Sunday, November 18, 2018

On the world beneath the covers

Having finished Dianna Wynne Jones' classic The Power of Three, my 9 year old and I have started on now started on Terry Pratchett's Wee Free Men for bedtime reading.

I am going to profoundly miss it when she decides she is too old for shared reading. Reading to, and with, my girls has been hands down my favourite part of parenting. I have so, so many rich memories of particular stories and the way they have all responded, and the stories I have discovered and rediscovered with them.

It all started with picture books - things like nursery rhymes, The Velveteen Rabbit, Pumpkin Soup, Sleepy Pendoodle, all the Mem Fox and Pamela Allen books, Charlie and Lola, Shirley Barber, the Hairy McClarys, and my childhood pile of Golden Books. Early reader fodder from Roald Dahl, Enid Blyton, the Rainbow Fairies and many others - revisiting the Faraway Tree and Famous Five was a particular joy. Taking each child to the Misty Mountain and Narnia, and on the water with The Wind in the Willows, was incredible. The big girls and I particularly loved the Wrinkle in Time series.

I have passed on my devotion to The Dark is Rising series three times now. I did Anne of Green Gables with the older two, and the My Side of the Mountain books with the youngest. We got through the first four Silver Brumby books before horsey interest started to wane. We have read Trixie Belden and Nancy Drew, and with the older ones, Sherlock Holmes and Agatha Christie. We found new material together too, like the Sky Horses series, Clarice Bean and Ruby Redfort from Lauren Childs, and the wonderful My Australian Girl books.

There were more - so many more. If I have any regret at all, it is that I didn't keep a reading log (something I also wish more broadly in my own life that I had done, but ... bygones).

They all have their favourites. My eldest favours anything with even the slightest whiff of dystopia. The middle kid likes mysteries and sad stories. The youngest likes fantasy and nature stories. There is one clear overlap winner in terms of adoration, and that is The Dark is Rising (because Susan Cooper is queen, no don't argue, she just is).

I really hope that, when my girls look back on their childhoods, they remember that among all the many imperfections, there was always time and will to open up the covers of a book and step into wonder together.

Sunday, October 21, 2018

A Nonet for Baking at Home

after a day of slings and arrows
needlesticks and playground upsets
at last, sliding through the door:
straight through to the kitchen
to squeeze out the day
in soft butter
rich doughy
sweetness -

Monday, October 1, 2018

Spring holiday at the mirror lake: In pictures

We got home last Thursday from a 5-day family holiday to Lake Tyrrell, in Victoria's Wimmera Mallee region. Lake Tyrrell is a shallow lake resting entirely on a bed of rock salt. It is quite otherwordly and amazing; I highly recommend it as a destination if you want to have your mind blown (and get some awesome photos!)

Here are some of our really good shots.

Sunday, July 15, 2018

The half-year gone, the half-year to come

I have been such a desultory blogger this year. I have been busy, but it has been more than that - I'm finding myself more inclined to use my writing energy on poetry and flash fiction rather than life logging, and that is OK (to everything a season ...)

However, I'm not ready yet to give away my blog. It has served a lot of useful purposes for me over the years, not least as an aide memoire regarding the many things we've done, thought, tried, and loved. I thought it might be time to do a meta-check-in, for Future Me if nothing else!

2018 is now half-over. So far, in big-ticket items, it's brought me:
- A poetry award
- Our wonderful trip to Japan (April)
- A fulltime workload in my freelance business
- Great family birthday celebrations
- 3 business trips to Adelaide
- In sadder news, the passing of my mother-in-law

For the rest of this year, I am looking at:
- Continuing fulltime workload
- Small family trip to Sea Lake (just 5 days, but should be good)
- Possible USA trip for my eldest kid to Space Academy (she is hoping anyway!)
- Release of my poetry book, She Said: Women of Story
- Planning and booking our next overseas holiday to New Zealand (early 2019)

Health-wise, it has been a good year on the whole. We've all had minor colds and stomach upsets, and I have had one fatigue crash probably due to one of my autoimmunes lolloping out of control temporarily, but basically it's all been good.

