Shake, 'rattle' and roll

Miss F to Miss J this morning - "Oohh J... PUHLEEEEESE stop singing! You're making my brain rattle!"
Then... "And it's NOT FUNNY Mum!"

I guess that's what you get when you don't have a TV...

That's my girl!

We don't have a television.

I LOVE not having a television.

Plenty of people think I'm nuts. They're probably right. Still, life without a "misery box" is joyous and that's exactly how I like it.
The girls also enjoy not having a TV. True, this is partly because they don't know what they're missing, but they also have amazing imaginations which more than suffice in keeping them entertained. Not to mention a property full of animals and plenty of room to play and run around.
(Don't get me wrong, I'm not having a go at people who have a television. I just love the way no TV works for us.)

Today a new friend came to visit with her 5yo son. The children played happily for about an hour, then Mr 5 came and asked if they could please watch ABC kids. When I told him we didn't have a television he didn't believe me. I think he thought I was just saying that to stop him watching it. He spent a good 20 minutes searching the house before finally accepting that we were in fact, TV-less.

In his state of shock, he turned to Miss F and asked, "But what do you DO in the afternoon?!"
She replied, "Go see the horses and go for a ride, play bakery, go to the p.a.r.k*, play gardens, race the dogs, make cookies, do magic tricks.... Why... What do YOU do?"

He was stumped.

I was proud.

Not because she stumped him, but because she made a great point. My point.
I know that's selfish and not at all a good good parenting practise- to make your points through your children.
But it was such a great point, and I'm nuts so I don't care.

*We now have to spell out the words p.a.r.k, w.a.l.k, r.u.n, and c.a.r so that Nelly doesn't get over excited and pee everywhere.

The vegetarian diet

New daycare person: You're vegetarian?
Me: Yes.
NDP: So you don't eat meat?
Me: No.
NDP: What about chicken?
Me: No.
NDP: Fish?
Me: No.
NDP: And the children don't eat meat either?
Me: No.
NDP: Or chicken?
Me: No. No chicken OR fish.
NDP: Oh. But they look healthy?
Me: Yes. They are healthy.
NDP: Oh.

J: Mum?
Me: Yes J?
J: Does that person have a disability?
Me: Kind of. She doesn't understand what being vegetarian means. We can teach her though, if she'd like to learn.
J: OK. Lots of people eat animals, don't they mum?
Me: Yes they do. You can as well if you would like to.
J: No. I like being vegetarian. [pause] Can I still eat boogies though?

B is for Busted!

It's true - Dogs really do eat homework...

Welcome to the family, Nanuk

Just before turning 2, J and F began fearing monsters. They'd point to a door, or around a corner, or under the bed, or even up a tree and tell me that there was a monster there. I'd talk it through with them and try to find out what the 'monster' was, but it didn't seem to be a creature that logic could vanquish. We decided if the monsters didn't have to be physical beings, neither did our protectors.
This is when Tiger joined our family. He is a monster scaring extraordinaire, able to put the nastiest of creatures back in their place with a single "Roar!". From that day forward, every time the girls would spot a monster they would call on Tiger and together they would "roar" the sorry beast into oblivion.

Yesterday Miss V spotted a monster. Usually her older sisters are on hand and they quickly send Tiger in to battle. Yesterday, though, Miss V was on her own. I was about to jump in and remind her that her protector was merely a roar away, but something stopped me. It was one of those moments where time went all funny and I seemed to be frozen. I watched as Miss V called on a different protector.

Instead of a "roar", she gave a growl, then lowered her head and growled again.
She announced "Monster gone", and my sense of time kicked in again. I told her she was very strong for dealing with a monster and asked her to tell me more about how she scared it away. She told me, "Nanuk help(ed)." Nanuk is the Inuit name for a Polar bear and Miss V has been fascinated by them since we saw them at Sea World not long ago.

So welcome to the family, Nanuk. I hope you decide to stick around.


I had to get a new chainsaw today. The old one gave up months ago and it's gotten to the point where getting down the driveway takes a lot of careful maneuvering (not my specialty) and most of the paint off the car.
So I was unpacking the new machine this morning and being a dangerous piece of equipment I actually read the instructions. This is what I found on the first page:


Damn. I was so looking forward to trying that.


