Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Sugar and spice and all things nice.

Apparently I'm on the fast track to type 2 diabetes. We hear so much about this everyday now in the media and how it's sweeping the nation at epidemic proportions. The thing is I'm not sure if I'm worried. That really does sound ludicrous, and seeing it in black and white just seems insane. How can I possibly not be worried? It's not that I'm not worried at all, it's more because the idea of it just seems so removed from my everyday life. Occasionally I get a niggly reminder, if say I read about it in the paper, or see it on TV, or feel really bloated and not a hundred percent, my first thoughts are, oh my god, it's a diabetes thing and I'm all unhealthy.

A couple of months ago I was contacted to participate in a series of sessions called 'Life'(or something like that), that's been run through the hospital where I had my children. Since I had gestational diabetes, the government is running a program and scooping up the gestational diabetic mothers in the hope to educate and stave off this disease. I've been to two sessions so far, and I'm yet to learn something new. I don't mean to sound all arrogant and know-it-all, but I really feel as if I'm being talked at a bit - by a very lovely knowledgeable girl. I just wish it was a bit more interactive for us participants.

The other thing that I really hate is the assumption that if you're overweight - unfortunately for me this is so - you eat junk food. For the record - and because it makes me sound really good - I rarely eat junk food. I prefer to cook from scratch, and I like to use whole ingredients. I must also say that I'm no angel and there will be times when I do eat some junk, but it's not often, and I know when I'm being 'bad'.

Our takeout meals tend to be curries and thai food, or Chinese, vietnamese. We don't go to cafe's as much as we used to because of having small children.

I love salads. I love steamed vegetables. I love salad sandwiches, and I hate the taste of butter or margarine on my bread. However, if I have toast I love to put lashings of butter on it so it melts into a lovely greasy pool. But I don't have toast very often. I should eat more fruit. I try to eat low GI when possible. I don't drink soft drinks or alcohol. Having a father who was an alcoholic does something to you, and as a result I only drink water. All my friends think I'm strange for doing so, and if people who don't know me too well, see that I'm only partaking the clear stuff, give me knowing looks as though I'm pregnant and not telling.

My biggest vice is my one daily coffee (and I've blogged about the significance of my daily brew before) that I teaspoon three sugars into. Yes, three. If I'm buying a takeaway coffee and the barista asks if I want sugar, I lean over the counter conspiratorially and very quietly say, yes please, three. And then I lean back with a sheepish look on my face. My reasoning is that since I have only one coffee a day I can have three, since I'm not stacking up on the sugar intake through multiple cups throughout the day.

Now here's my downfall. Portion size. So yes, I probably do make various healthy meals, but boy do I eat large serves of the stuff. Have you seen the new government ad campaign, all about swapping it? Well I've sort of being trying to do this in the last couple of weeks, but I'm still yet to be more consistent about it. I also need to exercise more. At the moment I'm averaging only twice a week with my exercise regime and that's no where near enough.

I'm very all or nothing when it comes to exercise. I find that I have to really prioritise it for it to happen. Since my teenage years I reckon I've tried it all. I've done the high impact and low impact aerobics; the Tummy Hips and Thighs; Step (I love step but after having children find it really hard now); Pilates (boring); yoga (ditto); Spinning (a favourite!); pump (another fave!); body step (not as good as 'traditional' step classes); swimming (too time consuming with the whole taking clothes on and off); and I have done running many years ago. I've found that nothing beats walking. So that's what I've been trying now. Ideally I would like to add a spinning class and pump class a week to my walking regime, and I think I'd be on a good run (pardon the pun) with my exercise. But where to find the time?

I'm sure everyone has this problem. Where to find the time to exercise. My husband leaves for work super early in the morning and gets home around 5pm. So early morning is out. When he's home is when I'm cooking dinner for the family. This leaves all my walking to happen in my day-to-day routine. So I walk the kids to daycare and kinder. I walk to the shops. In fact I rarely use the car at all during the week. When time is permitting I do take the dog out for one hour walks, but this may happen only twice a week.

