Friday, November 27, 2009

In which Ivy takes etiquette lessons from a first-grade rugby league player, Ted has the plague and I am healed by Craft.

It's been a rough old week. Teddy was hit with a perfect storm of illness- ear infection, chronic diarrhea and four insistent teeth. He spent a lot of time like this.

Meanwhile, Ivy has been pitched in a battle of wills with me over who actually runs the show. (She does. Don't say anything.) The naughty shelf has been looking a lot like this.

Life for a three-year-old is tough. I feel for her - I can see how frustrating it is to operate in what must seem like a set of arbitrary rules. Her capacity to process strong emotion is low, and as she gets bigger, stronger, smarter, she wants to try all these new things. I am like this bitchy bouncer who tells her she's wearing the wrong shoes and stops her from entering the VIP playroom where all the fun stuff is happening. (Matches! Taps! Plastic explosives!) Her fuse: short. Dramatic instinct: high. Emotional time bomb: ticking. Yesterday, although she's fully toilet trained, she did a poo in the hall 'just to see what it looked like.'

In general, I'm having a down week on the parenting front. The relentlessness of it all is getting to me. Mama's-got-the-blues... it's the oldest song in history. I read this great book after Ivy was born, called The Post-Baby Conversation. I've lost or lent it away since (if you love it, set it free...) but it's a great new-parent read, and the authors premise has stuck with me: that becoming a full-time, stay-at-home mum is a JOB, and you must think of it like that.

It helps me. All gigs have their bad days. Their crappy seasons. At least I'm not faced with annoying, flirtatious IT guys and bureaucratic HR chicks on 'forms committees.' And MEETINGS. The problem with modern motherhood is that it's too easy to buy into the myths - mainly that it is utterly fulfilling all of the time; and you can (and should) excel at all aspects of it.
Well, it's not. And I don't.

Not this week, anyway.

So after a couple of days of feeling exhausted, seeing nothing but an endless loop of laundry, antibiotics, apple peels and naughty furniture in my future, I turned to the healing powers of Craft.

I picked up these two bar stools at council clean-up a few months ago.

They were uggers mc-buggers, but very useful for the constant kitchen performances that run liken a thread through my days. (Mums, I know you know that show.) I pulled out the fabric box, found some scrappers, and had a good time inventing how to cover them.

The top sleeve is velcro'd underneath, and the seat cover is sewn with a ring of elastic to pull it tight. The sewing is so rough, but the act itself, and the transfer of my headspace to somewhere a little more creative, has worked.

I feel just a little more able to cope this weekend. And a little alone time is on the cards too, I feel. Ted is recovering,. or should I say, Ted is rockin his best lady-killer pose, and Ivy - oh, I love her, she kills me - won't be three forever. Obsessed with skulls, with Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, and - having watched an episiode of Curb Your Enthusiasm - now telling me 'Won't it be funny when a dog bites Dad on the penis.'

Once you decide not to put your head in the oven, all you can do is laugh.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

No baths tonight, kiddies. Doctors orders.

Clean kids are a health hazard! Hooray. I've always hated that anti-bacterial wipe lifestyle. Makes me think of women who use vaginal deodorant and men that wax...anything.

Via Sach, homebirth advocate and musical hipster.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Higel brings sexy back (to the library.)

This week I returned to Story Time, hoping to improve my reputation. While I sat, feigning interest and thinking about coffee, my friend arrived. Let's call him 'Higel'. He's been present for the Troubles before. Come to think about it, he's probably the ringleader.

While I tried to behave as requested in the pamphlet 'Appropriate Behaviour for Parents and Children in the Library (otherwise known as 'Four Sticks Up My Bum and Counting'), Higel made it impossible by telling me a story that made me dribble from my nose.

Recently Higel, for reasons I chose not to enquire upon, borrowed the new edition of The Joy Of Sex. (His review - bring back the hairy people.) When he returned it, slotted modestly amongst a selection of less liberating literature, he wandered away to browse, and then noticed the librarians gathering around the returns chute.

Sure enough, they had the Joy out, and soon a flock (a shelf? a fine?) of librarians were tittering, pointing and flipping through the mighty tome. (Surely searching for the hairy people.) The group session lasted for a while, and got everybody so het up that they re-shelved the book without stamping it.

Over the next weeks, Higel's fines began to rack up.

In the end, he had to have a little chat with the librarian at the centre of the saucy huddle, tell her what he had witnessed and request that they stamp the book, take the fines off his card, and if possible, put back the hairy people.

