April 28, 2012

Touch... pause.... ENGAGE!

For as long as I can remember, sport has been a huge part of my life. My brother and I both played sport as kids - JT played soccer and cricket and I was into hockey and tennis. Consequently, my darling mother spent most of her weekends ferrying us to various sporting grounds all over town. If she ever complained, I never heard about it. What a great mother she was, and is.

Image credit: D Goddard

But as it so often does life has come full circle and now it's my turn. Thank God for comfortable car seats - my backside spent long chunks of time today up close and personal with the black leather upholstery. Rugby union this morning, back home for lunch then to rugby league in the afternoon. Tomorrow morning Son #2 has rep training for rugby union and then, if I haven't collapsed with exhaustion, we are going to the Sydney Football Stadium in the afternoon to watch the Crusaders v Waratahs (Super 15 Rugby Union - we are HUGE fans in this house!).

But that's what you do, right? Yet I don't mind, really I don't. One of the cool things about sport is the little life lessons kids get exposed to along the way. It's here that they learn sometimes things don't go the way you want them to. That everyone needs to play by the rules. That there is no 'I' in team. And for Son #2 today, an oldie but a goodie: You can't win 'em all.

After the heady heights of winning the club championship with an unbeaten record last year, they were well and truly smacked all over the paddock today. There were no doubt a few quiet car trips home for our parents. But life goes on, as it should. There's always next week, fellas.

Do you or your kids play sport? What sorts of experiences have you had along the way?

April 22, 2012

An Open Letter to Young Teens...

Stop sulking, take the headphones out of your ears, put your iPhone down and LISTEN.

* Parents are not put on this planet simply to make your lives a living hell. That job belongs to some other lucky bastard, like your future boss or wife/husband. We make the decisions we make because we CARE about your wellbeing and safety. If we didn't give a shit, we'd have said that playing in the traffic was a brilliant idea.

* The statement 'everyone else is going' does not stand up as a valid argument or sway our decision one iota. We are NOT the parents of everyone else, thank God, but if we were, they wouldn't be going either.

* We don't care about being your friend. We're not supposed to be. You have 1737385 other friends on Facebook so stop bitching.

* We know you think you are 6 foot tall and bulletproof but here's a newsflash: You're NOT. It has nothing to do with trust. One day you will be a parent and will finally understand what we mean by that. Until then, you have to take it as fact because we say so. There are very few perks in this parenting gig, but this is one so suck it up, sunshine.

* Asking to speak to the other parent about your plans with a kid we haven't met before does not mean we're being paranoid/difficult/unreasonable. Quite the opposite, in fact. It's smart and common sense parenting. Plus it helps set our minds at ease and - as you so eloquently told us - we need to calm the fuck down, so what's the problem?

* And finally, just so you know, we love you. We will always love you. Even when you're being a totally obnoxious, moody, hormonally-fired-up little shit trapped in an adult's body, we will STILL love you.

Because THAT'S what good parents do.

Do you have teenagers in your life? Please tell me I'm not the only one dealing with this kind of stuff! Or maybe you remember what it was like when YOU were a teenager... tell me all about it!

April 20, 2012

The Situation...

I added a new phrase to my vocabulary today.

'Situational awareness'.

According to Wikipedia, situational awareness involves 'being aware of what is happening in the vicinity to understand how information, events, and one's own actions will impact goals and objectives, both immediately and in the near future.'  In other words, remembering where you are and what you're doing and keeping both in mind at all times. So you don't do anything stupid. Or dangerous. Or both.

I was reading an article online about two pilots who had to abort landing a mere 150m from the ground. Seems they both became confused and forgot to lower the landing gear after being distracted by texts coming in on the Captain's mobile phone. An enquiry into the cause of this incident later determined it was due to a resulting lack of 'situational awareness'. That's fancy industry-speak for they weren't concentrating on what they were doing and because of that, fucked up royally.

I wonder who was texting, though. Maybe it was the Captain's wife, after a particularly fractious day with the kids. "Have you landed yet? I'm about ready to kill these ferals!" Or perhaps it was a tweet. "Hey @CaptainFantastic - I'm waiting at the bar of our hotel. With your wife. WTF?!!."

When it comes to situational awareness, I think kids are probably the worst offenders. It simply doesn't register on their radar at ALL. Innocence is bliss, perhaps? Just not so much for the adult who happens to be there at the time. I seem to remember Son #2 at age 4 asking very loudly in the line at the supermarket: "How come that lady's so fat, Mum?" The lady in question pretended not to hear him as I quickly shushed him under my breath but I knew she had. Shit, everyone had. I couldn't get out of there fast enough.

But even I have been guilty of it from time to time myself. Like when I was 18 and in a pub with some mates. The legal drinking age in New Zealand back then was 20. I hadn't had a chance to get to the bank after work so I wrote a cheque to cash at the bar (very common practice those days before the advent of ATM's). The barman and I were having a lovely conversation about God knows what when he asked to see some ID for the cheque. This was usual business procedure so I handed over my drivers licence without a thought to let him check my signature. ALONG WITH MY DATE OF BIRTH. Cue mega facepalm/headdesk moment.

