the school open day – aka some things never change and then they do

I ADORE our local government primary school. ADORE. A.D.O.R.E.

Oscar was in a mainstream class there for four years. He was included, he was engaged, he was safe and he was loved. When he started high school this year two of his classmates rang to see how he was settling in and two others asked me on Facebook which was, quite frankly, unsettling* but I appreciate the sentiment.

We moved Felix from the school we had sent him to (to have some of his own space and to not be defined by his special needs sibling) and on.his.first.day as he walked from where they lined up to the assembly hall he whispered to me, ‘it’s really good’. I mean COME ON – they’ve gotta work harder to win over a (then) fourth grader surely.

Jasper started this year and apart from the LUDICROUS expectations on kindy kids (and their teachers) he took to it like a duck to water. I mean seriously people, I remember when kindy was about colouring in, painting, craft, learning pencil grip, which colour rod represented what number, craft, how to tie your laces, about 30 sight words and basically trying not to pee your pants. Oh, and craft. Jasper was up to 30 sight words by Week 2. After an ASSESSMENT the week BEFORE school started. Last term his beautiful (and incredibly good) teacher expressed her concern he wasn’t reading at the stage she thought he’d be at. I – of course – initially panicked and then told my head “HE’S FIVE”. FFS.

Grover will start there in 2013. If he lives that long. Or he hasn’t been sent to juvie hall.

It’s a small school – only 300 kids. There is a very strong sense of community. A remarkably talented and diverse and dedicated teaching body. A zero acceptance policy on bullying (that is followed through thoroughly). It has a very strong pro-inclusion policy for kids with additional needs. It has an amazing environmental program which includes water tanks, solar panels, several vegetable gardens, a massive worm farm and now, well now it has a chook house.

Today was it’s annual open day – you know the drill – you sit in the hall, craning your neck to see your kid (not mine) perform in the band, or recorder group or choir. You listen to the band play a medley of Queen songs with someone slightly off beat, a clarinet a bit flat, a saxophone squeak and a drummer too loud (is there any other sort). Then the choir sings a medley of Peter Allen tunes and you try to count the girls who do drama. And dance. You know, the overly-animated ones with their hair really pulled back off their face. So you can really see how much they understand the song through their facial movements. Then there’s a presentation by which time your arse has atrophied to the seat and you’ve lost count of the number of protesting smaller siblings that have been dragged from proceeding only to wail louder and stronger from just outside the door. Good times.

My recollection of Open Day at our school was the world record attempt to mount more artwork in a room than the walls could sustain, to show mum our workbooks and then do exactly the above. With my hair pulled back nice and tight. So you could see just how much this song meant to me.

But I can not imagine my primary school ever having a chook house, or the whole school doing the chicken dance to celebrate:

 

God I love this school.

ONWARD!

* I have recently discovered teenagers read this which is both alarming and hilarious. I mean, what on earth can a mother of four boys say that is interesting let alone entertaining to a teenager? And also – the swearing. Whoops.

Give Ability wrap up

Sponsored by Nuffnang – well, the Westfield part, not the guinea pig part. Or the public displays of human torment at the hands of your siblings.

Saturday saw me and the boys head off to Westfield Hornsby to support the inaugural GiveAbility day.

I was travelling so well in terms of getting the children fully clothed and shod in a timely manner and we were about to set off when Mum called to me from the backyard that the pigeons* had escaped again.

You see, the day before the girls had discovered that while the grass is not necessarily greener** on the other side of the small-fence-remaining-from-a-pre-existing-garden-bed there is a definite sense of more space and freedom.***

This, in and of itself, is not that bigger deal, except for the fact our beautiful neighbours on the southern side have actually been getting a bit sick of three guinea pigs appearing in their backyard and mowing their lawn and pruning their plants.****

So instead of herding my own children out the the car to go and experience and then report back on a day of helping raise funds for children with disability, I was out in the chook pen digging up heavy cement pavers I had very very firmly embedded along the fence***** to give them a tunnel to come back through because what guinea pigs have in cuteness they lack in intellect as clearly displayed by their complete inability to come back the way they went in.

