Category Archives: Parenting

Axis of Imperial aka learning about Gallon land

Who does not love a good story about Queens, Princes, Princesses and many many cats?

My son has recently completed CRCT testing. What is CRCT testing I hear you ask? Great question, let me copy and paste something from the internet for you. Thank you as always Wikipedia.

The Criterion-Referenced Competency Tests (CRCT) are a set of tests administered at public schools in the state of Georgia that are designed to test the knowledge of first through eighth graders in reading, English/language arts, and mathematics, and third through eighth graders additionally in science and social studies.*

The thing is this, for Fifth grade, you MUST pass two of the exams administered Reading and Math (oh look I’ve gone all local and used no ‘s’ on the end there) to move into middle school.

The teachers don’t expect parents to spend a lot of time on these as it is based on work they cover during the year. However there are some, do at home pre-tests that I had to assist in administering.

It was then, looking over a Maths pre-test, I discovered the horrors of the imperial system. Seriously, for someone born and raised on the metric system, which really, just makes sense with its whole 1 to 100 or 1000 stuff and move the decimal place backwards and forwards – the imperial system is a house of horrors.

I would have preferred option e

I would have preferred option e, in fact I may have added it myself

I spent the next few weeks moaning and ranting to anyone who wanted to listen (and many who did not) about the ridiculousness of it all. Who uses this system I asked? Turns out there are three world powerhouses still married to the British Imperial System and none of them are Britain. The USA, Liberia and Myanmar, or as I prefer to call them, the Axis of Imperial. Although to be fair Britain still partially uses it – which kind of makes sense ’cause they invented it and all.  Apparently it’s used for very important things such as sizing for beer and cider glasses but schools, government and most sane other people use the metric system for the whole measuring thing.

Then I began to rethink. Was I just being old, crotchety and closed minded? Did I need to be more open and embracing of a system or cultural norm of a country I am living in? I asked my son about it, he explained it to me, and I discovered a magical place called Gallon Land.

Gallon Land can be seen in this VERY amateur video as described by me. There is a giant G, Queens and a lot of cats – complete with poor commentary and shaky screen.

I still don’t love gallons, quarts and fluid ounces, but I don’t know how many more years we will live in one of the Axis of Imperial countries so I’m just going to suck it up for now. As long as no one asks me to embrace fahrenheit I think I’ll make it.

* The Georgia Department of Education website has a note to say that due to budget restraints there is no testing of first and second graders in Spring 2013 (we’ll assume they were saving website update funds and apply that to Spring 2014 as well)

Swim Team

Don’t do it!

Do it!

It’s awful, you will be SOOOO glad when its over!

It’s great, they will be soooo much better at it by the time its over!

Everyone gets a ribbon, no matter where they come!

The excessive exclamation marks are warranted because everyone I discussed it with had a strong opinion and they were all heartfelt.

I may have mentioned 77 days of summer vacation already. While Phineas and Ferb thought ‘their generation’ was the one deciding how to spend it, I can assure them that their parents also had to get out their thinking caps, their wallets and more cleverly their calendars – in about January.

Failing that, those of us that are less organised, not heading elsewhere for three months, new to the extremely lengthy summer holiday season for school age peoples of the USA, or ALL of the above, need to scramble to take the scraps of what’s left activity wise or enter those that accept enrollments when the ground has thawed and there are birds singing in the trees.

Swim team was one such activity. As an Aussie girl who wanted to see the swimming tradition passed to the next generation it seemed a great fit. Six weeks of 45mins a day per age group. Why couldn’t it go on all holidays I wondered? Why only six weeks?  Sounds great on paper, until the information that they train not all the same time but in a consecutive fashion. Read the fine print Nikki. Sadly too  late to fix the three and a half year age gap between Ms 6 (aka WASYO) and Mr 10.

Poolside daily 8.30-11am gets you these tan lines

Poolside daily 8.30-11am gets you these tan lines

Then there were the Swim Meets. A once a week reminder of the reason we were all there – a six hour extravaganza where all kids regardless of their abilities get the opportunity to swim a lap or two or four of our or another neighbhourhood pool with their parents and coaches cheering them onto victory – or just lap completion, whatever worked better for them. The theory is beautiful, the reality hot, humid, filled with volunteering pitfalls and swim parents* aplenty.

Heres the thing about swim meets – there are about 650** children from age 5-18 (most in the lower age groups) and their parents and coaches all packed onto the pool deck of a neighbourhood pool.  These pools are not Olympic swim meet certified, they are not designed for this kind of activity. Most of these kids / tweens and teens swim between three and six races EACH between 6pm and 10pm on a weeknight in summer.***

What the pool deck looks like during a swim meet - this one an 'away' meet when the away team gets the sunny side of the pool, lucky!

What the pool deck looks like during a swim meet – this one an ‘away’ meet when the away team gets the sunny side of the pool, lucky!

