Monday, April 30, 2012

Strangely Patient and Motivated

I've had a strange day. Yesterday must have been more rejuvenating that I thought it would be. I woke up patient and motivated. This is a BIG deal, especially when you consider the fact that I didn't fall asleep until around 2am (I blame the hazelnut bubble tea that I had in the afternoon).

We dropped Aaron to school on time and afterwards, Adrian and I spent some time at a new park we discovered. There was a big duck pond and I spent a good twenty minutes answering questions about the pond, ducks, swans, funny birds with red beaks, green stuff in the water (didn't look like algae). I often find myself feeling impatient with all the repeated questions that make no sense to me but I didn't feel annoyed today. And when it was time to go, Adrian must have felt very satisfied with my answers because there was no protest and we made our way slowly, but without detour, back to the car.

At home today, we worked on activities that involved fine motor skills - cutting, gluing, sticking and drawing. And once again, I didn't feel that I needed to hurry or be doing anything else. I didn't go on the internet as soon as I thought he was occupied. While spending all this productive time with Adrian, I also completed two rounds of laundry so all our winter clothes are now ready to wear.

I've managed to keep to my own rule of only allowing two different types of toys out at the same time. This is hard to do because I still need to remind Adrian to put away before pulling the next thing out and he has not caught on to this idea as willingly as Aaron did. Still, it has happened today because I have been patient and motivated.

And why is all this blog worthy? Because it has been a good day for me as a stay-at-home mom. I did all the stay-at-home wife things like laundry/meals/cleaning/etc and the stay-at-home mother things like teaching Adrian to read, write and count. Its not that I don't ordinarily do those things but very often, only one or the other gets done and sometimes, things are carried out in a grumpy way. Motivation usually isn't a problem for me but patience .... well, that has been worn down by the little, but daily, frustrations of dealing with little ones. So patience, must be the key to good days. Patience leads to less frustrations, which means more happy times, and that means the motivation levels stay high naturally and things get done!

Ok...patience. Where can I get more of this from?

Sunday, April 29, 2012

A Whole Year Older

I'm only a day older than yesterday but I'll have to add a whole year onto my age now. The day started just after 7am when Aaron excitedly came to shove the first clue of his treasure hunt in front of my still sleeping face. He has been very excited about my birthday because of all the 'planning' he has put in over the past couple of weeks. So, after following the clues from the kitchen drawer, to the book shelves and all around the house, I finally found the present that he had been secretly working on - a twelve page book of drawings for me.

The drawings were mostly of various prehistoric animals that the thought up but there was also this one page of an adventure that he would like to go on with me.

Richard gave me an equally awesome gift but its too fancy to share here. Lets just say that its the fourth consecutive gadget type gift that he's given me, and, like the other three, I'll be mostly admiring it a few weeks before really getting into using it.

Obviously, I can't help but think back on the previous thirty five birthdays and comparing this one against the others. I'm happy to say that apart from my very first one (I was told that I didn't smile once), I have stayed happy, healthy and contented with my life at each and every one of them. My craziest birthday was my 19th when I had a 48 hour party with probably 48 friends. The birthday that led to my life now was my 22nd - Richard and I went for a Savage Garden concert and thats when we started going out. When you think about it from a certain angle, it was a downhill slide in the friends department from when I was 19. I went from spending my birthday with 48 people to just 3. Three very special ones though...

I'm off to enjoy the remaining few hours to this day with the three of them now. After being treated like a queen today, it'll be back to life as the help tomorrow.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Wordless Wednesday - Reminding Aaron Of Palembang

These photos were taken around the forth week of April in 2009.

Going for a walk to buy coconut milk : 

His favourite work was in the garden :

Calling out to the neighborhood kids :

For more Wordless Wednesdays, visit My Little Drummer Boys.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Taking Frugal Up A Notch

We spent a quiet weekend at home and I used the time to get some organizing done and prepare a few activities for next week. More specifically, I wanted to get things ready so that I could spend the week encouraging Adrian to use a pencil. So, I sharpened all 42 color pencils, put together some ruled and un-ruled paper, pulled out Aaron's unfinished coloring books and collected a few different colored pens from around the house just to make things interesting.