Tunnel dug it was a waiting game for their return, featuring some finely tuned prancing on my part to rush fill the hole once they were back through. Then I had to catch each of them and relocate back into their cell prison cage.

By now the boys had their shoes off and were engaged in some round of wrestling warfare that was less wrestling and warfare and more torment and torture through a sustained attack of name calling and taunts as is their current favoured form of attack.

And I was sweaty.

Then the boys expressed hunger and came at me with packets of coke****** for me to cook up for them.

I rang my contact at Westfield to let her know that we were running late and would be there at around 1.15pm, which was actually only 15 minutes late but I was trying to be professional ‘n that. I got the stomp on with the boys while noticing quite the headache simultaneously forming behind my eyeballs and at the base of my skull.*******

Remarkably we did actually arrive at 1.15pm and met the local manager of Northcott Disability Services, the local charity receiving all the money raised at Westfield Hornsby throughout the day. It was pretty awesome seeing many staff from Westfield Hornsby donating their time to the event by donning the yellow shirt and carrying around the tins to collect funds. Staff from the corporate office had also volunteered to help out at their local centre including the head of HR who was helping out at Hornsby.

The boys were sedated inhabited by some other life force remarkably well behaved and endearing before we headed out to check out the activities and meet some of the fundraisers. Students from a local high school were involved as were many staff from Westfield head office, who had nominated which centre they’d like to help out at. Decked out in bright shirts and carrying donation cans many reported the day as being ‘awesome’.

The boys, previously a cohort of eye-rolling conscientious objectors were now well and truly on board due to the presence of what to a child is the promised land:

the fairy floss stand.

With sugar coma on a stick in hand Jasper was in face painting heaven while Oscar satisfied himself by asking anyone in a yellow shirt ‘what now?’ and Grover just getting more and more outrageous due to a brand new audience finding him hilarious and adorable (warning warning!).

I can’t tell you how much I get off on this sort of thing when the money is going to a cause. Northcott has been around for more than 80 years and provides services and support from diagnosis through to job placement. These organisations have to waste far too much time securing funding and so as far as I’m concerned any way we can help lighten their load is a win win.

I think this event will only get bigger – I mean, a national juggernaut of the size of Westfield running an event in every single centre supporting local services? It promotes awareness and fosters a sense of community AND raises money. There’s a reason I agreed to do this sponsored post and that is that supporting services for kids with disability is something I am incredibly passionate about. As you know.

I’m busting to know how much was raised nationally to help children with disabilities – I mean 100% of all money raised is going to the local charity of each centre, in our case, Northcott.  These guys support 10,000 people with disabilities, from diagnosis at birth through to work placement.

We headed back to the office where the boys devoured some cupcakes I could tell it was time for us to make a break for it for no other reason than I could see the time of day combined with a sudden massive sugar ingestion along with some stunning sibling bating was seeing my boys move from delightful to demonic in a matter of minutes.

We bid our farewells and not a moment too soon as Jasper and Felix embarked on duet of torment and taunt and screamy outrage over, wait for it, Felix not making a paper plane for Jasper exactly the same as one he had made for himself. Good times.

By the time we were at the car both were getting a complete dressing down by yours truly and then there was a debacle about a missing carpark ticket and the return of that headache, but hey, money was raised and fairy floss inhaled.

A good deed indeed.

 

Onward!

 

* more commonly referred to by the general population as guinea pigs. Sometimes she calls them gerbils. Just to mix it up.

** aka there being no grass whatsoever.

*** aka finding a gap where the horizontal wood beam on the boundary fence with our eastern neighbour meets the boundary fence of our southern neighbour.

