Sunday, 30 September 2012

The Grinch who stole my sanity...

"Oh the noise, noise, noise, NOISE!"

Thump. Thump. Thump. Thump. Thump. Thump. Thump. Thump. Biggest achieved his highest consecutive jumps ever this week. 564 forward jumps in a row. Plus 51 "cross arms." Also various other feats of jump roping prowess and lots and lots (and lots and lots) of practice. Super impressive. I'm stoked that his current favorite activity is so active and healthy. Over and over on the bouncy timber floors with loud hurrahs and announcements interspersed. Over and over and over. Thump. Thump. Thump. Thump.

Oh and his back-up activity? Wall-ball against the living room wall. Bounce. Bounce. Bounce. "ARRRRGHHHH!!! I MISSED IT!" Bounce. Bounce. Bounce.

"Know why I love to do this guys?" Middlest asks last night. "Cause I love technology and I love music and this is my favorite way to do it. Hey Dad? What are some more FAST rock n' roll songs?" He's crazy about making mixes. Holding the iPad in his lap and spending hours scrolling through Wanderer's iTunes collection and trolling Spotify for songs. He's careful to listen to the beginnings and ends together. Several times. Making sure they fit just "so." I'm really enjoying watching his eyes light up when he finds a great new song he loves. Fun when it's an "old" song and he's discovering it for the first time. Also, it's hella-loud.

Littlest's new favorite thing is to climb on my head. Especially as a means to wake me up in the morning. He loves to ride his bike across the empty living room and crash into the walls to stop himself, the puppy yelping and running this way and that to avoid the wheels.

Middlest is doing that thing again. That thing where he just climbs on my lap or my back or wraps himself barnacle-style around my legs at any time--especially when I am cooking, typing, or talking to someone else.

Biggest can tell I'm a little touched-out. So he hovers around the edges. Not wanting to bug me, but wanting in on the affection action. Makes me feel crazed and guilty all at the same time.

Boys in our bed early to snuggle. Boys in our bed til they fall asleep and need to be carried to their beds. An awesome week at the beach which included much coaxing of small boys to please walk along so we could watch the bigs surf lessons and would it be okay to maybe not stop at every single seashell? Whole afternoons of reading on the outdoor couch. The big boys suctioned to my sides and a few gentle reminders that digging chins into my shoulder hurts. Then reminding Littlest not to jump on me while I'm reading. Oh, and not on the glass coffee table either. Puppy cuddles interrupted by puppy lessons not to chew on my clothes, toes, fingers, or love handles. Puppy checkup with Littlest in the backpack so he doesn't try to vaccinate his brothers with the vials on the counter or run away to let the cats all out of their cages.

"I'm just going to sit down for a few minutes," I tell Wanderer. So I pull up a little patch of floor and plop down. Two seconds later the Middlest has sat down with his head on my shoulder and one leg drooped over the top of mine. Littlest is jealous and has started climbing in my lap and telling his brother to "Scoot OVER!" while Biggest wants to know what my favorite character was in x, y, and z movie and how did I think the actors did and is that my favorite movie that actor was in or do I have another preference and how about we play rummy while we discuss superheroes, "Want to?"

Yes. But no. But...Can I please just have a minute. Just one. I just need just one little one. Of quiet. Of time. Of SPACE?!?!

Every once in a while the mean ol' green guy shows up. All I want to do is tie a horn on the puppy's head, and just let my "bad banana with a greasy black peel" out! I want to race down and steal all their Jing Tinglers, Flu Floopers, Tar Tinkers, and jump ropes. I want them to quit playing their noisy games like Zoozitter Carzay (a roller skate type of LaCrosse and Croquet) and wall ball! To quit already with making ear-splitting noises deluxe on their great big electric hoocardio schnooks or iPad mixes.

I want them to stop pestering me for food. It's exhausting to feed them when all they do is feast, feast, feast, feast, feast. Finally it gets to a point where I swear I must stop this whole thing! For 53 years (it feels like) I've put up with this now! I must stop the noise and eating and touching from coming, but how? Then I got an idea. An awful idea. My inner-Grinch got a wonderful, awful idea...

