don't like Christmas. We won't even go in to how the kids have so much stuff already, don't need any more stuff, blah, blah, blah.
But here is my main gripe. Something that sets me on edge and punches the wind out of me for the last 2 weeks before Christmas arrives.
Christmas cards.
The giving and receiving of Christmas cards.
My track record for giving cards is not very good, so I'm not surprised when I don't receive them. (Although I have some selfless friends that send cards even though they have not received one from me.) I hand out a few to my close friends and post one or two to friends that I have managed to keep over the years. I rarely go through a packet of 12 cards and I keep the contents of the cards brief. So I'm not fussed if the string over the fireplace is not sagging from the weight of cards received, because I know that the ones that are up there are usually from those that matter the most.
But my kids don't see it like that.
When they were in the early years of Primary School, they asked if they could give out Christmas cards to their friends.  I ummed and ahhed over this, as it was not something that I did at school. I told them that if they really wanted to, then they could spend a weekend making some cards with cardboard and glitter paint and hand those out. They did that, they got cards in return from their friends and life went on.
The next year, they gave out the remaining hand made cards to friends, but this time, instead of just getting a card in return, they got a card with a candy cane stuck to the envelope. So there was 20 lollies my kids didn't need!
Last year, my eldest girl child was in Grade 6, so she wanted to give out cards to everyone in her year level. The Bloke took her and the youngest girl child to Kmart and they each bought a packet of about 30 cards for $2 of something ridiculous like that.(At least when I send cards, I try to buy the ones that support a charity!!) So off they went to school and handed out cards to everyone that they knew and received many in return. Candy canes that didn't get eaten that day, went in the cupboard and were then thrown out in January.
Somehow this year, the card giving has gone awry. Both girls bought a packet of cards with their pocket money. Eldest Girl gave hers to her new and old Secondary School Friends. She has received 2 in return and seems unfazed by her lack of cards at this time. She finishes school for the year tomorrow.
Youngest Girl has been giving hers out in stages. She took a handful to school last week and gave them out, explaining to some other friends that she hadn't finished writing them yet.  She received one from a friend who had really put in a lot of time and effort to decorate the card, so that was great. Then this week at school, alot of the other kids in her level started handing out their cards. And they handed them out to everyone in the class. Except her. And they did it in front of her, telling her things like, "I've only got 12 cards." And then proceeded to give out another 12 cards the following day. And still she didn't get one. Kids that she has been friends with all year have suddenly decided that she is not worthy enough of something that they are handing out to kids they barely talk to.
2 days in a row I have watched her walk through the school gates, see the excitement of the card givers handing cards to everyone else and I have seen her shoulders slump and her head bow as she tries to carry on without letting the other kids know that she is crushed. That she is hurting. That she has to carry that hurt within herself all day, only to burst in to tears when she gets in the car 6 hours later. And I have to hold onto my own tears and tell her that it's okay, that it's not a popularity contest and you don't need to woo friends by giving them something.
Why can't the kids be more discreet? Why can't their parents see what their kids are doing? What is going at at the school that my child has suddenly become a pariah?

I'd like the practice of kids giving cards at school to be stopped. But I can't ask that of anyone else. My lack of Christmas spirit shouldn't dampen that of anyone else. I don't want to be one of those "political correctness gone mad" parents. But I need to find a way to best help my vulnerable child navigate her way through this.
Suggestions greatly appreciated.

Friday, October 05, 2012

When fear takes over......

