Saturday, December 31, 2011

No, I Do Not Need A Break!

I have often wondered why almost everyone who does not homeschool their children seem to think two things about me. One, that I must be saintly to want to spend all day, every day with my children, and two, that I need a break from them as often as possible in order to maintain my sanity. People worry about me, and enquire with concerned looks as to how often I am able to get away for a break from my children. I do enjoy time on my own, but it is not a pressing need that must be met on a weekly basis! People often exclaim that they could never do what I do, and often say that being with their children all day would drive them crazy! But do they react in the same way to women who work full time?

I know from experience that what I do day in and day out, is a walk in the park compared to going out to work full time. I no longer rush around packing lunches, arranging child care, making sure the washing is out before 7am, rush in the door in the evening to put on dinner and to find that by the children's bed time I haven't spent so much as ten minutes with my children. I do not need to sit up into the small hours marking exams, writing reports or planning lessons as I did when I worked as a high school English and History teacher.

Back then no one ever insisted that I needed to get away, despite the fact that as a teacher I spent most of my day with children, exactly as I do now! No one looked at me with pity or incredulity because they couldn't imagine how I could possibly manage! After six years of astounded looks, and concern for my lack of "me time" I feel for women who work full time. Do people continually question their ability to cope with the obvious demands of a forty hour week, and caring for their home and family? Do people genuinely believe that what I do as a homeschooler is so much more challenging than full time employment that it warrants all the concern and worry? Why wasn't I overwhelmed with concerns for my welfare when I was teaching other people's children all day?

There simply can be no comparison between what I do all day, and what women who work full time do during their days. I do not need to rush in the morning, I have no deadlines except for arriving at archery on time one morning a week, and Mass on a Sunday. I am able to leisurely learn with my children, enjoy their company (yes it is possible!) and keep house at the same time, whilst in my pyjamas if I feel like it!

I have lived both realities, and I know which is easier. We may have less money, but we certainly have more than enough despite one modest income. We do not go without, and excepting a small mortgage, we have no debt. So where is the need for concern? I lead a blessed life which I wish more women could share in.
The only conclusion I can come to is that many dislike children so much that the thought that someone would gladly choose to teach their children at home is incomprehensible to them. One only has to reflect on how many people put off having children so that they can "have a life" as if a full life is impossible once one is "burdened" with children.

I find it indescribably sad that people would think that choosing to be with my children each day could be anything other than what it is. An incredibly privileged and joyful experience. My children are not a burden, and I most certainly do not need a break from them!

Sunday, July 3, 2011

A Little Different.

When I was growing up, there were two things about me that were different. The first being that I am an only child. Back in the 1970s and 80s this made me something of an oddity! The most common reaction I received was jealously! This was an emotion which I most definitely did not understand as I was desperate for a sibling.

The second thing was less talked about. I was born with a cleft lip and palate. Growing up I was painfully aware that I looked a little different from other children. I was teased on several occasions, but the worst I can remember was the rather dull offering of "fat lip" by a rather fat boy in sixth class! The main source of my discomfort was the knowledge that I did look different. When I thought about my appearance I wondered what people thought of me, and if they would like me despite my difference. Being of a naturally shy disposition didn't help my lack of self-esteem.

I was aware that I was somewhat lucky when compared with other children born with the same condition. My cleft is unilateral, rather than bilateral, and I had enough skin on my upper lip to form a not too thin top lip. The thing which gave me the most discomfort was the base of my nose which, like most with a cleft lip, is somewhat out of alignment!

The times I felt most different were when I looked at my pre-operation baby photos. It was a little confronting to remember that the unattractive baby in the photos was me! My parents wisely did not hide the photos from me, and answered all my questions. At the time I wasn't aware that there are countless children in poverty stricken countries who did not have access to the surgery that made me just like everyone else. Now I am acutely aware how fortunate I was to be born in a country were I had the opportunity to lead a totally normal life.

As a teen and young adult I did at times wonder if I was pretty enough for someone to really love me, but it wasn't something I ruminated on. The only other time I gave it much thought was during pregnancy when I breathed a slight of relief as the stenographer showed us our baby's fully formed lip!

So today when a lady at church nervously approached me to discuss my lip I was reminded of what it means to be born a little different. This lady has an adult son with a cleft lip and palate and she wanted to affirm and encourage me which was lovely! Her son had a more difficult time of it than me, as he had less bone in his upper jaw and was bullied more than myself. She also related the story of a man who approached her to ensure that she did not shun her son as he had been shunned by his parents, who were embarrassed by his appearance. When I hear stories like these I am reminded of my blessed I have been!

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

A Quote.

Saint Thomas More has always been one of my favourite saints. I remember learning about him as a teenager, and being in awe of his courage. This quote is so encouraging.

"The ordinary acts we practice everyday at home are of more importance to the soul than their simplicity might suggest."

Friday, May 13, 2011

The Long Goodbye.

