Guys, It's Official. I'm Breaking Up With Blogger.

May 14, 2011  
It's only a little bit because of Blogger being so craptastically in the doo-doo this week.  Mostly it's because I want to run with the big boys (girls?) again.  And that means Wordpress baby.

Chromama's new home ~

I'd love for you to come and subscribe at the new digs.  Somewhere along the line instead of just altering the feed here I created an entirely new one (*shrug*) so it's easier I guess to just re-sub from the new place.

All posts and comments have been transferred over but it might take a teensy bit of time to fix some links and re-upload photos.  Look forward to seeing you over there!

Mother's And Other's Day

May 8, 2011  
This is what I was greeted with when I woke up today.  I mean, apart from the fact that I told her to smile and she came up with something that reminds me of a constipated cow, the card and the sentiment were gorgeous.

But Mother's Day is kind of weird around here sometimes.

May isn't my favourite month.  Mum's birthday on the 17th.  Mother's Day is somewhere around the second week.  And then there's the 30th.

May 30th is the fifth anniversary of my Mum's death.

While I'm celebrating with my own kids - and don't get me wrong, I'm insanely grateful that I have that - I've also got this thing just sitting over my shoulder.  She's not here.  She would have turned 60 this month, and we would have given her something ridiculous and vaguely insulting, like a hamper filled with digestive biscuits, black hair dye, Metamucil, bladder control products and denture adhesive.  And she would have chased us around the house, threatening to tan our hides while at the same time giggling uncontrollably under her breath.  She was a top chick, my mother.

She drove me crazy at times, I'll freely admit that.  For the majority of my teen years our family car was an old, noisy, mustard / baby poop-coloured Landcruiser with a tiny cab, only just big enough for three, thigh-to-thigh, with me in the middle.  Whenever Mum thought Dad had applied the brake a wee bit late, you felt her foot push into the cab floor on the passenger side and a surprised little gasp escape her lips.  Even if he was going 10 miles an hour.  And she dangled her keys off her pinky finger everywhere she went instead of putting them inside her bag, like she was playing bells to announce her arrival.  Who does that?

But she also introduced me to Anne and Gilbert, Eliza and Darcy, Eleanor and Edward, which started off an intense love for period drama that continues to this day (and is being brainwashed passed down to my daughter as we speak).  She was quietly crafty and a fabulous knitter.  She cooked like a true country housewife (later in her life she was a cook on a cattle station in outback Western Australia, which gives you a good indication of the type of meals she loved to make).  And she put everyone else first, which in hindsight wasn't the best strategy really - she passed away from a heart attack due to obesity and other health factors.  None of us gave her enough credit while she was alive, and its only with the benefit of my own experience as a mother that I finally 'get' her, which is horribly sad.  I continue to miss her.

Today had a separate element of crapness as well.  The Bearded Avenger's cousin was due to celebrate her first Mother's Day this year but went into early labour just before Christmas and lost her twins - a boy and a girl - at 18 weeks.  She's having a horrible time.  I don't know how you recover from something like that.  I was virtually pregnant the moment TBA raised his eyebrows at me in a suggestive fashion, and twice more in quick succession, so infertility and pregnancy loss is a bit of a distant pain I'm not personally familiar with.  But as a woman, I can imagine.  I can imagine - and imagining isn't the same as wishing for - losing Eldest, Middle or Youngest and my heart breaking and never being made whole again, so I think it might be a little like that.

And so today, as I miss my mother and others miss theirs, my thoughts are also with the women who desperately want to be mothers but can't, and the women who were mothers in reality before and will remain mothers in their hearts forever.

Update, Monday 9th ~ The best news came in today.  TBA's cousin is pregnant again.  So happy her sad Mother's Day was also filled with joy :)

Huge hugs.

Basic Clothing Checklist For Kids (Or Wash Day For Dummies)

May 2, 2011  
I'm sick of washing clothes.

