Thursday, 28 February 2013

Casual observations of life

When I am busy Saying Nothing and Acting Casual I notice things.  Because I am so observant.

Sydney Coastrek 2013
This is NOT us.  For one thing, the sky is blue. 
Observation 1.

Preparing for Coastrek when the weather is stupendously awful is not exactly fun.

Prepacking kids morning tea, checking homework folders, library books, news topics.  Laying out uniforms, swapping orthotics over, packing swimmers for after school plays.

It's kind of like I'm going away for the weekend, with none of the fun of actually going anywhere.

Observation 2.

Carbo loading before a big walk when I'm not used to eating pasta at night means I just feel kind of full and sick.  Or maybe that's just nervousness.

Observation 3.

If I ever complain about how much time I spend ferrying my kids around, please slap me, and then remind me of a friend I caught up with last night who spends every Thursday from 4pm to 7pm picking up about 8 kids (three of them hers) and dropping some of them home, some to activities, then picking them back up and dropping them off again.  She makes seven stops.

I feel so unworthy.

Observation 4.

I don't think I've wanted a drink all month as much as I've wanted one tonight.

Observation 5.

My children talk too much, all the time and over each other.  They don't care if someone else (adult or child) is already talking and they direct most of their communications at me, so I feel like I'm the centre of three conversations at once.   I often say nothing (because I can't get a word in) but it's often hard to act casual.

It's just gone quiet.  None of my children are talking to me.  Because they're all asleep.  So peaceful.

Chris Bath on Channel 7 just told me tomorrow is going to be 21 and raining.  Sweet cheeses.  

Tuesday, 26 February 2013

The final days of Febfast

Nearly there!
I have never gone this long without a drink and not been pregnant or breastfeeding.  In my adult life.

It's been easy/hard, this alcohol free caper.  Some days I don't think of it at all, it's so far off my radar.

Other days, I just wish I could have a glass of something to take the edge off.  I've managed to take the edge off with ginger beer, and coke zero, and an unbelievable amount of sparkling mineral water with lime in it.

I even stopped buying Coles brand mineral water and bought a posh brand.

Having Mike do it with me is great, and I know he's appreciated me joining him on his annual abstinence.  At this point, I plan to do it every year.

People comment on how well I look, and I say thanks.  It could be because I'm off the grog, it could be because all this wandering around up and down the coastline has given me a tan.  I'm not looking into it, I just appreciate their kindness.

Only two people in the entire month have attempted any sort of coaxing, trying to convince me to have a drink, just one.  It was easy to resist but I wish I hadn't been put in the situation.  I'm guilty of doing the same, or at least I have been in my (wild) past.  These days if someone I know doesn't fancy a drink, I let it be, they no doubt have their reasons and far be it from me to mess with them.

Trying to get out there and socialise has been (thank goodness), easier than I thought.  I've been out to dinner, over to friends for a bbq, even to the Bavarian Beer house.  Sure, I was a bit tempted, but not enough to fall off my wagon.

My arch nemesis.
So I'm proud of my progress, pleased I have the willpower to resist a drink when I put my mind to it and I really hope I can carry my new attitude into the rest of the year and sometimes just go without, and try to like myself sober in social situations instead of always trying to drink myself into being a person I like.  I also need to learn to find my off button, which often gets lost, especially when I drink champagne.

And I have to model sensible, social drinking to my kids.  Because I'm like, the grown up.

Does that make sense?

There's still time to donate to Febfast.  Here's the link.

Monday, 25 February 2013

Brought together by chance, and glad of it.

This is not us.  But it sort of is, cause mother's groups are same same but different. 
Mother's Groups.  Some love 'em, some hate 'em.

I've had a great experience with mine.  We met, nearly 10 years ago in Balmain, at the early childhood centre.  Cradling our tiny 5-6 week olds in our arms, we went around the group, talking about our babies.  The only information we gave out about ourselves was our names, at that point, we had ceased to be important except as an extension of these tiny wondrous beings.

We talked about them, how much they weighed at birth, now, whether we had natural or Csection births, how they fed/didn't feed, slept/didn't sleep, smiled/didn't smile (Sarah refused to smile until she was 8 weeks old, I thought she didn't like me).  I even asked the group if they thought that too.

A mum with twins arrived about 15 minutes into our first session.  We all looked at her, with her massive double pram with two tiny precious morsels inside and looked down at our single babies.  I realised every trouble or worry I had was doubled in her case.  I felt immediately guilty and resolved to be her friend.  I don't think she liked me quite so much at first (perhaps I tried too hard, or maybe I'm just annoying?) but I won her over with sheer determination.

To this day I count her as one of my best friends in the world.  She is a champion.  She lives in Melbourne which means I don't get to see her as often as I like but it's a fabulous place to visit.

Anyhoo, after 6 meetings at the Centre we graduated to cafes, taking them over with prams, rocking, patting, feeding under discreet muslins.  Drinking coffees and eating muffins (we were breastfeeding so it was non calorific).  We met at each other's houses, as time went on and the babies became mobile, in parks, we went out together for dinners, and left our babies at home with their Dads, we went away on a girly weekend.

And we talked and talked and talked.  About everything.

We celebrated group birthdays and Christmases.  We have graduated from presents from everyone to everyone, to Kris Kringle, to buying a poor kid in Cambodia a goat.

Out of an original 12 or 13, there are 6 of us still in regular contact.  In three weeks we are meeting for a weekend away to celebrate our 10 year anniversary.  Between us we have 13 kids.

And tonight I'm off to dinner with the Sydney contingent.  Two still live in Balmain with one child each, the other pair of us have three kids each and are firmly planted in the 'burbs'.

