Sunday, December 30, 2012

Post-Christmas Carnage

It was a duel.

A singing battle being fought by The Bombshell (5 and a half years) and Miss Curly Mop (almost three).

The turf: the family room rug, covered with the detritus of Christmas, Barbie bodies everywhere.

At stake: who could sing the best song about their doll.

The rule: she who sings loudest, wins.

The Bombshell: (warbles, holding out her new 'Ryan' doll) 'Hellooooo, do you like my new boyfriend?'

The Mop: (returns) 'I doooo, but he has 'girl' eyes. So do I.... I'm very sorryyyyyy.'

The Bombshell: (attempting the tune of the Cinderella song) 'I know you, the gleam of your eyes, the rustle of your fingers....'

What exactly are his fingers doing?

The Mop: (still singing): 'Can you change my nappyyyyyy?'

Is she singing to me, or the doll?

Mummy: (in a lovely soprano) 'In a minute...'

The Mop: (speaking) 'Don't sing again.'

The Bombshell: (tries again) 'I know you, I walked with you once upon a dream. Because yours lips that touch my tan and your eyes are so different....'

His lips touch her tan? Does she even know what that means? Where is she learning this stuff?

The Bombshell: (in hushed voice) 'I love you, I know where your heart is...'
(in a different voice) 'What? You took my heart?'

The Bombshell: (in first voice, she has stopped singing and her two dolls are having a very serious conversation) 'I know you, you told me once and I remember in my head.'

The Mop: (realising she is losing the duel) 'Eric, I want to meet you. I wuv you.'

Meanwhile, Baldy Baby is surreptitiously scratching the glitter off Barbie's spray-painted torso (what? Mattel can't spring for real clothes anymore?). She gives up, and starts chewing on the doll's legs instead.

Mummy: 'You need to pull Barbie's dress up.'

The Mop: 'Why?'

The Bombshell: (leaving her dolls in a passionate embrace to investigate) 'Her boobies are out.'

The Mop pulls the dress up, covering Barbie's boobies but exposing Barbie's plastic underpants.

The Bombshell: (in her big finale) 'It's 2009 and I'm going to buy myself some shoesssssss.'

The Mop: (who knows she is incapable of putting tiny Barbie shoes on and off) 'I don't WANT shoes for my dollllll.'

The Bombshell: 'Well you have to, you are playing with MY dolls.'

Barbie get chucked across the room. Eric follows soon after.

Screaming. Yelling.

Exit stage right.

The duel is over.

Thursday, December 27, 2012

My Christmas Hangover


Late December, 2012

Dear Planet Earth

I felt I needed to offer you my sincere apologies.
I am posting this letter in the virtual space because my family and I have already done enough damage over the past week that I feel to use just one more piece of paper or envelope will send you spiralling out of control.

How do you do it? I mean, between us girls, how on earth (no pun intended) do you keep managing to consume so much crap and garbage and keep such a good figure? I have been surreptitiously emptying a 1.2kg box of Whitman’s over the past few days and I can already feel the damage being done.
Yet you will somehow absorb all the packaging from yet another extravagant Christmas and you do it with grace and nary a pair of Spanx in sight. Sorry to be rude, but do they even make them in your size?

It has taken me three days to find a home for all the new toys, and then another two hours this morning to separate the used wrapping paper from the cardboard from the plastic. This is the scene of recyclable carnage on my front verge this morning. I wonder if the garbologists will just laugh and keep driving. Or send me a bill for excess usage.
 
I love my children and want them to be happy, but I can’t help feel there must be a better way. I am a reasonably intelligent woman with a basic understanding of the G-I-G-O concept. All this packaging must come from somewhere and as soon as it disgorges its Barbie dolls and plastic dinosaurs it has to go somewhere. A big hole in your…. umm… in your earthly lady parts, hidden away from our sensitive eyes.

Yes, I could stop buying my kids toys, but a) that’s no fun and b) I doubt even Arnie with a whopping great big rocket launcher could stop the Awesome Grandparents from indulging in a mild case of Christmas Craziness.
I could write letters to Mattel and Leapfrog and V-Tech and ask them to put their products in an eco-friendly hessian bag instead of all of that cardboard and plastic, but do you think they would listen? It would certainly save time on Christmas Day, and prevent the indignity of watching three adults trying to extricate a plastic toy from its web of wires and ties and plastic locks while the kids look on in exasperation.

I could buy only packaging-free, second-hand or hand-made toys. This is actually not a bad option considering the fact that Number 1 present for Curly Mop this year was a $2 second-hand horse from a local swap meet. I felt you smile at me that day but I’m not sure how long the kids would accept this as a solution though.
I could swap kids. No, that probably wouldn’t solve anything, as I am reasonably sure that I am not the only person with this issue.
Two bags of wrapping paper, one of plastic and a box of cardboard
 
The thing is, it’s not just the obnoxious consumption and packaging and the awkward choice between expensive but good quality wrapping paper or cheaper paper that tears along the corners of boxes and you end up using a whole roll of sticky tape to hide the holes.
It’s the lights. A third of our greenhouse emissions comes from lighting displays (not to mention the spike in the electricity bill).

The billions of Christmas cards that are thrown away.
The food we don’t end up eating, or the food we do eat, and which hangs around our hips as permanent Christmas rolls of a different sort.

You see Earth, it’s awkward. I am uncomfortable with the excess and wastage caused by my family, but I am a bit of a Christmas-tragic, and I am hardly going to lead the charge for cancelling it. I’m no Grinch.
So here is what I promise to do, my New Year Resolutions if you will.

I promise that anything that can be recycled from this Christmas, will be recycled (even if it’s quicker and easier just to dump everything in the bin).
I promise to eat the entire box of Whitman’s (and the Favourites and the Quality Street) and not waste a single one.

I promise to sit my kids down and explain that the true meaning of Christmas is not actually ‘she who dies with the most toys, wins’.
I promise to surreptitiously ‘borrow’ some of the myriad toys gifted to my children this year, and dole them out during the year for special occasions rather than go and buy MORE toys, which I am known to do.

I promise to set up a Secret Santa system next Christmas with both sets of Awesome Grandparents so that each child receives fewer gifts.
I promise to encourage my kids to make handmade gifts for each other next Christmas.

I promise to use the ten thousand gift bags I have stored in my cupboard next year, rather than buying more wrapping paper (and I will give some to the Awesome Grandparents as well).
I promise to have a good clean up during the year, and make sure that toys my children no longer use, find a good home.

Finally, I promise that I will remember this letter to you, and the weight of excess consumption I feel right now, and endeavour to do better (ie do less) next Christmas.

Please forgive me the multiple Barbie Boxes up your lady parts.
Sincerely

Shannon

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Fairy Tales About Fairies...


There is something extraordinary about the imagination of my five year old daughter.
What is even more extraordinary, is how carried away I get when talking to her about her current favourite subject: fairies.

Some mums like to tell their kids that fairies aren’t real, but I think I prefer to wait until later in life to crush her spirit (‘well sweetie, you ARE the youngest person in your year at school so while everyone goes to the pub to celebrate, you’ll just have to come home and have a nice milkshake with ME…’).
 
The Bombshell lost her first tooth on the weekend, but all she had to show for it was an empty space as she lost it while swimming with the Awesome Grandparents. She was quite concerned that the Tooth Fairy wouldn’t come.
And then my mouth ran away with me…

‘Actually,’ I told her in my most conspiratorial voice. ‘I heard the Tooth Fairy LOVES to swim, so if you lose your tooth in a pool, she gives you extra money because it means she gets to go for a swim instead of working.’
Seemed reasonable to me. Most people prefer slacking off to working, why should fairies be any different?

So she wrote the Tooth Fairy a letter directing her to swimming pool in question and sure enough the next morning, there was a letter in return thanking the Bombshell for the opportunity to go swimming and a new $5 note.
‘Look Mum,’ the Bombshell screamed at about 5.30 the next morning. ‘The Tooth Fairy left me 5 cents!’ (She can read and write but has no concept about money. Something for me to work on over the school holidays).

