I have wanted to sit down and write this for over a week now! There has been a lot going on, but it is ok, because it is mostly good stuff.
I’ll address the difficult stuff right away. We have been dealing with a couple of major behavioral issues with the boys. Drew has started pooping in his pants and leaving it there for hours, causing me to cry, get headaches, lose sleep, over analyze, etc., etc. I’m ashamed to admit it, but I can’t lie—I get mad at him, REALLY mad when I smell old poop while I am reading a book to him on our couch and discover a solid chunk of poop in his underwear that has been there for hours, or pick a piece up off our kitchen floor with my bare hands because I didn’t realize what it was. I get mad! After three times in five days, I was losing it—losing my mind, losing it on him, just not doing well in general. Then to add to my shame, I finally look up the issue online and I see that it is often related to child abuse. Then my mind starts whirring even more—am I the person abusing my son? Do I get too angry? Is he scared of me? Am I causing him undue stress? Am I too American? I want to hold on to that part of us and make it part of all of our lives, but is that silly? Is he conflicted because I use American words and everyone else around him is pushing him to be Australian? Does he feel he has to be American to please me and Australian to please everyone else around him? Should I let that culture go? Should I try harder to assimilate more? Are Steve and I getting along well enough? Am I too crazy and can he tell? Is our planning for our upcoming U.S. trip causing him stress? It was hard last time we went—will it be worse this time? What if he has this problem over there, when we are staying with other people? I need to cure it now. ….If it’s not me that’s abusing him, than who is? I gave both boys another edition of the “these are your private parts. No one is allowed to touch them” talk, walking through who he is with all day every day that could potentially abuse him. Is full time school too much for him? (I don’t know what I could have done about that one, but it worries me.) Is he getting made fun of? Is he struggling with the material? Is his teacher ok? Why does she use Andrew still when we have told her so many times he goes by Drew and only Drew? Is that causing him stress? You get the idea…Cuckoo! No sleep! Yikes!
Thankfully, we have dear a psychologist friend who graciously gave us advice he could charge others for. Instead of going to a doctor at this point for a referral for some therapy, we are starting a rewards chart. He gets a reward for going all day without an accident, but he also gets one for having an accident and telling me about it right away. He is never punished, but can only earn extra privileges by being honest and/or trying his hardest to get to a toilet when he needs to go.
Life is humorous, isn’t it? While I’m trying to distract the little girl who is over playing with him while he cleans out his underwear in the laundry sink, his little brother takes in the scene and announces, “He pooped his pants!” “Shh. Quiet, Zach. It’s ok.” “But he did. He pooped his pants.” Ay yi yi—parenting is SO hard!
Zach’s issue has been some nightmarish tantrums, mostly related to meal times, and lashing out physically at me. He seems like a mini psycho bipolar complete wacko. So, naturally, I worry something’s going on with him as well that I can’t figure out. We’re starting a chart for him, too. Today he was angry that I didn’t have the type of cereal he wanted for his 2nd bowl and flung the remaining milk and cereal out of his bowl, across the room. He didn’t earn a sticker for his chart today! Argh! All I hear is routine, routine, routine—kids need a routine they can count on. Well, is it good that he counts so much on having the exact same type of cereal around all the time that it results in a tantrum when we run out?!
Enough about that. Maybe one day I’ll stop second guessing myself and feeling guilty. And also, to modify a line from one of my favorite kids’ books, maybe also “stars will turn to fish in the sky and the puffin will howl at the moon.” Haha.
On to the good stuff. Our days have continued to be very social and full of the feeling of friendship, love from family from afar and community. Our house is becoming the type of house I have always wanted, where people come and go; there are regularly visitors stopping by and you never know quite what to expect when at home. It’s busy, but lovely and I am grateful for it.
