Monday, April 30, 2012


Well after all my careful planning for a camping trip or a few days in Sydney, I was sabotaged again by football.  As Husband is currently on sabbatical and not teaching, I (foolishly, apparently) thought that this would be a great opportunity to do some exploring further afield.  I did not take into account football training for 2 boys, figuring that it wouldn't hurt if they missed a week but more importantly did not take into account HIS football training and matches which he ABSOLUTELY could not miss.  To be fair, without football he can be pretty vile but football instead of a holiday?  See what I have to put up with?

Well, I suppose it could be argued that I'm on a 3 year (so far) holiday and shouldn't really complain.  There is plenty to do within a short drive and actually the kids are more than happy to be left to lie-in, play with stuff they don't get the time to during term and generally chill out.  However, as all you parents will know, this only lasts for about an hour then everyone is bickering and telling tales, so we have to GET OUT.

You'll know by now how much I love the beaches.  Not as a bikini-clad sun-bather, more a swim/walk/read a book/have a coffee type appreciation.  I have decided that I need to be able to see the sea at very least once a week.  It restores me in a way I hadn't understood before.  So when it is nice, we pack a picnic and head to the beaches up at Port Stephens, about 45 mins from here, the beaches are a bit more sheltered which is good for the wee ones.  Previously Shoal Bay has been our beach of choice for a day out, but we have been introduced to One Mile which is a bit closer and has enough wave action to keep the big boys happy.  John can also stop at Murray's Brewery on the way and is developing a love of local beers!

If we just have an afternoon, then it's usually Bar Beach for a swim or a walk from here to Merewether where we can now buy (non Nestle) ice creams and coffees at the new Surfhouse and then spend an hour or two chucking balls and digging holes.

Another walk we love is the along the breakwall at Nobbys.  We can watch the big ships coming and going, the boys like to spot the flags and guess where they're off to.  If we have Dog then we usually end up splitting up and some walk back along the beach, it was my turn this time.  We took ages and got into trouble - oops!

We also have Lake Macquarie 10 minutes in the other direction where we spent a day kayaking with our surrogate Grandpa!

Other than beaches there was time spent with friends, grown-ups talking until too late at night while kids run wild, kids having pals over, creating with Hama Beads, playing on the ds's and wii, lots of Lego building and catching tiny lizards.

One of the last activities of the holidays was a crafty way to exercise the kids, dodge the rain and educate them all at once with a walk from Nobbys to the Newcastle Museum.  They met up with school friends and played for ages in the Supernova, learnt about the production of steel and then spent most time mucking about at the fantastic photowalls.

Now that everyone is back at school I can get back to my walks with Dog, a bit of writing in some great cafes and maybe even some beach hooky...

Edited to add:  If you want to know more about Newcastle, it is being featured here all week.  Enjoy!

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Millennium Boy

It's always easy to remember how old Jonathan is!

He has had a great weekend. Football, followed by lounging about, followed by dinner out yesterday, then presents this morning, then his first 12 movie at the cinema on his own with his dad this afternoon.  They saw The Avengers in 3d which they both loved.  Then Lego building, dinner (fabulous slow-cooked lamb with lemon and feta - mmmmm) and lastly birthday cake with sparklers.  I hadn't planned the sparklers but they were half price in Woolies and so much more fun than candles.

Do you remember the days when kids would draw when waiting for their meals?  Now they get out their iPods and take silly photos...

...and some nice ones too.

He had asked for a watch and Lego.  He's the only one of us who wears a watch.

This cake is rather loosely based on one of their current favourite games Minecraft.

 Happy Birthday Jonathan or should I say Jonny...?

Thursday, April 26, 2012

"Raising Boys"

After my last post, I had lots of lovely comments on facebook and here about my parenting philosophy but I have to say that it mostly comes from my own upbringing and being introduced to "Raising Boys" by Steve Biddulph at an early stage in my parenting journey.  I can't find it anywhere so I'm assuming I have leant it to someone at some point.  I tend to feel that if you lend books you have to be prepared to never see them again!

If you have boys and haven't read this book then can I suggest that you get on to Amazon/the Book Depository/Borders or wherever you can find books these days and get a copy or 2.  It is full of the most wonderfully freeing common sense advice.

I also stumbled across this article yesterday about The 8 things boys really need from their parents, which gives a lot of the same kind of advice.  Basically boys have to be boys in order to become men.  They need to be physical, loud and boisterous and no amount of trying to make them sit nicely, like girls are often more capable of doing, is going to help.  It will only make them feel inadequate and resentful.

Obviously we have our moments here, one of the boys in particular does my head in at the moment, but I can remember back to when Archie was at the same stage (See, not him for a change Christine!) and know that there is hope.  He needs a lot of exercise, adventure, and danger - I foresee a career in the SAS.  Equally he is such a loving, sweet and generous boy - he'd definitely give you his last Rolo (except they are made by Nestle so he's not allowed to have them...!).