I congratulated myself at saving her from complete devastation but then had a thought: what if the same thing happens to the Curly Mop or Baldy Baby in five years time. How am I going to remember the intricacies of my stories?
See, kids may not remember the name of the child they have been sitting next to at school all year, or even the name of their very own uncle (true!) but they WILL remember what you told them about the tooth fairy on a whim half a decade previously.
So I am hereby writing down all the ‘truths’ I have been telling about fairies, so it is on the record for subsequent daughters:

-          If you make a circle out of petals for the fairy (‘a fairy ring’ duh) the fairies will leave you a letter [I have one of the Bombshell’s friends to thank for this one, and it meant I was up at midnight writing not one, but two letters from the fairies, after she roped in the Mop into making a fairy ring as well].

-          And because I can’t help turning these things into learning opportunities, the letters were then written to each child to try and get them to work on their major faults. The Bombshell’s said ‘Make a wish, be kind to all, and it will come true.’ The Mop’s said ‘Make a wish, always try your hardest, and it will come true.’ As far as I can tell, neither girl’s wish have come true yet.

-          In order to stop the girls hitting a tree in our backyard to get the flowers to fall down, I told them that the seeds pods are actually where the baby fairies grow.
      
       It worked. They just hit each other now.

 
What ‘truths’ have you told your children, and have you ever been caught out making up stories?

Thursday, December 6, 2012

You'd Be Lucky To Have Her


You might not guess it, but I am actually the product of a private school education. Yup, bowler hats in summer, ties in winter, dead sexy lace up shoes, we had the works. At the time our local public high school had a bit of a reputation for kids getting beaten up at lunchtime so my parents made the decision that we would be sent to an all-girls school.

These days I am lucky enough to live in a corner of Perth where the local high school is pretty fantastic, so assuming that it doesn’t become a den of depravity before 2024 (when Baldy Baby starts high school), I am happy enough for the Bombshell, Mop and Baldy to go to the local public school.

However, since you never know what the future holds, I thought I would put the girls’ names down on the waiting lists of a few of the nearby private schools, including my alma mater (see, private education!).

I had been a bit tardy putting Baldy’s name down, so finally, with no more excuses left, I sat on the rug with the baby, gave her the TV remote to chew, while I called the schools to request their enrolment forms.

This is how one of the conversations went:

‘Oh hello. I was hoping you would be able to send me an enrolment form for my daughter, please’.

Baldy Baby chooses this exact moment to start warbling in her zombie queen of the undead wail.

‘Arghhhhhhh-ooooo-wawawawawawaa-eeeeeeeee’.

‘Oooh,’ said the very prim lady. ‘Is that her.’

‘Sure is,’ I say proudly.

‘Pwwwwthhhhhhhhhht’ farts the baby. ‘Eeeeeeeeeeee.’

‘And, uh, how old is she?’ I could imagine this woman praying silently that this wasn’t a nutter ten year old with control issues being sent to her posh school to be sorted out.

‘She’s nine months old,’ I told her.

‘Oh. Wonderful,’ she said, plainly reassured.

‘Bleuughhhhh’ vomits the baby on the rug, followed by a hacking cough.

‘She sounds lovely,’ said the woman, probably having a stroke.

‘You’d be lucky to have her,’ I told her.
She paused just a second too long before laughing falsely. 'I'm sure she'll be just wonderful.'
'Arghhhhhhh,' screamed the baby. Then a tell-tale silence. Then the unmistakable sound of a nappy being filled.
‘You’d be lucky to have her,’ I thought.

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Please Ignore My Daughter

‘Come in,’ I said to the man who had arrived to give me a quote for a painting job. ‘Please ignore my daughter in the corner.’

‘What? Why?’ he asked.
‘Oh,’ he said.

The Mop was sitting stark naked on the potty in the middle of the family room. Next to her a roll of toilet paper, her undies and her dress. She clutched her favourite toy, tears in her eyes.
She had been there an hour.

I should have known better than to allow a tradie to come by at 5.30pm on a Friday. It’s not a time typically known to be particularly relaxed in most households with small children. Dinner was burning on the stove, the baby was screaming because she was hungry, the Bombshell was sulking because I wouldn’t let her start painting five minutes before dinner. And my husband was nowhere to be found.
The Mop, in her own good time, had finally decided she should start using the potty. It’s been going ok, except for the bit where she had diarrhoea for a few days. Somehow, good fortune had it that she was always in a nappy at the times her bottom exploded. Like bedtime. Awesome.

Except today, when she ran inside to do a wee on the potty, her bottom decided to explode. I didn’t realise this initially, as I was making meatballs and couldn’t understand what all the fuss was about.
‘I’m afraid of the stick,’ she wailed.

‘What stick?’ I asked. ‘Did you step on something outside?’
‘No,’ she moaned. ‘The stick, I don’t like the stick.’

‘I think she means the stink, Mum’ the Bombshell said helpfully, from where she was reclining next to the potty. ‘She smells pretty awful,’ she added.
‘Then move!’ I groaned. I went and sat down next to the Mop. She looked so miserable. ‘Stand up honey, and I will wipe your bottom,’ I told her. She shook her head. ‘I don’t like the stink’, she said.

‘Honey, poo always smells funny. It’s just that you haven’t noticed before because it’s been in a nappy. Trust me though,’ I added, ‘Mummy has noticed.’
I tried to pull her up off the potty, and she started screaming hysterically. ‘Well you can’t stay there forever,’ I said.  ‘Yes I can,’ she told me. ‘I want a nappy,’ she moaned. It’s a bit late for that, I thought.

I knew the painter guy was only minutes away at this point and decided not to risk hauling her off the potty and having her have a poo melt-down all over the walls (although, they were going to be painted in a day or two). So I went back to the meatballs.
Every few minutes I would check in with her. ‘Can I wipe your bottom now?’ I would ask. ‘No. But can I have dinner?’

‘No dinner on the potty,’ I said.
The doorbell rang and I invited the painter in. He said hello to all the girls, including the naked one on the potty, which I think was awesome. I hate it when people ignore my kids in their own house.

Still she sat there. She was waiting for Daddy, she said. I wondered if she thought Daddy would magically take the stink away. I had already sent him two text messages warning him of joyous task that awaited him when he got home. The second one simply read ‘she’s been on there for half an hour. HELP!’
I took the painter outside to show him downpipes that needed painting. The roll of toilet paper got stuck on my foot and it rolled outside after me. He bent down and picked it up for me. Now that’s service.

Finally, after an hour my husband, the poo saviour, walked through the door. The Mop burst into tears. ‘I did poo. It stinks,’ she told him. He went to change out of his white work shirt and I took the painter out the front to look at more downpipes.
A few minutes later, with a new nervous tic in his eye, my husband reappeared with a clothed and nappied Mop. ‘Got a tummy upset, has she?’ was all he asked.

Something like that.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Life Intruded

Do you think that's a good name for a novel?

If I ever get around to writing my autobiography, I think that is what I will call it. Because it will explain why despite my best of intentions (and the occasional good idea), I never got around to finishing my novel.

Life has a knack of getting in the way of my writing. And by 'life' of course, I mean 'kids'.

I wrote a while ago that this was NaNoWriMo and I was going to make a crack of getting 50,000 words of my first novel out by the end of November. Today is the 20th and I have written about 17,000 words. You do the math. Unless aliens come down and kidnap my three children and take them to the best creche in the universe - for ten days straight - there is no way I am going to make it.

I even have a good idea for a novel. Two in fact.

I spent the last two weeks of October writing a detailed plan of one novel, with character studies and a plot (though, alarmingly, no ending. That should have rung alarm bells immediately).

