Tuesday, April 1, 2014

What Friends Are For! Ode to Catherine

I love that my friends have a much better opinion of me than I deserve.

Take this text from Catherine last night (which came with a photo of the finished products):

"I got cheap small Easter eggs.  Put them into water balloons.  Blew up ballons slightly and tied off.  Then dipped yarn into 50/50 PVA glue and water and wrapped them around the balloons.  When they are dry, pop balloons and eggs are trapped inside.  (With the coloured string around them.)  Hang up on Easter day. "

This is the type of person I am friends with.  Such a tough act to keep up with!  I would like to say that Catherine was showing off - after all, she deserves to! - but the punchline came before the instructions.

"I thought this might be something you would like to try with your children!"

I also love having friends with comedic value!  (And Catherine even KNOWS my children!)

Oh, Catherine.  At one time I thought this would be the sort of thing I'd like to try with my children too!  But that was before I had five of them.

I had Ryan banging on pots and pans and sorting dried peas and beans with plastic measuring spoons.  I made playdough.  That stopped with the twins.  Too much time spent chasing beans and peas around the living room.  Not enough time to make playdough while they were destroying the rest of the house!

You'd lost me at : dipped yarn into 50/50 PVA glue.  Just way too much effort!

I'm pretty happy I got the Easter box out of the shed.  It's been sitting in the front room for about two weeks now.  Unopened.

Please keep sending those ideas though. 

I like pretending that I AM the kind of mom who still does those things.

And I really DO like that idea of having the kids do dishes in the plastic pool out back.

I've even bought finger paints again recently.

What say I bring them over to your place over the holidays?!



Thursday, March 27, 2014

Parking Principles!


The twins are why I have this obsession, compulsion, phobia about parking spots. Now that I only have one toddler I don't even use the pram parking. When a friend of mine with a three year old said she still used them and didn't see who would need them more than she did I had an answer: the lady with twins. Her other friend with twins had told her the same thing.

I am pretty loose about the pram spots. I don't need them anymore and I am grateful. I am happy to leave them to whoever feels they need them.

But Australians – Queenslanders anyway – take parking to a whole new level. Or maybe it's just the parents at our school.

They basically park wherever they like.

The problem is they need about twice the parking space a New Yorker would need for the same size vehicle. And I would whinge about it except I am still American enough to think that anyone with a pickup truck (or ute) could be packing a gun. And German enough to think that I need the walk up the hill anyway.

It's the principle of the thing though.

Curbside parking at the school is not the freeway. YOU DO NOT HAVE TO LEAVE A CAR LENGTH IN BETWEEN VEHICLES WHEN YOU ARE PARKING! Or sorry, three-quarters of a car length, just enough so that my seven seater can't get in there.

And you don't need to shoot me dirty looks when I try to get in there anyway. I mean, what are you leaving all that space for mates? The kangaroos?!

Haven't you people heard of bumper to bumper parking? Eleven point turns to get in and out? Actually USING the bumpers in front and behind to maneuver your way in?

I guess not from the looks I get.

You people would be shot in New York for parking the way you do.

I think you might get shot in Germany for it too.

Today a friend of mine from Belgium caught me scouting out the cars as she walked behind me up the hill to school pickup. „What are you planning?“ she asked. „I'm not planning anything but I could easily get four more cars into that row of seven,“ I replied.

„Ah, yes,“ she agreed, „ but we can use the exercise.“

Traitor!

In America, we enlist friends and relatives in the hunt for a spot. „OOH. Look, a spot just opened up. You go and stand in it and I'll run down and get the car and circle round and make sure we get that spot.“

„Ah, it's a busstop“ said my same friend when I jokingly tried it on her today.

„Oooh, then let's do the German thing and copy down the license number and report it to the police.“

What about pretending to be German and parking on the grass?“ said a naive Australian friend.

Germans? Park on the grass? Mates, we aren't even allowed to WALK on the grass half the time!

It looks like I'll be complaining about the parking no matter where I live but I really am happy to be where I am right now, in a child-friendly country full of sunshine and families, where it doesn't matter that I have to walk a bit farther because it isn't raining and it isn't cold and I no longer have two infants to carry.

