Friday, December 17, 2010

The Imaginarium of Doctor Naughtybuttons

Last week, we were talking about Christmas and it suddenly occured to me that I may have been neglecting a corner of Ivy's education about life.

'Have you heard of Jesus, Ivy?' I said.

'Genies?' she asked excitedly.

'No, Jesus,' I said. 'Little baby Jesus?'

'No,' she replied. 'Who's that?'

'Well, some people think he's excellent,' I said. 'They think he's the son of God and he was born at Christmas, so they celebrate.'

She was silent for a few minutes.

Is he like a genie?'

'No,' I said. 'He's a religous leader of great meaning to millions of Christian people.'

She mulled this over for a while.

'But can you tell me about genies, Mum?'

'Well, they live in tea-pots and if you rub the teapot they come out and grant you three wishes,' I said. Ivy's face took on the familiar fervour of passion. It was like Thomas, the Wiggles and the Jurrasic period were all delivered to her on a giant blueberry.

'Here are my grant-wishes, Mum', she said. 'A walking apple, a baby made just for kids, and a pineapple pie.'

Ever since, Ivy has refined and elaborated on her grant-wishes. I thought I'd explained that genies live in the land of imagination, but I forgot that the line between magic and reality for the four-year old is tissue-thin. Last night, she begged Keith to talk about genies, and so he wove a tale about an old, dusty teapot in the back of the cupboard.

This morning, Ivy jumped into the big bed. 'I know my grant-wishes, Mum!' she shouted. 'I want a yellow sewing machine made for four-year-old and five-year-olds, a real baby for me to play with and all the dinosaurs as a pet!'

Then she hounded me out of bed and made me search for tea-pots in the cupboard. I found two, and we sat on the floor and rubbed the first one. 'Genie, genie, talk to me,' I droned. 'Grant me wishes: one, two, three!' Ivy threw open the lid and looked inside. 'Not today,' I said.

Teddy did the next one. 'Genie, genie, what you do, wake up!' he sang. Ivy looked inside that lid too, desperately, and even checked the spout for a curl of dusty smoke, and then her little heart broke.

'Oh no!' she wailed as she threw herself on the rug and cried with the painful realisation that no pet dinos or babies were forthcoming. 'Ivy-cakes, genies aren't real,' I said. 'They just live in books and in games. But they are still wonderful.'

Two honey crumpets and a game of Snap later, she'd recovered.

Ah; four. I love it.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Oh Hello

My friend Lisa sent me this link today. I like. If I may explain myself briefly:

a. My camera is busted, and I'm slowly, surely losing the habit of recording small moments in daily life. Then I'm not reminded to write about them either. I miss it; especially since the weather has been so delightful lately, inspiring Ivy and Ted to constantly get their gear off and play the game they call Hug-Running (a game I'd like to offer as a potential key exercise in Middle East peace negotiations. )

c. Keith is still computer-less, so I don't have free access to Miz Scarlett the laptop.

b. Right now the feeding, cuddling and picking up after my little friends is taking all my available space. Life needs me for living, so I'll have to put off the record-keeping for a little bit. For instance Ivy told me her wish-list today: a walking apple, a baby made just for kids to play with and a pineapple pie. She found a dead caterpillar this morning, put it in a Tupperware container, called it I Love You and took it to bed. Teddy The Bear, meanwhile, is developing a comedic sensibility. This week he said to the fridge 'Knock knock. Who there. Dinner!'and every night he makes the same joke at the table: Ébby-body eat poo-bum!' Champagne comedy. I am so very proud.

I send you kisses and I urge you to add some Hug-Running to your life.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Alive and Kicking Limply

Fellas, I'm sorry I've been so silent. I don't have time to gather my thoughts right now. I hope you are all well, but I'm in the land of overwhelm this week. I'll recap Nerd-Vember for you later, but for now, it's a distant memory of a sweet, forgotten past.

Keith has gone back to work with a bang. The first week back he was gone for four days, taking my computer with him - his stupid one was busted and his pesky breadwinner status took precedence over my social networking and blog-whining.

So there I was with no husband, unending days of monsoonal rain, no radio (I can only pick up a good signal by Internet streaming), no DVD player to soothe the little monsters, I mean darlings, and none of the little mini-moments I take throughout the day to balance out what can be a crazy-making lifestyle of clutter-management and ruthless behaviour-modification-training, I mean calm and relaxed parenting.

See, even my sentences are overwrought.

I have spent this week losing my shizzle in small ways. When I packed the swimming-lesson bag last week I forgot the small but critical elements of a bra and undies for me to wear once I took off my wet cozzie. I had to put on my jeans and a light, clingy sweater with nothing underneath, and go and do the food shopping. I was flying free as a bird and it was pouring with rain. Let's just say that the small number of men who found themselves in the largely female land of Bi-Lo on a Weekday lunchtime got an unexpectedly graphic little show in the melon section.

I'm tired. I'm trying to keep organised and on top of the Christmas planning, making, shopping and list-refining. I'm hopelessly drowning in clutter as I try to simultaneously redecorate Ivy;s room, pack and sort the winter clothes, cull the toys and sew Christmas presents.