I also did something that made the following words flash like huge neon signs in my head "stingy, cheapskate, frugal, kiam-siap". I found one of Aaron's old alphabet writing exercise books - the kind that has the dotted lines. He had only completed the pages for A to K and there were only a few marks on the remaining pages. The book was in fantastic condition, not dog eared or teared in anyway, and the writing was all neatly done in pencil. So, why let it sit around or worse, throw it out? I ended up rubbing out all the pages that Aaron had already completed. It took much longer than I expected and I had sore fingers from doing it but I think its good enough for Adrian to try writing in.

As I was rubbing, I was thinking to myself how crazy it was to be doing it because I noticed that the book only cost $2.50. Isn't it a waste of my time? Couldn't I have done something more useful with my time? Who reuses exercise books?

Here's the definition of "frugal" according to the Merriam-Webster dictionary:

"characterized by or reflecting economy in the use of resources"

So, its true, I could have done something else with my ten minutes but at that moment, I just felt that it would be a waste of resources not to reuse that book. Its not just the money either. I did not like to see something that was still of use, get wasted. As I've grown older, I find that I make more frugal decisions - like mending and making clothes. These traits must have been passed down from my grandmother, to my mother and now to me.

I don't think I'm a miser who is tight fisted with money, I just like to spend it in a smart way. I also don't think I'm a hoarder (I suppose, they all say that), but I usually can find use for the things that I keep. Its not necessary for me to by the highest quality products because I think they will last a long time. I've always found that with care, most things do last. The money I save today, can be spent on something bigger tomorrow. And even when I come across that 'bigger' thing, there is always a decision that can be made on whether or not it is justified.

Friday, April 20, 2012

So Many Reasons To Be Happy

I actually started this post at around 2pm yesterday. The very first sentence was "Some days are just so much easier than others. And, this was one of them..."

The reasons were:
1. Beautiful blue skies with fluffy white clouds here and there. It looked like the pictures you see in children's story books.
2. Easy morning getting Aaron ready for school.
3. Aaron and Adrian did all sorts of cute things together, making me forget about the times that they are screaming at one another.
4. It was Thursday and I was looking forward to clogging at night.

Then I realised that I'd have to continue blogging in the evening because it was time to pick Aaron up from school. So, off I went.

First off, there must have been some sort of incident on the freeway and the traffic was backed up all the way to where I get onto the road. After about fifteen minutes of crawling along, our car starts to jerk each time I moved it. Then the message on the panel comes up "Transmission. Consult Workshop". Great! I'm in the middle of the freeway, already in a traffic jam, Aaron is waiting for me and now this? What happened to that easy, happy day?

Surprisingly, I did still have a happy day and ended up feeling very thankful because...

1) The car managed to jerk its way safely into the school car park. I don't know yet how the transmission is after doing 8km of jerking but at least we got there safely.

2) Roadside assistance took 45 mins to arrive but they did come and were friendly.

3) Richard was able to leave work early to go home and get the other car to pick us up.

4) Another mother was kind enough to drop my house keys off to Richard because, of all days, he chose yesterday to forget them. Can you believe it??

5) There were more accidents on the free way and 'our' tow truck had to be diverted and took nearly 90 minutes to get to us. But, it got there and delivered our car to the workshop before they closed.

6) By the time we got in the car, I realised it was too late to cook dinner. Traffic was horrendous and I had to break my golden rule of never taking the kids to McDonalds. (It was the only fast and easy thing that was on the way home.) I am appeased by the fact that Aaron protested and said he didn't want any and that he would only have it this one time.

7) And finally, it was a happy day because I still made it to clogging on time.

What a day! I'm now driving the other car, the one that I have always worried about breaking down. It will be time to pick Aaron up soon. I'm not worried because at least I know what to do now. Yesterday was a bit of a learning experience. Oh! Another 'first' experience in my lifetime - I've never had a car break down before.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Monday, April 16, 2012

'To Do' List For Under 11s

I don't think under 11s are into making lists yet but a list has been made for their parents to help provide children with a taste of a 'traditional childhood'. I read an article in Saturday's Courier Mail and its actually a modified list (to make it more suited to Australians) from one that the UK National Trust came up with.