While Higel told me this story, his girlfriend 'Histie', just returned from a shopping trip, pulled a fancy new bra out of her bag to show us.

I'm not so scared to return next week - I 'm pretty sure that Higel and Histie have surpassed my pedestrian brand of bad behaviour in terms of the tea-room gossip. What's a bit of parental neglect when faced with Mr Curious and his lady wife's kernickers?

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Sweet pencil-wraps.

Check out these beautiful handmade pencil wraps for creative little fingers - a lovely Christmas present perhaps? Bianca is giving one away if you visit her blog in the next few days.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

A happy mummy-moment.

Some weeks as a parent can leave me feeling leached of life-force, mentally foetally-positioned, cursing Supernanny and rocking back and forth, muttering 'IUD, diaphragm, IUD, diaphram, pill....'

But then there are other weeks.

The ones where I feel like things might be on track.

This has been one of those weeks.

Ivy has made the transistion into a big bed, enrolled in the most beautiful pre-school after a long, thoughtful time of planning, and her sleep-time dummy has been sent, wrapped and beribboned, to the fairy babies.

We went on a walk to the letterbox after we wrapped the dummy and wrote the fairy babies a nice letter wishing them well. Ivy clutched her package all the way and kept up her usual running commentary on life. (Current favourite resonse to my every statement: 'But that doesn't make any sense.' )

At the postbox I felt overcome with a surge of emotion. I picked Ivy up and wrapped her in a hug. 'I'm so proud of you, Ivy, 'I said, a bit teary. 'You're such a wonderful 3-year old, and you're getting so grown up. Now you're in a big bed, you'vre going to go to a beautiful litle school soon, and you're even giving your dummy to the fairy babies. What a great girl you're turning into.'

Ivy doesn't always tune into the same emotional frequency as me. But today, with a wide, proud smile, she hugged me back, and I knew she'd really registered. It felt like a layer of love settled on her, like all the work of mothering had coalesced into a moment. It felt like the enthusiastic love I shower on her, even if I get other stuff wrong, is helping her to feel proud and strong somewhere deep inside, and building reserves for whatever her future brings.
And that, my buddies, is a good feeling.

Monday, November 16, 2009

The case against cheap olive oil

Simple, Frugal, Green Co-Op is an interesting blog made up of about half a dozen writers with an ecological bent. This post on what passes for 'olive oil' is a useful one.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Wedding - A Flapper Topper

Check it out: this beautiful cake topper was made by Californian Etsy artist Erin Tinney. She perfectly captured my request, with matching outfits, tiny flapper jewellery, and two sweet babies sitting at our feet. This arrived just in the nick of time, and I had to hide it from Keith because it showed the colour of my dress...

My sister Sam organised and beautifully decorated the cake and the always-reliable Mick and Bronnie picked it up for us after a last minute panic. Behind the cake you can see some of the 150 fine bone china cake plates that me, Mum, Sam, and half the women in our familes were collecting for months. What to do with them now, I wonder?

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Hairy Maclary and Spoon make me laugh, and laugh, and laugh.

One of my favourite bloggers wrote such a funny post about the corkers her 4-year-old has been spouting lately. It got me thinking about some of Ivys recent gags.

1. While playing silly-bananas with her and Ted, I pretended to make my leg ring. Ivy rang her own leg, paused, then picked up her foot like a phone. 'Hello?' she said, then put it down. 'There's nobody there, Mum!'

2. Yesterday we had a wardrobe battle (Ivy wanted to wear her Thomas singlet to the Montessori enrolment, and I tried to explain that we didn't want to give full and frank expression of ourselves at this early stage.) 'But Mama!' she shouted. 'I has to keep my LUNGS WARM!'

3. The hysterical meltdown she had after falling off a chair - I was near to calling the ambulance and trying to decipher the gasping sentence she kept repeating as I soothed 'Poor Ivy, oh honey, poor Ivy.' Finally I made sense of it. 'Poor Hairy Maclary!' she was sobbing. 'Poor HAIRY MACLARY!'

4. The whole day she spent calling Teddy 'Spoon' after one game of Hey Diddle Diddle.

5. The conversation we had on the toilet. 'Those are not poos, Mummy, they are ducks. And the mother duck is my vagina. And she is sad that they have all gone away.'

Here she is this morning, just hanging out on the little couch with Spoon.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

The state of me.

I'm so excited about New From Old and Handmade Home, the books I just ordered. Hoopdy-doo! Our loveable neighbours Helen and Bruce gave us Amazon and Bunnings vouchers for wedding presents. Inspired.

