Surprise! I'm a single parent

October 23, 2010, 2:25 pm
Filed under: environment

Years ago I spent a day with my youngest digging over a new patch of ground. We added compost and manure and then we planted a combination of herbs and veges and flowers. She was keen on the flowers. From then on we always referred to it as her garden.  If I was going out to get lettuce or chives I’d announce I was getting it from her garden.

I bet you think I’m going to say she became a keen gardener? Unfortunately no. But she can find her way through teh whole vege garden and gather the things I want. The surprising result however is that i have become a gardener – not a hugely successful one but I can always get greens out of the back yard for dinner: broccoli, silverbeet (so easy), several varieties of lettuce,  potatoes (super easy!), peas, beans, broad beans, rhubarb, apples (takes years!).

I’ve discovered small patches are the way to go for me.

There is a simple and enduring pleasure I get from seeing things grow and mature – a concentrated form of the pleasure of seeing my children grow. Unlike children its pretty easy to control the conditions and get optimal results!  Having a garden is about being in touch with the earth, its a tangible and positive product. It is me who sneaks out to the back yard and eats peas straight from the pod. I guess my kids will remember that we grew things and it will be an option for them when they grow up. That’s what it’s about isn’t it? Making sure they have a wide range of options…

Confessions of a bag lady
May 4, 2009, 2:46 am
Filed under: environment

Being a Mum on a limited budget who doesn’t get out much I have to admit to kind of liking the supermarket. It’s full of grown ups for one thing. There’s a sort of pleasant camaraderie among strangers. They seem to play music from my era. They have stuff I need.

The supermarket is a place with its own rules – it’s not socially challanging but it is psychologically interesting. It’s human lift behaviour plus plus. If I do the whole task and don’t talk to anyone its no problem. If I have a polite exchange of some sort then it kind of reinforces a sense of community. Totally fake community but somehow it’s good all the same.

I love it when someone asks me a question – breaks out of the ranks of carefully spaced trolleys and the unspoken protocols of browsing bubbles – and says something like: do you know where the mouse traps are? (I did) or do you know if they have changed my porridge packaging? (I didn’t). One that gives me a kind of thrill is when I’m at the check out and the operator holds up a swede or rhubarb or some other produce they have to know the name of to price and they ask: do you know what this is? And I especially like it if they ask me what I do with it.  Then I feel like a TV chef. Or at least someone who has a cooking repertoire beyond instant noodles, bread and coke.

I was completely astounded, disgusted and appalled when I read that one of the top 5 items sold in supermarkets was coca cola. Huh? Its not even a food.

I think another reason I like the supermarket is because its a place I get to spend money. I have a lot of rules to myself ordinarily NOT to spend money. Not to go places where money could be spent. But the supermarket is a place I get to do it with a clear conscience. And because I can go beyond instant  noodles I get to make a lot of choices. The supermarket lets me create menus in my head as I go round kind of like a restaurant but so much cheaper. Within the boundaries of my budget its a place where I get to be creative.

But it’s not all fun in the supermarket. In fact it’s the frontier of green living. You can do it a lot or you can do it a little. Several years ago I was looking for a jar of green curry and asked a worker if there was any out back. While he went to look I moved over several aisles. I was a little surprised then when a different supermarket employee suddenly rocked up to me with a jar of what I was after. I thanked him and then asked how he had found me. Oh, he said, it was easy. I just looked for the bag lady.

Now I’m often guilty of dressing down to shop, but after a momentary think and enough time to see his confident grin turn to the panic of one who realises he has insulted someone unintentionally, I realised he meant my distinguishing characteristic was the fact I had brought my own bags. So that really was upsetting really – there were few of us about that this could be used to identify me.

As I said, that was a few years ago now, I went from sometimes seeing a fellow person a few check outs over from me with their own bags, to seeing maybe one in ten people with bags. Maybe one in ten. I’m being generous actually. It’s a very very small thing bringing your own bags. And there is a lot of pay off:

Your bin isn’t filled up with plastic bags and you save money on council rubbish bags.

The bags can be used for lots of other things.

They don’t break – I’m pretty sure mine never have.

They don’t dig into the palms of your hands, they are in fact pretty comfy.

You can keep your plastic fruit and veg bags inside them and reuse these again.

The special lined ones keep your milk and meat and frozens all nice and cold.

The flat bottoms mean they stand up better and it’s easier to both settle them in the car and unpack at home.

And, apparently, it’s also good for the environment.