In summertime the temperature in Georgia peaks between 5-7pm. Just so you know, it is impossible to look any kind of reasonable at a swim meet and that’s before you start your three hour shift managing the 6 and under ‘bullpen’. The bullpen manager is responsible for ensuring that not one of the sugar fueled swimmers, did I mention the concession stand ‘Oh, they’re swimming they can have some treats’ (I’m guilty too),  leaves the proscribed location for the duration of the event, and gets the relevant swimmers to their relevant heats in reasonable time before they swim.

Before the first meet someone told me not to wear a dress or skirt, it was good advice – all the sweat ran straight into my shorts so at least I looked like I had an accident in my pants as opposed to it all running down my legs and looking like something else. Not kidding. I was not alone, every other volunteer parent, same thing. Someone should have tipped me off to wear a sweat band too. I am thinking of getting some printed for next year, or my head shaved, or both.****

Six weeks, five swim meets – six really if you count the washed out one that had to be continued after we waited for one hour and ten minutes in the pouring rain because you have to be out of the water for 30 minutes after each incidence of thunder.

We made it and we have the many many ribbons and one 9 & 10 Boys most improved medal to prove it. Yay us!

Swim team booty!

Swim team booty!

I also have the perfect crowd control item for my kids – if they misbehave I threaten to wear my ‘swim team pin’ (its a badge to me) in a public place, it came in my swim team photo pack, I had no idea but it works a charm.

Behaviour control badge

Behaviour control badge

See y’all next year, maybe….

* As part of my ongoing identification of new opportunities for reality television shows in the US – which there are MANY, I am currently working on a proposal for ‘Swim parents’. Please treat this accordingly as a copyright notice. My idea, thanks.

**OK its probably really only 100 but it FEELS like many many more

*** Even thought the swim meet starts at 6pm you have to be there by 4.30pm to enable warm ups, volunteer job distribution and ‘sugaring up’ of the kids in advance of the 6pm kick off.

**** Someone obviously had tipped my husband off as he was out of town for five of the six events – out of town completely.

Lest We Forget

I have never been to an ANZAC dawn service. I can’t say why. I’m sure I have had a good excuse every time, but at my age there is no reason that I should not have been to at least one. I am more than a little bit ashamed. I can feel my friend Kirrin tut tutting as she reads this all the way from Canberra.

Today I have been impressed with the number of facebook posts, tweets and Instagram photos from dawn and other ANZAC services all over Australia, New Zealand and various other locations in the world. Many people of different generations set their alarms, arose, dressed themselves, braved the VERY early morning and continued to remember those who have served.

The first ANZAC day was declared on April 25th 1916, one year after the troops had landed on the beaches of Gallipoli. This year is the 98th Anniversary of that landing.

There was discussion about whether or not we would go, in the end we packed the car with picnic gear, snacks, kids and an esky and headed out on Sunday afternoon to the Australians Within Atlanta ANZAC celebrations, held at the home of the New Zealand Honorary Consul in Atlanta.

It was an hour and half drive from our house, my husband said by the time we got there it felt like ten. Despite being able to successfully navigate a twenty four hour cycle covering multiple flights, continents and airports our kids somehow are not great car travelers. Fights (physical), arguments, ‘I’m bored’ and the famous ‘Are we there yet?’ the first of these being before we had left our street were fairly free flowing. At one point there was a game of ‘I spy’ and the World’s Angriest Six Year Old (WASYO) old spotted something starting with ‘I’, after we all gave up the answer was revealed as ‘idiot’. It gives you a little peek into the atmosphere in the car, this was all before we had to stop for a bathroom break for junior team members.

Burnley Farm, Newnan.

Burnley Farm, Newnan.

As soon as we arrived the mood of all the travelers changed entirely. We were greeted by the sight of  a magnificent house and grounds, filling with picnickers, many other families also far from home. There was kicking the footy (Aussie rules of course), tossing baseballs (in deference to our host nation), catching butterflies in the long grass and fishing in the dam.  The many accents, Aussie, Kiwi, American and various others washed quietly over us as did the wafting smell of bangers on the barbecue.

Setting the scene

Setting the scene

The ceremony was conducted by the NZ Honorary Consul Ian Latham and the ANZAC address was given by Flight Lieutenant Andrew Stockwell of the Royal Australian Air Force. The Last Post, Revielle and both national anthems were brilliantly completed by a very accomplished trumpeter, Hollie Lifshey. It was a short but moving service where Ian spoke of his personal memories of WWI vets from his childhood and Flight Lieutenant Stockwell spoke about what ANZAC day means to him as a current member of the Australian Armed Services. He talked about never having been actively deployed in wistful tones. I chatted with him afterwards as he played on the grass with his two year old son and he told me that he has been scheduled for deployment to the Middle East three times and three times it was cancelled, the last time within 24 hours of departure. He wishes he had been at least once.