Then while I was standing on the corner of George and Liverpool Street in Sydney, on the last day of our holiday, I got a new idea. Two weeks of preparation went down the toilet and I ran straight into NaNoWriMo with a new story with no plan whatsoever. I do have an ending though.

And if I say so myself, it's a little bit naughty. So much so, that even if I write the damn thing, I would be reluctant to let anyone I know actually read it, unless they can't look me in the eye afterwards. Or look me in the eye with a raised eyebrow and a saucy, knowing grin.

November was always going to be a tough month for me to write with abandon. We were in Sydney for the first 3 days, then my husband was away twice for work. Less than 6 hours after he hopped on the plane for his second stint in Adelaide, the Mop was vomiting with a tummy bug. I spent the next 24 hours doing four loads of washing because I rather stupidly kept remaking the bed in between vomits. Nice... but stupid.

So, just in case you think I am giving up - I'm not. I will continue to keep going with my novel. Even if I make it to 25,000 words this year, I think it's a decent first effort.  But this is where I ask for help.  Every now and then (not every day, because I will go mental) will you drop me a line and ask how the novel is going.  Maybe a bit of external encouragement will keep me going.

And then in about a decade (don't they say it takes ten years to write a first novel?) you can all read my saucy little novel, and all stare at with me with a raised eyebrow and saucy, knowing grin.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

When Good Intentions Go Bad

The Curly Mop has a little blanket with an elephant head called Ella.

Really, it's not as creepy as it sounds.

Because the Mop developed such an attachment to Ella, we went out and bought a second one, so there was always a spare in the drawer if she got covered with food, or vomit, or if we ever lost one.

We lost one.

Our family has just returned from a week in Sydney. Unfortunately, Ella did not make it home. She disappeared on the last day. Whether she was dropped inadvertently, pinched by a two year old pickpocket or just decided she liked the bright lights of Sydney more than she liked Perth, we'll never know.

The Mop was distraught, but knowing that we had a spare waiting at home I told her that I was sure someone would find Ella and get her home to us in Perth. Sure enough a few hours after we got home, I dumped spare Ella on the front doormat, rang the doorbell and bolted.

The Bombshell was most impressed that Ella had returned home and asked all sorts of sticky questions about how the person knew where we lived etc etc.

The Mop just squeezed and squeezed and wouldn't let Ella go.

Good on ya Mum.

Then this morning the Mop asked for her 'other Ella'.

Umm, excuse me?

'My have two Ellas. My need the other one,' the Mop said. 'She's in the drawer' she added very helpfully.

Oh crap.

So I had to come clean to the Mop (and the Bombshell) that the other Ella did *not* in fact make it home to Perth, and that she had been lost in Sydney, and there she will stay. Her face just crumbled and my heart dissolved. So I did what any mother would do: I offered her someone else's toy.

Baldy Baby has two little blankets with bear heads.  Again, not as creepy as it sounds. She is 8 months old and hasn't shown any interest in them (probably because they are in the drawer and she has never even seen them) so I offered them to the Mop and said she could choose one to be Ella's new friend.

She promptly grabbed both of them and tossed the remaining Ella in her bedroom.

Mum fail.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

One Day The Prince Will Come (Just Not Today)

It was like some kind of Barbie 'So You Think You Can Dance'.




The dolls were dancing for Prince Eric, and whoever was deemed to be the best would marry the Prince. I couldn't tell if the Barbies were selling themselves short for the affection of a plastic mound, or if Prince Eric was some kind of man-slave in this scenario.

The Bombshell had asked me to play Barbies with her this afternoon, so I did what any girl would do. I plonked myself down on the floor and began undressing dolls and then re-dressing them in the biggest, most elaborate outfits I could conjure.

Then the Bombshell came after me, and found each of the dolls shoes, 'so they wouldn't slip when they dance'.  This is easier said than done, because of the 24 dolls (yes, you read that correctly), only half of them were genuine Barbie dolls, the rest of them random plastic dolls of varying dimensions, some with removable heads, some with wings, and some with mermaid tails hidden under their ball gowns (no shoes for you!).

After we had sat them in a group it was time to dance. I couldn't help but stare at some of the dolls whose non-poseable plastic legs prevented them from sitting in a ladylike manner, their legs spread wide as though they were taking a trip to the gynaecologist. Luckily, five year olds don't notice these things.

My job was to play the music. Each doll was allowed about five seconds to dance and impress the Prince, who sat in stony silence at the end of the bed.

I was under strict instructions 'not to see' the Bombshell, as she 'helped' the Barbie's dance. She lifted their dresses, and stuck their legs up in the air, whirled them around, and helped them defy gravity and a number of laws of physics.

And still Prince Eric sat, unimpressed.

Three different Ariels had their turn. Then a fairy with bent wings. Then Jasmine and Tiana. A neckless Barbie with a crew cut had her chance and failed when The Mop came through like a taffeta destroying tornado.

The crowd began thinning, as the Barbies moved from the staging area to the couch, where they were recast as 'Mummies' and 'sisters' in a violent new drama by the Mop.

Eric's interest had been piqued. He had fallen over, but was now staring directly at Ken, who was rather dashing in a purple padded dressing gown and Mary Poppin's bonnet. I began to understand why none of the Barbie's were scoring 10 out of 10.

'I wonder who the marry-er will be,' sighed the Bombshell, who thinks that weddings are simply a chance to wear a big dress and dance while everyone watches. But not kiss a boy, 'cause that's gross.

I rewound the music box and prepared for the final few contestants  I admired the Bombshell's unwavering determination that all dolls get an equal chance, even though I was already so bored I was mentally writing the shopping list and trying to remember that thing my husband had asked me to remember, but I had forgotten.

'Dinner,' hollered my husband from out back where he was barbecuing some snags.

The Mop suddenly bounced across the room, threw herself on the bed and sent Eric flying.

He landed, happily enough, right on top of Ken.

'So who wins the Prince?' I asked the Bombshell as we got ready for dinner.

'Oh, I don't know,' she said. 'I don't think the Barbies want to be married today.'

That's lucky, I thought, because I was pretty sure Eric had found his prince.


Sunday, October 14, 2012

Dumped For Weetbix

As parents, we are just as fickle as our children.

It is 5.50am Sunday morning. I am lying in bed, in that half-sleep-half-waking-state when I hear a muted sob from downstairs. The Mop is awake. A single sob is unusual, once she wakes she usually treats us to a rousing chorus of heartbreaking tears and tantrums, but not today.  She is very quiet.

She is so cute, I think to myself. With her little cherub face, and her little pigtails. I want a cuddle. I will her to come upstairs. My jedi mind powers don't seem to be working.

My husband and I are both pretending to be asleep so we don't have to be the one to get up. It's only a matter of time before she starts crying and wakes the other two girls. So far though, silence. I wonder what she's doing.

It has been ten minutes and she has made only the smallest of noises.  It's raining outside and a bit cold for October, I don't really want to get out of bed, but I would like a cuddle. Why won't she come upstairs to find us, then I can pull her into bed with me.

Eventually we hear: 'Mummy? Daddy?'

Then: 'Mummmy? Dadddy?'

Then: 'MUMMMMMMY DADDDDY MUMMYDADYMUMMYDADDY'.

My husband bounds out of bed. Maybe he doesn't know I am awake. He 'accidentally' tosses a pillow at me.

Yeah he knows.

I open my eyes and tell him, 'Can you get her to come upstairs for a cuddle?'

Soon a little head appears, with wonky, slept-in pigtails. So cute.

She is preceded by a devastating ponk.  Oh, that's what she's been doing.

'I done poo,' she says.

'I know,' I tell her. I really wanted a cuddle but I don't really want the poo-monster in my bed.

'Why don't you go downstairs with Daddy and after he changes you come back up for a cuddle with Mummy?'

I expect her to get very excited, cuddles with Mummy in bed is rare indeed. How often, as Mums, are we in bed while our kids are up?

