24 September 2012

Chore Sticks and The Thankfulness Project

I have read with amusement the Facebook statuses of many of my friends as the September school holidays started, saying how relieved they were that they didn't "have to make school lunches for two whole weeks!"  I wonder when realisation will dawn that putting a sandwich, a banana, a muesli bar and a cookie in a bag is actually easier than scheduling enough interesting activities into each day for a diversity of ages or suffering the consequences, namely dealing with the bickering and complaining that will follow if too many minutes are left to idleness or rubbish TV.

It is good to have one's little chickens around for a few solid weeks after a long school term, but when the chickens can easily devolve into time-wasting, fighting and driving their mother mad, the responsibility not to write off the fortnight as a total Waste Of Days is a heavy one.  I was concerned when I noticed two attitudes in one of my little darlings the week before holidays:

  • quite happy to do the chores he/she wanted to do, but when asked to do a specific chore retorted, "No." Yes, you heard right: the child said "No." Unbelievable.
  • extremely unthankful for the blessings we have, e.g., food, family, education, pretty cushy existence, etc.

Terrifying.  I'm not really scared of many things, but raising kids who are 'lost' to common decency just terrifies the pants off me.  And public nakedness is one of those rare things that does really scare me, so it's a bit of a double whammy.

What if the little babies I once was so close to grow up to take everything for granted, scorn their education, complain about life in Australia, don't eat good food, don't keep in touch with their parents, and treat people less fortunate with contempt?  I'm sweating with horror just thinking about it - I love them to pieces, and it would rip me apart to see them go that way.  Maybe they are still too little for me to acknowledge they have free will, but I think I'll probably always want the best for them no matter how old they get.

So approaching this holiday turned into something of an existential terror regarding their spiritual futures.  No wonder packing a lunchbox started looking easier.

Hoping I was up to the task of guiding them to adulthood with something of a moral compass, and believing that small steps is what it will take, I decided to do two things in the first week of these holidays that might in some small way do some good.  Don't laugh at me - I'm doing my best.

1. Chore Sticks.  I've seen this idea on the net somewhere, and it's really just a colourful way to make children think that chores might be fun to do.  So far, it's worked.  I wrote some easy chores onto coloured paddle-pop sticks (popsicle sticks) and stuck a pom-pom on the end.  Children pick a stick and do the chore.  Make no mistake, this would NOT work if the sticks or pom poms were not brightly coloured, and if I wrote the chores onto white paper, my children's moral development would be all but lost.  It's the glitzy colourful crafty look of the chore sticks that holds ALL the appeal.  And I mean ALL.  We are that shallow.

2.  The Thankfulness Project.  Maybe Aussie kids become a bit unthankful for the blessings we have in Australia simply because they haven't heard the reality of the living conditions of people in the third world or the persecuted church?  I'm giving this a go: before a meal, I'm reading a short story of the hardships faced in the third world and thinking about what we're thankful for here in Australia.

Today it was "Sophie's story" that came on a flyer inside the Koorong catalogue.  We read about children who, like Sophie, don't have enough to eat and therefore go looking for bugs to eat.  We talked about how it would be yucky for us, but it would be a meal for them.  We talked about how we were thankful for the food we have readily available, and we thanked God for it.  Then they ate it!  I was going to leave the lesson there but Buzz read on the flyer that this organisation can provide 100 meals for just $6, so they each pledged $6 from their 'Pig Boxes' on the spot.

The whole Thankfulness Project sounds weirdly strict for school holidays, but I'm just trying to bring some global perspective into "This food tastes like nothing" and "School is so boring" and "I wish I didn't have to put up with [sibling]."  Because knowing what a lot of other people have to go without, those words hurt my heart.

And for balance, I'm planning to run myself ragged doing fun things too, with baby Rex strapped onto my front in his pouch.  This morning, Crazy Sister called and said that she and her family, and our Mum, Dad and Wee Bro were going bowling.  We dropped everything and joined them!  Jessie and Woody came first and second with their bumpers and bowling ramp, Buzz came third with just the bumpers and I came horribly last with no bowling aids and a baby who threatened to fall out of the pouch just as I hurled the ball, causing me to save the baby and lose the points every time.
It's fun, it's time-consuming and it's really hard.  One day soon I'll be embracing making school lunches, and I might not be the only one!