I am incredibly lucky to have these friends, and we've seen each other through many ups and downs, happinesses and sadnesses.  I look forward to the next ten years as our babies become adults.

What?? Adults? Jaysus!

The thought of all those tiny babies being 20 fills me with enormous fear.  Luckily it's 10 years away.

Sunday, 24 February 2013

Windy Rainy Weekend Diversions

Manly Beach on Saturday morning.  Not one surfer in the water.  Usually there are a few certifiably insane surfers.  Not this morning.  
So what to do on a windy, rainy weekend?  Stay inside? Works for a while.  We baked cakes. 

Double layer choc raspberry
Made a music video or two.  Our latest favourite app is called Video Star, recommended by a friend.  It's free, and it's sensational.  Go on, try it.  

Then there's dancing Wii.  Please note two of the three are in pyjamas.  It's well after midday.  

A picture of misery.
We went out to lunch.  Hugo's was full so we went to the Bavarian Bier Cafe.  This is Mike contemplating the beer list, none of which he can have.  Perhaps on reflection, a bier cafe was a bad choice. 

Beer being a no go, he settled for a schnitzel the size of all our heads put together.  We all ate meat/fish and potatoes with nary a vegetable in sight.  Great rainy windy weather food.  Then to top off the goodness we let them pick a treat from the lolly shop in the wharf.  

Post lunch treat selection.
Yep, surf.  At Balmoral.  
To avoid the children's post lunch sugar rush, I went on my final pre Coastrek walk.  I went alone.  My teammates were distracted with injured toes, tonsillitis and prior engagements.  I phoned family and friends to pass the time and spent a lovely hour on the phone to my sister.  

At Balmoral, there was surf, and people surfing in it.  And of course, I realised we should have gone to a harbour beach.  Instead of sitting around stuffing our faces with meat and potatoes, we could have been frolicking in the waves and playing in the sand and dealing with the gale force wind this photo doesn't show.  

Oh well, too late.  And now it's...Downton time.  

Thursday, 21 February 2013

Just when you think you can relax...

Every day, I wake up, filled with optimism.

I bounce from my bed, leap into the shower and frolic under the stream of water, planning my day.

It is usually at this time when I realise the tasks required and the time available bear no relationship to one another (and not in a good way).  My spirits start to flag a little.

Not as angelic as they think.  
But despite this small setback I almost always have high hopes for a smooth start to the day.  And I go to quite a bit of trouble to prepare for the day ahead the night before, in order to give us all the best possible chance.

I pack lunches.  I make sure uniforms are clean and ready.  I check sock stocks.

I don't ask for much, just a stress free morning, because the morning sets the tone for the day.

But I'm beginning to realise there are greater powers than me in this great game of life.  Because every single weekday morning, at 8:45, we have an unforeseen disaster.  

This disaster, manages to hold us up for the exact amount of time it takes to remove any time advantage I may have gained during the morning, rendering any previous time saving efforts and exhortations to hurry, pointless.

I may as well have let them all eat weetbix on the couch in their pyjamas until 8:35 am for all the good I've done because this last minute disaster totally bollocks everything up.

An example.  This morning we'd left the house on time and were walking up the street, the two older kids crossing the road and heading to school.  I was so excited, we were out, nearly done, and I was on time for work!  And then I noticed my youngest for the first time.  She appeared to be wearing a size 8 uniform, that flapped around her ankles.  I swear I had not noticed her until this very moment.

I had no choice but to turn around, leaving the other two to make their way (thank goodness at least this was possible) and return to the house for a smaller (much smaller) uniform.  On inspection I found she was wearing a size 6, with the hem fully out.  You could have fit 2 to 3 Issy's in it.

And of course once at her classroom she clung and refused to leave me and finally was peeled off me at 9:05.

At our school right now, lingering by parents at assembly is frowned upon by the teachers, who are shooing us off every morning at bell time, to avoid our squawking and cackling interrupting morning announcements and also because our presence unsettles the Kindys.  I am so happy to conform with this rule.  My five year old, on the other hand is determined to make me disobey it.

Here are a few other last minute disasters which have befallen us recently.  Keep in mind we are only in week 4 of term 1 and these have all happened this year.

1.  A child trips down the stairs as we all walk out in the morning, requiring cuddles, ice, band aids and 15 extra minutes before being convinced school was still compulsory.

2.  A child discovers at the last minute they don't like the planned afternoon activity/pick up plan, and proceeds to melt down mightily on the front path, needing to be comforted and refocused before walking to school can resume.

3.  A child realises at the last minute they are not wearing their shoes, requiring us all to stand around while they painstakingly tie their laces, allowing no one to help or touch them because 'they can do it'.

4.  A child discovers at the last minute they have a minute stain on their uniform, requiring a full change, often when the only remaining uniform is in the laundry or, even better, no where to be found.

5.  We get out of the house, but at the corner, one child, I will not mention names but the pronoun will give it away, can't decide whether he should cross with his big sister, or with me and his little sister.  He agonises for so long the big sister leaves, and crosses the road without him, causing him to immediately panic that he should have gone with her.  He then drags his feet with misery and trails behind Issy and I, regretting his fate and loudly lamenting the fact that he is with us. I'm late again.  And really, really angry.

I have ABSOLUTELY NO patience with him when he does this.

These episodes of fun are usually performed in full view of a large majority of the school population who pass by our door between 8:45 and 9:00.  I should sell tickets.

One week to go and you're mine! 
My last weekend of Febfast is ahead.  Wish me luck.

Wednesday, 20 February 2013

Today the world won.