It wasn’t a dawn service, but it was important to me as I stood there with my family and others on the lawn on a beautiful peaceful Spring day, that we were remembering our ANZACs and others that have served, as well as exposing and educating our children to the tradition and meaning of the day. Our kids as TCK’s take for granted the many different cultural experiences  they are exposed to which will be with them always, but sometimes I forget about my own upbringing and all the Australian-ness we take for granted and as assumed knowledge. That information that just ‘is’, that seeps into your consciousness over years of living in a country.

Pavs and ANZAC biscuits

Pavs and ANZAC biscuits

The day progressed, there were pavlovas and ANZAC biscuits on the dessert table. The afternoon moved onto cricket, did I mention the grounds included a fully mowed paddock and rolled cricket pitch for the occasion? The ANZAC spirit was alive and well as the Aussies with greater numbers assisted the NZ team with fielding, the eventual result of a Aussie victory probably had something to do with this.

The supportive and knowledgeable cricketing crowd watches on

The supportive and knowledgeable cricketing crowd watches on

We left as the late afternoon shadows were forming after a wonderful event, happy, content and having shared part of our cultural heritage with others from our homelands, new family members and importantly our children.

At the going down of the sun and in the morning,

We will remember them.

Hotlanta eventually…

We made it!

All the way from the African continent to the one in the north of the Americas. (grimly holding onto the A theme)

It wasn’t without its challenges, traveling solo with my two TCK’s,  expert flyers though they are and truly thrilled with Emirates business class (as was their mother) they are still after all – kids. One of whom has anger management issues, our own little World’s Angriest Five Year Old (WAFYO), still learning to read and so has some justifiable issues operating the media equipment in that case, after all each airline has its own system idiosyncrasies and the last time she flew business class was three years ago, she was two and slept the whole time – for which her mother was very grateful.

The other junior traveller was somewhat anxious – not about flying but about the whole moving countries thing.  He was having his whole world tossed in the air to settle again somewhere he had never been, to make new friends he is not yet sure exist and after a detailed study of American television on offer in South Africa is concerned about whether or not he may get a date for the Prom. Did I mention he is nine years old?

The night before we left he had been bought home from a sleepover by his South African bff’s mother after he decided he was too anxious to stay, only to have the babysitter who was minding the other kids while their parents were at a lunchtime braai that was heading to a very late finish, not to hear the door, so a 10pm round trip return to the sleepover. Not my finest parenting moment – although I picked up the call at 10.15pm after all was resolved and well.

So it was with a slight sense of guilt and not at all thinking about the twenty three flying hours ahead that I allowed the kids to purchase some kind of giant chocolate bars at the airport in Durban after it took forty-five minutes to check in while they were playing trolley wars with several other juniors who had come to bid them farewell.

Note to self – don’t do that again.

Another item to note about Mr Nine is his absolute conviction that he doesn’t eat or drink at all while inside a flying device that takes you from one destination to another. This includes water, although after this trip we’re in negotiation for new guidelines on aircraft travel and won’t be boarding again until we have at least a water truce.

Anyway no points for guessing what happened next, apart from WAFYO watching Up six times in the next nine hours. There was also a crying baby in business class and the guy sitting between that and the vomiting nine year old must be wishing he’d missed that particular flight.

There was a vomiting lull in Dubai – as well as three hours to kill in transit so stupidly again I allowed eating and some drinking.  I should have focussed on less eating and more sensible hydration. Call me distracted, exhausted or just trying to get there.

The next leg to New York was fourteen hours. The vomiting started after ten or so and by hour thirteen the poor kid was practically passed out refusing water from his desperate mother.

We limped through the JFK wheelchair line with an almost passed out, definitely dehydrated, paler than paper kid whose father asked as he greeted us ‘Was he just a bit tired?’

Yes sure, they give out wheelchairs to all parents who suggest their kids are a bit tired and wouldn’t like to walk from the plane.

Happily as we were out of the aircraft and away from customs liquids were now an option and fifteen hours later after a few litres of the stuff and a good night’s sleep No 1 son was ready for a day of adventure in Central Park and at the Museum of Natural History – where the first exhibit in the Large African Mammals room was a Tiger, but I am sure there is a perfectly good explanation for that.

Three child tourism oriented days in New York and memories of the horror flight had faded somewhat, the Atlanta hop was only three hours and blissfully vomit free, even if we were in economy.

We landed in ‘Hotlanta’ as they call it on the steamiest weekend of the year so far, the day before the hottest day ever recorded in the history of the city 42 degrees celsius or around 106 degrees in the new terminology we will be learning – it was here that WAFYO picked up the mantle and produced one of the world’s biggest vomits  on the trip from the airport to the apartment in her father’s two week old car.

To use an American expression – Awesome!