I decided my best course of action was to brazen it out and hope for the best, so I kept on chatting as if nothing was amiss. Turned out it was my lucky day as incredibly, he didn't say anything. But I knew and he knew. And he knew that I knew. Suffice to say, I always made sure I had money in my wallet after that!

So tell me... have YOU ever forgotten where you were or what you were doing? How good is your situational awareness?

April 17, 2012

Rattle and Hum...

Image Credit: Alamy

We're on the last week of school holidays here. The weather has been fantastic - up until today - so there's been no cabin fever to speak of so far (although rain is scheduled for the rest of the week, ack!). It's been wonderful to enjoy a peaceful morning without the usual early morning herding of boys into their day. "I said a QUICK shower!" or "Eat your breakfast, mate." or "Can you stop worrying about your phone and just pack your bag, please?" and finally "If you don't hurry up, you'll miss the bus - and I'm not driving you!"

So it's nice to sleep in a little... and not be the Dragon Mother. I've managed a couple of mornings sleeping in until the positively decadent time of 8am. Score!

So what have we done instead of school? We've had friends of M's here for sleepovers, we've gone to the park, and we've trotted off to the movies. H and I went to see 'Pirates: Band of Misfits' last week made by the same clever people who brought us Wallace & Gromit. H thought it was hilarious, laughing loudly several times throughout. I did too, although some of my giggling was at different parts of the movie. You've gotta love those film makers who include a few jokes for the grown ups, don't you?

Today has been quite different. My eldest two boys are working and H is at a friend's house for a sleepover. So I've been home alone. ALL DAY. It's felt quite odd without anyone here during school holiday time, especially H. I'm so very used to hearing his deep voice in the background, rattling off huge chunks of memorised dialogue with its trademark low hum, or hearing the clatter as H builds a massive robot out of Hero Factory Lego on the lounge room table. I know he will be having the BEST time ever at his friend's house so this odd feeling like I've forgotten something is a small price to pay.

It seems my boys are growing up. When did that happen?

So what have YOU been doing over the school holidays? Are your children back at school? Or if you're child free, what would you RATHER be doing right now?

April 15, 2012

It's time to cast your vote...

Less than ten years ago, having an online blog was a hobby that you kind of kept to yourself. Not because you were embarrassed about it or anything but because of the reaction you might get when you told someone. 'You've got a what? What the hell is a BLOG?'

Bloggers were geeks, nerds or those socially inept people who didn't leave the house because really, who in their right mind posted their thoughts on the Net for all and sundry to read anyway? Certainly not 'normal' people, right?

Fast forward those years and my, how things have changed! Being online is like the new black; it's soooo 2012! But I have to say the coolest thing about blogging is the people you meet. I've connected with some amazing people over the years, all thanks to the internet. They're people whose thoughts I make a point of reading every day, people who are real and honest and beautiful from within, telling all kinds of stories that add colour and texture to my life. It's a truly magical thing.   

Anyway, I digress. Now, you may remember a little while ago I entered this blog in the 2012 Best Australian Blogs Competition. More than just a little bit exciting for me. The competition has now closed and judging will begin. It's a massive job - they've had over 1000 entries! Truly amazing.

However, here's where YOU can help - voting in the People's Choice round is NOW OPEN. See that little blue badge on the top right hand corner? Just click on that, follow the prompts and you can vote for ME! Or click on the link below. I would be most grateful if you did. You've got until the 9th of May, so start clicking! And thankyou!!


April 11, 2012

Life's for the birds...

"Well, that was easy to fix.

Big dogs need big beds. Little dogs need little beds.

Why make big problems out of little problems?"

Big Dog, Little Dog - P.D Eastman

These lines are from one of H's favourite books to read before he goes to bed. It has been a favourite of his for some time, as evidenced by the slightly worn page edges and sticky-taped back cover. Sometimes I will read it all, sometimes we take turns reading alternate pages; last night though, H read the whole story to me.

I literally know the words of this book back to front. As I listened to H read those final few words the other night, it got me thinking. Despite being a children's book (and maybe because of it) Big Dog, Little Dog raises a very interesting question. Why do some people make mountains out of molehills? It surely can't be for their health. Nine times out of ten, stress is not worth the time or energy. Life is complicated enough without creating drama and tension where there simply isn't any. I don't know about you but I find that way of living really draining.

Maybe it's because I have a child with autism. That in itself can be a pretty definitive leveller. I simply don't have the time or patience to deal with unnecessary problems because I have always had much bigger things to think about. Like finding a job in my new, adopted country. Being there for the Groovy Grandma during her battle with breast cancer. And now, getting H settled into high school (wherever that may be) or successfully managing his transition into a well-adjusted adult with an active, fulfilled life.

That stuff is important.

NOT worrying over where I'll find parking during that trip into the city, stressing over the $5.00 I lost at the oval walking the dog, or bemoaning the fact that the grey racing stripe down the middle of my head is getting whiter by the day. (Possibly because I can fix that! Hair dye is a wondrous thing.)

