Blended family parenting

As part of my NY resolutions, you may have seen that I have to work on being a better person in the home – with the kids and with the lovely. The last few months since we have been back have been quite challenging. There have been more fights about the kids, and with the kids, and I currently feel very blocked and out of control. Advice from friends who have blended families said focus on backing each other up and putting your relationship first, as well as picking your battles.

You’d think all of this would be easy – it is but it isn’t.

Part of my issue comes with enforcing assistance and device times. If we have rules and jobs for the kids (now just including my daughter and the lovely’s two youngest), then should we not enforce them? What is the point of having a rule if we aren’t going to? The lovely is not convinced about this. She is probably right in that I want a Utopia! However, in a house of seven people, it’s not unreasonable to ask that everyone contribute.

Plenty of parenting experts say that mastery of basic tasks is important to children’s independent development. What they don’t say is how bloody painful and annoying it is to enforce that mastery as parents! That’s it though, that’s the job. I’m sure some relinquish it as too hard, creating people who feel entitled or can’t cope (or both). We’re not wanting to be that parent or guardian.

The lovely and I have different parenting styles, although similar in many ways. We both value manners, responding to requests and minimal fighting. With my daughter, I’m more likely to get distracted after requesting a task be done (and not follow up). With her kids, the lovely is more likely to do tasks on their behalf. We both are hard on each other’s children (although there is also an overlaying complication with the relationship between the lovely and my Asperger traits daughter not discussed here).

So, do we have job lists and device times or don’t we? We’ve tried several different variations of helping, each with an explanation about why it’s important. Still they fight about who’s getting off the couch to empty the dishwasher, point blank refuse (a huge trigger for me), delay or only do half the job. Completely what kids do but also a constant drain when it’s at least three of them doing it all the time!

We are about to embark on another version – this time with only minimal device time restrictions and the tasks for the week all falling on the one person. We only have to follow up one person and enforce two device times, not six. If that person doesn’t perform, they get a device time penalty which we have yet to finalise.

Will it work? What is the purpose? The lovely is not convinced it will achieve the harmony and assistance we require.

Purpose – contribute to the household so that everyone living here has a clean, safe and peaceful place to live and enjoy.

For me the goals are to help the kids:

  1. learn about tasks that will assist them to manage their own house
  2. learn about time management
  3. free up adult time for other household activities
  4. develop an appreciation of the work it takes to run a functioning household – this is probably unrealistic of me. I’m not sure I ever really got that as a child who had ‘chores’ to do of how little my contribution was to the overall scheme of things that my parents (mother especially) did to run the house. In fact you probably never really appreciate it until you are doing everything yourself, or even everything for yourself and a partner. So let’s scrap that one!

So will it work? Stay tuned!

Wishing you all the happiness the Universe can bring,

New Year’s Eve

Last night as I lay not sleeping, I considered what I would want to focus on in 2018. The previous two days had been spent feeling very unwell with all the symptoms of Norovirus, so pretty much wiped me out for thinking or anything else!

There’s nothing like a big bad dose of illness or pain to help you appreciate your good health! As I sat in the sun yesterday morning, still a little dizzy and weak, I pondered that the only way to know you are going OK is to have a bout of not going OK to remind you! On the up, you are always grateful for the relief of symptoms!

This year is about health for me in many ways. Continuing to lose weight (and thanks to that virus this week I’m the lowest weight I’ve been in a number of years) slowly and by changing habits will be a focus. I have to do it – I don’t want to be diabetic! And no, I haven’t had that test yet!

Also, this year I’m having my breast reduction. I want it to go well, although I’m a little afraid of the pain. The Lovely told me yesterday about the Nocebo effect. I’d not realised but of course it makes sense for the opposite of Placebo to apply (Google for some interesting articles).

To avoid the Nocebo effect, I’ll be focusing on the positive outcome reducing the size of my breasts will have on my overall health, as well as trusting that my pain will be regulated properly. Yes, it won’t be comfortable but it should be manageable and the lovely will be there to help me get through it. She was wonderful in the last couple of days taking care of me, despite fighting her own pain.

With those two as a focus, it’s hard to know if I’ll have time and emotional/mental energy to do much more, especially in the first half of 2018.

However, I have to work on being a better person in the home – with the kids and with the lovely. The last two months since we have been back from our six week trip overseas have been quite challenging. There have been more fights about the kids, and with the kids, and I currently feel very blocked and out of control in this space. Advice from friends who have blended families said focus on backing each other up and putting your relationship first, as well as picking your battles with the children.

