Thursday, January 29, 2015

On Motherhood.....

Before I had children,  during the rare moments when I even bothered to contemplate motherhood, I knew that I would be a good mother.  I also knew that I would have exceptional children because I would raise them well.  And that I wanted to become a mother to show my children the best of what the world has to offer.

I even thought I would terminate a pregnancy if the child were shown to be seriously mentally handicapped because I was so sure that my gifts of motherhood would be sharing superior intellectual pursuits.  (I also assumed God wouldn't really give me a less than perfect child anyway.)


Okay, I worried when Matthew - the twin with the fetal heart murmur - had a 1 in 8 chance of Down Syndrome.  But it was more about how hard it would be to deal with.  I never thought about termination.  And when the results for Ian showed high possibility as well, I was the one who explained to the technician that the risks were actually lower than the risks for my age at the time and that it was lower than Matthew's determined risk had been and that, after three miscarriages, I didn't care what my child might or might not have, I wanted that child.

As for sharing superior intellectual pursuits.  I've told you about the rock collecting, right?  And Ian's exceptional ability to mimic automatic weapons.

The child I have learned the most from is the one who DOES have a diagnosed disability.  Her disability is mild, barely noticeable, something I have intentionally not mentioned to her trainer.  It is more about not easily fitting into the mold, about being different, about refusing to be what other people expect. 

Through Ryan, I am meeting amazing young women who have an innate sense of who they are and why they are here.  I am inspired to learn from them and humbled that they feel I have anything to offer them.  Through Ryan, I am entering a world of excellence, where obsession becomes passion and passion becomes talent.  And where she is comfortable just being who she is.

The two young ladies I mention aren't even horsey ladies.  Now that Ryan has Bug, and is able to pursue her passion without limits, she is more comfortable involving herself in other activities as well.  Her soul is at peace and can now expand itself. 

Not that it has to really. 

I always knew I would have exceptional children.

I just never imagined they would be the ones showing me what the world REALLY has to offer!


Wednesday, January 28, 2015

How DOES My Garden Grow?

But you don't want to hear about me.

The kids are doing great.

Ian.  Two years ago!

Ian, at the age of 3, looks like a 4 to 5 year old.  And has the verbal capacity to clearly explain to other 4 and 5 year olds that he is (and I quote!) "going on four."  Which is only a problem because he is closer to 3 than 4,  has problems sharing and is still in a diaper.  We're not sure whether to be impressed with his intellect or to despair over the toileting issues.  He is not only my only child to teach himself the alphabet as a two year old, and to learn all the letter sounds at three, but the only one who can simulate an automatic weapon firing and name various types of pistols.    He also does a mean hip- hop dance and plays soccer with the eight year olds but won't participate at music time for pre-schoolers and has a tantrum when asked to join organised activities.  I give up.

The twins have started Year 4.  Matthew finally got the (digital) piano he has been asking for and began formal lessons this afternoon.  He is our special kid, kind and sincere.  And most likely on the spectrum but doing really well, despite - or because, of it.

Aidan and Matthew.  Also two years ago.  Imagine them taller!

His twin, Aidan, is the one person in our family who we can without a doubt say is not on the spectrum.  We aren't quite sure what to do with him.  He is a man's man, a bloke, and it kind of scares me.  Although he also likes collecting rocks and got a rock collection for Christmas.  So maybe there is hope for him yet.

Andrew is, and always has been, our wonder child.  He breezed through the Year 7 Engineering Excellence program still hardly applying himself (something which frustrated his teachers) and spent his free time playing handball or soccer instead of joining the science and maths clubs.  His passion remains soccer and I stopped telling him to look for other options - just in case his knee blows when he is 25 - when he told me that engineers could design weapons of mass destruction for the military.  Yes they can dear.  Shut up and practise your shots on goal!

Andrew.  Has since outgrown bike.

Ryan has blossomed.  From being my trouble child, she is now my friend and guide.  She has just started Year 9 at The Brisbane School of Distance Education and is thriving there.  Last year, she received a merit award for English.  She is accountable for her own education and maintained a B average last year.  This year I hope she learns to put some effort in outside of online classroom hours.  She is still dancing with Soul Dance.  And she has Bug.

We bought Bug, a 16 H, chestnut, 5 year old Thoroughbred gelding, last August.  Bug is proof that good things do find you at the right time, but also that you may have to work for them.  Bug is worth way more than we could ever have afforded for Ryan - and when his owner also threw in his bridle, two rugs and offered to deliver him to us on top of it - it really was the universe finding the right family at the right time.