PS - A word of advice. If you have a t-shirt that reads 'always be reading something that will make you look good in case you die in the middle of it', think before throwing it on, because one of your friends will ask you and you will be forced to admit that currently you are revisiting Jackie Collins seminal work 'The Stud.'**

PPS - we have nits.

PPPS - First world problems, all. I know.

** Sorry

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Naughty Buttons. You Is Driving Me Mental.

The end of Nerd-Vember is almost upon us. I may cry. Can I tell you, fellas, that the secret to life with two small children is that neither one of you has a job to go to, or friends, or commitments outside the home. You can spend all day tending to the offspring, painting walls, languishing in the bath, cooking, writing novels. It is perfect.

But more on that later.

Right now, I must unload that amongst all this feckless indolence, there is the small matter of the tiny wildebeest Ivy driving me insane.

In the membrane.


Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Toilet Training (Second Time Round.)

This post originally appeared as a column in Practical Parenting, November 2010

As summer heats up, mothers of two-year-olds around the country turn their thoughts to toilet training. My little Teddy will be excited, I’m sure. He’s spent almost all his life wrapped in nappies, so a season of letting it all hang out will be a wonderful treat to him. As it is, when disrobed, he is always pleased to regard his own naked glory. ‘Pea-nitz, Mama!’ he shouts with delight. ‘Lookit! Pea-nitz!’

Me, I’m not so thrilled. My memories of toilet training his big sister are still quite fresh, and somewhat fruity. Ivy has always been an independent creature. She does things her own way. So our toilet training didn’t go exactly as they counselled in the parenting books. One particularly ‘helpful’ manual advised me not to worry if there were ‘a few accidents’ in the first week or so. A few! I should be so lucky. Ivy wee’d her way around the house, the car and the neighbourhood with gay abandon like a merry, unpredictable little sprinkler.

For a whole summer, Ivy waged what could only be described as a Wee War with me. When she eventually, on her own terms, decided to focus her efforts fully on the toilet, my nerves - and the sort furnishings - had taken quite the battering.

Mainly Ivy’s decorative efforts were confined to the liquid kind. Usually she managed to poo in the potty; but not always. One day Keith noticed she had that thousand-mile-stare as she leaned against the couch.

'Are you doing a poo, Ivy?' he said.

'No, daddy, I just relaxing,' she replied, and then looked shamefaced as a little nugget fell out of the leg of her pants.

Just then I came home from the shop.

'What's up?' I said.

'I did a shorts in my poo, Mummy,' she said.

Another afternoon I come unexpectedly upon a steamy little offering in the hallway. ‘Why is there a poo on the floor, Ivy?’ I asked helplessly. ‘I just wanting to see what it’s look like,’ she told me.

Ivy was particularly good at the psychological aspect of warfare. She would wee on the couch cover, which spent more time on the line that summer than in the house, and when it was removed, would stealthily lay a little egg on the cushion itself. One memorable evening there was an Incident in the bath. It involved Ivy standing up, wailing, a little nugget in each hand, as Keith called for help and tried to stop her putting her fingers in her mouth. The next day she talked about the chocolate Daddy wouldn't let her eat in the bath. I think in toddler-therapy they call it a 'disconnect.'

The weeks passed. The Wee War limped on. Ivy refused to go to the toilet at the park, but instead climbed into the driver’s seat before we went home and let the rivers run. She merrily went though four or five pairs of Thomas the Tank engine underpants a day. I hopelessly tried to keep on top of the groaning laundry and the secret corner-tinkling. ‘Mummy is a bit angry,’ Ivy would say conversationally, with her hand on my shoulder. ‘OK, where is the wee?’ I would wearily reply; cloth and floor-spray in hand.

Will it be easier dealing with a little boy and his pea-nitz? Will it be a summer full of fruity bath-bombs, and a lingering fragrance of Eau-de-Puppy-Shelter? The double-covers are on the couch and I’m prepared for battle, dear readers. I’ll keep you posted.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

The Ladies! The Ladies!

Before Ivy was born, I used to be a really social cat. But since motherhood, I've retreated more and more into the domestic nest and now I am happiest on those days when I don't have to set foot outside the front door.

Sometimes I am so grateful that I waited until I was 75 to have children, because tiny children come with invisible ties that bind you to the home; specifically, to the kitchen and the washing machine. Now I love those ties. I like making my own laundry liquid, a full pantry brings me joy and sitting with a cup of tea to plan a weekly menu is, to me, what snorting a gram of cocaine off the thighs of a nubile virgin may be to Gene Simmons. A rocking good time. But these little domestic ties would have have felt like the shackles of hell to Young Me.

When Ivy was three months old, we moved to a little beach town an hour or two south of Sydney and fell, to our joy, into a fabulous little community of like-minded bobos, bogans and beloved fruitcakes. But every once in a while, I feel the need to take off up the highway, sans babies, and see my Ladies, where we exchange information, pics, gossip and warm, fuzzy love.