Next week a nutritionist is coming to speak to my Life group and I'm sure there will be a session on exercise as well. At our first session measurements were taken so now I need to really focus because she's going to check after five weeks and then again in six months if we've all made any progress.

Friday, June 24, 2011

A blunt pencil a day keeps writer's block away

I've always wanted to write a whodunnit novel. In fact a few years ago (before children) I even wrote out some hazy novel plots and started to write the first of a series. I wrote about fifteen thousand words and could see that my cozy mystery novel was sounding very chicklit. Now I love chicklit - and a chicklit novel with a mystery bent are great reads. But what I was finding is that my 'mystery plot', wasn't really that good. I tried all sorts of different elements to give some reason for the murder. Blackmail, a secret past, jealousy, money, but everything just seemed too wishy washy. So my mystery novel has been shelved now for a number of years.

Every now and then I get an idea for a story, and sometimes I go so far as starting to write something down. However these days I find that it just doesn't happen. I think having children saps you of all creative energy. If I do get an hour to myself to be in front of the computer it's invariably spent checking emails, facebook, different websites, writing the really fast blog post........

Last week I caught up with one of my uni friends who knew about my mystery novel. She asked what had become of it. Shamefacedly I had to admit that it had gone nowhere. I think if you like to write and your writing has gone nowhere, there is a bit of shame involved. But why is that so? Maybe it's all the time invested in the project gone to waste? Anyhow I told her that the only writing that gets done these days by me is in this blog. As her eyes lit up with interest I quickly continued that I don't like to tell friends about my blog. So much better to be mysterious about it all. Well it's not really me being mysterious because I suppose my friends would have to know that I'm writing a blog in the first place! I think that when you can write a blog with some anonymity it makes for easier writing. If I knew my audience I think I would feel really hampered in my writing. But at the same time sometimes I want to just quietly and gleefully say, to many people, that I have a blog.

I remember reading somewhere where Hemingway wrote that it was better to have a dull and blunt pencil. Something to that effect anyway. To apply this sentiment to a blog, I suppose I would have to be posting at least everyday, if not multiple times throughout the day. I don't have that sort of time. And I think my writing suffers for it. The more often you can write, the easier the words enter your head, the faster my fingers fly over the keyboard or the smoother my pen flows.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Still waiting but almost there.........

Eleven years ago my husband and I bought a Victorian single-front weatherboard in inner-city Melbourne.
Three months later we tied the knot, and this was our first home. I loved my new house, it's charm, the beautiful iron lacework out the front, the fireplaces, the high ceilings with their mouldings and roses. I took great delight in showing it off to family and friends. We were so proud of our little home. Little being the optimum word! Although our house was small, it had a fairly deep backyard, and our neighbours were presently building their extension. Of course this sent ideas off in our heads, and over the years we would delightedly fantasise to each other what sort of extension we would add to our house. My husband would cut out pictures and house plans from the newspaper and magazines I brought home. I'd day dream about the cook's kitchen I would create, the colour scheme, what my personal library would look like.

After almost seven years I was pregnant with my son and we spent two years in Queensland. Our home up there was a glorious Queenslander with wrap around verandah's and unusual architectural ceilings. Returning home (for we rented out our pride and joy), I was pregnant with my second child, and the small home that had been big enough for the two of us was just oozing from the seams with all our stuff. The children shared one of the two rooms, and my husband quickly knocked together a storage shelter on the front verandah to contain the pram/s and other paraphernalia we had gathered throughout our lives. Babies have lots of things.

I still fiercely love our home, but even I could see the woodwork at the back rotting and falling away. The windows and doors allowed draughts into our rooms and with putting up baby gates it became so much more enclosed. What was cosy before, had become pressured and almost unbearable. Where once before I took such delight in showing my home to people, I now cringed when they could see the old carpet, the shower screen that needed replacing, the smallness of it all in trying to raise two children. In addition to all this, our home in Queensland was very spacious and we had bought an immense eight seater dining table that became pivotal in our family home. Moving back the table had to go into storage, and I miss it tremendously. Presently we have to go back to our old way of dining with plates on laps. My youngest still uses a high chair, and my oldest uses a children's table and chairs from Ikea. But still, we never would give it up.

