Monday, March 29, 2010

On Marriage

Like most couples, Keith and I spend a lot of time behaving like fools.

This morning we were getting dressed. I asked Keith 'Do you wish I behaved more like this?' as I took off my t-shirt and hurled it across the room in a violently sexy manner.

'Yes, ' he answered thoughtfully, and then picked it up.' So is this for the wash?'

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Inspiring Me Today.

I love Chaz Bono, Cher's child, who has become something of an accidental poster child for the transgender community. I find him articulate, intelligent and charismatic. He's a significant way through his female-to-male gender re-assignment,and here (thanks to Mama Mia for the link) he talks about it.

This beautiful poem on marriage gave me the serious warms and fuzzwahs.Thanks to gourmet glamourpuss Tori.

Let us be guests in one another's house
With deferential "no" and courteous "yes";
Let us take care to hide our foolish moods
Behind a certain show of cheerfulness.

Let us avoid all sullen silences;
We should find fresh and sprightly things to say;
I must be fearful lest you find me dull,
And you must dread to bore me anyway.

Let us knock gently at each other's heart,
Glad of a chance to look within–and yet,
Let us remember that to force one's way
Is the unpardoned breach of etiquette.

So, shall I be host–you, the hostess,
Until all need for entertainment ends;
We shall be lovers when the last door shuts
But what is better still–we shall be friends.

And finally, this snippet from the book 'French Women For All Seasons' by Mireille Guiliano, on the French word for happiness: bonheur:

French women know happiness is not a matter of luck; it's what you make of your life. This word for happiness is literally 'good time'. The French way of cultivating feeling with time is telling. It suggests something to be cultivated in the course of our hours and days and months and years, how we live in relation to them. The English word 'happy' comes form the archaic word 'hap',which means "luck". Interesting distinction.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

The Mouths Of Babes

At the fruit and veg shop this morning, a man with dwarfism stood in line behind Ivy.

'Hello, ' he said politely. She surveyed him through narrowed eyes and then asked 'Why are you that big?'

'Because I didn't eat my veges, ' he said.

We've been having such a fun couple of days, me and my little buddies. Lots of sleeping, and reading, and hardly any tantrums. Today I watched them as they sat on the rug, Ivy building a tower and Ted laughing to himself as he read Hairy McLary, and I had a little explosion of happiness. (I didn't have to mop or anything.)

When things are good, you have to stop and appreciate them, I think. Celebrate the happy, or be damned. At the minute, every time I sing or dance for Teddy, he claps with wild enthusiam and shouts 'Again!' Ivy will stay in bed quietly at lunchtime for at least half an hour, even though she doesn't sleep, if I promise she can stay up for ten minutes at night to play 'Thinking Skills.'

Parenting goes in phases. It could all be over tomorrow, but right now, this season - it's lovely.

Plus, it's a wonderful world when someone in it takes the time to imagine how Mr Bean might look as a woman:

or the Pope:

Or Lara Croft.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Sam Drops in

My sister is only 15 months younger than me, and has always been my best friend. My go-to girl. All my childhood memories have Sam in them (like when we made up a continuing dance that went for one whole side of the Sweet and Sour soundtrack and wouldn't let Mum get up from the couch between songs, or when we ran a cafe together in our twenties and Sam pulled a one-kilo bucket of beetroot on top of her head during the lunch rush.)

We've lived together or close by for almost all our adult lives but when we had babies- at almost exactly at the same time - we ended up living six hours apart. She's now my woman in Cowra, and on the end of the phone, where our conversations always end with a sudden 'oops, gotta go.'

She dropped in last weekend with her husband and two little girls. Isabelle is only 3 months younger than Ivy and looks like her twin, and Zoe is 4 months younger than Ted and shares his barrel shape and mellow vibe.

Ivy and Belle shared a room and took forever to get to sleep.

It was the night of their little lives.

Here they are at the counter, looking cheeky. Ted is about to climb on top to get to the cheese (his favourite gag.)