Love is the drug, my friends! And the loving love of a loving lady; nay, a pile of them - a cuddle-puddle! An overload of oestrogenated bosom-boasters! Well, that is the loveliest love of all.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

The Power of Nobby Enthusiasm

We took the kiddoes to the circus yesterday. It was a blast except for the part where they squirmed and complained all through the second half. And cried when the clown threw water on them. Oh, and the part where Ivy wept loudly all the way home because she didn't get a Popper.

Still, it gave me some good ideas. And this morning, I implemented some circus-style parenting. 'Come!' I invited Teddy. 'Climb this stool and begin to sort the Cutlery of Fun! You can place these forks in a drawer and before your very eyes, the drawer will be full and the cutlery holder will be empty!'

'Behold, ' I said to Ivy. 'I have prepared for you the Washing Of Excitement! If you empty this basket and place the laundry into piles corresponding to members of the household, you will get a Star on your Chart Of Rewards! And more! You may spend a full ten minutes in the Fancy Baskets of Bunnings Aisle 4 pretending to fly to Dinosaur Land!'

My friends, it worked. I did have to expend a certain amount of energy jollying along and ring-mastering while I did the washing up, but the laundry was sorted, the cutlery was put away, and to be sadly honest, they had perhaps a better time than they did at the actual, hunnerd-dollar circus.

Finally, the game they chose to play in the washing baskets was called Let's Pretend To Sleep.
I may have found my Holy Grail.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Teddy's First Heartbreak.

Poor Teddy is suffering through his first serious loss. Yesterday his dummies all went to the fairy babies down the bottom of of the garden.

Ted's love for Pink One, Green One and Blue One was deep. Once I watched him take one dummy out of his mouth, turn to another and say lovingly 'Your turn.' His love was passionate, but non-exclusive.

He was right into the whole plan to deliver his dummies to the needy fairy babies, just like his big sister had done. 'E-scawy babies want my dummy, mama' he's been saying for a few days. Yesterday the big exchange came.

I felt a little like a heartless salesman ensnaring a hapless sap into a Ponzi scheme as I led Ted with his little bag down to the bottom of the garden. He could talk the talk, but you can see here that his understanding of the fine print of the deal he was entering was limited.

The fairy babies left Ted a present - a big blue dog with cuddly arms and legs to replace his lost plastic friends. Initially, Ted was excited by Big Dog, but when he went to bed last night, he really struggled with his loss.

He took an hour to get to sleep and he tried all his tricks, one by one. Keith and I took turns. 'I dot poo-bum, Mummy!', he tried first; then - bush-baby style: 'I dot tick, Mummy!' and finally, hopelessly: 'But I haffa watch Masterchef!' He furiously rejected our weak replacement. 'Big Dog det outa the bed!'he ordered, weeping. Finally, after a full bedside Wiggles concert, he fell asleep.

I woke him from his sleep this afternoon and he stumbled to his feet and then finished the dance move that he's been doing in some sort of Saturday Night Fever dream. His face was blank but his bod was popping. He was a happy little man, and there was no mention of the dummies. Ah, Ted, will your heartbreaks always be so intense, yet so easily overcome?

Friday, November 12, 2010

The Madness of Motherhood?

I've always been a fan of Erica Jong, ever since I read Fear of Flying as a breathless Catholic teenager.

I love a fiesty dame. Recently she wrote this New York Times article on modern motherhood, and her perspective, as always, made me think. Even when I don't agree with the content of a feminist rant, I will always support a womans right to get shouty. And I understand where these second-wave feminists struggle with the new breed; the bobo, bread-bakey, home-makey, earnest mamas of the current Western zeitgeist. (Guilty as charged.) Jong and her crew fought for women to have choices outside of the home. And here their daughters and grand-daughters are, embracing the kitchen that they emancipated us from.

I thank Jong and her sisterhood for giving me the choice to be at home with Ted and Ivy. I don't feel lessened or sidelined by that choice. But the modern world of parenting is a funny beast, and the opinions of strident women like her, and the French writer Elizebeth Badinter (whose theory 'give the baby a bottle and have a drink and a smoke too, if you feel like it', is sadly missing in the parenting books I've been reading) are important voices.

I think its is time for this examination of modern parenting mores. I worry about the give-me-attachment-or-give-me-death school of thought. Even though I agree with most of its precepts, it always seems to me that Mum comes last in this thinking. Can't you put the damn baby down? Can't you let it cry for ten minutes? Will it really be scarred for life? Really?

Trends in parenting theory will come and go, but what remains consistent is that the whole caper is hard work. Most of the mums I know these days struggle between twin poles of guilt: when I'm house-working, I should be playing with the kids, and when I'm playing, I should be cleaning the house. I am always reading little quotes and thoughts along the lines of 'The dust bunnies will still be there tomorrow. Don't feel guilty about using that precious time to build Lego castles...' Well, frankly, I don't. I congratulate myslef when I'm building the Lego castles. That's fine mothering, dammit! My guilt comes when I'm sacked out at the end of the day watching Wife Swap (I may have mentioned this before once or twice) and the laundry is piled, unfolded on the lounge.

