Saturday, 31 December 2011
Except that I need bi-carb. Only a teaspoon. But there is no familiar blue and white box in the baking shelf.
I examine the recipe. Can I substitute anything? No. I'm already using self raising flour.
Rats. I have to go to the supermarket for this most standard of store cupboard ingredients. Who can have used up the last of it? Who else bakes around here? Not Himself, that's for sure. He's a salads and curry man.
"*mutter mutter irritation* BA!! I have to go to the supermarket for some bicarb, do you need anything?"
"Wa? Ummmmnah..I donthinkso. What are you going for?"
"Bicarb, for the banana cake."
I stump off up the corridor to collect handbag and keys and, in typical Arizaphale fashion, become distracted by the pile of buttons on the coffee table. Hah! I'll take up the two buttons off the BA's new three button (supposedly) dress and find a suitable mate for them while I'm at the shops.
I stump back past the kitchen again and decide to cover up the baking ingredients while I'm gone. But wait. What is this on the benchtop? Could it be a blue and white box of bicarb????
Now I wonder where that came from?
"BA? WHERE DID THIS BICARB COME FROM??"
"errr.....I was using it to take off my fake tan."
Of course she was.
There was a bare teaspoon left for the recipe.
Result! Except that now she doesn't get her button.
Monday, 26 December 2011
At Christmas time, I wish I had a family who did things like this and this and this.
As a not so young mother, I spent many Christmases making ornaments and baking presents. I tried to involve the Baby Angel in this, but she's not much of a crafter and to be honest, was one of the few kids who didn't really enjoy cooking with mother! But when times were tight we painted coathangers for the family and I was able to utilise her drawings on Christmas cards (those were the days....when did I last send a Christmas card?). At all times I tried to teach her that Christmas was about thinking of others, making an effort, going that extra mile to find or make something that would bring a smile to their faces. In the manner of my own parents, I have never given money as a Christmas present.
All of this is why it is so difficult living in a step family where the traditions and values of the Christmas season exist at just about the opposite end of the spectrum to my own. I know I have banged on about this before so I won't repeat my rant, except to say that for the first time I experienced the BA's resentment at having to watch the others flaunt wads of cash when she had 'only' received gifts.
The Strange Scottish Girl ; who lifted our hearts, bringing a real feeling of Christmas into the house as she traveled back from Melbourne to be with us; held my hand and embraced me with encouragement and the reminder that the BA is a terrible teen with all that this entails; but that essentially she is good and will come back to the heart of things eventually.
She's right of course. I know this because of the gifts the BA bought for the boys. She had scowled around the shopping centre complaining vehemently that she didn't know what the older boys wanted (because they rarely communicate with us, apart from the occasional grunt, pseudo political rant or argument about doing dishes) and expressing resentment at buying them meaningless rubbish which they probably wouldn't appreciate. Instead, she proclaimed, she was thinking of buying them something from the TEAR catalogue, or from World Vision. And so she did.
I know I heard Himself exclaim in delight when he opened his 'School Supplies' gift. I'm not sure if the 'Water Sterilisation Kit' and 'Mozzie Net' got the same response from the older boys.
But I've got to hang onto the thought that she 'gets' the Christmas giving idea. Even if, for now, her own empty purse is her focus.
On a happier note, this year we actually got to play Christmas games! As a family!! (well except for Himself of course, who loathes games....unless he is guaranteed to win) I attribute this achievement solely to the SSG who brought a metaphorical whiff of Holly and Mistletoe to the house. The older boys may have mocked my Christmas music, lighted candles and strained efforts in the kitchen, but the SSG appreciated every last Northern European nuance. We played a new game called 'Get It Wrong To Win' which lured No 2 Son out of his 'Pit' to socialise.
Once we had him there, SSG worked her magic and, despite his loud protestations of ineptitude, convinced him to have a crack at charades! His rendition of 'Sonic the Hedgehog', complete with somersaults across the lounge room (!) were a complete delight. The SSG even had an impact on Christmas lunch as she prepared the gravy and cheese sauce and set the table with candles and glitter.
Which reminds me, glitter is a pretty powerful way to train a hungry young man to take care when transferring food from serving dish to his plate on the table! We have been on him for years about trying to be less messy at the table. Maybe this will work??