Family-wise, I won't say it has been an unchallenging year. The events preceding and following my mother-in-law's death were very difficult, as well as, of course, the death itself and the emotions surrounding that. We have also had other problems of varying scope and severity, which we have worked through, but it hasn't been an easy journey.

I feel like I have already run a marathon this year and there is still half of it to go - both with tiring but amazing things, and with tiring and hard / painful things. Working a fulltime load and juggling between three clients, as I have been doing since returning from Japan, is taking a toll on me, and it will not let up this year - maybe not until mid-2019, depending on how things go.

I am hoping that the back half of 2019 will be a little less booked with work - my ideal would be 3.5 - 4 days a week, instead of the 5-6 I am currently doing - but that is a year away, which might as well be a lifetime.

The money is really nice, and is allowing us to make extra mortgage payments, have a holiday in NZ next year to celebrate my partner's 50th birthday (way earlier than we had thought we'd be able to go overseas again!), and look at some house renovations that we've been wanting to do. The cost, though, is real, in terms of energy, health, creativity, and family life. I can do it for another year and we'll certainly be able to make good use of the funds. But I don't want to keep going like this indefinitely.

Monday, June 4, 2018

After School Care and letting go of the guilt

My youngest child is now 9 years old. In Grade 4 at school, she is a happy student - loves going to school, has many friends, is doing well academically and enjoys the social aspects greatly.

Since she started in Prep in 2014, she has usually done 1-2 nights a week of after school care. In 2014, with her sisters who were then also at primary school, she went on Monday and Tuesday nights to accommodate my work schedule (I was at that time in a salaried office job). 2015 was a single night (Tuesdays) as I dropped to part time hours at work. In 2016, she only went on an ad hoc basis, as my freelance work needs dictated. In 2017, we booked a regular night each week (Thursdays) which gave me the capacity to have one longer day for meetings and client visits. This year, we started off just continuing the Thursdays, but starting from May, we also added in Tuesdays when I started a new project that requires one office day a week (which is Tuesday).

Unlike her older sisters, who tolerated after care but didn't love it, my 9 year old has always really enjoyed going along. We've been very lucky to have terrific co-ordinators of the after care program across the time that my kids have needed to use it, and the kids get a great mix of free play, activities, and guided games and learning. My youngest is a very social kid and she's really appreciated the extra play time with peers, and the fun of doing different things.

I have spent a lot of time feeling vaguely guilty about after care. Not so much the single night a week - even I, self-flagellator that I am, could not help but see that as an unequivocal good, for both her and my workload. Increasing to two nights caused me a bit of a pang, though, despite her excitement about it.

However, I had a bit of an epiphany last week. I had to travel to Adelaide for work for most of the week, and to accommodate her dad's work needs, she ended up going to after care for 4 of the 5 nights of the week (every day except Monday, when I was still in Melbourne). And guess what? She LOVED it. She was voted Student Leader for the week and had a magnificent time. She did crafts, games, cooking and science experiments. She consolidated friendships with kids she already liked, and met new friends. She had virtually no weekday screen time, and I am sure partly as a result, slept better than her usual wont.

I realised, finally, that I am not abrogating my parental duties by recognising that our week runs better (hers as well as mine) if she goes to after care and I have adequate time to do my work. It means that the time we get together is of much better quality, and more meaningful. We have paused her swimming lessons for 3 months, as we do every winter, so her only extracurricular activity at the moment is ukelele lessons (which she actually does at school, during lunchbreaks), so after care also fills a void very nicely for her in a way that causes zero extra stress for me when co-ordinating my increasingly demanding work schedule.

So we had a chat this morning, she and I, and we've agreed (to her delight) that from next term, she's going to be attending after care 3 days per week. Mondays, which is a fixed work at home day for me, we'll enjoy our walk home together with the dog and our Monday baking tradition. Fridays, I'll attend school assembly and we'll enjoy end-of-week downtime together. The other three days, she'll go to after care and have fun and I'll concentrate on getting full work days in so my life becomes more manageable.

I think this is going to end up being a good decision, for her and for me.