Labels, a video game a movie and summer holidays

For a couple of months last year my then 8yo son had an obsession with inventing a new video game. He expected to be able to dictate to me over my shoulder for a few hours on our home computer and ‘voila!’ we would have a brand new highly functioning, multi level, multi platform video game to distribute to the market at large. Then he wanted to be entered into the Guinness Book of World Records as the youngest child to create a video game.

A few things came out of that process – firstly,  now I understand what all the ‘created by’ credits are on the television shows I watch. They are the people that walk around the room spouting the ideas that everyone else writes down, puts into scripts and and and and …. that eventually ends up as a finished product. Look in the future for ‘created by’ credits from said son.

The second was, after googling ‘how to create video games’, walking him through the process of story boarding, character and plot development and creation. I thought that as he has quite a capacity for understanding things this would help him realise that it wasn’t going to take a day or so – it would take significantly longer (even more so if he was relying on his mother to be the game coder).  We did progress slowly through the process – one day I came home to find him directing his father on the story board side – stretching his power point skills significantly and not yet meeting with approval from the ‘creative’.

It was relentless, at school pick up he would want to run through things in the car on the way home, after homework time when he had his one hour of his chosen electronic device he would throw ideas at me as he was walking around playing, at the dinner table, at bath and bed time. All ideas for his game, I would gently continue to remind him of the full process as he was reminding me to call video game distributors to discuss terms. It became too much for him when he thought I was trying to talk him out of it, which to be honest I probably was. What I thought I was doing was setting realistic expectations for him.

‘You’re just trying to crush all my dreams’

Not what a parent wants to hear –  and not when said with such emotion and despair.  Parenting is a precarious process for which there are really no guidebooks, training or licensing. Hands up who now regrets not having a year or two of child psychology thrown into their post school education?  I bet I’m not the only one.

He is a fan of dramatic words and phrases

When teaching him how to ride a bike ‘This is a ridiculous vehicle, you are trying to kill me, I am your only son and you obviously don’t want one’

Christmas morning  2011 at 5.15am ‘Mum, there is no way I can make it to 7am, the anticipatory excitement is killing me’

A new chocolate ‘Have one of these, your taste buds with explode with astonishment’

And later – same chocolates ‘I’m exploring my teeth for some tasty toffee morsels’

Our son turned 9 years old yesterday and has a diagnosis of Aspergers and ADHD.  While we’re talking labels he is also a TCK (Third Culture Kid)  meaning every few years we pack him up and move him to a new country, he’s on his third one right now.

The fact that he has these labels is partly helpful and partly difficult and sometimes confronting, like when his diagnosis had to be included on the medical forms that were submitted as part of our recent visa extension application.

Not long ago on Twitter I read something that resonated with me “High functioning autism means your deficits are ignored & low functioning means your assets are ignored”

In many ways he is like any other little 9 year old boy and for those that meet him casually and from time to time may not see anything ‘different’ about him. In fact I am sure that some of my family and friends often think I am overstating the issues when I talk about him.

People have said to me

‘Won’t he grow out of it?’ – Umm no

‘But he looks fine’ – Yes he does

‘He’s so handsome, he will be alright’. – I can never disagree with the handsome part, I am his mother after all, but being handsome won’t help him suddenly discover an understanding of when to stop talking about his favourite video games or stop the pacing and arm twisting while walking on his toes that relaxes him when his mind is racing.

Even in our parenting we often impose NT (neurotypical – luckily there are labels for the rest of us too) solutions to behavioral issues that most likely require a different approach, because sometimes its hard for us too, to know what to do. In these cases parent and child are often bewildered as to what has happened and what not to do in the future and sometimes we end up right back where we started. We’re all learning together.

2011 was such a big year for him, he made amazing progress at school in both his written work and his social skills, mostly due to the amazing teacher’s assistant that worked with him each morning. He now has friends in his class and just last week had his first sleep over at a school friend’s house, whose parents we don’t know very well. It was a success *cue sigh of relief*

During the recent summer break (7 weeks) my mother told me to try and enjoy the school holidays rather than resent them. As a former full time worker moved to full time parenting with the last country change, school holidays and I are still coming to terms with each other.  I decided to try to take her advice and embrace rather than rail against each day as it came – I had a mixed bag but I worked hard on not crushing dreams.

Samurai versus Zombies - Level 1

We reinstated the video game development, we are only up to Level 1 (apparently there will be 10) but all characters have been developed by the creator himself after we watched some you tube videos together on how to use the tool we found to make a simple game. Time has given a perspective that allows him to see we cannot get from a to z in a day or two.

We are also in post production on a horror movie, which he created and scripted and included in the cast his sister WAFYO (the world’s angriest five year old – more on her another time). We just need to find the right scary music as its an old style movie – music and no words. It didn’t all follow the original plan as we had to change the cast at the last minute but most of the key players were involved and I was very happy to be mentioned more than once (unrequested) in the credits page.