I try to remind myself to keep things simple and low tech with the children but I'm guilty of turning the TV on too. While I don't think this list is fantastic, its good enough for me to pick out a few things that I had forgotten about. For example, catching a butterfly with a net. I used to love doing that! We don't need to examine the details of the list to know that apart from showing children a life away from computer games, TV, iPads and the internet, its purpose is also to let children experience that feeling of being free and unscheduled, to explore their imagination and maybe indulge in a little day dreaming.

Its been a lazy afternoon for me but I like to position it as me free and unscheduled time. They did a fantastic job at keeping themselves occupied and fully utilizing their imaginations. They've role played in a paper making factory, doctor's clinic, mechanic's workshop and now they're in a kitchen. Somewhere in between all that, they let themselves out to the backyard to hunt for bugs. One had a magnifying glass and the other a pencil and notepad to write down everything they come across. Here's a photo of some sort of animal shelter where they were cooking for the animals and putting them to sleep.

Now back to that list. The very first 'to do' on the list is to climb a tree. Aaron has actually been trying to climb trees these whole holidays but hasn't progressed very high yet. He'll get there. In the mean time, look at this amazing tree that we found last weekend.

I'm not going to put the whole long list of 50 kids activities here but its worth a click here if you do have under 11s.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Mothers Trying To Be Carefree

I think I have my new experience for this month - I went out, for drinks, with a group of women.

Honesty is something I pride myself on and after careful scanning of my memories, I can safely say that I've never had a 'girls night out'. Technically, there were no 'girls' or 'night' because instead of girls, we were all mothers in our thirties and instead of night, it was at 3pm and we were all home in time to put the kids to bed. But, you get the idea right? It was intended to be time away from our lives as mothers.

So, its 'new' to me because apart from my time in an all girls Catholic high school, I've never had a group of female friends. While at school, I had an almost-tiger mom that didn't allow for any sorts of girls night out (or in). After high school, it was engineering school and there weren't all that many girls around there. I've never had that camaraderie that Carrie Bradshaw bragged about in Sex And The City.

Today wasn't a meeting of that type of close knit friends either - there was one friend there and the others were her friends and my acquaintances (i.e. people I've seen around Aaron's school grounds). I got to know them a bit better today and actually had a lot of laughs with them.

I felt quite insecure and flip/flopped on going for the the past few days because I haven't been to a bar in five years, have nothing to wear, didn't know the other people, no longer know how to order drinks, can't parallel park. Silly isn't it? I thought so too and thats why I had to go. There was no need for me to have hesitated because everybody else was in the same boat and we had our first big laugh about the time we picked for our little outing - 3pm is the time we usually meet at school pick up to let the kids play. Not time to go hang out in a bar! The second big laugh was when the young, greasy haired waiter came to take our orders and we were debating whether it was alright to have alcohol since a few of us were still breastfeeding. The result was five women, hanging out at a bar at 3pm, drinking mocktails. Some of us did eventually get around to a little bit of alcohol.

On the surface, we may have felt that we were this awkward because we had grown 'old'. Upon reflection, I don't think thats the case because there are plenty of single 30 somethings out there who are still having a blast. We have just been out of that scene for a while. Strange questions like "I wonder where people go dancing?" and "Where would we go if we met up at 9pm?" popped up in conversation.  

I see today as a group of women who were trying to meet up as non-mothers. It was about rediscovering time that can be fun and carefree without needing to spend a single second thinking of child's needs. In a way, we failed because we did end up talking about children and the home but that is inevitable with a mix of mothers that don't all know each other. We did succeed in assuring ourselves that its it not so scary to leave the safety of our children and families. There is talk of another such outing and perhaps, we will be better prepared and a little more relaxed about it.

Friday, April 13, 2012

The Thought of a Tattoo

I've wanted a tattoo for a long time. To be precise, I first started talking about it when I was 19. All I needed was the right crowd and little bit of encouragement from my friends and I would have easily gone against everything my mother has told me and got one. Unfortunately, not only did my friends not want to get one with me, they didn't even provide me with a tiniest bit of goading. Oh and yes, I was too much of a good girl to go get one by myself.

