Saturday, December 31, 2011

[Working Title*] Yay Me

It is the end of 2011.

And while that won't make much difference to aspects of everyday life such as whether to give the kids weetbix or rice bubbles for breakfast, and who had the Dora doll first, it does mean I can take stock of the last year and see what I actually managed to achieve in terms of my journey to becoming a writer.

I started the year by finding out I had won first place in a local writing competition, run by the West Australian newspaper.  It was the first time I had won something and the first time I saw my name in print. 

And I liked it.

I still remember the phonecall saying that I had won and to look out for my story the following day.  I was so excited I was jumping up and down on the spot, not very subtle considering I was standing on the creaky floorboards.  I am sure the woman heard every single juvenile jump, not to mention the smile which was threatening to burst the phone apart. 

Then in June I applied for a writing job at Weekend Notes and started doing reviews for them, mainly restaurants and things involving food. My speciality. Seven months and 38 articles later, I am ranked in their Top 10 (Perth) writers and have even earned a few hundred dollars.  This in no way covers the cost of all the breakfasts, lunch and dinners I have been eating**, but I am prepared to overlook this as it's all in the name of research. Right?

I returned to uni this year and completed two fabulous units - Creative Non-Fiction and Feature Writing for Magazines.  Thanks to some inspirational and generous people who allowed me to tell their stories about miscarriage, grief and loss, I wrote two articles which are hopefully being considered for publication. Part of me felt unworthy of being the translator of these intense and personal stories of loss, as thankfully, I had never been in their shoes.  Yet, the response I got from the articles, from those who had lived them, made me realise that I want to spend more time writing about topics people shy away from, ones they consider too taboo, too sad or too hard.  Because there is a strength that can be gained in knowing that you are not alone.

I continued writing my blog, somewhat patchily I will admit due to a four month period of intense sickness.  This will be my 100th post for the year, which has a nice rounded feel to it.  I covered a range of topics including the renovations, Baby Number Three, returning to uni, parenting and my writing journey.  My most popular - and commented upon - posts were about my decision whether to have a third child, and the creepy man at my daughter's kindy who was acting inappropriately. A big thankyou to my friend Rachel from 'Because I Said So' whose site has been responsible for many of my referrals.

So how will I finish the year?  With another big smile on my face.  A phonecall from my Mum this morning alerted me to the fact that another of my short stories was published by the West Australian today (page 46 if you're interested).  I wasn't the winner this year, but at least they got my name right.  


----------------------------------
* I couldn't come up with a better title than 'Yay Me'.  I feel rather self-indulgent today, and if I cannot eat my way through another box of chocolates, at least I can blow my own trumpet for a bit.

** Sincere thanks to my partner in crime Brad, who has sacrificed many a morning to come in search of the ideal breakfast location with me (and more often than not, paid for the privilege).

Monday, December 26, 2011

Ten Rules for A Successful Christmas

How was your Christmas?  Did you manage to survive it without drowning yourself in a carton of brandy-flavoured custard?

I have come through relatively unscathed, however I have developed some rules which I plan to follow next year to make things run a little more smoothly. 

Rule Number 1: Never attempt a new recipe for the first time on Christmas Day.

This should be common sense, but I do tend to get carried away with all the free Christmas magazines that find their way onto my kitchen table at this time of year.  All the recipes look so delicious, so easy, so new and exciting.  Stop. Right. There.  There is a reason why Women's Weekly have 'triple tested' on their front cover.  It takes a couple of attempts to make sure the recipe actually works, that the timing is right, that a major ingredient hasn't been left out, that it is not full of raw onion.  Unless you really hate your family, don't use them as Guinea pigs on Christmas Day.

Rule Number 2: If you buy battery-operated toys, also buy batteries.

Funnily enough I learned this rule not from the kids, but from hubby who was most disappointed he could not play with his new PacMan alarm clock because I hadn't put batteries in it.

Rule Number 3: You have probably forgotten someone.

Just accept that you will forget someone in your Christmas present buying frenzy.  Buy a box of Ferrero Rocher, wrap it up and leave the gift tag blank.  Isn't that what everyone does?  Just don't recycle last year's box of chocolates.  Best before dates are a dead giveaway.

Rule Number 4:  If you have two kids, buy two of everything.

It is inevitable that the five year old will want whatever you bought the two year old.  Accept it.  Buy two and save yourself the drama.

Rule Number 5:  The longer you spend making Christmas Dinner, the less of it the kids will eat.

At least grandparents appreciate the time and effort you put in, even if the kids whinge and moan and demand Vegemite sandwiches for dinner.

Rule Number 6: There won't be enough space for all the new toys.

I suggest chucking out one of the kids.

Rule Number 7: Get your guests to bring their own plate and cutlery to take home and wash.

Paper plates and plastic forks are a good idea until you realise the bin is already full of wrapping paper and Barbie packaging. 

Rule Number 8: What goes up must come down.

If you are getting heart palpitations every time you eye the Christmas Tree groaning with its 10,000 ornaments and 1,000 flashing lights, chances are you have put too many decorations up. It is never as much fun taking it down again.  Try the minimalist look.  Or do what my sister does and cover the whole thing with a garbage bag, fully loaded, and stick it in the shed ready for next year.

Rule Number 9: Christmas Day will be the only day of the year one of the kids sleeps in.

Trying to convince the other one to wait before opening presents is a battle best fought with chocolate bribes.

Rule Number 10: The end of Christmas will leave an empty hole in your life and wallet.

But don't worry, Hot Cross Buns will be out in the shops next week.

The Writer's Journey - A Bump in the Road

I believe life is a journey, and within that, each of the roles we adopt take us on a path.  Some of those paths are direct, others - like my writing - tend to meander a bit.

However I have just made it one step closer to being a professional writer.

No, I haven't been published in a major magazine or literary journal (soon though, I hope).

No, I haven't accepted a contract to write my memoirs or become a columnist for a national paper.

I have been spammed.

The other day I received a comment from 'Sammy' on my post 'It's Official - I am Pregnant'.  It's a pretty old post so I thought it unusual to receive a comment.  That is, until I read it:

Congratulation Good Post
Thank you very much
Plan your Pregnancy as you like with
Ovulation Kit now you can choose your time and date of pregnancy you can find me by searching on Google HOME CHECK

It was genuine spam! Some hardworking computer out there had spent the time to dig up my blog and send it a mass-produced comment in bad English.  I feel so special.  Even my own Mum, bless her, hasn't figured out how to send me comments. 

However I soon realised that the computer had not taken the time to actually read the post considering it was about announcing my pregnancy, thereby making its suggestion to buy ovulation kits a bit redundant.  That made me sad. 

Still it's a step in the right direction.
 

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Honesty Anonymous

My problem is that sometimes I am too honest.

My other problem is that sometimes I keep quiet so I don't have to tell the truth.  I have never quite mastered the middle ground of little white lies.

Example number 1:

Shopgirl: Gosh, you are enormous, you must be due any day now

Stupid me: No actually, I'm not due for another 11 weeks

Shopgirl looks simultaneously horrified and disgusted.

I feel fat, loathsome and cranky at Miss Skinny Hotpants.

Example number 2:

Hairdresser: I'm just going to blow dry your hair now

15 minutes later [keep in mind the pregnancy, 32 degree day and the plastic sheet]

Hairdresser (still blowdrying): How are you doing there?

