Jan 31, 2011

Playtime - fun or a chore? Discuss.

I first came across Mia Freedman's comments about how she doesn't really enjoy playing games with her children in her book, Mamamia: A Memoir of Mistakes, Magazines and Motherhood.

Today she expanded on these thoughts in her weekly newspaper column which she also publishes on her website http://www.mamamia.com.au/.

As always, the column was entertaining, honest, a bit shocking and at the same time you recognise the truth in it and feel a bit better about your own mixed-up feelings on the same thing.

I like playing with my kids - sometimes. Sometimes it's a chore, or while I'm doing it my mind is thinking of other things I need to do next. Sometimes it's genuinely inconvenient or not possible, such as when I'm cooking dinner or we need to get them out the door. Like any parent who has been doing this gig a few years, I have become adept at managing these situations; depending on context you either divert them with something they can do independently, promise playtime in a few minutes, or tell them to go off and do something else.  All perfectly acceptable of course.

What got me on reading this post though were the comments. 311 and still going, and quite narky too.

The commentators basically fall into two opinions (agree / disagree) and three camps:

1. God yeah, hate playing with my kids, what a drag! (LOL, etc)

2. Oh my god, this is so shocking/shameful/sad, you are selfish/lazy/endangering your children's mental health and oh my god what about the people reading this who can't have kids, how would this make them feel? You should be ashamed/I am appalled...etc etc etc.  Includes the occasional brave soul who doesn't have kids venturing the opinion that people who have them should be happy to play with them all the time. [Chuckle!]

3. The callers to reason - pointing out that yes sometimes it's boring, and admitting this doesn't mean anything is wrong with the way you parent.

I was in the third camp (Naturally - you noticed how I made the third one sound the best?!). This was my response:

I liked this article and I don’t doubt for a minute that Mia and the others DO play with their kids – they just admit they don’t always love it. What, are we all meant to pretend we love every second of every minute of the day?
Doesn’t mean you are selfish or “sad” to admit you’re not crazy about something!

I can relate – I love spending time with my kids and love talking, listening, dancing, cooking, walking, reading, watching a movie with them, or doing creative stuff like play-dough, but games and playing with dolls are not my favourite thing. Big deal. I still do it with them on occasion, and do plenty of other stuff instead.

I do quite like the park though – once they’re 3 and older it’s a nice way to unwind and enjoy the outdoors while watching them play.

("Once they're 3" is an important point. I reckon the most difficult age with little kids is that time around one-and-a-half to ...three and a half?? well, let's say to about two-and-a-half, where they want to play and do stuff but can't do much and you also have to watch them constantly because they are toddling disaster areas. The park is only fun for a very short time at this age - basically just to break up the day and get out of the house).

It's great when kids get old enough to play with themselves or each other for most of the day.
Admit it, it's great!

And yes - I am well aware, and remind myself often, that at some point they won't want a bar of me and I'll miss the times I was playing with them. Hopefully that day will never come - but they start school next week and I know that is going to change everything.

Jan 26, 2011

Those first few minutes

Of the many pearls of wisdom that my employer sends us daily through the intranet and company email system, I recently came across this one, which I actually think is worth something.

This comes from a talk given by motivational speaker (no, don't leave yet, bear with me!) Steve McDermott, about what he calls the Four Minute Rule. I can't find a current public URL for this so will quote from the "Quick Talks" transcript distributed by my employer.

The Four Minute Rule says that the first four minutes are what sets your impression of a person or place, for instance if you are not greeted and looked after well when you arrive at a hotel, that's the bit you will always remember no matter how good the service is later.

Leaving aside the fact that he refers to his children as "my best customers"... Steve offers this:

"I don’t know about you but when I’m out on business and I’m away overnight especially when they’re little, it’s tempting, you get in the house, and the kids are like, “Dad, dad!” it’s really tempting to go, “Can I just get in the house, can I just take my jacket off, put my case down?”  But when it’s done in the four-minute rule now, I don’t do that.  Just before I get through the door, in my head I say, how would the best dad in the world act when he walked in that door?  And that’s how I act, because that’s the bit they’re going to remember."
Photo: DVIDSHUB at Flickr Creative Commons

I think this is good advice and worth remembering.

I don't think I do too badly in the coming-home-and-greeting-my-kids department, but I did have cause to remind myself of this recently and take this advice.