Earlier this year, I noticed that my cousin had a very nice tattoo in the upper middle of her back. I felt more than a little envious of her tattoo. And, I found out that she's had it for quite a few years except that none of us ever noticed. See, I could get one and not have a big deal made out of it too.

Recently, I also met a sixty something year old lady that showed off a new tattoo. It seems that her son wanted to get one and she thought it would be fun to get one too. I do not want to be that kind of mother. So, I might as well go get one now, and maybe I can drag my five year old with me. Just kidding!

I brought it up at dinner time in a wishful thinking kind of way. And Aaron had this very excited suggestion "OH! I have one! You can have it. Its a Ben10 one but I just need to find it first"

Yes, he had a temporary tattoo that he was willing to let me have. And if he had found it, I would have proudly showed it off to you here. That would purely have been for Aaron's benefit because a temporary tattoo is cheating. And no, I don't think I'll ever be getting a real one either because 1) I'm getting too old for this type of thing and 2) Richard is old fashioned and does not like the idea. I'm just going to have to accept the fact that I missed my chance nearly twenty years ago.

p.s. If I had a tattoo, I think I would have liked a small Chinese dragon. I've had this idea since before the books about The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Aaron - A Super Big Brother

Today, I realized that if I ever want to get an idea of my day-to-day parenting habits, all I need to do is watch Aaron with Adrian. The thing is, I really don't want to know that I'm snappy or stern but I must be because I watched Aaron be that way to Adrian today. Aaron is super helpful and completely aware of how much work goes into each day with the two of them. Throughout these school holidays, he has been toggling between being a five year old that frequently does not hear his mother speaking to being a five (going on thirty five) year old that tries to take on some of the day-to-day parenting of his younger brother.

I've watched Aaron get Adrian's clothes out and change him in the mornings, feed him meals, take him to the bathroom, read to him, wipe his nose and all sorts of other things. Its heartwarming to watch. I never imagined that Aaron would grow to be so caring towards Adrian. Here he is carrying Adrian (12 hours old) for the first time.

I'm sure you're all wondering what I've been doing since he does all the work here but I assure you, this is not an all day affair - he toggles, remember. As I was saying, its all lovely to watch until Aaron tries to get Adrian to do something that he doesn't want to do. Immediately, I hear Aaron use the same tone that I now realize I use. Its much too stern and sometimes sounds snappy and cold. I have heard threats as well, which reminds me that I don't want to be that mother.

We were talking about nephews and nieces and Aaron mentioned that my brother has no nieces. And then he said "I don't think he'll ever get a niece because I don't think we want any more children. Adrian is enough." I must have unknowingly been putting some expectation on Aaron. Its good that he's a responsible little boy but I wouldn't want him to feel burdened by it all or one day resent Adrian for making his life harder.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

"Bored" Should Be Banned

That 'B' word is banned in our house. To me, its a useless word that does more harm than anything else. Even if a child feels like they don't know what to do with themselves, I don't think they should have a convenient word like that to verbalize it. I've banned myself from using the word for years now and I find that when I do feel that way, its uncomfortable, but somehow, choosing not to verbalize it forces me to do something about the situation.

I get particularly irritated when children's storybooks use that word. Thats how Aaron initially learned the word and this morning, I was reading a new book from the library to Adrian and again, I came across the word in the phrase: "cave baby was bored". It was a wonderful book with beautiful pictures and was about a toddler cave baby who liked to paint. I didn't read that word out but I later heard Aaron reading to Adrian and he read it.

Children don't know how to be bored until they are introduced to that word. And also, I think that very often, some of the things we do as parents, lead a child to that feeling of not know what to do next. Here are two situations that I try to avoid because it often leads to Aaron having the word 'bored' flash in his head - he knows not to say it out loud.

1. The biggest thing for us is any sort of screen time. It doesn't matter if its the TV, Wii games or playing with my dad's HP Touchpad. If I let it go on for longer than 30 minutes, Aaron will firstly become a little rude when asked to stop and then after that, he'll just sit around not know what to do next. Nothing is exciting after screen time, not his books, toys, puzzles or even gardening.

