Words of Wisdom

Youth is wasted on the young.

Saturday, 29 October 2011

Dangerous Professions: Bullfighting, Lion Taming, Teaching

Slugger is not the only problem child I have to deal with.

This week, as well as being punched and kicked by the aforementioned little charmer, I was pegged in the head with a whiteboard eraser by WildBoy. You've got to admire his aim.

WildBoy had been my major concern up until the arrival of Slugger. WildBoy is 10 and, before the age of 1, was a victim of such terrible neglect and abuse that he has been left emotionally scarred, for life. He only attends school up until morning recess and, after clocking his teacher in the face with his pencil case back in May, has also been attended by a large, male, teaching aide. The purpose of this was to ensure that he could be safely removed from the classroom situation if he 'lost it' but I am happy to report that things have been progressing well with him and he has not caused me much concern, until Tuesday.

The thing is, lately we have been so preoccupied with Slugger that WildBoy almost seems normal in comparison. Unfortunately, he is a ticking bomb and it doesn't take much to set him off. You see, WildBoy believes that he is intrinsically 'bad' and doesn't deserve the good things that happen to him. He is in a constant state of 'fight or flight' and too often descends into 'fight'. WildBoy believes that no-one can possibly love him (after all his parents didn't) and therefore he might as well push you away as fast as he can, or give you a reason to reject him, so he can 'cut to the chase' as it were. In proving that you will indeed, inevitably, send him away, he confirms his own understanding of the world, which is comforting and affirming for him, in an unhealthy way.

I have been working with WildBoy once a week to try and establish some academic baselines so his mum can target his patchy learning at home. He has missed so much school and had so much focus on his behaviour, that his learning has fallen behind and, although a clever little boy, his lack of skill is now a source of enormous frustration to him. Our sessions have varied in both content and success but we have been making some progress in the Maths field. Last week I pushed him a little too far.

I knew I had bitten off more than he could chew when he started scribbling over things with a whiteboard marker...notably my hand. I stayed focused and kept encouraging him and we made it through the 20 minute activity by the skin of our teeth. I was quick to point out how he actually had been able to do it after all (albeit with a huge amount of prompting and support) and breezily got up to put things away before walking him down to meet his mum. As I stood with my back to him, trying valiantly to shove a folder back into the overcrowded resource cupboard, I felt the shock of a sharp pain through the back of my head. Spinning around I saw the offending whiteboard eraser on the floor at my feet and WildBoy standing whitefaced and mortifed at his own actions, some feet away.

I was so taken aback that I did all the things you're not supposed to do with ODD children. Firstly, I questioned him.
"Wildboy, did you throw that eraser at my head?"
No response; 'fight or flight?' was probably racing through his mind.
"I didn't appreciate it." I said, breaking yet another ODD behaviour management rule: don't communicate a value judgement.
He responded by throwing two large rubber dice up onto the top of the cupboard.
The adrenalin rapidly departing my system, I started to think clearly again and switched to jovial encouragement.
"Come on mate, mum's going to be waiting downstairs. Let's go and tell her how well you did on that maths game."
He raced to the door and physically blocked the way; I think he thought I was going to tell her what he'd done.
"Maaaaaate," I said, in my best impersonation of an Italian builder," You don't wanna go there do you? C'maaaaarn...."
This seemed to do the trick. He relaxed, smiled and looked at me suspiciously.
"Where'd you get that from?" he queried."I've heard that before."
Of course he has. It's what his foster dad does when he starts to get aggressive. He had given me the strategy on a previous occasion, when I asked how he handled the physicality, but I don't think WildBoy had ever heard it coming out of the mouth of a woman before. It was enough to defuse the tension and we made it safely out of the door and downstairs to mum.