Speaking of which – will someone go and help Anita get out of the house and out to the Biergarten please? Once it stops raining.


Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Parking with Twins (and Missing Anita)


Ah, Australia, land of boundless plains to share.

But apparently not parking spots.

Now, let me remind you of my obsession with parking spots. (This is the part dedicated to Anita! I remember how you used to laugh at my parking rants when my twins were babies. I hope the memories still make you laugh now that you have your own!)

In Germany, I wrote a piece entitled „I Find God in Parking Spaces.“ I don't think I ever published it. It was so short. And a bit embarrassing. It was almost like a prayer. And then I stopped talking to God and that whole prayer thing got a bit awkward.

But really. I found God in parking spaces. If I found one – close enough to where I needed to be with two newborns, a four year old and a six year old, through city traffic that does not stop for children, in a climate of rain and snow, bitter cold, grey and windy, AND it was big enough for me to get my seven seater into in a world built for Vws and Minis – then I believed. If God couldn't provide me with even that much – after apparently trusting me enough to give me TWINS – then I wasn't sure He was worth it.

I wasn't that picky. I was willing to crawl out the passenger side. In the back. The one that had sliding doors. So that I could squeeze into spots and not requiring room to open a door.

I even got out on a wall once and pulled the kids out behind me.

Anita would have been laughing but you know what I'm talking about now, right?! (What kind of a car do you drive now anyway?)

The whole double stroller situation didn't make it any better. Having to maneuver it out wasn't so bad; I had that procedure down to military precision. Although it apparently looked so difficult that I had men offer to help me with it. German men.

The stroller problem was that Europe – or Germany anyway – isn't wheelchair accessible.

Which means that the only twin strollers available at the time (side by side) couldn't fit into most public buildings. Which means that when the twins are infants you also need to take two baby carriers with you on top of the stroller – literally balanced precariously ON TOP OF THE STROLLER – to carry up the stairs and into the buildings. No elevators either.

I wonder now why I didn't just lay the twins on the floor. But yeah- I had to CARRY them in first. Before neck support.

And you just didn't lay babies on the floor in Germany. It just isn't done.

Someone official would have spoken to me about it. Because of some mum complaining.

Not that anyone would have offered to help. Just judged and prosecuted.

I remember the last time I tried to get to a public library in the city with Babette. We had to park over four blocks away. She took our older four and I got the twins out into the stroller and made my way over curbs with the extra two carriers balanced on top of it. By the time I got to the library one of the twins was screaming and needed a diaper change. The other was asleep. (They always did this – tag team sleeping – just to keep me on my toes CONSTANTLY!) I had to change one outside on the lawn, then transfer both to their carriers and lug them up the stairs into the library, sweating and exhausted.

Only to find that library hour was over – the kids and Babette had really enjoyed it – and it was time to turn around and repeat the entire process in reverse.

Oh dear, you don't get out much now do you Anita? I'd like to say it gets better. And it does.

In Australia! (By the way, that's when I used to walk through the fields and visit you in Hildrizhausen instead! I'd love to say I wish I was there, but I REALLY wish YOU were HERE!)

Monday, March 24, 2014

Daniel's Law


Let me just say this before it passes us by.

Because it shouldn't pass us by.

And I hope it doesn't.

Australia just passed a guilty verdict on the man who sexually molested and killed a 13 year old boy here in southeast Queensland 12 years ago. I don't know all the details because I can't bear to hear them. Maybe he didn't molest this one because this one struggled and that is why he died. I've been hearing about this case ever since we moved here. Everyone here knows Daniel Morecombe was waiting at a busstop to go to get his haircut and the bus driver passed him by because the bus was full. But waved to him that another bus would be coming soon.

Except this creep found him first.

I don't know how the Morecombe's can bear it, let alone start a national campaign for awareness and prevention as well as going into schools and teaching other children how to be safe so that the same thing that happened to their little boy doesn't happen to them. It took them ten years to find the body and two more to prosecute the man everyone knew was guilty.

But I do know that Australian understatedness is just killing me.

