31 August 2011

Mrs Readalot and the Local Author

I have a confession.
Mrs Readalot didn't read Clan of the Cave Bear *gasp*

That was our Book of the Month, after all... but did Mrs R read it? Did she even request it from the library? A big fat resounding No.
Why, I really can't say.
She has read the book before, many many moons ago, before there was grey hair, wrinkles and stretch marks. Before she was called "Mummy" or "Wifey".
It may have even been when she was still at school.

She remembers liking it at the time. being fascinated by it, in fact. Although she did get annoyed that Ayla {the beautiful human} thinks she's hideous because she doesn't look Neanderthal.

And she remembers being shocked and intrigued by Book Two, the Valley of Horses, where Ayla {the beautiful human who thinks she's hideous because she doesn't look Neanderthal} meets a hot non-Neanderthal Man and they get down to business. I am talking eye-popping stuff for the 17-year-old that Miss Readalot was at the time.
Her mother had no idea. And she had no idea that such things were possible!
But Mrs Readalot just didn't want to go there again... so she read something else instead.
That OK?

See, one of the great things about running a Book Club is that you get to make the rules.
And one of Mrs Readalot's rules is that you don't have to read the Book of the Month.
You can read {and write about}anything. Hey, review a recipe book if you like, Mrs R doesn't mind.

This month, Mrs Readalot discovered a New Zealand Author from her own neighbourhood.
This author was recommended by some school-mum friends, who were talking about a book called Dead People's Music. A couple of things caught her attention.
Firstly these mums were raving about the book. Really raving. Like, Have you read it yet? Oh I loved it! It was amazing. Did you read her other one yet? Oh you must... it's fantastic...

Mrs Readalot's ears pricked up. Hmmm. A rave-worthy must-read book.
She injected herself into the conversation... Which book? She had to know.

"Oh you know Sarah Laing, from school... she wrote it."
Whaaaaat? A school mum from our school, a published author writing rave-worthy books?
Yes indeed.
Now this she had to read.

I'll let Mrs Readalot tell you about Dead People's Music in her own words...

Mrs Readalot says:

Dead People's Music. I would never have discovered it but for a chance conversation, overhead while doing coffee and that would have been a crying shame.
Because Sarah Laing deserves to be read.
This book was totally enjoyable and a great engaging read.
And the writer lives in my town. Her kids go to my kids' school.She's a mummy-author and my newest book-hero.

Sarah draws together three threads of the story and interweaves them.

Thread #1: Grown-up Rebecca, the granddaughter of a talented cellist who originated from New York via a childhood in Nazi Germany. Kiwi Rebecca and her boyfriend go to New York in search of fame and fortune... and a chance to connect with her grandmother's past. Their story is in the here and now; it draws all other threads.

Thread #2: The grandmother, a talented cellist escaped as a child from Nazi Germany to New York. She meets and marries a Kiwi bloke... and moves to Wellington. This is the exotic thread, the mystery.

Thread #3: Young Rebecca. How did her childhood and early life shape her? Who were her loves, and what actually happened while she was in London...?

Each thread is beautifully told. There is no confusion and no threads left dangling. (I love that in a story, remember?) But predictable or cliched it is not.

Its a story about people who happen to be Kiwis, but who are so well developed that non-Kiwis will totally relate to their humanity, and at the same time catch a glimpse of life in New Zealand.

I loved the characters. They were flawed and human.
I loved the writing: gritty, descriptive, immediate.
I loved the pace of the story - it kept me wanting more.
I polished off this enjoyable read in double-quick time, caught up in wanting to know and understand Rebecca and her grandmother more. And I was not disappointed.

{I also loved the cover art and the book's overall design. As a visual person these things matter to me. Dead People's Music is pretty.}

You might not have heard of Sarah Laing or Dead People's Music  but I hope you will hunt down a copy, read and enjoy.

Mrs Readalot rates Dead People's Music:

Mrs Readalot was very excited to discover that Sarah Laing has a blog.