You're about to hear one of those classic working mother stories.

It was my turn to pick up the kids from daycare, and I left the office 10 minutes late.
On the freeway there was a major "incident" which slowed all traffic across all four lanes to literally walking pace the whole length of the freeway (10 km per hour, the whole way).
Too late I realised the scale of the problem and that I wasn't going to make it anywhere near pick-up time.
I called my husband on his mobile to get him to go pick up the kids, but this took six attempts because: he is learning a new phone / my phone battery was very low / he never takes my calls.
While this was going on one of my team members at work rang to escalate a serious problem with trade data that was going to have a massive impact on the business we look after and their clients.
Of course, I hadn't recharged my phone that day and there was barely any battery left.
Luckily, my team member is extremely capable and she was handling all this well, so I am not going to pretend that the world was falling down without me.  But I did need to keep abreast of it and ask some key questions and let people know what was happening in case we ended up with a disaster.

My phone cut out halfway through the trip and it took me another hour and a bit to get home.

As I walked from the car to the door of our house I knew I had to plug in my phone, check my messages, call my team member, call my boss and possibly call IT people, and ideally log in and check and respond to emails.

I also knew it was an hour and a half later than I usually get home, and two little girls would be anxious to see me.

I remembered the "world's best dad" advice, and I thought: All that stuff can wait twenty minutes.

You know what helped me? Not the fact that I had to tell myself not to rush to do my work at the expense of greeting my kids - I would always have greeted my kids first! It was more the fact that it reminded me that the work stuff could wait another twenty minutes, and I didn't have to be stressed about it.

And I think that DID affect the way I greeted my kids- I was more relaxed and did not say anything that started with "I just have to..."

It took a few seconds after the first few minutes in the door to plug in my phone, and within an hour I had collected messages and called who I had to call, all stress free.

Jan 9, 2011

iPod Shuffle

This comes courtesy of So Now What - with thanks.
Instructions: put your fruit-flavoured or other brand MP3 player on Shuffle, and write down the first 15 songs that come on, and what they mean to you (if anything).

Now the temptation here is obviously to scroll through your songs and pick the 15 most interesting, and chuck in one embarassing one to make it look honest - or you can do it properly.

I considered the first then went with the second. But you'll just have to take my word on that won't you?

1.Muse - Supermassive Black Hole
Yes, I admit it - I got this from Twilight. I actually really liked the first Twilight movie - very moody and evocative, and great soundtrack. Well I've gone off the soundtrack a bit since, but still love this and one other song on it, Full Moon by The Black Ghosts.

2. Mr Scruff - Ninja Tuna
I honestly have no idea what this one is or how it got here. Do not recognise it at all. It's quite good though.

3. Slade - Everyday
This is a song from my childhood. It was big on the radio when I was a little kid and my dad went away quite often on business. I loved the song and/or he used to sing it to me - I'm not sure which came first. Anyway at some point my parents realised I loved this song and my dad bought the single. I still remember how happy he was when he started to play it for me and then I cried, his face fell and both my parents were surprised (disappointed?) at my reaction. I'm not sure but think it had something to do with feeling a bit overwhelmed with both their attention focussed on me for a reaction and confusion hearing a song on our stereophonic record player that I associated with the tinny sound of the radio - but anyway I burst into tears. I still remember it and I now have a pretty good understanding with my own kids of what can set that kind of reaction off, just generally too much attention and build up of excitement.... Kids, eh!
But I still love the song.

4. Giorgos Alkaios & Friends - Opa (Eurovision 2010 - Greece)
Well, what can I say. I liked it.
My husband is from Greece and they take Eurovision VERY seriously there, there is not the irony-ladden aspect to it that we use to watch it in the English-speaking world.
In our house we watch Eurovision as a family for the two nights it's on, all four if us sitting on the couch or the girls dancing in front of the TV, and we all judge the songs and pick our favourites and laugh at and pan the shockers, and naturally the outcomes rarely agree with any of our opinions.
I also have ANOTHER Greece Eurovision entry on my iPod, My Secret Combination by Kalomoira.
I know it's not that good, but I like it - and who can't like Kalomoira, she's so cute!

5. Will.I.Am - I Like to Move It
I actually prefer the The Travelling Song, which I also have. Both from the Madagascar soundtracks. I love the Madagascar movies, possibly even more than my kids do.