On the way he was still 'sparking' so I asked him if he was feeling angry. On his positive response (an achievement in itself, being able to identify his own emotions), I suggested he kick the brick wall. He did so. Then I suggested he kick the tree. He did this too. Then I suggested he thump the stobie pole and that was enough to break his mood. He looked at the concrete ediface and then at his fist, decided against it and laughed up at me.
"You're silly Mrs A!" he announced, and raced off into the waiting car.

On reflection, I wonder if he hit me by accident. He may have been trying to throw the eraser up on top of the cupboard. There are large cushions up there and it may have simply slipped off and down onto my head. In fact, when I think about it, that would match up with the look of horror on his face. The thing was, I had pushed him too far too fast. I had made him feel unsuccessful and that is unsafe. Unsafe for him I mean. For WildBoy, unsafe expresses itself physically with random aggressive behaviour. In the past he has pulled posters down off walls and overturned the nearest thing when he perceives himself 'threatened'. Really, throwing things onto the cupboard was a pretty tame response.

His foster mum and I talk about him a lot. What will become of him? Will he ever be recovered enough to fit into society? He only attends school up until recess time because he can't be trusted in the playground and around the other kids. His life is rigidly controlled to create security but as a result he has no passions and no interests. He can't play team games because he is unco-ordinated and thumps other kids if they beat him to the ball. His fine motor skills are too poor to be a model maker or artist. He has played the drums but this didn't last long as he couldn't take instruction and the teacher gave up. And to add to the mix, just yesterday his mum told me they think he is Asperger's and, at ten, he is well into puberty.


But we'll keep battling on with him. He didn't ask to be the way he is and to have been treated the way he was. Somewhere out there in the world there is a purpose for him. I just have to make sure I don't rush him into it too fast.

image credit

Wednesday, 26 October 2011

Crafty Tuesday: The Bookshelf

There hasn't been much sewing going on recently; in fact, the main activity around my neck of the woods has been coughing and blowing my nose. :-( .
(I am the victim of the most persistent and debilitating 'flu at the moment).

However, during the recent school holidays I got a bit of crafty on, which I felt moved to share. (Yeah. Damn right I'm proud of myself!!!)

You see, one of the big money items on our Inheritance to-Do List, was the replacement of the flooring in our main living areas. On the first weekend of the holidays we saved ourselves $150.00 by moving all the furniture ourselves (what were we thinking???) and preparing for the arrival of the floormen. On the Tuesday that they were due, they arrived at 10:30am and had the audacity to announce that this was not a one day job. They proceeded to pull up the carpets, fill the house with dust and leave. Himself and I faced each other in a house with nowhere to sit, nowhere to eat and two days to wait for their return. >:-(

We decided to attack a bit of decorating whilst everything was in disarray so I hired a wallpaper steamer and we removed the cringeworthy 80s wallpaper frieze which has been bugging me since 2005 (see below):

Some of us were creative in our use of time.

Everything was going well until the steamer removed more than the wall paper.

These little patches actually doubled in size when I started my clean up ready for plastering! Himself was horrified and panic stricken until I told him I had patched bigger areas. I calmly set about rectifying the problem.

The floorers arrived a few days later and started work.

Our new gas heater proved problematic as the floorers couldn't get the carpet out from underneath.
"It's OK," quipped the gentleman, "we can leave it like this and then just kind of put a bit of beading around it....

Yeah, right! Like THAT was going to look OK!!!!
In the end we called the gas installer who came and UNinstalled the heater and then came back to reinstall once the floor was down.

Good job, I reckon.

So, here is my plastering:

And Himself's choice of new paint colour. Still not completely sold on that. Oh well.

Now this alcove is the point of this whole post but let's face it, if you've stayed with me this far you are obviously family, a renovator or incredibly loyal! (Or possibly all three...Unka Dick?)
There was previously a pretty utilitarian bookshelf occupying this alcove, the result of two households coming together in marriage with a plethora of disparate furniture*.

It is a mark of its ugliness that I have no other photos of it except as a backdrop to sewing!

