Keeping positive

A recent horoscope advised “Rid yourself of toxic people…”

It made me laugh, but it also made me think a lot. Maybe my horoscope was right? Like a festering sore, negative people get under your skin, eating away at your self-confidence, leaving you insecure and unsettled – exactly the emotions you don’t need after relocating.

But for every negative person you meet, there are about five positive ones out there, all happy to have a chat.

A recent family reunion bore testament to that. Although we arrived late due to karate lessons because of an imminent grading, we got there in the end and I’m so glad we did. We’ve normally missed these sort of gatherings and my kids barely know anyone on Mum’s side of the family.

 

I find people fascinating and everyone has a story to tell. One cousin had run a pub, another runs her own business. One found romance after a chance meeting with an old acquaintance at a party a few years ago and yet another owns a bob-cat and a tip truck!

Cousin J rounded up the troops along with paper and pens and before long, they’d drafted up a family tree. It was a brilliant idea, generating much discussion and laughter as they tried to figure out who went where. But I think the most interesting…or rather, disturbing…stories came from the cousin with the voodoo doll and its uses.

I managed to persuade another cousin to stay for a drink and a chat after most people had gone for the evening. We’d gone to school together and it was really nice to reconnect after such a long time. She’d lived in the west for a time and knew exactly what it was like to relocate.

We had a lovely afternoon and I hope that there’ll be another gathering in the not-too-distant future.

A BBQ back at home with close friends capped off weekend – and my new resolution. Listen,  empathise – but be positive! I want my glass to stay half-full (well, full, actually, but that’s another story.)

Life’s too short. Be true to yourself.

 

Something had to give…

And sadly, it’s been my blog. Juggling work, the kids, the activities and trying to ‘fit in’ again is taking its toll. Work is crazy busy, and like the majority of the world’s population, I wish there were a few more hours in the day to get things done.

The kids aren’t particularly happy with the current arrangement, particularly S. Despite settling nicely into kindy, he’s taken to barricading the door again when I leave the house in the morning. And if that doesn’t tug at the heartstrings, he greets me at the door in the evenings saying “I’ve been crying for you, Mummy.”

I think he’s feeling a bit insecure; he won’t go into rooms on his own anymore, he’s frequently checking to see where we are and when once he would go to bed and fall asleep in an instant, he now constantly comes out to check what we’re doing. I’m not sure what he’s feeling but he’s definitely worrying about something and can’t articulate it, the poor little love.

He still talks about “yesterday, when we were in Singapore…” Maybe he’s worried we’ll move again? Or perhaps he just wants his mum? Who knows what’s troubling a four-year-old?

The other two are fantastic with him. They play with him, they make him laugh and hugs are plentiful when he’s sad. They understand – they’ve lived through what he’s going through numerous times themselves. It seems that even if their memories of life overseas start to fade as they settle down here,  one thing has been ingrained into their being – a whacking great dose of empathy. They fight, they bicker, they tell tales on each other but despite all that, they still look out for each other.

It’s been a mad few months for us all and for the most part, I think we feel pretty settled, except for those times when we don’t… Sometimes, some days, there’s a little niggle of “what if we’d stayed..?” But it’s not so much for the country we’ve left, it’s the people you leave behind. And I think that’s how S feels. He still rattles off the names of the kids he was in pre-school over there with.

Anyway, the end is in sight; the project I’m working on will settle down (hopefully) in a few weeks, and life won’t be so hectic. We just need more time.

 

 

Christmas! And a happy new year.

How fast did the weeks before Christmas pass by? Work was crazy busy – I was doing  12 hour days leading up to the main event and thanking my lucky stars I’d organised the food a week before. You see, for the first time in 10 years, we were finally able to host Christmas at our house.

One thing that struck me was how easy it was to shop here for Christmas lunch. Dry goods were purchased a week or so earlier. An early-morning trip to Pellegrino’s on Christmas eve sorted out the fruit, veg and cheeses; an order at Chicken Thyme netted free-range, roasted chooks for collection on Christmas morning and Mum provided the ham. Everything was fresh, and available, a complete novelty when you’ve been on an island where things often run out right when you need them.

Throw in a lamb roast while the potatoes were cooking, recruit some relatives for salad duty, organise a steady flow of champagne while assembling the cheese platter and voila! Christmas lunch is done!