I finally locked myself in my room. No, it's not totally sound proof. One wall isn't really a wall but a temporary partition through to the kitchen. Unfortunately, it's also not totally private. The two curtains don't cover the windows completely so boys can peak in and still have lots to say and show me through the windows. It's also not totally boy-proof as my bed was full of sand and I don't think my house will ever not smell to some degree like feet. But it did the trick. A glass of wine. A couple of homemade brownies. A chick flick with noise-canceling headphones on. By myself. In my bed. With no one touching me or making (very much) noise.

Does anyone else feel this?

The interplaying emotions of deep gratitude for warm little bodies. Awareness of the shortness of this time when they will want to be close. Want to snuggle up and be with me. Yet the intense feeling of being overwhelmed and longing for just a tiny bit of SPACE for the LOVE!!! I love my kiddos. I know what a blessing they are. I feel so much gratitude for them and for my life. Almost all the time.

I fell asleep to my movie and woke up to puppy yelps, toddler butts, and thump, thump, thump, thumping. Somehow though, I didn't feel like stealing anyone's toys or last cans of Who-Hash.

They say that her heart grew three sizes that day!

Monday, 24 September 2012

Day 1: Aussie Spring Break, Sept 2012

First day of...not sure. Term Break? Spring Break? It is Spring here. The boys have only been at school for three weeks, but they get two weeks off. We celebrated with surf lessons:

The ageless look of people in great shape who spend every day in the sun. There's no way to tell if they're 20 or 50. One guy with a shaved head. One with curly hair and a beard. The rest all long-haired and sun-bleached blond. Guys? Girls? Hard to tell when they're all in wetsuits and baseball caps. I guessed totally wrong on a couple of them and didn't realize until they were standing side-by-side. One in a bikini and the other hairy-chested. (The bikini-clad one was the girl by the way.)

They all moved with such ease. Like sand and salt water were home and they only owned a couple sets of clothes besides their surf get-ups.

Different types of dads and moms. Some very suburban stay-at-home moms with huge bags of snacks and dry towels and sensible sun-hats, playing in the sand with the little brothers and sisters. Some very glam boob-jobbed mamas in expensive Italian sunglasses who never once sat down--I'm assuming they didn't want to get their high-end jeans sandy. One Thor look-a-like dad who came running down the beach in old jeans and a ragged t-shirt. Hollering encouragment to his boy whilst carrying his yellow surf board--blond locks fanning out behind him. He looked like a movie star.

The kids though? They were just kids. A teaming mass of 6-10 year olds hardly distinguishable from one another in their wetsuits. Laughing, throwing sand, and cheering when one of them managed to catch a wave.

My own two wetsuit-wearers had the time of their life. Declared their instructors "awesome." Made friends with two boys who are almost exactly the same ages and have also moved from the US in the last few weeks.

We celebrated by coming home and reading Percy Jackson books and making chocolate chip cookies.

I declare Day 1 a success!!

Sunday, 23 September 2012

Camp Simplify

The stuff arrived in port on the 19th. So now we wait for an inspection, possible fumigation, and then we get our furniture and other household goods!

After 8 solid weeks of the bare minimum I have mixed feelings. We've been at 'simplify your life' boot camp. A house-full of furniture down to none. Eight weeks of camping out in our house--four weeks on the US end/four weeks here on the Australia end.

Here's what we have had:
-an air mattress, a Pac N' Play, and the boy's trail pads to sleep on (plus pillows & pillowcases, a duvet for us (but no sheets, I forgot those), and a sleeping bag for each boy)
-one 16 piece set of dishes
-my nesting melamine mixing bowls
-two pans for cooking, a 13x9 baking pan & muffin pan
-some silverware
-a few cooking tools. Funny what you deem absolutely necessary when you're packing for several weeks. I brought a garlic press, vegetable peeler, a good chef's knife, a paring knife, can opener, wine key (priorities!), a spatula, two silicon scrapers, and a set of tongs. I also brought the pastry thingy that you use to cut the butter into the flour. Totally can't remember what it's called and not sure at all why I brought that? Guess I thought we needed some pies. Except I didn't bring a pie pan.
-a towel each & a bathmat
-a few rags & a few dishtowels
-some clothes
-whatever toys/books the boys could fit in their backpacks
-a few iTools

Housing-wise we've gone from 3 bathrooms (with two bathtubs) down to one with only a shower & no bathtub. Two living areas and a dining room down to one living area. A large washer and dryer down to a wash & dry in one machine that my friends in England jokingly called a "wash & hot." About a quarter acre or so of mostly grass down to a tiny little yard with mostly plants (read: low maintenance).