Me, trying not to faint: mmmmm

I feel like I am a fat, loathsome meatball stewing in my own juices.

* * *

I hate it when I do this.  My brain is telling me in the first instance to lie, and in the second instance, begging me to speak up.  It is the same obligation of politeness ("if you can't say something nice, don't say anything at all") that makes me walk out of the hairdresser with my chest covered in one-inch red hairs, so thick it looks like I am part orangutan.  I had to go home to wipe it off before returning to the shops to finish my shopping.

Could I have asked the hairdresser to take the time to de-hair me before I left?  Yes, a normal person would have, but apparently I am not normal. I have a problem, and as far as I can tell there is not an AA equivalent.

So today I thought I would try something new.  Lie to complete strangers.

I treated my long-unseen, neglected and apparently very swollen feet to a pedicure today.  The lady in the chair next to me smiled at my bump, raised her eyebrows and asked me how long I had left.

'A few weeks,' I told her.

Her eyebrows flattened in thought as she calculated how far along I must be and the size of my bump.

'Number 1?', she asked.

'Number 3 actually,' I told her.

Her eyebrows shot right off her head. 

I had gone from being the biggest, fattest pregnant woman in history to the one with the neatest bump (and nicest feet) all with a single lie.  I felt pretty good until the woman grating my feet asked me when I was due.

Crap.  I hadn't thought that far ahead and my brain was still fried from being shot with a heat gun at the hairdressers.  I couldn't figure out what my due date would be if I was really 37 weeks.  It all came unravelled and I was left sitting there with my mouth hanging open: 'ummmmmm?, I said'.

Mrs Eyebrow smiled smugly to herself.  She had totally caught me out in my lie and I was stuck there with my feet encased in creams and lotions, unable to extricate myself in shame.

And so even though Winston Churchill said:

Men stumble over the truth from time to time, but most pick themselves up and
 hurry off as if nothing happened.

 
my caveat to that is:

If you are going to stumble over a lie, make sure you can make a quick getaway. 



Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Chaos at the Kindy Christmas Party

Her eyes darted around the room and she opened a bag just a crack to show us what was inside.

'I bought some champagne,' she said, almost embarrassed.

'Me too!' I told her.

'Me too,' another Mum admitted.  Partners in depravity, we had bought alcohol to the Kindy Christmas Party. Suddenly we were very popular, handing out plastic cups of the good stuff.  Fortifying ourselves against the forty or more children, the heat of the day, and the table full of sugar.

A bottle and a half quickly disappeared, but then, as tends to happen, everyone was too polite to ask for more. 

Santa had been and gone.  I had managed to write the wrong child's name on my Secret Santa gift, causing a kerfuffle I missed entirely because I was having hot flushes (not caused by champagne) and needed to sit outside with a plate of cheese and crackers.

The toddlers found a drink fountain and a helpful Kindy-kid had turned it on for them, flooding the vicinity and providing a lovely big mud puddle for them to splash around in.

Needless to say, it wasn't too long before the toddlers were saturated and demanding their clothes be taken off.  Well, it's not really a party until someone gets naked.  Three someones in this case.

Mouths stained green with Christmas-Tree coloured icing, the kids ran riot with their new toys.  Boys blew each other up and whacked innocent bushes with their new swords, girls danced around with their new glittery and sparkly toys.  Mums and the occasional dad loitered around the food table, the kids certainly weren't interested.

We've lost the naked toddlers!  Nope, there they are - behind the building, using plastic cups to transfer wood chips from the garden beds to the footpaths.  A Kindy-kid sneaks up behind them and dumps a full cup of sand over Miss Curly Mop, straight down her back and into her nappy.  I yell indiscriminately and spend the next five minutes consoling the toddlers, assuring them it's not them who are in trouble. 

For some reason the Mop is unperturbed by a nappy full of wood chips and dirt.  Kids are weird - she freaks out if she has a tomato seed on her chin, but she is okay to get around with a garden bed in her bottom.

In that inexplicable manner of kids, they seem to be amping up and winding down at the same time.  The mums stagger around, sweeping up popcorn and cake crumbs, tired from just watching, envious of how their offspring seem to draw energy from nothing more than their mates and the sun.  If scientists figured out how to make energy the same way kids do, we could solve the climate change crisis with nothing more than a 5th birthday party.

It's time to leave.  Shoes are dug out of the sandpit, the toddlers reluctantly rounded up.  Somehow the pregnant woman has wound up with more champagne that she started with. A cruel ending to a tiring day.

Monday, December 12, 2011

The Wishing Tree

The other day I took the Blonde Bombshell to Kmart to buy a few essentials, like a Tinkerbell backpack (no, not for the Bombshell, for her Dad to give to someone at work for Christmas. Or so he says).
Naturally as soon as we walked through the doors she began asking for things.
‘What am I going to get, Mum?’
‘Is that for me?’
‘I want one of those Mum.’
It drives me nuts.
My girls have so many toys they don’t even know they own half of them.   They have so many toys I have to rotate them in and out of storage so they don’t take over my life like multiplying gremlins.
Growing up I had my share of toys.  It may have been a small share compared to my next-door neighbour, and yes, there were popular toys I am sure I wanted but never received (like a Cabbage Patch Doll) but I had something better.  Imagination.
My parents, whether through necessity or sheer brilliance, installed in us a sense of creativity that did not depend on batteries or the latest fad.  I could spend hours recreating a board game with a piece of cardboard and a packet of textas, painting the driveway with water, creating a mini-golf course in the backyard or playing with my imaginary friends  and it didn’t cost my parents a cent. 
My god, I sound like a bit of a loser.  Oh well.
My point though, is that I want to know how to explain to a four and a half year old about concepts such as poverty, gratitude, generosity and not-asking-for-stuff (does that have a proper name?) without sounding like I am preaching to her. Which I do, regularly. So she stops listening.
In Kmart I told her to imagine that there were two little girls, just like her and her sister and that on Christmas they might not be getting any toys.  Her face remained blank.  No toys?  Foreign concept.
I then told her that if we buys some toys and put them under the Wishing Tree, the nice people at Kmart would pass them onto Santa who would be able to give them to these other children.
It came a bit unstuck at this point.  Why does Santa need help? What are these kids’ names? Do we know them?
My answers were ummmm, I don’t know and No respectively. Not good enough Mum.  She lost interest and wandered off to look at Christmas baubles.
Luckily the Mop had been listening and helped me choose some presents for these unknown children.  She even slobbered on the packaging, making it that much more special for them. 
After I had paid for everything I sent the Bombshell on a mission to return the toys to the Wishing Tree.  She disappeared out of sight for a few minutes and returned empty handed but with a big grin on her face.
‘I did it Mum,’ she said.
‘Did you put them under the Wishing Tree, like I asked?’ I said.
Her face looked blank.
‘What tree?’ she asked.
I have no idea what she did with the toys or where she put them.  I hope they make whoever ends up with them very happy.
Merry Christmas everyone.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Why Am I Crying?

It was her big day and we were running late.  Early December, yet it was bucketing down, thunder punctuating my fingers tapping on the dash as we headed to Kindy.

It was the day of the Kindy Christmas concert.