The film credits page - some names deleted to protect those actors who are underage starring in horror films

18 months ago the school wanted him to move to a keyboard because he wasn’t progressing with his writing, now he is writing for fun.

After recently watching an episode of Top Gear with a hypnotist on it, our next assignment is to study hypnosis, the list of things he intends to get people to do is intriguing to say the least – tips anyone?

My MacGuyver parenting moment

About a year ago I wrote a post about international plane travel – mostly from the point of view of the traveler who has kids but was not traveling with them at the time.

The trauma from a recent trip to Australia from South Africa that included my precious little ones (gee it’s a REALLY long way you know) prevents me from updating that post immediately to include 453 456 new items – however I have one tip to share and I think it’s a must for those that travel with small and demanding children. It’s also my only MacGuyver parenting moment of note that I can recall in the nearly 8 years I have had children so I am sharing it.

BUT, it is a wee (urine) story so opt out now if you are rolling your eyes and thinking – Why must parents always talk about their children’s bathroom habits in such detail?

Right – anyone left here goes.

It was a dark and stormy afternoon December afternoon in Sydney – really stormy and the flight from Joburg that was bringing my husband to assist on this month long living out of a suitcase ‘holiday’ and in particular to meet the flight we were about to board to Adelaide was diverted to Melbourne. Did I care that he was on a 15-hour trip that had just had a diversion and would now make it a 20+ hours? Did I care he was going through terrible turbulence and diverting to Melbourne put him tantalizingly close to Adelaide but he would just have to wait in the plane on the tarmac until he flew onto Sydney and then back to Adelaide? NO NO NO!

All I cared about was the fact that I was at the airport waiting for a delayed, full flight to Adelaide (they seem to give his seat away quick smart) and I was going to have to once again do it with my two children by myself.

Don’t get me wrong my kids are great travelers the good little TCK’s they are. TCK’s – Third Culture Kids a cool new term they can be referred to as because after all don’t we all want another label? Wikipedia says a TCK is – someone who, as a child, has spent a significant period of time in one or more culture(s) other than his or her own, thus integrating elements of those cultures and their own birth culture, into a third culture. So lets say so far their third culture highlights are they know what Chinese New Year is all about (receiving red packets) and they can sing Nkosi Sikelel’ iAfrika, (which lets be honest not even every South African knows all the words to) AND can discuss both of these while eating a vegemite sandwich, that’s cultural integration for you. They both have spent more than their fair share of time on planes, both belong to frequent flyer programs and are any moment about to share their points with their mother for a return trip to an exotic overseas destination – just for her – to pay me back for all the trips from hell I have taken them on over the years.

So for a hardened traveling mother such as myself what is a little flight from Sydney to Adelaide – less than two hours long – with Master 7 and Miss 4? A walk in the park, right? Things to know about Miss 4 – she has the world’s smallest bladder and a burning desire to see the inside of every public bathroom facility in the known Universe.

Delayed flight, full flight, harassed flight attendants, storm, ‘where is daddy?’ Am I setting the scene?

‘Lets board the families with small children first’ comes the announcement – always a tough choice – do you want the kids to have space to move around in for as long as possible which is found in the departure lounge more readily than in the economy class section of an airplane or do you want to get them in their seats – and get your 25kg of ‘hand luggage’ stowed away before everyone else gets on the plane and takes all the space so you spend the whole flight with your knees under your chin due to baggage placement issues (yes I am the traveler everyone can’t believe got through with that much hand luggage)? It was here that my years of experience and in fact all reason seemed to abandon me, I was so sick of fielding the ‘when are we getting on the plane?’ questions that I opted to join the early boarders.

‘I’m going to vomit’ screamed Miss 4 as we stepped from the walkway onto the plane – cue flight attendant shoving us both into the business class toilet at the front of the plane while Master 7 went on ahead to choose a seat that suited him 2B – um no.

Five minutes and many vomit bags being passed to us later – the crisis was apparently averted as Miss 4 announced she was satisfied with the bathroom facilities should she need to use them later and we could now proceed to our seats – leaving us in the middle of the boarding process with everyone else now blocking the way of my impatient children and Master 7 having a serious discussion with the boarding pass holder of seat 2B about whose seat it really was.

Ensconced in our seats with at least half of our ‘hand luggage’ stored away and children settling into some electronic entertainment – boarding was completed – seatbelts fastened – taxi to runway, correction, taxi to queue of eight planes near runway – announcement from Captain –

‘Thanks for your patience we are number eight in the queue, at least 30 mins until take off please remain in your seats with your seatbelt fastened.’

‘I need to do a wee’ screamed Miss 4.

‘Can you wait?’ Desperate mother asks.