Don't know if you can see that but it's a glitter encrusted piece of turkey!
Christmas has other faces too. The family drama often rears its ugly head at Christmas time. We have come to realise that No 1 Son, whom we thought was doing ok, is in fact in the grip of a terrible addiction. His presence with us on Christmas morning left everyone feeling incredibly uncomfortable and worried and it was only later, after he took offence at something a stranger said to him at his Nanna's place at Christmas lunch and drove off at high speed (and with high levels of alcohol in his blood) that we were able to discuss the elephant in the room, as a family. Fortunately he made it home without hurting himself or anyone else, but he was scheduled to accompany Himself, Small Boy and No 2 Son on their annual trip interstate to sail in the Nationals. Of course he wasn't there at 4.15am when they were all set to go and when he did arrive he had brought waaay more than the small overnight bag he had been told to pack. There was much stomping around and culling of gear and then they were off, in the most obvious Travelling Disaster Show I have ever seen leave these premises (and there have been a few).
Yesterday Himself called to say they had experienced an awful night with him and after seeing the cramped and second rate accommodation in Sydney, they all knew it just wasn't going to work. Himself drove him 3 hours back down the road to Canberra and delivered him into his mother's arms. But not before she had phoned twice on route to change her mind and say she didn't want to take him.
I feel concerned for the combination of No 1 Son and his mother, but I also think Himself needed to protect the two younger boys. I am sure the whole situation is going to get worse before it gets better.
So back to Christmas!!
After a lovely time with the SSG and a Free Family on Boxing Day, we were again up in the wee small hours to take her up to a small town in the Adelaide Hills, to meet her 'ride'.
This is what all well dressed travellers wear at 5am.
The BA wasn't going to come with us, but she suddenly got an attack of the sentimentals and hopped into the car in her PJs and with her two fave 'cuddle rugs' (yes, still, at 16). Once we reached our destination she was thirsty and hungry and decided to check out the main street to see if there were any service stations open and serving. Needless to say there weren't.
And so her ride arrived and we farewelled that Strange Scottish Girl,
grateful for the 'great joy' she had brought us in our strange and dysfunctional family.
I gotta say, you meet some of the nicest people over the internet.
Season's Greetings one and all. Wishing you an upcoming Happy and prosperous New Year.
Sunday, 25 December 2011
We are blessed by the presence of the Strange Scottish Girl here with us for Christmas this year. Thank goodness! Another Christmasophile! Makes a change from the stepsons derisively mocking my carol CD/singing (or maybe it was just my singing?)
Saturday, 17 December 2011
I wonder if that gentleman kept this picture in his portfolio?
Seriously! I don't think that, even in the eighties, I would ever have inflicted this monstrosity upon a male friend. Tellingly, the blurb at the front of the pattern collection says:
'Not forgotten are knits for men- you'll want to steal them for yourself...'
I would venture to suggest that any knit for a man that you wanted to steal for yourself was probably not suitable for a man. So what do you think readers? Am I being too harsh?
My friend Elisa and I have talked about the issue of teenage drinking on more than one occasion. Almost exactly a year ago, the BA was wanting to go to a local beach with her friends for New Year's Eve fireworks and carousing. There was discussion of alcohol. At the time she was 15 and there was no WAY I was condoning any bending of the no-drinking rules. The event passed without incident and I breathed a sigh of relief.
In May of this year (was it only this year???), the Formal and it's 'after party' reared its ugly head. For a brief moment I considered hosting the after party, providing a DJ, putting up lights and a dance floor, making party pies and sausage rolls.......
Then came the question of alcohol.
I thought my immediate 'no' response would be that of any sane parent but I was sadly mistaken. Tales of the previous year's after party complete with security guards, a cloak room for checking in bags so nothing could be smuggled in, fending off gate crashers, and wrist bands entitling the guests to 2 alcoholic drinks, changed the way I viewed the world. Such parties did not occur in my day!!
At a meeting with the girls organising the event, I explained that I would provide everything they needed for a party except alcohol. They thanked me for my interest and found another parent who would!
In the angst and stress that went with this whole experience, I read up on a whole lot of legal information and was surprised to find this:
Where can a minor legally drink alcohol?*
- At their own home or someone else's - regardless of whether an adult legal guardian or spouse is present.