But she shakes her little head.

'No' she says. 'I want breakfast.'

And that was that. Dumped for a bowl of Weetbix.

Saturday, October 13, 2012

NaNoWriMo - OMG I'm Going To Do It

Like many of us, I have a novel inside me. In the past it was just an idle dream, so blurry it was like my baby had been smearing her grubby fingers across my glasses.

Then, the other week, the idea crystallised (but I'm not telling you what it is).

November is International Novel Writing Month, so I asked my good friend Amanda Kendle - writer, blogger, mother, and social media expert - to write me a guest post and get me in the mood. 

So, if you are a wannabe novelist as well, will you join us?



November is NaNoWriMo. No, this is not related to Movember (despite the Mo) so I won't be growing a moustache, but it will be even sillier. Ridiculously crazy, in fact. NaNoWriMo (shortened to NaNo by those in the know) stands for National Novel Writing Month. In fact it's really International Novel Writing Month as people across the world take part, but I guess IntNoWriMo doesn't have the same ring to it.

As you might guess, this is a challenge where people go about writing a draft of a novel in just one month. The idea is that you should write at least 50,000 words, which works out at 1,667 words per day. This is probably a little short for most novels but it's a good chunk of it at least. The focus is on quantity rather than quality, since the biggest problem most people have with writing novels is that they never finish them. NaNo encourages you to get all those words out so that you've then got something to work with.

When Shannon asked me to write a guest post about NaNoWriMo, she was under the impression I had completed one of my novel drafts since my son was born. Unfortunately, I'm not that amazing. I've "won" NaNo (their expression for reaching 50,000 words by the end of November) just once, the year before my son came along. I've tried since, but not made it.
 
But. BUT! This year is going to be different. I've had NaNo on my to do list (with a bunch of question marks) for a few days but I've decided I'm going to do it. My son is two and a half, he sometimes (okay occasionally) sleeps through the night and on a (very) good day he even sleeps until 6am. I only work half-time so I think I can squeeze the time into the day to get my 1,667 words done. However, I am trying to use lots of the lessons I've learned from previous NaNo fails to help me to another win this time. My strategy is:
  • Spend October (oops - well, the rest of October) writing a reasonably detailed outline of the novel I want to write. On my first (and curiously, successful) NaNo attempt, I had no plan at all. I got the 50,000 words done but the incredible amount of rewriting I've had to do on this (including completely restructuring it) is not something I want to do again.
  • Aim to write 2,000 words each day. There will always be off days (sick child, anyone?) so you need a buffer to deal with them - there's nothing worse than trying to catch up thousands of words in a day. (Although I did once write 15,000 words in a day for this very reason. You may correctly assume that they were not very good words.)
  • Be brave enough to meet up with other NaNo writers. There are groups everywhere who meet up to write together. I'm hoping to persuade Shannon here to take part, which will be a good start (don't tell her, though, that someone with three young kids is even more insane than me to try this).
  • Plan a couple of mega-days where I leave the house, head somewhere without the internet, and write for three or four hours.
  • Remind myself constantly that this is just a first draft and nobody needs to read it except me - I can make it more "beautiful" in the next draft.
If you're as crazy as me head over to nanowrimo.org and sign up. The website is full of great resources, a forum to meet others, and you can log your word count every day (I love watching the graph go up and up!). And happy writing.
 

 
 
Amanda Kendle is a would-be novelist, mother of one and a blogging and social media consultant; she blogs at notaballerina.com and will report on her NaNoWriMo attempt at facebook.com/amandakendleconsulting

Monday, October 8, 2012

The Treasure You Find On The Beach


The five of us are crammed inside a holiday unit, the two older girls thumping around upstairs, every footfall and shriek echoing downstairs where the baby is trying to sleep.
My patience has worn thin. It requires immediate medical attention.

In desperation I take them by the hand and tell them we are going for a walk.

We step outside. The air is fresh, the sun warm and the breeze light. I feel my mood begin to lift as I let the girls choose the direction we will go. Even though they have complete freedom, they still steer themselves towards the shore, like baby turtles returning to their beach of birth.

The roads down here are without curbs, the bitumen running to grassy edges. To me it is a marker of a seaside town, a reminder of summers past spent in Dongara with my cousins. Swinging our arms we march towards the beach. Cardigans and jumpers are peeled off and handed to me. They gain momentum and speed as we hit the grassy dunes. Little pink sandals are removed and lined up at the edge of the track, marking our path home, like Hansel’s breadcrumbs, only these are covered with patent leather.
The eldest runs out across the sand, feet barely touching the ground as she heads towards prime seashell hunting territory. The smallest is more cautious and insists on holding my hand as she bends to investigate every pile of seaweed, every cuttlefish.

She is afraid of the water. The ocean at home is rougher, it grabs her ankles and threatens to pull her under. I tell her that the water here is like a little puppy, gently licking her feet. The water at home is the boisterous older dog, jumping up on her, pushing her down. She pauses, considering the puppy analogy – she loves puppies – but shakes her head. She remains unconvinced and will stick to the sand.
We are hunting shells. The eldest picks up anything and everything, regardless of colour, shape and integrity. Nothing is deemed unworthy - even if it’s broken. Everything is a treasure. Everything must be collected and recorded and kept.

The youngest wants to keep wandering up to the grassy dunes. I do not know what she is looking for, but I am concerned she will find something that bites. She is not interested in shells until her older sister finds her one that is still connected, its two halves spread like butterfly wings. She holds it carefully in her little hand. She is not allowed to break it.
The ocean spreads before us, rich blue, blurring at the horizon where it melts imperceptibly into the sky. Completely flat and still, it must seem larger than anything the girls have seen before, but they seem unable to see beyond their own feet, eyes trained downwards. The magic of the stillness is lost on them.

I though, stand and take in the peace. In the distance the jetty stretches over a mile into the water. We are completely alone, in complete silence. I can’t remember the last time I have been in complete silence and not felt a sense of dread.

I realise my breathing is mirroring the gentle movement of the waves and I feel my mouth move. I am smiling. I am at peace.

There is something in my hand. I look down. Two little girls are curling their fingers into mine, their other hands brimming with sandy treasures.

It is time to go back.

Friday, September 28, 2012

The Things They Learn at School

I don't even remember how it started.

I had obviously said something the Bombshell didn't like, because I was shoving the kids into the car, screaming that we would be late. AGAIN. And she was howling at the top of her lungs how unfair it all was.

'I don't love you anymore,' she sobbed.

'Well, that's just ridiculous,' I said. 'Of course you still love me. You don't stop loving someone just because they say "no" to you.'

'I don't love you,' she repeated. 'And don't say that bad word to me.'

'What word?' I asked, wrestling with the seat belts. "No"?'

'Ri-diggy-luss. That's a bad word.'

'That's not a bad word,' I told her. 'There are lots of worse words. Like saying to someone that you don't love them anymore.'

'That's not a word, Mum,' she told me grandly. 'That's a sentence.'

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Why I Will Never Sleep Again

I've never been very good at the whole controlled crying thing.

When a baby cries I have the following reactions:
- leaky breasts
- achy heart
- clenched fists.

It just depends on what time of day (or night) it is, and how much crying has gone on beforehand.

So, my babies don't tend to sleep through until they are closer to two.  Years, that is. For my first child, I used to pounce the minute she made a peep - partly to comfort her, partly to comfort me, and partly so my husband could sleep, as he used to spend three hours a day in the car getting to work and back, and I hated the idea of him falling asleep on the road.

The second child, I used to pounce the minute she made a peep, for all of the above reasons, but also so she wouldn't wake the oldest child who had finally learned to sleep.

By the time Baldy Baby came along, I had a whole host of bad sleep habits which I liberally used. 

Cry. Boob.
Cry. Dummy.
Cry. Sob.