It's the last week of the school holidays here in Victoria. In our house, the first week of these holidays is always Birthday Week for the eldest child. This year she was turning 13 and was having a home party so plenty of running around ensued. Her party was held on the Sunday just passed and was an enjoyable and immensely tiring day. The second week had so far been spent going to appointments, keeping up with the paperwork and an excursion to the beach to enjoy the glorious weather. I had told the girls and The Bloke that I intended to spend a few days at The Ridge for the final days before school resumed.
The girls and I came up mid morning of Thursday. We unloaded the car, put away all of the new bits and bobs that I had acquired since our last visit (fruit bowl, storage baskets etc.), then went back in to Mansfield to get the groceries. The girls were in one of their moods in the supermarket (read: overtired and silly) so of course when we got back to the cabin I realized I'd forgotten quite a bit of stuff. The best remedy for that was to sit on the porch with a nice cold beer while the girls cooked "stew" on their campfires. They insisted on ringing The Bloke every half hour to find out when he would be joining us. He'd had "one of those days" so at the rate he was going, he wouldn't arrive until around 9.00pm. We decided to eat dinner and then spent the evening reading magazines and in my case, sitting on the porch in the cool night air, listening to the wind in the trees and distant branches crashing to the ground. I shouldn't have mentioned the crashing branches to the youngest. She immediately needed vigorous convincing that every tree around us was strong and sturdy and if they did fall down, it would be well away from us. So with that worry allayed, she went back to her reading.
As the night wore on and the girls became more tired, they were becoming increasingly impatient for their dad to arrive. I knew he had to pick up a machine from a friends house, so I figured he'd got stuck having a chat or perhaps even stuck with the loading. I continued to sit on the porch and soak in the serenity. And that's when things turned bad.
I'd gone inside to get a drink or something when I thought I heard a car. I looked out the window of the girls room and thought that I could see some light though the trees. I went back outside to take a closer look, thinking that maybe The Bloke had arrived and that he was stuck at the bottom of the driveway(it's slippery with some big ruts in it- his van struggles on the slippery clay).I sat watching for a bit, when suddenly I caught a glimpse of a yellow light through the trees. It looked like a lantern! I watched for a bit longer, my pulse quickening slightly. I thought it might be The Bloke walking up to ask for a tow, but he would have called out as soon as he was in sight of the cabin. I squinted in to the darkness. Was that 2 figures I could make out in the dim light, both holding lanterns? I listened for the sounds of footsteps and crunching bracken. Whoever was coming up the driveway, they were very light footed.
My heart pounded. I went inside the cabin and locked the door. I mentioned to the girls what I thought was going on and that was my second mistake. If Mum seems nervous, then what hope have the kids got of holding it together? I peered out of the window a few times then tentatively made my way back out to the porch. The lights were still there. I had to bite my tongue to stop myself from yelling "Who's there?". My initial thought was that it was Bob, our neighbor, out for an evening stroll. But it could have been hunters, as deer and rabbit are often hunted up here. My mind raced as I assessed my options. I went back inside, closed the door and curtains and rang The Bloke, hoping that his phone was still in range. Thankfully, he was in Mansfield getting petrol. I told him the situation as calmly as I could and he said to stay inside and keep an eye on the lights.
The girls (whose bedtime had passed a long, long time ago) sat with me on the couch. The youngest was close to hysterics. She has a habit of making mountains out of molehills. I should have realized this before I let my own fear get the better of me. I soothed her by saying that her dad was on his way and it was probably just Bob or people out spotlighting in the next property and all would be fine.
I went upstairs to look out of the loft window. I squinted into the distance. I wondered if the light bearers were incredibly tall or I'd they we're standing on a hill. The light seemed to be higher. Perhaps the lights were mounted on the roof of a car. But I couldn't hear a car. I looked as hard as I could but nothing was becoming clearer. I called out over the bannister to the girls downstairs. "Do either of you know when the full moon is?" Silence. Nervous laughter.I came downstairs and the three of us peered out of the window. "You know, it could be the moon. But if it is, it rose way too fast.". We looked at each other. More laughter, this time less nervous. We all agreed that what I had been scared of was in fact, a very bright moon. And then The Bloke turned up. He had driven so fast from Mansfield his tyres were practically smoking. We were glad that we were no longer in danger. I made him swear not to tell this story to anyone. But I knew he would. So I thought I'd tell it first. It's a good thing I didn't ring the police!