I got a Moms’ night out a few weeks ago for dinner and drinks and dancing in downtown Brisbane (“the city” as it’s referred to here). It was fantastic! It was a group of Moms with kids in Prep at the school and we all live within a kilometer or so of each other. As far as the constant guilt and self-evaluation, I received a huge pat on the back that night that’s kept me buoyed for days after. One friend said her daughter wanted to come down to our house to play, “because Kathleen’s nice.” Another friend then said, “Oh, we talk about that in our house, too. My girls say, ‘Kathleen is nice. She would never say that!’” Then another one chimed in and related how when Drew was at her house one day and they served him yogurt, he announced, “My Mom’s yogurt is much better than this!” and then one more Mom said when Drew was at her house he told her it was “pretty messy” compared to his. While I reminded myself to have a talk to Drew about what’s appropriate to say when he’s a guest in someone’s house, if I’d had a red cape, I could have started flying through the Brisbane night sky! Who would have thought: Me = SuperMom!! J
I also have been working hard at my writing endeavors and have started to reap some fun rewards! I’ve gotten a lot of rejection along the way, but the positives are definitely making it worth the effort at this point. I should be seeing an article I wrote published in a local parenting magazine at the end of this year or early next year. I will get paid enough to go out to lunch with the family. I wrote up a fun little article on Colorado animals for a new travel website, that I didn’t get paid for, but just got some practice and exposure. I have been applying for several jobs on a website I found for freelancers and I secured my first one after a few weeks of trying. I am now writing two hours a week above my part time job to help a guy improve his website for his cyber security business. It’s steady work until November, which is just perfect.
This sounds a bit silly to actually verbalize, but I also drafted a children’s story. I hope to get it to a good enough point that I can try and either get it published as a book in or in a children’s magazine. It’s been fun and terrifying at the same time to try and reach beyond my comfort zone!
We’ve also been firming up plans for our U.S. trip in December and it’s great to have something to look forward to. I just CANNOT wait to see loved ones and just BE there! I’m planning to eat Mexican food and drink margaritas every single night! The boys talk often about all their plans for the snow and it is fun to be a part of. I’ve also been planning my hubby’s 40th birthday party, which oddly enough, has brought back several memories of my own Dad’s 40th birthday party when I was 10. Funny how life goes full circle….
One more rant related to the reduction in personal freedoms I’ve experienced since leaving the U.S. and then I will put those to bed! I really have been shocked by the way tenants are treated here. Someone told me that the rental vacancy rate in this area is just under 3% and that a healthy rate is close to 8 or 9% and because of that, landlords feel they can treat tenants with no respect whatsoever, and we have no choice but to just put up with it. When you move out of a place, you are required to leave it in the EXACT condition in which you came into it, with no allowance for regular wear and tear. Then a new tenant is moved in THE NEXT DAY. Therefore, landlords do no painting, no repairs, no patching of holes in the walls from hanging pictures, etc. Depending on the standard of the house, the vacating tenant is required to do all of that at his own expense. In fact, you are not even allowed to hang pictures in many cases. We were told not to here, except with proper picture hooks.
Of course, this is a rule I ignored, because it is one I cannot accept. This is my home that I am paying a lot of good money for and children tack up artwork sometimes. Because of that, we are required to return the walls to their original condition when we leave.
The other thing I feel is a complete invasion of privacy is that landlords conduct inspections of our home four times a year and tell us everything they don’t like about the way we are keeping it, right down to pointing out that I have not cleaned my bathrooms well enough! They even take photos for their files, which is taking photos of our personal effects and I do not like that one bit.
There, I’m done! As I’ve said before, sometimes this sacrifice of personal freedom, although difficult to stomach, is worth it because it brings with it a higher standard of living. So, we just have to suck it up and deal with it, knowing that we are saving money and have the ability to do afford more fun than we could before, when we were “freer.”
It really is a beautiful place to be. Being near the beach is an obvious blessing, but I was also thinking today how much I love the tropical fruits that are now common in our diets, the different, noisy, colorful birds, and the absolutely stunning flowers. The jasmine has just begun blooming again and I firmly believe that is one of the most exquisite beautiful smells I have ever smelled. So, take a deep breath and “aaahhhh!”