That's not to say I don't stress about stuff, I absolutely do. But I don't go looking for problems and I don't make things harder for myself by thinking the worst. I'm an optimist by nature 99% of the time, which probably explains my reputation as someone who copes well in a crisis. I don't always, though. Far from it. I've faltered and I've stumbled. At times, I've made a right bloody mess of things. And I'm sure I will again. But it won't be because of an imaginary problem of my own making.

I guess what I'm trying to say is this: Life is short. Don't waste it by worrying about the minutinae of the mundane. Think about the BIG PICTURE. Don't sweat the small stuff. And listen to those little birds in your life - they can make a lot of sense.

April 7, 2012

Chocolates are GO...

Wishing each and everyone of you a wonderful Easter tomorrow! We're having the whole family over for a massive BBQ lunch. I've been doing food prep all afternoon so I have a nice, relaxed start in the morning. The plan is for a lovely sleep in, then a breakfast of coffee and one or two oven baked hot cross buns with lashings of melted butter! Yum yum.

The kids are looking forward to the chocolate, of course, but I have intentionally been fairly restrained with the buying of it this year. Kids crashing after massive sugar-highs are no fun for anyone! Instead, we have lots of other yummy things to eat, less sugary, but just as nice - watermelon, strawberries and raspberries to name a few!

Enjoy the time with your families - see you on the other side!

What are you doing for Easter this year?

April 3, 2012

Time to be aware...

I have three beautiful boys. All are dark haired, dark eyed and blessed with smiles that could give the Osmond Family a run for their money. They're athletically inclined and all know the joy of participating in some form of regular sport. In short, they're your typical Aussie boys who share a love of the outdoors and the company of their mates, as well as DNA. Similar in so many ways. All except for one - but you'd never know which by looking at them.

The youngest of my boys has autism spectrum disorder (ASD). H is 11 years old and was diagnosed at age 2 and a half.

He is part of the ever-increasing group of children (and adults) diagnosed with this condition every year. In the 1960's it used to be 1 in every 2500. Current research says it's now about 1 in every 160 in Australia. In the States it's about 1 in 110. They're staggering statistics, any way you look at them.

The Provider and I were devastated by our son's autism confirmation. After that psychologist's meeting, I remember sitting in the car feeling totally numb. Neither of us could fully comprehend what "Autism Spectrum Disorder" really meant, or what impact it would have on our family. The only thing that sprang to mind when I heard the word 'autism' was Dustin Hoffman's character in 'Rain Man'. That thought terrified the crap out of me.

Not much was said during the drive home. What could we say? We were both still shellshocked and grieving for what might have been. The imagined future of our boy had been ripped away by those three little words, leaving a gaping black hole that would be filled with who-the-fuck-knew-what? It was daunting and more than just a little bit scary.

The next couple of years were tough. Doing something as mundane as grocery shopping was fraught with issues. H couldn't handle the noise or the size of the shopping centres. All that sensory stimulation would turn into overload very, very quickly. I usually had about 15 minutes before H would start to lose it. I had to be fast and efficient while the clock in my head ticked loudly the whole way. How busy would it be there? How quick could I grab what we needed? Would we get stuck behind a long line at the checkout? And would H become too overstimulated and stressed out by all the sounds and lights and movement?

Sometimes it was okay, sometimes not. Dealing with an autistic child having a full blown meltdown IN PUBLIC is one of the most stressful experiences ever for a parent. You literally want to just grab your kid and get the hell out of there. But you can't. Instead, you mentally slap all those ignorant people who are openly staring, their gaze loudly transmitting their judgment of your parenting skills. The noise is almost as deafening as the high pitched crying ringing in your ears. He doesn't realise any of this, of course. All he wants to do is leave this bright and noisy Hell and be back in the calm surrounds of home, where he can lie down on the floor and line up his cars in neat, regimented rows. 

But through the dark times, we had some lightness shine our way, too. In big neon globes, and bright! Like the day H's amazing therapist Monique came to our house for one of his sessions and I heard real, actual WORDS come out of his mouth for the first time. Holy. Shit. He could talk! I cried my eyes out and hugged and thanked Monique repeatedly. And then cried all over again. H meantime looked very pleased with himself.

And that was just the beginning.

Fast forward eight years and H is in Year 6. We are at the beginning of the application process for high school, and a place in the special needs unit for Year 7. There is the usual bureaucratic process we have to follow and hoops we need to jump through but I'm used to that. H has come a long way since those frantic shopping excursions. We continue to be blown away by the things that he is able to do, for if nothing else, H is one very determined dude. In a 'if you build it, he will come' kind of way.

The gaping black hole that used to haunt my thoughts is gone. In its place is an optimism that H can and will do anything he sets his mind to. Because that's what H has always done.

I think, deep down, I always knew that. At least I hoped I did. The only difference is now I can actually feel it.

April is the month for World Autism Awareness. Spread the word, people. x
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