The Curly Mop was dressed in a brand new pink gingham dress, a Christmas tree clip in her curls.  Dad [on a rare day off work] was wearing a green t-shirt and sported reindeer antlers, a video camera dangling from his wrist.  We were the last to arrive, all the tortuously small chairs lined in neat rows, oversized bottoms squeezed in.  Every second person had a digital camera.

The Kindy class were sitting patiently at the front of the room, reindeer antlers made out of hand prints strapped to their little heads.  Straining to see their parents, waving at cameras.  The anticipation was palpable.

The teacher started the CD player and all the kids jumped up and started dancing manically.  20 video cameras shot up in the air in unison.  Younger siblings loitered around the cake table.  The Blonde Bombshell jumped from side to side and waved her arms with a massive grin on her face.  The reindeer antlers on the girl behind had slipped over her eyes, and she was facing the wrong way.

The music finished and the kids all fall to the ground.  Parents and grandparents clapped like they had just witnessed the best thing they had ever seen.  Which we just had.  I was feeling quite teary.  It must be the pregnancy hormones.

Next up, an Australian version of Jingle Bells.  'Dashing through the sand, in our bathers and our thongs...'
The Bombshell had been practicing for weeks.  She never quite got the lyrics correct, always mixing the traditional and the modern versions, slurring over 'one-horse open sleigh' which probably doesn't make much sense to a four year old living in Australia in the 21st century.  I never corrected her, as it was supposed to be a 'secret'.

On the chorus they all pulled out bells and madly waved them around.  The lyrics were drowned out, but the smiles got even bigger.  For the big finale, Six White Boomers.  The would sit down for the verse, then get up and start jumping (like a boomer*) for the chorus.  The sound of 20 children jumping (almost) in unison rivalled the thunder outside.  The sound of 40 adults clapping was almost overwhelming.



Then it was over.  I don't know who felt prouder, the kids or the adults.  I felt like crying.  Then they each presented us with a handmade calendar, wrapped in handmade paper and decorated with a handmade card. The children were herded outside for fruit, while the adults enjoyed morning tea made by the kids.  Last week The Bombshell had told me they had made 'fluffy white balls with lots of onion' for the morning tea.  Onion?  Hopefully she meant coconut.

She did.

Best Kindy concert ever.

-----------------------------
* A boomer, for my overseas readers, is a name Aussies give to big kangaroos.  Naturally, we all stand around saying things like 'he was as jumpy as a boomer'.  Not really.  They only time we use the word is in this song:

Six white boomers, snow white boomers
Racing Santa Claus through the blazing sun
Six white boomers, snow white boomers
On the Australian run.

Friday, December 2, 2011

Eating for Two (Months)

A find myself with a small window of opportunity.  A port-hole really.

Twice a week the Blonde Bombshell and Miss Curly Mop attend daycare, a remnant of the days when I used to work outside of the house, and more recently, when I attended university.

Now uni is over for the year, I have a small window before the new baby is born where I am essentially childless twice a week.  Bliss, you might say.

I know I should be taking advantage of this opportunity and spend it writing.  Afterall, according to the banner at the top of this blog my goal is to become a professional writer.  Last time I checked, you didn't win that title like a lottery.  You actually had to write things.



But instead of utilising this time by working on one of the many story ideas pinned to the corkboard above my desk, ideas that stare at me every day, accusing me of neglecting them, I am whiling away the hours doing other important things.  Like watching Celebrity Apprentice and The Slap.

I am also eating a lot. 

This is justifiable because I am pregnant.  Luckily, I have been able to combine my love of eating and my desire to write into my sideline at Weekend Notes.

Every time I go to a restaurant, cafe, park or event I write a review and it is published online.  I even earn a few dollars.  I carry the tools of a professional writer - a digital camera and a notebook - and will snap photos of my food, and everyone else's.  Woe betide the person who tucks into their lunch before letting me take a picture.  I am amazed at how patient my friends and family are with me and my rather nasty habit. 

In turn, friends and family are amazed at just how often I am eating out these days.  It's a bit embarrassing really, but I almost feel I am a squirrel storing nuts for the winter.  This analogy can be taken two ways - you can say I am eating plenty to make a nice comfy home for baby, or you can read the desperation of a woman who knows that soon all traces of a social life will disappear for a year or three.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

A Lesson in English

'Look Mum, I slide-ed down on my car seat,' The Bombshell tells me.

'You slid down on your seat? Cool,' I reply.

'No Mum, I slide-ed down.'

'Well, the correct word is slid.  You slid down.'

'No it's NOT Mum,' she starts getting angry.

'Look,' I tell her, getting cranky myself. 'Who do you think knows more about the correct use of the English language?  A 30 something mother with three university degrees or a four and a half year old who hasn't finished Kindy yet?'

She opens her mouth to reply. Funny that the car door should close at that exact moment so I don't have to hear it.

I take a deep breath and walk around to my side of the car.

As I slide into my seat, I glance back in the mirror.  Her mouth is still open, she is waiting for me.

'I did slide-ed down in my seat Mum.  Gosh,' she says (sounding a lot like me), 'I know what I do-ded.'

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

A very UnHappy UnBirthday

There were balloons taped to the back of the chairs.

A Happy 4 1/2 birthday sign greeted her when she came home from daycare.

There were presents on the table (two for her, one for her little sister, whose half birthday we forgot a few months back - I suppose she had better get used to it, soon-to-be-middle-child).

A pink candle was on the bench, next to the camera, waiting for the inevitable happy smiling pictures of a grateful, loving child.  A child who turned four and then all her Kindy friends promptly turned five.  She has been waiting (not so patiently) to be five, I wanted to buoy her spirits with a Half Birthday.

I even made special dessert.

I don't know why I bothered.

Children obviously lack that part of the brain that sees all the effort behind an event, or the time put into a triple layered jelly and custard trifle in specially bought plastic goblets.

With crushed up multi-coloured mini meringues to go on top.



But I'm not upset.

To be fair, a lot of adults still don't have this part of the brain.  The just see what is in front of them, not noticing whether something is handmade, or thoughtfully put together. They merely see the object, not the shadowlands of effort behind it.

I really should have known better, shouldn't I?

I really should admit that I probably put the whole thing together for myself, rather than for her.  She's four and a half.  She'd celebrate the opening of a new box of Cheerios.

I think the thing that got me the most (apart from the complaining that there were no pink balloons, that she didn't like her dinner, that she was sitting in the wrong chair etc) was that later on in the bath, she told me I was a Mean Mum.  I think I had told her to wash her feet properly because they were filthy.

Some days, like today, I have to remind myself that she is four and a half.  She is not just a little adult, shrunk down into a size 6 with long blonde pigtails.  She is a child and still learning about the subtleties of human relationships.  I am the adult, though I admit I sometimes don't act like it.

Look at me, sitting in my room, sulking on the computer to you all because my four and a half year old didn't react the way I had hoped she might. 