Attachment, helicopter, free-range or unschooling parents are all still just people. Idiosyncratically flawed. That's why all families are different. Me, sometimes I am energetic, affectionate and creative. Sometimes I am buggered, moody and reliant on ABC2. Sometimes Keith is a brilliant mind of his generation. Sometimes he is a grumpy man watching football on the couch in his underpants. I'm not perfect, the kids aren't perfect and our parenting isn't either.

Do the best you can, says Jong at the end of her article. There are no rules.

Hooray for shouty feminists.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

In Which Keith Finds His Inner Hemingway and Ivy Regresses to Potty Town

The novel is limping forward but I seem to be able only to write camp, nobby comedy or black nights of the soul. I don't like my characters yet. It is in fact quite difficult to write a book. Who knew? It is, however, fun to sit around with Keith reading out snatches of our attempts to each other.

How I love my oddball husband. He has found his inner Hemingway and is getting drunk on Cointreau every night and hammering out pages of his novel, a coming-of-age tale about a young nerdy physics student. He is really finding the voice of a character called Choo Choo Delaney. I am equal parts admiration and concern at his ability to inhabit the soul of a ritzy middle aged boiler.

Life at home with Ivy and T-Bone has been a bit full-on. Ivy is covered in some sort of allergic hives and has missed a couple of days of pre-school. No idea of the cause. Ted is throwing objects around the house like a lunatic discus champion, and remains obsessed with the colour yellow. We pulled the potty out of the shed for him. He's a little confused by it but Ivy has greeted it like a long-lost friend. Three times this week she's handed me the plastic insert and said 'I did a big poo in that Mum. You'd better give it a wash.'

Otherwise, life at home on holidays is paradise. Today I made asparagus, poached eggs, home-made Hollandaise and fresh-baked bread for lunch, and Keith and I played footsies on the couch while catching up on the hilarious stylings of Curb your Enthusiasm.

Hope your Nerd-vembers are travelling well too.

Sunday, October 31, 2010

30 Days Hath Nerd-Vember

My buddies, the posts may be sporadic for the next month.

Keith starts a big 2-year project on December 1st, so he's taken the next 30 days off work. We are using the time to drop out of life. No parties, no dinners, no social happenings. No travelling, no visiting, no jaunts away.

It's time for us to embrace the life of full-time nerdy homebodies. SO EXCITED!

We are hanging out at the ranch, doing a few little reno's, playing with the babies and we are both going to write novels. At least, we are going to write 1000 words a day, pushing ever forward, on two heartbreaking works of staggering genius. Or ill-plotted collections of humiliating poo-poo.

Who knows?

Our novelist careers start tomorrow. Tonight, we've been out for a last hurrah at the Bowlo where Keith won Player of the Year in his soccer team and Teddy wore the full costume of a cross-dressing sailor.

I'll try and update, but if I'm sporadic, it's because I'm deep in another zone.

I'll be back.

Love youse all.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

The Joy Of Supermarket

This post originally appeared in Practical Parenting Magazine, October 2010

Lots of people really, really hate shopping with kids. Not me. I like to get out and about running errands with my two tiny buddies. Sure, it can take complex preparation, mild painkilling medication, and an injection of takeaway coffee (straight into the vein, if I can find a specialty barista.) But once I give over to the chaos, the supermarket is the last place left for this Mama to get a consumer kick. When you add people and subtract income from a family budget, there’s not much room left for days spent skipping blithely through a food court with boutique bags weighing down the wrist. A trolley full of nappy wipes and capsicums is the next best thing.

There are two factors that keep my shopping expeditions on track: preparation, and the art of Zen. I am armed heavily with snacks, and have come to terms with the fact that I left control of my life at the doors of the birthing suite. I’m ready for any situation to go in any possible direction, at any minute. Currently, I am prepared for this:

3. The kids will laugh in the face of logic.

Teddy doesn’t like me to place my hands on the trolley handle when pushing it through the supermarket. ‘No, Mama, no hands,’ he orders every time I try and move us along. ‘There are laws of physics, darling,’ I explain gently. ‘Mummy can’t move the trolley though my powers of mind control.’ ‘Stop HANDS, Mama!’ he insists. It is taking us a long time at present to complete a circuit of BiLo.

1. The kids will embarrass me in inventive ways.

Recently, searching the aisles for some random item, I spotted a young shelf-packer. ‘Excuse me, ‘I said, rolling up to him with Teddy in the toddler seat. ‘Do you know where…?’ Shelf-Boy looked up, and in that moment, Ted reached out and pulled my top down to my waist, exposing a full expanse of once-white bra. Time slowed.

I grappled with Teddy, simultaneously proud and horrified that he seemed to have developed the grip of a professional walnut-cracker. The moment was interminable. ‘Never mind,’ I eventually choked out and drove on, knockers out and waving in the wind, to the muted strains of Michael Buble. It’s true that Keith and I like to call the Canadian crooner ‘Swinging Bubes’, but on that occasion Teddy really took things a step too far.