All 3 girls love taking photos and I encourage them as much as possible. Partly because I think creativity is hugely important and partly because I love seeing glimpses of the world through their eyes. Often, letting 2 and 3 year olds lose with a camera results in 50 photos of inside the dogs ear, or up a sibling's nose.
Then there are the images like these that take my breath away.
This is Apple, as Miss J sees her.

Duh, Mum!

I've had one of those days! I just don't seem to be on the same, kewl, wavelength as the girls today.

First, F was patting the dog when she said to him, "You stink like pumpkins."
I asked her, "Does that mean he needs a bath?"
She replied, "Yes. With pumpkin juice."
I asked, "How would that make him stop smelling like pumpkins?"
F, "Because we give him a wash, mum. You know, a wash?" (duh!)

Then at the park, J was sitting on a platform playing shop keeper. I was to be her customer. I love her dearly and still, cannot compliment her customer service skills just yet:
Me: Could I have a banana please?
J: None left
Me: How about some corn chips?
J: Nope. Got none
Me: Do you have any pineapple?
J: *Shakes head*
Me: Surely you have some chocolate, then?
J: No. Shops CLOSED!
And she clapped her hands together imitating closing the window.

The clincher:
We found a (live) snake in the lounge room this afternoon. It was a green tree snake and so completely harmless, but not without the fright factor.
I explained to the girls that I got a fright when I saw him but I'm OK now because I can see he's not going to hurt us, so they don't need to be frightened either. We also talked about why he can't hurt us - because he's a "green tree snake" and not poisonous - and that he doesn't want to hurt us either, because he's friendly. After he made his exit I said "I wonder where he came from..", more thinking out loud than anything.
Miss V answered (quite bluntly), "A tree".
I so knew that.

The dress code

Thought it was time for a more light hearted post!
Miss F is a fashion queen. Her passion for fashion definitely is not genetic. I hate shopping. When I eventually have nothing left to wear I go to the Op Shop, and usually get distracted by the costume section (Luckily I do performing arts and can almost get away with wearing a clown suit to work).
Miss F couldn't be a greater opposite. She reads fashion magazines. She spends half an hour picking out her clothes in the morning. She will not leave the house without beads, bag and sunglasses. Everything has to match, and I do mean EVERYTHING.
This morning, while she was choosing her clothes, I asked her exactly what she was looking for - what made one dress better than another?
I received a half hour lesson. I was stunned.

This is what I learned:
  • Dresses have to flare out when you twirl. This "spin factor" is VERY important
  • Everything must have frills, beads, ribbon, buttons, hearts and flowers - "but there are good flowers and bad flowers so you have to be careful"
  • Tim's don't know how to dress very well. I didn't get this one at first. J had to explain "because they're fashion Tim's" (or fashion victims)
  • All clothes should be pink or yellow, depending on your "skin bone" (aka skin tone)
  • You can't wear pink and red together because they "crash" (aka clash)
  • Finally, before you go out you have to "assess you eyes" (aka accessorise.. I think that's where the sunglasses come in)
I am guessing that these are some of the pointers she's picked up from her god mother, M, who's sense of style is nothing if not humorous.
Love your work, M!

The Third (emotionally unintelligent) Hand

I saw this anti drink driving ad for the first time today (it's been out for a while, but we don't have a television so I'm a bit behind). At first, I was moved by the bravery of this young man telling his story. I felt hopeful that his message may be powerful enough to stick in peoples minds and remind them of their mortality at that crucial time when they're feeling invincible under the influence of alcohol.
Towards the end of the add however, I noticed another message. One that didn't make me hopeful at all. One that made me feel quite dejected. I'm talking about the message that people with a disability, particularly a physical disability, are incomplete. (I want to add here that I am in no way criticising this person or his message, I'm talking about the ad as something separate to the person.)

Hearing this young man talk about his disability and then seeing the words “Drink drive. You lose.” appear on the screen, I can't help but get an additional message - “Disability. You lose”.