I have thus spent the last seven months praying that she would finally drop her overnight feed, and her mid-morning (ie 4am) playtime and karaoke session.  I would trudge downstairs for her 1.30am feed, and stumble down again at 4am to silence her warbling. And at 11pm and 3am and 5.30am and probably a few other times in between.

Down. Up. Down. Up.  Down. Up. Down. Up.

So this morning, when I woke suddenly at 4am to complete silence, I completely lost it.  Baldy Baby had not only missed her 1.30am feed but she wasn't up and yelling for play time.

She must be dead.

Don't be ridiculous.  She's just sleeping. This is what you want.

She probably learned to roll over and has smothered on a teddy bear.

Calm down, woman.  Everything is fine.  Go back to sleep.

My baby is gone!

I lasted three minutes before I got out of bed, went downstairs and stood over her cot, waiting (desperately) to hear her little breaths, her tiny baby snores.  Then I stood there and watched her sleep for ten minutes.

By the time I went back to bed I was wide awake.  I fully expected that she would wake now for a feed, so saw little point in going back to sleep.  So I lay in bed, hating myself for being awake, straining to hear any little noise until about 5.30am when I fell back asleep.

When I woke again at 6.15am I could hear noises, but it was only the Bombshell and Curly Mop fighting about god knows what.  Baldy's door was still closed.  She wasn't awake?

Now she must be dead.  No child of mine has ever slept for 12 hours without waking.

And so I did it again.  I went into her room, and stood over her, waiting anxiously until I heard her draw a little breath.  Five minutes later I was reassured enough to finally leave her.

She finally woke, fresh as a daisy and happy as Larry at 7am.

Meanwhile, I have been skulking around all day, sleepy as normal, but extra grumpy for wasting my (probably one-off) golden opportunity for sleep.

Careful what you wish for, because one day you might get it. And screw it up.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Out of the Mouths of Babes

I am constantly on at the Blonde Bombshell to speak nicely to me.  My catch phrase at the moment is: 'if you wouldn't say that to Mrs E [her pre-primary teacher] then don't say it to me'.

Don't roll your eyes at me.

Don't growl at your sister.

Stop telling me you're bored. You have no idea what bored even means.

Leave her alone!

Be quiet.

Which part of 'No' don't you understand?

Then, the other morning before school, after what felt like hours of my asking the girls to do X and they were doing Y, I yelled at them.

The Bombshell turned to me, and very clearly (and politely) said 'Mum, if you want us to listen to you, use your normal voice and speak nicely.'

Ouch.

Of course, she was merely parroting what I had been saying to her for the past year or three, but it suddenly occurred to me that I say things to my children that I would never say to another adult. Because it would be rude. Or impolite.

But I say it to my children, who I love - it's fair to say - more than any adult on this planet.

It's embarrassing to admit this, because it has taken me five years to figure out. But I give my kids verbal lashings of frustration, sarcasm, and directness to the point of rudeness that I would die before dishing out to even a well-deserving adult.

What is wrong with me?

I constantly berate the Bombshell for the fact that she behaves so well at school, at Grandma's and at friend's houses, yet she comes home to me where she suddenly transforms into a bossy/smarmy/cheeky/irritating/deaf/out-right rude five-going-on-fifteen year old.

'Why?' I appealed to her one day. 'Why are you so good for other people, but then you are so mean to me?'

She looked at me and told me: 'Because I don't have to live with them.'

At the time, I didn't quite understand her response.  But I get it now.  She does exactly what I do.  Saves up all the frustration and boredom and smart-arse comments that she probably wishes she could freely express all day, then comes home to the one person she knows she can trust, and lays it on thick.  A big nasty, verbal and attitude diarrhoea.

Because she knows that I will always love her, and I know she will always forgive me.

But she shouldn't have to.

So, added to my 'essentials list' of:
- write 100 words of my novel every day
- use sunscreen every day
- don't eat more than half a bag of lollies in a single sitting

I will add: if I wouldn't say it to Mrs E, then don't say it my kids.

Because it's actually me they're learning from.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Small Things

I am known to celebrate pretty much anything.  I don't need much of an excuse to crack open a bottle of champagne and don a party hat.

Half birthday?  Cheers to that!

Finally made some cash writing for Weekend Notes! Cheers to that!

Slept for four hours in a row. Cheers to that!

So the fact that this is actually my 200th blog post is something that has been weighing on my mind for a few weeks.  I wanted to do something big, something special, something timeless. Something that would go viral and earn me a Pulitzer or a book deal.

But life's not really like that is it?

For every Glennon Melton, Amber Dusick and Kerri Sackville whose hard work has earned them international fame and a book deal or two, there are hundreds, probably thousands of everyday bloggers like me, plus tens of thousands of ordinary mums who carry on in the anonymity of their every day lives, with their relatively small successes.

I had a conversation this morning with a friend about the general 'lack' in our lives. A lack of progress, lack of achievement, lack of personal grooming (in my case at least).  This parenting gig, even five years down the track, still astonishes me on a daily basis.  How all encompassing is it, how time consuming. How the six hours between school drop off and school pick up can evaporate into nothing more than a load of washing and a few breast feeds.

I'm not complaining, though it may sound like I am. 

I spent almost thirty years studying and working and being told to perform and achieve, and being rewarded for performing and achieving. And it doesn't matter how much you love your kids, how much you cherish your time with them, whether you carpe diem or not - it's not as though you can instantly turn off that voice in your head that has told you that success comes from (choose one): money, promotion, position, publications, qualifications, status, public recognition, or perfectly manicured nails.

Because that voice does not exist solely in your head.

Even if you have come to grips with the fact that your project management skills are now being used to write the playgroup roster, or your engineering degree is now being used to help build towers out of Lego, you can't stop the relentless (albeit well-meaning) questioning that inevitably starts up again about when you will go back to work, and what you spend your time doing.

Life with children takes you to not only another planet, but another dimension. It has its own sense of time, and its own sense of achievement.  While the years fly past without us realising it, the minutes can drag.  Our babies are suddenly grown and leaving for school, yet the last fifteen minutes of the day before our husband (or wife or partner) walks through the door can become nightmarishly long. And brutal.

Where we once may have celebrated a completed project, a new degree or a closed deal, we now view success as an attempt to sit on the potty, a merit certificate from school, a shopping trip without a tantrum. Small successes.

Some days I have trouble finding a single thing to discuss with another adult that doesn't involve talk of sleep (or lack thereof), poo, or kids deviant behaviour. Some days I don't even manage the most simple household chore - beds remain unmade, dishes unwashed, breakfast bowls still on the table. Those are the days I question my greater contribution - beyond my own household and to my kids, who obviously think I rock.

And so I postponed writing my 200th blog post, waiting for something incredible to happen to me so I could write about it. 

And I kept waiting.

And in the end I decided that I didn't need something huge to write about.  That's not what I do anyway.  I write about the small things that are instantly recognisable to most parents.

And then when I was about to hit publish, I realised that Blogger counts all my unfinished, unpublished posts.  Relics of days that I couldn't even string together a few paragraphs worth publishing. There's been a few of those.

Which means, I am nowhere near my 200th post.

Friday, August 31, 2012

The Story That Was Never Told

The year was 1986 and two young girls were running free in Kings Park, high above the city of Perth.

It was a typical hot summer day, the air was thick with the sound of crickets and the distant hum of traffic. The dazzling Australian sun gave everything a bleached, slightly yellow appearance that made you squint. Despite the heat, the grass was deep green and lush underfoot.

The two girls, seven and eight, were dressed only in bathers.  Let's call them Mary and Kate.

Mary's mother was settled in the shade, a picnic spread before her. Mary's older sister played nearby with a friend. The park was by no means quiet, yet somehow Mary and Kate found themselves alone, running down a grassy path.

Suddenly they no longer alone. A man stood before them on the path. To their youthful eyes he seemed old.  He was probably only in his thirties or forties.

