Open Apology

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I have always laughed, but felt a tad annoyed, when people would ask me, ‘are ALL those children yours?’ – like having four children made me like the Duggars who have dozens of kids. The jokes of ‘haven’t you worked out how they are made?’ or ‘doesn’t your television work?’ or ‘are you trying to get a whole football team?’ all became old very quickly, so I’m usually sensitive to this with other parents.

However, the other day I bumped into a mother with whom I would sit when my oldest kids were learning to swim. She has a son my eldest daughter’s age, a son my second daughter’s age, a daughter a little younger than my son and the last time I saw her several years ago she had another baby son. So I was surprised when I saw her cradling a newborn baby. ‘Is that yours?’ I asked hesitantly, to which she replied yes. ‘How many kids do you have now?’ I asked insensitively. ‘Oh about fifteen,’ she joked then said this little boy was her fifth child.

‘Wow, a child finishing school and a newborn, that’s amazing,’ I went on, followed by, ‘you’ll probably have grandkids before your youngest kids finish school.’ This sentiment stems from my own thoughts that it is quite possible that my eldest could have a child before we are free from school commitments for our youngest.

After I walked away I was replaying our conversation over in my mind and came to the conclusion that I had acted in the exact way that I had always made a silence pact not to! What I should have said was what a blessing to have such a gorgeous child and what a lovely addition he would make to the family, instead in my shock at seeing this lady with another child I blurted out insensitive comments for which I openly apologise.

I know that when you give birth to any baby, you love them unconditionally and can’t imagine your family without them. This little boy is lucky to have been born into a family where he has many siblings to dote on him. I just don’t envy his mum having to sit through all those swimming lessons again!

(Photo courtesy of papaija2008, freedigitalphotos.net)

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IN THE WAKE OF THE STORM

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Last week we were hit with a severe storm that saw major damage to people’s property through trees toppling over, water damage from driving rain and king tides and high winds literally tossing boats up onto the shore. Thousands of homes and businesses lost power as trees were uprooted and infrastructure was devastated.

We were in the lucky few that didn’t lose power, however the kid’s school was closed for two days. My kids were in seventh heaven! I guess it is akin to those in the northern hemisphere getting a ‘snow day’, although even more rare, because in my living history I don’t ever recall schools closing because of a storm.

Our home became a revolving door for people (those who weren’t trapped in their homes because of fallen trees) to shower, recharge electronics, refrigerate food and do washing. We averaged 16 for dinner each night and had multiple people bunking down to sleep. Whilst it was an anxious time with everyone on high alert as to what damage might next occur, my kids were largely oblivious to the carnage mother nature had caused and instead saw it as a mini-holiday with a house-full of guests.

Other people told me how it had brought them together as a family as they had to interact without electronics and play old-fashioned board games by candlelight due to the lack of power.

The local SES (State Emergency Service) workers and those working for the local power company worked tirelessly to clear fallen trees and reconnect power and services.

It was nice to see that when times were tough, our community pulled together to assist one another.

From my kid’s perspective however, they would have preferred if the school’s power could have been left disconnected for an extra few days!

(Photo courtesy of George Stojkovic, freedigitalphotos.net)

MERRY CHRISTMAS

As I sit watching Christmas carols on television, awaiting my munchkins to go to sleep (which takes much longer on Xmas eve than any other night due to the excitement of the imminent visit from Santa) I wanted to take this opportunity to thank everyone for their support this year and to wish you and your family all the best for a very happy Christmas.
I have just returned from a holiday with my extended family which is why I have been AWOL for the last two weeks. You really can’t put a price on the value of seeing kids interacting daily with their cousins and similarly grandparents with their grandkids. I will be absent again for a few weeks as I spend quality family time with my kids and husband over the Christmas break. I hope you also have the opportunity to enjoy fun times with your family over the coming week.
As bed time draws near I know it won’t be long before the visit from the jolly man in the red suit – I just hope our puppy has left carrots for the reindeers – she was enjoying snacking on them when the kids put them out earlier!
Merry Christmas and all the best for a happy New Year!

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EXCHANGE

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We are about to take a huge leap of faith and entrust our sixteen year old daughter to a family on the other side of the world for a few weeks. Whilst on a cultural school trip to China last year our daughter met a girl from Spain and they became firm friends, organizing a private exchange to take place this year. Thankfully this girl speaks fluent English, however the same can’t be said for her parents.

We have skyped the family to ‘meet’ them, however it was a slow and interesting process having the Spanish daughter translate everything we said to them and then translate their response in return. 

As much as we are a little nervous about sending our daughter to Spain, we actually host the Spanish girl first, so her family is taking an even bigger leap of faith entrusting us with their daughter first. Our plan is to show her the sights of Sydney and give her a glimpse of our life in Australia. I’m not sure how she will cope being thrust into our family, as with four children, our household can be loud and raucous at times, whilst she is an only child that is used to peace and quiet.

Our daughter will miss a few weeks of school whilst in Spain, but I believe she will learn life skills and have cultural experiences that will far outweigh the lessons she will miss. It is such an amazing opportunity for her to be welcomed into another family and be shown how others in this world live. I’m interested to see if it changes her outlook on life and influences her in anyway when planning her future.