‘No – I need to do it Now Now’ (more TCK evidence, use of South African conversational terminology not evident 18 months ago when we moved here)

‘Please just wait til we take off and the seatbelt sign goes off’

Escalating voice ‘No, I need to do a wee NOW NOW’

Same conversation happens for next few minutes.

At this point all the other passengers are staring – as they do – if you are a mother you are used to it and generally immune – one gentlemen says ‘If I were you I’d just take her – see how you go’.

I thought it’s got to be better than this. ‘Get up, lets go’.

‘Stop, sit down’ scream the strapped in flight attendants – goodness knows how they can see us from so far away up the front. I am now the person that everyone looks at when they do the follow up announcement

‘Ladies and Gentlemen, I know it is a long wait but please DO NOT remove your seatbelts or get out of your seats’

The Captain has just told us we are going to be here for at least 20 more minutes lady – are you serious!?!?! If only we were on a domestic flight in China where everyone just gets up and walks around when they want to, my bathroom problem would be solved.

Miss 4 – screaming escalating – Master 7 pleading with me to do something to get her to be quiet. Amid all the drama I have my MacGuyver moment.
I look at the many sick bags I have stored in the seat back in front of me and pull two of them out and perform the ‘double bag’ manoeuvre and then direct Miss 4 to take her seatbelt off and stand up and drop her pants. Can you see where this is going? Master 7 – who was sitting in the seat between us could see and he was NOT happy.

‘Gross! You can’t make her wee in the bag, its going to go every where and it might get me’ Hands go over ears and eyes shut (few sensory issues going on there but this one isn’t about him 😉

Miss 4 was interested enough that I might have the solution to her problems that she calmed down long enough to stop squealing and actually follow my instructions – can I tell you – she really needed to go, that bag was pretty full by the time she was done and so I added an extra layer to ensure no leakage would be occurring. I scrounged around for some wet wipes in one of the bags we had to keep with us due to overhead locker overcrowding and Voila! Not a drop spilled anywhere – equal credit to Miss 4 and myself for that one. Not bad I say.

Happy 4yo, happy passengers and lets face it Qantas should also be happy with me because I surely saved them from a wet seat and complaining passengers. As soon as we took off and the seatbelt sign went off I made a beeline for the bathroom to dispose of my triple bagged package and two people in front of me said

‘Oh you go ahead doesn’t your little girl need to use the bathroom?’

‘All over’ I say holding up the bag, proud of my MacGuyver moment.

The moral of the story is – when traveling with small kids stockpile the sick bags, they have more than one use.

What is your MacGuyver moment? I know there’s got to be plenty that can top that one – but this one was mine and I remain proud.

How’s that last decade looking?

OK I’m back – this whole blog thing is quite tough. I spend lots of my online time reading other people’s blogs  (is OPB a term? Like PLU?) for the most part enjoying them immensely, thinking I really must do that again sometime….

Anyone would think there were good things to watch on TV here (not true) or school holidays were on and I suddenly have to do my own child care after six years living in a country where I didn’t – that part might be true – but others seem to have struggled on and continued posting, so this will by my inspiration (I can’t hear my children at the moment – that’s a good sign right?).

2010 – a new decade.  For all us lucky people born in a 0 year – we never have to recap the last ten years in our mind – hundreds of newspapers, magazines and media outlets do it for us. So easy!!! All we have to do is remember about our own lives in that decade.  Every time ten years kicks over you think – noooo that didn’t happen that long ago, but it pretty much did. 

This year is a biggy for this girlie in terms of age as people seem to make quite a fuss when you turn a number with a zero on it. I can tell you I am expecting my husband and family to do the same again this year  (as I stare lovingly at the Longines watch my parents bought me the last time this 0 year rolled around 😉

The last decade for me has been the absolutely most action packed yet – so I thought it was worth a bit of a review. Also in order to put it in perspective better view those other few decades I have lived through as well (this is just pre-planning for my yet to be born descendants for the speech at my 90th birthday as when I did this for my grandmother a couple of years ago I had to go deep for the info – they didn’t have blogs when she was a girl).

1970 – 1979 – pretty much home time for me, although parents did scare everyone and sell all items except house and truck us off traveling the world for 18 months at some stage there. We bought a campervan at Australia Square in London and headed off to ‘the Continent’ for some adventures.  It is mostly the no school part I remember (although I am told there was six months of school in the UK at some time its very vague). Just remember the two tapes we had in the van – Leo Sayer and Rod Stewart, the words from every song on those tapes are burned into my brain forever and still now if I hear one on the radio (what stations still play them??? Or in some random location I start singing along involuntarily).  There were things I wish I remembered better, like picking up hitchhikers, getting kicked out of Germany for working without visas (not me of course) and perhaps all of the really cultural stuff, but that’s what photos and your parent’s stories are for aren’t they?

