Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Your child's gifted, you say? That's nice, my kid has nits.

I wish I wrote that line, but I didn't. It's Catherine Deveney's, in this great piece on competitive parenting. Via Sally, whose kids, when they appear, will be amazing. Despite the head lice.

why don't friends with kids have time?

A snappy piece by Carolyn Hax of the Washington Post. Cindy found it. She's the mother of Irish twins (two under twelve months!) who is allowed to say whatever she wants about motherhood.

in which I contemplate moving to a remote mountain community whose inhabitants share my family values

We went to a four-year-old neighbours birthday party on the weekend.

You know when it's a dress-up party but nobody else has dressed up? And you arrive late, so everybody turns and looks at you? And that little voice inside you says 'Again?'

Keith and Ivy, dressed inoffensively as a bush pilot and a lion, were OK. Keith even busted out his best Magnum.

I had made a stranger decision, based on two factors. One: I had recently put together a bridal costume for my save-the-date pictures,so there was a ready-made option, and two: the idea involved a hat - always a winner, because I hate to do my hair.

So I dressed as Cougar Bride, and decided Teddy would be my baby husband. (A cougar, for those who've missed this high point in recent gender relations, is an older, hot woman with a younger, hot partner. They also call it 'tadpoling'. ) Is it good, or bad, that I saw nothing odd in this? I also saw nothing strange in dressing up the two kids as brother-and-sister wedding party for my invites, but several people have pointed out that it could be construed as illegal, immoral, at best likely to cost thousands in teen-therapy and at worst resulting in grandchildren with flippers for feet.

Luckily for the sake of Teddys' future psychological health, there are no pictures of what Keith and I called, with reference to our show Arrested Development; Operation HotMother.

Funnily enough, the last time I dressed up in the white nightie, we also had costume-problems. That time my friend Marc hosted an Axis of Evil dinner party and Keith and I dressed as Tony and Cherie Blair from that famous picture of Cherie, snapped the morning after his election win.

It was inspired on my part, because I was seven months pregnant, and all I had to do was put on a nightie, smear some mascara and crazy-up my hair.

Keith wore the more insurance-agenty suit get-up we could cobble together. Later we found that the couple opposite us thought we hadn't bothered dressing up.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

regional news updates are good for the soul.

On the local channel last night:

'And in sport, a Figtree family of pigeon-fanciers are off to Shanghai to compete against the world's best.'

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

making hay while the rain falls

A work-in-progress day.

Ivy is very into letters at the minute, so I'm making her an alphabet book from this sweet idea.

Just photos so far. I'll have to figure out the book-bit later.
My aunt Sheelah is turning 80 this weekend so I'm working on a fabric banner for her party.

And, between rain-showers, some hardy carpenters have started building our deck! So, so exciting. Ivy and Teddy watched then from the window all morning. 'Those are boys, Mummy', Ivy told me, in tones of hushed respect. That's my baby feminist...

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

the case against marrying a scientist:

This conversation took place yesterday:

Me - (at the computer) Hey, I think I've figured out what's wrong with our water.

Keith - (pretends to listen but doesn't look up from his Rubik's cube) Hmmm?

Me - It's hard. We've got hard water. It totally makes sense.

Keith: Hmmm?

Me - Listen to the symptoms: soap scum gathers around the bathtub. The washing gets sort of crunchy. Shampoo won't lather. And...

(small voice)

It ages the skin.

Keith - It what?

It ages the skin.

Keith - Asian what?


Keith gives me a look.

Me - That's not the main reason I think it. It's the other things that match.


But I have been looking sort of old lately.


But if it's hard water we can just soften it! For my skin!

Keith quietly speaks of minerals, bores and rainwater, and then returns to his Rubik's cube.

Logic is a cruel bedfellow.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

in which Keith has a geek-frenzy and Ivy takes a break.

I think it was Buddha, or Gandhi, or perhaps Richard Gere who talked about gaining enlightenment through the fighting of desire. The desire for stuff.

I've been thinking about this battle for some time, as we try and live small and simple with our single income and small mouths to feed. I'm not buying any new clothes for a year, and we have to think about every purchase these days. My spending is much more mindful than it ever was, and I like to make things where I can.

But it seems Ivy is a bad Buddhist. I took the kids shopping on Friday for a few bits and pieces (cabbage, wallpaper, night-vision goggles) and when home-time rolled around, Ivy threw a major wobbly and shouted, repeatedly, ‘I want to buy MORE STUFF!!!’

Oh dear.

