Tuesday, March 19, 2013

The Trouble With Teenagers.

The trouble with teenagers is that deep within them lies a really awesome human being. Bet you didn't expect that, did you?

But it's just such damn hard work getting past all the moodiness, gruffness, the messy rooms, the smelly shoes and the daily contradictions in order to see it.

And that's just the boys. Girls, I've been told, have a whole different set of challenges that I will never get to experience, being as I'm surrounded by my honour guard of males.

So who's fault is it that teenagers are so difficult to live with?

For a while there I resided on the 'it's the teenagers fault' side of the fence on this issue. I mean, how dare they not show me respect and make up their own minds about things? Why should they be the ones making decisions about what's right for them when it come to life choices and bodily hygiene?

All these years I've looked after them and kept them safe and done a perfectly good job of it. I've got them to this point, what gives them the right to relegate me to the 'She's just Mum, what does she know' group that I relegated my mother to all those years ago. This time it's different, right?

Well, after a few years in this mindset, I finally realised that perhaps, just maybe, I was a little off track.

Conflict abounded in our house, tug of wars over privileges and choices, room tidying expectations and the minimum number of permissible showers per week (7, if you're wondering).

After a while though, I got sick and tired of it all. Day after day was the same routine. Off to work (me) or school (teenagers), come home, straight into housework and dinner prep (me) or homework (them), dinner then zone out in from of the tv (me) or xbox (them). Interspersed within these activities was the conflict (initiated by them I thought) and moodiness (from both sides if I'm honest). Repeat. Ad infinitum.

None of us were happy. None of us really wanted it to be like this. Not that teenagers will tell you this, they may shrug non committedly though if you ask.

Then had a lightbulb moment!

I no longer had a connection with them.

As they grew they had started to move away from me, which is a normal and healthy step on the way to independant adulthood, but what was shocking to me, was the realisation that I had started to move away from them.

You see, when kids are little and cuddly, and think you're the best mummy in the whole wide world, it's easy to be close to them. They need you, and truth be told I needed them, to fill my heart with love and fill my days with smiles. But as they grew it was a little more difficult to pick them up for a cuddle (ever tried to pick up an unwilling 6'2" teenager for a cuddle and a tickle? It's best not to try).

I had bit by bit stopped trying to connect with them, as they pulled away, thinking that's what they wanted. But underneath it all, despite exterior gruffness, they really still need their mum. Just in a slightly different way.

Suddenly, from a mothering point of view, things had changed. And I wasn't ready for it. There's the saying about kids not coming with an instruction manual, but at least when small, children are a little more forgiving if you make a rookie parenting mistake. Teenagers, not so much.

They give you the sigh and an eye roll, and then proceed to moan about you to their friends. Suddenly you've been demoted from best mummy in the whole wide world to little better than the annoying woman who puts food on their plate and clean clothes neatly on their bed. You've now become the worst parent ever because the parents of all their friends always let them do this or that. I'm sure you know the drill.

Teenagers unconsciously challenge you, searching for a weakness. It's their forte at this age, apart from sleeping. And eating. Oh, and leaving previous neat and clean clothes in dirty piles all over the floor. Apart from those things, finding weakness in their parents is their forte.

And then I fell into their trap.

The trap they set is they bring out the teenager in us parents. That self centred, stubborn and argumentative teenager we thought we'd gotten past being about twenty or years ago.

Imagine this. Teenager wants to stay out all night. You say no. Teenager argues the point. You calmly give your reasons for saying no. Teenager ignores every single point you've calmly made and reiterates their reasons for staying out. You not so calmly reiterate your reasons for them not to stay out all night. Teenager stubbornly repeats the exact same points they previously made. You restate yours. Frustration makes you a little more forceful this time. Teenager yells "You just don't understand" and stomps off to their room, full of eyerolls and muttering. You stomp off to the kitchen muttering about how you wish they'd start listening to you. Stalemate. They've reduced us to their level. Damn, I hate it when they do that.

Being a good and loving parent however, an hour or so later you go back with the intent to talk calmly and bring your teenager around to your way of thinking. Within five minutes it's back to frustration, eye rolls and mutterings again. Neither side listening to the other, or if they do, only superficially.

It's like arguing with a toddler. You can't win.

And I've found that's the best way to view teenagers. As toddlers. Just slightly larger, but often just as temperamental. They need love and cuddles too, even if they do try to push you away.