Once the new floor was in, I couldn't bear to try and squeeze the totally inappropriate item back into the space and so I decided to stretch my carpentorial wings.
My Bestie had built bookshelves before so I called her in as an adviser. She recommended a simple plinth (only four screws required), then a trip to Bunnings for some pre-cut timber lengths to be supported on dowells.

Rather than a central support, she recommended a random allocation of uprights to prevent 'bowing'.

And here is the finished product!

And now, here is a gratuitous picture of Small Boy with his first batch of homemade pancakes.

And if that ain't enough craftiness for ya', click here to check out Carrie's 'Crafty Tuesday' at Barely Controlled Chaos, where you are bound to find something inspirational!

Saturday, 22 October 2011

Musical Crews: On My Word, Everyone Change Partners!

So, I promised I'd tell you about the launching and maiden voyage of 'Retaining Wall'.
(This of course is not the real name of his boat, but as far as I am concerned it is
'Retaining Wall').

Some background:

Himself sailed in Jester for about 5 years with No 2 Son as his crew.

This worked well as No 2 Son learned the skills of crewing and the vagaries of sailing and was, at the time, a nice, lightweight foil for Himself's rather generous proportions.

In 2009/10, No 2 Son moved on to crew with a very experienced female skipper and together they were runners-up for the state titles twice. Himself on the other hand, attempted to coerce Small Boy into crewing with him. After a promising start, Small Boy could not cope with the amount of yelling and ordering about endured by most crews, and handed out liberally by Himself; he lasted two races.That was the season I made my debut as ill-fated (and last resort) crew.

Last year, 2010/11 season, Himself got together with the nephew of one of the other sailors and had a good season, winning the Club Championship on handicap (always a bitter pill though) but, more importantly, gaining a trophy for 'Consistency'. We managed to frighten that young man off however, and at the end of the season he announced he was going to sail 420s as 'there are a lot more young people' sailing in that class. That, at least, was the reason he gave.

And so we come to the 2011/12 season.

As many of you will know, Himself deemed a new boat more important than a retaining wall, even though he had not yet found anyone to crew with him this year. No 2 Son and his lady skipper had finished up together at the end of last season but he was not a candidate because he is too heavy now to sail competitively with his dad. Himself's solution was to give No 2 Son the old boat, Bad Jester, so that he can learn to skipper, and once more try to coerce Small Boy into crewing on the new boat, Retaining Wall. Much to my surprise, Small Boy agreed, even going so far as to drive down to Victoria with Himself, to pick the new boat up.

No 2 Son thought he had a mate to crew for him but this fell through. Out of the blue, No 1 Son, whom we rarely see nowadays, expressed an interest in sailing with his brother. Now, not only has No 1 Son been previously reluctant to sail, but given the combative nature of their sibling relationship, I was surprised No 2 Son was even considering it. But, consider it he did.

So, to recap:

Retaining Wall:
Skipper: Himself
Attitude: Keen as mustard/highly competitive
Experience: lengthy and successful

Crew: Small Boy
Attitude: terrified and guilt ridden
Experience: nil

Bad Jester:
Skipper: No 2 Son
Attitude: nervous/insecure, but keen
Experience: virtually nil

Crew: Possibly No 1 Son
Attitude: doesn't like being told what to do
Experience: as above

Meanwhile, it transpired that Small Boy had a school friend who was also keen to learn to sail. His family had been into sailing, before the divorce, and he had never had an opportunity to actually learn, so when he heard that there were crew seats possibly still available, he was beside himself with excitement. The only problem was that this crew seat was with No 2 Son.

Now I don't talk too much about No 2 Son here as he has made it known that he does not like being plastered across the internet; but suffice to say that he is a rather intense young man with many Aspergery traits and a moderate case of dyspraxia to boot. Social skills and clear communication are not his forte and the idea of him trying to teach someone else (and a little kid at that!) to crew whilst learning to skipper himself was possibly the most convincing recipe for disaster that I have ever heard put forward! I communicated this to Himself who was gracious enough to acknowledge that it could be a problem. There did not seem to be an immediate answer to the dilemma and so as the first 'try out' race of the season approached, it seemed that FOSB (Friend of Small Boy) would be taking the crew's seat for No 2 Son.