So I've got that books-in-the-mail anticipation...

Two sleeping kiddos (one working through some new teeth, and one sleeping off the naughty attack that preceded bedtime)...

A lonely bed and hobo dinner (cold sausages and tomato sauce) while Keith is in Canberra...

And L Word, season 3 to enjoy.

Hope you're all having a good Tuesday too.

Monday, November 9, 2009

My child has Multiple Personality Disorder. Yours?

November column for CoastKids magazine

The doctors gave me some pretty strong drugs in the hospital before I gave birth to Ivy via caesarean. Even so, I’m fairly sure that she wasn’t born a middle-aged, perma-tanned man in a blue skivvy. Yet Ivy insists on being called Anthony (famous amongst certain mothers of my acquaintance as being the Wiggle with the tightest pants.)

In public, I’m never sure what Ivy will answer when asked her name. She has a number of alter-egos, and they rise and fall in status, depending on her mood, and the laundry-needs of the Anthony shirt, the Woody scarf and the Wiggles shorts. We might go weeks living with Hairy Maclary, when Ivy will bark in response to any question, and there was a long Toy Story phase where she insisted her name was Woody, and Ted, faithful baby sidekick, became ‘Bazz,’ (Buzz Lightyear, through the language-distorter of a two-year-old.) ‘Bazz can’t walk!’ Ivy would laugh. ‘Bazz can’t talk! Bazz has food all over his face!’

It wasn’t her kindest of phases, truth be known.

Ivy is a marketers dream. An advertising sponge. Her favourite outfit looks like this: Sportacus underpants worn beneath a pair of satin Wiggles boxer shorts she found at Vinnies (a discovery that nearly made her implode with joy.) A Thomas the Tank Engine singlet (too small, too much washed), topped with a stretched-out, over-loved blue long-sleeved top known as ‘Anthony’. Ivy keeps a running commentary on its progress through the laundry system. ‘My Anthony is wet! My Anthony is on the line! My Anthony is dry! I think it is dry!’ This ensemble she tops with a pair of sunglasses I made her for her birthday that feature two Wiggles stuck on straws, leaping, maniacally and permanently, off the side of her head. (Yes, but my job is to make her happy, even when it pains me.)

How did this happen, I wonder? I try and keep her TV to a minimum. She watches ABC Kids, so at least I can avoid commercials. She watches Wiggles DVDs when I’m about to pop a parent-fuse. She’s only seen about four movies and I hardly ever buy her branded clothes and toys. But the synapse that stores pop-culture, pre-school style, is somehow set on overdrive.

I’m thankful that her most recent passion, Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, predates the discovery of advertising pester power. True to form, Ivy has taken her obsession totally, pathologically, over the top. ‘Who are me, Daddy? Who are me, Mum?’ she begs ten times a day, hopping with anticipation at the answer she finds so delightful. ‘Jemima Potts?’ we answer patiently (it’s getting a little old to us.) ‘Yes! Yes!’ she cries. ‘And Teddy is Jeremy! And Daddy is… (Caractacus Potts is a mouthful so we get many versions here) Connecticalls! Caracaracs! Acticus!’ She may sing the theme song for a while here, doing her special Chitty dance (hands behind her back, Michael-Flatley style) and then spend a moment enjoying the replay of a favourite scene or two in her head. Then: ‘Who are me, Daddy? Who are me, Mum?’

They say that life can be hard for those close to a person with Multiple Personality Disorder, and for Ted, this may be true. To Ivy’s Jemima Potts, he is Jeremy. To her Woody, he is Bazz. And when she is Hairy MacLary, he must suffer the indignity of being introduced as Schnitzel Von Krumm. I suffer too. I’ve had to be Bottomley Potts, covered in spots, and Muffin McClay, like a bundle of hay. It’s not always flattering being introduced by Ivy. But my happiest days, in this surreal theatre of Ivy’s creating, are the Chitty Chitty Bang Bang ones, when she insists on calling me Truly Scrumptious, over and over and over again.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Wedding - A Coledale Romance (the movie).

There's a bit of a tradition amongst my posse to perform in different ways on occasions of signifigance in each others lives. Here is the movie that my buddies made for my 20's wedding cabaret - edited and put together by the magnificent Lucy. My only regret about this wonderful little film is that I missed the parties my buddies had secretly putting it together. Oh, how I laughed - especailly at the scene where the boys imagine a day in Keith's work life. (ps- My name's really Rachael: that's me in the 'R' hat.)

Thanks, you guys!