And lucky me, a giant cuddle puddle with my favourite little peeps.

Ivy is wearing what she calls her ballet-tard,Ted is waving a fairy wand, and Belle, for reasons known only to her, is sporting a horses head around her neck. (Not as scary as last week,when Keith and I found that head in Ivy's bed.)

We played Whats The Time, Mr Wolf? and Duck, Duck, Goose and Sam wondered if it was entirely healthy that the kids bath toys are an old breast pump and a neti pot. I had never thought about it before, but her job has always been to point out my weirdnesses.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

The Joy of Specs

When my mother was 18, so the family tale goes, she got glasses because she thought they would give her an intellectual air. This story wedged itself into my unconscious somewhere, and I've always dreamed of the day when I , too, could lift my IQ with some fancy eye-jewels - at least, for those few glorious seconds before I spoke.

Imagine my joy when recently my sight degenerated enough to require reading glasses. A joy that was sadly, short-lived.

Friends, I hate to shatter your dreams, but failing eyesight is not the fun fair you may expect it to be. I carried many illusions about the vision-impaired until I joined their ranks, and so here I will cast aside the curtain of secrecy that has veiled for too long this private world.

When a four-eyes, in conversation with you, peers over their glasses intently, they are not gripped by your opinions.

In actual fact they are they are awkwardly juggling their distance vision and their close-up sight.
When they take off their glasses and rub the bridge of their nose, you have not just touched them in some poignant place with your thoughts.

No, their nose hurts.

And while it is true that glasses are an excellent prop for going from sexy secretary:

to party girl:

On the whole, it's actually quite annoying. Although I think they definitely make me look more intelligent.

This post is dedicated to my sister and photographer Sam, who tried on my glasses during this conversation, realised she could read more clearly, and was thrilled at the thought that she too was in need of bespectaclisationment. (See: before I wore glasses I would never have known that word.)

Saturday, March 20, 2010


I am never short of company these days, and a snappy conversation about the Wiggles is always in the offing, but sometimes, I remember being a girl-about-town, with a handbag that didn't contain nappies and snack packs and wet washers, and outfits that I had put together with leisurely enthusiasm, and nobody knowing where I was or needing me to be anywhere and calling Lucy and the girls and maybe Raj to see who was around to meet me at Leichardt to look at books and then see something French at The Palace and sit around Bar Italia for hours laughing about nothing and everything.

(photo from The Sartorialist via Cup of Jo)

Friday, March 19, 2010

Married (With Children.)

April Column for Practical Parenting Magazine.

We had been together for a few years when, traveling through Borneo, we ended up in a jewellery shop. A helpful salesman with patchy English convinced Keith to try on a wedding ring. ‘How does that feel, Madam?’ he asked Keith gently. ‘Like a noose,’ Keith replied. Oh, what a romantic conversation we had back at our hotel that afternoon.

Some years later, we happened upon a beautiful Victorian ring that sparked a wedding conversation with a much happier ending (and less talk of the gallows). Just one catch. By this time we had a two-year-old and a baby in tow. ‘I’ll do all the planning,’ I assured Keith. ‘Don’t worry about a thing.’

Six crazy months went past. The wedding plans got increasingly outlandish, encouraged by my life at home with an imaginative pre-schooler. My ‘normal’ may have shifted a little. Spending all day debating wedding details with two kids that couldn’t really talk left me filling both sides of the conversation.

A roaring-twenties theme, I wondered. Ivy agreed strongly. An after-dinner cabaret with acrobats, I suggested to Ted. ‘Yah!’ he shouted. The empty hall needs to be fully dressed with op-shopped vintage china and candlesticks, I worried to Ivy. ‘Do it, Mum!’ she cried. ‘And get me a biscuit!’

Meanwhile, Teddy was breastfeeding, and night-waking, and in need of constant cuddling, while Ivy was firmly pitched against me in a toilet-training battle (a wee-war, if you will) that involved sneaky corner-poos and much washing of the lounge cushions.