Technology-wise we have no TV. In the US we couldn't get any TV programs either, but we had one for Wii and for movies.

Here's the deal. I see that list and think what a 1st world problem such a "lack of stuff" is. In the 3rd world that would seem like major luxury. We have SO much to be thankful for. I am practicing lots of gratitude.

I'm thankful there's so little to clean or tidy-up. It's a nice break. From cleaning and tidying but also from badgering the boys to get their part done. It takes me about 45 minutes to get the entire house clean.

I'm surprisingly thankful for the lack of kitchen tools considering my love of kitchen gadgets. I bought a kettle, a crockpot, and a toaster when we got here. Those items are essentials in this family. But the lack of kitchen stuff has kept things very simple and easy-peasy in the cooking department. It's also got us to cleanse a bit and pull dairy and gluten more strictly out of our diet. We were really struggling with that in the US. Probably because I had resorted to a lot of meals out and processed foods to just get by until we left.

Having very little technology has been wonderful. I thought an iPhone really simplified my life. Turns out it's the opposite. I have a bit of a technology addiction. It's true. Funny how much less stress I feel when I can't check facebook or email as often. Also--there's this crazy thing called a MAP that I'm finding all kinds of helpful! With no GPS or smartphone I just have to check the map as I'm driving places. Here's the deal--I think I'm getting around much more quickly than I would have otherwise! Seeing the map gives me an idea of the bigger-picture. So I'm starting to get a sense for how to get places. My iPhone or the GPS only told me the next turn. The map shows me where I am. Hmmmm...I bet there's a metaphor in there somewhere.

Also I conserve words. My tiny little uber-expensive to top-up phone is a real pain to text on. Calls cost loads. So I conserve words. I only use the important ones. My conversations are brief but distilled. Probably a metaphor there too. You think?

Without a Wii and with only the few movies we loaded onto my iPad (about 5 of them total) we play games. Rummy, UNO, etc. We jump rope. Well, the boys do. I'm pretty bad at it, but they're teaching me lots of what they call "advanced moves" so I'm getting better! We read. Already finished two big ol' books and are well into another two. It's lovely.

We also have no friends or family here. Which in some ways really sucks. Really. However, in other ways it's wonderful just to have us to focus on. It's simple. Spending time together. I think Middlest and I have finally caught up with snuggling for the first time since Littlest was born. Biggest no longer frantically uses his zillion words a day in the last 20 minutes before bedtime. He seems to feel comfortable with the time he has to talk about what he needs to talk about. 

"It's been great, and I'm grateful." Now can we have our stuff back?

Chuckle. See, here's the deal. Not having furniture means having no drawers to put our clothes away in. Which means certain toddlers throw every item of their own and each of their brother's clothing all over the floor during nap time. Not having a real bed or curtains to go on the windows makes certain marital activities a bit tricky. It also means our bed is the hub for everything. Since it's the only piece of 'furniture'--albeit inflated-- in the house it's the only place we gather. For stories, snuggles, sleeping, infirmary, aforementioned activities, etc. The thing is? My bed is full of sand and smells like boys. I'm ready for sheets and a place for the boys and I to snuggle or read or play so that the master bedroom can be a bit of a hiatus for Wanderer and I again.  

There are things I plan on incorporating into our post simplification bootcamp life. I plan to play a lot more games. I don't know why half the clothes that are still coming are still in my closet? I haven't worn half the things I brought! Major culling about to commence. I'm in no hurry to buy a TV even just for movies and Wii. I have already made a list in my head of the many kitchen things that end up being distracting clutter. Definitely some culling needing to take place there. Also with the toys. The boys play together these last few weeks. They don't have anything else to play with! I thought they'd fight more because of that. Turns out they fight less. A lot less.