Years before my Father died I had already begun to say goodbye. The day after James and I became engaged to be married, Dad, went into hospital for what was supposed to be a short stay for an operation to prepare him to once again begin kidney dialysis. Over four months later he came home. During his stay in hospital he was in intensive care for several days, and wasn't expected to live. He lost over 20 kilos, as a virus which the doctors could not control took hold of his body. When he eventually came home he looked like a World War II prisoner of war survivor! We knew then that every day was a gift. In my heart I knew that he would not be with us for a long time. So in a way, I had begun to say goodbye two years before he died of an aneurysm, four months before the birth of my first child.

Since that day there have been many little opportunities to say farewell. Such as when Mum sold Dad's beloved Scandalli piano accordion, or when the house in which he lost consciousness was sold, and even when I fed my son sourdough muffins Dad had made which I had frozen! These were days to remember, cry, laugh, and to whisper"goodbye" as the invisible threads were cut to the man I called Dad.

Today was one such day. Today Mum sold the building in which she and my father built a successful small business, Proudies Hot Bread. It was a rather emotional day for Mum and I, as so much of our lives have been connected to that place, and to the memories created within its walls.

After the hammer had fallen at the auction memories were shared about the 15 years she and my father were in business. Such as how one day Mum had received a call from my father in which he asked her to add up all the money they could get hold of, and to include what they might get for the tent under the house! He had been approached by the owner of Wally Gate's Supermarket, who was retiring and thought that perhaps my parents would be interesting in purchasing the building. They sold their house and the tent, and we lived in the little flat above the shop for a year before they were in a position to buy another house. During that year I can remember waking during the night to the sounds of clunking bread tins, machinery, and laughter!

The building became a backdrop to my childhood and early adulthood. I went to primary school in the same suburb, played with the neighbourhood children, and had my first job slicing endless loaves of bread! After my parents sold the business, I worked there for a year before beginning university.

Parents teach their children many things. One of the best things my father taught me was the value of living a considered life. He wasn't the type of sit back and just let life happen to him. Rather he decided what he wanted form life and put a plan into action to make it happen.

My dad knew about passion! His first love was bread making. There was nothing about bread he didn't know! He could talk about bread for HOURS! He was one of those blessed souls who loved getting up in the morning, or in his case the middle of the night, to go to work. For him it wasn't work. He would often say he was going to play!

Thirteen years after his death I still miss him terribly! But I see him in my eldest son who has the same body shape and seems to be developing the same wacky sense of humour. I often hear his voice when I open my mouth, like the time a few weeks ago when I couldn't resist annoying Bilby, who was not amused! "You're annoying. " he calmly said to which I replied, "Yeah, it's good isn't it!" before I stopped in my tracks as this was the exact thing Dad would say to me after an unsuccessful attempt to be funny!

Today was a day to say goodbye to the last physical *thing* that connected me to my father. It was a day to celebrate and to reminisce. It was also a day of hope. Hope that the faith we have in Christ will mean that we will meet again!

Friday, April 15, 2011

It's Autism Awareness Month.

April is Autism awareness month. It's a time to educate others about Autism Spectrum Disorders, and to celebrate the blessing that our children with an ASD are. At Roo's school they celebrated with Blue Day, where they dressed in blue, ate blue foods, made blue crafts and generally celebrated being autistic.

Some might find that last statement confronting. It seems to be an oxymoron. How can one celebrate having autism? Isn't autism a tragedy that would be best mourned rather than embraced? Autism as most know it today, can be celebrated. Our children have access to wonderful services which can greatly enhance their lives and those of their families. Certainly there is a time for mourning once a diagnosis of ASD is received, but after that it's time to focus on the positives. There are still many, many times when I look at Roo and feel a stab of disappointment that he isn't able to do the exact same things as other children his age. But increasingly those moments are becoming rare. He fills our lives with so much joy, laughter and opportunities for growth. Only a few short years ago I wondered if he would ever talk, now can chatter away with the best of them!

Autism is still a largely misunderstood diagnosis. If you asked people what ASD is, most would describe a child or adult who is non verbal, cannot make eye contact and has an intellectual disability. This is a totally inaccurate picture of ASD. Autism is a spectrum which has a great range of skills and abilities. To assume that people with autism are largely incapable of emotion, communication and generally living an independent fulfilling lives, is to see only a very narrow group of people who live with autism.

We have one son with Aspergers, and one with PDD-NOS (atypical autism) which essentially means that to most people who briefly meet our boys, they seem as *normal* as the next person. Spend a little more time with them and you would notice subtle differences. We see these differences as just that, differences not disabilities. Yes, those differences can present challenges, but they also have skills which the rest of us can only envy! Koala, who has Aspergers has a wonderful memory. This gives him a real advantage over his brother when it comes to studying! Many children with Autism will not lie, and they have a very clear sense of right and wrong, despite what others around them are doing.