The laundry baskets in this house are always overflowing - sure, this is (in part) a time management issue and something I'm working on, but because I am smart enough to recognise my own weaknesses, I'm devising a brilliant new plan. Said plan's basic philosophy is this - Why make keeping up with the washing harder than it needs to be?

I know, groundbreaking. But bear with me here folks.

My kids are not clothes-horses, not by a long shot.  Quite frankly, I don't put much stock in keeping myself up with the Joneses, clothing-wise, and so I've never really stressed about doing so for the kids either.  If we rip or outgrow something, we replace it, and with the exception of one or two specific-use clothing items, I'm not terribly fussed with where I get it from either.  I've bought things from Myer, Big W, Kmart and specialty stores and it all gets the same treatment from me, posh brand or discount brand.  Do I need to wash this separately?  Does it cost more for this size 4 preschool top than it did for my own coat last winter? Will intended child wear it more than once?

That said, I've noticed several things over my 12 ½ years as a parent that definitely affect the way clothing management happens in this house.

  • Eldest grows like a weed - he's already taller than me (5'4").  We don't expect clothes bought one winter to last him to the next the way we used to be able to get away with when he was younger.  Consequently replacing most of his wardrobe every year kind of takes care of the whole 'expensive brand vs whatever-gets-you-by brand' debate.  I'm already hard-pressed keeping him in shoes that fit (in three months alone earlier this year he skipped two complete shoe sizes) so his wardrobe tends to be a bit sparser than your average pre-teen.

  • In an almost comical alternate example, Middle (who is fast approaching his 11th birthday) is barely growing at all.  He wore the same size 6 school pants for the first four years he was in school.  Economical? Absolutely.  Unfortunately for him, his wardrobe is The Land Of A Thousand T-Shirts (and more) because he gets all of the almost-new hand-me-downs that his older brother barely breathes on before he outgrows.  His clothing collection (mostly tops, as Eldest is rough on pants - think The Incredible Hulk and you're just about there) just keeps growing.  His issue isn't constant replacing of items that he grows out of but managing volume and wear (since he's in them for so long).

  • Youngest is a girl (9 ½).  None of the boys' clothes can be handed down to her so even though she's growing at a lovely, normal rate, and her wear-and-tear level is probably average, we don't have the benefit of a built-in clothing source from an older sibling.

Three different kids.  Three different clothing management needs.

Generally, kids these days have too much clothing.  I know for my kids, they wear the same ten items over and over until they go threadbare, supplemented with the occasional additional outfit, but a fair chunk of the clothing in their wardrobes sits relatively untouched.  Big red flag.

So I sat down and thought about what amount and type of clothing might work well within our family arrangement. Some thoughts that came to mind:

  • My kids go to public schools, and both schools have a uniform.  This minimizes the outfits needed for everyday wear, but it means I need to keep a comfortable level of school pants and tops on hand.

  • I don't like to wash clothes. On an organized day I'll wash at least one, sometimes two loads of laundry, but more often than not I'm not afraid to admit I stretch that out to once or twice a week (several loads each time).  Obviously we need to have enough clothes to cater for the gaps between wash days.

  • We don't go to too many ultra-fancy places so two or three 'nicer' outfits per kid is plenty.  The rest of their clothing is more than suitable for 99% of the events/places we attend on a regular basis (and we keep the items we do have in great nick so they remain suitable).

  • We live in a 'Mediterranean' climate - no need for snowsuits or thermals in winter (at least not during the day) or many other items relating specifically to a local climate/environment - except maybe a hat (if you're living through Alaskan or Canadian winters, for example, I suspect your needs are a wee bit different to ours!)