6. Bonnie Tyler - Total Eclipse of the Heart
Are you kidding me?! The epitome of iPod embarassment and it actually came on in my 15??
I was tempted to skip past this and not count it, but then this is the point of the whole exercise, right? To create an even playing field of lameness among all iPod users. We all have our shame.
Everyone loved this song (without irony) when it came out in the 80s, and I remembered it a few years ago when it appeared in the movie Urban Legend, where the first girl to get killed sings badly to it listening to her car radio to cheer herself up, before getting decapitated by the person hiding in the back of her car. Not sure how the killer managed to stabilise and stop the car after doing this but no matter...

7. Prince - Cream
I loved Prince throughout the nineties. Only this song has stood the test of time in my music library. LOVE IT.

8. INXS - Need You Tonight
80s, 80s, 80s!!! Loved this whole album, and saw INXS three times in concert  - once in Portugal while backpacking, sort of a weird interlude. In 2003 I was backpacking around Europe with my cousin and her friend, and after weeks of fairly good penny pinching we fell in with an American physiotherapist on a two week holiday from New York, who clearly made very good money and who was also a lot of fun and very persuasive. We ended up living things up in Portugal and spending as if we were also high-paid New York professionals instead of the penniless 23-year olds we were. What with beers and dancing till late most nights and going to see INXS at their Lisbon concert, we cleaned out our budget for the next four weeks, in four days. Those were great days though!

Another memory: I bought this album through my sister's record club membership, and still remember how she got my order wrong and ticked the box for the album instead of the casette. I was initially annoyed but was happy when the album came, because then I taped it and then, CHOICE, I had both!

9. Tone-Loc - Funky Cold Medina
C'mon - who doesn't like this? 80's again. I fear I am betraying my age (as if this blog wasn't doing that for me). Also somewhere on my playlist, Wild Thing, from the same album. All that's missing to round off the era is Young MC's Busta Move!

10. Grace Jones - I've Seen That Face Before
I have the entire Grace Jones Island Life album on my iPhone, and indeed still have the casette rattling round somewhere. Love the whole thing but this song and La Vie en Rose especially.
I think I may have discovered this song and the album Island Life from the Harrison Ford movie Frantic, which I thought was a great movie at the time but which I otherwise don't remember.
So weird about Grace Jones - not sure exactly what she was or what she represented, but this album was pretty cool.

11. Jill Barber - Old Flame
Not one of my faves but I do like this whole album. My favourite song on it is Oh My My.

12. Giannis Kotsiras - Anathema Se
This is one of a few albums in here where my and my husband's playlists got entangled when I tried to move libraries from our old desktop to my laptop; I have left them there because I like to listen to them sometimes. This is a beautiful song - a decent translation courtesy of http://lyricstranslate.com is included at the end of this post.

13. Peter Gabriel - Sledgehammer
I was never a Peter Gabriel fan in the 80s - probably a bit too mature and intelligent for my tastes back then - but a casual comment from my sister about how Solisbury Hill is one of her favourite songs, lead me to think "Oh yeah, I quite like that song", then to seek out and download about 10 Peter Gabriel songs that I suddenly found I really really liked.
I remember about this one how technologically amazing the video clip was at the time - we were in awe! It's not much now but a glimpse does bring back the memory of how unbelievable it was back then.

14. Dolly Parton - Joelene
When I was a kid for some reason I loved the Olivia Newton John version of this song. Not sure why the lyrics should speak to an eight-year-old girl, but somehow they did, something about a girl knowing she was out of her depth and unable to hold her own against others - perhaps that is a common childhood feeling. Or perhaps, as a girl you internalise the various lessons that come your way in pop culture and life, about what it means to be a woman, how a woman should look and act and what and what not to do (unfortunately the lessons are not all equally useful, valid or effective).
Even now the image of a woman tormented by knowlege that her husband is falling for someone else and she is powerless to stop it, is incredibly sad to me.

15. Bobby Darin - Dream Lover
I'm not sure how I came across this song, possibly one of my parents' several 45's I used to listen to as a kid. But I have always loved this song.
That was a good thing about having young parents (sorry kids!) - my parents were really into their music and had heaps of LPs and singles, and used to play them often. (They also used to go out quite a bit and were sometimes short on patience with us - another mark of young parents). Anyway, along with Neil Diamond's Shilo album, this song was one of the first I loaded to my iPod when my mind turned to golden oldies.