They gave this guy – a guy who has been in prison before for molesting children and was let go on parole– a life term with possibility of parole in twenty years.

Are you friggin' kidding me?!

The Morecombes say they are disappointed with the sentence but are certain he will die in prison.

Are you friggin' kidding me?!

How certain can you be when there is THE POSSIBILITY OF PAROLE? For someone who was parolled before and then killed your little boy?

The guy who let him out of prison the first time says he's sorry he did.

Ya think?!

They are working for a national registry for convicted sex offenders – like Megan's Law in the USA – but the justice system is worried this would lead to vigilantes taking matters into their own hands.

I know this had been said before but....

Are we actually worried about protecting convicted, parolled sex molesters more than we are worried about protecting ourselves and our children?

Are you friggin' kidding me?!

There are very few rights that we don't, as a democracy, have. We can choose our partners, our haircolour, what books we read, who we hang out with, what music we listen to, who we vote for, who to pray to, what to teach our children, where to send them to school, what we want to believe.

But it has never at any time in any civilisation been our right to kill another human being.  (Defining "human" being something else we have had to work on.)

That man did not have the right to sexually molest children or to kill them.

And others shouldn't have the right to try. Or to be protected so that they can try again.

There should be a Daniel's Law here the way there is a Megan's law in the USA.

It won't protect our children from every psychopath out there, but it will let us know which neighbour not to trust as a baby sitter. I looked up the list when I lived in Arizona and NAMES came up in HANDFULS just within our walking area.

(Of course when Damon got home he found I had also been inadvertantly registered in a few inappropriate sex sites, but hey.... Sorry babe, not researching what you wish I was!)

It's not about forgiveness and second chances. Look what Daniel's killer did with those.

It can't be about an individual's right to privacy. They gave that up when they took that right away from someone else. Against their will. Forcefully.

It's about protecting ourselves and our children.

Are we actually worried more about protecting the rights of convicted sex offenders to anonymity more than we are our own childrens' rights to safety?

There should be a Daniel's Law and a Megan's Law because there is no Daniel or Megan.




Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Children for Sale?

Maybe this isn't perfect parenting technique, but I've been trying sarcasm.

"Listen kids, we now have the one we wanted, so we can now sell off you earlier models that aren't working out."

This is on days when Ian is teaching himself the alphabet and flute and playing hopscotch with three year old girls on his own.

Funny enough, the two I am talking about know exactly who they are.

"Yes, I am talking about you two: the seven year old who didn't want to read today and the fourteen year old who won't shower."

"No, we won't mention that in the ad, and no, we won't show them the three that ARE working out okay."

Of course, I used to ask Ryan if we should take Andrew back as a baby because we thought he was broken. 

Sorry Ryan, the warranty ran out on that one!

And, as we are constantly reminding Andrew, we HAVE put a lot of time and effort into the twins so we should probably keep them.

I'm not REALLY selling off any of the kids.

I just think it's really funny the two of them knew they were the ones with "For Sale" signs on their foreheads that day!

We discuss this at family meal times. 

Do I get brownie points for having those?!





We

Monday, March 17, 2014

A Daughter Just Like Me?


„When you grow up I hope you have a daughter just like you!“

Boy did they ever get that wrong.

A daughter just like you, you would understand!

The way I see it, a daughter like me got good grades, pretty much ran the school, did the school work and home work herself, managed her own schedule, could drive herself places at 16 (something Qld really needs to think about) and got herself into university and veterinary school without any help.  

Let me be the first to say my mother might have more to say on the subject.  Write your own blog, Meka!

Really. In first grade they placed me in the hallway by myself during reading groups and I read the highschool textbook alone. It was heaven. I figured out my own freshman year schedule when the guidance counsellor left me in the room by myself for a few minutes. And I just ignored the uni rules and wrote my own schedule there too, taking on extra courses without asking for permission.

I pretty much took control early on.

Mostly because I didn't trust anyone else to do it properly.

I spent much of my childhood watching and listening to everyone else muck it up and my mother just quietly accepting and leaving it alone. This drove me crazy even as a little kid. Couldn't you see that these adults were mucking up simple things and why wouldn't you speak up and do something about it?

