Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Working (on) holidays

We have just come home from a short family holiday. I am not sure if driving to a holiday destination makes it less holiday-like – or if it is a new media thing. My job as a parenting magazine editor means that ideally I need to check in regularly, keep things ticking over, but I don’t need to be in an office or work set hours. During our family holiday I updated news on the website almost daily, edited down a few articles and proofed the final draft of the Gold Coast magazine. Being able to do my job from almost anywhere means I can do my job when we are on holidays.

I didn’t completely relax into holiday mode, but still had a wonderful time. 

I used to leave everything behind when we went on holidays, including my health. I would drink too much, laze around too much and certainly try hard to not think about work. Of course at that time of my life I didn’t have children, worked for a very large multi-national and didn’t have a particularly good exercise regime (read: worked very long hours, drank copious amounts of coffee and very occasionally went to the gym). Now our holidays are very active. I usually try and run or swim before the kids get up, we spend the day hiking, swimming, climbing (and possibly a little sleeping in the afternoon if we can wear the kids out enough!). But I always have my phone with me and I regularly check my emails and do any work needed in between activities or in the evening when the kids have gone to bed. By having a job that gives me great flexibility when I am at home, I feel I need to be able to continue to offer that flexibility when I am away. For me, it is give and take.

But not actually taking a complete break from my work made me wonder what others do. Are we taking holidays differently now that we are able to “log in” in so many different ways? Even if we leave our laptop behind, we have smart phones and tablets (I proofed half of the magazine from my phone with my husband driving). Does this mean that we are not actually getting the break we need? Or are we actually finding ways to reduce our stress when we get back from holidays? And what does this mean for our relationships?

I have so many questions and no answers. What do you think?

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Is it okay to interfere?

Today as I stood on top of Mt Coolum, I was extremely proud of both my kids, my 3 year old daughter had just walked all the way to the top on her own and my 6 year had been wonderfully encouraging. As we always do, we wondered over to the far side of the top of the mountain to find a little shade and enjoy the view, a snack and water. 

As we sat there my son pointed to a girl and asked “Why is she drawing on the rock?” I looked over and a young girl of 10 or 11 years was carving her name into a large rock with a pocket knife. Mt Coolum is a National Park. Obviously graffiti almost anywhere is illegal; however, this is a National Park! And here was a young girl, with a knife, carving her name into a rock… in front of her father and sister. And in front of my 3 year old and 6 year old and every other child and teenager that was on top of the mountain today – and it was a beautiful Sunday and there were lots of people.

I looked at my husband, and said “Sorry, I am going to have to say something.” I have been known to do this with smokers in restaurants; however this was my first “wildlife warrior” moment. I politely asked the girl if she would mind stopping carving into the rock as it was graffiti and was not permitted in a national park. She looked at her dad who told her, “It’s okay; there are lot’s names already up here”. I explained that it wasn’t okay, and it was ruining the environment for everyone. The father was extremely unimpressed with my interfering (which I had expected) and stopped his daughter, telling her that it looked good already. He huffed and puffed many things under his breath and moved away with his kids. 

Our family packed up our rubbish and got ready to head back down. We started across the top of the mountain to begin our decent when I decided to run back and take a photo of the graffiti. To my shock, the dad was standing beside his daughter as she finished her name and date in the rock. This time I didn’t say anything – what could I say without really crossing the line. I went and took some photos of other carved names on top of the mountain, and there are a lot of them.

On the drive home we had a discussion with our kids about graffiti and the impact on the environment. We talked about why some graffiti is art and other is not. I was a little bit upset with father’s reaction; however my husband reminded me that I had basically disciplined his child in front of him. 

Sitting here writing this, I am still not sure what I would have done differently. Where do our kids learn about acceptable behaviour? I know I would be furious if a stranger corrected my parenting; however I felt that when we move into breaking the law and damaging the environment that it is time to say something. How do children learn about appropriate boundaries without parental direction?

What would you have done?

Sunday, September 9, 2012

I’ll take the small wins!

Parenthood really is like navigating a moving walkway, such as those they have in Hogwarts (yes, I am talking Harry Potter).

The challenges are there, whether you have a genius child or not. For me, it is balancing life with an amazing three year old daughter with type 1 diabetes and a lateral thinking, science based six year old son.

As most parents will tell you, my kids are fantastic! I love them to bits and could bore you to tears with daily clever/ special/ stupendous anecdotes. But some days your kids just amaze you. Today, as I was putting my three year old to bed, she decided to tell me about why she was so very lucky. Much luckier than her friends.