Life was very busy, and my to-do list was enormous. I had to research and plan late into the night. When I tried to grab time during the day, Teddy would advance on my computer to frantically click the mouse at a box that read ‘Are you sure you want to delete the file ‘Wedding’ and all its contents?’

All phone calls ran something like this: 'So the actual wedding is on the 24th of - Ivy, don't eat your brother with the spoon. Sorry, 24th of October. It's at the - Ivy! Listen to his noises! He doesn't like it! The beach - Ivy! Don’t make me start counting! Dodo will go on the naughty shelf! Um, where was I - the beach, and then - OW! Teddy, my hair! - at a community hall, where - oh, Christ, sorry, Ivy, please, Mummy will just be five minutes, can you just - hello? HELLO?

I was overwhelmed with details. I listed them and re-listed them. I talked to myself about them like a madwoman. I dreamed about them and woke up sweating. And yet, when the day came, they melted away. Settings, bands and menus became just background noise, and it was, so romantically, just about the four of us. Two amazing, adorable little people, a funny timber home, a warm and tender life. We created it: me and this handsome, goofy scientist. My husband!

The party, it was fabulous (acrobats, china and all) and the heart, it nearly happy-danced right out of my chest. But the poor body: it collapsed. Next day, all four of us came down with the Commitment Flu, and while Keith had his wife in bed for a week, it was not exactly in the way he hoped. A fitting punishment, you might say, for that wisecrack about the noose.

Kids Room Grooviness

Ivy's room is a decorating work-in-progress. It will become the playroom when we move the kids together to sleep (when Teddy is two, we think). So many projects, so little time...

These bunk beds are things of beauty.

And just check out these reading nooks at The Boo and The Boy (via Marvellous Kiddo).

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Day-Care Tomorrow.

It's such a shame Teddy doesn't have any fun there.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Mogantosh Book Club.

We're all about books at this house, and we roll old school. No Kindles here. Keith, husband supreme, is rising bravely above his dust-mite allergy to construct his room-wide bookshelf, a work in progress, shaped like a breaking wave.

My parenting is going to be all about books too. I've got this plan. When the kiddos seem of an age to get their thinking caps on, I'm going to start the family book club. No bookshelves off limits. No spine too fine, no novel too grovel, no paperback too wickety-wack.

We're going to read, report on and discuss books.They can pick some, Keith can pick some, and I'll pick some. On my list: the Bible. The Koran. Puberty Blues. Little Women. Are You There, God? It's Me, Margaret. Reefer Madness. The Female Eunuch. The Beauty Myth.

(I might have to ease in just a little, but I'm really not planning on holding off too long on the hard stuff.)

Keith and I both agree that reading is a important and wonderful part of our lives. I've always loved to read and I go through about 5 books a week. Lots of my favourites I leave to marinade for a few years and then go back and have another go, in an endless loop. (Similar to Keith's approach to his wardrobe.) For me and the K-Dog, happiness is curling up in bed, feet entwined, deep in some (for me) historical biography or moved-to-france-to-renovate-a-castle-and-gosh-found-love memoir and (for Keith) dense philosophy, English lit classic or incomprehensible photovoltaics magazine. Ivy has always loved books and that Ted, he'll eat anything.

I really wish for the kids to see, through reading, how many ways to be in the world there are, so they can find their own happiest place; their best self.

Discover other lives, I want to urge them. Explore different values, other cultures. Seek to understand the differnt choices people make.See which struggles are universal, and which ones are unique. Then reflect on how that fits with your own ideas. Stretch your opinions. Question everything. Be adventurous!

(You know, from your comfy chair, with a nice hot Milo. Do you need a cardigan? It's quite late. )

I'm unsure about lots of aspects of my parenting. It's hard to be confident. But books: books I can help them with. And book club, I think, is going to be a blast.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

A Glimpse Into The March Morning Musings Of A Three-Year Old (Where You Will Not Find A Self-Esteem Problem.)