And I lost.   

I can't pinpoint any specific thing, just lots of important tasks to be done, one after another, from early this morning until about half an hour ago.

It certainly hasn't been all bad.  No way.

Good things have happened, especially a massive favour done by a friend, which was, I believe, the difference between me being a gibbering basket case and being here writing this blog with my wits about me.

I even did yoga, which was an hour of peace amid the madness.  And had a lovely coffee with friends.  

Honestly, I don't know why I'm complaining.

I know my day was absolutely no different to that of any busy parent of primary school aged kids, and we all have so much to do, especially at this time of year as we all settle into our routines.

But f**k I'm tired.

Tuesday, 19 February 2013

The final countdown to Coastrek

Well, nine days to go.  

In some ways I'm ready, and in others I'm a bit deficient. 

I have my Camelback pack thingie. 

I have my feet with a new summery red (very important).  

A bag of sweets for energy. 

A bag of trail mix.

Snakes of course. 

And money for icy poles.  A good new pair of shoes, a team shirt, and two pairs of socks.  

So in terms of material preparation, it's all good.  

Where's the catch?

Well... on Saturday we did a really long walk.  Started at Palmy and walked to Queenscliff.  32km as it turned out.  

It was tough.  Really, really tough.  The toughest practice walk ever.  

The headlands were steep, the stairs were fierce.  And mentally we all struggled.  

And the Narrabeen/Collaroy beach, all 4 treacherous km soft sand of it was nearly our undoing.   The icy pole we had at the end was possibly the most needed icy pole ever in the history of the world.  

It gave us a reality check.  Which we needed.  Because we've done a lot of practice walks, but most of them have been prancing around North Head and the Manly to Spit Walk.   

Now we know, the first part of the walk is definitely the most difficult.  

On the upside, now we are psyched.  We've taken on the toughest parts of the walk, and they can't surprise us on the 1st.  We're ready for them.  We also know once we've done the hardest part, the final 18km will still be hard, but all the beaches will be behind us, and most of the steep climbing.  

After what we've done, 18km will be like a quick jaunt to the shops for milk.  

Now, just say you felt like slipping us a bit of money for Fred Hollows, please go to our page via this link.  You'll be supporting four tough chicks who are going to nail the walk on the 1st and help cure loads of people of avoidable blindness.  

And to everyone who has already sponsored us, thanks so very much.  I'm pretty sure we've got to all of you individually, but here's another thanks just to be sure.  Because there's never enough thank you's are there? 

Monday, 18 February 2013

Proud I am.

Student Rep in Kindy.  Peaking too early? 
A moment, if you please.  Just a moment of pride.

I am proud of my Issy.

She was named SRC (student representative council) member for her class.  Sure, she didn't get voted, the teacher just picks them in Kindy, but she must have made some type of impression yes?

Possibly too much of an impression?  Um...yes.

She is taking her role very seriously and plans to put forward an initiative for the Kindy classes to have their own worm farm, and put their recess and lunch scraps in there, making lots of worm poo for the communal garden beds.

OK I'm kind of pushing this barrow (pun fully intended) but it's better than asking for a pyjama day isn't it?

Receiving her badge.

She received her badge at assembly today.   I sat among other SRC parents and we all clapped mightily, for everyone. 

I am proud of my Sarah.  She has been selected for the dance group for the third year running.  Every year I say, never, ever again, and early the next year I say go on try out, thinking she won't get in because she doesn't do dance lessons (!), but she still gets in.  She loves the teacher and would do anything for her.  She does what she's told and she tries hard, typical eldest child that she is.  This is why she gets in I think.  Or maybe it's all that gym? Who knows.

Remember last year's costume?  It's going to be hard to beat.
So she's in again and the dance theme is Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.  Methinks I see an Oompa Loompa costume in my future.  Thank the stars I don't have to make it.

Don't fight it, just be proud.

And as for Josh, he has his big exam on Friday for possible entry into a private school in year 3.  This is not, and never has been my preferred option.  But if he doesn't get in for year 3, I don't think he'll get a place in year 5.  There are just too many old boys and smart kids.  So we're having a crack.

No matter how he does, I'm proud of him.  He can now write his surname.  Which he couldn't do three weeks ago.  It is a very long surname.

Proud indeed.

Sunday, 17 February 2013

I am the full stereotype. The canteen mummy.

Not ours, but very nice I'm sure.  Our queues were way longer. 
So finally, I signed up for canteen.  It was time.

I had avoided it for four years.  My youngest had started school.  I'd never even been a Kindy side iceblock mummy.

On sign up for volunteer stuff day, I signed the form.

All to soon, I got the phone call.  My first time slot.  Friday 9-11:30.

I worried.  Oh I worried.  What if I did it wrong? What if I failed?

As the week progressed, I also committed to attend band practice from 7:45-9am on Friday and heedlessly placed my usual Woolworths Homeshop order to be delivered between 6 and 9 on Friday morning.

What was I thinking?

Luckily Woolies said they'd leave the stuff on the front steps.

A rain shower at exactly 8:50am topped it all off.

At 9am I caught a lift the 70m to my house and threw the frozen veg and chilled stuff from Woolies into the fridge, and sprinted back to start my shift ten minutes late.

Not an auspicious beginning.

I said hello, placed my handbag on the handbag chair and washed my hands.


44 apple slinkies later, I had sore arms but was unphased.  This was kind of fun.  Next I shredded a lettuce and learned how to use a lettuce spinner.

The conversation was interesting, well to me anyway.  You know, a bit of public vs private high school,  a dabble in coed vs girls/boys only.  We talked about how much teenage boys eat, and how much more pressure they're all under in high school.

