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.

Saturday, September 11, 2010


I contributed an essay to a book called First Time Mum last year, and my copy arrived this week. Published in an actual book! It makes me go all aflutter.

I really love books. I am so happy that Ivy and Ted will have this tangible little memento of their earliest lives on a shelf, to touch and look at, and to show my grandchildren.

This is an entirely optimistic scenario of course. Most probably it will be fed to a visiting dog or thrown down the toilet before the summer is out.

The book itself is available via Angus and Robertson for $24.95.

Here's my story:

Educating Mummy

I learned a few things about life from my first child Ivy. For instance: it’s hard to pour water on your own bottom with a spoon. Or this: crying won’t make the baby’s t-shirt into a hat that fits you. And even this: Play-Dough counts as an actual food group; if you eat enough of it.

But none of the important lessons fell into place until I had another baby. I studied hard before my first go at motherhood. Small forests gave their lives to furnish me with a parenting library, my internet connection took a beating and every woman I met who had managed to produce offspring was pumped for information.

But when Ivy arrived wailing, and didn’t stop for three months, I realized I knew nothing. Nothing. It was Teddy’s birth, nearly two years later that gave me a whole new perspective on Ivy’s infancy. She wasn’t just a product of our failures and successes as parents. She was who she was: her own person, on her own timetable, and with a whole plan of her own about this baby-rearing business. We were there as minders, sure. As facilitators of food, and clothing, and Thomas the Tank Engine DVDs, definitely, But we didn’t hold all the cards. Oh, I learned a lot when I had a second baby.

What did I learn? I learned about sleep. Night after night, Keith and I walked the floors with Ivy. We sang, patted, rocked and chanted increasingly psychotic mantras. We begged for mercy. Ivy was vigilant against sleep, fighting every eye-droop, jerking herself awake if she slipped off. She was re-energised by even a catnap of a minute or two; replenished for another jolly round of Break-The-Parents.

By five months or so, we had developed a system whereby we sent her to sleep by rolling her up tightly in a stretchy cot-sheet, trapping her arms against her body, and tucking her under a parental arm while we read Dr. Seuss’ Sleep Book in a monotone until she stopped fighting and gave in to slumber. She’s two now, but we can still recite it by heart.

Do you know who’s asleep

Down in Foona-Lagoona?

Two very nice Foona-Lagoona Baboona.

Surreal times. It all seemed normal to us, though. Books talked about ‘the witching hour’, where it was standard for babies to be unsettled. ‘Colic’ seemed to be a catchall term for normal baby behaviour, and it made sense that if crying was a small person’s only means of communication, then crying was a great idea. Ivy was just an excellent communicator! Right?

So went my thinking until the second baby came along, who cried at birth, and then…stopped. When hungry he squirmed and kicked, when tired he jerked and flailed a bit, and when he had gas he made a terrible grunting noise, but the ‘communicating?’ The inconsolable, mind-melting, sap-Mummy’s-spirit-slowly ‘communicating’? Not at all. In fact, the one time he did cry for ten minutes, Keith and I panicked, woke Ivy and bundled everybody in the car. En route to the hospital Teddy fell asleep, so we turned around and went home. I'm not sure what we would have done, had we made it to the emergency room. ‘My baby is crying! Crying!’ I might have shrieked, ‘Run every test you have, and damn the expense!’

Putting Teddy to bed was a matter of wrap, dummy, cot. Actually, any dumping ground was fine. Teddy would sleep anywhere. Bassinette, lap, corner of the room, on top of the stereo. He slept on a blanket in the middle of Ivy’s music class while twenty toddlers stomped like dinosaurs around him. A pregnant woman in class said to me tearfully ‘I want that one!’ He’s mine, I thought with glee. By six months he was sleeping though the night, and waking with a smile. Same parenting. Different child.

What else did I learn? I learned about breastfeeding, and how to rise above the cult of ‘natural motherhood’ that says learning to feed should be easy. (I think the theory might come from the same school that teaches about ‘discomfort’ during labour. Or better: ‘positive pain.’)

I struggled to establish breastfeeding with both my babies, but in very different ways. Ivy needed a nipple shield to learn how to latch on and the painstaking notebook recording my early feeding schedules reads, in part: ‘3.20 am. LB, 20 minutes with hat; 5.45am RB 40 minutes, hatless.’ It goes for weeks - you can use your imagination to add the tears. Tiny Ivy took a month to regain her birth weight and her scrawny chicken legs worried me constantly. She still barely makes it onto the bottom of the growth charts, despite her chubby thighs and edibly fat bottom. She’s never been very interested in food, and at two, would happily exist solely on frozen blueberries.

Teddy, on the other hand, took to breastfeeding straight away, but with such gusto that within a week both nipples were blistered and bleeding. Memories of my first three weeks with him are scored with pain from my caesarean and from my poor, tortured nipples. Every three hours, or less, he fed, 24/7, until I put him onto solids at five months and closed for business at night. By six months, he had jumped from the 20th to the 85th percentile on the growth charts. Whatever is in front of him, he eats, and he already shares clothes and nappy sizes with his (little) big sister.