Starting the year with a new ‘jobs’ system may or may not help – we will see. I need to work on letting the lovely parent her children without imposition and endeavour to see her efforts with my daughter as not attacking her (or me).

We have realised that we need our alone time together, and I need to carve some other space to be able to clear my head – whether that be by writing, or other ways. It will be our three year anniversary in 21 days and I want to spend the rest of my life with her, so I need to get this right.

I do want my work to continue to be challenging and fun in a supportive environment. I’ll need to manage my stress a lot better than I did last year if this is to happen with all the work my boss is promising me when I get back on Tuesday!

So after all of that, what are my 2018 resolutions?

  • Nurture my relationship and myself.
  • Have a successful breast reduction.
  • Continue to make healthy choices around food and exercise.
  • Consolidate my position at work and have fun!

Enjoy the contemplation of New Year’s Eve all!

Wishing you all the happiness the Universe can bring,



The best of and what we learned

Trips are a wonderful way to learn many new things, not just about the world but also about yourself. While the deeper things are mostly yet to be discovered, here are a few things.

Always buy the best tweezers – the cheap ones are crap!

What you want in an Airbnb – the bathroom on the same level as the bedroom; pillows (more than one flat one) that work; shampoo, soap and conditioner if advertised (not a combination or barely any of anything!); decent size towels; comfortable mattress and the ability to make a cup of tea (boil water) anytime you like!

Best Beach – Although there were quite a few beaches we visited, the stunning difference of Iceland and its black sand, contrasted with chunks of glacier ice had to top the list!

Best Morning View – while most places we visited had at least one lovely view (Vancouver and Seattle apartments were the exception with no view), Keswick in Cumbria absolutely won this list with it’s gorgeous mountains and countryside from every window. Close second was Stodvarfjordur in Iceland.

Best Meal – hard to choose because there were so many good ones! At Vik we had the best lamb plus a steak sandwich which would be hard to beat! Whitby had the best fish and chips by far; our first meal in Reykjavik of lobster soup with yummy bread and butter was totally delicious and a local experience; Mexican in Seattle at Poquitos was the best I’d ever eaten! For the whole experience and not the food itself, Big Mario’s pizza in Seattle was a great time! Five Guys burgers and shake was a fun heart attack before we left London, and our very last official meal in Vancouver was also notable! My birthday dinner with friends at a wonderful tapas place in Broughty Ferry, Scotland would probably be my pick.

Best Animal Encounter – again, there were so many times we encountered nature in nature (or parks!) that it would be hard to say what is the best one. Sheep passing us in Scotland, surrounding the car was a sheer delight to experience! BRB at Leah’s Sitka residence was both charming and painful, but full of character and fun! Seeing an American Eagle up close in Vancouver, Highland Cattle in Scotland, Squirrel encounters in Regent’s and Hyde Park in London (and later in Vancouver) all add to the mix. Cuddling kittens with Allison’s brother and family was lovely, but birds everywhere fascinated us – from ducks in the River Cam to Swans in Sitka and Regent’s Park; Eagles in Sitka and Vancouver; the display of falcons and owls at Alnwick Castle and our watery friends otters, seals and the occasional whale spout in Sitka and Scotland. Most memorable however, were the Pheasants of the UK – dead or alive!

Best Hot Chocolate – we sampled these across the world and the worst for hot chocs are our American friends. Fairly piss weak affairs but at least they put cream on top to make up for it! Vancouver was better, Sitka not as bad as Seattle and Reykjavik was about 7/10. Close second was in Scotland at Cocoa Mountain, where we enjoyed a bevy after a long drive and cave exploring. However, possibly the best hot chocolate in the world, and the trip, was Gail’s in St. John’s Wood. Made every day in a pot, this finite resource was enjoyed by us twice during our London stay.

Best Living Cathedral/Church – These buildings never failed to impress, and each one had something special about it that hooked you in, even after seeing so many of them. Hallsgrimskirjka in Reykjavik was our first and certainly very different from the UK versions. York Minster was spectacular; Carlisle with it’s tattered war flags and amazing ceiling (but live construction work); Bakewell was smaller but the history just as big; Bolton Abbey was massive and Raglan Church small (but lots of bell ringing!); Whitby’s church on the hill was the most surprising with all it’s boxed pews (and probably had the best view – the ocean and the town of Whitby). Apparently, I can’t decide!