1980 – 1989 – boarding school kicked in here 82- 87– so I headed off there after my stint in the local primary school finished. At primary school I tried out for every musical production every put on and never got a role – must be my stunning singing voice. However when I was in grade 6 the principal insisted I be in the choir as School Captain – of course I thought this was outrageous as they never let me sing any other time and led a walk out of the choir by all school prefects. I think the rebellion lasted a day or so and we were all back in and I was told just to mouth the words.  Mmmm can see why I didn’t go into politics.

Did quite enjoy the boarding school part, not sure my children would but it was just the trick for me not to go through the ‘I hate my parents’ phase as I didn’t have to see them that often so it worked out fine for everyone at the time.  After school went straight to Uni as I was so keen for learning to continue – I guess….  This was the decade that I met my husband – at a Uni O week ball in February 1989 – see next decade for wedding date, we weren’t in a rush.

1990 – 1999 – Well this decade was where there was a bit of growing up going on, getting jobs, managing own finances for the first time etc etc going on.  Was at Uni for the first few years, my mother told people I was doing a four year degree (true) with six months for social skills. I always blamed my boyfriend for any subject failures as he broke up with me every exam period so he could concentrate on his study so felt pretty confident the extra six months wasn’t my fault.

After Uni did the year overseas thing – based in Germany working on a farm in the middle of nowhere (don’t ask) and did some travel around and seeing all the cultural stuff I had forgotten about from when I was six (very helpful to reinforce).

Went back to Australia – got my first job – and in proving what a loyal employee I am worked there for the next seven years until just before the end of the decade when I left to go somewhere else.

Then in a bid to get out of the bad books for flying away to Adelaide (his hometown) for my birthday weekend in 1998 my on again – off again – on again boyfriend of almost ten years proposed to me, so all was forgiven momentarily although goodness knows what he got up to on that weekend.  So the last year of the decade opened with the long awaited marriage – and that’s pretty much what all the wedding speeches were about – ten years and so on.  Having said that though I loved my wedding day and all the preparation and planning (mostly done by my long suffering mother who would phone me for a list of decisions – a,b,c or d and then go and sort it all out – brilliant!) I cannot even imagine what I would do differently 11 years on – I loved it that much, except I would not have waited to make an entrance, highly overrated in my opinion. I would have been waiting on the ground myself so the guests didn’t finish ALL the Pimms before the wedding ceremony even took place without me getting a sip at all. Come to think of it maybe that’s why everyone looked so happy for us.

I also attended many weddings of lovely friends and family, the vast majority of which are still intact today with various kids and moves. My own extended family started reproducing a next generation I became a godmother when my pesky little cousin (from prior decade – was by now almost a sister to me 😉 became a mother when her little girl Sarah was born.

2000 – 2009

Well this one was an absolute ripper of a decade for action packed events.

Where to start?

In April 2000 we bought our first house in Naremburn, Sydney – for an amount of money that seemed outrageous at the time and now seems like a bargain basement special.

In September 2000 it was the Olympics and like a lot of other Sydneysiders we put in for our tickets in the giant Olympic lottery and got none!  Luckily we had relatives in Canada who could buy some for us, so we got to see Cathy Freeman win her gold medal after all, a definite decade highlight.

My Canadian cousin and his girlfriend (now wife – that happened later in the decade) lived with us for a year in our new house along with our first puppy Rupert the Golden (because he sure wasn’t a retriever).

Also sometime this year my father who had been coaching rugby in Canada came back to Aus and announced that he would be leaving my mother and their 35 year plus relationship – which came as a shock to everyone except him I believe. I still haven’t had the therapy but I may have mentioned that I was married in the previous decade – relying totally on the fact that my parent’s marriage was all good and even though I was 30 during this announcement – it didn’t make me very happy.

Moving on – sometime in June 2002 I had too much to drink one night and about six weeks later discovered I was in fact pregnant, a happy accident it turns out as I was never going to do it knowingly, the whole thing seemed way too scary.  However this wasn’t the biggest news in the old extended family that week as another of my cousins had arrived home with an actual baby.  His girlfriend had fallen pregnant and they had decided that they would not keep the baby but give it up for adoption (no one knew she was pregnant – what an observant lot we are) but when the time came changed their minds and kept their gorgeous girl and came clean about the whole thing – very brave for the youngsters, who also married later in the decade and had another little boy.

More weddings and lovely events and I got to be a bridesmaid for the first and no doubt last time (as I am getting on a bit these days for the bridie department) for my friend Trudi  – whose anniversary I shall always remember as a good bridesmaid should (unfortunately mainly because it shares the date with a newsworthy world event that wasn’t so celebratory) while my husband got his suit out for quite a few groomsman occasions.