- In public places that are neither licensed premises, regulated premises nor dry areas (e.g. a family barbecue in a public area such as a park) provided they are in the company of an adult legal guardian or spouse.
Where can a minor NOT legally drink alcohol?*
- In regulated premises including licensed premises (e.g. a restaurant, hotel, premises with a limited licence or reception centre) - a minor may be present at these venues (before midnight, or before 9.00 p.m. at premises with an entertainment venue licence), but may not buy or drink alcohol.
- In a public place unless in the company of an adult legal guardian or spouse.
*These explanations for where a minor can and cannot legally drink alcohol also include possession of alcohol.
It is illegal for anyone, regardless of age, to drink alcohol in non-licensed regulated premises, such as a public hall, shop, vehicle or vessel, and other specified premises such as dry areas. Therefore, the only additional restrictions on minors are that they are not allowed to drink in licensed premises, or unaccompanied in a public place.
In summary, minors:
- can consume alcohol provided it is not in a public place or regulated premises
- can consume alcohol in a public place under the supervision of an adult legal guardian or spouse provided that it is not a dry area, regulated premises or in or near to prescribed entertainment such as a dance
- can generally be on licensed premises before midnight (before 9.00 p.m. in an entertainment venue) but cannot obtain or consume alcohol
- are not allowed in areas of licensed premises declared out of bounds to minors, or in gaming areas
- are not allowed on licensed premises between the hours of midnight and 5.00 a.m. unless in a designated dining area, a bedroom or an area approved for minors
- If at the clubrooms, a football coach gives the team some beers to celebrate a win, and some of the team are under 18, that is an offence (supplying liquor to a minor in regulated premises, section 110 & 114 of the Act). However, it would not be illegal for the coach to invite the team to his home for drinks.
- At a wedding reception held in a licensed restaurant, a hotel, a wedding reception centre or public hall, it is illegal if a minor drinks a toast containing alcohol to the bride and groom (selling/supplying alcohol to minors, sections 110 & 114 of the Act).
In July of this year, someone tried to do something about it: but as far as I know there has been no change to the law.
The BA is going to continue to be confronted with opportunities to drink to excess. In a recent conversation I pointed out to her, "It is not about me trying to control you, it is about you remaining in control of yourself."
Monday, 12 December 2011
This book totally cracks me up
This is the first one that got to me.
This one was a close second!
But there was more!
This one is a jam jar cover, covered with bugs!!
And how much would I love to send these out for Christmas this year???
Happy Crafty Tuesday everyone. I haven't actually made anything since the infamous 'formal dress' episode, but I thought you might get a laugh out of these.....click over to Carrie to see what everyone else has to share.
Friday, 9 December 2011
(remind me never to sew with stretch satin again. Hit me if I even suggest it, and perhaps point me at this post. >:-(.......)
These two have known each other since 2003 when, praise God, the BFF's family moved in across the road from us in Happy Valley (no, that is a real suburb!). We had just arrived from the UK in the January, knowing no-one, and my poor BA had been suffering from leaving a very large and tight knit group of friends in the UK. She had made a few school friends, but no-one that really resonated, until the BFF moved in. What an amazing blessing.
The redhead on the right was the school friend that we have not seen since 2005, the BFF is on the left.
Even though BFF is 14 months older, the two hit it off like the proverbial house on fire. Dress-ups were the theme of the day
developing as the years passed
and it appears dress ups are still the fave game.
So for this Formal, the BA was the date of BFF's twin brother. That's him there on the right.
Aaaaaaand, there on the right again.....
My how time flies!
To be honest, I think the girls had the best night dancing together!! High School Formals are like that :-)
I have learned a lot from this one and I think the BA has too.
Lesson 1: Hair
The hair that looks good in a photo does not necessarily suit you. The back was pretty but she didn't like the front.
Lesson 2: Make-up
More is not necessarily better. Don't let the make-up wear you.
(note to self: make up short course as a Christmas present)
Never sew with stretch satin unless you are a whizz or have done some kind of a course.......
Picking up 16 year olds early from 'after parties' is definitely a good idea.......especially when you see young men helping themselves to two large bottles of vodka on the breakfast bar whilst you wait for your baby!!!!!:-(
On that note, I am fast reconciling myself to the fact that my area of expertise is younger children. In the warzone that is teen parenting, I find myself constantly a victim of 'friendly fire'.