Scintillating stuff.

I made sandwiches, packed lunch orders and then, at 10:35 the hordes descended.  Two long cues of kids formed.

At morning tea everything is 50c. Which is nice and simple for newbies who aren't good at mental arithmetic.  The choices are:  A slice of pizza, a cup of plain rice (soy sauce optional), a choc chip cookie, a garlic bread or a pikelet.

First thing to go is the pizza, quickly followed by rice.  Then garlic bread and finally cookies and pikelets kind of vanish in a final desperate frenzy.

After that I could only sell them frozen pineapple rings and breadsticks for 20c.

By 11am, there were just crumbs left.

I only had to remind one kid to say please.  Although Sarah said a group of boys pushed in front of her.  Luckily I saved her a rice.  Next time I will watch the queue closely and send any pusher inners to the back.  I am a stickler for manners.

Josh turned up with a mate.  I shouted them cookies.

And that was that.  Service over, everyone back to class.  A final half hour of sandwich making and washing up and we were done.  The two early volunteers were allowed to go, the two new ones arrived, ready to finish packing orders and begin the delivery before serving through lunch.

There are 650 kids at the school, give or take.  On Friday they did over 220 lunch orders.  That is phenomenal.  Those canteen ladies (the permanent ones) are incredible.

And the volunteers.  Well, they're not bad...

Thursday, 14 February 2013

Awesome. That's all.

As a copywriter, when I'm writing for customers or clients, I pay close attention to the words I'm using.

Maybe not during the first draft, where I just let things go a bit wild.  But during editing, I need to rearrange and cull carefully so the message comes across in the right way to the right people.

There are a few words generally accepted copywriting conventions say you shouldn't use if you can help it.  Some words make you sound wanky, some make you sound stupid.  None of them give a great impression.

"That" is frowned upon.  So is "just".  Very, really, good.  Not enough oomph.

On the other hand, you also need to be careful with using words if they're too complex, because it makes your writing less easy to understand.

Words like utilise (instead of use) or commence (instead of start/begin), to name a few.

Some, like passionate or dedicated or committed, have simply been overused and don't carry genuine meaning anymore.

And stay away from literally and actually too.

Oh, and be really careful with their, they're and there and it's and its.  

OK enough lessons.

There's one word I love, but I never get to use in copy because it's not really professional.  But it's such a great word, so expressive and a bit daggy.

Well, I'm a bit daggy so why wouldn't one of my favourite words be a bit daggy too.

It's awesome.

No, really, awesome.  The word awesome.  It's awesome.

Whenever the kids have a great day, they tell me it's awesome.  If they like a present, it's awesome.

It's their best word ever.  And mine too.

It covers so many activities, experiences and it's 100% positive.  No negativity with awesome, only pure enjoyment and happiness.

It works by itself, nothing is ever a bit awesome or kind of awesome.  It's awesome.

I think that's why I love it.

I also love serendipity, decolletage, sensational and discombombulated.  And I struggle sneaking these into daily conversation too.

I snuck decolletage in this afternoon during a re-sunscreening session.

Sarah could say decolletage at two and point to it.  It was her party trick.  

But none of these words are as awesome as awesome.

Possibly my most trivial post yet.  Awesome.

Tuesday, 12 February 2013

Disaster averted.

It's amazing how we go through life, keeping it all together.  Feeling (and looking) like we're on top of things.

We forget how quickly it can fall apart.

Mostly you know where everyone is, you know they're safe, all your ducklings accounted for.

And sometimes, very occasionally, in a heartbeat, your carefully laid plans don't go to plan and one of your ducklings goes astray, even only for a few minutes, it's then you realise how quickly you can go from being a serene, super organised parent to a panicky, stressed out one.

God, that sickening feeling you get when you can't find one of your kids.  You don't know where they are.  And you don't know what to do.

When they're near you, or you know they're safe with someone else, you take them for granted.  And yet in a split second, it can all change.  You chest constricts, your heart speeds up and every bit of you yearns for them, to know they're ok, have them in your sight, your arms.

After school today, Josh and I were briefly involved in a situation which started off scary and, thank goodness, ended well.  But it was bloody frightening for a while.

We were up at the school by pure chance, searching for his missing lunchbox and hat, when we became involved.  He fully understood why we stopped what we were doing and tried to help.  He knows how important he is to Mike and I and his sisters (just to name a few people who love him), and he understands every family is just as vital to each other, and he knew helping was the right thing.

The expressions on every parent's face, and those of the school staff as we searched and re-searched, thought and suggested and tried (mostly unsuccessfully) to give help and support were identical.  No one was in any doubt as to the seriousness of the situation.  And we all wanted the same thing, so very badly.

After what seemed like years, it was sorted.  Reunification occurred and all was well.  Everyone took a deep breath and calmed our beating hearts.  I can tell you it was nearly all bets off for Febfast this afternoon.

Every night, I kiss each of them goodnight on my way to bed, tuck them in and have a little gloat.  I know they are safe, and in my care.  When one is on a sleepover, they leave a hole shaped exactly like themselves.  You can feel it.

But a great deal of the time, I just take them for granted.  Not tonight.  Tonight I'm appreciating them just a little more.

Sweet dreams all those babies, big and small, safe in their beds tonight.  You are all so very loved.

Daily dilemmas.

Decisions, decisions. 
Every day we make decisions.  Big ones, small ones.  Tedious ones usually.

Today we had to get up early to be a school for a band thing.  It was important.

But the kids were asleep.  I hate waking kids.  Usually if they're asleep, they need to be.