Time for some wholesome, non-cash-related fun: sorting out the dress-ups into a basket, after checking it out from every angle first.

And then washing-basket-as-a-train fun, and some clutching of Tiny Teddy (used, obviously, in the ironic sense.)

T-Bone, a completely adorable cherub, on the move and into everything, is currently the bane of Ivy’s life.

He’s constantly pulling her hair, taking her things and climbing on top of her in a frenzy of sister-worship. Yesterday she asked Keith to take her to the toilet, where she sat, quietly singing. (In the interests of cuteness-detail, her favourite tune is the alphabet song, and her version finishes ‘now I wonder what you are, will you please read me four books.’) When Keith asked ‘Are you doing a poo, Ivy?’, she replied ‘No Daddy, I just taking a break.’

She stayed there for twenty minutes.

Just taking a break.

The pump to the water tank has been sickening for a while and finally went to the great rusting ground in the sky this weekend. We’ve been living out of buckets and debating how ‘clean’ the washing-up needs to be to count as ‘finished.’

Visited the lovely Carol today, and between cups of tea, chockie biscuits and toddler tea-parties, Keith and I availed ourselves of the shower facilities. (We did ask first.)

Meanwhile, I've been making wedding lists and Keith is obsessively playing with his Rubik’s cube, which I bought him to wean him off his other obsession, some computer game called Civilization. Here he is in geek heaven, a sheet of scribbled algorithms at his side.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

a little belgian magic...and book news too.

A joyful piece of Belgian performance art that would forever make you look at the world in a different way if you happened to be there at the time. 4 minutes of happiness:

Thanks to MammaMia for the link.

PS - A Melbourne company is publishing a book about motherhood and they're including one of my stories as a chapter! I'm so excited. I love the idea of Ivy and Theodore climbing their Dad's special bookshelves and reading a tale about themselves as babies. It feels.. .as magically special as being in that Antwerp train station.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

the dirty ditch is doing my head in (and other absurdist masterpieces.)

When Keith is in Canberra, I spend a lot of time alone with my two pre-schoolers. Sometimes I start to feel like I'm in a piece of absurdist theatre, playing to an empty house. I spend all day alternating between negotiating, reprimanding, praising and managing bizarre behaviours. Also, I perform Wiggles numbers on demand.

For posterity, here's a snapshot of today:

I paper the fridge with lists in a futile attempt to keep a step ahead of the chaos. Lists of menus, shopping, and stuff-to-do become, by lunchtime, a mockery, and by 4pm, an amusing sort of satire on the housewifely arts.

Ivy, in constant motion, gathers random objects (play-dough, sultanas, wet washing) into odd marriages and puts them in bags, boxes, saucepans and shoes. Here she proudly displays the Thomas tableau she's arranged in Teddy's bed.

After this she posts all the cups into the washing basket.

Ivy fills the 'dirty ditch' with toys, illicit dummies and objets of obscure meaning. The Dirty Ditch, Ivy's happy place, is behind the couch cushions. (The origin of the term is painfully obtuse, but it's all to do with Thomas the Tank Engine, and for a long while there, any time Ivy was addressed, by anybody, she told them, with passion: 'Gordon fell in the dirty ditch.' People were unsure how to reply.)

Teddy fails to shape up as a man of refined sensibilities. He picks up speed by the hour, delights in chewing everything he finds, and his favourite destinations are: the bin, the potty, and the shoe-box. I divert him towards the wonders of the Tupperware drawer.

Ivy, whippet-fast at climbing to any shelf of naughtiness, is caught trying to drink chicken stock, baby panadol and shaking Tic-Tacs into her mouth in a desperate frenzy of badness. Twice.

I retreat, defeated, on the toilet training front after Ivy wets three pairs of jeans by lunchtime. Resign myself to a sea of nappies.

And an ocean of food. Breakfast, lunch, dinner. Morning and afternoon tea. Specific, short-order requests. Washing up that grows like a triffid.

And a mountain of laundry.

I think of this couch as the 'triage zone' where the clean washing goes to be sorted, or to die. It mocks me. I post it here, with shame, as a warning to all.

The Wiggles haunt me. I save the DVD to put on as a last resort, I withhold them as punishment, and I coerce Ivy to bed with the book under her pillow. I know I am spending too much time with the Wiggles when a conversation with my sister goes like this:

me: How tight are Anthony's jeans?

sam: I know. And the booty-shaking in the koala song?

me: Yes, but Sam's head-wiggle is worse. He looks...Parkinsonian.

sam: You know he stole that move from the blonde dancer.

me: Yes! You're right. But do you think it would be weird if I danced a hornpipe at the wedding?