**** I really wish that was a euphemism for something far more sordid but alas, no.

***** to foil any further digging tunnels under the fence because these girls were by no means getting rice custard, chocolate custard or strawberry shortcake or going roly-poly, pell-mell, tumble-bumble into anything except the next Argentinian BBQ such was my feelings toward their regular escapes.

****** aka Maggi 2 minute noodles.

******* probably a tumour.

These days

are filled with early rises,
quiet starts with just me and Oscar
getting him ready
answering myriad questions
packing his lunch
coaxing him (unheard of) to eat something
and then out the front for the bus at 6.50am

then have a second shift as the other three rise
bleary eyed, squinting against the morning sun
hair askew, gait a bit wobbly
‘good morning mum’ I always get
with a cuddle
from each of them

are then then filled with getting the washing on
making the various lunches
ensuring some form of breakfast is absorbed
reassuring the G-man that it is (or isn’t) a kindy day
and all of us bubbling along in a calm and unhurried rhythm

then present a few hours with only one child or for two days
none at all
I learnt the hard way that I must do something just for me
on those days
or all of us will suffer
they are the oxygen mask to my soul
to survive the weekend of solo parenting

see me at a kinder gymnastics class with Grover
the first such activity for him and for me with him
and OH how he adores it
and OH how I try to only shallow breathe inside the stinky gym
but it is quite delicious to see his delight
at conquering beams and bars
even when he does run straight into them every now and then

see my afternoons disappear in a sea of notes
tired and hungry children
meltdowns after a day of trying to be (and being) so good
Jasper and Felix, my two good boys who try so hard
and homework
and readers
and sight words
and reading
and activities like cricket or dance or gymnastics
and dinner
and baths and showers
and bed
and OH MAN if I’m not in bed by 9.30 it all gets rather ugly

are full and busy
and while certainly not rocket science
make me feel fulfilled
and full of purpose
at raising brave young men
caring and daring
loving and funny
who also put their clothes in the laundry
lower the toilet seat and lid
and wash away their toothpaste spit
and occasionally remember to wear deodorant

and always, always give their mum a cuddle
and tell her how much she is loved.

In which I declare war… and other stuff.

So you know my rules?

The boys have been sorely tested by them. Sneaking on the xBox when I’m not in the room then forgetting they’re being sneaky by getting so engrossed in the game and not realising I’ve returned to our OPEN PLAN YOU NUMBNUTS living area and then all falling down dead when I just turn it off BEFORE THEY CAN SAVE IT OOOHOOHOOH THEPAINTHEAGONY.

It has been a very hard slog. One in which I showed moments of weakness only to then smack myself in the head because if I’ve learnt anything over the last 13 years it’s that if you have drawn your line in the sand, pitched your battle, set the parametres then do.not.give.an.inch.

Oh the wailing.

Oh the gnashing of teeth.

Oh the emo.

Oh the torturous WHINGING OF DEATH.

But I have held firm and today I did the ultimate. I hid every.single.controller. Including the computer mouse.

And you know what? Instead of the foot stomping and wailing and gnashing of teeth?

Nothin’.

Not a nada.

What did they do instead?

They visited next door (as did I for a chin wag); they visited across the road (as did I, for a chin wag); they played out the front for a while; we watched Glee together; they p.l.a.y.e.d. together, creating a game with their lego aeroplanes. Each of them with a role.

There was, let’s take a moment, NO fighting. No tears. No “I DIDN’T GET A LONG TURN”.

OH I know I know, tomorrow will be all out war once more but dudes, today, today I WON.

*****

In other news I washed Felix’s sheets today. DEAR GOD I needed a HAZMAT suit. I had to WASH.THE.PILLOWS. as well as the bedding. What the hell is it with boys and boy smell???

*****

In other news, today I ran 8kms. I think I have shin splints and I am psychologically challenged by the whole running caper at the moment but know it will go once I get over this week. Why is the third week of a program the hardest? It was the same with C25K and now the same with Bridge to 10K. Weird.