2. The kids will win.

One memorable day, Ivy – aged two - threw the worst tantrum she’d ever had. It went for forty full minutes. In between shrieking fits, she did quiet moaning exercises, gathering energy for the next attack. I tried desperately to ignore it all, and as it wound down into small hiccoughing gulps, attempted some positive psychology. 'Ivy, you've done a good job controlling yourself for the last few minutes. If you can keep up this happy behavior you can have a balloon from the lady at the door.’ On the way home, with my Stern Voice on, I said ‘Ivy, that was very, very naughty, what you did at the shops. What was going on there?' Ivy was happy to talk though what she learned. 'I did cry and cry and cry, ' she said thoughtfully. 'And then Mummy did give me a balloon.’

Monday, October 25, 2010

2 Million Creationists Can't Be Wrong

Usually, I don't make a habit of taking advice from conservative Christian fundamentalists. But on Wife Swap yesterday, an earnest god-botherer was talking about looking after her house and family 'with joy in her heart'.

I had a pretty rough weekend, with some worrying stuff in it, and on Sunday, I struggled so hard to find my happy face. I shouted at Teddy 'Please just let me go to the toilet!' I wished that everybody would just Leave Me Alone. I was generally cranky and exhausted. So everybody had a not-so-good day.

And it was our wedding anniversary.


This morning I decided that the crazy lady from Wife Swap really talked a damn lot of sense. And I've decided to try and find the joy in my heart today. We'll try the anniversary again next week I think.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Little Buggers.

I've been having a poor mental health day. My sweet children have had their bodies taken over by sophisticated aliens programmed to wear away my will to live.

This is dinner.

This is some quiet painting I set up so I could hang out the washing. It took me an hour to clean up the children and the deck.

This is me on the inside.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

For Ivy Scout, On The Occasion Of Her Fourth Birthday

Dear Miss Ivy,

Both your Dad and I were pretty damn fiercely independent before you came along. It's probably hard for you to imagine that now, given that we don't like leaving the house, and we wear pajamas everywhere. In fact, in my heart, I know that when you turn fourteen and I say 'You know, Mum used to be pretty hip to what the youngsters got up to in the juice bars', you'll give me a look.

Any the how. We were independent. Happily, happily independent. We put off the settling down and breeding for a long time, but when we finally got down to it, we looked at each other in amazement and said 'Why did we wait so long?'

You, my sweet, eccentric, intense little bird, were an incredible gift to Daddy and me from the first minute we saw you. The most beautiful baby ever (swear! objectively!), you turned us inside out and upside down and squeezed our toes through our belly buttons. When we weren't weeping with sleep deprivation, we were teary at the wonder, the mystery, the beauty of you. You took us to the doors of psychosis, you put our raw selves on display, you threw unblinking, honest morning light onto our relationship, and you made us into parents.

This week, you turned four.


At four, you are fantastic. You are just Last month, one of Daddy's work colleagues said warmly ‘Tell me about little Ivy. Is she three? I bet it’s a pink and frilly Princess-land at your place.’ Not so much, Daddy replied, as he tried to explain your interests in blood, bones, death and dinosaurs.

At four, you are full of affection, and like to shout 'I love everybody in the whole world!' When you meet somebody new, you often still nervously stick out your tongue and lift up your shirt. I like to think it's your way of saying 'Look, man, I'm not packing.'

At four, you love to cook with me, and cuddle up to watch Junior Masterchef, our special show. This year, we've decided to start getting professional. I've bought you your own kids cookbook, and I'm going to be your soux-chef as we cook our way through it. (Teddy can be our dish pig, OK? We'll pay him in cake mix. )

At four your creative vision is inexhaustible, and you're not afraid of controversy. Your favourite character is the Black Ghost, who could kill everybody in the whole world. Often, he wears only a mask.

At four, you love to talk to your friend in the mirror. 'Hi!' you say. 'How are you? Fine, how are you? Fine, how are you? Fine, how are you? Fine, how are you?'

At four, you are smart and innovative. You don't need a lot of fancy equipment to make a cubby, or a shopping trolley, or roller skates.

At four, you are bursting with ideas and hopes and dreams for the future, but your happiest place right now is tucked, safe and warm, in the arms of your Daddy and your stuffed dog Dodo.

Happy birthday beautiful Ivy Cakes. You made me a Mum and I'm so grateful. I love you bigger than a Brachiosaurus.


Friday, October 15, 2010

Bloodied Fangs of Carnivorous Delight. Plus Chocolate.

My oh-so-nearly-four-year-old has recently entered the obsessive land of dinosaur love.

She has a favourite book that belonged to Keith as a child, and she can stare at the page where the T-Rex is viciously disemboweling the Stegosaurus for long, loving minutes. She marks this page with a green clothes peg so she can come back to it easily.

When she's upset she says 'I have felt this sadness longer than a Diplodocus.' And when we play Doctors she is invariably at the clinic because a dinosaur bit her leg off.

Birthday party tomorrow. I've been freezing tarts, constructing fairy cakes, wrapping parcels, shopping for stickers, and digging out the Best Dress. Okay, from the hand-washing basket. But it's been nicely aired.