Armed with that information, I devised a Basic Clothing Checklist - something to ensure that we a) don't waste time washing, drying, ironing, mending, moving and storing pieces of clothing we never wear and b) we don't make our lives more complicated than they need to be.  Here's what I came up with (bearing in mind that each family is different, and each has different clothing needs - our kids are 12, nearly-11 and 9, so our clothing list compared to a family with a toddler or infant would be vastly different. The idea is to examine your OWN basic needs)


Everyday Clothing

10 short-sleeved tees
5 long-sleeved tees
5 jumpers (sweaters)
4 pairs jeans
2 pairs slacks / pants (Eldest/Middle - navy and tan, Youngest - neutral colours)
2 pairs tracksuit pants
5 pairs casual shorts

School Uniforms

3 pairs long pants (navy)
3 pairs shorts / skorts (navy)
5 polo shirts (light blue)
2 zip-up jumpers (navy)
2 plain tees / polo shirts for sports days (in their respective house colours)
1 broad-brimmed school hat (navy)

Socks & Underwear

12-14 pairs underwear
12-14 pairs socks * (white only)

Special Occasions

3 party dresses (Youngest)
3 dressy button-down shirts (Eldest/Middle - these are teamed with the slacks or jeans)


1 set summer pajamas per child
1 set winter pajamas per child
2 swimsuits (Youngest)
2 pairs swim shorts (Eldest/Middle)


1 winter rain jacket
1 scarf (more a Youngest thing, I don't bother buying one for the boys)
1 beanie
1 pair of wool gloves
1 casual summer hat / cap

1 pair school shoes ('regular' or 'sneaker style'), black
1 pair sneakers, white
1 pair thongs (flip-flops) / slip-on shoes
1 pair fancy 'pretty' shoes (Youngest only - the boys use their black school shoes)

I could easily cut the 'basic clothing' list down even further, but this is the aim for now.  With school uniforms, I used to have a big Saturday laundry session for those, so I needed enough tops and bottoms to last the entire school week. I worked out that when the kids were younger, I could get away with them wearing the same pair of shorts or pants twice a week without them needing to be washed (so stretching the three pairs out to five days' worth) but the tops were what came home visibly dirty every day, so I needed five of those per kid.  These days, three complete sets of uniforms would be more than enough, and I could probably even get away with two (washing a mid-week load).

I'm not there yet (!!) but I'm definitely pitching and purging with each load of washing I do.  The idea is that once we hit our 'happy equilibrium' with the kids clothing, we keep and maintain only this quota - if we bring something new into the rotation, we donate something older.  Or if we're dipping low in, say, jeans, we know to buy only enough in that incredible end-of-season sale to match our own family's personal clothing needs.

A quick note on clothing storage: I keep ONE plastic tub in storage labeled 'Out Of Season Uniforms'.  During summer, our uniforms' longer pants and sweaters are popped in here, and conversely, shorts live in the tub during winter, plus it includes uniform items waiting to be handed down from Eldest to Middle (whichever season).  Only the clothes of the current season - regular clothing or uniforms - make it to the closets.  This makes it a no-brainer for the kids, who know that everything hanging up or in drawers is the right size and type, and everything can be reached easily, not battling for space between the two-sizes-too-small summer dresses and the eighteen sweaters.  Similarly, I keep ONE (large) tub with clothing items that I bought during sales, that will replace other items currently in rotation when they finally give up the ghost. We don't have too many sources (cousins, friends etc) for hand-me-downs in larger sizes, so no real need to store them for our kids for later, with the possible exception of a few good quality items from Eldest that will go to Middle when he finally has that growth spurt everyone keeps talking about.

We also hang everything we can - it gives the kids a clear idea what's on offer and it frees up their (minimal) drawer space for socks, underwear, sweatpants, pajamas and other bits and pieces, without creating the 'perfect storm' that is sending them in to find 'the blue shirt' - which will inevitably be at the very bottom of the stack in a drawer. I don't know about you, but I could think of a dozen things more fun than re-folding (again!) a whole drawer full of shirts!

So there you have it - maybe not for everyone, but I am looking forward to the day when I can finally say I have the clothing situation licked in this house. I mean, how cool would it be to know exactly how many clothes it takes to keep your household running smoothly - and not nakedly - while at the same time enjoying thereafter the simplicity of wash day?

First the kids' clothes, then it's on to mine and The Bearded Avenger's duds! Yippee!