Our fantasies of a renovation and extension were now to be a reality. Eight months after returning home, we engaged an architect and spent six months devising a home that to us is the culmination of our dreams. Our application to council took almost one year for it to be approved. Yes, ONE WHOLE YEAR. It's now six months since gaining that approval, and yet I'm still waiting. We are about 75% through with the architect and will soon be ready to contract a builder. I refuse to get excited just yet. I think once I'm woken up at 7am, on that first day the builders arrive I may just allow my self a moment of tingly anticipation.

We plan to live in our house whilst the extension is happening, reluctant to release our hold on our home. The building is being staged in such a way that it should allow for us to do this. Firstly we are building two rooms, a small study and bathroom directly on top of our existing house. The builders should have the side access in order to complete this. I think when the stairs are built this may be the most intrusive part so we may have to spend that time with family.

We are keeping the existing three front rooms, all in the hope of preserving those quaint ceiling cornices, mouldings and roses. All interior walls in the three front rooms, built sometime during the 1890's will be demolished. This is our second stage. Everyone keeps telling us, why don't we just demolish the whole thing and start again. I know it's going to be changed really beyond recognition, but there is something in keeping those Victorian fireplaces and part of those ceilings and walls. So even though it is a home that is taking on an aethetic of the 21st century, there is something there of the Victorian era. Call us sentimental, for that is exactly what it is, albeit an expensive sentiment. Once the walls are gone a brand new kitchen and open plan living and dining will be created.

Our final stage is the creation of an internal courtyard, with a brand new two storey building at the back, linked to the old building by a walk way. The upper storey of the new building will be our master bedroom and bathroom. The downstairs is a changeable space. Initially it will be entirely for the children, the walls lined with shelves for their toys and books. No furniture so they can skate and tricycle to their hearts content. When they are a little older we will add a television and comfy couches. Possibly a table.

Our walkway is for my wall of books. So instead of a room for my library I have an expanse of wall to contain my literary treasures.

So that is it. I have described in words what our home will become. It is eleven years of waiting, and we are still waiting, but I know what is to come.

Friday, June 10, 2011

Choosing a school

When my son was approaching twelve months old, I had a frantic episode of researching private schools close by to our home and had them post out their school prospectus and enrolment forms. These actions were the culmination of talks I was having with other mum's who had children the same age as my son, and getting swept up in some kind of parenting vortex, I had somehow been convinced that enrolments must be done now, otherwise my son's future would be in jeopardy.

One mum was particularly smug, as she had enrolled her child at several private schools, and was even comparing which uniform would look best on her child. The prospectus' from several schools duly arrived home, and I set aside time each night to peruse each one, consequently ordering them in preference. As enrolling at each one cost $200 a pop, I then went about devising the best way to outlay this over the next few months.

For an unknown reason the enrolment forms tucked neatly in their respective prosectus folders sat on the desktop, and eventually had other things placed on top of them - as you do when you have a busy and messy desk such as mine. I didn't do any enrolments and my son is now just over four. I began to have a big long think about private school in the primary years. Was this what I wanted for my son? And now consequently my daughter? Was I going to join the parents ferrying their children to school in their four wheel drives?

In my mind's eye, I envisioned holding my children's small hands, one small figure on each side, walking to school. Looking around me, that meant a total of three primary schools that are in walking distance from my home. One is Catholic and the other two government. Anyway, it was this visual that stopped the private school enrolments in their tracks, and made me choose an alternative path. The plan now is to send them to one of these primary schools in walking distance from home and then do private schooling for their secondary years. I want them to take public transport from that time, thus ensuring some independence and new experiences.

I have now reached the time to investigate our three local primary schools. I have, what I've been describing to myself, a dual purpose in my school visits. I need to get to the Open day's, so I can hear the spiel about the school and take the tour, and then I need to make an appointment to chat about my son's special needs.

A few weeks ago, the two government primary schools held their open day's on the Tuesday and Wednesday respectively in the same week. I telephoned the Catholic primary school, to discover their Open day had been in the month earlier, so I made my appointment to discuss my Son's needs with the principal on the Monday.