With a stroke of providence from the Divine, No 2 son was struck down with a bad shoulder on the day of the trial race. This meant that Himself would take 'Retaining Wall' down to the beach, give FOSB a quick ride and then go out for the race with Small Boy whilst I, the inveterate non sailor, babysat FOSB on the shore.

That's FOSB looking keen in the red shorts. That's Small Boy looking like he can't get away fast enough to the right!

Himself was keen. He was really keen. He was so keen he wore silly sailing clothes.

As Himself was preparing the boat, Small Boy informed me in defiant tones, that he had hurt his leg and that no-one was listening to him and everyone thought he was faking but that his leg really hurt and he didn't know how he was going to sail with such a sore leg! A wave of inevitability washed over me and I brought the dilemma to Himself's attention.

Himself stormed around for a minute but quickly saw the immediate solution.
FOSB would crew for him in the trial race.

Look how excited he is!

To be fair, he initially got very excited about the idea, asking lots of questions and climbing enthusiastically into Small Boy's specialist gear. Small Boy stomped about, or rather limped about in an exaggerated fashion, with a brow like a thundercloud and the inevitable "No-one believes me.." echoing repeatedly from his lips...no mean feat considering the prominence of said lower lip.

Speaking of thunderclouds, as preparations were reaching a peak, the wind began to pick up.

The moment of Christening had arrived.

I grasped the champagne bottle and drew the cork.
"I christen thee Retaining Wall and God bless all who sail in thee..."
(thinks: ugh, maybe a few too many 'thees' in there....)

One of the other gentlemen approached me afterwards;
"That the first christening you've done then?"
"Uhhh, ye-es.." (thinks, 'where's he going with this..?')
"So how do you think it went?"
"Room for some improvement you think?"
Rats. I knew there were too many 'thees'.....

The gang began the process of getting the boat into the water.

All seemed to be under control so I turned my back, momentarily, to put something further up the beach. When I returned a few minutes later, all hell had broken loose.

Himself was standing in the water desperately holding Retaining Wall's nose in what was turning out to be an increasingly stiff breeze. FOSB was on the shore crying and holding his stomach. People were shouting things over the top of the mounting wind:
"Just give him a minute.."
"We're going to miss the start.."
"I'll...sob shudder...be...sob...alright in a minute..."
and of course the inevitable over-reaction from my beloved husband.


A few quick questions and it became apparent that FOSB had suddenly been stricken with stomach cramps. Helpful onlookers were making suggestions, Himself was ranting and FOSB was doubled over whimpering and insisting that he had to go out because Himself was relying on him. Small Boy was deathly quiet behind me.

After bellowing at Himself to stop over reacting and quickly assessing FOSB's discomfort, I suggested he dash quickly up to the club toilets, see if he could be sick or go to the toilet, and then come back. Himself then started up again about how they would miss the start and they didn't have time etc etc etc. One thing I have discovered about my Leo husband over the years, is that for all his bluster and volume, he can't take it in return!
"Does it matter if you miss the start? It's only a PRACTICE RACE for F***s sake!!!!"
"Well what's the point if you're not going to be competitive?"
"Do you really NEED ME TO TELL YOU THE POINT???????" I bellowed back. (Bear in mind that all this is taking place at a distance and over an ever increasing wind.)
Momentarily chastened, he shut up while I checked on FOSB again who was still crying and doubled over.
"What about you Small Boy?" I called to him, "do you think you can do it instead?"