Come to think of it, The Wiggles are absurdist theatre too! Me, The Wiggles and Harold Pinter. I guess that's how I roll.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

pinch me

I slept all night long last night. From 10 until 7am.


Let me write that again, just to enjoy it twice.

I don't think I've slept a full night since the first trimester of the Teddy-Pregnancy, when I started the twice -nightly toilet tango.

All night!

But wait - there's more.

They are both asleep right now! At lunchtime! They haven't slept in the day together since, I don't know, my last leg wax. Um, ages.

I feel like a new woman. But where am I going to get one at this time of day? See, I've even got my sense if humour back! Right, Keith? Right?

Ivy, Ted and I are getting in the wedding spirit. Time to get a-planning.

Fun, fun, fun.

7.30 update

OK, now things are getting wierd. They are both asleep again, leaving me free to watch Will Ferrell wear tight comedy shorts in a desperately forgettable/deeply enjoyable film. And eat Violet Crumbles. I'm beside myself.

Monday, April 6, 2009

Seaside Arts Festival

The Thirroul Seaside Arts Festival was on yesterday, up at a nearby beach, with sculpture, camels, a petting zoo, and overweight dancing teens in spangly hotpants. Fantastic! Ivy had her hair sprayed wild colours and watched the dancing from high atop her favourite donkey.

Teddy rode in style too.

Picnic lunch on the grass, although Ivy didn't want her carrot.

Funny how its value soared when her brother took it.

I had a free foot massage. Delicious. 'What do you do?' asked the footist. 'Look after the kids, mostly,' I said. 'That's good!' she replied. 'God has a special place in his heart for stay-at-home mothers.'

What about company directors? Or dental hygienists? Doesn't seem fair to me. I didn't mention the atheism or the illegitimate offspring. It seemed churlish in the face of the lovely massage. But I think this picture might be about the moment I made the Christian-footwashing-proselytising connection.

At the end of the day, Ivy rode her favourite creature off all - the Big Girl! What a good donkey Moana was.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Sudden Love Tuggles

I am filled with love for my babies today.

Is it because for the first time, last night, I cooked the same meal for both kids? What a milestone! Brown rice pasta and spaghetti bol with hidden veges. Ivy's Wiggles spoon featured too.

I don't think so. It started off well but Teddy just flung his dinner everywhere but his mouth and Ivy didn't eat much although I tried all the tricks (It's Daddy's favourite! The Wiggles eat it! Nanna made it!)She just wanted to play one of her odd games where she pretends to put the food to bed under her arm. She sings to it, kisses it and then puts it back on the plate. It's funny. But it's not nutritious.

Is it because I am so rested?

I don't think that's it. Keith is in Canberra and last night's bedtime panto went something like this:

7pm - Both to bed. Ivy goes straight to sleep. Teddy checks in at the Heartbreak Hotel and cries for half an hour while I go in and comfort him every five minutes or so. Horrible.

8pm - Teddy asleep. Ivy calls out. I keep the room dark and creep in. 'There's a hair in my mouth, Mummy,' she whimpers. I reach blindly in the dark to find her wide open jaws. I poke decisively and say 'All better, off to sleep now.'

9pm - Ivy awakes for a second round. 'Mummy!' she wails. 'There's another hair in my mouth!' Creep, poke, tuck back in.

10.30 - Teddy wakes, hungry. Feed him and tuck him into my bed where he spends the next few hours squirreling closer and closer in until I'm clinging to the last four inches of my side. He wakes every hour or so to wail for his dummy until:

3am - He wakes up, discovers he can reach the blinds above his head and has a wild old time playing for half an hour.

5am - Ivy wakes and calls out. 'I need my eepy, Mummy!' It's under her head. What she meant to say was 'I need to quickly check that you are are still enslaved to my every whim, Mummy.'

5.30 - Teddy is hungry again. I hold him off for a while (I'm still fighting the losing side in a battle to assert a routine) but give in and feed him back to sleep.

7.30 - we're all awake, in bed together and ready to start the day.

It's not logical. It could be sleep-deprived psychosis, but all day long the love has been in the air. Ivy has been saying the funniest things, and every time I turn around Teddy is sitting up, looking pleased with himself.

So we've been playing Sudden Love Tuggles, where we grab each other in a big hug and say 'I love you, I love you, I love you!'

What a good day.