Ooops I realised I told a whopper a little higher up by saying I can shop with a clear conscience. Because bringing my own bags has made me a weeny bit more aware of all the extraneous plastic that things come wrapped in. Often it’s refined rubbish that we seldom buy but sometimes it’s a hard choice when strawberries, for instance, have suddenly become perfectly cheap enough to put in school lunches but you have to bring them home in a box of hardy non recyclable plastic with additional disfunctional holes. It gets you thinking.

my lawn got a crew cut
June 22, 2008, 8:00 pm
Filed under: environment

Im not kidding the lawn got to be knee high. Going to the compost heap was a bush beating exercise.  I had given up on all the people I’d asked to cut it and I was sick of borrowing the people-down-the-road-I-don’t-knows mower. One reason is I hate being beholden to people. It’s awkward and icky. As if to completely prove this point they legitimately asked me if Id look after their cat while they were away. It turned out to be a lot to do with runny cat poos ewwwwwwww and this just made me think no way did I want to end up feeling like I owed them in the future!

Nice people but very incontinent cat.

Anyhow just as I was resolved to planting trees haphazzardly and kissing the lawn idea goodbye completely I was visiting a friend when her lawn guy turned up. She explained to me he was completely unreliable but what I saw was a lawn guy who was ACTUALLY THERE.

I drew him a map to my place, explained the dog, explained where I’d put teh money and 10 days later, early one morning Im making my porridge and staring out the back window and I see it – a short lawn!

Woo hoo. On closer inspection I see why people mow regularly – over time the grass has kinda clumped and huddled together and gotten more bristly but … it was never a great lawn anyway. I wonder if the lawn guy also does lawyering? I want a blunt cut there too….

more on shared parenting or – my deepest fears
May 14, 2008, 2:03 am
Filed under: environment

When we split up all I wanted was to get out out out. So I was prepared to deal on anything – anything! I just wanted out. And one of the things I agreed about was shared care.

Part of me thought shared care would be a good idea. My ex has a (now grown) son who he never parented and in part this was because he only saw his son every 4 weeks for a weekend. His son is a lovely guy but it’s not really got anything to do with his dad in a practical sense. My ex never was much of a pareant to my kids- in fact he was completely not a parent. I thought well, if I’m not around he will probably take more responsibility.

Recently I went away for a week and my girls stayed with their dad. What we all leant from this I think is the terrific survival skills they have, the fact that I have good neighbors and, you’ll be very bored with this repetitive theme: what a great mum I have. He disappeared frequently and didn’t tell the kids where he was going or when he’d be back, he didn’t feed them, and he left them at my place (alone) to graze from the fridge and watch tv (or maybe they broke in its not entirely clear).

Hmmmm. So they ate noodles and cheese on toast and then just toast and the canned stuff. They contacted my friend and neighbor when they needed help and my mother too. Good kids. They didn’t bother me cos they thought I’d worry. They were right!

The understanding is that eventually when he is organised we will do shared care. Right now he has them every second weekend. I figure not too much can go wrong every second weekend. At first I worried he’d be a santa clause daddy that they’d be getting late nights and sugar and fun trips from while I’d be the ogre mother coming in with the healthy food and bed time rules. Needn’t have worried at all. Turns out kids like regular meals more than random sugar.

Will he do structure and bed time when he has them more often? Oh bugger it – Will they be happy/ secure? And a biggie – how on earth can we inflict a lifestyle where they have to pack up and move every week or two weeks? I wouldn’t like that.

Maybe I don’t need to worry. Its been a year since I said yes and there’s still no sign of shared care happening. Maybe its something he likes to say he does rather than something that actually happens. Like his words used to say ‘I love you’ but his actions showed otherwise. Maybe shared care will never happen. I know as long as we have theoretical shared care that he doesn’t need to pay child support and I suspect that’s part of it. And what’s really scarey about this scepticism I have about why shared care isn’t actually happening is that if I’m right then he just isn’t ever really going to be there for the kids.

It’s such a middle class white bread luxury dilemna. I worry about passive neglect when he has them and frankly I don’t worry that much – they are really sensible kids. And I worry that they don’t have a quality Dad. Maybe I  don’t need to worry. They will just get more organised. And they will probably assert themselves aroudn what they want. They are pretty good at that now.

May 13, 2008, 4:10 pm
Filed under: environment,whatever

Mornings are not always perfect in our household. This morning was a pearler. I think the ingrediants for success were these:

1. Six year old was in bed early and thus not a major grump. Really she was born needing coffee in the morning but I don’t think we should introduce this to her till she’s 16 or 17. (Hmmm is there a market for junior coffee? Some sort of wake up elixir that doesn’t give them the jitters at play time when the effect wears off?) I’m JOKING please don’t bother to send me a comment on that.

2. My 11 year old got busy and made most of her own and her sister’s lunch while I walked the dog.

3. I didn’t ask if they had breakfast and they didn’t tell me that they didn’t – so I didn’t feel compelled to insist. The six year old without coffee just can’t seem to cope with the thought of eating first thing. Her stomach just doesn’t register hunger and she gets really antsy when you are asking her to make lunchbox choices too. It’s like she can’t project to a time later in the day when she might need food. This week I compromised and bought her white bread which she is viewing as a treat and its certainly is a treat for me. Instead of a grumpy child after school who didn’t have breakfast and dumped her healthy lunch Ive got a lovely wee thing who chowed down on a vegemite sarnie.