It was wonderful how much of an effort people made to ensure the day was a special one. Both sides of the family were here and the kids were in their element. Santa could finally provide gifts that didn’t have to fold flat into a suitcase or bought in the hope that they didn’t survive the flight home. And the best bit was that they could play with them all day without having to pack them away before moving on to the next location. I think an epic game of Monopoly is still being played in the lounge room

An enjoyable afternoon was spent playing ping pong in the garage and dodging pellets from Nerf guns, something Santa had avoided producing for the last few years.

The kids had a wonderful time, and we’ve spent the last few days catching up with with family and friends, a lot of whom are in various stages of travel and transition. I love the fact that although the kids haven’t seen each other since we left Singapore, they play like they saw each other only yesterday.

So this year, save for an overnighter, we’re basically staying put for the holiday season. No flights, no long drives and nothing in particular planned, which is sheer bliss. The kids are hanging out in the backyard, we’re sorting out a few things around the house and that’s the extent of it until I go back to work.

To all those who are travelling, relocating or in transit, I wish you well with wherever your journey takes you and I wish everyone a safe and happy New Year. Enjoy!

Nitpicking

The house was spotless: the walls gleamed whitely in the morning sun, the floors shone so brightly it hurt to look at them and even the rusty metalwork in the ancient kitchen had been restored to its former glory – well almost. We weren’t miracle workers. We were ready for the handover with the landlord – or were we?

“There’s a mark on the curtain. Must be from your kids…”

“Nooo…it was there beforehand. And here’s a picture.”  Dutifully show picture of stained curtain before we moved in.

“That hose – the one behind the toilet. It’s not working. You broke it.”

“No – it wasn’t working when we moved in. You had plumbers in for six months and they couldn’t fix it. You turned off the water supply and told us not to use it.”

And so it went on. Full of importance, the landlord strode around with her list of things that were broken before we moved in. We argued that it’s not our job as tenants to renovate her house for her. Our agent provided proof to support our claims. Her husband tried to explain to her the “wear and tear” clause in the rental agreement in rather heated Mandarin. I suspect he was slightly embarrassed by her behaviour.

Anyway, after a rather spectacular argument in front of a prospective tenant over an oven light that had never worked, we conceded $45 for its repair. She was happy with her victory and we were simply relieved it was all over.

And we were free, leaving me some time to read Friday’s school newsletters. I skimmed through the articles, looked at the photos, glossed over the notice of the head lice outbreak…

I didn’t think too much more about it until the kids were in the bath that night. Although the only time the kids had been scratching their heads was when I asked them where their library books were, I thought I’d do a quick check, just to be sure.

So, expecting nothing, I idly ruffled the hair of the kid who was first in the bath. Imagine my horror when I saw a few creepy crawlies jumping about happily in their hairy little playground. Ewww. I checked the next child, and the next… and then I had a flashback to a week ago, when I was packing up the kids bathroom.

Remember those moments when you look at an item and think, “No, won’t need that. We’re only in the serviced apartment for a couple of weeks…” Well, I did that with the head lice kit. I always had one in the cupboard for times like this. I remember holding it my hot little hand, looking at it for the longest time before deciding not to pack it. And now I was kicking myself for not bringing it with me.

Hubby was dispatched to  the shops for whatever he could get to kill the little blighters while I raced about stripping pillows and trying to keep the one, unaffected child out of range of the other two.

Unfortunately, the bamboo comb and treatment shampoo wasn’t a patch on the metal one that was sailing the high seas to Australia. So, my first evening free of packing was spent doing what I’d done all morning – nitpicking!

It’s never too early to start

Just under six weeks to go now, with only four left in the apartment. Factor in long weekends, public holidays, pupil-free days and the school bus company axing the morning bus with immediate effect today, time is becoming quite scarce.

So where do you begin?

Today’s task was to remove the paintings. My husband scurried around the house with his screwdriver and putty pot, busily removing hooks and filling in the holes.

My job was the glamorous task of removing three years worth of dust from the backs of the paintings. What I didn’t anticipate was the ridiculous amount of gecko poo found lurking at the back of the canvasses. And let me tell you, that stuff is harder to remove than the smiles on my kid’s faces at Christmas.

Subsequently, the task took a lot longer than anticipated and has made me look at the house in a different light. What other jobs will hold little surprises? The humid climate here is brutal and mould grows on just about every surface, including the kids. Our furniture took a beating the last time it went into storage and still bears the scars.