(*the best thing I ever did, socks-wise, was to buy ONE SINGLE BRAND, in ONE SINGLE COLOUR, in THREE DIFFERENT SIZES, all of which had the size stitched to the bottom of the foot.  I tossed out every other sock they had.  Every one.  They each got 12 pairs of white socks this past January and washing is a breeze - at least where socks are concerned! - because I no longer even have to bother balling socks.  Every sock matches every other sock in 'their' size so they just grab two loose from the pile and away they go.  They know if they have the wrong sock because they recognise their own size merely by looking at it.  I can't believe I never did this earlier!)

Anzac Day Has A Smell

April 25, 2011  
(This is Part 2.  For Part 1, a recollection of my childhood Anzac Days, pop over to my guest post here)

Australia lost their last living link with the Gallipoli story when Digger Alec Campbell – the final surviving Aussie participant in the Gallipoli campaign - died in 2002. And we said goodbye to our last surviving World War I veteran in 2009 (110 year old Jack Ross; although he did not see active duty outside of Australia). Second World War veterans are now in their eighties and nineties and will soon be part of Australia’s past history like their comrades before them, and Aussie Korean War veterans will not march too far behind. Eventually, when my father’s generation have passed, the Australian veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan will take pride of place on the white folding chairs at the front of Dawn Services around the country.

All of these men and women. All of those stories. Each one an integral part of Australia’s history.

As I was growing up, war was one of those things I thought I knew about. I had a Vietnam veteran for a father, so I was closer to the real deal than most of my classmates, but as Dad’s kids, we got the sanitized version; the amusement of the ration packs, the cardinal rule of always, always changing one’s socks daily to combat rotting feet in the ever-damp jungle conditions, the heroic death of a mate (once, after a few drinks, Dad let it slip that it had been a landmine – “Let’s just say it wasn’t a pleasant way to die. We all watched him just disappear into thin air.”) We never questioned the tales, never delved any deeper. It was unspoken – best not to ask Dad about what it was really like. No, let him continue to tell the stories he wants to tell – like the times he (thrice!) lost his 'stripes' (was demoted) for insubordination, or the time he got violently ill eating French bread from a street vendor in Saigon (now Ho Chi Minh City) and threw up on a superior officer’s shoes, earning him 24 hrs standing upright and alone in the middle of the company barracks. But the reality of what he – and countless millions before him – endured as a serviceman was staggering. Post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) was a very real part of many soldier’s lives, including my father’s. We learned strange things like the correct way to walk around his sleeping form – never, ever tiptoe – and also what a map was. You think you know what a map is? Try memorizing its description the army way – “A map is a portion of the earth’s surface, drawn to scale, usually on paper, showing both natural and artificial features”. And yes, we all knew that by heart before the age of ten.

Dad lost mates, people he had trained with and with whom he entrusted his life, as he was entrusted with theirs. Imagine your five best friends. Now imagine them marching off to war with the very real prospect of losing a couple on a battlefield. It’s incomprehensible, isn’t it? But for our Diggers, a reality.

Sixty thousand Australian men and women served in Vietnam, with five hundred and twenty-one not returning home. As the first war being chronicled on the nightly news, tensions were high, and protests back home and in the United States were a continual feature. And Australia was conscripting, never a popular choice (Dad went voluntarily). When the veterans returned, they were openly mocked in the street. There was none of the glory that had been given to returning First and Second World War veterans. Even some of the old veterans themselves held concerns, with some RSL Clubs excluding Vietnam veterans from joining as members during the sixties and seventies, and some even extended this exclusion to cover the Anzac Day parades as well.

Eventually, Australian Vietnam veterans were given an official “Welcome Home” parade in Sydney on October 3, 1987. It was my eighth birthday. And finally talks began for a national memorial for fallen Vietnam soldiers – some fifteen-plus years after Australia’s involvement in Vietnam ended.

Five years later to the day, on October 3, 1992, the Vietnam Forces National Memorial was dedicated in Canberra – and I turned thirteen.