As another friend pointed out privately, it's all been about team work.  Those of you who know us well know that John is (and always has been) very hands on, partly because he needs a lot of exercise too!  He does work A LOT and woe betide anyone who interrupts, but there have always been runs, bike rides, football and now there is also a lot of bonding over movies that "the boys HAVE to watch"!  The long hours he worked and commuted in Edinburgh were very hard going for all of us and I think I was probably heading for a wee padded room and lovely white jacket somewhere.  Coming here, while hard going in it's own way, has given us back our family time which is so precious.  So err, not one to be gushy but thanks Mate.  Hilariously, he does actually read this and often asks why I haven't posted!

I should also mention my brother and his great contributions to the upbringing of my boys.  Unc has always been as involved as a single young bloke can be, always coming over for birthdays, helping out with football parties, taking the big ones out to Edinburgh on their own for a day and so on.   He has never held back from telling me how gutted he was/is that I have taken his nephews and neice away.  He is great at keeping in touch with them on skype and facebook, never one to miss the chance at a bit of a wise crack.  We all miss Unc heaps.

For Grandma, Unc and anyone who might be interested, I'm planning a wee holiday round up post next...

Edited to add:  you can now find me on facebook if you fancy it...  Haven't worked out how to add a sidebar link so if anyone can help that would be great!

Monday, April 16, 2012

Growing up

So with turning 40 and Smallest Boy turning 4 a couple of weeks ago, we have all been thinking a lot about change.  This is the first time we have got to 4 without another baby or pregnancy.  We have reminisced about each of them, laughed at things they did/said as littlies, and shuddered at other things they did/said!  One that always stands out and makes me shudder, but all the kids scream with laughter, was Jonathan at the age of about 18 months telling Grandma "Fock off".  As you can imagine Grandma was horrified and looked at me as if to say "what are you teaching my grand children??"  To explain, we had just got in from some fun outing and he was asking Grandma, very sweetly, to take his socks off, the "foos" having already been dealt with!

I've also been thinking about my parenting skills, or lack thereof.  I was never one of those mothers who listened to all the advice from the proper grown-ups.  I breast-fed on demand for as long as baby and I wanted to and whenever baby wanted to, we did some co-sleeping, lots of cuddling and "spoiling" (honestly!!), but my rule was that "Mummy always wins" - helps you to think before picking those fights!

Miss Meg a couple of days old

As they got older (and took up more space) the big boys were never all that interested in toys and were more interested in playing on me or Daddy.  They have always been feisty and I do remember years of exhaustion and the feeling that I couldn't cope with these wild children.

An armful of wriggly boys

We learnt that getting them OUT was the only way for survival, which was why I walked everywhere, dragging toddlers and pushing a pram, up hills, down hills, along the coast path so rugged up that their wee arms stuck out horizontally!
A wet and windy walk near Stirling (spot the Wallace Monument)

They learnt to ride bikes and played in the street until it was dark and I encouraged the older boys to take on responsibility by walking/riding to school by themselves, walking to friends houses and even going to the shops for the odd can of tomatoes.  Fortunately we lived in a quiet, small town where they would have been spotted getting up to any nonsense and I would have know all about it before they even got home.  They played football in all weather with John and would have to strip at the back door and be hosed down, I had to bin undies that were so mud-stained even Vanish couldn't shift it!

Coming to Australia changed things again.  Where we live is not so conducive to walking about safely, schools are a bus ride away, as are most friends.  They have been learning new skills and are adapting to new ideas and ways of doing things.  But there is still a lot of beach action and lots of football with Dad when things get too boisterous in the house.  Sport has proven to be a life-saver for us and them!

All 5 of them having a walk together at One Mile Beach

 Dad's training school!

I spent a morning recently clearing out all the old baby cups, plates and bowls and doubling my storage space.  It is quite sad to get rid of these things that I have handled, washed and used on a daily basis, some for 13 years, and now it would appear that we could probably do with buying a new dinner set for all the people using 'proper' plates now.  Another reminder that we are moving on and growing up.

When they ask me about my job as a mum I tell them that my job is to make sure they leave home.  This used to be met with shock and wobbly lips, but the older ones realize that I see my role as preparing them to go out into the big, wide world, able to cope with whatever is thrown at them.  I won't be with them at University to write their essays, I've got my degree already.  I won't be there to do their food shops, cooking, washing up, cleaning, laundry etc.  I figure that if I do my job right now then hopefully (everything crossed tightly) they will turn out to be decent, successful human beings.  But for the moment we are still juggling a pre-schooler and a teenager and 3 more inbetween.  It's a whole new kettle of fish these days, but I think we have all survived relatively unscathed so far.

We talk a lot as a family.  We discuss our faith and beliefs, hopes and fears and how putting these into action should affect the way we live our lives to benefit others.  We talk about how people judge each other, how to avoid judging and to avoid being judged.  They are given responsibilities around the house and help out more as they get older.  There is a lot more growing up to be done, but every now and then there is a glimpse of the fantastic people they will become.

As for me, I think I'll just stay 40 for a few more years...