I still have so much to learn about being a parent, and even more to learn about myself.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

How to Torture a Pregnant Woman

I think it’s hilarious when I take one of my children with me to the obstetrician, it’s almost cruel really.
I remember being pregnant for the first time, sitting in the waiting room, having absolutely zero experience of children.  A woman who had returned for her 6 week post-natal check asked me to sit with her brand new baby while she went in to see the doctor.  She vanished behind closed doors before I could splutter a ‘what? Are you mad?’ 
Naturally, as soon as she left the baby began screaming. 
Naturally I had no clue what to do and just left it in the pram. Screaming.
Naturally, by this stage she had her knickers down and was in the middle of a post-baby pap smear.
It was awful and I still resent her assumption that I knew anything about babies just because I happened to be pregnant. 
I have found a less invasive way of horrifying future parents.
I took my four and a half year old to my 24 week check-up, and we sat together in the waiting room.  Well, she sat for about a minute before she was pacing the room, asking if it was our turn next.
‘No dear, there were two others before us. You just have to wait patiently’.
Patient.  Four year old.  Ha ha ha ha ha.
‘I need to do a poo,’ The Bombshell announced to the room.
Stunned silence.  One of the dads wrinkled his nose.
‘Ok sweetie,’ I said smiling on the inside.  I turned to an 8-monther who had just walked through the door and asked if she needed the bathroom to do a pee sample. Her eyes were wide and she just shook her head.  The Bombshell was already hitching up her dress.
I locked us in the toilet much to the Bombshell’s disgust.
‘But I don’t need you Mum, you can go outside if you want,’ she said.
I thought it prudent to stay.
The Bombshell then proceeded to provide a blow by blow (or poo by poo) account of her evacuation.  At the top of her voice.  So everyone in the waiting room could hear every word.
‘One, two, three poos Mum. Ohhh this one’s a bit hard to get out,’ she said wiggling around on the seat. I won’t continue with the verbal outpourings, because one day the Bombshell might read this and hate me forever, but suffice to say, she had plenty to say about her poo.
Finally, we emerged from the toilet and resumed our seats in the waiting room.  I saw one dad snigger, his wife looked mortified and kept rubbing her belly. No one looked me in the eye.
Two minutes later, and after two more ‘is it our turn now’ from the Bombshell, she had fallen silent again. Only the rustle of Marie Claire and Interior Living magazines filled the almost full room.
‘Now I need to do a wee,’ she told the room. This time I sent her alone.
Maybe I will bring the two year old next time.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Not My Definition of Fun

Imagine, if you will, about a thousand small children and their parents in a confined space.

Add to this approximately 600 prams each the size of a Rav 4.

Add to this one bouncy castle, three face painters and one petting zoo.

Welcome to the Playgroup Annual Fun Day.

If I had read this post before I left the house, I doubt I would have made it past the front door.  A thousand small children?  Sometimes I don't cope with the two I have.

Driving into the carpark, a full ten minutes before the event was due to start should have been warning enough.  Hundreds upon hundreds of cars, predominantly SUVs (I have one, so I can make jokes), all with the tell-tale black sock in the back window, faded to a dull grey.  Many have the 'Little Dude on Board' signs or those family stickers on the back window: GymJunkie Dad, Red-Eyed Mum, Annoying Pre-schooler, Whinging Two-year old, Stretch-mark-making baby. Do they make those stickers?  Maybe they should.

Streaming from these cars, a hoard of pre-schoolers and babies in pram, dragging their mothers along. Dora and Ben10 t-shirts from here to eternity. Nappy bags the size of a small suitcase. Picnic rugs, picnic baskets, bottles of suncream the size of a 4L milk carton.

At least, some people were sensible enough to bring these things.

I remembered the toddler and thought I was doing well.  Afterall, who expects to go to a Fun Day and there BE NO FOOD? I live for cake stalls.

I shouldn't complain because I am a member of Playgroup, have been since the Blonde Bombshell was about 8 months old, and she and Miss Curly Mop love their weekly playgroup sessions.  The Fun Day is totally free, put on by the organisation and full of activities such as a petting zoo, face painting, Scitech stall and bouncy castle. 

But I will complain, because did I mention that there were probably 1000 children?  And three face painters.  You do the math. I'm already good at math.

This was the queue for the face painters 10 minutes after the event opened.
From my vantage spot under a shady tree, toddler still strapped inside her pram, the queue for the face painters stretched like one of my dubious analogies.  I was mightily impressed with the patient children and their patient mothers, but I was wondering how long things would stay calm, until one of the children made a run for it to the front shouting 'My turn!' or a mother snapped and ran shouting 'My sanity!'

It was a short-lived morning for us, the trek back to car an exercise in precision pramming, trying to avoid half-crazed three year olds trying to wedge themselves under the pram wheels.  Above the rumbling of our stomachs, the constant droning of the PA system identifying lost children by the colour of their hair and the superhero on their t-shirt.

If the car park was stuffed full when we arrived, it had vomited by the time we left. The look of resignation in the eyes of mums endlessly circling the carpark turned to manic desperation when they saw us leaving.  I felt sure there would be an incident when two station wagons faced off for my car park.  I will be watching the outcome on the 9 News tonight.

We made it out alive, with our orange playgroup balloon and bag full of brochures about the zoo and baby photographers. And strangely enough, a free dummy. Perhaps they were included to quell the cries of of hungry toddlers.

__________________________________
* This post is dedicated to my good friend Louise, who told me in no uncertain terms that I need to write more because there is nothing decent on TV.

Daycare Drop-Off

'Mum, can I do my own buckle?'

Sure thing.

'Mum, can I get out your door today?'

As long as you don't push any buttons on the way out. It took me ages to figure out what that beeping was last time.

'Hold my hand. Hold my hand.  Look Mum! We're holding hands.'

Cute.

'Hewo. Bye bye.'

Darling, don't frown - that's the letter box.  They don't say hello back.

'Hello everyone.  This is my sister!'

They know darling, we come to daycare every week.

'C'mon, let's play.'

Remember that this is the little kids room, not for big kids.  Wait, too late.  She's off teaching the two year olds how to draw flowers.  Might just... sit... on... the couch... for a while.  Grunt.

'Not much longer then.'

I'm sorry?

'Your baby.  You look like you are very close now.'

No, I am only 24 weeks, I just eat a lot of donuts.

'Mum, I think the Mop smells funny.I think she has done a poo'

Time to go.

Friday, November 11, 2011

My life by the numbers

Lately I have been feeling a bit rough around the edges, a bit tired and grumpy.  I'm sure I wasn't always this irritable. I'm sure I used be a rollicking good time, full of fun and energy.
I am only 34, so what is my problem?

I will tell you what my problem is...

Since September 2006 I have been pregnant for 23 months (so far).

I have breastfed for over 20 months.

I have had morning sickness for a whole year.

I have gone on or off two different types of pill 10 times or more, with all the hormone changes that comes with it (good times, huh hubby...)

I have gained and lost over 30kg (more gain than loss though).

I have been to over 400 Mother's Group and Playgroup sessions.

I have done over 700 loads of washing.

I have done over 3,500 pigtails.

And I have changed over 1,600 nappies.

Those numbers terrify me a bit, especially when I think about the fact that they will only get bigger (especially the weight gain one).

There are other numbers, harder to calculate perhaps, but more important.

I have cuddled my daughters more than 20,000 times.

There have been hundreds of 'I love you Mummy'.

I have had over 1,600 nights of being able to watch my child sleeping peacefully (why are children so beautiful when they are asleep?)