2. The next situation is when I start they day by giving Aaron a choice of the things we could have fun doing. For example, "Hey Aaron, what would you like to do? Go to the park, play monopoly, do some drawing?" I've noticed that if I do that, we'll have a great time doing whatever it was, and then he'll come and ask what we're going to do next. If I leave him to start the day with something that he initiates and then come by later with a suggestion, he seems to be able to go back to doing his own things after that.

So, I try my best not to get myself into those situations but as you can see from what they are, its a bit easier said (or typed) than done. There are movies that I've enjoyed as a child that I want to share with Aaron. Wii is also a lot of fun for the whole family. And with the second situation, it happens when I forget the outcome. I'm often excited about spending the day with them, especially during the school holidays.

Anyway, the bottom line is that I believe that the word should not be read, heard, spoken or even thought. It is such a limiting word.

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Mothers Miss Out On Music

I constantly feel that becoming a mother has made me slow in getting to know about things, or to even get to know about things at all. Sure, I've been learning about a whole new world of things but that has come at the cost of knowing things from my old world.

The biggest example would be music. I used to know all the latest songs, who sang them and very often, I knew enough of words to sing along. These days, I'm thankful for the school run in the mornings and afternoon because I get to listen to the radio so I get snippets of what the music world sounds like. To demonstrate how ignorant I was, let me tell you that I kept hearing the song 'Somebody like you' and thinking that I liked it a lot but for a long time I didn't know what it was called and I definitely had no idea who Adele was. It must have taken me a couple of months to find out she sang it and then a couple more months to realize how popular she is. *sigh* On the other hand, I know the name 'Justin Bieber' but I don't know a single one of his song....I'm guessing thats a blessing.

Richard must have some secret stash of music time somewhere because he seems to know everything. If something comes on the radio that I like, and he's in the car, I just ask him about it.

I've had quite a bit of time at home this weekend and a lot of it has been spent on YouTube. This weekend reminds me of being a teenager when I would just sit and listen to music. Now, I sit, watch and listen to music and I've been doing it for most of the weekend. I know who sings what and I know what they look like.

My favourite 'discovery' is this song by the Plain White T's. The song that led me to them was 'Hey there Delilah' from 2007. Yes, its taken me FIVE years to find out the band name. Anyway, my 'discovery' is another song of theirs from 2008.

I don't see myself getting any better at song or artist identification and I don't mind. I've just had a good time 'catching' up on something that I haven't had time to do in a long while.

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Day 2 of a Long Weekend

Would you believe it if I said I forgot that this would be a four day weekend? Well, I really did. All I had on my mind was that Aaron would be on holidays for two weeks. So, we didn't make any big plans to go away. Instead, we'll be having little mini trips around Brisbane, and a bit further.

This morning, we took a drive to the Gold Coast and spent the morning at the beach. As usual, it was an easy and relaxing time for everyone. I've always been thankful that we live in a place with such beautiful and thoughtful parks. Today, there was a new addition to the park and its something that even the parents can go crazy on.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

I Can Do It!

Adrian thinks he's very grown up these days. He likes to get in and out of the car by himself. If he had the strength, he'd put the seatbelt on himself. He also tells me to leave the bathroom when he needs to go. 

Anyway, this was the funny little guy I found in the morning when I went in to get him dressed. He already had his pants off and his diapers on!

The room was in a complete mess because he threw a lot of stuff about the place to get to the diapers but how could I get angry when I was so busy laughing.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Parents Should Watch Their Own Children In Parks

Aaron and Adrian had a wonderful time at the park today. On the other hand, I had one of the worst days in recent history! It was meant to be a playdate between Aaron and one other little boy from school. We had this arranged from a week before the end of term but by the last day of school, everybody else knew about it and since it was at a park, everybody else was invited to come along if they were available. It turns out that not only did most people from Aaron's class come along but there were plenty of representatives from the other two classes as well. It was a fantastic day for the kids.

So what was wrong with my day? Well, another mother, one I barely know, asked if I would keep an eye on her two children because she forgot to pack their swimming things and wanted to go home to get them. The three bits of information she stressed on were 1) she would be 20 minutes, 2) the son sticks around Aaron anyway and 3) the daughter was 'good'. I didn't like the idea but I (wrongly) felt it wouldn't be nice if I said 'no'.  So I said "OK".