The girls stopped and faced him, silent.  He smiled warmly at them.

'Do you girls happen to know where the nearest toilets are,' he asked.

The girls knew the park very well.  This man was obviously a visitor or else he would know the nearest toilets were in a far distant area.  They told him so.

The man looked embarrassed.

'I really need to go,' he told them. 'Do you think you could stand guard while I take a leak here. Warn me if someone comes?'

Without waiting for an answer he pulled down his pants.

The girls were now the ones who were embarrassed.  Giggling to themselves, they turned their backs and kept guard for people. They stared at their feet and glanced sideways at each other, waiting in silence.

They still had their backs turned when the man's voice was suddenly behind them.

'Those are nice bathers you are wearing,' he told Mary.

Mary looked up at him and shrugged.  She thought they were okay.

'I'm going to make a pair of bathers for my daughter,' he said. 'But I don't know what type of elastic I need to use. Can I just check to see what elastic you have in your bathers?'

The man slipped a finger under the elastic at the top of Mary's leg.  He stretched it out a bit, testing it, all the while having a serious expression on his face. As though he was really intending to sew a pair of bathers for his daughter.  He moved his finger further round the leg of Mary's bathers.

Mary's eight year old innocence doesn't realise where else he put his finger. She doesn't yet understand what is happening, although she know it feels wrong. Her face burns and she can't look him or Kate in the eye.

A voice further down the path startles the man. He withdraws his finger.

'Nice,' he says. 'Thankyou.'  He turns quickly and walks way down the path.

Mary and Kate, not speaking, run back to where Mary's mother and sister have gathered for lunch.

'There you are,' Mary's mum says, gathering the girls back into the fold.

The girls say nothing.  Not then. Not to each other.

Not ever.

Friday, August 24, 2012

It's Happened

The Blonde Bombshell is planted outside the door, sitting on the ground wailing.

'Mummy doesn't love me,' she sobs.

I am inside Baldy Baby's room, feeding her. I smile to myself: the Bombshell loves the sound of her own voice, and she's trying out her lament with differing emphasis.

'Mummy doesn't love me.'

'Mummy doesn't love me.'

'Mummy doesn't love me.'

'Mummy doesn't love meeeeeeeee.'

If there was a mirror in the hall, I swear she'd be in front of it, trying out her sad faces.

She throws open the door.

'I don't love you Mummy,' she screams.  BANG. She slams the door shut. Baldy Baby stops feeding and watches me.  I sigh.

Small footsteps in the hall.  The Mop is coming to investigate.  I want to tell her to go back to the family room, but I also don't want to draw attention to myself.

'Rah,' I hear the Mop say from the other side of the door.

'You're not a lion,' the Bombshell says.

'Rah,' repeats the Mop.

'You're not a dragon,' sneers the Bombshell.

'Rah,' says the Mop.

'You're not a dinosaur, not a baby dinosaur. You're nothing.  You're not cute and I don't love you anymore.'  I frown.  This can't end well.

WHACK.

'Waaaaaaaaaaa!' shrieks the Bombshell.

WHACK.

'Ahhhhhhhh!' screams the Mop.

The door flies open again.

'I. Don't. Love. You,' the Bombshells repeats in case I have missed the previous ten minutes of screaming.  'You're always with the baby.  You don't love me anymore.'

Ah. I see.

I knew this was coming.  Advice anyone?

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Nip, tuck, wax, mow

My garden has had the equivalent of a bikini wax.

I would even go so far as to say it's had a Brazilian.



Personally, I have never gone that far on my own patch of real estate.  I considered it once, but that's as far as I went.

I don't have any of the 'before' pictures, so it makes it a little difficult for you to see the transformation.

But when I stepped outside and saw the complete removal of unruly daisies, leggy geraniums, rampant weeds, overgrown grass, and dying bulbs I felt lighter, cleaner and... yes, fresher.

I keep staring out the window, and as long as I look past the building materials, collapsed scaffolding and piles of bricks, I see a neatly mowed lawn and well-tended garden beds.


It makes me want to go out there and play.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Happy Birthday to Me

Today is my 35th birthday. 

I woke to the sound of the baby crying - nothing unusual there, but it was a bit after 6am: which is a lot better than 4.30am.  WIN.

I came downstairs to see the Bombshell and the Mop sitting at the table eating their breakfast.  They weren't even fighting. Much. WIN

'Good morning, Mummy,' the Bombshell said. 'Happy Birthday.'

'Party,' agreed the Mop.

I gave them both kisses then walked over to where my husband was spooning cake batter into ten thousand mini cupcake cases. 'Happy Birthday,' he said.  'Presents!' he said gesturing with a spoon. Presents. WIN

I grabbed the baby and settled down on the couch to feed her.  The Bombshell collected my presents and stood in front of me unwrapping them for me. Two beautiful rings, amethyst and amber, and some measuring cups that stack together like Matryoshka dolls. WIN.


The Bombshell showed me a picture she had drawn of the family.  Three little girls all with striking blue eyes.  Mum, with brown eyes.  'I'm sorry that none of us have brown eyes, so that your brown eyes wouldn't be so lonely,' she told me.

My husband took the Mop off to daycare, with promises of being home early to take me out to dinner. WIN.

The Bombshell then took me solemnly by the hand to her bedroom.  She showed me her bed which she had made with extra special effort.  'I did it extra good because it's your birthday, Mum,' she told me.

And then she made my bed.  WIN (sort of).

This is actually the 'after' picture

The baby went down for her morning nap with no screaming or yelling or rogue poos. WIN.

The Bombshell offered to decorate my cupcakes for me. She even swept up all the 100s and 1000s that she dropped on the ground. WIN.


All morning my phone has been beeping with messages from friends and family. Birthday wishes on Facebook, on my blog from readers, cards in the mail. A friend took me for breakfast. I love breakfast. WIN.

When we left for school, my new skirt blew in the wind and tore along our rough stone wall. I looked at it sadly.

The Bombshell took my hand, and said 'I think you would be a lot more sad if you lost one of us three kids.'

Wow, talk about perspective.  From a FIVE year old.


Happy Wednesday everyone. I hope you all get some wins.








Tuesday, August 14, 2012

35 Shades of Grey (It's my birthday)

What do women talk about when left alone for a couple of hours, with free-flowing champagne and no kids.

Well... porn naturally.

Sunday marked the first day of my birthday week celebrations.  Tomorrow I turn 35, or as my friend once called it: 'the Wednesday of my thirties'.

So, I gathered with some old friends at a certain hotel for high tea, which I had chosen for two reasons. The first, was that they provided what less swanky establishments would call 'all-you-can-eat'.  The second was the 'free flowing champagne'.

Free flowing if you hunt down the single waiter and bribe him with a twenty perhaps.

Six women. Champagne.

First we talked about our kids. 

Then we talked about our husbands.

Then we talked about porn.

The segue from husbands to porn wasn't quite as raunchy as our other halves might like to think.  We were discussing whose hubby had given them a lift, and those who were forced to drive themselves.

One friend had arrived early, having been dropped off by her husband and three kids.  She ordered a G&T from the bar and settled in with her book to wait for the rest of us. It just so happened that the book was 50 Shades of Grey.

Nice work.

Of the six of us, all bar one owned or had read the books. One had - rather optimistically - been given the books by her husband as a Mothers Day present.

I own all three copies, but have yet to start reading. You would have to live under a rock though, not to know what they're about.  Even my husband asked me rather cryptically whether I had heard about 'those Grey books?'

What, the ones I ordered online and had shipped in the postal equivalent of a brown paper bag? Sure.

'They'll frustrate you, Shan,' a friend said without a hint of irony. 'The sex might be ok, but the writing will frustrate you,' she clarified. 

'Maybe you should write some porn,' another suggested. What a sterling idea, I thought.

'I took the books on holiday recently, and volunteered every day to take the kids back to our room for their nap, so I could read them,' a third friend admitted.