When the Blonde Bombshell was born I was so enamoured I told her I would kiss her a million times before she turned one.  My maths ability had obviously disappeared along with my waist line and it took me a while to realise this would mean I would need to kiss her almost 3,000 times a day to achieve this.  That's two kisses a second, not leaving much time for anything else.

Perhaps if I had spent more time kissing her and less time doing laundry then I might not be so grumpy four years down the track. I'd probably also be quite stinky by now, so we could have nixed Baby Number Two and Three.

I'm still working on those million kisses, but it is a number I am willing to achieve. The good thing is, now the Bombshell is at an age when she can help me, so we are working on it together. 

I don't know what number the little kiss on the nose she just gave me would have been.

It's probably not important anyway.


Friday, November 4, 2011

Exercising with Children

AN EXERCISE IN FRUSTRATION

We are in the car on the way home from Kindy.

'Why didn't you make me sandwiches for Kindy?' asks The Bombshell.

I looked at her in the rear view mirror.  'I made you quiches,' I said.

'But I don't like quiches, I like sandwiches.'

Grrrr. This is a complete fib, I think to myself. I watched her eat eight in a single sitting once.

'I thought it would be fun to have something new at lunch,' I say. 

She changes tack.

'I don't like the big ones, I only like the small ones,' she tells me.

Now I'm getting cranky.  Miss Curly Mop is watching the exchange with interest.  She finds it fascinating when Lexi gets yelled at and she isn't.  She can probably tell what is going to happen if the Bombshell continues down this path.

'Why don't you like the big ones, they have exactly the same ingredients as the small ones, they just have more.'

'But the black ones...', she says.

'I didn't give you any black ones,' I say.  As if I burn my mini quiches!

'But I only like the black ones...'


AN EXERCISE IN HARSH REALITY

The Bombshell and I are in the shower and she has pointed out that I have some red spots on my back.  She helpfully gives them a poke as she counts them.

Naturally I cannot see them, but for some reason I think if I twist around I will be able to see my own back.  Pregnancy is doing nothing for my common sense let alone my agility.

I give up trying to look at my own back.

The Bombshell shrugs.  'Maybe you're just getting old,' she offers helpfully.


AN EXERCISE IN CREATIVITY

Still in the shower, the Bombshell is covering herself in soap suds.

'I like this,' she says.  'It smells like lemon.'

'Pretty smart,' I tell her.  'It's called lemongrass.'

She looks up at me, her eyes wide.  I can tell she has just had a big idea.

'Ooooh lemongrass, that's a nice name.  Maybe we should call the baby Lemongrass.'


FINALLY, AN EXERCISE IN WHY WE TOLERATE THE ABOVE

The Bombshell and I are out of the shower, and I am twisting around in the mirror to find these red spots on my back. 

I don't like what I see.  It's all a bit blobby and wobbly, and those aren't even the bits that are pregnant.

I must have had a frown on my face, because the Bombshell walks up to me, wraps her arms around my legs and tells me: 'Mum, you're perfect just the way you are.'

Friday, October 28, 2011

Kindy Mum

I am sitting on a pathetically small plastic chair, my knees up by my shoulders, my ankles crossed in an attempt not to flash my knickers at a room of four and five year olds.  My unborn child is giving me a thumping for its cramped living conditions, my eldest is tracing patterns on my thigh with her texta covered finger.  Little friends bump and crawl over each other, each trying to sit closest to me.  If they get much closer Baby Unborn will have some serious competition.

Today I am Kindy Mum. 

Parent helper at the Blonde Bombshell's kindy class is a rite of passage that all parents should attempt at least once.  Once is probably enough for many parents.

There are twenty small children, and three adults.  I don't much like those odds.  It is the start of fourth term and the kids are feral.  They are excited at being back at Kindy and tired from their first year at 'school'. 

Because her mum is helping today means it is the Bombshell's 'special day'.  This brings all sorts of privileges such as being able to ring the bell.  It's an important job and you can see the pride in her eyes as she stands at the front of the class, thrusting the bells up and down.

I have chosen my day well.   Two children are having birthdays which means two lots of cupcakes at morning tea.  It also means we sing Happy Birthday four times over the course of the morning.  Five if you count the fact that the kids are singing like a bunch of zombies and the teacher is not satisfied and makes them do it again.  The teacher cannot manage the cigarette lighter.  We can't sing without lit candles.  I jump up and show her how it's done.  'Are you a smoker?' she asks, a piercing look in her eye.

It's story time and the children are taught some new words.  Gumption. Basking. Reside. Comparison.

May I remind you they are four years old. 

Time to Jump Our Jiggles out and stomp out our sillies.  Twenty hopped up hurricanes are throwing themselves around the mat with gusto.  They have no self-consciousness (or self-control).  It's liberating and I join in the jiggling.  The music stops but I keep jiggling.  Time to go on a diet perhaps.  Back in my chair of torture.  Can't the WA Education System spring for a third adult-sized chair? 

It's craft time and I am in charge of five children cutting out butterflies and using hole punches to decorate their wings.  It's going smoothly until one boy says he doesn't want to make a butterfly.  He wants to make a bat.  Fine, I say.  Then of course everyone wants to make bats.  They discover what happens when you remove the bottom of the hole punch.  Suddenly I feel like I am at a 1970s wedding, covered in brightly coloured confetti. 

Still, my table is cleaner than the one next door.  Those kids are playing with play-dough.  I don't even let the word be spoken in my house, let alone the substance, yet here they are at Kindy grinding it into their hair, throwing it at each other, treading it into their shoes.  I see a couple of kids sneak a taste.  I pretend not to notice.

Time for outdoor play and everyone rushes for their hats. Some kids are on the swings, others in the sandpit.  Boys are at the dolls house and girls are into the dress-ups.  Two girls approach me to have their white dresses done up. 'Are you brides?' I ask.  'No,' they say as though I am stupid.  'We're his daughters,' they say pointing at a little boy.  'C'mon daughters,' he says.  And the three run off to play on the pirate ship.  Whatever.

I chat with the teacher about the Bombshell.  She's the youngest in the class but seems to hold her own.  It would appear she has an entirely different personality here at school.  She sits still, never calls out, doesn't push her opinions forward, and is generally very well behaved.  I roll my eyes, picturing the opinionated, pushy, jumping-beans-in-her-knickers, difficult to please girl she can be at home.

Two girls run up to us.  They have made us a cake.  It is a saucepan brimming with sand, decorated with nuts and dead flowers.  A snail shell is the centrepiece. Encouraged by our oohing and ahhing, they rush off to make a bigger one.

We've lost a child.  Nope, hang on, they're just at the bottom of that pile of children.  The boys are separated and the girls told not to encourage them.  Fat chance.  At this tender age, the girls are already manipulating the boys with their wily charms. 

The Bombshell is told to ring the bell again.  She marches around the playground ringing it in people's ears, just in case they don't know it's time to go inside.  I can't bear the thought of scrunching myself back into furniture fit for a dollshouse so I make my goodbyes.  The class are made to sit in their neat lines on the mat and warble 'thaaaaaank yoooooooo Shaaaaaaannooooooon'.

Several small children rush up to give me goodbye cuddles, luckily the Bombshell is amongst them.

I make my way home, a smile on my face.  The Bombshell got it wrong.  It was my my special day.



 

Friday, October 21, 2011

The Rules of the Game

My parents have just returned from a trip to Europe, and they bought the Blonde Bombshell a game of Happy Families, Disney Princess version no less.

