Monday, October 18, 2010

Canberra ... with activity links!

I was quick to put up our snow report following our holiday, but what did we do for the rest of that week?
Here's a glimpse ...

For a few nights we stayed with my Aunty and Uncle, where the children enjoyed playing with resident terriers Snowy and Sally.  One evening we enjoyed a family dinner with my cousins.  Elijah discovered another food he likes ... caviar and smoked salmon blini (small pancakes).  This adds to his favourite foods list of bbq baby octopus and homemade sushi (Makizushi 巻寿司), a definite seafood theme which has prevailed for a couple of years.  I LOVED being in a home with central ducted heating, even if it was sometimes a little too warm ... it was ironic to be warmer in Canberra than I had been for months, the reason being that we only use the gas heater or air conditioner for a few hours a day in the middle of winter.  Frugal and enviro-conscious intentions only!

Of the outings, QUESTACON was our family favourite.  There is so much to do and see, touch, experience, learn, wonder about ... the kids had fun in Mini-Q, the 0-6 yrs play zone.  Mini-Q featured an impressive water play setup which I'd love to replicate if I had a spare sunroom.  We loved watching a very clever live science show, "Invasion from the Planet Fwah" The BOC liquid nitrogen show.  We didn't try free-fall (a vertical slide), but I did go on the earthquake simulator (it was ok) and Track Attack, a rollercoaster simulator (awesome, even if I'm biased because my Uncle built it).  Jasmine was very upset (like totally traumatised) by the pretend guilotine and the accompanying sound effect ... we saw it as we explored a sideshow exhibit, then every time she heard it operating (even from other rooms) she would shake with fear.  In the end she practically dragged me through the exit doors, but thankfully didn't mention it again once home.  How I wish we lived closer and could go to Questacon more often (though at least we've seen their traveling exhibits when they've been in town).  See what you think of Questacon online, there are lots of activities (for kids and big kids like us!) to try, at  Perception Deception and ScIslands.

We drove on the public road to a lookout inside Duntroon.  A bunch of military trainees were hauling heavy packs up the huge mountain.  I was more interested in the immediate surroundings than the view of Australia's capital city, as it gave me a glimpse of the life path I didn't commence at age 17 (of the two cadetships I applied for, I accepted the offer from BHP Information Technology, and thankfully missed out on becoming an air traffic controller with ADFA at the last stage of selection ... their wise psychs must have realised I wasn't made of tough enough stuff) ... whew!  

Cockington Green minitature village was a big hit with the kids, and we walked around for hours listening to them say, "Look at that!" as they noticed every little detail.  In the International display Elijah wanted to quiz me about every country and type of building ... I wished I was a walking encyclopedia.  If we go again I'll see if we can have a guided tour with an expert!

Our next venue was the National Dinosaur Museum, which was a bit of a fizzer.  Perhaps on it's own we would have seen it in a more exciting light.  It was kind of small, and the tired children just wanted to zoom around, buy unnecessary 'stuff' in the gift shop, and go out for icecreams.  Elijah and I preferred the Australian Museum in Sydney which we visited last year.

We saw Parliament House from various angles as we drove to other places, but will save the proper tour until the children are a bit older.  They are pretty interested in government and followed the recent election with us.  They talk about Kevin Rudd, and weave Julia Gillard into their play conversations in amusing ways (such as once, she was telling Barbie she would pass a law to allow boys to go to hairdressers ... is that a hint of discontent about MY home salon skills?)

The Australian War Memorial was the place Elijah MOST wanted to see, but we didn't get there.  Time just ran out and we decided it would best be left until next time.  Until then we can use their Kids HQ website to learn more about our history.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Mental health ... choices, attitudes, perspective

The way we think is a choice.  I'm writing myself a pep talk today (well last week I started, but am getting back to it today) about positive thinking and how perspective can change our self perception.  Do you struggle with your mind and drive yourself crazy at times?