Tonight, for some reason, I looked back over some unfinished (there have been many) posts from this last 18 months, and I found this:
85% Proof Parenting
"So Mum, if I were at a wedding, would you let me have a Breezer?" With this one question, innocuously asked after a visit with her father to an interstate cousin's wedding , the BA moved me deftly into the 'mega-hard, rethink your whole peace of mind', advanced section of the parenting course. Not for Sissies. I don't even know why I am making light of this. Except that of course I do. We make light of all difficult things in life in order to convince ourselves that they are less serious than they seem. Like Harry Potter we shout 'Riddikulus' at the boggart in the trunk, in the hopes that it will vanish into a puff of triviality and distress us no further. Of course, it's not going to happen. Having kept the spectre of the 'difficult teen years' at bay until now I am fully aware that I am about to be engulfed in the floodwaters. Back in July when La Jeune Fille was here, we had our first minor brush with the question of alcohol. The two of them had been invited to an 'end of exchange' party to be held at the home of one of the Year 11 girls who had had an exchange student. I didn't think twice about saying yes. It was a school function, at a parent's house....what could be simpler? Of course the BA returned full of excitement because alcohol had been provided by the parents and several members of the party had got 'very drunk'. She assured me she hadn't had anything and didn't appear anything other than her normal lovely self, but I noticed La JF slink off to bed
I am glad I didn't finish that post because it was going to rant on about the irresponsible parents who provide alcohol to under age children at parties. I am far less self righteous nowadays.
I also found this:
Formal: Part Two
A busy, and sometimes traumatic month down the track and I thought I would fill you in on the lead up to, and the second part of, the BA's Formal Adventure. I don't know how much you guys know about 'after parties'. In my day I don't think we called them 'after parties', I think they were called 'Join us for coffee and cake after the Formal'...usually on an invitation. Nevertheless, 'after parties' is what they're called now! I had a small idea about the phenomona from our own school formal last year, where I attended as a staff member. At the end of what was, let's face it, a pretty tame evening, there was a great buzz of excitement and much phoning and texting as pupils regrouped for the whispered 'after party'. Later, I was able to see from facebook photos that it involved a tent, apparently some music and, undoubtably, some alcohol. A little investigation revealed that this was a common event in school life today. The schools tend to cover their ears and go 'LA LA LA LA LA' as the parents organise the events and, apparently, often provide the alcohol. Well, some parents at some schools, I rather archly and naively snorted in my head. Or maybe it was out loud? Sometimes that happens.
Again, I failed to finish my sanctimonious post about the weakness of some parents. (although it was a good story and I should probably tell you sometime...)
Well tonight I sighed and drove my daughter home knowing full well that the no alcohol policy had been breached and all I said to her was 'I'm very disappointed'.
In retrospect, any stance I had on the issue shuddered majorly in its housings after that Halloween party where she went dressed as Cleopatra. Later in the week I saw photos on one of her friend's facebook sites, showing her clearly standing with a bottle of some sort of hideous blue alco-pop in her hand. I texted her that if she wanted to be allowed to go out with her friends, she needed to tell them not to post incriminating photos. I did not apply any other consequence.
Actually, the real crack in my fortifications, come to think of it, occurred at her own after party (the one that was the subject of the previous unfinished post) when she informed me (I was a chaperone) that she was going to have the two 'drinks' her entrance ticket entitled her to. I made a spot decision not to 'make a scene' and the two UDL cans were duly drunk, happy dancing ensued and she came away cheerful and satisfied.
So here I am, at this stage of her/our life. My innate parent sense tells me it is only going to get worse. What to do?
1) I could totally ban her from attending all social events where alcohol is supplied
(and they are MANY)
2) I can set acceptable limits and lower the boom gate when these are breached.
The only trouble is, I am wrestling with what the acceptable limits are. I thought I knew, I thought I held them securely in my hand. Now, in the reality of the situation, I feel their organic writhings and their nasty, sharp teeth.
Monday, 5 December 2011
So let's start with Slugger.
It had to happen I guess. We were up against too much: too much water under the bridge; too many mistakes; too much playing catch-up. Two weeks ago the principal delivered the news to Slugger's mother. He would need a 'fresh start' next year.