Car conversation:

'Mum, if all these cars crashed very very slowly the people would not be hurt and then I could run very very fast down the road in my pink shoes.'

Pretend phone call (yes, pen always at hand, I took notes.)

'Hello Ruby. You sound happy. You are happy! You are doing things that make you happy. I will talk to you for twenty minutes. You're sad again. You're happy! You're going to be at the house where your mother is there. She will be playing hide and seek and do it lots of times until the mother says 'no, you can't'. Sorry, I have to go now.'

Song to the refection in the mirror, at top volume:

'You love me! You love me! You love me! You love me!'

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Second Honeymoon

Keith and I are just back from a lightning trip down the coast in my parents' campervan. We swapped our children for their vehicle, and left the building alone - our first overnighter since Ivy was born three years ago.

We waved goodbye to our little and big beloved ones. ...

Slapped on our travelling hats...

And hit the goddamn road!

Eagles on the stereo, crossword in hand and a ribbon of coast road unravelling before us, we cruised all the way to Milton, where we visited our favourite antique store, Revival, and found our wedding present, a gorgeous deco chandelier. It needs a little fixing, so isn't ready yet, but it was an exciting, romantic find.

We stopped at Funland ( otherwise known as high-fructose fattys paradise).

There was air hockey, Sega Ralley, drumming contests and other carnival fun. Keith won the day, despite appearing as though he was perhaps missing the central point of the Dance Dance Revolution machine.

We set up camp at out favourite spot in Meroo National Park...

and settled in for a whole evening and morning of fun. There were olives, there was wine, there was chocolate, there were skinny-dips, and there were two guitars. Yes, we played badly, and got worse, but we totally had one sweet moment during 'Leaving on a Jet Plane' in which Mark Holden would have said we were 'in the pocket.' During '9-5' Keith rocked out and I played the sticks while doing a sort of corroberree -style fire dance.

Here's my happy-camper face.

And here's Keith's cool face.

And finally, here he is again, looking just a little bit relaxed.

This morning we read in the back of the van, cooked bacon and eggs, talked about life and missed the kids. We drove home, via coffee, vege burgers and farm-shop eggs and honey, to find our babies happily watching The Sound Of Music with Nanna and Pop.

It's a charmed life, to be sure, and I feel very lucky: happy to leave, and so happy to come home again. Perhaps even more so because people we love are going through some heartbreaking times right now. I am counting my blessings - in particular, my three beloveds-and I am filled with gratitude for them.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Miss Piggy Tackling Feminisn, a New Arrival and a Tasteless Joke About The Osteopath.

My day, in no particular order:

1. My spine still feels sore and creaky, kind of wrongly attached, although a good rogering from the osteo yesterday has eased the pain a bit. Keith has gone off to soccer practice, with his foot strapped, his welts festering and a hopeful attitude. Damn, but we're attractive.

2. Last night I dreamed that I won a government contract to train Japanese Yazuka gang members into baby sleep-training nurse consultants. I told Keith this morning and he said bitterly 'That would never happen here.' Our administration has no imagination.

3. We're watching 'The Lonely Goatherd' five times a day so Ivy and Ted can dance to it. Today, looking for a better version, I found this. Raquel Welch + Miss Piggy + feminist anthem = interweb gold.

4. My cousin Nat gave birth to a baby boy today, Edward Jack. Welcome to the world, Mr Ed! We're so happy to have you.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Optimism is my Homeboy.

So here it goes, friends... my first column for Practical Parenting Magazine.

Every morning, I ask my three year old Ivy if she’s ready to help with the morning jobs. ‘Breakfast is finished!’ I chirp. ‘Would you like the blue sweeper or the white sweeper today? Let’s do our jobs and then have some fun!’

Every morning, she looks at me with pity in her eyes and says ‘No, thank you,’ wandering away to follow her own plans, like turning her bed into a boat, or adding a whimsical touch to her outfit, or practicing her current hobby – standing in front of the mirror and carefully painting on a moustache with a pink highlighter.