Anzac Day belongs to my Dad and to every veteran, living or dead, that has ever served our country with the honour and dignity passed down from those original men and boys who landed at Gallipoli. And for all of you without direct military links, Anzac Day is for you as well. This is part of who we are, our national identity.

Tepid party pies included.

(Photo credit - "Red Poppy" by Annies Pics via Flickr Creative Commons)

The One Where I Pretend To Be Uber-Organized

April 22, 2011  
Guess what?

You can now use the same self-made printables that I use to keep my life and home running smoothly efficiently adequately slightly above chaotic!

Just look up ↑ Yup, up there.  Under 'FREE PRINTABLES!' you'll find, uh, the free printables.

These are a collection of (deliberately) non-fussy, simple-to-print, black-and-white forms I've created over the past couple of years to help me with the 'brain dumping' process that occasionally needs to happen if I want to sleep at night.  Feel free to use for your own binders/dumping purposes.

As time goes on I'll add some more but feel free to make suggestions (and please let me know if you have problems accessing or downloading anything)

Saving Money At The Supermarket? Yes Please!

I've been reading a very interesting book this week - The $21 Challenge by Fiona Lippey & Jackie Gower.  The basic premise behind the book is that you can feed a family of four on $21 a week by being creative and using already-purchased items from your fridge, freezer and pantry.  The $21 is to add fresh fruit and veg and to purchase bits and bobs to round out a recipe.  You're not allowed to 'cheat' by running out and stocking up on basics before starting the challenge, so it forces you to get inventive with what you have, and you're not meant to stay on the $21 budget every week, just the odd week here or there to 'blitz' the budget back into black.

Way back when The Bearded Avenger and I were saving madly for a house deposit, in addition to exploiting every shred of free entertainment our community had to offer (and outside of this going nowhere), we were the king and queen of the supermarket.  In fact at one point I had an article up on The Dollar Stretcher website detailing our shopping method - which wasn't ever unique or radical, just part of your basic envelope budgeting system, with a small twist - and I remember feeling pretty good about being able to keep our shopping down to $120 a week with three small children.

For those reading in Far Off America-Land, here's some info that might make the rest of this post make more sense.
  • Couponing is not a national sport here.  In fact, supermarkets don't do it at all.  The odd coupon can be found attached to a flyer or on the back of a shopping docket, but they're generally not for grocery items and they're certainly not used while food shopping.  Therefore when you talk about double and triple couponing, and clipping coupons, and paying for coupons, and being a member of a coupon club, and posting coupons across the country, and a show called Extreme Couponing our eyes glass over.  We are very sorry (and quite possibly jealous) but we don't get it.
  • We do not have Walmart.  Hence no Super Walmart. Our supermarkets and our department stores don't play nice together and have always had their respective corners of the playground.  The notion of being able to buy beef mince (ground beef) under the same roof as a pair of sweatpants confuses us.
  • We don't have CVS or Walgreen's - or any of these other pharmacies with 'extra care bucks' or rebate programs.  Those store pantries filled with free shampoo and razors that you Americans keep posting? Salt in the wound folks. Salt in the wound.
  • We have Aldi's but... my nearest store is interstate, 373 kilometres / 231 miles away.  Nobody needs bulk groceries that badly.
  • Costco only opened it's first store in Australia in 2009.  ONE Costco for 22½ million people.  All of whom are probably there on a Saturday morning. Meaning even if it was close by (it's not) I probably wouldn't be there.
Australia must practically seem like a third world country to you savvy American shoppers right now, huh?