I didn't wake them.  But that made us late.

Bloody decisions.

When I got to work there were no parks.  Only 2 hour ones.  Or ones you have to pay for.  Or a free one about 500m from where I work.

I was already late.  This was making me later.  I'm not spending half my daily pay packet on a parking ticket, and it's tricky having to move the car every 2 hours.

So I parked what seemed like halfway back to home and walked to work in the rain.

Another bloody decision.

Do I do Issy's hair or eat breakfast?

Do I sit in on sax practice or help with homework?

Do I shout one more time about the shoes left on the floor, or just pick them up myself?

On the weekend, do I lie in bed and read the paper, or get up and do housework?  Knowing that it's not going to magically do itself so it's more a question of doing it now or later?

And finally, if I was the Pope, who has people to dress him, cook for him, drive him around and wait on him hand and foot, why would I ever ever ever make the decision to give it all up.


Monday, 11 February 2013

Throwing away a social crutch...sort of.

My favourite.  None of this.
So, Febfast.  Over a third of the way through and powering on.

Two weekends down, two to go.

Enjoying discovering ginger beer (virgin Moscow Mules) and virgin Mojitos.

I have bought a lot of limes.  Limes are great.
You can never have too many of these.  Febfast or not. 

It's very easy at this time of year to bunker down socially and not do much, the days are very busy, many people are laying low after summer holidays and the days are frantically busy with the kids settling in and new regimes to implement, new sports to sign up for etc.

Who's got time at night to drink?  Well, normally me.  Monday to Wednesday I'm (usually) pure as the driven snow.  Thursdays I normally need a bit of a glass of something, Friday to Sunday we are often out and there are often possibilities to 'have a few'.   On holidays it's open slather.
And none of this either.  
I'm from a drinking family.  Social lubrication has always been the norm, rather than the exception around my parents and their friends.  With the result that we grew up with the same attitude.  Well I did anyway.

My parents threw some humdinger parties.  The morning after my brother's wedding (I was 4), our lounge room floor was positively coated in sleeping bodies.  When I woke up and saw all my brother's mates (who I loved) there, I was so excited I took a flying leap onto the best man and woke him up.  I am surprised I lived to tell the tale.

I remember waking up at dawn following my Dad's 50th to find him still dancing in the kitchen to one of his presents, a record single of 'The More I See You' by Peter Allen.  No idea who gave it to him, or knowing my Dad's taste for Tijuana Brass and Les Paul, why they gave it to him, but he was still going strong, and I (aged 5) danced with him.

So to me, drinking was just something you started doing when you were old enough.  Or even, not old enough.  'nuff said.

This is not to say I haven't had periods in my life when I haven't drunk.  Three pregnancies and months of breastfeeding meant I took enforced abstinence for more than a year three times.  But that was over 5 years ago.  Another break is well overdue.

Since the silly season started back in November I'd noticed it was becoming far too easy to polish off a bottle of wine (or more) over the course of a social occasion.  Enough was enough.  I was starting to become a marathon runner, where really a social jogger was more appropriate.

I need to become piss unfit.

The problem was, and still is, I love a bit of social lubrication to over come my introvert tendencies and turn myself into a talkative extrovert.

Instant extrovert.  
But not too much because then I just become a dickhead.

Anyhoo, I have a few (just a few) social bits and pieces coming up which will require me to get out there without my crutch.  I must not quake, I must get on.  Whatever issue it is I have, I need to overcome so I am in charge.  Because if I'm honest, I have not always been.  In charge.

You know?

Sunday, 10 February 2013

I've been lots of different mothers

All the different parenting hats we wear. 
On our Coastrek practice walks, we talk a lot.  Like, the whole time.  Each walk goes for 4-5 hours (sometimes longer), but we have not yet run out of things to say.

Today there were just two of us, but we managed to cover an enormous range of topics, one of which was how mothers are often (rightly or wrongly) categorised into 'types' e.g. helicopter, free range, anxious, over protective, lazy.  Sadly, for a group who share a lot of similar experiences, mothers are not always kind to each other.  I don't think this is news to anyone.

I reckon I have been all of those types mentioned above at different times.  At various points in everyone's mothering journey, I think, we morph into different roles, like maternal chameleons.

So here are a few of the types of mother I've been.  I've been others, and I will become others too in the future, like all mothers out there.

1. The book reading, over analysing new mother.  I've read BabyLove by Robin Barker about 5 times. It was my bible.  I also read all the What to Expect books, Kaz Cooke's hilarious Up the Duff, Babywise, The Contented (Contentious?) Little Baby Book, Raising Happy Kids, Raising Boys, Raising Girls etc etc. I have also forgotten about 15 other ones.  I was also a slave to Annabel Karmel and her recipes.

Sarah ate so much pumpkin, carrot and sweet potato, she took on an orange tint.  Really.

I had a friend who was just like me, and we loved nothing more than a long lunch, spent gently wrangling tiny offspring (she had twins) and our own pet theories over toasted sambos and chocolate cake (we were breastfeeding, and thus immune to the calorific impact of cake).

We both were very earnest, and determined to do it 'right'. Whatever that was.  Anyways, it worked for us until they became toddlers and we realised any thin veneer of control we had was an illusion.

2. The paranoid, over parenting mother of one toddler.  Once Sarah started to walk, I followed her every move.  Now considering the wayward nature of toddlers and their complete lack of fear of dangerous things like roads and oceans, you can understand a bit of close parenting for this stage.  But I think following her around the house might have been going a bit far.

It was an old house, and we'd just moved in and I think I didn't have enough of a grasp of its quirks to feel safe with her out of sight.