This is absolutely not a fair or accurate portrayal of people with a disability. Using a wheel chair for mobility does not make someone less of a person, it does not make their lives any less meaningful or fulfilled and it definitely does not make them 'losers'.

This ad shows a person with a disability in an incredibly negative light. It says 'Drink and drive and you'll end up like this. How terrible'. So what happens when people who've seen this ad meet a person with a disability? Will they see them as equals? Or will they see them as someone they wouldn't want to end up like, someone to be pitied, someone who's lost something and so is incomplete? I feel compelled to ask, please be aware of this damaging message and choose not to accept it. These are the kinds of negative and ignorant attitudes that I fight to change every day. This is the part of me dislikes the ad.

There is another part of me that thinks maybe it's worth it. If this ad stops just one person from drink driving, if it saves just one life, maybe it's worth it. This selfish part of me thinks if that one life was M's, it would be worth it. For those who don't know, M is my husband, soul mate and father of our children. He was on his way home to celebrate me becoming pregnant with Miss V when he was killed by a drink driver.

So I'm feeling conflicted. On one hand I dislike the ad because of what it says about people with a disability. On the other hand, if it saves lives maybe the ends justify the means? These opposing thoughts have been playing on my mind all day, even interrupting my time with the girls (Not kewl!).
Then I got to thinking about emotional intelligence and I realised I've been missing something.

The third hand. The one that I think is truly behind my emotional reaction. The shameful and selfish hand that says “What about me? What about what I've lost? Isn't losing a life more important than losing the ability to walk?”

These are perhaps the real thoughts behind my emotions, and they tell me I have more work to do. More grieving and more healing.

Now a new thought comes to mind -

Thank goodness for chocolate.


Today I was working in a primary school on a musical they're putting on with the year 6 and 7's. The costumes had been decided and prototypes made for each role. The point of today's rehearsal was to have the students try them on and find their sizes etc. Watching the teens and pre teens around me struggling with their self confidence and body images took me back to my school days and my first musical experience.
I was incredibly self conscious at school. I wasn't stick thin like the others, I hit puberty before anyone else and I had life experiences that other 12 and 13 year olds couldn't always relate to. Bizarrely enough, drama and music were my escapes. Stepping out on stage was (and still is) like stepping in to another world. What you say and do, how you feel, how others feel about you, is all suddenly OK because it's NOT YOU. You're given permission to feel. And music! Music really is a universal language.
So when my school decided to put on a musical - I wanted in. I auditioned, along with the rest of the school, and I was devastated, along with the rest of the school, when the roles were announced. Playing the lead: 'Principle's daughter'. The four supporting roles: 'Teacher's daughter', 'Son of Parent Committee President', 'Daughter of Dad who's business had donated 20 computers', and 'Kid who didn't even audition but who's parents blackmailed the deputy'.
The rest of us were either 'flowers', 'waiters', or 'wanderers'. I was a flower. Yipee.
Better than nothing, right?
Well, it was until I got the costume. We had big foam flower heads in varying colours of puce. That was the best bit. We were then given fluorescent green, nylon, body suits. "Now off to get changed girls, (added in hushed whisper) and you can't wear underwear under these, either." I honestly thought I was going to die. I know that sounds melodramatic, but imagine for a moment, being the only 13 year old in a group of 40, with breasts and pubic hair. I looked around at the green stalks that were my peers and I was terrified. (It is only now, in my wisened state, that I find the connection between the flower stalks this costume was supposed to represent, and the stalk like figures it were designed for ironically appropriate and amusing.) I picked the largest size there was and locked myself in the toilet. Pulling it on, I became acutely aware of the 10 kilos I had over other flowers. I felt fat, ugly and horrible. I vowed never to eat again.
Being the creative genius that I was, I made up an elaborate story about my mother's, cousins, ex sister in law's grandfather, who was desperately ill and needed someone to spoon feed him. He's absolutely relying on me for his very survival - So I couldn't possibly commit to rehearsals after school and risk him starving to death in my absence. At least, that's how far I was prepared to go to escape this nightmare as I left the toilet, holding the green monster at arms length and trying not to vomit. Actually, I think I just mumbled something about feeling sick and ran home, never to wear green again.
And that was the end of my primary school musical experience.