If you think about it, toddlers are standing (or wobbling) on the threshold of moving from babyhood to childhood, breaking new boundaries such walking, talking and tantrum throwing.

Teenagers are also on a threshold, this time of adulthood. Only they are breaking boundaries of every sort, rules, courtesy, family congeniality, you name it. And they've already perfected the tantrum throwing, now they just up the ante.

This may seem all rather dire that's it a wonder anyone comes through raising teenagers a sane person. But I've discovered there is a magic to this parenting teenagers gig, a secret I never got told about.

Something, that although not making us a perfect family, has certainly made us a closer family. With a lot less eye rolling.

And no, it's not shutting your eyes and downing multiple glasses of alcohol. Though that is optional.

The solution that has worked for me is.......

.........hmmm, this post is more than long enough already. Stressed out parents of the internet, you'll have to wait for this to continue at a later date.

In the meantime, fix yourself a stiff drink and keep your eyes shut.

Friday, March 15, 2013

Fashionable & Fabulous Friday - The Return!

 What day is it today? Friday, you say?

Well now, that jogs a vague memory. What was it that I did on Fridays again?

Hmmm.... rush to finish the weeks work all in one day? After work drinks? Plan the weekend's parties? A couple of martini's snuggled on the couch with my beloved?

No, that's not right.

Well, maybe the first one. Occasionally. Often. Oh, alright, every Friday afternoon.

But there was something else....... yes, I remember now.

Fashionable and Fabulous Friday!!!!

If you missed out  previously (before I slacked off for a year or so!) there are one or two, or three or four, F&FF posts you can look back at and enjoy the fun, and negligible fashion sense, by clicking on the Fashionable & Fabulous Friday post label on the side of my blog page. Just scroll down, I did. And had a good laugh at myself.

The aim of Fashionable and Fabulous Fridays was/is to inspire people of the world to dress to make themselves feel good.

It also might just be a way for me to live out my narcissistic tendencies. I'm sure my husband thinks so. But we won't go there.

So without further ado, I present the first F&FF post for 2013 (yay!) :

 Awkward posing. Gosh, I must be out of practice!

Yes, I'm wearing purple.

If you had asked me a year or so ago, I would have never in a million years thought I would wear purple. Too bright, too out there for my shy and retiring nature (ahem, no snickering please).

Yet another awkward pose? I really should have practiced in front of the mirror first.

I wore this dress into the city today for an appointment, and got lots of looks. Admiring ones, I'm hoping.

I think I may have stood out just a little against the backdrop of black and grey business suits. Good.

This dress is so retro that I love it. It hardly needs any accessories. Just some vintage gold and pearl earrings, my watch and 2 carets worth of bling on my finger and I'm set to go.

 Mama? Why have you got your arms sticking out like that?

Of course, as per the usual way of previous F&FF posts, a certain little someone had to get in on the action. Modelling is full of competition from younger, more good looking models trying to steal your limelight. Where's my manager?

 But look at him! So cute and cuddly. How could I not share my photo shoot with him?

So there you have it folks. Fashionable and Fabulous Friday is back (by popular demand. Well, one person mentioned they missed it. About a year ago. Give me a break, I take what I can get with positive feedback!).

Have a wonderful weekend, and listen up everyone -  be fashionable if that's your thing, but always remember to be fabulous!

Thursday, March 14, 2013

A 'Write Off' Kind Of Day

The house is dark in the middle of the day, lit only by the flashes of lightning from outside.I love it!

Autumn weather has arrived in force today. Perhaps my front lawn might actually turn green with all this rain!

I really enjoy thunderstorms, but the furry members of our family not so much! The dog has just slunk into the room with me, unsure about those loud booms and rolls outside. And our cat was found hiding in the pantry just now, his place escape in the most dire situation. Which clearly this is to him.

The less furry members of the family are relishing the freshness of the storm, the cool breeze through the window, the cosy, snug feeling that the dark grey sky gives.

But I must give some consideration to my husband who is out working in this weather, so I'm sure he's not enjoying it much as me. Any moment I expect to hear the garage door go up and to find my soaked husband home, in dire need of a hot cup of tea.

And unfortunately, Charlie is still not well. Sniffles are abating but being replaced with a chesty cough. The recovery process is not helped by a sleepless night. 4.30am is a ridiculous time to wake up for the day, if you ask my opinion. Which I would happily give once I've finished my fourth cup of coffee (and it's only midday!) and if I'm still awake.