Best Castle – again, so many to choose from! York Tower was a fun adventure in the dark and rain; Dunrobin in Scotland we almost had the splendour to ourselves; Summer Palace at Brighton was looking a little worse for wear on the outside but just gorgeous on the inside; Alnwick had lots to see and do; Carlisle was impressive, but we couldn’t get inside. For sheer ruin fullness, views and experience, my pick is Raglan Castle, where we scaled the heights (twice), gazed into the moat and walked both inside and outside this wonderfully historic and ground-breaking castle (see the windows that impressed visitors among other things).

Best Ruin – For the sheer experience of getting there finally, Hadrian’s Wall (can you believe we stood where Romans did?) wins this one for me! However there were many great experiences – Vindolanda and Housestead (Romans); Whitby Abbey (the winner of best ruined cathedral in my book) on the hill inspiring Bram Stoker; Tintern Abbey with the kids and Helen and rain; Bolton Abbey and the stepping stones across the river. A close second would have to be Calda House, our surprise on the side of the road discovery in the Scottish Highlands with the very patient Fi, which offered not only views of the nearby ruined castle, but a fascinating history to go with it!

Best City – although I loved the others, Reykjavik was the coolest city I’ve been to since New York. The street art, the mix of old and new, the proximity to the ocean and probably the fact it was smaller and prettier than the others. Meanwhile, I did love the Space Needle in Seattle appearing in most of my photos!

Best Cemetery – From Iceland to Sitka, we traversed the land of the dead! Cromarty Pirate Cemetery was a close second just for the fun of it; Raglan was intimate and emotional; Bakewell full of history; Akureyri for the sunset. However, the Russian Orthodox Cemetery in Sitka, with its forest surroundings, messiness and difference makes it the winner.

This was the trip of a lifetime and we had an amazing adventure. There were only a couple of tense moments between us (given, they weren’t great) and we encountered all the newness and challenges (let’s drive on the wrong side of the road and navigate airport security again and again) generally with humour and patience for each other.

The whole experience wiped us so clean of our regular life, that it seems more difficult to be back in it. We love our house, our family and friends, however, being able to just live moment by moment, with only a few clothes in a back pack was incredibly freeing. I’ve never come back and found it so hard to readjust before. Of course, with six kids between us and parents with health issues, we had to jump back into life pretty quickly! What can you do? Certainly, it has been a little tense here since we returned to regular life – and that isn’t including returning to work, which we will in a couple more days. Of course things will settle back into a routine soon enough but I think we both long for the time when it was just us, a backpack and some new scenery to behold

The hair that dare not

For the last three months I’ve had fully hairy armpits. It’s an area that causes some debate in society – women’s shaving habits.

Plenty of evidence about the reasons around some cultural shaving practices of old and also the marketing gurus of razor manufacturers who wanted to sell to the other 50% of the population to boost profits.

Regardless, I’ve been bought up in a world where women did not have hair on their legs or arms (or face).

So when we travelled overseas it was going to be an interesting experiment in hairiness! For two months we couldn’t shave so we didn’t. It was Autumn where we were heading, and cold, so no need.

When we returned to summer here in Australia and to razor availability, the question was to shave or not to shave?

As a feminist, I’m all about doing what feels right for you. Shave if you want, don’t if you want.

But sometimes it’s hard (a lot of times actually) to know if your preference is actually your real choice, or because you are socialised in certain ways and expectations.

There was never any chance that as a teenager I would be advised not to shave my armpits and legs. These days it seems to include pubic region as well.

So popular culture and femininity and family say shave.

However, knowing the reasons for shaving and knowing that it is not necessary (not for hygiene or anything else), how does a woman make a choice when there are now clear preferences from both genders about it?

A hairy woman is seen as some sort or leftie hippie revolutionary, possibly lesbian (although I know just as many straight women who don’t shave either) – an undesirable.

Actually it’s just hair and although it took me a couple of weeks, I finally got comfortable with having it and seeing it (and stopped deliberately showing the kids it for laughs). I found it to smell less than my hair free armpits usually did. It became the norm and that was fine, although I was still a little self conscious out of the house if it was exposed.

However, in the end, it wasn’t really a choice about leaving it or shaving it, it wasn’t pressure from society that now has my pits bare as my ass.

Instead, my hair is quite thick and therefore got uncomfortable a few days ago. I found myself scratching, which was unpleasant.

So for that reason, my hair is gone. Will I grow it long until that happens again…maybe.

In the meantime, it’s been an interesting ride on the armpit hair train and interesting to observe my inner feelings about whether to shave or not to shave.

Wishing you all the happiness the Universe can bring,