{Sarah's Blog: Let Me Be Frank.}

So she wasted no time in heading over there and leaving Sarah a comment, raving about the book and introducing herself as a fellow-schoolmum. A total groupie thing to do.
Eagerly she waited to hear from Sarah... would her offer of coffee be accepted... or would Sarah thing Mrs G was a try-hard stalker writer-wannabe?
She never thought of going back to the comment to see if there was a reply...

Only yesterday, as she prepared this post, did Mrs R discover that Sarah had in fact replied. On the post. And apparently she doesn't think we are stalkerish and might even want coffee sometime.
Mrs Readalot was so relieved.
So she left Sarah another gushing comment and told her we'd be reviewing Dead People's Music for our most-eminent Bloggy Bookclub.
I'm sure Sarah Laing, prize-winning author, blogger, illustrator and school mum will be seriously stoked about that.

Book Club and Linky
September's Book Club is being hosted by Renette at South African Kiwis
Her choice for book of the month is a blast from the past: Clan of the Cave Bear by Jean M. Auel.
The linky is open from September 1st and will remain open until the end of the month.

Book Club Rules:
Read a Book. Write About it. Link up your post.
{And grab the button for your post and sidebar}...


{You can read and review any book. It doesn't have to be the book of the month.}
You don't have to be an official Book Club member to join in either.

I hope you will all visit the other links... 
see what people are reading, discuss the books in comments 
and get some great suggestions for reading material.

  • If you want to become an official Book Club member {and linky host} click here
  • For the Book Club Page & information click here
  • To link up your book review post on September's Book Club Linky click here {Tomorrow morning}

WW: A Riddle for You...

What has ten legs, five mouths
and 150 kilos of luggage...

...flies by night, arrives by day...

...flocks to the beach on any shore...

...has been to London to visit the Queen...

...and is getting ready to do it all again
in September?

and then, she {snapped}

Do you know
30 August 2011

If Consistency is the Key to Good Parenting, I'm Stuffed.

Every parenting expert says the same thing.
Whatever the technique they are expounding, the key to everything seems to be consistency.

The one bloddy thing I am completely crap at.
Why couldn't the key to raising great kids be, "hosting great parties" or "feeding them regularly" or something I could actually do.
But no.
It has to go and be Consistency.
The one thing in life that seems forever beyond my grasp.

Trying to be consistent is for me, like trying to grasp a slithering eel. Nigh on impossible.
I'm a great starter upper. I'm an ideas person.
If you are stuck for inspiration, come talk to me.
Ideas will bubble forth like oil from a Texas gusher.
I do great on projects. I come up with great schemes.
But whatever you do don't ask me to maintain any of my innovations.
Once I get past the start-up phase I will lose interest and become completely bored with the day-to-day running of whatever great operation I've cooked up.
It's just the way I am, the way I'm wired, so to speak.

Unfortunately this tendency spills over into my parenting.
Oh I have great ideas. I get all inspired and motivated.
I re-organise, re-decorate, re-prioritise.
I create tick-charts and to-do lists and all kinds of things...
Ways to get the kids eating their fruit and veges.
Ways to get the kids cleaning their teeth or their rooms.
Ways to make lazy boys do homework, thumb-suckers stop sucking, nappy-wearers start toileting.
Ways to encourage kindness, stamp out squabbling.
Stickers and stamps, reward jars, pocket money.
Time out, confiscation, grounding and banning.

I try every trick in the book in an effort to raise decent humans.
Believe me.

But then I get distracted. Side-tracked. Busy.
I forget to tick charts, pay pocket money, hand out rewards.
I revert to nagging and scolding, warning and promising.
Empty words.
Gah!!! Consistency, where were you when character traits were issued?
Come on, stickability! Where are you when I need you?

I am growing nervous.
My eldest child is a few months off Nine.
And you know what comes after Nine. Double Digits, that's what.
Then its all over bar the shouting as the race to puberty begins and the teenage years loom large.
How did this happen? Where did the time go?
I thought I'd have plenty of time to practise my parenting skills before things got serious.
I'm still unprepared, still figuring out the basics, still trying to find a plan that works!