She was stunned. She had not seen it coming. She had to ask what he meant. It was awful to watch.
She ran out of the meeting in tears, followed by her family advocate, an eminently sensible woman with plenty of experience in working with autism. It has taken a week but she is now able to talk civilly to us and hopefully we can manage his transition to the local public school smoothly.
So how do I feel about this? Sad. Defeated. I mean, I hate failure. We tried so hard in the last weeks but it was all about shutting the gate after the horse had bolted. The Boss approached me a day or so before the axe fell; I had already surmised that the decision had been made.
"I know you're not in favour of this" he began, but I stopped him.
"No, no, it's got nothing to do with whether I'm in favour of it," I explained,"I'm not happy about it, but I can see that we don't really have a choice. We don't have the support of the community and without that we are pushing it uphill."
Even this week, as we have seen more improvement in his behaviour and the whole atmosphere in my room has become less volatile, it has only taken little things to remind us that we still have a huge way to go: a letter from a parent complaining that he had 'chased' her child (????his minder had been with him every minute of playtime and could recall nothing threatening or violent. Possibly he had seen the other child run away from him and taken off in pursuit, laughing and sublime in his innocence and ignorance? It is all a game to him.); an aggressive request for another adult to 'go away' when he perceived his comfortable two person bubble had been 'invaded', followed by slapping at his minder when he supported the other adult's right to observe.
We have stabilised him. He can operate quite well in the structure of my room with the 1:1 support of his minder. We have developed a more appropriate style of activity to keep him engaged; shortened the sessions, kept things multi-sensory and particularly, tactile. We have used the visual timetable system, introduced him to red and green choices and closely monitored his interactions with other children in order to prevent social misunderstandings.
And he has responded.
But the funding is running out. He cannot be reintroduced to a classroom 'cold', the attitude of the other children and parents is way too negative, and it wouldn't be fair on him anyway. These things need to be built up gradually and we just don't have time.
Hopefully, in a new setting, without the 'labels' that he has acquired through his extreme behaviour at our school, he has a better chance. We will work with the new school to smooth the transition and hope that the greater resource pool in the state system can provide him with the continued 1:1 support he requires.
It still breaks my heart that we couldn't 'turn it around'.
The rest of the last two weeks has been spent in the ridiculous business of making a dress for the BA's next Formal dance. What was I thinking? What did I save? What of my sanity?
Here is the finished product as best I could manage it. I am not happy with some of the puckered seams but these are waaaaaaaay better than my first attempts with the overlocker which resulted in me throwing away the front of the dress and buying new material (it's a looooong story). The problem was the stretchy fabric. I thought overlockers were designed to cope with stretch, but I obviously have a lot to learn. Here is the back. The drapes are a soft, grey chiffon and look quite lovely on, although they look like nothing here.
This is the train which she really likes.
And this is the gal in question, fresh from having seen the new Twilight movie with her mother. We were on a bit of a high afterwards, hence her rather 'out there' pose!
The Formal is this Thursday so I'll get some photos of her when she's all 'done up'. I think the dress will be ok. The puckering kind of stretches out when she has it on, and bits of it fit her like a glove, which is somewhat disconcerting considering I remember when she looked like this:
In between all of this we have been spending as much time as we can with my dad who is here for just three weeks. He's been playing golf and catching up with friends and tomorrow night we're all off to the BA's End of Year Mass at St Saviour's. Her dad and step mum are flying in from Sydney for the night and we are looking forward to putting 2011, with all it's school related traumas, to rest.
Facebook is her addiction and, as I have insisted that I must be a friend if she wants to have access to the internet, she is quick to discourage me from making my online presence felt.
BA: Mum! Did you comment* on my friend's page???? (*withering)
Me: Errrrrrr.... Yes.
BA: DON'T comment. She might not like it when you comment.
Me: She likes it when I comment, she says I'm a crack up!
BA: No, mum, you're not funny. No one thinks you're funny!
Me: No, YOU don't think I'm funny. Everyone ELSE thinks I'm funny!!!!!
BA: Just...........don't.......mum. (imagine the 'don't', liberally dripping with contempt)
But regardless, I've got to tell you about her because I lurrrve her so much and it's really hard to keep that love and pride under wraps! Even though she would prefer I did.