For anyone born after the year 1975 you are probably saying Happy what?  Happy Families... it's a card game.  A bit like Fish, but instead of collecting pairs, you collect families.  Right, now you've got it.

Anyway, I had no clue what Happy Families was either, and since the game had been purchased in France, and the box was covered in French, we all assumed the instructions would be in French and we would have to google the instructions before teaching the Bombshell how to play.

Turns out the instructions were provided in about 16 languages including English, but it was completely irrelevant anyway.  The Bombshell wanted to play her own game - Snap - and using her own rules.

I really quite like her rules and think they have a lot of potential for being extrapolated to our everyday lives, so I am sharing them with you in the hope of making the world a little more pink and shiny.

Rule 1: the cutest and smallest person always gets to start

Rule 2: the cutest and smallest person can have a peek at their cards before doling them out

Rule 3: try really hard to be the first person to Snap a pair, but it's okay if you wait a while to let someone older and not as cute snap them first

Rule 4: try and take turns to Snap the pairs, but if you find you have all the cards, give some of them to the other player

Rule 5: try and keep the game going as long as possibly, even if Mum is tired and she needs to cook dinner.  Compliment her as much as possible so she stays on the floor and keeps playing

Rule 6: make up new rules as often as possible

Rule 7: even if Daddy loses all his cards, tell him he is still really good and you love him lots

Rule 8: the winner is not necessarily the person with the most cards, but the person with the most stamina

Happy playing everyone.  Bon chance.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

I'm on Page 1

For a few months now I have been posting review articles to Weekend Notes, a website that operates in a number of Australian states (and New York, go figure) providing reviews and ideas of what to do in those cities.

Go on, have a look. Scroll down a bit to Places.  Look closely at number 3 (Zanders) and 10 (Hobart St Deli) - those are my reviews!

Scroll down a bit more, to the Editor's Choice no less.  Yep, me again*.

At the risk of sounding like the complete amateur that I am, I was really chuffed to receive an email from the editor to say she had selected my Black Toms review to go on the website as the Editor's Choice.  It made an excellent day even better.  Read the story: I got to have lunch with my mum, had an excellent meal, and part of it was free.  See what I mean.  Excellent day.  And the fact that my mum got to play a starring roll in my best-yet review makes it even nicer (you can see the top of her head in one of the pictures!)

I also have (finally) made enough from writing these reviews to request my first payment**.  From the 4th working day of next month, I will finally be a paid writer.  Don't start asking for handouts yet though, I'm no Bryce Courtney.  Autographs I am happy to provide though.


As you can probably tell by the tone of this post, I am feel much better.  The morning sickness has passed, I am off all medication, and the energy of second trimester has well and truly kicked in.  So has the hunger.  I am eating constantly, which is why I am able to post so many reviews to Weekend Notes.  I am always going out and eating.  What a life!

You can probably also infer from this change of pace, that uni has finished for this semester.  I handed in my article (entitled Opportunity Lost: Men's experience of miscarriage and loss) last week and am eagerly awaiting its return.  I fully intend to submit it for publication, and when (not if) it gets accepted, I will change my banner at the top of this page.

I plan on deleting the bit in brackets that says (hopefully).


________________
*I'm quite aware that these change regularly, and chances are by the time you read this, my articles will have long gone.  No worries, you can still read them all here.

** I feel the need to justify my long overdue and lowly pay rate by explaining that I have been opting to take my pay monthly over 24 months... it takes a while to build a bank balance when you are talking about a few dollars per article.  But it does mean I will still be earning those few dollars in 2013!  By which time inflation would have reduced its value by about half...

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Vintage Barbie

Ever since I was a teenager I have been boxing up toys and books with the aim of passing them on to my progeny.  For a decade or so, I even managed to store them at my parents house, until they wised up and started depositing ancient boxes of books and old school reports on my door step.

Alongside my Ramona Quimby and Trixie Beldon books, I also kept a collection of Barbie dolls and clothes. What remains are the dolls and clothes I wasn't able to sell at a Sunday morning swap meet in my late teens.  What remains was probably considered daggy in the early 90s so no one wanted it. 

Today, what remains is vintage.  I'm kicking myself for selling the rest of the collection.

Vintage: this is a mixed blessing really.  For not only does it mean I now own some pretty original Barbie fashions from the 1960s through to the 1980s, but it also means that my childhood was about three decades ago, so my toys may now qualify for the moniker 'antique'.

Many of these dresses were hand made by my aunty and mum. And I can pretty much guarantee that you can't get outfits like this anymore. 

A little bit of Mad Men...



How are these for disco-tastic...




Oh the gold lame jumpsuit...


And into the 1980s... a kaftan, one piece jogging suit and a very big hat!



Perhaps the most telling part of my collection is the box it is has been stored in for the past 20+ years.


This state of the art tape cassette was a gift from my parents who had been overseas.  It weighed about 4 kilos and its major selling point was the fact that it could play both sides of a cassette without needing to eject and turn it over.  I remember listening to Abba and Little River Band on it while I was doing the vacuuming. Good times.


*These rather dapper poses are not necessarily because I am trying to portray Barbie as an active jogger or dancer... These clothes are 20+ years old and some are beginning to fall apart (not helped by Miss 4 year old being a tad rough trying to dress her 'new' dolls...) no I have had to pose them like this to prevent too much exposure of plastic booby. 

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Search Term Optimism

Some of you may think that blogging is simply a means for me to have a bit of a rant about a topic of my choosing. FREE MONEY.

You are absolutely right. You deserve to LIVE FOREVER.

However, for some bloggers out there, this is serious business and anyone in the know will know that you must write with SEO in mind (that's Search Engine Optimisation for all you neanderthals out there).  In other words, if you put some really speccy, searchable words upfront in your blog, like SEX, it's more likely to be at the top of the list when your potential readers hit 'search' in our friend Google (or whatever).

WIN A MILLION DOLLARS.

So, now I have been blogging for a little while I was wondering what sort of search terms people were using to wind up at my blog, by mistake that is. CAT MARRIES DOG.

Here are some of the terms people were using when they happened upon my WORLD'S BEST BLOG:

'Strap some on' I imagine there would have been some very disappointed readers out there when they happened upon my post about tradies.  After all, it doesn't take too much imagination to figure out what they were probably looking for...

'Pulme' This was one of those security check words websites get you to type in to prove you are not a computer.  There is no such word (I just checked) so I wonder what on earth readers were looking for when they typed that one into their engine...

'Where do the lost toys go?' This makes me sad, that there are people, possibly children, out there who are actively looking for an answer to this question.  I pondered it one day when I accidentally lost one of the Curly Mops toys.  I still wonder about the world of lost toys.  I hope you found your toys kids.

'The Windows to the' Not windows to the soul, or windows to the heart, just windows to the... What were they looking for?  Did they find it?  I installed a search tool on my blog (now located at the very bottom of the page) to try and figure out where they ended up, and I can't find it?  

How you you happen upon this blog?  Did you get what you were looking for?  What is THE MEANING OF LIFE? I hope to see you again soon.

Monday, October 3, 2011

Ask Me No Questions I Will Tell You No Lies

I recently read from a source of great authority*, that a four year child asks - on average - 437 questions a day.