Most importantly: today I've been working on the dino-cake. I hope he doesn't scare the other children, and I hope the bloodied pig doens't offend the vegetarian, but my aim is to make joyful the heart of my tiny emo, so I went for the bloody fangs of death.

Luckily I have a scientist at hand for pattern-making.

Poor Tyrannosauus had to step aside for dinner prep.

And I have my friend Jo to thank for the walnut-brain. A nice, scientific touch, I thought, to balance out all the sensationalist gore.

Too much?

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Is Life. Is Good!

Enough with the self pity! I'm sick of myself.

1. Have you watched this? My ovaries! Ow, my ovaries. Wouldja stop poking me?

2. Amanda Soule has bought a farmhouse and designated a library for books, games and art. Ah.

3. I am a technical noodle but I had fun trying to change my blog around. I know it doesn't look good. But looks aren't everything. It tries hard.

5. Ivy's 4th birthday party is this weekend. I bought white Kit Kat chocolate to make some T-Rex teeth for her cake. 'Who would buy this awful chocolate for real?' I wondered. The answer is me. I have eaten it all and now I have to buy more.

4. Lastly, Grover has filmed his own version of the infamous Old Spice ad.

In conclusion: there is always hope, and unexpectedly good chocolate and interior design to dream about. And Grover is on a horse.

Pain, The Sucky Houseguest

Well, the clouds of despair hovering over this little ranch are parting a little, and some glimpses of a brighter future are, once again, possible.



Maybe just a leetle. But the codeine isn't working and theatrical self-pity is all I've got. The whinging, worrisome dramatics of the small sick sausage (she's all better now), combined with the incredible destructive capacity of the two-year-old (he only stops emptying buckets to paint with bananas) would be tough in an average cycle.

But this week I've had a really sore hip, resistant to all my usual pain-management tricks.

Looking after little people takes enormous energy, constant positivity, a lot of physical work, and an indestructible sense of humour. When my body fails a bit, all of these little luxuries go out the window.

Problem is, when I feel crap, I just want to withdraw; go silently into my little cave, and have a pity party. It's the best I can do to not be actively cranky. Being all energetic and fun? On top of food and housework? Engaging in craft, in music, in park-time? Sorry. Not so much. In my single days,a little painful episode was easy. Watch Sex and The City DVDS, turn off phone, apply chocolate. But there's no 'alone time' when you have children. They own you, all of you, all the time. Let alone respecting the privacy of toilet time - they're leaning into the bowl during proceedings and saying 'Big one, Mama!"

Thank God for the K-Dog, who has stepped up to the daddy-plate big time - giving me lots of time in the bath and constantly taking Ivy and Ted to the beach, or looking for bugs, or playing Mr. Fox.

Yesterday I started feeling better. I began picking up all the little threads of everyday life that I had dropped in my time-out. I spent ages cooking and freezing. Today I even managed some craftiness, and some Dr. Suess, and some spring-cleaning.

So, Pain, you bastard, thanks again for giving me some perspective on what a tough day really looks like, and big respect all there to all you Mums who are dealing with real pain and disability, and not letting it sap your mojo. And those Mums who are doing it alone without a partner to pick up the slack when they crumble. You rock, if you didn't know that already.

ps- babies! more babies! Welcome to the neighbourhood, Dusty Pearl. xxx

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Brief. And Pathetic.

In short:

1. A mama-daughter date at the museum gave my friend Shirin and I a chance to do some early work on the arranged marriage we have planned for Ivy and Gabe. It was a really top day, despite a festival of universal snafus that included car breakdowns, train trackwork, and a lot of piggybacking a small tired person around endless underground tunnels.

2. Said piggybacking may have contributed to the fiercely aching hip that is will not yield to my attempts to bomb it into submission with codeine, hot water-bottles and bath soakage.

3. Expedition may have precipitated the virus that wrapped it's steamy fingers around Miss Ivy's throat on Friday night and has turned the Black Ghost into a spluttering, feverish vomitron.

4. Note to self: Make sign for gate tomorrow. 'Unclean. Unclean. Pox be here. All ye who enter be warned.'

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Oh, My Nerves.

Today I drove a four hour round trip to pick up a pair of Ebay stools that were listed as having ‘some light rust.’ Unfortunately the lister forgot to specify that the light rust was merely a top-coat addition to the ‘base rust.’ Also they are too short, which I can only blame on my measurement guesswork, dammit.

I thought I was prepared for the mission. Snack packs, toy catalogues and Mary Poppins soundtrack for the outbound trip. Prepared for, but hoping not to resort to caffeine, Nurofen Plus and McDonalds on the way home.

Forty-five minutes in, Teddy started to throw up. After I had fed him cheese and prunes, what’s more. On the freeway. Then we got lost, and please, I can’t relive the rest. You can imagine. Tonight, he seems better; at least he managed a full afternoon of steady, thoughtful destruction and then told me ‘Mama, I want eat poo-bum all day.’