So next week, we will meet our new little Spanish friend at the airport with banners, balloons and open arms and I will mumble the only real statement I can think of in Spanish ‘Mi casa es su casa’ (my home is your home) and hope that she feels at home with our family!

 

 

(Picture courtesy of pinkblue, freedigitialphotos.net)

HOLIDAY ABROAD

Our family has just returned from an amazing holiday spent in the tropical warmth of Phuket, Thailand. 

This time overseas, spent free of other commitments and distractions, was a lovely chance to bond as a family. Although we had wi-fi in our hotel room, the days were free of the kids feeling the need to constantly be on social media or a need to amuse them with ipads.

Instead our days were filled with wonderful adventures of riding elephants, snorkeling with tropical fish and literally flying through the jungle on ziplines. The water was warm and an incredible aqua hue that was inviting to swim, sometimes for hours on end.

We visited temples, chatted (as best we could) with locals and haggled in markets to buy souvenirs. We then caught tuk tuks (open truck like taxis with booming stereos and flashing lights) back to our hotel. They were literally like little discos on wheels, which provided a fun and unique way to end each night.

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On our final night, we released a heart shaped lantern into the sky and as I watched it drift up in the night sky, first out of our reach and eventually out of our sight, I felt it was a metaphor for our time with our kids. One moment they are larger than life, within arms reach, then they will slowly drift away as they forge their own path in this world. Whilst they will carry our love with them, we may not always be able to hold them and enjoy their immediate presence. Our kids are literally growing up in front of our eyes and each passing holiday marks one less chance we will spend time together just as a family without external distractions.

Life is about enjoying quality time with your loved ones, having fun experiences and being appreciative to be able to do so. Our time in Phuket ticked all these boxes and so I’m truly grateful that we have such wonderful memories of our time together as a family.

SPONSOR CHILD

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A few years ago I thought it was a great idea to sponsor a child in a third world country. My hopes were to choose a child whom my children could relate to so that my kids could develop empathy and compassion for people less fortunate than we are. I also hoped to obviously improve the living conditions and education for our sponsor child.

We sponsor a little girl in Uganda, who is the same age as my youngest daughter. My hopes were that through better education, this little girl would go on to give back to her community so that the whole village would eventually benefit from our charity.

Unfortunately, although this girl is now 11, all we receive from her are drawings of triangles, along with very basic information through a translator (that I’m not sure are her words). I’m afraid that my hopes are dashed of her growing up and helping the village and I truly don’t know how our sponsor child is actually benefitting at all from the hundreds of dollars we spend on her each year. My real fear is that the majority of the funds are actually going to marketing materials for the charity as I constantly receive propaganda to sponsor more children.

Not only hasn’t our sponsor child’s intellect seemed to develop, but neither has my children’s empathy for her situation. Although they are aware of this child, they show very little interest in her. I wanted my kids to be able to see the difference we are making in her life, but there doesn’t seem to be any improvement with her academically or socially. I had hoped they would develop a relationship of being able to be pen-pals to discuss the diversity of their lives, maybe to even meet one day in the future. This doesn’t seem like it will ever be the case, as it is difficult to correspond with her outside of the carbon copy communication forms that come from the charity.

So I’m at a crossroads. I’m paying to fund the sponsorship of a child that I’m not sure is benefitting from it and it hasn’t taught my kids any of the life lessons I had hoped to instill in them. Whilst I still feel sorry for the people living in third world countries, I think that maybe I should focus my donations on a local children’s hospital so that the money goes directly to the source and doesn’t get watered down by a charitable organisation.

Have you had a positive experience with sponsoring a child? It seems everyone I talk to has a similar tale to me!

 

 

(Photo courtesy of Africa, freedigitalphotos.net)

RUSSIAN ROULETTE

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I have recently heard of several ‘surprise’ pregnancies – one baby that has been born into a family with teenage kids who thought their days of babies and nappies were well and truly over, and one with a couple who had long ago agreed they wouldn’t be having children.

 

I am speaking from experience when I say that if you have decided that you don’t intend on ever having children in the future, that if you don’t do something permanent about it, then you are playing Russian roulette.

 

We had three delightful daughters and had decided our family was complete when we surprised with the conception of our gorgeous son. Luckily for us, there wasn’t too much of an age gap with our youngest and being a boy cemented the feeling that he was just meant to be. To this day I honestly don’t know how he was conceived as even though we were actively trying not to fall pregnant we ended up with our ‘surprise’ bundle of joy. During the labour with my son, I gripped my husband’s arm and stared him in the eyes before saying ‘Don’t you ever get me pregnant again!’ Soon thereafter he was booked in the ‘snip’ so that we didn’t have the possibility of another ‘surprise’ child.

 

The lady in the childless couple went to the doctor to see if he could help her get over a gastro bug. After the doctor felt her stomach to see if there were any unusual growths, he confirmed in fact there was – a baby. After an ultrasound she found out she was 24 weeks pregnant. It is quite a shock to come to terms with having a surprise pregnancy, but an even greater one if you had never intended on having children in the first place.

 

The baby born into the family with teens is being smothered with love and the family is adjusting to their new addition.

 

One thing is for sure, whether you plan them or not, once a ‘surprise’ baby is born, you can’t imagine life without them!

 

 

(photo courtesy of David Castillo Dominici, freedigitalphotos.net)