By now I am realising it might be about acceptance. Relinquishing control.

Giving up really.

But I think it is also because stuff like that just didn't – and still doesn't – bother my mother. This is because my mother is a lot like my daughter. And my daughter is like my husband. Who is, as much as they will all hate this, a lot like my mother.

Ryan even has Meka's handwriting! It is unbelievable.

I spend most of my time envying these people their lack of concern and some of the time hating them for leaving it all up to people like me to sort it for them. Although, since Bobbi thanked me for the work I had done at Lawnton that now benefits her daughter, I feel better. I know not everyone can stand up for themselves. It's just nice to know they ARE standing behind me!

Because, when it comes right down to it, the people who pay up in the end are the people who care the most. We are the people who get things done.

Just once I wish I could be the serene one: the one who knows someone else will get it done for her.

Om mani padme om. Be the lotus.

But that isn't me. That is Ryan.

And most of the time I am doing just fine with it. I accept my daughter for who she is. And I am learning when to take a stand and when to leave it alone; how and when to use my talents for good rather than let them lead me into evil. It's all very Tao. Or Spiderman.

Other days I have a wish for Ryan: when you grow up and have a daughter, I hope that she is JUST LIKE ME!  (Right, Meka?!)

Go ahead: try and be a lotus when you've got a duckling like me paddling around in the shit!

Om mani padme om!

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Mondays


Just another manic Monday.

I'll tell you why I don't like Mondays.

And maybe come up with something original to say as well.

Although, don't hold your breath.

Last Monday was another Series of Unfortunate Events.

It doesn't help that we are listening to the book on audiotape during our travels in the car. Even if it is narrated by Tim Curry. Who we all love.

It also doesn't help that we only listen to Tim when all three older boys are in the car. Because we are all in it together often enough to be halfway through the book in three weeks. When the twins are in the car alone we listen to Spanish. They can introduce themselves, tell you how old they are AND their likes and dislikes. As long as they like icecream, strawberries, pizza and coka-cola. But then again, who doesn't? And it's only been three weeks. In the car. Without Andrew.

If Ian is in the car – which is altogether too often, poor dear – and awake – we usually have to preempt our regularly scheduled program for Elmo.

He also demands that we sing along.

All of us.

And he knows if your heart isn't in it.

There is a CD for Ryan. Or 97.3. And yes, she can tell if it isn't 97.3. It's magic.

And then I have a meditation CD for the times I am in there alone.

Yellow. It is the colour of self-fulfillment. And blah blah blah as my mind drifts elsewhere. But I like to think I am absorbing the wisdom subconsciously. And the music is nice.

I generally do keep my eyes open though.

When I can.

A lot of the reason we have so much time to self-educate ourselves in the car is because of Mondays.

You've already seen the schedule. On a good day.

Two weeks ago (I wrote this early March) Ian was vomitting. In a bucket. Helped by 7 year old twins while I raced to get Ryan to belly dance at the same time that Andrew needs to be picked up from hip-hop.

Really. I AM going to figure out how to be in two places at once. Something about a train and going fast enough around the world at the speed of light. But then the mass and something about impossibility.

How does Einstein get to weigh in on my mass and theoretical impossibility?

Last Monday I had it all sorted.

Until Andrew missed his ride from school to dance and I had to go back and get him. Which meant that the half hour I saved not having to go from the twins' school to his school and then to dance turned into one trip with the twins and another trip back to get Andrew. That added an hour of meditation. Or would have if Ian wasn't also forced to come with me.

Elmo's World? Welcome to mine!

Andrew missed his friend at the H block handball courts because he inadvertently spilled water all over himself by not screwing the lid of his water bottle on properly. Then, when the bell rang, he decided to go and clean himself up in the bathroom instead of make his appointment.

Because his uniform – that he would be changing out of twenty minutes later for dance – was wet.

With water.

On a 30 C (90F) day.

And yes, this is the gifted and talented one.

I would cry if I didn't keep telling myself it makes great fodder for my writing.