So this is what was running through my head when the teachers presented the new costumes to myself and the students for the first time. Mostly, they were relatively tasteful and non confrontational. Except for the pixies. (The 'pixies', I had been told earlier, was a role created for the sole purpose of putting the "no hopers" somewhere - because everyone who auditioned was promised a role. Most of the kids knew this, so there were already self esteem and confidence issues in play.) The pixies were presented/assaulted with red lycra tights and a matching red lycra crop top (what is it with lycra and bad costumes?!), and a green mesh, completely see through, vest kind of disaster to complete 'the look'.
Remembering my own nightmarish experience and seeing that terror reflected on the kids faces, I felt like I needed to do something - to protect these young people. Only problem was, I had only been at the school for a few weeks, I didn't know any of the teachers very well, didn't have any political swing to speak of, nor do I have much talent in the delicate area of diplomacy. What could I possibly say to improve the situation and maintain my professionalism and personal distance?
It went something like this... "There is NO WAY in HELL you are going to force these defenseless, impressionable, pre-adolescent girls into these disgusting, inappropriate, DEMONIC creations! They look like hookers outfits, for God's sake!" (Did I mention it's a Catholic school?)
OK, so I failed on the diplomacy, professionalism and personal distance points, but at least the demonic creations were torn up.
Along with my contract.

Do I care?
About the contract - Not in the slightest.
Would I do it again?

New feeling word

This afternoon we had a picnic with the horses and by the end of it J was pretty tired and over it. She cracked it for some reason when we were going back to the house so I asked her to stop and take a breath and then said to her "I need to know what you're feeling so I can help you. Please use your words, J, how do you feel?"
Without pause, she looked at me and screamed "SILENT!!!"

The great duck debate

Miss V has inherited her big sisters 'duck' complex. Fortunately J and F have grown out of it, but V still insists that ducks don't say 'quack', they say 'duck', and that all birds are ducks. This wouldn't be a big deal, only she also insists that the word is not 'duck', it's ''.
This makes social gatherings and outings much more interesting.
Fish and chips at the beach usually involves Miss V running amongst the seagulls shouting "!!!" We went to Movie World and she saw Daffy Duck... "Wow! Big!"
Possibly the most awkward was a recent visit to the pond, where there are lots of f.cks and LOTS of people. Miss V ran around telling everyone who'd listen how much she likes f.cks and that we have lots of f.cks in the dam at home. Honestly, I'm surprised I wasn't arrested.
So this morning when the topic came up I decided it might be time to have another go at correcting this little quirk...

V: (excitedly) Look mum!!
Me: (patiently) No V, I see a duck
V: (positively ecstatic) Yes!!!!
Me: (semi patiently) Watch my mouth V, 'duck' D.uck. D. D.uck.
V: (patiently) Ffffuck...
Me: (determinedly) Not fffff, D! D, D, D!
V: (amused) D?
Me: (excitedly) Yes! D! Duck. Dddduck.
V: Yeah mum!!

Me: Oh for f.cks sake


The twins and I are having fun with rhyming words at the moment. Just silly kinds of things like smelly Nelly, blue shoes, horse of course etc.
This morning F came into my bed in the early hours. It was raining and windy outside, perfect for a snuggle. Then one of the tree branches made a funny noise against the roof and F whispers to me ... "Oooh, spooky dooky."
Then today at the park we heard another parent telling their child, "You have till 3 to get in your stroller. 1.... 2..... 3...... I said 1.. 2.. 3!" F looks at me puzzled and asks "Can't she count to four?"
Finally, our dinner table conversation tonight was about boogies. J asked "If we're not meant to eat them why do they taste good?" I said that how something tastes isn't always a good reason to eat it. A couple of minutes later Miss V was picking her nose and J pipes up, "Ohh V! V! If you don't want it can I have it?!"