Soon after the poor possum started to walk I fell pregnant with the bump that was to be Joshie and I was so miserable this stage ended with me lying on the couch and her wandering off, playing, and returning to find me still there, ashen faced and miserable, she would comfort me by patting my face and saying 'poor'.

3.  The extremely cranky and frustrated mother of a toddler and a newborn.  Poor Sarah.  Once Josh came along, and she was the big sister, I developed completely unwarranted expectations of her behaviour.  Like expecting her to be mature enough to skip the tantrum throwing phase, just because I'd been up 3 times the night before.  I do not like to recall these times as I was snappy, snippy and snarly, to a person who was only being themselves and didn't deserve it.

She was a baby herself.  Poor sausage.
This unreasonable expectation thing has carried through too.  When Sarah started Kindy I thought she was so grown up and treated her accordingly.  Now Issy has started, she still seems like such a baby and gets away all manner of heinous acts.

4.  The Mum who worries their kids isn't like the others.  You know, everyone else's kid in mother's group can crawl/walk/say dadadad/do the hokey pokey and yours can't.  Or you've read the milestone section of a book and your kids isn't hitting them, or hits all but one.  Perhaps there is a problem.  Or perhaps your kid is just doing things when they're meant to.

Sarah was quite the chubba.  She could sit up, and crawl but couldn't go from a crawl to a sit or vice versa (she did it from her tummy).  The crying and shenanigans that went on when she found herself stuck in a crawl or a sit she didn't want to be in seemed to go on for months but I think it was only a week or so before she worked herself out.  Meanwhile I was consulting the gymbaroo lady and thinking about baby physiotherapists.

6.  The Mum who thinks their kid is a genius.  I love this one and I defy any parent not to think it at some stage.  I thought Sarah was a genius for ages.  She talked early which I read somewhere was a sign of high intelligence, and has been determinedly average ever since.  But it's very hard, when faced with a much beloved tiny child who goes from a little expressionless blob to a smiley gurgler who claps on command and can find their own foot to chew on, not to believe every act is one of staggering genius.  Some mothers never stop believing this.  And a few are even right.

7. The over scheduling Mum.  Guilty as charged.  I love a schedule, I love an activity.  I love giving my kids the chance to try stuff in case it becomes their 'thing'.  I love it when they want to do something with a friend.  I love it when friends want to come over.  And of course as I've mentioned many times, I LOVE a car pool.  Even when the kids were younger I could never spend a day at home (my idea of torture), I do love getting out and about.

I know it's not good for them to be over scheduled.  But I also struggle to say no when they want to try something.  And they meet new kids, and cement existing friendships.  We now have two afternoons free a week and I think for us, that's pretty good.  Don't talk to us on Tuesdays and Wednesdays though.  Unless you're at karate, swimming, gym, dance, sax lessons or tennis.

Champion Mum?  Not me I'm afraid.  

8. The pushy parent.  I have an issue with homework.  And sax practice.  And piano practice (except no-one's doing it this term).  It must be done.  Not negotiable.  And so far I haven't managed to sit back and let them fail and have to hand in incomplete work.  I know at some point I have to do this, let them suffer the consequences of not finishing or not remembering or just not caring.  But I can't.  So I harangue and harass, and get a bit shouty.

9.  Last of all, the slightly vague parent who talks too much.  Yep that's me.  So busy having a natter at the teeball game that I miss my son's fabulous hit.  So focused on talking to my husband at the beach I fail to notice Issy get tripped up by a wave while she's cleaning sand off her bucket (we were, embarrassingly not 3 metres from her).   And countless other failures.

I am always this one.  Poor kids.  Have you noticed all my examples are about Sarah?  Those poor oldest children do have to bear the brunt of our inexperience don't they?

Thursday, 7 February 2013

The strange time warp of kids birthday parties

Parties, I've done a few.  Kids ones that is.

Not this time of year though.  My parties are all crowded together in the six weeks between the last week of April and the first week of June.   The girls birthdays are two days apart so if they both have a party, I do one the weekend before and one the weekend after, to allow equal opportunity for festivus action.

I know a lot of people who are doing the party thing right now, they're baking cupcakes for school, and suffering the invitation dilemmas unique to this time of year, old class mates? new ones?

With birthday parties I've always tried, but never really pulled it off.  I always feel like I've missed someone out, or forgotten some detail, or not talked to the parents enough, or the lolly bags are shit.

So little, and already a big sister of a 6 week old. 
I held Sarah's 4 birthday party 4 days before Issy's scheduled C-section.  I refused to let the Doctor deliver her at 38 weeks because I didn't want to be in hospital on her birthday so Issy was born at 39.5 weeks.  In her first, and possibly only ever compliant act, she hung in there until I was ready.

And somewhere in the next year her tastes become much more sophisticated.

Issy got the moon at two. 

My lowest point was Sarah's 5th, when in a misguided attempt to increase Sarah's social life (why the hell I wanted to do that I have no idea but it seemed important at the time), I invited 22 little girls to our house for an afternoon Fairy Garden Party.  It rained torrentially the whole time, and we had to cram 22 kids into our lounge room so Magical Fairy Skye Rainbow (an amazing woman), could take charge and made them all make wishes and do a magical fairy picture and magical fairy pass the parcel before eating their body weight in crap.  At least two cynical little shockers princesses came and told me they didn't believe in fairies and were bored.  And in my naievity, instead of telling them to shape up and rejoin the group, I tried to jolly them along, and find them something else to do, which ended up with them trashing my playroom.

The two hours went on for ever.