Also I want to work very hard at not incorporating too many activities into our lives. It's just too wonderful to have so much time to be together. We like each other a lot. We like each other much more when we spend time cultivating relationships with each other as our first priority.

Turns out we do better as a family--as individual people too--with less. Less commitments. Less stuff. Less. But I am looking forward very much to a couch, a bed, and a drawers for the clothes! Also curtains. Never thought I'd miss curtains so much!

Sunday, 16 September 2012

Changing Paradigms

Slightly buzzy Fall Mix wafting out to the porch. Washer spinning. Dishwasher chugga chugging. Cars driving along the front. The occasional exotic bird-call--such a funny thing to get used to. Boys giggling and commiserating over their weekly 90 minutes of games on the iPad. Puppy chewing a piece of bark. Daddy reading Littlest his favorite (Littlest's that is, certainly not Daddy's) Elmo at the Post Office book with the obligatory pause on the "airplanes" page. Littlest loves him some airplanes. The twice-a-day flight of the sea plane overhead are two of his favorite moments of the day.  

Feeling a bit chilly sitting barefoot out here on the deck in my flannel pjs. The coffee helps. Strong, Australian-style coffee. The salvage-the-black-banana muffins are a treat as well. With just a few dairy-full chocolate chips. Wonder if I'll be able to find dairy-free here? I'm tempted to hop online and check, but I don't want to break the magic of this 'quiet' Saturday-morning trance.

I live in Australia now. I. Live. In. Australia. Such a wild thing. The reality of it hits every once in a while bringing on a burst of grinning-so-much-my-face-hurts happiness. I love the casual dress, the kid friendly atmosphere, the outrageously good coffee, the closeness of the beach and the ocean, the totally catching "no dramas" value system that pervades the whole culture. It's as if every interaction reminds me not to sweat the small stuff. 

It's a paradigm shift to be sure. Though it's everywhere, this paradigm shifting. Heck, poinsettias and geraniums grow as trees and bushes here. In August and September. Cause it's winter. Almost spring. In September. Seriously! 

Littlest thinks the local custom of going everywhere barefoot (anywhere and everywhere even in shops and restaurants!) is about the best thing that ever happened to him. We saw a 70-something man at the coffee shop last week barefoot. "Him hasn't got shoes!" Littlest commented. The older man turned around and mimed a look of surprise. Then laughed and told Littlest, "Yes, but only in winter! Can't go barefoot in summer!" WHAT?!?! Oh. Right. Cause apparently the sidewalks are too hot. Yep. Paradigm shift. 

Though I proved this week that old habits die hard. 

Thursday Biggest's fever nearly reached 104 degrees, and I had no idea how to go to the doctor. Sure, google could guide me to the nearest doctor's office, which was helpful. However, google was a bit reticent on whether or not we were allowed at the local doctor's office, and if we did or did not qualify for 'medicare'--Australia's national healthcare--with our temporary resident status (I doubted it since we have to pay through the nose for public school), and if we didn't where was the place we were supposed to go? and how were we required to pay? would it be a zillion dollars like so many things here? and would they be nice? and would they treat me like crap when I answered 'no' we were not up to date on vaccines and would I have to give the whole story about Biggest and his bad reaction to vaccines or would I just stand my ground and have them hate me and be snotty to my kids? Wait. Didn't we have insurance? I think so. Who? How did I find out? Why had I not found this out until my sweet boy was burning up with fever? 

I might have accidentally begun to spiral in to worst-case scenarios. I might have begun to relive the nightmare of my first trip to the doctor in the UK when Middlest's horrible case of impetigo was diagnosed as "dry skin" and the doctors were meaner than the crazy lady screaming at her kids in the waiting room. I gotta tell you though, I chose "no dramas". It definitely is catching. I called the insurance company. They were totally kind, quick, thorough, and helpful. They scheduled me an appointment at a local place. The doctor was motherly and kind. She was gentle and sweet to my boys. She gave very practical and don't give them millions of drugs advice (phew!) and the boys loved her. Big bonus! It really was "no drama." 

The influence is running so deep I managed to ignore the dirty dishes and gross floor for two whole days and just snuggle my sweet feverish boys and watch a million Pixar films. How? How did I do this? Not sure. But hey, "no dramas man, no dramas."

Sent from my iPad