Here are the tunes if you don't know them -

1.Muse - Supermassive Black Hole

The Black Ghosts - Full Moon

2. Mr Scruff - Ninja Tuna

3. Slade - Everyday

4. Giorgos Alkaios & Friends - Opa (Eurovision 2010 - Greece)

Kalomoira - My Secret Combination

5. Will.I.Am - I Like to Move It

The Travelling Song

6. Bonnie Tyler - Total Eclipse of the Heart

7. Prince - Cream

8. INXS - Need You Tonight

9. Tone-Loc - Funky Cold Medina

Wild Thing

10. Grace Jones - I've Seen That Face Before

La Vie en Rose

11. Jill Barber - Old Flame

Oh My My

12. Giannis Kotsiras - Anathema Se

13. Peter Gabriel - Sledgehammer

14. Dolly Parton - Joelene

15. Bobby Darin - Dream Lover

Anathema Se lyrics and translation:

Damn you

Artist: Pantelis Thalassinos

Song: Anathema se

Translation: Greek → English

Submitted by veronika_pooh on Fri, 02/20/2009 - 20:26 - http://lyricstranslate.com/en/Anathema-se-Damn-you.html


Anathema se

Σ' έχω ώρες ώρες μα το Θεό

τόσο πολλή ανάγκη

που τρέχουν απ' τα μάτια μου

θάλασσες και πελάγη

Στείλε ένα γράμμα μια συλλαβή

αν έχεις το Θεό σου

που κρέμομαι απ' τα χείλη σου

κι είμαι στο έλεός σου

Ανάθεμά σε δε με λυπάσαι

που καίγομαι και λιώνω

που μ' έκανες και σ' αγαπώ

και τώρα μαραζώνω

Κλειδώθηκαν οι σκέψεις μου

μες στου μυαλού τα υπόγεια

αχ πόσα θέλω να σου πω

και δεν υπάρχουν λόγια

Ανάθεμά σε δε με λυπάσαι

που καίγομαι και λιώνω

που μ' έκανες και σ' αγαπώ

και τώρα μαραζώνω


Damn you

Hour by hour, by God,

I need you so

that from my eyes there run

seas and oceans.

Send one letter, one syllable,

if you still have a God,

to me who am hanging from your lips

and who am at your mercy.

Damn you, you have no pity for me,

who am burning up and melting,

you caused me to love you

and now I am withering away.

My thoughts are locked away

in the dungeons of my mind

Oh so many things I want to say to you,

and no words exist.

Damn you, you have no pity for me,

who am burning up and melting,

you caused me to love you

and now I am withering away.

From: http://lyricstranslate.com

Jan 5, 2011

The Empathetic Wife

I have a few things I kind of want to say but in a sort of can't be bothered mood, so will post this for now instead.
Thought this was funny, and could relate. Have caught myself "listening" to my husband like this a bit of late. Too many important things to think of which obviously must involve ME ME ME instead!

From http://www.johnhartstudios.com/wizardofid/2010/11/tuesday-november-30-2010.php

Jan 1, 2011


These are just too tempting, especially the short ones. This comes by way of Pandora Queen of Denial ,  The Plastic Mancunian, and Sunday Stealing. It's a good quick set of questions to farewell the year.

So here we go.

1. What did you do in 2010 that you'd never done before?

I know it's an easy out and I'm sorry there is nothing more, but has to be "raise 4-year-olds".
Every day's a new set of achievements!

2. Did you keep your new years' resolutions, and will you make more for next year?
Nooooooo, and no.

3. How will you be spending New Year's Eve?
Home, doing this. Unfortunately had to beg off the friend's barbecue we were invited to, as the girls and I are too tired after the pre-Christmas and Christmas madness, and need some more Quiet Time. My husband is playing a New Year's Eve gig in the city, the girls are asleep in their rooms. Sorry to admit this but I am enjoying my NYE on the couch in front of some bad TV with a bottle of beer by my side, laptop on my lap and glasses on my nose. Cheers!

I've just circled back to this - it's now 12.15 and I got a lovely phone call from my husband, who is on his way home. Happy New Year!

4. Did anyone close to you die?
Thankfully no.

5. What countries did you visit?

Oh, where to start, where to start. Let's see, that would be... Australia?!
Sadly, 2010 marked the year my passport expired. First time since I was 17 I have been without a passport. Life has changed (and quite awhile ago too).
(Note to self however - must get it renewed. Seriously.)