Which brings me to my point.  Birthday Party time, is different to normal time.  It's slower, much slower.  This is in direct opposition to the hours leading up to the party when you are trying to get everything ready, make the cake, clean the house, wrap the f**king pass the parcel etc.

I was still throwing handfuls of silver couchons at Sarah's Dolly Varden ice cream cake as the first guests arrived.  And don't even ask me about the piñata cake.  It was created in a time vortex where the hours before the party started vanished in the blink of an eye.

The shattered remains of the piñata 

Why is it Sarah's parties I remember with such fear and loathing?  It's a first child thing isn't it?  So much invested in them.   And no idea of what I was doing.  Poor first child.

We were both pretty happy with that one. 
Josh's 6th was a Rugby party in the park.  No mess, rugby guy came and ran them all around.  Easy.

Issy's 5th was a joint disco party with her bestie, possibly the easiest party ever.  Even the Dolly Varden wasn't as tricky.

Well, hello Dolly.
 Choosing cake time is approaching, I wonder what monstrosity I'll be talked into this year.  I forget everything about each party except for the cake.  Because it takes such enormous amounts of time and anguish.

Every year I swear to buy the cakes and every year they get out the cookbooks and start looking at their options.  How can I refuse?

I just wish I had more time to do it.

Wednesday, 6 February 2013

On a lighter note: It's time for Long Service Leave

Us nearly 10 years ago.  Look at our expressions.  Talk about young and clueless.  
So, 10 years of being responsible for tiny dependent beings is over.  Ten years.  If I worked for a company, I'd be up for long service leave.  But seeing as no one is offering me 10 weeks paid leave, I'm going to take a few liberties with my life.  Just a few.

I have two days where I have to go to work.  And some freelance stuff I need to do.  But surely around that, with 5 full days child free, I can also take a moment here and there to do some stuff for myself?

Yes, I know the 6 hours between 9 and 3 are on a different space/time continuum and go faster.  Even so...

Here is what I hope my LSL entails:

1.  Attendance at yoga/kayak yoga or any type of relaxation stretchy style session at least once a week. Twice even.
And then you yoga.

So first you kayak.

2.  Time to lunch occasionally with friends.  No, not all afternoon, and not anywhere outrageously flash.  Just a meet and chat for a sushi train, or a salad.  Maybe (if it's someone's bday, a glass of champs).

But no champs in February.  Heavy sigh.  But I should be full of natural endorphins and be feeling totally euphoric at the thought of having reared three children (with just 4 years and 2 days between first and third dammit) to school age without losing one or losing my mind.

Surely this natural high means I don't need champagne?  It's just there's this niggling sense of redundancy that keeps creeping in.

Sorry, got off track.

3. Shop for groceries without having to take someone who's constantly and simultaneously cold, hungry and busting.

4. Permission to maybe, just sometimes, write creatively for myself.  A book?  A short story?  A kids book?  Who knows.
I could stuff.
5. A course!  I could learn something new!  On writing?  Would I contemplate any other?  Interior design?  No, I have most excellent friends for that.  Meditation?  Hmm. Not sure I have the concentration.  Instead, there's creative writing, feature writing, writing for kids etc etc.

6. Manage a renovation.  Well, there's always that elephant in the room isn't there?

Aah, after yesterdays hamster wheel post this I feel much better, much more positive.  So many opportunities lie ahead.

And I'm proud, of all three of them.  Because they are lovely in their own ways.  I know I haven't wasted the last ten years. I haven't enjoyed every minute of them, but they are of course, the most important ones I've spent.  I don't think Mike and I will spend another decade of our lives with so much to show for it as this one.  Three healthy amazing humans!  Amazing.

Right, off to book a course and buy a kayak.  Must have the right equipment now.

PS. Kayak yoga: An ingenious invention where you get into kayaks, paddle off somewhere around the amazing harbour and land on a beach.  Do yoga for 40 minutes and paddle home again.  Total winner!

Tuesday, 5 February 2013

Does this New Year bring fear? Or fabulous?

Every year has a sort of sameness about it, we travel the same paths, but every year there are subtle changes, shaped by the age of the kids, the activities they do, the school they're at and ever so slightly (unfortunately), by my priorities.

And for us, for this year anyway, one hell of a house reno on top of everything else.

At the beginning of the year we go and watch all the firsts and pay enormous amounts of money for loads of things.  First gym, first music lesson, first tennis lesson, first day of school, first after school care.  Everyone needs a bit of extra attention for every 'first' time activity, and then the invoices start rolling in.

Then there's the equipment and accessories.  We realise there's a hat missing, or the new drink bottle leaks.  They need new school shoes of course, but also new runners, rugby boots/headgear/mouthguard, netball uniform and in extreme cases, new orthotics.

And the money just flies out the door.  Whooshka.

And the logistics do my head in.

There's new classrooms, new teachers, new classmates.  Where best to pick up each day, where to drop off, what equipment do they need, when, for who.  And my favourite old chestnut: can I car pool?

So far this year, not as much as I'd hoped.

Then slowly, everything settles into what seems a comfortable groove, usually just in time for Easter to ruin the rhythm, albeit with a much appreciated long weekend.

Did you know, in New York, you don't get Good Friday off?  Or Easter Monday?  WTF?

Then there's the middle of the year, roughly defined by terms 2 and 3.  Here is when you have two (or more) different sports every Saturday, sometimes Sunday and all the associated training and volunteering.  It's gym comp season, meaning crack of dawn starts heading to distant locales.  There's band camp, band workshop and band performances and competitions.  There's dance performances and competitions.  There's sausage sizzling, fundraising, trivia nights, and for us, three kids birthdays with associated festivi.