Friday, November 6, 2009

An open letter to the librarian who put the local mothers in the naughty corner today.

I know that often I appear as though I have been dragged through a hedge backwards. I agree that my one-year-old son has developed something of an obsession with the Harlequin romance rack, and I apologise if you have found ‘Italian Housekeeper, Billionaire Boss’ filed away under Healthy Living. I’m equally sorry for the time my 3-year old sat in a chair next to your children’s librarian while she read, holding a different book under her nose and repeating ‘Not that one. Read this one. Not that one. Read this one.’ Obviously I should have stopped her earlier but I really, really had to nip out to the coffee cart.

I did not give you my pompous look of death (pow!) some weeks ago when you handed my friends and I pamphlets entitled ‘Appropriate Behaviour in The Library for Parents and Children.’

But when you stopped Story Time today to deliver a lecture to the gathered crowd of parents, I felt you had gone just too far. I’d like to take this opportunity to let you know what I would have said had I a) been quick off the mark; b) had the balls or c) didn’t really, really just have to nip out to the coffee cart.

I’d like to address your concerns, one by one.

I cannot hear the librarian read! You are causing a disturbance!

Um, no. It’s possible you’ve spent too long in a bubble where whispering is the norm and a little heated bitching about people writing in margins is as hot as it gets. Four women discussing breastfeeding and nit shampoo is not Girls Gone Wild.

Story Time is not an entertainment service for your children.

Yes! Yes it is! We spend all day with these small people. When you sit on a chair and read them a book, you release us from our duty of care so we can stand up the back and converse with big humans. For many of us, this is the only clear back-forth pattern of information exchange we will enjoy all day, as opposed to a surreal series of words strung together and featuring The Wiggles. Is it entertaining? That’s up for debate. (Shazam!)

Story Time is a professional literary program!

All respect, lady, but singing ‘heads, shoulders, knees and toes’ and then reading a couple of Mem Fox tales doesn’t make you pre-school Harvard. Actually it’s nothing that the parents in your audience aren’t doing four times a day anyway, with funny voices, while simultaneously making dinner, folding washing and listening to a program on Radio National about sun bears, or the financial crisis, or vegetable uprisings – or, well, they can’t really hear the radio. That’s not the point. This is the point: get over yourself. And get the carrot out of your bum. Use some more of my taxes if it needs surgery.

Thank you.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

An inspiring talk on creativity. Ole!

This 20-minute talk appeared to me, as messages should, from two places simultaneously : mamamia and marvellous kiddo. It features Elizabeth Gilbert author of eat, pray, love (a book so zeitgeisty, so bestsellery that you want to hate it, but so good you read it twice.) Gibert herself is as loveable as a bag of mongrel puppies.

Here she talks about - her words -'the maddening capriciousness of the creative process" and how to basically, get over yourself. Oh, I love that. I watched this with a warm sleeping Ted on my lap, and made him jump at the end when I spontaneously shouted "Ole!'

I hope you do too.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Love, love, love, love, love.

The Wedding - first report from a reformed fornicator.

I'm back! No longer a sinful fornicator, but a WOIFE.

The pics are floating in, but all small so far, will post the best I can. And the post-wedding report will be as random and patchy as my return to pre-wed life, I'm afraid. All went well - it was an absolute blast - but I am broken afterwards.

The heart, it is happy. But the bod - it has collapsed. I have never, ever been so stressed. The wedding was a 20's themed party with after-dinner cabaret. Details later - and some clips too.

A snapshot: 5 minutes before the ceremony pictured, I was on the floor of the hall up the road, with two screaming children on my lap. My friend Dr Lucy had just pierced my ears with an ice cube. I wasn't dressed, the kids weren't dressed and I had so many stress hormones coursing through my veins that I felt moments from soiling myself in a number of ways.

The kids were swept away, I was dragged to the change room where my mum and sister threw my frock on and we all searched for the Hollywood tape that was needed to hold my bra to my dress. No tape. 'Take it off! Take your bra off!' yelped Sam, and so I did. (Presciently, it turned out, when our friend Mick performed a song at the cabaret with these lyrics; 'She's a whitey in jeans, she's an outlaw, she don't wear a bra...' One of my favourite surreal moments.)

So the lead-up was panic.

But the actual ceremony was beautiful, the cabaret went well, and Keith and I interpreted our relationship through dance... Clip to come. Honeymoon was flu-central. Chitty Chitty Bang Bang and tissues on the couch. But we're home now, and bit by bit, I'm sorting through the chaos to return to a peaceful life.

As wife!