 6. What would you like to have in 2011 that you lacked in 2010?

Time. Part-time work (yeah, sorry Blog Raison d'Etre...I might have to re-work this blog). Money in the savings account.

7. What date from 2010 will remain etched upon your memory, and why?

Not exact dates - but November and December stand out. Reasons (in order of occurrence):
- found out my job will be made redundant sometime next year (HOORAY)
- orientation days and evening with principal at my kids' school (they start in Feb) - came away with worries abated and very impressed and excited
- family holiday to Lakes Entrance for a week
- my grandfather's 90th birthday
- Christmas day and "graduation day" at the girls' daycare; their kinder teacher made them all graduation hats from cardboard and gowns from black garbage bags, and they each got a laminated certificate and a photo. Cute!
- my girls turned five
- my work's annual kids' Christmas party, and my kids' annual delight at visiting my desk and colleagues, riding in elevators and walking round and round the revolving glass doors.
- our girls got their first bicycles
- the girls got seperate bedrooms - that job finally completed tonight. Crack open the champagne now!

Also July - my nephew born. He's gorgeous, and my sister is a great mum.

8. What was your biggest achievement of the year?
Accepting a prescription to tackle anxiety and depression, even while knowing there is nothing wrong with me and the difficulties all come from our circumstances/lifestyle; making the decision to take the drugs anyway, to get best result for me and my family, and yes, it improved our family life and my marriage instantly. (Sounds Stepford I know - but really - it was worth it)

9. What was your biggest failure?

Failure to just toughen up and cope with little middle-class problems the way my mum and my friends who are mums have always managed to do.
Also didn't lose any weight.

10. Did you suffer illness or injury?
Two weeks' sick leave mid-year. Nothing damaged permanently except career prospects where I work, I suspect (no great loss).

11. What was the best thing you bought?
Wedge heels. Style and comfort in a glittery black high-heeled sandal, that works for office, evening and weekend - I have had an epiphany!!

12. Where did most of your money go?
Mortgage, daycare, groceries, car parking, Citylink tolls, takeaway coffee and lunches.
An incredible amount.

13. What song will always remind you of 2010?
Anything Lady Gaga.

14. What do you wish you'd done more of?

15. What do you wish you'd done less of?

16. What was your favourite TV program?
Modern Family. Love it, funniest thing ever.

17. Do you hate anyone now that you didn't hate this time last year?
No - honestly have never hated anyone. No new dislikes this year either.

18. What was the best book you read?
I liked these ones:

The Men Who Stare At Goats - Jon Ronson (always wanted to read this one - don't you hate it when you only manage it the year the movie comes out)

From Those Wonderful Folks Who Gave You Pearl Harbour - Jerry Della Femina. Interesting snapshot of working life in the 60's. Somewhat surprising to see that corporate stress and the pressures to succeed were the same then, it wasn't necessarily the halcyon age of whiskey and cigars we assume. This is the kind of historical perspective I love.

Living Oprah - Robyn Okrant. Crazy and funny but made some serious points too about the lifestyles and values and impossible, conflicting standards we (women) are trying to live by, and the power of the people we deify.

The Invisible Gorilla - Christopher Chabris and Daniel Simons.

At Home - Bill Bryson.

19. What was your greatest musical discovery?
Jill Barber - album Chances.  Discovered by way of this song, take a listen here.

20. What was your favorite film of this year?
I didn't see many. Probably The Secret in Their Eyes, with runner up The Social Network.  Also greatly enjoyed Megamind.  Check out this dialogue!

21. What did you do on your birthday?
Lunch with family.

22. What kept you sane?
Zoloft!; supportive husband; sick leave.

23. Who did you miss?
Saw less of my friends this year than I would have liked - missed that.

24. Who was the best new person you met?
Well I think I have already mentioned elsewhere I am officially in love with our new school principal - he will do for now, I can't think of anyone else "new" ... Will update this post later if memory dredges up anyone amazing !

25. Tell us a valuable life lesson you learned in 2010:
After years of assiduously not doing so, and of believing it was not necessary, I have learned that, unfortunately, you do have to network and be a political animal at work - never mind to "get ahead", but just to do OK where you are and protect your resources and yourself. Sigh.


Happy New Year to all - and to all, a Good Night!


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