Oh its so confusing these days!
When my parents were raising my siblings and I, things were so much simpler.
"Do it now because I said so, or else...!" And we did.
"Go to your room and wait til your father gets home!" And we did.
"Go and bring me the wooden spoon..." And we did.

Not that I'm advocating smacking. No, I am sure that we are so much more enlightened now.
But I tell you what, I never spoke to my parents the way my kids speak to me at times.
I was obedient. I helped with chores. I did my homework without being told. And I never ever answered back.

So while I am glad that we as a society have moved on from the bad old days of "My Way or the Highway" parenting, in some ways I am envious of the simplicity of those Stone Age Times.
When there was A Way Things Were Done.
Parents were not constantly second-guessing themselves and trying to figure out how to get their kids to cooperate, behave, and grow up without becoming delinquents.
My parents were so confident in their role.
They never once apologised for mistakes they made. Not that I think that was a good thing, at all.
But that's how confident they were in what they were doing.

Me? I am a confused mess of guilt and anxiety; dreading my son hitting the next level.
Worrying that he is ill-equipped, not strong-enough to withstand peer pressure.

I'm scared that I have not yet found the right way to parent.
And most of all I am hoping against hope that if I do manage to find that elusive perfect parenting plan, it won't turn out to be something that is dependent on me being consistent at it.
Which is highly unlikely.

{Am I alone in this? Can I hear from any parents who have seen their kids through the teenage years... how consistent do you really have to be and what worked for you? What was the most important ingredient in raising great adults? PS If you say "Consistency" I might cry}  

How consistent are you on a scale of 1-10: with 1 being pretty rubbish at it like me, and 10 being absolutely consistent without fail...?

{Images found on GoogleImageSearch}
28 August 2011

Round Here...

Round here we've been turning into Pirates.

{BTW: The speech bubbles are Daddy's off-camera voice in case you were wondering...}

Salty sea dogs, venturing forth to adventure and glory...

Pirate-Me braved the Under The Sea Kids Ball on my own with the younger kids. A brave and fearless pirate am I.

{For those of you who are less-than-impressed by my bravery and fearlessness, until recently going somewhere noisy and crowded has been a Very Big Deal for me and nearly impossible, even with Mr G to hold my hand. To even dream of doing it on my own is a Miniature Miracle all on its own. So YAY ME.}

Daddy and Dash were otherwise occupied.
They were busy celebrating with Dash's soccer team
Dash spent the morning shooting goals and winning the 9th Grade Central Football Championship with his amazing team, the Mighty Leopards.

So Dash and Daddy went off with the Leopards to celebrate their victory at the club rooms, and a mighty victory it was too.

Unbeaten. All Season. An amazing achievement.
Congratulations Leopards!

And while the boys were celebrating we dastardly Pirates went to the Ball...

The organisers {our church Kids Leaders and their team} did an amazing job, surpassing anything I could have cooked up
I had nothing to do with this event. I am learning to say No.
And look! They didn't need me at all...

I mean the setting was incredible. See where those fishes are projected on that screen?
They are swimming. Actually moving. Stingrays, sharks... gliding by like you're in an aquarium.
{Or Under the Sea...}

There was also billowing fabric above you and a bubble machine blowing bubbles so you really did feel like you were Under the Sea - or at  least at Kelly Tarltons...

The attention to detail would have done any party blogger proud.
And the costumes!!! Our thrown-together outfits from the dress up box were never going to win a prize... but the ones that did win... amazing!

Hard to see from the photos but this collage features a jewel-encrusted mermaid mummy and lobster-daddy and a jellyfish that actually lights up. All Homemade. Amazing.

Being an event open to the community, it was packed.
Heaving with kids and parents. Scrag was right into it. Miss Fab {or "Wub" as he calls her} clung to me like a deep sea limpet. Gail, she misses her dancing partner, Miss O!!!
The whole night was so well done. Hats off to the organisers - you did an amazing job.
Next time, people, if you're in town you really must come!

Beyond the Ball and the excitement of the ultimate football victory, there was gardening.
Scrubbing outdoor furniture, raking leaves, mowing lawns...
Because, people, Spring is just a round the corner!!!
Only three days away, and feeling like spring already.
So much so, we got out the sun lounger today. Ate ice cream, read books, in the sun.
Sorry to you Northern Hemisphere-ites... its our turn now for beautiful weather and lazy days...