21 September 2012

A better swim

I had a ripper of a swim this week! The big outside 50m pool was finally open so I got to swim in the sunshine, watching my shadow zoom along the black line and I didn't get [as] confused counting laps. Well, I lost count to the tune of two laps during my second set, so I either swam 1.6 or 1.7km.

But the best thing about yesterday's swim was I had my new little Interval underwater iPod player ...

Ideally, I was going to have Jessie modelling my Interval, but it was a whole lot easier to show you the swimming model lady instead.

I was wondering if the earpieces would fit properly because I've never had luck with earplugs, but they stayed in with the help of a swimming cap.  The sound quality, once I got used to the sound of the water and bubbles streaming over the earplugs, was pretty good.

I used to enjoy swimming in silence, just alone with my thoughts, but recently that's been a little boring so I loved rocking out to my playlist this time! I picked some favourite songs from the genre that Woody and I call "Pump-Me-Up Music" ...


Newsboys - (have only picked those I haven't done to death already)


Mary Mary

Tim Hughes

Unknown artist with totally rockin' version of:
  • Go tell it on the mountain


And a few favourites from Roxette, but my old CD is scratched so I'll buy them on iTunes.

My biggest challenge is finding time to get to the pool.  Starting with the period of time immediately following Mum's text saying he was asleep right at the end of my previous blog post, Little Rex has had some slight trouble Being Happy.  But after a week of Crazy, it seems he is turning a corner.

Okay, enough of swimming.  Next posts will be back to detailing the usual chaos.

14 September 2012

Blitzing at Swimming, Failing at "Cool"

I've been back in the pool for a fortnight now - what a wonderful feeling!  I was never sporty as a kid, but as an adult I've found that I can swim further and faster each time I follow the black line, and it makes me feel awesome.  Swimming gives me lots of energy, and my breathing is so much more efficient after I swim.  I love the feeling of my arms pulling my body along in the water too - it compensates for the inadequate feeling of my poor little size 6 feet trying valiantly to do their bit despite being about as efficient as using chopsticks to paddle a canoe.

It's hard to find a quick hour in which I can have a happy, sleepy, full-o-milk baby Rex looked after by a willing cuddler, but my Mum, Justamum and Mr de Elba have been able to give me 5 opportunities over the last fortnight to dash to the pool.  Over those five swims, I've seen my stamina improve from swimming just 600m the first time, to swimming 1.5km today.  Now I feel I'm only limited by Rex's sleeps and I could keep going if I had the time.

I was looking up motivational fitness quotes to have engraved on my iPod and I found these which describe so well my experience in the pool:

"The feeling you get after a workout today makes you want to do it again tomorrow."  

I modified this one from running miles to swimming laps.  Now it fits:

"At lap 10 I thought I was dead. At lap 14 I wished I was dead. At lap 18 I knew I was dead. At lap 20 I realised I'd become too tough to kill."

Turns out the average iPod Shuffle can only fit 30 characters on it, in about 4pt font.  I managed to squeeze in " By lap 20, I'm invincible" and that will have to do.

But I didn't want to go on about how much I'm enjoying swimming in this post - I wanted to share the humiliating things I've been doing at the pool, because that's funnier.

When I swam on Wednesday, I started by nonchalantly putting my things on a chair beside the pool and pulling my swimming cap on.  SNAP! - the thing broke in my hands, not from overuse but from underuse.  It hasn't seen much chlorine in its 8 years and probably gave up the ghost more from depression than from being 8 years old.  It was the loud jerky snapping noise that made seasoned swimmers stare at me - it was the disheveled hair-all-over-the-face look that made them start a bit too long or comfort.

Better get in the pool, I thought.  I unzipped my jacket and walked to the edge of the pool.  It was there that I realised that my grey swim shirt was sporting large wet patches.  Milk.  Great.

So I wore nursing pads before my swim today.  I don't expect an appearance of milk while I'm in the cool water but I would expect a bit of leakage in the few hours between putting my swimmers on and when I actually get in the water, so pads would be a great idea, right?