Upon arriving at the Catholic primary, I was pleased to see that the Special Need's Coordinator had been alerted to the meeting and was also there. I did most of the talking, describing my son, his personality, behaviour and diagnosis. The welcoming vibe from both the Principal and Coordinator was enthusiastic and interested, and I went away feeling optimistic. I still need to get to an Open day, apparently there's another one in August, and I plan to then see the school's resources and spaces, and hopefully classes in action.

On the Tuesday I was punctual for the school tour at one of the government primary school's, and myself and a large group of parents were ushered into the Resource center, or Library. The Principal spoke for a good twenty minutes, explaining how the school worked, and about the brand spanking new building that was being built, making way for even more classrooms.

From there, three grade sixer's took myself and two other sets of parents around the school, where we saw classes in action. The students were a delight to talk to, and I came away thinking I would be happy to send my children to this school. The only thing, we're just outside of this school's zone.

I managed to catch the Principal, and he was able to set aside time there and then to talk about my son's special needs. After waiting a short ten minutes, we proceeded to his office. This is where I would describe the school as having some good things and some not so good things. I explained to the Principal about a Bridging program we were considering doing during first term of Prep, but he wasn't one bit interested in it. His biggest concern was that my son wouldn't be able to make those initial friendships in first term if he was spending that time away from the school. This of course makes ample sense. He also went on to outline how the school deals with transition for special needs children, and the different therapists they have access to etc. Basically if we were to send them to this school, we would have to rely solely on the way the school handled their special needs children, rather than have the additional outside help too.

Writing this down now I can see the merit in doing this, but I think I should point out that the Bridging program we're looking at doing is with the service that my son has been undertaking since he was two and a half. So there's a lot of trust built there, and reliance. However, as these services are early intervention, this will all end when my son turns seven and that means that all his special needs are then seen to by his school. At least that's how the government organises the funding. Overall I would describe the welcoming vibe in the Principal's office as moderate. It was also only after discussing all of the above that I said that we were just outside the zoning for the school, and it could be my imagination, but I think he was a little relieved that he's not obligated to take my son.

The final school that I saw that week was the other government primary school on Wednesday morning. I should say from the outset that at present this school is the current contender. When I arrived, there were parents everywhere! It was chaotic, it was noisy, it was disorganised. I was put into what I think was a group, but even now I'm unsure how that happened. I ended up just traipsing along behind some parents and found myself in a tour. The next thing I want to say, that although it was so crowded, and chaotic, I probably knew every third person that was there! This was parents from playgroup, parents from daycare and parents from kinder. It was such a warm, community feeling to have quick chats, smiles, knowing nods, as I was led through the school. We often bring our children to the school playground for a play on the equipment on the weekend, and the school abuts onto one of the local community centers. There is a Stephanie Alexander cooking and garden program. The size of the classrooms were massive, and I got to watch an impressive grade four maths class in action. I hated maths in school, but to me, even that looked fun! The noise level in the classrooms were extremely high, but looking around I could see that the children were 'on task' doing their work. Just like yesterday's government primary school, this one had a multi-age approach to teaching that I think will work well with my son. There were fantastic extra-curricular programs. It has a very small number of students, hence small class sizes. And lastly......As I was on my tour, I noticed another, led by a bright grade sixer - who had autism. I could tell. This boy could easily have been my son several years on. He would pause as he thought of what to say next, finger posturing as he did so, and then lead his tour group. I saw before me an articulate and confident young man. This was striking and heartening, what more could a mother with a special needs child ask for?

Anyway, after an extremely long post, I still have to tour the Catholic primary school and make an appointment to talk about my son's needs with the winning contender. I'm just hoping that conversation won't change things around. Choosing a school for any parent of any child is daunting, yet alone parents of a special needs child. Really I'd be happy for my children to go to any of these schools, but I'm so uplifted at the moment, that the school that I've found the most impressive, is my local government primary school, that we're zoned for. Oh, but the only thing, the school's uniform is just atrocious!!
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