Why is it that these sleepless nights occur just when I really need to be awake and alert to deal with things? Not that there is ever a good time for such an early wake up, but still. I have so much to do and deal with at the moment. Why today?

And by mid afternoon, when I start to wilt from tiredness, I will vow to myself to have an early night and catch up on the sleep I so desperately need. Only to get to 8pm and get a second wind (all those cups of coffee finally kicking in perhaps?) and not be able to sleep till midnight - again.

Am I the only one who is like this? Please tell me that this is normal for busy mamas.

So today, I've decided is a write off day. A day where I will accomplish what I can and not feel too bad about what I didn't get done. Dishes piling up in the sink, floor unvacuumed, minimum amount of work done that I can get away with though I will have to play catchup over the weekend, and I'm ok with that - sort of. Overcoming my perfectionist nature isn't easy, you know.

Today therefore will consist of lots of sitting on the couch watching the rain and cuddles with my sick boy.

I guess life isn't so bad after all.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Summer Garden Decimation & Man Flu

Finally the summer is over and autumn is here. It's been a long, hot, crazy weather summer where here this year. Lots of days of 40 degree heat has taken it's toll on us.

Especially since we didn't have air conditioning for most of it. Can you imagine a hot house combined with smelly teenage boys..... on second thoughts don't imagine, it's too disgusting.

Autumn is much nicer, more civilized. Outside temperatures are mid 20's generally, just right for a picnic lunch or walk to the park.

But this long hot summer we've endured has also been hard for our poor garden.

Days and days of baking heat, stretches of a week at a time of over 40 degree days, what garden could take that and survive? Even our mature palms are not looking as healthy and happy as they have in the past. Thankfully there is still some green amid the brown.

I do love those clear blue, sunshiny autumn skies!

The smaller palms are unfortunately looking decidedly more brown than green now, even with daily hand watering, thanks mostly to the attentions of my teenagers, Kaiden and Corey.

Sending them out to the garden sure is a great way to get those teenage smells out of the house, at least for a little while!

 Oh, the poor bamboo! It certainly didn't like the sun.

 Even sun loving cats find what shade they can.

And the front garden, well please don't even look too hard at the front garden.

It has lawn, and a lot of it. Which means investing lots of attention, time and water to get it through the summer.

So we didn't bother.

Doing our part for water conservation in the area (not to mention, human energy conservation as well!), we stopped watering the front lawn at the beginning of summer.

It aint pretty to look at but sure cut the water use and meant lucky Kaiden has gotten out of mowing it all summer!

We do have one oasis of lush greenery, just outside our back patio door, just to prove that we can keep some things green through the harsh summer.

So all in all, I'm welcoming the autumn weather. The sun is still warm, the skies nice and blue, yet the afternoon breeze has just a hint of coolness to it that's refreshing. Time to get out the jumpers and extra blankets soon I think.

Now the weather has cooled, I feel the pull to plant again. Once upon a time I had a little veggie garden going. But time was in short supply so onto hold it went. Until now.

In the next week or so I hope to get my act together and get it cleared, soiled and planted for the late autumn and winter crops. I can almost taste those fresh vegetables again!

The change of season has also unfortunately brought colds and sniffles to us too. Charlie and Del are both suffering with a cold right now. Or in Del's case - Man Flu. It's serious you know!

Charlie has had the past two days off kindy, so as not to sneeze snot on his class mates, and all over me instead.

"I need a hug, mummy", so I tenderly hold him close, lean in to give him a kiss on the cheek and SNEEZE. In my face. Lovely.

And although sick, he loves the idea  having a 'day off' and staying home to be loved and cuddled by his sleep deprived mama, to get him through this cold.

Working with natural remedies, I hung a hanky sprinkled with Eucalyptus oil in his bedroom window to catch the warm air coming in to infuse his room with the oil for the night. This helps to clear his nose as he sleeps.

But most of his time was doing this :

Waiting pitifully on the couch for me to come give him the next round of cuddles and tissues. Do you think this might be the start of his first case of man flu?


Saturday, March 9, 2013

My Eccentricity - again!

It's been a while hasn't it? Shall I hand in my absentee note now?

This is me, by the way (just in case you'd forgotten what I look like. And yes, I cut most of my hair off, and have gone even shorter since this photo was taken. Just for kicks.) :

Ignore the blurry bit in the upper right corner. My 15 yr old needs to work on Photography 101 - keep your finger out of frame!