If an ordinary Aussie housewife in an ordinary city or town wants to save money on food, she tends to have the following 'tools' at her disposal.
  1. Supermarket catalogues / buying loss leaders.
  2. Price-bookin' it.
  3. Menu planning really, really well.
  4. The 'Backyard Supermarket' (ie, the humble veggie patch)
My old $120 per week budget bit the dust a long time ago.  I have a spouse who senses a disturbance in a force if the optimum snack-to-husband ratio is not maintained at all times, a 12yo who eats like a grown man with worms, and a couple of fussy-bum other children.  All of them eat a large portion of their food outside of the home (school lunches and work meals) so packing nutritious and interesting and begging-to-be-eaten-can-I-have-that-again-tomorrow-you're-a-domestic-genius lunchboxes is a continual battle.  You could double the old budget and it still wouldn't come close to what we're currently spending.  I'm at the blasted supermarket four or five times a week, easy.  All from lack of planning.

Twenty-one bucks seems utterly ridiculous at first, especially if you're used to spending - and remember, this is Aussie shopping, with none of the fancy shopping tools you USA folk have - upwards of $300 a week.  But when I really sit down and think about it - cutting the grocery budget dramatically is absolutely doable.  I'm not ambitious enough to attempt a proper $21 challenge (which is essentially a 'live out of your pantry stocks for 7 days plus a few additional bought ingredients' gig), but the grocery spending could definitely do with an overhaul - let's say $200 a week to start.  I'd be pretty happy with that.

Over the next few weeks - beginning the first week of May, since it's the school holidays here at the moment and everything is backwards and upside down with the kids at home - I'll post my progress.  There's a ton of great info out there that's well worth a look-see.

Chalk Meets Cheese

April 19, 2011  
When our first child signaled his imminent arrival all those years ago, he tried to do so six weeks early.  With the help of drugs and the will of a thousand kung-fu masters, the little darling held off another couple of weeks, finally ambling into the delivery room, back to front and upside down, one month before his due date.  To the soundtrack of Hope Floats no less (ahhh, dear old Harry Connick Jnr with the sideways smile).  Jaundice and then phototherapy rounded out the first week of Eldest's life.  He was born into an Aussie near-outback summer, so he rarely wore clothes before the age of four months.  We saved a fortune.

When Middle decided to show his face two weeks early, it was an entirely different scenario.  Short, sharp and sweet, we were home from the hospital the next day.  It was also the middle of a southern Australian hills-country winter so the poor little mite was a bit starved of sunshine for a few months.  Middle was born looking like a wise old man - keen to get here early and show up his older brother.

Youngest was excitedly anticipated, being the first Pink One and all, and she essentially fell into the world after an induction on her due date.  That one was fun, despite the rather indelicate pronouncement that I had a 'boggy uterus'.  Well what did they expect? If you get three cars in three years stuck in the same mudpile, things are bound to get a little messy.  After pethidine (evil, evil stuff) wiped my memory of the last four hours of labour with Eldest, and Middle's speed-demon 23 hr hospital stay gave us whiplash, I was determined to savour this last birth - so we videotaped it.

I have watched that tape exactly three times.  Once in the hospital after she was born, once on her first birthday, and once the day The Bearded Avenger went in for the ol' snippety-snip.  The first three hours of sound consists of me wailing "Check the camera!" and "Is the camera still on?" and "Go get the damn camera!" - and the last twenty minutes is me asking over and over, loop-style, "Is she still a girl?" It's so embarrassing.

Of course, it's not everyday one gets to see one's own vulva stretched around a bowling ball, so there's that.

I have three extremely different children.  I think it's God's way of keeping himself amused.

After autism had slapped us around for a bit, we figured we were pretty clued in to the way the world worked.  Crap happened, we thought, so being the crap connoisseurs we were, we were fairly confident we could recognise the next delivery of crap when it came.  Then when Middle began showing the same early warning signs that Eldest had - predominantly lack of communication - we panicked.

We became convinced we were raising a second child who wasn't 'normal'. But since we'd never had a 'regular' child before, we didn't really have a baseline for comparison.  He was a bit odd, in sort of the same way as his brother, so as far as we knew he was on the spectrum too.  Middle's speech delay was addressed with three months of speech playgroup and before we knew it he was five and starting school, yappering away like any normal kid.