Buddies, set me straight. Why the cuss am I thinking about adding another baby to this party? I’m ninety six fricken years old! Keiths sperm will need a walking frame and my eggs will probably get a discount onto the Fallopian tubes when they show their Seniors Card.

Plus, what if it wants eat poo-bum all day?

My nerves.

My nerves.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Kangaroo Valley

A few pics from our short, sweet trip into the Kangaroo Valley, a beautiful part of New South Wales. Our little cottage had a swing out front, overlooking a field with two resident alpacas and a brown horse we called 'Brown'.

The first couple of days were beautifully sunny, and then the weather turned. Lucky for me. I had slightly obsessively planned for rain and man, I would have felt stupid if it never arrived, laden as I was with gumboots, paints and piles of puzzles. Vindication!

We called this alpaca Pancho. I've never seen alpacas before, but I think I'm in love. They look like stout dainty ladies with their rickety legs and big round bums. My friend Dr. Lucy says that they look like the aftermath of relations between an ewok and a llama.

We got some bush-bashing in before the rain arrived.

Bush-walk pirate treasure! (Snakes...ah, holiday rules. )

Closest we got to a family photo.

We played Farm School.

Had some highly stressful lunch hours.

And entertained crazy notions about water-colour painting inside. (Rookie mistake.) Of course Ted went all quiet and then we discovered him going impressionistic on the couch. We took it to the porch and tried some still- life. Ivy's was the best.

(Teddy's patch of naughtiness still visible. )

We made a nest on the floor for family movie night - The Fantastic Mr. Fox. It was the best film. Teddy's middle name is in honour of this very Mr. Fox, but Roald Dahl's version. So we were a bit nervous when we heard about a film being made. But hey, now Teddy is being played in glorious stop-motion animation and voiced by George Clooney! Nice.

The chickens laid eggs for our breakfast every morning.

We liked to feed the goats, even though they were very poo-stained. Teddy said to this one 'Where your nappy?'

On the way home, we stopped at an excellent little Pioneer Museum, where this mannequin was quite frightening. You can see my body language is protective.

And then we took our two sleepy bobos home.

Since we got back I've been washing and spring cleaning, trying to get things in order around here. Ted, never one to confine himself to a canvas, has discovered drawing on walls. Ivy has been wandering around naked but for her Black Ghost mask. And I punched myself in the face today trying to wrestle an attachment off the vacuum cleaner. So, business as usual.

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Happiness Is A Strawberry Milkshake.

These are the faces of happiness, after Ivy got to five good behaviours on her rewards chart, and scored a strawberry milkshake at our favourite cafe yesterday. 'Thank you, Ay-Ay, ' said Ted gratefully.

We're out the door to commune with the cows and leave technology behind. Have a wonderful weekend, everybody.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010


OK, I don't even watch this show, but I was tootling around on Miz Scarlett tonight and news of this live-TV stuff-up came down the tubes. Painfully live. And now I shall wait for my friend Jo's evil sarcastic recap.

PS - PMM is bringing back the bush. It's a groundswell, I tell you. A hairy, feminist groundswell.

Monday, September 27, 2010

The Black Ghost

It was dress-up day at pre-school last week. I thought a cat costume might be nice but Ivy, as always, had her own ideas. She returned from the dress-up box and announced she was...

the Black Ghost.

Who is the Black Ghost, I asked? The ghost that might kill everybody dead in the whole world, she said.

Oh, so sweet.

Onward and Upward.

Spring is sprunging. The sun is bright, the flowers around town are beautiful, and our hearts are happy, but the bodies of these two decrepit old parents have been feeling a lot like this:

for quite a few weeks now.

I'm trying valiantly to get on top of the housework so I can move on to packing for our little farm-stay holiday this weekend. Chickens, cows, gumboots, water paints....

Lots of reading.

Lots of puzzles.

And lots of this.

Can't wait.

ps - more babies are a'popping their little heads out. Welcome, Peppa! So happy you came to join us.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

The Age Of No Reason

This post first appeared as a column commissioned for the September 2010 issue of Practical Parenting Magazine.

My deadline for submitting my column is a few months before each issue is published. Reading over this piece, it strikes me how fast things can change in parenting-land. Ted, these days, is so easy to handle. A good time to remind myself to appreciate and cherish the good times - they're just a phase too, after all...

Dear readers, I’m worried about Ted. I think he’s an addict. It’s early to drop such a heavy label on him, I know, but his relationship with tomato sauce has reached unhealthy proportions. He begs for it, he weeps when he can’t get it, and left near an unattended sauce bowl, within minutes Ted looks like he’s been at the scene of some sort of chainsaw massacre. When Ted is denied tomato sauce, he takes a deep breath, and then he lets loose with a banshee howl of heartbroken loss that sounds a little like Chinese opera.

If he’s not truly an addict, then it can only mean one thing: he’s reached what I call the Age of No Reason. I’ve been through this once before, and in my experience it lasts from about eighteen months of age until about three. During this developmental stage, there are no half-measures. Passions are intense, desires must be met immediately, logic has no place at your table and life can be tough for those trying to parent you.