I've even prepared my spring header in honour of the occasion...

Ahhh Spring. I feel you in the air.

Speaking of headers, I meant to send you over to visit Penny's brand new blog {which I designed for her} in my Friday Loving post but I got all "Am I a bad mother...? Am I doing a good enough job...?" and just wasn't in a very promotey mood.
But really, you should go visit Penny - she's a lovely girl, and she has a very pretty blog *ahem* if I do say so myself.

You'll find her over at "The Life of Penny"... so go say hi from me.

That's all I got for now.
Off to do my online shopping....

26 August 2011

Looking for Loving... {and Gratitude Too}

Today I had thought to show you my new slippers.
I planned to share my new Boards on Pinterest...
and other things like that.

But suddenly I find myself sliding down a precipice of doubt.
Doubting myself, my mothering, my intentions.
I guess guilt comes with the mother-job, but still it sucks.
So today I am looking for the things that I have done this week that prove to me I'm giving my best.
That I'm doing OK.
Not perfect... but good enough.

PaisleyJade says on her Loving Linky: "I wholeheartedly believe that no matter what is happening in your life, there is always something that you can be thankful for... no matter how simple it is..."

So here come some simple things I can be thankful for, that I did well this week as a mother.
  • I initiated getting the TV moved out of Scrag's bedroom. 
  • He has not watched TV this week during the day at all. Only a DVD with his sister after school some days, and that's it. I can feel good about that.
  • I reorganised his toys and his bedroom in the space left by the TV.
  • I have expected him to help me pick up his toys this week, instead of doing it all for him
  • We did baking together. At least twice.
  • I read him lots of stories.
  • I invited his friends over to eat the cookies we baked. And then contemplated starting a play group...

  • We picked flowers together from our garden.
  • I took him for hot chocolate at the Mall
  • We read about Swamp Tigers
  • I got his hair cut
  • I smiled at his flower headband, made for Daffodil Day. 
  • I ignored the curious stares and sniggers as he clumped proudly around the Mall, his flower band perched on his new 'Do, a smile on his face and gumboots.
  • I did not blog while he was at home.

  • I went to Miss Fab's Class and did Parent Help. I heard reading.
  • I went to Dash's class and volunteered to help on alternate weeks.
  • I did my Walking Bus duty even though neither of my kids were on it today.
  • I cooked every night. Even when I couldn't be bothered. Which was every night.
  • When I burned the dinner, I cooked another one, even though I was crying while doing it.
  • I tried to give the cat a worm tablet. Even when she tried to claw me I kept going. When I finally got it down her throat, she spat it out. But I tried.

  • The children were kissed and cuddled every day. They went off to school with a wave and a smile.
  • The bed was made each day before we had to get into it. Sometimes just before, but still, it was made.
  • I washed the dishes by hand twice a day. My dishwasher is broken, but the dishes are clean. Mostly. A few badly washed cups did squeak through.

I really think after listing all this that I didn't do too bad this week.
I should stop being hard on myself, shouldn't I?
I may have new happy pills but I still have to work on breaking nine years of bad habits.
These things take time.
So I am grateful that every day is a new day.
And God's Mercies are new every morning.
He doesn't hold my failures against me.
I am very very thankful for that.

25 August 2011

Ten Reasons to Be Glad I'm Done With School

Ahhh those long-ago school days.
Not for me a High School Musical experience. No cheerleaders. No pep rallies.
I was more like Drew Barrymore in Never Been Kissed. You know, Josie Grossie.
The New Zealand version.

You see
I was a nerd.

Complete with thick glasses, bad mother-cut hair and hand-me-down clothes.
I didn't begin life as an outcast. My nerdy-ness developed as school progressed. In fact you could say that school itself was the pressure cooker that revealed my Inner Nerd, leaving me friendless, shy, brainy, bookish and wearing glasses {although I can't really blame school for the glasses, that's just bad genes}.