Over the last year, the BA and a group of teens from our church were involved in a discipleship journey culminating in a trip to Vanuatu.
After the visit of Frog girl last year, the BA had desperately wanted to be involved in an exchange trip to France. At $5000 minimum and a questionable attitude (from the organisers) towards the objectives of the exchange, I informed the BA that she did not have a snowball's chance of being involved. Fortunately, at the same time as this was up for discussion, our pastor and youth minster decided that it would be a worthwhile venture to take the teens of our church to Vanuatu to see how other people in the world live . And guess what the second language of Vanuatu is? Yup. French!
It seemed the answer to a prayer. Although I felt bad about not being able to afford sending the BA on a European exchange, I also felt affronted at the nature of said exchange. The Frog Girl and her mates spent, maybe, 4 days in our school. The rest of the time was spent swanning about the state on sightseeing trips with...other French people! Now in my day, the Rotary Exchange students spent a year at the school taking part in all the classes and other extra curricula activities. My own, defining, relationship with a Rotary Exchange student in 1977 emerged during his involvement in our joint schools drama production. The students were immersed in the culture and their only contact with other exchange students occurred during the school holiday trip to the Red Centre. A far cry from our experience with Frog Girl.
Happily, the BA decided that the Vanuatu option was an acceptable alternative. She knew that she was going to have to raise a significant portion of the funds, as we were under pressure financially, but she was undeterred. She threw herself into the fund raising effort. She worked at MacDonalds and banked significant portions of her income. She worked in the sausage sizzle stall at the Lion's Mart on weekends. She manned a stall at the church fund raising fair. Her dad and grandad threw in contributions towards the end of the process; but I am proud of the fact that she raised well over half the money she needed for the trip (unlike others).
The kids were involved in a full-on discipleship journey over the year preceding the trip. They did retreats and wrote reflections. Their work at the Lion's Mart raised funds for the kids in the group who couldn't totally afford the trip. They were asked to 'present' to the church and build relationships within the group. They learned the language and culture of their destination and modified their thinking in deference to another set of values. In the week before they left, they compressed their lives into a backpack and collected clothing which would be suitable for the cultural context of their trip.
In July we gathered at the airport to see them off.
They would be away for three weeks and for most of that time they would be out of electronic contact (like the old days).
They would spend a week in a village where the most technological item in town was the pit toilet.
I think I am safe in reporting that the excitement was tangible.
For the first time in many years I felt the stretch of the umbilical cord. I am used to sending the BA off to her dad every holiday but this trip had the added element of NO communication. I was ok to begin with, but after two weeks I moved a special picture of her from my chest of drawers, onto my bedside table. Such a brave mummy.
Just before their return, the pastor called me from Port Vila. He needed to tell me of an 'incident' involving the BA. My imagination ran wild. What had she DONE???? As it turned out, she had been guilty of nothing but naivety, and had been VERY lucky to escape intact. God was watching over her that day, as she allowed her outgoing and confident personality to take her into a situation that could have ended very badly. Of course, after the initial shock had worn off she was inclined to minimise the event, to the extent that the adults present wondered if she had learned anything from the incident. On her return, however, after her recount, we acknowledged together what a lucky girl she had been and did some grieving.
I can only try to imagine the anguish of parents who have lost children on the other side of the world. I dd not lose my child. I can only thank God; from the story she told me, the possibility seemed to have been very real.
But all this aside she LOVED being in Vanuatu. She loved the people, she loved the way of life and she loved interacting with the children. Currently, her main aim in life seems to be 'aid work' in under developed countries.
A week ago we had a 'Graduation' ceremony for the teens who had been involved in the trip.
They donned the garb of the place and their excitement in sharing with us was palpable.
Some parents expressed disappointment that 'nothing had changed' with their teen.
I say to them, 'just wait', nothing this impactful goes unnoticed.
And here is the group singing the famous welcome song for the island .....
Meanwhile, in a complete contrast, back in the 'real' world, the BA heads off to a costume party as Cleopatra.
And her mother has to pick her up from the other side of town at midnight.
Footnote* Hey SSG! You would be very proud of the way I have edited this post. there were so many things I could have said!!!!!!