Did you know festivi was the plural of festivus? No? Well I just made it up.

You have to always be three steps ahead, with the right uniform, shoes, make up, a warm jumper a drink bottle, the right children.  There's lots of having of other peoples children and just as much of them having yours.  Most nights you end up with the usual ones, but not always, due to the 'last minute stealth sleepover'.

Never relax, ever or else you'll forget something crucial, and hell will break loose.

Finally in term 4, we go and watch all the ends.  This starts early with the end of winter sport which sort of crosses into term 3.  End of rugby season party, team BBQs, presentation days.  Summer sports starts up, new team, playing day and training sessions.  Competition calms down, turning into showcases, recitals and performances.  Talent quest rears its ugly head (and you know how I feel about that), recognition assemblies and wrap ups of external activities.

Socially it all gets a bit crazy.  Crazy fun and also, just a bit crazy in general.  And it all goes on for weeks and weeks.

Then the end, when you really appreciate how great your class was, your teacher, your kids friends and all the other parents you shared stuff with, drinks, kids, food, car trips.

Because we are part of one amazing, beautiful community.

The wheel turns, Christmas, New Years, January, and on it goes.

So here I am stuck in that weird unsettled first part of the year, feeling a bit melancholy and a bit excited.  A bit tired and a bit energised,  a bit scared and a bit adventurous.  What will this year bring?

Anyone feeling the same?

Monday, 4 February 2013

Half Assed Fast

From this. 
So, Febfast.

This is how I think it will play out.

Monday to Wednesday: piece of cake.

Thursday, a bit hairy.

Friday to Sunday: possibly requiring some serious willpower, especially Friday and Saturday and worse if we are out.

Last Friday I cheated, ignoring the calendar telling me it was in fact Feb 1 and went out with a bunch of girlfriends for drinks.

But Saturday, it was on.  And all Saturday, as 5pm got closer and closer, one half of my mind kept saying, "aaahh, I'm looking forward to my afternoon glass of wine/G&T'.

Followed immediately by the other half saying (in a snarky voice), "Uh-uh, you're doing Febfast, sparkling mineral water for you.'

Strangely, once that witching hour of 5-6pm was over, I didn't give it another thought.

But up until then it was a nasty roller coaster to be on.  And one I need to get off.  There's been far too much reckless consumption of alcohol over the past three months and now my body expects to be chemically relaxed after 5pm at least 3 nights a week.

By refusing it this for a month (ish) I hope to feel healthier, clearer and more energetic.

I'm also hoping to drop a kilo or two and at the same time worrying I'll end up substituting food for a drink.  Based on my behaviour so far, it's quite likely.  I was able to buy my favourite dip at my local coffee shop today after their long January break and already half of it is gone.

It's taramasalata, and believe me, it's not diet food.  But it's so good.

An excellent friend of mine is doing it too, as is my husband, who does this every Feb.  He says it gets harder as the month goes on, which is very depressing, as I'd hoped it would get easier.

To this.  Twice a day.  Not a bad comedown really. 
Another friend said she was keen to do it but couldn't possibly start until Feb 9 or 10 due to pressing prior social commitments.  We have declared this to officially be "Half Assed Fast".

But even a half assed fast is better than none yes?

If you fancy sponsoring anyone doing Febfast, please click on this link.

Sunday, 3 February 2013

Two birds are better than one...we have proof.

We thought Nibbles, our budgie was going a bit bonkers.  Far too attached to his disco ball, serious anger management issues with his bell toy.  We feared for his mental heath, because he spent so much (well, all really) of his time alone.  In a cage.

Come to think of it, I'd be surprised if he wasn't a bit barmy.

They are cute, but they are not smart.  
And yes, a cage is a cruel thing.  We do let him out every day though for a constitutional, after which he normally flies back in himself.  Probably to escape Issy.

We felt bad for his life as a solo cage dweller, so we bought him a friend.  His name is...wait for it...Noodles.

Oh those whacky kids, don't they just come up with the names?  Oh Smuggler, rest in peace.  Now that was a name for a budgie.  

Anyhoo, I went into a nearby pet shop on my way home from work, and found in there one lonely budgie.  She (they think) had come from a batch/hatch? of birds and was the only one left.  She had been there for some time.  She was even on sale.  She was a pretty blue with a white face.

As Nibbles is a girl (we think), I thought this was promising.  Especially as this probably put both birds at roughly the same age, so they'd get on, you know, go through their teen years together, grow up together.  Like best friends.

Except when we went back to buy her (we're almost certain) and brought her home, our Nibbles descended upon the newcomer in a flurry of fierce wing and beak action.  I had to hide the children's eyes, and feared for Noodles' life.

We let them battle it out, and when I was happy there was no injury occurring and it seemed like mainly a bit of argy bargy for space and superiority, I left them to it.

I think Nibbles, alone for so long, had lost some of her social skills.  It happens to the best of us.  Her welcome may have been so enthusiastic, it looked like an attack to us and also to poor discombombulated Noodles who fought back valiantly, and may have even won for herself (God, we hope it's a she) the title of Top Bird Of The Cage.

Noodles as Top Bird? Nibbles isn't sure.  
Now we have two happy little birds, who cheeple and chirple to each other all day.  They call out for the other if one is out of sight.

They groom each other.  Sort of sidle up to one another and peck each other's heads.  It's really cute.

And they fight, over food, perch position etc.  It's EXACTLY like the kids.

And when we let them out they sort of waddle around the house together.

Did I mention they were cute?

I know, enough about the birds.  No more bird posting for some time.  Promise.