Two years ago.  But horse actually on the bit!

He is SO beautiful!  And trained to a much higher level than we'd ever expected to find in our price range.  Thank you, Bec! 

Bug changed our lives.  He is the reason we moved from Narangba to Dayboro.  And the reason Ryan has learned to work a horse in frame instead of just sit on a horse and ride.  Funny enough, Bug, if you hadn't decided to give us trouble and start rearing just to test our determination, well, then we probably would have tried to save money on training and just ridden you on trails and in pony club.  And by "we" I mean Ryan since no one else in our family has the skills to ride you.

Through Bug we met Robert and through Robert a whole group of enthusiastic horse people who are happy to work with Ryan rather than threatened by and jealous of her enthusiasm and talent.  At Robert's place- where Bug spent much of the month of December - Bug, our big flashy chestnut Thoroughbred, became "that little chestnut" compared to Robert's big, 17 H Warmbloods.  And, although Robert now admits that little chestnut did give him a run for his money, we now have four feet on the ground and a trainer who only lives 7 minutes away by car.  And keeps trying to get Ryan to choose show jumping or eventing over dressage.  Baby steps, aye Robert.  We just got this horse ON the ground!

Well, at least ONE of us is a proper Aussie!
Oh dear.  Not only does this sound like one of those Christmas cards I used to spoof (did I tell you about the new house has a media room?!) but I spent more time writing about the horse than about my children.  But for the last few years I have been hiding how hard it has been - financially and work wise and socially and emotionally.  Sure, I complained about Ryan and school, but I wasn't honest about how much we've struggled to understand this place and to find our place within it. 

Only other migrants to Australia - and perhaps especially to Queensland - will understand this.  After four years I can admit that I get angry at the lack of a work ethic and the lack of a value for education and knowledge, that I see around me. (What's really annoying is that, until now, the standard of living here is amazing WITHOUT work and education!) But I can also say that there are Australians - even Queenslanders! - who have the same work ethic and educational standards and life expectations that I have and I am able to surround myself with them instead of trying to understand the others.

I have hidden the struggle, but I've also hidden the successes.  My kids rocked the National Tests - all my kids - and this year we even learned what that triangle on top of the range of scores is for.  The kids that exceed expectations so much for that year level that they don't know where to put them.  Andrew also rocked the International tests in maths and science.  Ryan received a Merit Award for English, which is really nice since the other three tend to be holding down the maths and sciences.

And we also know other families whose kids are equally successful.

We work hard for those successes and we shouldn't have to be ashamed of them.  "Tall poppy syndrome" was supposed to cut down arrogance, but is has become a way to encourage mediocrity.   Why shouldn't my kids do well at school?  Why shouldn't they succeed in their extracurricular activities?  They work hard at them.  Many Dayboro residents - especially those poor souls on our street - know that Ryan rides Bug nearly every morning, before 7 am, at the Showgrounds.  And have seen her doing hills around town - with me on foot.  Matthew plays the piano every day, multiple times a day.  Andrew practises soccer with mates down at the Footy Field.  And Aidan....collects rocks.  Really nice ones too!

And so, yes, thanks for asking.  We've had some struggles.  Way too many struggles in fact and lots of despair.  2014 sucked.  It was probably the worst single year I have ever had.  And that is saying a lot considering what I felt like in Germany. 

All I remember of the bad times is slogging through it and keeping going for the kids, struggling hard so that at least the kids were okay, so that the kids didn't suffer for our bad choices, our rotten luck and/or our personal failings.

So that now, when things are finally looking up, I shouldn't have to apologise for my successes.  I have often felt, in the past year, that I had nothing to show for my life.  I haven't published a book, had a brilliant veterinary career, I don't garden or sew or paint or sing.  What do I do?  What do I contribute to society, what do I create?

You should see her two years later!

I am in the process of creating five productive lives, five positive, happy, healthy, bright, eager and interested human beings. 

And they, in turn, are in the process of creating me!

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Tolstoy, Tarot and Speaking in Tongues

January 2013.
Has it really only been six weeks since the summer holidays began (and ended)?

2014 went by in a haze of exhaustion/depression/anxiety/hypothyroidism/anemia and mental illness.  Not necessarily mine, for once.  What DOES happen when a person whose mental condition requires truth collides with one whose mental condition exists on lies and manipulation?  It is a Stephen King "what if" scenario: Autistic Spectrum Disorder meets Narcissistic Personality Disorder.  Thank you to Dee for recognising the second disorder when I described it so that I was able to educate myself and understand at least part of what was happening to me.