But even nerd-ship aside, there's a bunch of reasons why school sucked and I'm glad those days are gone.

Here's my Top Ten Reasons I'm Glad I'm Done with School...

New Zealand Grades in the 70's and 80's
Primary School = age 5-10; Primer 1-4; Standard 1-4
Intermediate School = Age 11-12; Form 1-2
High School = Age 13-18; Form 3-7

Reason #1: Leaving Behind my Nerd Status
Out in the big wide world nobody knows I'm a nerd. There is no "in-crowd" to be left out of, I can just be accepted for my wonderful self... wahoo! Hey, can I come hang out with YOU? You there, with the huge blog-following... can I come sit by you at lunch...? I'll just polish my specs and then I'll be right over...

Reason #2: Embarrassing Health Talks
Remember those? Brand new Form One girls having to sit through The Talk. And not just the one from your mum either. The one with the Deputy Principal, the diagrams and the film. "Your Changing Body" or something. The way the Form Two girls blushed while us little girls fresh from primary school tittered. But just wait girls, next year its your turn to blush.

Reason #3: Puberty Blues
Puberty sucked, didn't it? All that anxiety about whether your boobs would always be one bigger than the other. The embarrassment of being a nine year old girl with boobs on swimming day {not actually me, but a poor girl in my Std3 class who waited til we were all gone before she'd get dressed.}Wondering if you would ever get your period and when would it come {hopefully not in the middle of science class}...?

Reason #4: The Inconvenient Crimson Tide
The embarrassment of getting your period in the middle of science class. The shame of fainting in the hallway on a pile of schoolbags when you got bad cramps. Your mum refusing to let you stay home from school because having a period is not the same as being sick. Your P.E. teacher refusing to let you out of P.E. because having a period is not the same as having a broken leg.

Reason #5: P.E. Hell
I know most normal kids loved P.E. but I was a nerd, remember?
Worst teacher of all, scary Sergeant Major Miss Critchley, in Third Form. She was sixty-ish and still going strong, marching the hallways with her spiky grey hair and piercing eyes.

Nothing short of a broken leg would excuse you from having to participate. And those awful romper shorts we had to wear! So embarrassing. I'm sure it was the uniforms that started my loathe-hate relationship with physical activity. By the time my parents caved and bought me the regulation track pants, it was too late. P.E. had forever put me off running and jumping... and shorts.

{P.E. = Physical Education; also called Phys Ed}

Oh dear. Check out that spelling. Someone needs to go back to High School...
Reason #6: Sucky Science
Not just because of that embarrassing incident in third form science. I liked Biology well enough. But Physics = snore. As for Chemistry and that darn periodic table... I learnt it alright, but now I can't forget it - though what use it has ever been in my adult life I can't tell you.

That little rhyme we learnt to help us remember: "How he likes beer by cupfuls not over-flowing. Nervous Nana made all silly people stop clicking around Kate's car..."

Hydrogen, Helium, Lithium, Beryllium, Boron...
See! I still remember it nearly thirty years later.
It did not help that my bearded science teacher wore walk-shorts, with socks... and sandals.

Reason #7: Useless Maths
Oh mathematics, where are you now?
Where in my life is the trigonometry, algebra, matrices? Oh quadratic equations, what have you ever done for me other than given me a headache while I tried to figure you out?
Teach me times tables, yes. Teach me to handle money, the principles of good finance, by all means. These skills I can use.
Any day with maths on the timetable was a bad day. Maths was the bane of my education, yet still, I passed all my exams and took it all the way to sixth form. But now I look back and ask, why?

Reason #8: Ugly School Uniforms
I have worn my fair share of ugly uniforms, given that my family moved around a lot.
Four different school uniforms I had to endure, each more ugly than the last.
Bought two sizes too big, "with room to grow" of course.
What started out flapping like a tent in a hurricane with all the spare room, was bursting at the seams by the time we moved on. After all, these were the days of "puberty" and "changing bodies".

Hideous, these uniforms were. Designed to make even the most comely of teenage figures look like a sack of spuds. I guess this was some kind of twisted attempt to dampen the flames of passion in the teenage boys we shared classes with.