Now, this was a gamble. I was pretty sure that Small Boy's 'strained leg' was every bit as real as FOSB's sudden cramps but I was also pretty sure that both of them had the same root source: anxiety! I was banking on the fact that Small Boy would rise to the challenge to help out his dad and sure enough, he did. With pretty bad grace I must admit, but at least he agreed and the two lads started exchanging clothing there on the water's edge, accompanied by groans of pain (from Small Boy, whenever he lifted his leg) and whimpers and moans from FOSB, which may or may not have been relief and gratitude. I encouraged Small Boy, hopeful of the possibility that given the urgency of the situation, he would not have time to think about his anxiety but would simply get in the boat and do that crew thing. I was not helped by Himself who, having recovered his bluster, began to bellow:
"HE IS DOING THE BEST HE CAN........PULL YOUR HEAD IN!!!!!!!!!" I defended 'our' little lad as he valiantly tried to pull on wet sailing gloves over sandy hands, between hard tears of terror.

Eventually, Himself and Small Boy were away, FOSB was sitting comfortably on the beach wacthing them go and I was standing, shaking my head over the drama of it all!
"Do you feel better now?" I enquired of FOSB.
"Oh yes thankyou."
"Do you think you just might have been nervous?"
"Oh yes, I think that's what it was. I vomited 5 times before I had to go in for my first taekwondo tournament!" he announced, chirpily.
It would have been nice to have known that in advance, I thought.*

FOSB and I retired to the club to have a lemonade and watch the race from the balcony. We hadn't been up there half an hour when we noticed someone coming back in. It was 'Retaining Wall' of course. The wind had picked up to 25 knots and the boat had taken off like a rocket. Himself of course was delighted but Small Boy was duly terrified and, to his credit, Himself had agreed to take him back in if he was frightened.
"Yea, but you'll be cross with me," Small Boy sobbed defiantly.
"No, I promise I won't; just say the word and we'll go back in. Nothing more said."
And he was as good as his word. He was just so excited by the acceleration of the new boat that everything else paled into insignificance.

The following week they couldn't sail because there was no wind. The weekend after that they sailed their first race and came third! Today is their second try and No 1 and 2 Sons make their debut as a team.

Can't wait to hear how that goes!

*It turns out, Himself had known that in advance. FOSB's mother had rung that morning to warn him of the lad's anxiety issues!!!!
"Did you not think that worth mentioning and discussing with me?" I asked him incredulously when he had informed me of this, later that day. He had no comeback.

Saturday, 8 October 2011

Spider Poop: myth or reality?

Why does no one in my family believe me? I will tell you why not! because none of them ever do any CLEANING!!!!!!

My husband and beloved sister have been laughing themselves silly over my random comment that I am less scared of spiders nowadays, I just hate the mess they make.
"Mess?" inquired Middle Sis, confused.
"Yes, webs everywhere, collecting dust, and all the spider crap on the skirting boards..."
Her hysteria was somewhat unkind I thought.
Disbelieving, she approached Himself.
"Sis says spiders crap everywhere. is this true?"
"WHAT?" exclaimed my ever supportive husband."Spider crap? Yea...right!"

I was nonplussed. Surely everyone is aware of the mess spiders make under an established web? Since the whole house was in uproar anyway, I located a small remaining pile (I have been cleaning a bit as we go) and called her over. Her deep belly laughs were NOT the response I had anticipated.
"That's not spider crap!!!" she guffawed.
(And how would she know anyway since she does not believe it exists!!?????)
"Of course it is, what else is it????" I protested.

She was unable to offer a plausible explanation for the effect but refused to be convinced that spiders do, in fact, crap!!!! I mean! They are LIVING ORGANISMS!!!!

Now, Himself and Sis keep making snide little comments whenever I am around.
Me: Where did I put the x?
Himself: I dunno, maybe it's near the 'spider crap'. (huge wink at Middle Sis)

So, I ask you blog world. Who out there believes in spider crap? Clap your hands if you do!!!!Exhibit A) the back of a shelf (which has been put back the wrong way around) which has been the recipient of some spider's excreta for some time it seems.....

