Tuesday, July 9, 2013

A Month without work and the World is Still Spinning

I unexpectedly haven't worked for a month. It wouldn't be that big of a deal, except that it's felt different in a substantial way- I usually find it hard to enter into rest of any kind. I've been with the kids almost all the time, but unlike the negotiation Eug and I usually do over who spends time with the kids when, we decided to set aside work and our own agenda(s) and goals for a little while.

Eug has taken the time to work on the bathroom (yes, the same one) as we adjust back to this time zone and whatever schedule might work for us. We've been taking more time to sleep and rest, and marvel at the fact that we can- that no-one will come after us, no bills will be unpaid. This week I'm easing back into studying.

The trip to Korea was hard on Noah, who notices everything but can't express what he's feeling in a way that feels satisfying to him. Have you noticed I don't post my views on parenting that much anymore? I've recently felt like we just don't have a clue, and that our two children respond to quite different parenting. We did listen to a talk by Alfie Kohn on Unconditional Parenting, which I found really helpful in fleshing out why rewards and punishments aren't necessarily the best thing for building a great relationship with your children. The past few months we've started very brief family meetings (which mainly have 2 participants at the moment), to try to help us acknowledge and balance (and sometimes pray through) our needs and the needs of the household.

On the subject of good things that have happened recently in our lives:

The first hail storm of my life- the kids and Eug were caught a block away and I actually went to pick them up in the car, the hailstones were so large, big, and painful. Apart from this freak storm, winter is actually proving pretty mild.
This is the only picture I had of my new set of strawberries, set up in tires in the corner here. I also dug up a naartjie tree that was dying in my parent's garden- I'm hoping it might survive and come back to life! Can you spot the treetrunk I found and picked up?
Eug and I both recently read Michael Pollan's new book, "Cooked", and together with Eug cooking his way through Mark Bittman's "How to Cook Everything", our food possibilities have broadened and cooking has become really fun and exciting for us. Here's Eug's first batch of Kimchi. 
Our store of beer is growing. Come on over and we'll share! 
We found a source of good, grass-fed free-range beef at the Old Biscuit Mill, and Eug prepared Bulgogi. With a steak that would just be a single serving at a restaurant, we're able to get two meals for the whole family by slicing the meat thinly and preparing a Korean marinade. Eli helps.
Eli always helps

Even with the bathroom
This might not like seem like much, but having the bathroom finished - or adequately finished for us not to think about it every time we pee or shower- feels wonderful. 
The space below our stairs is the only potential storage in our house- Eug made this peg board from an off-cut piece of peg board at the local timber store, and improvised hooks and cable ties to organize all our tools.

This is a persimmon seedling, and it makes me incredibly happy to look at it. It's impossible to find persimmon trees in nurseries around Cape Town, and of the many persimmons we eat only a couple have actually had seeds in them. I religiously plant the seeds, but I never actually expected to see one germinate! Now, to keep trying until I have a few (they need a male and a female tree to produce fruit).
Good paints and paper have been a really good investment, as Noah really likes it when Eli is asleep and one of us pulls out the paints and hang out with him. 
Last but not least, we have a new bike! After our bikes were stolen last year, we were a little depressed and have waited a while before buying a new one. Eug has always dreamed of having a folding bike- this is the Tern Link d8- which can stay in our living room without being too obtrusive. And it's very, very fun to ride. We're hoping the Euro-Rand exchange rate will improve, because we're waiting on another, even more exciting bike purchase that's been made difficult by the recent drop in the value of the rand.


Darren B said...

Although, I'm sure you had a great trip, there is a kind of relief to coming home. Even for our short, two vacation, the kids were so rev'd up. They stayed up late practically every night. At the very end, Johanna was so wiped out she didn't even want to play in the pool. What kind of 8 year old doesn't want to go in a pool.

Still I hear you about the differences you're seeing in your kids. Johanna and Emma are such different people. Johanna is such the little rule follower, and is so incredibly sensitive and temperamental at the same time. Emma on the other hand is a free spirit. Lately her thing is to try to kiss the boys at her preschool. Not sure what to make of that one. Anyway, we're all figuring this out as we go.

For us the key areas of punishment for our kids have to do with the most extreme behavior and in trying to maintain basic civility. For example, No name calling or acting out violently. Most of the other stuff, we try to roll with.

Concrete Gardener said...

Thanks Darren for your comment. Poor Johanna- yeah Noah was a lot like that at the end of the trip. He even started to say he was tired occasionally, and "tired" is a word that is generally not allowed to be used in our household.

I might write more about it, but with Noah we found that punishment and rewards- in our case time outs or getting stars/ice-cream for some days of goodness- weren't good in helping us deal with his anger. One problem is, usually if he was angry there was some reason (however seemingly irrational) and physically taking him to his room, kicking and screaming, left us both feeling terrible and did nothing to help his anger or even his ability to control it.

The alternative has been to offer him some time by himself in a context he actually likes- playing on our ipod in his room, playing with play dough. He's still rude sometimes and violent sometimes, and maybe if it starts to affect how he interacts with people in a big way, we'll have to rethink. So I guess we're still just trying.