And, she left. The son constantly went in different directions from Aaron. The daughter was 'good' but she would not stop walking everywhere around the park. She did not stand still for one minute of the time her mother was away. Thankfully Aaron is the awesome five year old that he is. I eventually got him to continuously follow the other boy and bring him back to wherever I was. Adrian just followed Aaron wherever he went. I was on a constant lookout for a girl that looked like every other little girl there except for black leather shoes. It was STRESSFUL! What if they fell over? What if they got kidnapped? What if they wandered onto the road? OMG! Never again.

The 20 minutes that the lady said she would take turned into 90 minutes! There was no apology or anything for being so late. I think she might have made a detour elsewhere!

No matter how rude it sounds, I'm never going to agree to that again. I don't want to be responsible for somebody else's children. And, I want to enjoy my own. I want to be able to mingle with the other mothers without seeming distracted and constantly looking elsewhere.

These three photos were taken from where I was initially relaxing. It doesn't show up well in the photos but there were a million children running about.

View to my right. Climbing pyramid where I could easily watch Aaron and Adrian was happy to run underneath:

View to my left, its a flying fox:

View in front of me. Doesn't look like much but there is a water play area behind the slight slope you can see in the middle of the photo. 

So, do you get the picture of how big an area this was? Never again......

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Aaron Excavated A T-Rex!

Its true!

A good friend of mine is an awesome gift giver and over the years, she has given Aaron and Adrian many interesting presents (as well as nice clothes!). This mini dinosaur excavation kit was a Christmas present that I only passed on to Aaron three weeks ago. It was the perfect present for a dinosaur obsessed little boy.

The above photo was about as far as he got on that first day. The block was quite hard and the activity lasted him a whole three weeks. He had to hammer at it, then brush off the sandy bits, then hammer some more, going through the process many times before a piece of the skeleton would come off.. It made a really big mess so I would only let him do it when I had time to setup, supervise the work and supervise the cleanup. 

I had the intention of taking many more photos towards the end of the process but the mess was uncontrollable by then. That powder was everywhere and Adrian was helping to transfer it all over the house. 

Here is one final photo of the assembled T-Rex skeleton. 

If anybody is interested in this kit and you haven't seen it in the stores, here's what the box looks like. Not that I'm advertising for them or anything, I just thought it was a great activity.

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Odds and Ends

Yes, I've taken a few days off from blogging and even today, I don't quite have it all together. All the hustle and bustle of the term must have caught up with me in this last week and I was completely exhausted. And, to end the term, we had to have it extra busy with a few make up swimming classes for Aaron, make up classes for Adrian's Montessori sessions and a birthday party. I don't know about Aaron but I am very ready to have fortnight off from the school routine. The other mothers are all talking about playdates and the such but I just want to take it easy. I have a huge sleep debt to pay off!

March is over and if you remember back to this post at the beginning of March, I said that I would try to learn something new each month. Did I? Sort of. I had chosen to learn chess because I absolutely don't know anything about it. Unfortunately, all I've done is some superficial reading of it and haven't played a single game yet.

This doesn't mean that I didn't have a new experience though. Its something a lot shallower but early in the month, I found A LOT of grey hairs. They were the hidden kind but I was still feeling very bummed that the day is coming whenI'm going to have them visible. Anyway, it triggered a whole new 'looking good' routine. I have never been one to wear make up - not for work and not for going out either. BUT, for many days this month, I went through the whole cleansing, moisturising and a teeny bit of make up routine. I'm not even sure you can call it make up because all I did was put on some BB Cream, maybe eyeliner and lip balm. Anyway, it took away an extra 5 minutes to my already crammed morning schedule. I have also been blow drying my hair properly with both a hair dryer and a hair brush (instead of my hand). This is a big deal for me because I have long, thick hair and this work is very tiring!

So basically, instead of ending the month with a new skill like playing chess, I have instead tried my hand at making myself look a little nicer. I don't think I want to continue doing this though because I am not sure there has been any significant difference.

Aaron tried something new. Its been done before, by others, and he has read about how they failed but he wanted to give it a go anyway.