The cool girls did their best to turn ugly into stylie, turning up their regulation hems and pushing down their regulation {oatmeal coloured} knee length socks.
But watch out if Miss Critchley was on duty at lunch time. She marched around with her ruler, and would make you kneel so she could measure your skirt, make sure it was the regulation length.
"Pull up your socks!" she would bark, and dish out detentions if she was having a bad day.
 Ahhh yes, glad to see the back of ugly school uniforms.

{NOTE: Most Intermediate & High schools in NZ wear Uniform}

Reason #9: Detention
What, a nerd in detention?
Ah yes. In my attempts to fit in and adjust my permanent nerd-status a little, I too pushed my socks down and rolled my skirt over at the waistband. I was trying to look normal.
But Miss Critchley spotted me on a bad day.
Next thing I knew I was sanding desks outside the principal's office.
Where everyone who passed by could point and laugh.
Detention was nothing like The Breakfast Club at my school.

Reason #10: Bullies
Bullies are what killed school for me. I wouldn't have minded being a simple no-mates-nerd if only the bullies could have left me alone.
See, my parents moved around a lot. Ten schools I went to. That was OK at primary school, but when we moved away from Auckland to the forestry town of Tokoroa, I was in trouble. They didn't like Aucklanders there, and I remember once when the teacher left the room, the class gathered around singing, "Auckland is a dump and so are you-ou..."
A dumb song, it didn't even make sense, but it still hurt. I was ten.

Worse was yet to come when we moved up to Intermediate school, the following year.
I was put in a class with the meanest girls in the school, with not one single person I knew from my Primary school.
The girls were rough and scary. Some of them ended up in the Black Power gang, I heard later.
These girls would take kids they didn't like around the back of the bike sheds and give them "the bash."
But before I knew all that I tried to make friends.
I looked out for other kids who knew nobody and made an effort to befriend them.

Too bad those other new girls turned on me... after I'd confided that my dad was a pastor. They shared this fact with the rest of the class who would gather round me bowing and singing hallelujah and saying, "Ha! Your dad wears a long black robe..!"
I tried to ignore them, I really did.
I just took my book outside and read by myself.
But they wouldn't leave me alone. They kept at me til they made me cry.
They'd push my head down into the book. They chased me with dead wetas*...
I should be glad they didn't give me the bash, but the meanness and exclusion and taunting was enough.
And so began my days as a nerd. Friendless, bookish, shy, nervous, wearing very ugly glasses.
I lost my confidence and it took years for me to find it again.

{*Weta = a very big ugly bug native to New Zealand}

I hate bullies. Bullying and meanness of any kind turns my stomach.
Bullies are weak, cowardly and insecure. They take out their problems on those who can't defend themselves to make themselves look bigger and feel better .
But when you're a kid you don't know that.
You think they're picking on you because there's something wrong with you.

Now, I wonder where those girls are. I wonder what they're doing with their lives and if they remember me, that scared lonely pastor's kid they once picked on.
And I wonder what they tell their kids about bullying.

Well. I didn't see that coming.
There I was writing a funny post for Writers Workshop and out poured all that other stuff.
See why I like blogging?
Better (and cheaper) than therapy.

My Ten Schools:
1975: St Annes Catholic School, Manurewa, South Auckland
1976: St Josephs Catholic School, Grey Lynn, Auckland
1977: Pt Chevalier Primary, Pt Chev Auckland
1978: Titirangi Primary (three months)
1978-1980 Sunnyvale Primary, West Auckland
1980: Tokoroa North Primary, Tokoroa (6 months)
1981-1982: Tokoroa Intermediate
1983-1984: Forest View High School, Tokoroa
1985: Spotswood College, New Plymouth (three months)
1985-1986: Inglewood High School, Taranaki

How were your school days?
Were you a nerd, a cool kid or something in between?

For Mama Kat's Pretty Much World-Famous Writers Workshop. Writing Prompt #5: Top Ten reasons why you're glad you're done with school... also linking up with Shell's Pour Your Heart Out {since I ended up Pouring out my Heart}