I do.  Sometimes mental health issues take us beyond the point of reason, to a point where we feel helpless and lost and resigned to riding the downward spiral.  I've been there and I'm not talking about that this time.  I don't think I have bipolar disorder, not that I'm sure, but from what I've read I don't think I'm that extreme.  Still, times like this are scary, and I feel for friends who share this challenge, whatever form or depth it takes.  I don't want my struggle to sound bigger than it is, knowing so many people face so much harder challenges, life threatening illness, natural disasters, major losses etc.  And please don't think I'm oversimplifying these issues ... I'm just sharing a small glimpse into my recent rollercoaster rides.

The ups are exhilerating, I'm soaring and energetically zinging through the universe doing great things.  The world is my oyster.  I have so much to offer and can't wait to get into it ... all at once!  Balance is out the window, but I can forget that for a while.  I brush off suggestions to slow down and can't understand why everyone else is moving at a snail's pace.  But as long as I can get on with my quests, that's fine!

My down times are infuriating ... days of being hardly able to get dressed before lunch, don't know what to feed the children.  I feel like a homeschool failure.  A parenting and marriage failure.  I feel sorry for my family, having to put up with me.  It's hard to start anything, let alone finish.  I try to smile, keep up appearances when I have to, but being awake is stressful.  Jobs pile up.  Even on 'good' bad days I waste time and get lost in my own world.  I'm glad to be alive but wish I was asleep.  The Lord and my family are my lights in the distance, encouraging me to step, towards the end of the dark tunnel.

Perhaps contributing to all of this are our recent trials with death, family illness and parenting challenges (which I haven't much written about).  And I've been physically unwell and hate to acknowledge that and give it any place in my life.  I don't plan to stay sick.  Still, at times it's hard to deny, and last week I actually answered honestly when people asked how I was.  Winter coughs and sinus left me feeling like I had broken ribs for months (perhaps I did), but that's improving now that Spring is here.  My doctor is also investigating the cause of some long term women's problems, and it comes as no surprise my iron levels are low, but we also found my thyroid is out of whack.  Though I'm yet to see her to find out what it means, but this new clue gives me hope that I won't need more tests and various cures which sounds worse than the problem.   Thyroid problems can cause hormonal problems.  I'm reading a book by Sandra Cabot to learn how diet can help.

My advice to myself (and anyone else feeling less than competent and confident at the moment):

*  baby steps ... break goals down into small tasks.  If I'm not up to making the whole house shine all at once (who ever is?) at least I can clean a window or tidy one shelf.

*  momentum ... if I can just start something, before I know it I'm on a roll and have done more than I would have if I'd thought, worried and procrastinated.

*  ask for help ... I find this really hard.  Like I said I don't want to acknowledge there's a problem.  I can ask the Lord, and read the Bible to remind myself He's promised to help me in so many ways.  If I tell my husband, mum or friends I'm struggling, that's being humble, honest and genuine, rather than my unkind self-perception that this is weak, burdensome and ugly ... I wouldn't think that of a friend who asked for help, so why judge myself so harshly?

*  likewise, accept that I'm not perfect.  Not that I won't try and be better.  But I will try things even if I risk failure or imperfection.

*  write in my journal to figure out what's out of sync ... what, within my control, can I do to fix this imbalance?  This time, my reflections have revealed that I need to get organised, redirect my mental energy into a new challenge, and grow up in terms of being disciplined with my housework, home ed. and other responsibilities.

*  recognise that I have choices.  I can't choose when my hormones or tiredness might try to sabotage my energy or mood, but I CAN choose to eat well, pray, sleep enough and make it a habit to think positively and trust the Lord.  I can choose to learn and find ways around my limitations.  I can choose to live and love, and to grow through this.

*  learn, imagine and dream.  Believe that anything is possible.  Enjoy life and look forward to heaven.

Today I'm pretty level headed.  I accept the highs and lows, though I believe God wants me to be moderate and sober ... for the record, since some of you don't know me, I should say I don't drink, smoke or use any drugs ... unless you count books and an occasional coffee or chocolate or smelling the citrus trees in bloom!

That's it.  I'm just sharing part of my journey of trying to live my best life.  I know other people struggle too, for a time or throughout their lives.  Maybe my openness will help someone.