Something was still going on though.  The kid could read.  Not "Oh wow, Little Johnny knows his ABC's already, isn't that cute!" but "Why is that child reading his mother's library books?"  His morning reading sheet - laid on each kid's desk by the teacher - was a whole page of 12pt font when everyone else's was two or three sentences.  And because we don't do 'normal' well in this family, we panicked some more.  Advanced reading became 'hyperlexia'.  Preference for books over toys was his 'collecting'. We were seriously gearing ourselves up for a future spectrum diagnosis.  But then his teacher pulled us aside one day.

"I think Middle needs his work extended.  I'm not able to provide him with enough individualized attention in the basics as he is years ahead of where he should be.  There's a very real possibility that he is gifted."

Well day-um.

What do you say to that? Uh, thanks? Oh and by the way, we have an older son who has severely scorched our nerves so we're not the best judges of child development - we thought there was something wrong with him - sorry we dropped the ball?

Middle began sitting in with another class for reading and comprehension about halfway through his first year of primary (elementary) school - a class of Year 2 students.  At the end of his first year of school we made the decision that he would skip Year 1 altogether.  He was now 6-12mo younger than everyone else (but luckily very social, so he made friends quickly - well colour me stupid, there's a big 'may not be autism' sign for you!)

Here we are, several years later.  Middle is rather short for his age, and has always been the youngest in every grade since he skipped.  No autism. No Asperger's. No trouble adjusting to older kids.  Nothing.  The kid is more attuned to life than I am sometimes! Of course we're proud - and look, I'd be lying if I said all this advancement wasn't pretty damn nice after years and years of battling bureaucracy and funding cuts and low test scores and social struggles and exhaustion.  Because it is.  The Bearded Avenger and I mostly walk around looking stupid and being unable to answer Middle's maths problems so that's a fun new element to add to our topsy turvy lives.

But then.


At the end of February, Middle sat a test.  Not just any test, nope.  This one was a special test to determine whether he would gain a place in an advanced program in high school.  In my city (of over one million), there are only three high schools that offer this Dept of Education-driven program, and only one south of the city, where we live.  Five hundred and twenty four children in Years 6 and 7 - all of them top of their classes - sat the test.  They were then scored (auugh) in relation to each other.

Middle ranked 99th.

He was probably one of the youngest - if not the youngest - kid to do the test.  He 'competed' (auugh again) against kids who are 12-18mo older than him.  And he broke the hundred. We have an interview, and have heard that the top 100 are generally offered places in the program right off the bat. If this is true, Middle could actually have the choice to start high school a year early, skipping Year 7 entirely, and making him 11½ when he walks in the doors.  We may not choose to go that route - there's the option of deferring for a year so he's a little older - but wow.

I may have cried several (okay, a lot of) tears when I opened that envelope.

You see, when you've walked (run, sprinted, back-pedaled, skipped, inched) the autism road for as many years as we have - Eldest was diagnosed nine years ago this month - you lose track of life, you really do.  Everything is so wrapped up in therapy choices and communication and special ed classes and NEPs and funding.  Focus is always on what the child cannot do.  Expectations are generally low.  Everything is a struggle.  Sanity is a thin thread.

With Middle, I have downplayed the gifted thing for years, because every time I hear my own words through my own ears I can't help but put it through a bragging filter - kind of like, oh look at me, with the super-smart kid, isn't he clever, nee-ner, nee-ner, nee-ner!  Even to Middle himself - we compliment and congratulate just like any decent set of parents would do, but we temper our praise as well.

All our energy has been focused on Eldest for so long that when we held in our hands real evidence that Middle was special too, that by God we hadn't stuffed up this parenting thing to the degree we thought we had, that we had actually contributed genes and the environmental aspects that went into creating this utterly unique individual - it kind of blew our minds.

So this is me bragging on my kid.  My awesome, extraordinary ten year old kid who knows more maths than his mother and could give his father a run for his money in abstract thinking.  My kid who has worked damn hard to earn his place in this world, just the same as his older brother, and I love him more than my bursting little heart can hold.

Your time to shine buddy.  I am so very, VERY proud of you.
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