When asked whether her husband benefited from her lunchtime literary learnings, she shrugged.

'Not really, I  just wanted to read about it. It doesn't mean I wanted to do it.'

The waiter found us a lot more interesting when he realised we were talking about sex and porn: we certainly were offered a lot more champagne and finger sandwiches anyway.

But as women are apt to do, we overstayed our welcome and we were politely asked to leave.  We made our way to our various cars, or called husbands to collect us.

Except my friend: she ordered another glass of wine, and settled down in the foyer with 50 Shades of Grey.

I hope the waiter didn't take it as some sort of invitation.










Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Oh What A Feeling

My mobile phone was ringing.

I glanced at the number - a local one, I didn't recognise it.

'What the hell,' I thought.  'It could be someone calling with a book deal.'

'Good morning, Shannon,' the voice said. 'This is Dave from Subaru calling.  Do you recall buying a Forester from us in 2010.'

Uh yes, I recall spending tens of thousands of dollars.  I recall kidnapping the sales guy and driving him all the way to my home, and then making him wait while my husband and I tried to fit car seats in the back.

I recall making him follow us back to the showroom in my husbands car, while my (then) three year old sat in the backseat offering her opinion about the new car. I recall her saying it wasn't as cool as her friend's ginormous, 4WD with built-in DVD players in the head rests.

I recall sitting for an hour with a newborn in the sales office as they tried to sell me insurance, and paint protection, and fabric protection and other things all useless against the onslaught of small children.

'Yes,' I said politely. 'I recall.'

'We have realised that we do not have an email address for you, and we would like to send you information regarding your warranty, servicing and specials.  Do you consent?'

It took you two and half years to realise this?

'Uh, listen, my inbox is already full of junk... I mean, I get a lot of emails, how often would I be receiving stuff from you?'

'Oh hardly ever. Weekly, no monthly. Not often, I promise.'

You promise? Who is this? The work experience kid?

'I'm also calling to let you know that we are having a big sale at the moment of our floor stock.  We are actually losing money on our wholesale prices.'

Yes, and I am a size 8.

'Well, actually we might be looking for a seven seater,' I told him. 'Can you tell me the arrangement of anchor points in your models and how the backseat is accessed?'

'Well, um I would need to look at the brochure...' he said.

'You go do that,' I told him cheerily, beginning to enjoy myself.

'Also, while you are there, can you tell me how much space there is between the back row of seats and the back of the car? What safety features are there for small kids sitting in the boot?'

There were muffled noises as he madly flicked pages of his brochure.

'Well, umm, you'd have to come and have a look...'

I nattered on to him about my kids and the difficulties of fitting in three car seats, and the fact that I would love to separate them so they stopped poking each other in the face, but before I even got to my joke about wanting a London taxi cab (with the screen between the front and back seats) he interrupted me.

'Well, I have to go, thankyou for your time. Goodbye.'

And he hung up.

He didn't even get my email address.

Sucker.

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

The Write Stuff

A friend I haven't seen in a while asked me today how my writing was going.

And it made me stop and think.

On the one hand, I blog regularly... well weekly anyway.  I have some faithful followers who read my blog and tolerate my prattle on Facebook. My post The Brutal Truth About the Third Child, still garners hundreds of hits each day, after it went viral. I even found it being repinned on Pinterest the other day. Awesome, no?

I also write for Weekend Notes.  I am now ranked Number 2 (in Perth) and am finally making enough money to justify the time I spend eating my way around Perth.  I am mentoring a number of cadets as part of the writing program at WN, and even if I am not changing anyone's life, I can at least say I am part of a writing community.

Recently I got to see the proof of my first soon-to-be-published article.  In an actual magazine. Made out of paper! It is true that the subject matter of the article may not be my true love - not to suggest to dentists everywhere that surgery design doesn't float someones boat - but my real desire is to write about women's health, pregnancy, children, loss, fear, pride and the wealth of emotions and experiences that come with being a parent.

So while these little successes push me forward I can feel the yawning hole of 'not quites' and 'no thanks' pulling me back.

Even though I am technically having a 'year off' due to the arrival of Baldy Baby (maternity leave from doing nothing?) this year I submitted two articles to different magazines, and while the initial response seemed positive, their enthusiasm has dimmed, and I have to accept the fact that they probably don't want my stories. 

One article, very close to my heart, I worked on over a matter of months. It was the culmination of a Feature Writing course at uni. It contained the stories and words of some incredible people suffering the worst type of loss, and when I was told by the editor to cut the story down, first by a few hundred words, then by a thousand, I was afraid that the essence of the story would be lost.  I was told that there were 'too many quotes'. How do you edit the words of parents who have lost a child without robbing them of their chance to tell their story?

Yet, people don't become editors of national magazines without knowing how a story should be written, so I have to not only accept her criticism, but learn from it too.

I have so much to learn, yet it would seem that I cannot learn these things at uni, because that very same article earned me a Distinction and the misguided notion that it would be acceptable for publication. I felt a bit silly when the editor told me via email that the story 'read a bit like a university essay'... umm yes, that's because it was.

I read the blogs of amazing writers like Kerri Sackville and Allison Tait. I pour over them looking for answers, trying to figure out the path from blogger to writer, from amateur to professional, from fun to career.

So how do you get started?  Am I on the right path?  Do you need just one big break, or is it a series of small breaks.


Thursday, July 26, 2012

Thanks For Nothing, Little Mermaid

It's 7.10am.

My husband is pursuing the Curly Mop.  She is shrieking horribly, dressed in a floor-length mermaid skirt. He is following her with two ordinary skirts.

'Which one?' he asks her, though the answer is quite obvious from where I sit.

'I want to wear my mermaid dress,' she screams, tears rolling down her face.

'You can't wear that to daycare,' he tells her. I can detect a certain throaty restraint in his voice.

I am sitting on the couch, in my pyjamas, feeding the baby.  I'm staying out of it. It's his own fault for letting her put it on in the first place.

Meanwhile, the Bombshell is stacking the drinks fridge with hubby's soft drink cans. I am both impressed and horrified that he has her working like this. She is singing as she does it, so she seems quite happy.  But the noise coming from the playroom proves irresistible, and she stands up to investigate.

'Don't get involved,' I tell her.

'I'm just having a look,' she replies.  Yeah, like rubbernecking at the scene of a car wreck.

He emerges from the room, the Mop wedged under his arm.  He is trying to pull the mermaid skirt off, she is trying to wrench it upwards.  I can't tell who is yelling louder.

The baby stopped feeding ages ago and is smiling up at me.  I push her back on so that I don't get asked to assist with the crazy toddler, who is holding onto the door frame with both hands so her daddy can't drag her out of the room.

She wiggles out of his arms and does a runner.  I hear her feet pounding on the floorboards, the old crystal cabinet rattling ominously. 'I waaaaant myyyyy dresssssss,' she yells as she barricades herself in her room.

He's mad now.  He still has to drop the Mop at daycare, and he will be late for work.

I weigh up on my options. I decide my morning would easier if they are both out of the house so I take pity on him.

I pop the baby in her swing and follow the Mop.  She thinks she is going to get a cuddle so she reaches her arms up towards me, whereby I quickly remove the mermaid skirt.

The betrayal upsets her even more, which is fair enough.

I didn't think it possible, but she somehow amps it up a notch. I am hissing at her to be quiet as I head out to the carport in my slippers and pyjamas and bundle her into the car.  I know the neighbours can hear.  It sounds like she is being murdered, and she knows the neighbours can hear and it sounds like she is being murdered.

I tighten her straps and bolt inside the house. The phrase 'rabid dog' springs to mind.

I don't envy him being in the car with her all the way to daycare... I don't envy the people at daycare when Grumpy and her dad show up.

I shut the door on them, and silence descends. How pleasant.