So armed with a spray bottle of vinegar, water and peppermint oil (great for killing mould and deterring ants!), I’ll start to wend my way through the house bit-by-bit in the hope that the final clean won’t be too arduous. I’m conscious that time is ticking by awfully fast at the moment.

When the kids came home from school this afternoon, they were quite positive about the empty walls. Deep down they seem to be worried that our things will get left behind but seeing the paintings sitting around ready for packing appears to be comforting for some reason.

Right now I’m watching a gecko roaming aimlessly around the walls, looking for his house, which was the blue painting we’ve removed. He’s in the same boat as us now – seeking a permanent home. I hope he finds one soon. I know all too well what it’s like to be displaced.

It’s the little things

Last week passed by in a blur. The kids were back at school and we set ourselves the challenge to clear out the clutter from the back storage area, the spare room and the boys’ bedroom. Doesn’t sound too daunting, does it? We were trying to do it while S was away at preschool, leaving us with 12 child-free hours over three days.

First stop was the back area and that was the easy part. We’ve been carting a fair amount of stuff around that shouldn’t never have left Melbourne and I’m still not sure where some of it came from. Anyway, out went the old modems, the stuffed toys that seemed to have bred in the cupboards and the antiquated TV.

The spare room was next. Broken toys, jigsaws with pieces missing, McDonald’s toys – gone. We’re were well on our way, on schedule and the rubbish chute was getting a great workout.

But here’s the catch. I find it really hard to get rid of the little things. Paintings, drawings, homemade Christmas decorations…why do I feel the need to hoard? And then we moved onto the boy’s room. Do I really need to keep all those learning journals, art books from pre-school and pictures that look more like tadpoles than people?

But I feel that I do. Why? I’m not 100% sure but I think it’s because those tangible, physical household memories are gone for us. Like that dent in the wall that perfectly matches the scar on H’s nose? Or the lines on the doorframe marking height and time? Swept clean every time our life was packed into boxes and shipped.

So if that cute little drawing of Frosty takes me right back into the house in The Hague, the backyard and the first time the kids built a snowman, I’m keeping it. Or the paintings that have hung in their room since they were tiny? The kids have probably outgrown them but I remember each wall they’ve been hung on and they’re staying.

Fortunately my husband isn’t as sentimental as me, so thanks to him, we did get rid of a fair amount of clutter that needed to go. But there’s also a little bag of bits I went back and retrieved when his back was turned. I’ll probably get rid of it all one day. Just not today.

Prolonging the agony?

It’s funny how feelings can change after a bit of time – namely, a month of school holidays.

Sunday afternoon, H announces, “I wish we had more time off school.”

“But you could have…” I said, surprised. “It was your decision to go back for Term 3.”

She looked a little sheepish. “I wish we could just move now.”

Interesting…Maybe she felt a bit odd going back for Term 3 knowing that this was her last one? Perhaps being away from her friends and the familiar routine for four weeks was what she needed to process the move and be OK with it? Or maybe she just wants to get it over and done with?

It’s hard to tell. On Monday morning, she did seem a little apprehensive about going back, but by the time I picked her up she was absolutely fine.

T, on the other hand, who’d been adamant we should move as soon as possible so we’d arrive in Melbourne at the same time as his friend, was incredibly excited about seeing his mates again. He didn’t seem at all perturbed that this was the final term, just happy to know that he’d be with his buddies.

So now I’m wondering, are we prolonging the agony by staying? Would it have been better not to send them back once the ties were broken over the break? Sure we had play dates but they’d gotten out of the habit of seeing their friends on a daily basis. Perhaps sneaking out of the country might have saved them some emotional turmoil?

As a parent, the self-doubt can be crippling. Did I do the right thing? Did I make the right decision? What if I’d done this differently? I don’t think this feeling will ever change so I guess embracing the decision has to be the way forward.

Maybe their final day of school will be as emotional as when we first told them we were moving. But I do believe that as difficult as it will be, that’s something we need to work through as a family. Leaving friends behind is one of the hardest things I’ve had to do. Some people you know you’ll see again but others? A lot of water will pass under the bridge before paths cross again – if ever – and that feeling is incredibly sad. But the one constant is family.

Despite the fights and consistent, persistent bickering, the kids are a tight little unit and despite outward appearances, they do care deeply for each other. I’ve seen how much they support each other when we’ve moved in the past and they’re amazing.  And that’s how they’ll cope. It’s how we’ve always coped.