Skills are being learnt at an incredible rate as neural pathways fire like crazy, forming complex and interlocking superhighways. There are so many things to learn. So many rules to follow. Cups in the sink, Teddy, not the toilet. Down from the table! Get off your sister! No, Teddy, knife. Spider! Hot, Teddy. Don’t touch. Sharp! Sharp! Poo is not for drawing, Teddy. NOT FOR DRAWING, Teddy- no! No! No!

Of course, there is incredible magic too, as you watch a personality unfurl like a rosebud. There are first sentences, and early obsessions, and those light bulb mama-moments when you realise ‘Ah! He understands!’ At two, he's one foot in the cuddly, Wondersuited baby camp of gorgeousness, and one foot in the child’s world of imagination and exploration. It’s a beautiful metamorphosis to watch. But at times, it’s like living with an incontinent lunatic.

Trying to manage a toddler’s behaviour during the Age of No Reason is nigh on impossible. We tried hard with Ivy, introducing Naughty Corners and Naughty Shelves and Time Outs, but the punishment zones all quickly turned into fun games. ‘Corner?’ Ivy would ask excitedly, knowing she was in for that hilarious gag where Mum and Dad pick her up and carry her back to the funny spot, over and over again.

Ignoring the tantrum is the only real option at this age, but toddlers don’t make this easy. Ivy liked to bang her head on the floor in rage when she was going through the Age of No Reason. Sometimes she ended up with forehead bruises, and at one stage I was forced to put her into a fluffy sort of special-needs hat, in an attempt to get her through her toddlerhood with something left of her frontal lobe. If ignored, she would come right up to me and shout indignantly ‘Head! Bang! Head!’

Teddy takes a more physical approach. If I try and ignore a tantrum, he simply moves the tantrum on top of me. Yesterday I tried valiantly to continue reading to Ivy while he wailed for tomato sauce. ‘You have to wait, Ted,’ I insisted, and continued on with Hairy Maclary. Teddy wasn’t having it. ‘Ignore him, Ivy,’ I gasped, as he wrapped one arm around my neck, locked his legs across my middle and shrieked into my ear.

Just a year-and-a-half to go then, of managing this sometimes brain-melting phase before Teddy becomes reasonably and allows me to do my best parenting, which involves the judicious bestowal and withdrawal of Milk Arrowroot biscuits. Until then, I’ll just keep us well-stocked in tomato sauce and earplugs.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Just in Case You've Missed Teddy.

He's been singing too.

Von Trapp Pants (With a Little Added Shame.)

It's been a long time, but here I sit, stroking the silky curves of my spanking new laptop. I'm back, peeps! I'm so tech-fancy I can't hardly stand it! And I'm full of plans. Like...not taking two months to announce the winner of the little Von Trapp pants that I promised to draw in a week.

I'm sorry.

The winner, for anybody still there...hello? hello? Lisa from Waltzing With Matilda, a lovely space exploring life as a single mum, teacher and sort of spiritual journeypuss. I'm so happy to have made a snappy pair of dacks for one of my favourite lunatic three-year olds.

I hope you're all feeling full of Springtime promise...and now, a musical interlude, Von Trapp style, from a little performer you might know as Ivy Cakes.

Friday, September 17, 2010

My Sister Is A (Pumpkin And Bacon) Tart

Fingers crossed, the pox has almost entirely left our house. I've ordered a new laptop I'm calling Miz Scarlett and I'm waiting nervously for her safe delivery.

Hopefully we'll be back to normal programming soon, at least in terms of bowels, sinuses and technology.

In the meantime, have you checked out Megans recipe blog?

My pumpkin and bacon tart recipe is on there today, and a little tale about my Mum and sister that makes me laugh. If you have a favourite recipe, send it on over to Megan. She'd love to receive it.

I'm up at the library today working on the computer. I hope your day features a big hug, a juicy lamb chop and at least one burst of laughter that makes you work your pelvic floor.

PS- Welcome to the world litttle Griffin!

Monday, September 13, 2010

Fathers Day 2010

I'm a bit behind, sorry. Things have been hectic. I believe I might have mentioned poo and spew once or twice this week? But I couldn't let Fathers Day slip by completely without a little tribute to the K-Dog. My beloved goofball, my brilliant buddy and the absolute centre of our little tribe.

This guy! This Dad! Luckily I had a few really bad boyfriends in my time so I am objectively able to appreciate my luck in finding and breeding with such a good specimen.

Keith is the best kind of old-fashioned, post-feminist family man. He adores his babies. He's incredibly tolerant. Kind and funny. Will dance like a fool with no provocation. Not only that, he spends his work day using his big fat brain to find ways to save all our sorry asses with solar energy.

He can tell a story that goes for weeks, when Ivy lets him get a word in.

Never gets tired of wandering the world with his little people.

Gives good cuddle.

And so far, has managed two annual father-daughter camping trips with friends Tristan and Talia.

Plus, he has a bum like two puppies fighting under a blanket. Happy Fathers Day, Keith! We love you this much.