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

It's all that.

Our first visit as owners of The Ridge was exciting, slightly wet, tiring and for me, very painful. Unfortunately, an injury had flared up causing me a lot of pain, particularly during the 2+ hour drive there. I put on my bravest face and pulled out the camera to record as much as our first visit as possible.
We reached the cabin late in the afternoon and on opening the front door, noticed that the previous owners had left all of their furniture, crockery and other bits and pieces. The girls ran up and down the stairs exploring the spaces and declared that the loft space would be their room. I was more than happy with that, as the stairs leading up to the loft are quite steep and narrow.
I tried to unpack the few things I had brought up, but the girls had that covered. The Bloke was outside on the Dingo clearing the bracken ready for the arrival of the shipping container. Due to the amount of rain they'd had up there, it wasn't arriving until mid week.
We lit a bonfire, cleaned up around the house and let the fresh air blow away the cobwebs.
I would have loved to have stayed the night but we had no bedding so I had to make do with the promise of another visit the following weekend.

Friday, September 07, 2012

The Ridge

 This is similar to the view as you head up the driveway at The Ridge. Lot's of bracken fern and tall gum trees.

 For the past 7 or 8 years, we've been lucky enough to holiday in Maindample, about 20mins from Mansfield. We have a friend who bought a large farm with the intention of building a house and eventually retiring there. We have spent many wonderful Summers and long weekends camping firstly in tents, then in a caravan as we watched his lovely house take shape. The house was completed about 2 years ago and although we have been offered a room in the house many times, we have preferred to stay down on the bottom paddock in our cosy little caravan. I guess being away from power and technology and being able to smell the rain and feel the coldness of the morning is, to me, more of a holiday than staying in a luxurious, temperature controlled house with all of the mod cons.  I like to get my hands dirty and keep myself busy doing outdoorsy stuff when I'm away from home and the routine of family life. I love that our girls can be outside and find something to do, whether it be building a campfire, riding motorbikes or just watching a fence get built.
Over the past year or so, as our friends' children have grown older and visitied The Block ( as it became affectionately known) less, we had sensed that it was time we went out on our own. We had always discussed buying a holiday block of land somewhere. I had thought that as an adult I would buy a block near the beach, but The Bloke is not a huge fan of the beach and most of our spare time is spent  in the bush, so it seemed a natural decision to buy a bush block. The Bloke had decided that this year was the year that we would finally do it, so I kept my eyes peeled on the real estate websites for something larger than a house block that was in our price range.
Finally, a ten acre block with a timber cabin became available in Tolmie, 10 minutes outside of Mansfield, so we went up to take a look, put in and offer and the rest, as they say, is history. (Actually, it was a much more nerve wracking and stress inducing affair, but I won't bore you with the details!)
We settled on Monday and we will be up there this weekend. I'm very excited for many reasons, but funnily enough, I'm most excited about seeing the interior of the cabin. On the day we visited, we missed the real estate agent so we had to be content walking around the property and viewing the cabin through the window. We know that it has a teeny-tiny kitchen, a log fire, a bathroom and 2 bedrooms, one of which is a loft. This visit will be spent measuring up the windows for new curtains, deciding where to put the mish mash of furniture I have been collecting and finding out whether or not it actually snows there.
We look forward to the girls bringing their friends up, to us inviting our friends up for a camping weekend (I don't think we can fit many other bodies in the house to sleep!) and to just being able to relax and do what we want in our own space. It's very rustic, very quiet and hopefully, a very different lifestyle to the hectic pace we seem to keep week in, week out.
 This would be the view from our place if we had a clearing through the trees. We don't, but it gives you an idea of how high up we are.

So, our new adventure begins. Although we will still be visiting The Block for long weekends and New Year celebrations etc, from now on, it's all about The Ridge. (Named because it's current moniker is "Echidna Ridge". ) We might even make a sign for the front gate.