Now I know men that don't even speak 437 words in a day let alone that many questions, so I decided to do a little experiment.  After all, you can take the girl out of the research lab, but you can't take the researcher out of the girl.

So for one day last week I followed the Blonde Bombshell around with a piece of paper and pen and tallied up every time she asked a question.  To make it even more interesting, I counted separately each time she asked for food, and each time she simply asked "why?" (perhaps the most irritating question a four-year old can ask).

I learned some very interesting things.

* The Bombshell managed to ask 167 questions in little over 13 hours.

* Therefore, there must be a bunch of kids out there that do not stop asking questions, because if The Bombshell came in drastically below average, there are some poor mums out there who have to field over 700 questions a day (my sympathies).

* While I would have estimated that the Bombshell asked 'why?' at least a thousand times a day, she in fact only said it 12 times.  12 was enough.

* Similarly, she only asked for food 12 times over the course of the day. This could be because she often just helps herself to food in the cupboard anyway.

* I have come to the conclusion that if she had better manners, her count would have been much higher, because 'I want to watch TV' can't be classified as a question, but had she said 'Please can I watch TV?' she she would have another point.  Perhaps the researchers* just had super polite kids.

* Not every question she asked was grammatically correct, but I still gave her the point.  If she repeated the same question to make a statement, she got two points.  If the question was asked in that awful whiney voice that preschoolers use, she got the point but also got a lecture. If she sang the question, she got a point and a smile.  If the question was 'can I have Mummy cuddles?' the answer was always 'yes'.


Do you like this? Does it look pretty?


______________________________________________
* From the super-scientific people at Libra Panty Liners

Friday, September 30, 2011

Strange Men and Little Children

This is a bit of an awkward post. I am feeling quite upset and concerned but I do not know if I am over-reacting.

The Blonde Bombshell is in Kindy two days a week.  Typically at pick-up time, many of the mums hang around while the kids play on the equipment, run around like mad things, and generally make us feel old just watching them.

There is a dad that we sometimes see.  Apparently he has a daughter in one of the other classes but I usually see him on his own.  He is very friendly and interested in our children, especially our girls. Perhaps too friendly and interested.

The other day he was asking about Miss Curly Mop.  Asking her name and how old she was, admiring her clothes and hair, trying to give her a high-five.  The Bombshell saw that someone was talking to The Mop and came over to introduce herself and show off some artwork she had created in Kindy that day.  The dad admired it, and then likened the Mop to a piece of artwork.

He then admired the Bombshell, asking her general questions.  Then he started asking me questions.  Were the girls sisters?  Were they both my daughters? 

The he told The Bombshell that her little sister was very beautiful and perhaps he could borrow her sometime, take her home...

Something inside me was panicking. I wanted to take both the girls and run.  I couldn't help but think the worst but at the same time I was wondering whether I was just over-reacting to a friendly dad who was simply admiring my children.  There could well be a cultural difference involved in what is appropriate in dealing with other people's children, but for my comfort, he was crossing a line. 

But I did not say anything.  What could I say?

He has stopped before to talk with me about the Curly Mop.  He has picked up one of the Bombshell's Kindy friend's for no apparent reason.  He makes me uncomfortable.  Where was his own daughter?

I feel sad that I am jumping to conclusions and could perhaps be vilifying an innocent, perhaps lonely, perhaps clucky man.  I hope that I am, because the alternative is too scary to contemplate.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Top 10 Tips to Surviving Interstate Travel with Kids

Here are some of the lessons I learned from my recent trip to our old stomping ground  of Sydney:
1. Be prepared for embarrassing answers to innocent questions (especially if you are in public). If you are getting on a train in Sydney, explain you will be going underground and then ask your four-year-old what else lives underground, expect that they will tell you (and the entire carriage) that ‘poo pipes’ also are underground.  I was hoping for bunnies or possibly worms.  Not a discussion about the sewerage system.
2. Despite their reputation, locals can actually be very friendly to tourists.  I lost count of the number of times we had people rush to help lift our pram up stairs or on/off trains and buses.  Two blokes put their designer beers down to help my husband lift the pram up an enormous flight of stairs in the pouring rain. Thanks guys.
2b. There are an awful lot of stairs in Sydney.
3. Little kids look really cute in big beds.

4. Kids will fight sleep.  Despite all the stolen blankets and pillows from Business Class, kids in Economy will avoid sleep at all costs.  Even if you have sacrificed your seat for the 20 month old, and are propped in the seat pocket of the person in front of you, they will remain awake no matter how long the flight.  However as soon as they are placed in their car seat for the short drive home, they will pass out.
5. Don’t teach children the word ‘bored’.  Because then they will start to use it.
6. Don't Let Crap Weather Ruin Your Holiday. Even the funnest holiday adventure such as jumping in puddles and running through the rain can be made un-fun if your Mum is screaming at you to hurry up or we’ll miss the plane.
7. Be Creative. A pair of Qantas headphones, even if not connected, will bring at least 20 minutes amusement to a 20 month old, and at least an hour (connected) for a four year old. 

8. Accept the Consequences of Free Choice. If you are going to let a four year old girl chose an outfit from The Build-A-Bear Workshop for her new pink rabbit, you have to accept the fact that she may well choose the one outfit that looks like a hooker (black, sequined, strappy dress, silver shoes, pink sparkly handbag).

9. Small Children do not have the same reservations we do. A toddler will eat a lollypop even if it is covered with toy fluff.  However, they will also begin to cough up furballs.

10. As difficult as you may have it, someone else always has it worse.  You may be battling two screaming children on the train or bus, there may be hair pulling and bad words cursed under your breath, but when you look across the aisle and see the woman with tears in her eyes, staring sadly at your beautiful children, children you were able to conceive and carry and birth, remind yourself that you have it good.

For more top tips on surviving travel with small children, head to my article at Weekend Notes.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Privacy? Don't Make Me Laugh

'Arghhhh she's ruining my game!  Mum!  Mum!  She's ruining it!'

Oh God.  Why can't they leave me alone for two minutes.

'She's pulling my hair.  Mum!'

Well that's because you asked for four pigtails this morning and it looks a little strange.

'Wahhhhhhhhhh' (loosely translated as 'now she's pulled my hair').

'Oh please, they're not real tears. Please go back in the family room'.

Momentary silence, followed by scuffling and muffled screams.

'Don't make me come out there!'

Empty threat, I'm a little preoccupied and have no intention of going out there.

The door opens and the four year old comes in, tears streaming down her face. 

'I broke my game. I folded it the wrong way'.

'Don't worry, I'll fix it.'

I am left holding what used to be a Disney Princess Snakes and Ladders boardgame.  Hang on.

'I can't find the sticky tape Mum'.

'Not NOW!  I'm busy.  I will fix it later.  Come back here and get the game please'.

What wouldn't I do for five minutes to myself. 

A hand appears around the edge of the door, waving a biscuit.

'Can I have a cookie Mum?'

'Yes, now go away.  No wait, come back here and close the door please'.

I'm getting a headache.  I'm sure of it.

'Make sure you give one to your sister', I yell.  I don't need her coming in here too.

Silence.

I sit with my head in my hands for a minute.

Then I stand up and flush the loo.

I walk out to the family room where the girls are eating biscuits and playing with the broken halves of the board game.