3. The dog and I had a good walk. I watched the sun rise all pink and purple and yellows and he chased a rabbit.

4. Ive finally got enough flexibility in my work hours (thanks to my Mum) that I’m not frantically trying to get out of the door to clock on. It makes so much difference not to be in a rush.

5. I got a good nights sleep myself. I forget all the time that 8 hours of sleep and Im a much nicer person. Go figure.

rainy daze
May 2, 2008, 2:07 am
Filed under: environment

Friday night and it’s raining and raining and raining. It’s kind of nice. I’ve a polar fleece blanket over my knees with my ten year old fluffy slippers over my socks. Outside the water on the roof is funneling through the functional spouting system until it meets the big gaps where the down pipe connection should be. At this point it forms an artful cascade and make a noise that maybe sounds like a running urinal but I prefer to think of as ‘water feature’. If the rain is hard I don’t hear my water feature – just drumming on the roof – but as it slacks off the pipeless sound effects begin and do you know what they signal?

That sound means I don’t need to be getting started with Friday night laundry loads because the environmental dryer will not be operation tomorrow. Well OK maybe there will be some wind but there’s also likely to be a whole lot of wet to go with it. So I can blog and play games online and not feel the least bit guilty.

Friday night washing has been a feature of my life for the eleven years Ive been a working Mum. I try and get it started and done as early in the weekend as I can on the theory that then Im free to do other things. Im sure the people who have rented the house next door over the past decade think they live next to a crazy woman since Ive been known to get out there at midnight on friday night to hang out my washing but hey – its fabulous to be lying in bed on Saturday morning knowing my washing is already getting dry.

Sorting washing is the thing I just hate. Ok I also hate loads of postage stamp small items from my little girls – winter means at least 14 sets of socks and 14 knickers and a good helping of singlets and so on to get on and off the line.  I try and pair them as I peg so I don’t have the tedium of pairing from the basket. Gee you just don’t want to know the way I orgainse my washing line in a per person per row sort of way to try and minimise the horror of facing Mount Laundry at the end of the weekend.

However this weekend all washing looks like its off.   Good thing too.

growing like crazy
March 30, 2008, 12:51 am
Filed under: environment

There are lots of things its been very easy to adjust to as a new single parent. A lot of this is because I kind of was a single parent before so I was already adjusted. But the lawn was an area I had always successfully managed to not own in the maintenance sense. Well even that’s not strictly true – I have always been the remover of dog poo. I have not however been the trimmer of grass. You might assume that trimming would be a preferable task and you’d be kinda right.

Thing is though, that lawn mowers have always scared me. I have visions of toes being lopped off. I think they might run off and cut through important shrubbery. I can’t cope with the idea of pouring in petrol.  I have tried and failed many times to pull the rip cord and get a spark and get the damn thing to go.

I watched my lawn grow with foreboding. At least once my ex did it for me. Maybe he was still, like me, not sure what we did now we didn’t coexist or perhaps feeling it was because I continued to do his washing and look after his kids. But anyway he stopped. And I tried and I couldn’t get the lawn mower going.  Turned out it was kaput.

So then Im trying to think what to do because its really a pocket handkerchief of a lawn.  Even if I had spare cash it seems ridiculous to pay someone to mow it. Anyway i asked this guy I know if he could mow it. He owed me a favour. And he said he would. However he didn’t – he turned out to be useless at making a time and coming to do it. And before during and after this period I spent a lot of time stressing about the lawn.

What I kind of realise now was that there were and are a lot of things going on that are just completely out of my control. But somehow I think I ought to have been able to manage the lawn business. It kind of symbolised the insecurity of my life now. My lawn was growing out of control.

But its a small lawn and I thought to myself whats the worst that can happen? Really? maybe I just bit by bit dig it up and put in potatoes – cos food is expensive and potatoes will keep us fed. Maybe I put in a few apple trees and gooseberry bushes. Why is it I have to have a lawn? And as I started to think like this it got better. I thought – I don’t have to do my life like its been done before. I can do it different.

Then one of the neighbors came around to pick up his kid and something made me ask him what kind of mower he had. A flymo he said. And I borrowed it – Ive borrowed it twice now in fact. No petrol and no rip cord and it goes. I managed to face my lawn mower fear. So – for the moment – I still have a lawn and I’m looking on trade me to see if anyone is selling a hand mower or an electric because I don’t really like borrowing. However it is much better than feeling funny and powerless getting a man to do it for me.  Luckily at Easter they felt they could ask me to look after their cat so I don’t feel like a complete user. I feel like a neighbor who exercises reciprocity.

If I am ever in a relationship again I want reciprocity.