This must be what it is like for men to walk out of the house in the morning, and leave all the chaos behind.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Why This Was the Best Baby Shower. EVER.

About five and a half years ago, when I was pregnant with the Blonde Bombshell, I had a baby shower.  All my friends and family were invited and we did all the usual things, eat lots and play silly games, watch me unwrap presents, all laugh at funny photos of ourselves as babies.

But together, they also made me the best baby present ever.

I cannot remember how the idea came about, I probably pinched it from someone.  But when everyone arrived I told them to grab a piece of felt and a letter and to make me a panel for an alphabet quilt.

I started the ball rolling with R for Rabbit, as we had a pet bunny at the time. He had a very clever name: Bunny.

My brother-in-law sent strict instruction with my sister to make a M for Money panel.  He thought it important that our baby learn about this important commodity from day 1.

In my father's absence [most blokes weren't invited], Mum made a G for Golf panel.  Although dodgy hips and back had forced him to stop playing years earlier, it was still something we associated with him.

My Grandma directed the making of H is for Hat, as she belonged to a generation of ladies who wore such things.

My friend Jacinta, made J is for Jellybeans, a beautiful cascade of lollies spilling over the panel.

My friend Brad, the only male who warranted an invite, created a B is for Button panel.  Being a typical male, he didn't stop at mere decoration, but made it interactive and functional.

My friend Helen made Y is for Yacht. In recognition of the fact that the Rottnest swim due to be held that day, had been cancelled for the first time ever due to bad weather, she christened the yacht the HMAS Rotto.  A day in history, forever immortalised in felt.

My mother-in-law and sister-in-law created a number of panels including N is for Numbers.  Years later, the Bombshell would count the numbers, first to baby Mop and then later to Baldy Baby. She is a born teacher.

My Aunty Di, a keen quilter, naturally made Q is for Quilt, and laughingly pieced it in Fremantle Dockers colours knowing it would offend other members of the family.

26 extraordinary pictures, brought to life by family and friends.  Each square holds a memory and a story.  The Sub chose S is for Sunflower.  In her absence, Tania's mother created her a T is for Teddybear square.

That day also happened to be my mother's birthday, but instead of acknowledging this, she instead asked me to talk about my beautiful Grandma, and the fact that 59 years previously, she was in labour for the first time.  Life was very different then, a baby shower would have been unthinkable.  But it created an unbreakable bond between us, at least on my part, an unbroken line of women, birthing daughters.

At the end of the party, my mum took all the pieces away to sew together.

What she returned with was this:

This incredible quilt has now decorated the nursery for three babies.  And almost every night, for the past five years, I sit and look at it while I am feeding and comforting my children. I smile at the memories, laugh at the stories, and remain grateful for every person who contributed to it.

Best. Baby. Shower. Ever.


-------------
Excuse the dodgy photography... I snuck in to take photos while the baby was asleep, so I was shooting in the dark.  Yeah, it probably could have waited until she was awake, but I seem to have inherited impatience from my daughters.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Even Yogis Get The Blues

It's a truth universally acknowledged, that a mother during school holidays, must be in need of some distractions.

In my case - kiddie yoga, thoughtfully organised by my local council.

After trying to get in the building through the locked rear door, almost setting off alarms, which is always a good way to say hello, the Bombshell, Baldy Baby and myself front up for some 3-6 year old yoga.

I place our old yoga mat on the ground and the Bombshell promptly throws herself down on it and does a very respectable plank.

'Look at me, Mum,' she calls.

'Where did you learn that?' I ask her.

'Batman,' she replied.  Naturally.

She then starts following the instructor around the room, chatting non-stop.

'I'm on school holidays. You know I have two sisters.  I have a jumper my Gwan Jan sewed me.'

'A Gwanjan sewn jumper? What?' the poor girl asks.

'She means a knitted jumper, by her Grandma Jan,' I offer helpfully.

The instructor makes all the kids sit in a circle on the floor. The Bombshell is one of the eldest, and there are few that are pottering around in nappies.  I think she is a very brave woman.

'We will start by making the rules,' she tells them.  A very brave women,

'I think one rule should be that we stay on our mats, unless I say otherwise. Now does anyone else have a good rule?' she asks.

'You should always eat your dinner before going to bed,' pipes up a young lad in the front.

'Errr, yes that's a good one... not really for yoga though,' she says.

'When I ring this Tibetan prayer bell, I want everyone to immediately lie down,' she said.

Boooooonnnnnngggggg. Ten children immediately drop to the floor.  Amazing.

'Can I take my socks off?' asks a little girl.

'Yes, of course,' the instructor replies.

'Can I take my socks off?', asks the next kid.

'Yes,' she says.

'What about me? Can I take my sock...' a little boy starts to ask.

'Yes yes, you can all take your socks off,' she says.

'I don't want to take my socks off,' wails a little kid, not sure if it's a boy or girl to be honest.

'You can take them off if you want, or leave them on.  Whatever you want!,' she says a bit huffily. C'mon love, you've only had them five minutes. Try having them the entire school holidays.

'I'm going to give MY socks to MY mum,' the Bombshell tells the room.  Like anyone cares.

Boooooonnnnnngggggg. The kids drop to the floor. Truly astonishing.

So they start.  To her credit she has them doing salutations to the sun ("hello sun! hello earth!") and the tree pose ("I'm a banana tree") and then the boat pose, which I know I wouldn't have been able to do even before they sliced open my stomach muscles. Three times.

'What animals do we see in the jungle', she asks the kids, as she 'rows' her boat.

'A tiger,' shouts one kid.

'A monkey,' shouts another.

'A bunny,' shouts my kid. Of course.

'Let's do a tiger pose,' the instructor tells the group, as she extends her leg behind her, neatly whacking a small child squarely in the face.  Well, the rule was to stay on the mat...

Then she has them do foot phones.  I don't think this is the traditional name for the pose somehow, but it was impressive to see a bunch of kids sitting with their feet up by their ears, supposedly telling their friends about their crazy jungle adventure (with scary bunnies).

Then - and logic fails her at this point - she says that they should all talk on someone else's foot phone.  One small boy immediately takes the opportunity to give a hefty kick to the kid sitting next to him.  The Bombshell, teachers pet she is, has claimed her pozzie next to the instructor from the minute she walked in.  So it was the teacher's poor luck to have the Bombshell's foot stuck in her face.  There was no bath last night, and I suspect those socks came off the floor rather than out of the drawer.

Then, in another authentic yoga moment, she asks all the kids to do their best 'Darth Vadar' breathing. They all do really well at that one.

Back in the circle, she has them sit down, legs apart, to make a 'magical stew' which they all stir.

'What shall we put in our magical stew", she asks.

'Pepper,' says one kid.  'It makes your teeth strong and healthy.' Hmmm ok.

'Salt,' says the next kid. 'To make it salty.'  Ok.

'Carrots,' says another. 'They make you big and strong.' Yup.

'Pork,' says one kid, upsetting at least two families in the room. 'It gives you fast muscles.'

'Honey,' says my kid. 'It makes you brave and strong.'  Of course.

The class was nearing the end, and she decides it would be a good idea to have them finish in the corpse pose. But she's not quite sure what to call it, so she says they will all be 'corpses, dead people.  We will all lie still like we are dead.  Like corpses...'  Way to start them having nightmares lady.

Once they're laying down, she comes along and puts rocks on their tummies.

'No throwing rocks,' she cautions the boys in the front.

Dead people don't throw rocks, love.

'We're going to lie still and breathe for ten seconds,' she tells the group.

'Ten, nine, eight...'

The Bombshell doesn't even last until six.  She's lying in a contorted pose, it must have been a horrible death. She is wiggling around. 'Mum, look at my rock,' she says as it slipps off her tummy.

Ten seconds.  She can't lie still for ten seconds.

I'm going to have to get one of those Tibetan prayer bells.

Boooooonnnnnngggggg.
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