Beautiful gesture

Nelly doesn't exactly have great manners around children yet. Tonight she jumped up onto the table while I wasn't looking and stole V's desert.
I thought it was hilarious (you have to hand it to her - the dog can jump!), as did F and J. Miss V, understandably, not so amused. When she realised her sister was so upset, Miss F put her arm around her, whispered sticky nothings into her ear (literally) and then gave her little sister her own unfinished bowl of ice cream. I was so moved by this gorgeous, selfless gesture from my beautiful girl I had a little tear, and didn't even notice Nelly paw my bowl of ice cream off the table, landing on top of her head.
Miss J then insisted that F and I should not go without, and we should get another bowl... Of course, if we get 'seconds' naturally she does too!

Goodbye Dude - Hello Nelly

Yesterday we said goodbye to Dude, the Guide Dog puppy we've been fostering for almost a year. He has graduated to formal training and once he completes that he will go on to his new companion. While he's been with us he's been involved in inclusive education programs at all sorts of places - schools, day cares, community groups, even the local pub! He's had such a fantastic and positive impact on the whole community and we'll all miss him.
The poor guy hadn't even been gone for 24 hours when his 'replacement' arrived!
Nelly is a 5 month old border collie. Her original foster family couldn't care for her any more and they were having trouble finding a family to take her on this late. Naturally, after only saying goodbye to Dude yesterday, having 3 toddlers, way too many animals and an already busy time table this month - I said yes.
She's full of beans and has a beautiful nature, she loves the girls already (although she hasn't been made to take part in one of their fashion parades yet) and she can jump 2.5 meters off the ground. She also pees when she gets too excited (about every 30 seconds, it seems) and she is currently at the bottom of her obedience class. In fact, she is on her 3rd repeat at puppy preschool and doesn't look like she'll be joining the big kids any time soon. What she lacks in application she makes up for (ten fold) in cuteness.
How could you say no to these eyes?

Sexuality education

This morning while we were in town a friend who happens to have a disability came to give me a hug, then went to hug the man (Dude's trainer) standing next to me, whom she hadn't met before. I asked her to remember what sort greetings are OK to use when we don't know a person, and she shook his hand instead.
Afterwards the guy said to me, "It's just a hug, it's no big deal", to which I responded with "Would you hug someone you were meeting for the first time?". He said that HE wouldn't, but SHE is 'special' and it's not like a hug means anything to her. We continued to have a conversation about people with a disability and sexuality, during which he admitted he doesn't see these people as sexual beings and couldn't understand why I do sexuality education programs when "they don't have sex anyway".

Just to be clear, by 'sexuality' I don't mean the act of having sex. Sexuality is who we are, not what we do and sexuality education is not just about sex - It's about relationships, emotions, how to express ourselves, public and private body parts, public and private acts and places, good touch and bad touch, self protection and so many other things.
If nothing else, surely sexuality education in the form of self protection is important. I understand that not everyone is willing to see all people as sexual beings, and that's OK. What I don't understand is why we can't acknowledge that EVERYONE has a right to knowledge and education, and most importantly, to be safe. This is currently not the case. In fact, here are some vary scary stats:
  • People with a disability are 3 times more likely to be physically assaulted.
  • People with a disability are 10 times more likely to be sexually assaulted.
  • Almost one third of perpetrators are service providers (people working as carers, teachers, staff in respite centres etc).
  • Up to 83% of women with a disability will be sexually assaulted. That's more than 8 in 10.
  • It is likely there are more cases of abuse that have not been reported.
How can we pretend there isn't a need for education (if nothing else) with these kind of statistics?

"I'm a Doctor"

This morning while we were at a children's music group, a friend of the girls - a boy of about 4 - came up to me while I was talking to another parent. He waited patiently until I was finished, so I got down to his level, said hello and asked him how he was. Quick as a flash he put his hand on my breast, took it away, looked me straight in the face and said "I'm a doctor", then ran off.
The sexuality educator in me was screaming "Experience based learning! Experience based learning!!" ... So after I stopped laughing and shaking my head at his 'creativity', I went to find him and we had a talk about appropriate touch, public and private body parts and respecting ourselves and others.
"I'm a doctor", indeed!