What prompted such an extended break from the blogging world, I hear you ask.

Well, that's easy to answer. Life has been happening. Glorious, busy, joyful, stressful, fun, hard, living in the moment life.

Family time together.
For a long time I have been chasing the 'ideal' life that I see in my mind's eye. A loving, peaceful mama with well behaved, happy children, a husband home from work with a smile and offer to help out with dinner or play with the children. The mama cheerfully working in the home, house gleaming and tidy giving the feeling of a job well done, whilst simultaneously juggling working 30 hours a week with ease and a high level of proficiency. Healthy, home cooked, home grown organic meal, infused with the love of the chef and she hums as she bakes and cooks. Family time in the evening, reading nourishing books, listening to uplifting music, walks in nature and excursions to fun and wonderful places together.

Sounds lovely to me. My ideal, happy, eccentrically unique life that I can envision in my mind.

The reality? Well, not quite meeting those ambitious expectations. Not even close.

The Mama : loving and peaceful - yes. But also tired, grouchy and if truth be told, a little selfish with precious time to herself.

The Children : well behaved and happy - yes, some of the time. And some of the time more like loud, arguing and demanding, both of each other and the poor stressed mama.

Charlie the Earth Guardian
 The Husband : home with a smile and offer to help out - yes. But some days, he is also tired, stressed and acts human and not the demi god I view him as.

The House : oh the house! Yes, parts are gleaming and tidy, but not the neglected glass shower screens that can barely be seen through (great for privacy!) and those floor that only get spot cleaned when necessary. A quick run around cleaning on a Saturday or before guests has been the extent of things.

The Work : yes 30 hours a week is done, but in fits and starts and often late at night to make up time. Sit down to work at the computer and beeeeep, the washing machine has finished, sit down again and "Mummy I'm hungry", sit down again and realise that another coffee is necessary in order to concentrate fully.

Surely I must be doing something right to get a card like this.
The Meals : healthy, home cooked organic food - yes, most of the time, but there are nights of eggs on toast, or take out from the fish and chip shop up the road too. Organic produce has lessened as time and funds to obtain it have decreased (boy, is eating organic expensive!). Weekend lunches around here, have become a "help yourself as Mama's too tired to bother" type of situation. Thankfully, my teenagers know how to prepare a gourmet bowl of cereal in my culinary absence. At least it's healthy.

Family time :  reading nourishing books, music, walks and excursions  - yes these wonderful cherished moments do happen. But they take forthought, and some planning, and you know what, sometimes I'm just too tired to be the happy inspiring one, dragging reluctant teenagers to play a board game with me and their 4 year old brother. There are also many times where I find each of us in this five person household in a different room, each occupied by electronic devices. Nothing like family interaction via Facebook chats when you're only a room apart!

Brotherly love!
So after this rather long winded overview of the reality of life, I can see that life has good moments, and also has not so good moments. I have to face the reality that the ideal life I picture in my mind's eye is just a figment of my vivid and rather ambitious imagination. It's never going to be like that all the time and I need to ease up on my perfectionist nature that feels like I've failed if I don't get a gold medallion for Best Mother, Wife, HomeMaker etc etc ......

I had stopped blogging what seems like eons ago now, as I felt that I didn't have the time for achieving the perfect life as well as time for this blog. That this was one thing, just one little thing that I could let go and suddenly all would be fall into place and I would have that ideal life. Also if I couldn't produce an interesting and witty enough post on a regular basis, why bother at all? Reasons that felt valid at the time.

Ahhh, the folly of youth! (What? I WAS more youthful then, even if it was only a short time ago. We age every second, you know.)

Kaiden just before his High School Graduation

So the reason for finally getting back to this blog?

I enjoy writing it. I like getting my thoughts out. I like using my creativity and not just to come up with 'creative' solutions to sibling arguments, or the best way to creatively make a play dough fire truck. I think documenting family life is a wonderful exercise both at the time of writing, as it gives one a more third person perspective, and also to be able to look back at the stories and photos that make up our family history.

Corey - 15 and as funny as ever!

Incorporating blogging back into my life is a positive thing. Into a life imperfect when compared to the unrealistic ideal in my head, a life full of unique happenings, twists and turns, ups and downs. An life full of eccentricity.