Thursday, 6 October 2011

Bitterness and Bad Grace

I am only human right? And I work pretty hard, as does Himself, and we try to provide for everybody in this weird blended family. So will you forgive me if I have a really small minded bitch about the recent judgment against us by the Child Support Agency?

Small Boy's mother put in a claim against us as she feels that we are earning more than her and that she is entitled to some more of it. What she fails to recognise is that Himself and I bought a house, when we married, which would enable the children of three different partnerships (including hers) to live together, without living on top of each other. For this we pay steeply every month, approximately a third of our joint incomes. She on the other hand has a v nice house paid for by her parents, for which she pays no mortgage. She is also buying a new car soon. I wish I could afford a new car :-(
We are currently doing home renos, but they are much needed on the maintenance front and only affordable as a result of a windfall inheritance, most of which went to pay off credit cards and buy boats (OK I'm with her on THAT one). Currently we have not received a full pay for over 6 weeks because, due to the GFC, people are not paying their bills, so the rest of the inheritance is going on day to day living expenses.
The retaining wall is still collapsing. The pool filtration/chlorination system has given up the ghost. The gutters need repair if not complete replacement. The air conditioner is on borrowed time. It is just as well that the BA has transferred from extremely expensive Alma Mater to third of the price St Saviour's because that difference in income is about to go straight out again to Small Boy's mother. The same woman who buys him 'Bullet Storm'.

They have tripled our payments and we can't appeal until we have another tax return done.

Pardon me if I feel a bit bitter.

I hope she chokes on it.

That squeezing sound was us tightening our belts.

Tuesday, 4 October 2011

The Domino Effect

You know when you start something, how everything else just seems to follow inevitably, and unstoppably, in its wake? Well, that's right where we are at the moment.

I am typing this on Himself's laptop, which is atop a desk and a coffee table, standing in the kitchen eating area, next to the piano. None of which normally live in this room, I might add. The new flooring is arriving today!

With this exciting event imminent, I suggested removing the hideous , apricot/dusky pink wallpaper frieze that has been bugging me since we moved in over 5 years ago. Naturally this got designer husband thinking about colour schemes and so the whole catastrophe began expanding. Actually, it wasn't that much of a catastrophe, until the plaster started falling off. Himself was horrified. he hasn't done much home reno before. I assured him that I had patched bigger areas (although, to be fair, not up a ladder >:-(...) and so we soldiered on.

Anyway, he has finished double coating most of the front room, with the exception of the plastered areas; all of the front room/study furniture is jammed into the family room/kitchen and the floor men are due to arrive any minute. Looks like we will be painting the coving and plastered areas when the floors are in :-(...which was NOT the plan.

Oh, well. Once it is done, and we're back in situ, I'll update with photos. At the moment I think the connections for my camera are somewhere at the back of the family room which currently resembles The Room of Requirement.

Sunday, 2 October 2011

Crafty Tuesday: A Few Days Early

I have been sewing of late but it has been a long, drawn out project; not particularly well done. Himself set me the challenge of making some 'covers' for his 'foils'. I put off starting for ages as I was trying to think of what sort of material I would use; and then Himself came up with some old sleeping bags.
"These will work," he pronounced.
Personally, I think they will rot in no time but there you go, I have acquiesed to his wishes yet again.

So, here is the larger of the two 'foils', the centreboard, with its new cover:

I used a piece of material given to me by the Bestie's mum, when she was cleaning out her sewing room, to line it.

Here it is, part way in:

Here it is done up with velcro straps:

And here is the smaller one, aka the rudder:

I think they'll do the job but I don't think they'll last long given the salt, sea and sun that they'll be exposed to. Anyway, I've got a much better idea for next time!

It's called oyster mesh and rather than sew it, you tie it together with cable ties!

Crafty Tuesday is hosted by Carrie at Barely Controlled Chaos and by Tuesday, it will be worth clicking here to check out the other craftiness out there.