Re the shin splints –  I had them as a teenager and have a vague recollection the pain was similar. I am trying to ignore them because there is no way I’m not running.

*****

In other news, according to the scales I have lost 9kgs since October last year. But that was yesterday. This morning it said I’d only lost 5 so either I need to do a really big shit or am as full of air as you all can already confirm.

*****

In other news, I am still the Queen of Supreme Organisation and feeling damn good about it to.

*****

In other news I had a meeting today with someone who might be able to manufacture my little business idea. To say I am giddy with excitement and sick with anticipation is an understatement.

*****

Onward!

What a week

I know I’ve already banged on about Oscar starting high school but this week has been quite The Week for the allconsuming household.

You see, Jasper started school this week too.

And Grover started pre-school.

And Felix moved into Year 6 (the final year of primary school here in Australia for all you overseas types).

The emotions have been running high. It has been hot-as-hell, we’re currently on Day Five of a heat wave, the hottest with the most humidity being the day Jasper and Grover started. Felix did not get the teacher he wanted and has been pretty bummed about it. The teacher he does has is a good teacher so while I am not that concerned my heart is breaking a little for him but there is no chance of moving him.

Jasper has taken my breath away. He was chomping, CHOMPING, at the bit to get to school. I mean, on the way I suddenly realised he was saying under his breath, ‘can’t wait to get to school, can’t wait to get to school, can’t wait to get to school’. Bless HIM! Then we got there EARLY and he got his stomp on because he wanted to start NOW. NOW! He has a wonderful teacher and I barely even got a wave goodbye – he was off and as happy as a clam.

Grover has been so excited about Jasper’s kindy (ie pre-school) being HIS kindy now and has really just taken up where Jasper left off last year. He’s a little clingy when I’m leaving but certainly not in a ‘I’m about to lose it’ kinda way. In fact, it’s a total put on but I’m indulging it completely.

Oh sure, the two little guys put on a SUPERB display of first day exhaustion once we got home with the screaming and crying and lashing out at each other probably giving some of the old folks over the back fence some post traumatic stress to deal with but hey, it had been over 40 degrees celcius that day and quite frankly I felt like totally having a breakdown with them.

I seriously have no idea how any of you who live in a tropical climate with high humidity and heat all.the.time. do it. I would be even more mental than I am.

The thing I finally accepted this week was, that if this week is to be repeated, if it is to run as smoothly and calmly as this week did then I have to retain the Queen of Supreme Organisation I have been this week. Up at 5 three mornings for a run (OK, so one of those didn’t quite work but I was still up at 5.40 and went for the run at 7.10) and then up at 6 the other two. Strict enforcement of the no TV rule (until everyone is dressed and has their shoes on) and basically ensuring there is enough food in the house to fill four lunch boxes. I have remembered to put water bottles in the freezer each night. I’ve had uniforms at the ready. I have absolutely kicked arse in domestic goddess stakes this week.

But that is nothing, NOTHING to have this crew of mine have performed. To say I am proud of them is an absolute understatement. They have each adjusted to their new surroundings without the slightest of hiccups. They have each risen to what is expected and required of them and done so with excitement and some nervous anticipation.

Oh look I know, kids do this everywhere everyday but this week, this week our household shifted into a new era. They all seemed older in an instance. I look at them all sitting on the lounge totally shattered by another day in extreme heat and feel like my heart is going to explode.

These are my guys.

I made them.

I play a fairly significant role in their lives and who they are becoming.

Oh sure they try and kill each other regularly and treat each other like crap most of the time but man, this week they have supported each other and, I don’t know, it’s like now they’re all (almost) on the same page.

I’m really not expressing myself that well am I. Blathering on trying to nail just what it is that has made this week such a momentous one.

I guess at the end of the day my boys are all growing up and well, this week, it has taken my breath away.

Onward!