'Look Mum, she's happy now'.

Me too girls.  Me too.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

What Can a Door Knocker Preach About Being a Mother?

I was working studiously on my impending uni assignment when I heard a rather tentative knock at the front door.  Always living in hope that it would be a huge bunch of flowers or box of hand made chocolates being delivered from an adoring fan, I bolted downstairs to find two small women, clutching bags and bowing repeatedly at me through the glass.

I opened the doors and said hello.  They bowed a few more times and explained that they were from South Korea and wanted to preach to me (their word) about being a mother.

I have to be honest, I was rather floored.

Every now and then I open the door to various religious groups wanting to preach about the word of God, or the Son or the gift of life or how I should become a Jedi for the next census.  I am terribly polite but do not let them stay to talk.  I respect other people's views and their right to have them, and I wish people would do the same for me.  If it's ridiculously hot I will offer you a cold drink but it doesn't mean I want to convert.

So I was kind of curious about what two very young women, with no children in tow wanted to tell me about being a mother.  They may have been mothers themselves but I don't know.  They wanted three minutes of my time, but then started pulling out videos from their bags.

I explained that I was already a mother of two, with another coming and I was very happy with my lot in life, but alas I had one day a week to study and this was it, so thankyou but no.  I bowed politely and gently closed the door.

I admit I will remain interested what the young ladies could have told me through their preachings, and the irony is not lost on me that I have already spent more than three minutes typing this post.  The same three minutes I told them I did not have.

But the only people I learn about being a mother from is my children.  They are my teachers and my mentors.  They constantly reward me and keep me on my toes.

Monday, September 5, 2011

In Praise of Dads

Yesterday being Fathers Day, my sister and I, and our gaggle of children descended on our parents house to celebrate our Dad.

What became immediately apparent, was that despite the fact that we spent the first half hour giving presents to Miss Three Year Old and Masterly One and a Half Year Old, chatting with Mum about dinner, swapping stories with each other, practically anything and everything except to do with Dad, he sat there with good grace and patience, and offered us all a drink.

When he was sent out the back - alone - to put the bbq on while we all stayed inside and gossiped, he did so with a smile on his face.

When he was given a drawing from the hand of the Blonde Bombshell, depicting him as an overstuffed couch with triangle legs and chicken feet, he oohed and ahhed at the genius of it.

When the kids demanded music to dance to, he dug around in the his old vinyl collection until he found the record my sister and I would dance to 30 years ago, and then joined in with enthusiasm (although perhaps with more substance than style).

When the youngest grandchild demanded a lap to sit in, and a male to talk trucks with, my Dad spent at least half an hour repeating the names of various trucks and cars and fire engines.  Over and over.  And then some more.  All with a smile (perhaps wearying by now).

When the four kids ran manically around the house, getting faster and louder and more silly each time, he only raised his voice slightly (to be heard over the din).  He just shrugged his shoulders and stayed out of their way, and poured us all another drink.

When the toddlers threw their food out of the high chairs onto the carpet, he told us not to worry, and to just enjoy our dinner (however he was out of the room when Miss Curly Mop threw her dessert against the wall and we watched it gradually roll its way down, until it finally wedged itself on the skirting board).

And then after dinner, while the three women escaped into the quiet sanity of the kitchen, he sat with his four grandchildren, reading them stories, letting them crawl all over him, pull his moustache, and loved every moment of it.

*  *  *

As we were packing the cars for the drive home, my sister and I discussed how sad it was that we didn't really truly fully appreciate our parents until we became parents ourselves.  When we realised it meant that we had at least 25 years before being appreciated ourselves by our own children, I decided that I could try and take a leaf out of my dad's book: smile and be patient with good grace (and possibly a nice glass of wine).

I love you Dad.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

The One About the Corn Poo [August 2009]


DISCLAIMER: do not read this if you are eating, or are currently childless but still think you want kids.

It would seem that I have almost reached that stage of motherhood that makes all the childless people take a deep breath and remind themselves how lucky they are; the stage where grandparents quite rightly disappear for a few months; the stage that is rarely written about in the parenting magazines accompanied by large pictorial spreads of chubby babies and smiling, relaxed mother-earth types.

That stage would be toilet training.  Unfettered bodily waste being allowed a glimpse of freedom, away from the constraints of those (glorious, sanity-saving) nappies.
I went to check on the two year old Blonde Bombshell the other day because she was making a ruckus rather than having her day time nap.  This was no ordinary Bombshell ruckus, which is typified by the thud of books flying across the room, the scrape of her lamp being dragged across her side table by its cord, or the wail of a lost dummy.  This was… different.

I opened the door a little, and the smell just hit me.  This was no ordinary smell.  It was an escaped, uncontained poo smell.  I turned the lights on and was greeted by the sight of my half naked toddler standing in her cot amid the stepped-on remains of a corn-fuelled poo.  She had removed her pants and tossed them out of the cot, and then removed her nappy.  She must have been sitting on her pillow when she did the giant poo, then stood up and stepped on it.  While investigating this interesting new sensation on the bottom of her feet, she would have sunk into the pillow, thereby squishing the poo up her ankles and shins, and pushing it through the fibres of her pillowcase into her pillow. 

She then seems to have walked to the other end of the cot, possibly to get away from the smell (as if you could get away from it!), dropping bits of remaining poo and undigested corn onto her books and stuffed rabbit, and leaving little poo footprints across her sheets and blanket.  Miraculously, the nappy was untouched.

Then she stood there and wailed.

I have to be honest, I did think briefly about closing the door and pretending I hadn’t seen it, but I figured a lifetime of counselling bills for a permanently scarred toddler could be rather costly.  So I picked up the big bits using the same inside-out bag technique that I have seen dog-owners employ.  Then I threw the baby in the shower, the pillow in the bin, and the rest in the washing machine. 

Hot cycle.  Heavy soiling.  A litre of bleach just to be safe - for the baby AND the washing.
The real indignity of this story is that the Bomb hadn’t even begun toilet training yet.  If we had embarked on that journey, then an episode of escapee poo would be fair enough, expected even.  But this was before we had even started.

So, it was with the smell still fresh in mind, that I went out and purchased a dozen pairs of the cutest little knickers and a potty seat.  I even invested $15 on five pairs of Thomas the Tank Engine knickers thinking it might motivate her NOT to poop on her favourite tank engine.

And this morning, I was all ready.  I was psyched to go.  This was it.  The potty was in the family room with its own little roll of toilet paper.  The heater was on.  The toilet training book complete with realistic ‘flush’ sound was in a motivating place next to the big toilet.  I had accepted the fact that I would be chasing poo and wiping wee off tiles and rugs and carpets.  I was ready to Start Toilet Training.

But the Bombshell wasn’t.
‘No knickers,’ she said. 
‘C’mon, they’re Thomas knickers,’ I coaxed.  ‘Big girls get to wear knickers.’
‘No big girl,’ was the response.  ‘Nappy.’
Can’t argue with that.

So, now when she goes down for her nap, it’s with a gaffa-taped nappy so she can’t get it off.  And I’ll wait a few weeks (or years) before I try again.  Meanwhile, one tiny pair of Thomas knickers adorns the arm of the couch as a reminder to the Bombshell, just in case she is ready sometime soon.
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