According to Einstein, the definition of insanity is to do the same thing over and over and expect a different result. With all respect to the great egghead, I think that’s just life with preschoolers. I live with two of them and apart from the frequent application of warm and tender tuggles; my key parenting tool is blind, foolish optimism.

Take yesterday.

Optimistic Plan, 9am: In search of ten minutes kitchen-time, without whinging children-as-trouser-legs, I set up a mini kitchen-sink set at my feet, with water containers, spoons, cups and tea-towels. In my head, the kids will play at ‘washing-up’, having fun and learning skills that will transfer seamlessly to real life, Montessori-style.

Sad Reality, 9.07am: Within minutes the lure of naughty-pouring has overcome Ivy. The floor is a soapy river, her clothes are off, and she is stamping wildly. ‘I haffa go to the torlet, Mummy,’ she says and ‘Off you go, then,’ I reply. Next moment, she’s is in the power squat and wee-ing on the kitchen floor. One-year-old Teddy has wandered off early in the piece, removed his nappy and done a Freedom Poo in the corner.

Optimistic Plan, 10.30am: Quality Together Time with a family trip to Bunnings. Seedlings, swings sets, sausage sandwiches, a peaceful drive home and then a nice lunchtime nap for everybody (including Mum.)

Sad Reality, 1.13pm: Ivy declines my suggested outfit and dresses herself in an overstretched t-shirt that reads ‘Bring Back Warney’, a pair of satin Wiggles boxer shorts, plastic white beads, one silver party shoe and one flowered sandal. Time warps in the Bunnings universe, causing a fatal error in lunch-timing. Ivy is so eager to attack her sausage that she burns her mouth and drops the whole thing in the car. We’re faced with a toddler food meltdown. Teddy stems the tide with old sultanas he has secreted down his car seat, and I try to salvage Ivy’s mood with a breezy chat. ‘Mummy is going to write a funny story about you and Teddy for a magazine,’ I say. ‘Write about when I did three spoos on myself, Mummy,’ she says fretfully. ‘Well, that wasn’t so hilarious from our perspective,’ I answer. ‘No, you HAFFA! Write about the spoos! The spoos, Mum!’ She’s losing it. I agree to work up some jokes about her gastric flu and desperately check my handbag for muesli bars and old bananas. Too late. ‘The spoos, Mum…’ she sobs helplessly for the next ten minutes. ‘You haffa write about the three spoooos!’

Again and again, my carefully-laid plans are thwarted by the cunning super-skills of my tiny companions. Every adventure ends in an entirely unexpected outcome. And often that outcome has some kind of human protein spilled on it, and the stain probably won’t come out.

Every day, these wily toddlers roam their territory like Kali, the 8-armed Indian goddess, scattering sultanas, blocks and boogers to every corner of the house. Ivy tries to drink food colouring, chicken stock and baby Panadol. Ted wears undies on his head and posts semi-precious items into the toilet. I follow them, armed with white vinegar, bicarb and a sense of humour, and when it’s all getting too much, I remind myself that every stain is a tiny badge of these toddler years; so precious, so hilarious and so beautiful.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Oh, my baking yak... with new, improved trauma.

I'm less than 100% happy. My back went out on Friday night; spasming, muscle by muscle, until it locked me forwards like a snail. Luckily Keith was home to painkiller and pat and help me off the floor. I'm on the osteo's cancellation list and I'm much recovered, but feeling a bit fragile. Random body-breakages make me very nervous.

Must start looking after body better. Back to bed now, but first, a much-needed happiness injection:

Now, Keith is soaking in a bicarb bath - he's infested with grass ticks and covered in welts. It's what you get for rolling down hills with preschoolers. All we need now is an ear infection... and a tiny violin, covered with calamine lotion and infused with paracetemol.

Woe is Mogantosh.