Three months before I was going to give birth my father called to tell me he was going to marry his Canadian girlfriend when I would be 32 weeks pregnant and the only child of the new couple on hand to celebrate the event with my brother and Judith’s son both overseas at the time. Upon reflection I think the wedding had been planned for some time but he hadn’t had the therapy yet either (and he never will) so I was the last to find out. Somewhat of a shock for me at the time – I went along to the wedding, which was quite the affair for a seven month pregnant hormonal chick to attend. However I felt about the occasion at the time Judith and her son Paul are very welcome additions to our extended family.

Our baby boy was born in February 2003 and changed our lives in the wonderful way that babies do, especially first babies when you think its all so hard but in fact you look back on it and the thought of one newborn (OK a 3 – 6 monther) at home with two parents looks like such a piece of cake when you add on everything else that happens after that like – toddler-dom and more babies.

Later that year my husband started commuting to Hong Kong and then in November we all moved there.

One of the first couples that we became friends with in Hong Kong and my husband’s closest friend at work and their 8 month old baby were on the beach at Khao Lak in Thailand during the December 2004 Tsunami and unfortunately did not come home, that was a pretty tough time as it was for hundreds and thousands of people who lost loved ones in that catastrophic event.

January 2005 I started a job that I really had absolutely no idea about at the time – obviously I was an accomplished professional four years later when I left it, but it ranks amongst the highlights of the decade in terms of career.  I got to do lots of travelling across Asia and went to so many amazing places and met so many interesting people and ended up with some great friends because of it.

May 2006 my wonderful mother was diagnosed with advanced colon cancer and given not much of a chance as it had already spread to her lymph nodes and liver – but as with everything it did not deter her and she sought all treatment options including Chinese medicine, mainstream medicine and amazing support from her friends and our extended family.  She continued to keep up her international travel schedule, as she was president of an international organisation the year she was diagnosed, even though she stepped back somewhat from her duties. At the time my father said to me – I just don’t believe it, I think she will have a miracle cure (I called that reaction ‘guilt’ – he will now call it his amazing knowledge and foresight, did I mention I hadn’t been to therapy yet?).

September 2006 the little princess entered the world – and at the time her father said he was going to buy a shotgun and a rocking chair and get ready for when the boys came a callin’. Now we know her better he seems to think the whole thing was a waste of money and if the boys are game to come he’s going to just shake their hand and wish them luck.

During 03 – 09 we lived the crazy expat life you can when in Hong Kong and travelled to so many fabulous destinations in Asia and also used the opportunity to visit Canada on a couple of occasions – once for the wedding of that couple that lived with us in Australia earlier in the decade and once for a family ski holiday. I learnt about being a ‘tai tai’ and also sampled many fabulous activities associated with this, such as shopping weekends in other countries, ladies lunches & endless foot massages to name a few. 

We also started ‘group’ family holidays with a number of Aussie families in HK and went to two different Thai destinations – we missed the third in 2009 due to the move but vow to be back next decade!

In December 2008 we lost my wonderful Father-in-law after some years of declining health. My children lost their Poppy and my husband his father; it was very difficult especially for my husband as it happened just before we were heading home for Christmas. He had been to Aus earlier in the year when his Dad was hospitalized on a trip to Townsville to spend time with him and say goodbye but his Dad had rallied and made it home to Adelaide and had some extra months with his family there. It is the absolute hardest thing about living so far away – and that will never change.

In March 2009 we visited Durban to assess it for a move – by April my husband was here working and by mid-July we had packed up our HK life and joined him on our new adventure.

In May 2009 my mother visited the Oncologist who proclaimed – I think you’ve got this thing beaten and she was so excited she left without paying the bill – they had to chase her to the car park.  A year earlier another friend, my own age – then living in Vietnam was diagnosed with the same as Mum and to this point she hasn’t been as lucky with getting on top of it.  I wish for her that the coming year and indeed decade brings much better things on that front.

Over the course of the last decade my children have welcomed four first cousins and countless more of the once removed type – they love to see them all and talk to them on Skype (sometimes).

The decade closed at a much slower pace here in Durbs – but again you never know what’s around the corner. Two days before the end of the year I awoke to a text from my brother that my father had a mild heart attack and was in hospital for tests and so on. Now we are in a new place that takes a bit longer to get to Aus you worry about having to make a dash home – but so far so good – fingers crossed, he had an operation which resulted in a stent being put into one of his arteries and he said it hurt but is obviously preferable to the alternative and seems on the road to recovery. He thinks he can play golf in one month instead of the three recommended and still seems the same climate change skeptic that he ever was. I’m pretty sure he’ll be here at the end of the next decade pulling in his own share of highlight commentary.

2010 – 2019

What will happen next?

After the last decade it is almost impossible to imagine what will happen this decade and where we will be at the end of it.

So far the highlight has been having our water cut off for non-payment but I think it will get a bit more exciting than that – in a good way.

What do you think will happen to you in the next decade and what were the highlights and shocks for you of the last decade?