As I mentioned, my darling daughter (DD) has diabetes. She has had it since she was 11 months old and so does not remember life without it. Last week she met with our (likely) next local MP and when he asked what life was like with diabetes she said, “It is normal, just like you.” I was so pleased that she felt that way. On very, very rare occasions she feels sad about having diabetes (see Mummy, I don’t want to be broken, April 2012); however most the time she takes life in her stride.
So back to tonight – tonight she was a little low (which means her blood glucose levels are slightly lower than they need to be – very low and she can slip into unconsciousness, start to  lose brain function, and in some circumstances her organs start to shut down – but not when just a little low). I treat slight lows cautiously (as I don’t want her to become very high overnight – a high can feel like you have a horrible hangover, and in the long term can cause all sorts of damage to her organs). About 20 minutes later DD was still feeling low, so we tested her blood glucose again and she was even lower than before (still not dangerously low). So we discussed her food options: gummy bear (high GI) and 2 spoons of yoghurt (low GI) or ½ marshmallow and yoghurt.  Decision made (gummy bear – red), she sits there holding the lolly and delighting in how lucky she is to be able to eat such naughty food at bedtime.

Now the ‘healthy eating mummy’ in me thinks, “Hmm we need to have a conversation about this” and the ‘thank your lucky stars mummy’ thinks, “Wahoo, what an awesome outlook DD”.

For those friends with kids reading this, I apologize in advance as DD has planned all the friends she is going to tell about being able to have a red gummy bear before bedtime. She has also explained to me that they will understand, as she is special because she has diabetes. I love that she can be so positive about her disease. I love that she can turn back food because she knows it will make her high, but embraces the times she can enjoy sugar. I have no idea how long this will be the case, but I too will embrace her positivity.

My son wants to become a scientist and cure diabetes. But he also is independent and stubborn. My daughter is also stubborn (a good trait for a diabetic I believe), and has a love for life and people.  Since my daughters’ diagnosis I have learnt that in life we really cannot count on tomorrow being what we expect; only that today is what we make of it and we can try to influence positive changes.

Every day I try to be a positive influence for my kids. Sometimes I am cranky, but feed them a perfect diet for the day and ensure that they are on time for all activities (be it school, kindy, dance, rugby or swimming). Sometimes we are late but happy. At the end of the day we often chat about our day; what worked, what didn’t and what we will try and improve on. I have decided that it is best that my kids don’t think I am perfect. That they understand that it is ok to admit to making mistakes and that life is a constant learning experience.

But on any day, I most certainly will take the small wins. And tonight, DD’s pleasure over having a gummy bear at bedtime was a win!

What are your challenges? What do you discuss with your kids? Do you admit to mistakes?

Saturday, September 1, 2012

Because I can read...

Because I can read, I do!

I love books. Real books. The ones that you can touch, hold, turn the pages and smell. Yes, books have a smell, all good readers know that. 

In the past I have gone through phases where I would read a huge amount and then not read for a long while. Regardless of my current reading status, I would always buy more books. I was one of “those” people. We have a wall full of books I have not yet read. And now it seems they will never be read. At least not by me. 

I was given a kindle for Christmas. Since that time I have not been able to read an actual book. I swear to you that it was not my intention. As I explained, I LOVE books. I truly believed that a kindle (or e-book reader, as I am sure they are all much the same) could never replace an actual book. There is something about lying around, turning a page that is soothing.  I really thought that the kindle would be something that I used from time to time, always going back to my trusty physical books. Well that has not happened. I have even purchased an eBook of a book that I have sitting on the bookshelf (sorry darling husband… you did buy me the kindle!). Somehow I have become very comfortable gently clicking through the pages. 

I love the fact that I can carry my kindle, without any significant weight, with me anywhere.  I have hundreds of books downloaded and almost never spend more than $5, and so many classics are free (although I do always check the price of actual books and recently have had to boycott one of my favourite authors as she is charging more for her eBook than the print edition). I had a really clever idea recently to download some of the free kids’ classics for my son to read. I quickly realised the error of my ways when he actually tried to read them (i.e. I was unable to use my kindle as he was using it… oops!).

I also can read anything I want without being judged on what I am reading. I appreciate that this may not concern some people; however I really like escaping with trash sometimes and frankly don’t always feel the need to share this with everyone.  I am also one of those people who can happily read a few books at once – and now I can carry those books with me everywhere. Depending on my mood I may read anything from a classic, to a romance or a motivational non-fiction. 

I have not had a long pause of non-reading this year. I can’t say for sure that it is because of my kindle, but having so much choice and being able to start another book within seconds of the last, does seem to keep me reading.  This year is the National Year of Reading, so pick up a book, pick up the newspaper, a comic or your eReader and read. Read for yourself, read for your kids and read just because it is a great thing to do.

Do you own an eReader? Do you still read physical books?