If there is one thing I would wish for people to understand about Autism is that it is not a byword for stupid. On several occasions people have started to talk to Roo as if he were unable to understand much of anything. On two occasions people have held two fingers in front of my son and asked him how many, in a very condescending voice. This was at a time when he can count to 100!

So this April take a little time to learn about autism. If you can get hold of it, watch the movie about Temple Grandin, take a look at Tony Attwood's website, or even just smile, or offer a prayer for the next person you see in a supermarket whose child appears to be having a tantrum, because it could be that the child is having a sensory meltdown, NOT that he just needs stronger discipline.

No doubt there are several people within your circle who have an ASD. A little more understanding will go a long way to make those with autism and their families feel more comfortable and understood.

Homeschool Family Retreat.

A few hours ago we returned from our fourth visit to Fitzroy Falls for the Catholic Homeschool Retreat. Once again it was a wonderful week with daily Mass, confession, rosary, spiritual talks for adults and children, time for making friends, sports, and no cooking!

Below is a photo of the rosary procession with Bishop Porteous (who visited on Tuesday) carrying the Body of Our Lord.

Without fail I return from camp feeling spiritually refreshed and uplifted. One of the highlights for me are the spiritual talks for the parents, which are given by clergy while the children have their own spiritual sessions. It is a wonderful blessing to have such holy priests to encourage and teach us. This year we were blessed to have two such priests. Pictured below with Bilby is Fr. Joseph Mary.

In previous years Roo has not come to camp with us, but this year we thought he was ready. I was a little apprehensive about bringing him along. I was sure that he would be fine, but at another camp a few years Roo stationed himself in the laundry watching the tumble dryer go round and round. Unfortunately we noticed that he regressed a little once we returned home, so naturally I was a little worried. To help Roo, I took along some visuals and a schedule strip to place them upon so that he could see how the day would progress. I took along some stickers for good behaviour. Once he had collected five stickers, Roo received a chocolate which proved to be a great motivator. All this worked a treat as, Roo, had a fantastic time which was such a relief. He is certainly growing up, and fitting in beautifully with the other children.

The highlight for Roo was the mini athletics carnival. He loved the races, long jump, javelin and so forth. He even came home with the 5-6 years age championship and several other certificates!

So now it's back to the reality of family life with it's daily challenges, blessings and mundane routines. I feel very blessed to have had the opportunity to take time out with Our Lord to reflect, learn, and refuel. I am sure that the insights I have gained will serve myself and my family well in the months to come.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Too Slow!

This morning when I began to make porridge for Roo, he wanted me to hurry, so that he could join his brothers for breakfast on the verandah. I told him it would be about ten minutes before it would be ready to which he replied,

"Go for the short version of ten minutes."

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Liturgy Of The Hours Made Easy!

For several years I have had a desire to pray the Liturgy of the Hours, or Divine office. One of the things which held me back was how complicated it seemed: a four volume set of books, with lots of flipping between pages, and five offices to pray. Whenever I sat with others praying the Office I became somewhat confused and wondered how I could attempt it on my own without someone to walk me through it!

While again researching the LOTH (not to be confused with LOTR!) I came across this ipod app. Surely it couldn't be as easy as it seemed? No expensive books to buy, no hours of working out how to use the books and flipping from one section to another. Well it is that easy!

This morning I prayed Lauds for the first time, all in the correct order. I was even able to listen to the beautiful hymn for today's Morning Prayer. Very peaceful, and so easy to follow. I still intend to but the LOTH books, but for the moment this is a wonderful way to ease into it both financially and logistically.

So now I am feeling much more confident that we will be able to include several of the LOTH prayers in our schedule.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Eggs For The Poor.

For many years I have wanted to keep chickens, and for the boys to sell the excess eggs. I hadn't given much though to what we would do with the money, but it seemed like a nice idea to try at some point in the future. Well that point in the future has arrived. A few months ago we bought six hy-line brown chickens and a coop. Two or three chickens would have been enough for us, but I wanted to buy a few extra so we would have enough eggs to sell.

We decided to sell the excess eggs to members of our parish, and donate all of the money to Father Richard Ho Lung's Missionaries of the Poor, who do amazing work with the poorest of the poor in Jamaica, Philippines, Indonesia, and many other parts of the world.

Selling the eggs has been a great opportunity for Bilby, as he is learning how to approach people and tell them about what we are doing, how to handle money and give change, and how to care for the chickens who are laying their eggs for the poor.

Our fellow parishioners have been eager to buy our eggs, and make donations. When I attempted to give our parish priest a dozen eggs, he insisted that we take $10, and then enthusiastically told those listening all about the great work that Fr. Ho Lung is doing!

Today we are able to make our first donation of $125 to the MOP (Missionaries of the Poor) which is rather exciting for Bilby. It's not a lot, but every little bit helps. We've been looking at the MOP website, and seeing the children who we have been helping which makes it all the more real.