One pub, four churches, a butcher, a baker and lots of vintage/retro shops later, Dayboro is the haven I have been searching for. 

Couldn't find it in a bottle; the St. John's Wort only stifled the symptoms.  Giving my red blood cells the iron they were begging for helped some, as did finally giving my metabolism some thyroxine to run on.  And yeah, I am still relying on those B12 injections to keep me running.

I'm still tired a lot of the time.  But now I'm mellow and happy and tired instead of stressed out and anxious and tired. 

And that's a start!
December 2012.  Flat tire in Beerburrum.

Damon and I took the kids to our annual Christmas nativity church service again this year.  Only this time the church didn't tell us that we were sinners for not believing the same way they did, or rant about Israeli and U.S. politics or simply bore us to death.  (Which is what has happened the last three years at the Hip-Hop Christmas Carol, the Uniting Church of Australia and the Catholic Church, respectively.)  This year, Pastor Gary spoke about unwrapping our Gift.  And then we prayed for rain.

Six rain-drenched weeks later, I've mentioned to Gary that we might let God know that we're good on the rain now.   

Six weeks later, I feel as if I am emerging from a life-affirming hibernation.  We've only left Dayboro to go to the amusement parks on the Gold Coast.  And I really don't ever want to leave it at all.

But school started yesterday.  And the old problems are cropping up already, like weeds after six weeks of rain.  (Sorry.  Had to be said!)

December 2012.  Flat tire somewhere else.
I can handle the schedule.  Until Saturday at least.  On Saturday, January 31, 2015 Ryan and I have dance practise from 8:30 - 10:00 in Old Petrie Town.  Andrew's soccer sign -ons are at Redcliffe until 12:00.  (The twins have been signed up online for Murrumba Downs or else we would have to do BOTH clubs in one morning.)  The Year 4 class at Kurwongbah is in charge of the Election Day Sausage Sizzle/Bake sale which I should be able to help at from 1:00 -2:00 before helping distribute some fliers for the Greens Party until 4:00 because Damon and I  are due at  Kobble Creek at 5:45pm.  This Saturday.  Which I just realise is going to have to start at 5:00 am because Ryan needs to work Bug before dance class.

The tarot cards I bought on December 12 told me I would be travelling, but I had hoped they meant it spiritually or emotionally.  Or at least meant a trip to the Pacific Islands!

No, Pastor Gary would NOT be happy about the tarot cards.  Although, funny enough, they were the things that pointed me towards going to church.  I also FINALLY read War and Peace around Christmas time.  And The Count of Monte Cristo.  I am now rereading Les Miserables.  Once you get into the writers from the early 1800s, it is really hard to go back to Sci-Fi and Romance!

And yes, all these old dudes believed in a divine purpose for man.

The Abbey, 2013.  What it should be.

I'm still not saying a lot of what I want to.  Damon and I are involved in a court case.  (And I can't even finish THAT sentence the way I really want to!)  And I am trying to stay positive and surround myself only with people who are positive for me. 

Soul Dance.

I have been able to do this for over six weeks but now the year is starting and we have spotted three of the five most offensive culprits in the last two days.  Number one allows her husband to molest her children.  We don't need to see her again.  Number two is just competitive and controlling.  Which is a recipe for disaster if you are trying to deal with me and mine!  The three we have seen lately are just plain competitive and nasty and mean.  And they don't mean well for me or for my children.  Oddly enough, all three are in competition with myself and Ryan.  Why Ryan and I evoke this enmity in people who are less than happy with themselves is a question I need answered.

Indigenous Australian Art Exhibit at Art Museum in Brisbane.  2012

I  have grown enough to know that I don't need to be friends with everyone, that I don't even need to particularly like everyone (beyond in that Namaste, love your neighbour as yourself kind of way), and that I certainly don't care anymore if they don't like me.  This is a HUGE step for me.

Ryan has always felt this way.

The Abbey, 2012.  Familiar friend being kind and making us feel special even before we knew her!

What I'd really like to learn in 2015 - in a year where all of my dreams are being realised - is how to negate that bitter hate when it is directed against me and my family only because we are happy and doing well.

I don't know if I'll find the answer in classical literature any more than I will find it in the tarot cards.  I suspect I may find it in community work and positive prayer.  And I hope that, when I do find it, it speaks to me in a language that I am spiritually aware enough to understand.