Halfway through my first lap I remembered the morning's mantra - "I must - I must - I must remember to take the pads out before my swim." I decided then and there to get out of the pool to fish them out, dripping wet.  The occasional bandaid on the bottom of the pool is understandable, large fabric nursing pads - not so much.

I found them(!), removed them and continued.

Tumble turns are a special sort of magic trick I hope to master before the end of the summer.  They are proving harder than first thought, so the jury is out on which summer they should be mastered by.  After today's performance, it looks like nothing magical will be happening in the tumble-turn department until about Summer 2016.

I'm having trouble with a few aspects of form, but the biggest one today was my trouble remaining tucked until I can push off horizontally from the wall.  It seems I'm pushing off before finishing the turn, going by my habit of ending up on the bottom of the pool with that pool-water-leaking-out-from-my-eyes feeling.

My lane-mates were faster than I am and today they crept up on me a few times, causing me to crash into them as I pushed off.  Humiliating.  I abandoned turns and focused on swimming without damaging other members of the public.

When I had done 30 x 50m laps, I got out feeling quite pleased with myself.  Then I discovered that the spongy floor on which I'd put my towel was leaking water upwards into anything dry on its surface.  My towel was soaking wet, my socks were soaking wet, and time was of the essence for salvaging my swimming bag containing car keys, mobile phone and dry clothes.

I carried my kickboard, fins, paddles and goggles in one hand.  I balanced dry shoes, wet socks, dry jacket and wet towel inside my open bag and hurried to the change rooms.  I certainly didn't look all that sporty and in-control, dropping swimming fins from one hand and shoes from the other.

I gave up on the idea of a warm shower - my towel was not going to dry me but probably put dirt on me instead.  I avoided the dozen large, naked elderly ladies in the change rooms because I couldn't identify which one gave me the stink-eye while straightening my car in the carpark (I'd hampered her dash for the last free park before her aqua aerobics class) so I didn't know which lady to avoid.  In my defense, the last time I saw her, she'd been clothed.

I locked myself in a tiny toilet cubicle to get changed in peace, and to sit on the lid of the toilet and text Mum.  Baby Rex was asleep, she said.  I gathered my wet things, grimaced at my Addams Family goggle-prints in the mirror, and got the heck outta there.

The swim was awesome, but my goodness, I don't look like "A Swimmer."

13 September 2012

Three random funny moments

Jessie:  [incomprehensible nonsense]

Mr de Elba: [whispers] I have no idea what she said!

Buzz: [whispers] Neither do I!

Jessie herself: [whispers] Neither do I!

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

Woody in the car when pulled up in 2 lanes at the lights: Are you ready to race?

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

Woody in the car with Rex crying his fool head off: The babies in the car go wah wah wah...

04 September 2012

Mystery Legs

The school photos were coming up and I was trying to work out how I could get my kids looking their best.  Not looking like fashion models, just not with messy hair, old faded uniforms and Vegemite on their faces.

(I was heavily pregnant at the time.)

Among various strategies including making sure there were newish cleanish uniforms available, I decided to put Jessie in black stockings on the day.  I was expecting her legs to look a little like this in the photo, only with scrubby white sneakers as they were the only school shoes she owned at the time:

Now I will swear black and blue that I did - I DID I DID I DID - put her in black stockings on the day.   Only her school photos came back and this is what she looked like in them:
I cannot recall ANY day in her entire schooling that she has ever worn non-uniform grey and pink - PINK! - socks to school.  But there must have been one day and trust it to be school photo day.

I didn't promise it would be a particularly interesting blog post.

02 September 2012

Father's Day

A few days ago I told you about the torches that Daddy was getting for Father's Day.

It turns out that torches, which as we know are much more loved by children than by fathers, are good for some pre-Father's Day fun when used by three excited children in artificially-darkened rooms.

Both of Daddy's torches were lost by Father's Day morning.  He laughed.

In other news, there was an "I'm packing my suitcase and leaving home" episode yesterday.

Thankfully, it ended in a change of heart. It was great to be able to present Mr de Elba with the gift of a full complement of children. You're welcome, Mr de Elba, you're welcome.