What else did I learn? I learned about personality, and its powerful force. ‘I made you,’ it’s hard not to think. ‘I created you. I can mould you into whatever I want you to be.’ Oh, no, no, says Nature. I’m sending you these children with a personality I prepared earlier. Temperament buttons switched on at birth, they arrive ready to be sent through the idiosyncratic filter of family: how we manage conflict, what we laugh about, how we peg out the washing.

Ivy, from the moment she arrived, was a firecracker. She yelled at us fairly consistently for the first three months. If she had language I think it would have gone something like this: ‘Not that outfit not that car seat not those cot sheets not that book not that animal don’t sing that song Mummy Daddy YOU”RE GETTING IT ALL WRONG!!!’

At two, she is fiercely affectionate, super-bright and full of fun.

Teddy, from the first, could never compete with his sister in the theatrics department. He chose instead, in time-honoured sibling style, to forge his own identity by being calm and watchful, unruffled and unflappable. The Mellowest Baby in the Universe, whose very favourite thing in the world is to chew on his mothers face. The Not-Ivy.

What else have I learned? I’ve learned to chill out.I was obsessed with milestones during Ivy’s first year of life. Was she behind? Ahead? Normal? A bit funny? I pored over books, secretly examined other kids and read ungrammatical, poorly-spelled chat-posts from other mothers. I don’t know why I took so seriously the parenting advice of women who signed themselves SxyMommy69 and used the phrase LMAO!!! But I did. I weighed up her ‘successes’ and ‘failures’. Oh God! Not walking at fifteen months! Oh joy! A phenomenally early pointer! I worried that she wasn’t speaking early, and her penchant for frustrated head-banging at twelve months had me consulting the autism checklists. (More than once.)

Meanwhile, Ivy busily got on with the job of growing up, and of course, at two she is walking and talking…and dancing, somersaulting and performing tricks on the trampoline. All the time I spent worrying about whether or not I was stunting her motor coordination by continuing to swaddle her past six months – they would have been better spent playing on the floor. Or let’s face it, cleaning the floor.

Child number 2, on the other hand… I’m not even sure what his milestones should be at this stage. His babyhood is slipping past at a much greater pace than his sisters did. He is strong, happy, and sturdy as I could wish.

What else have I learned? I’ve learned that our babies were born in the right order. Imagine having a Teddy first. Keith and I, in the privacy of our bedroom, would have been unbearably smug. Sure, in the outside world we would have made all the right noises. ‘We’re just blessed with a very good baby,’ we would have said. “It’s nothing to do with us.’ But in private, the back-patting! The affirmation of each others superior patience, instinct and natural aptitude for the job!

And then, the terrible shock when the fabulous, theatrical Ivy came along. Goodbye, self-satisfied smirk. Hello, anti-depressant medication. Fight the urge to judge, I’ve learned. Most parents are just trying to do the best to tame the curious beast they’ve been sent by the universe, and not turn to alcohol before 10am.

What have I learned? I’ve learned what adorable kids the universe sent me, and what incredible joy motherhood brings.

No, Mummy!’ Ivy says fiercely. ‘I don’t like that!’ (Exactly what I hope she says to grabby teenage boys.) ‘Flying tuggle, Mummy!’ she cries with equal passion, as she leaps onto my lap for a hug. ‘My daddy!’ she wails, broken-hearted, as he leaves for work, and, just as devastated: ‘My Thomas is dirty!’, when she spills milk on her favourite shirt, or ‘But my eyes are open!’ when she doesn’t want to go to bed. Such a depth of emotion in this tiny frame! Is she easy to look after? Not usually. But what an amazing child she is, and how much I look forward to debates and laughter and drama over the dinner table.

And sweet, serene, smiling Teddy? He looks to each person he encounters with an expectation that they will please and delight him. And faced with those guileless blue eyes, they do. They always do. I think he will lead a charmed life, this one. And he’ll have his sister in his corner to take on anybody that does him wrong.

While I studied and read and searched for parenting advice, these two miraculous creatures watched the world and learned, knitting themselves into wondrous and unique individuals. To my third child, whoever you may be: I can’t wait to see who you are too. Your siblings have taught your mum everything she knows about her job. And this is the sum total: Protect. Watch over. Let happen. Marvel. And enjoy.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Universe, Get Rooted.

I've been AWOL from blogland.

Which is to say that I've been deep in gastro-hell, a land where children stop whinging only long enough to throw up on you. Where they shout terrible words at you when you turn off ABC Kids after four straight hours.

Ivy has seen this bout of illness as a fun sort of mother-daughter competition. If I say ' I know you feel grumpy. Sometimes when we're sick we have trouble feeling happy,' she shouts 'I am more sicker than you, Mama!' On the toilet: 'I have more diahhreah than you, Mum!' and so on, and so on.

I'm trying to be positive. The joy of the spew wash! The thrill of scrubbing explosive diahhreah from the composting toilet! The fun of managing the conflicting needs of an irritable, lethargic three-year-old and a healthy, cabin-fevered two-year-old desperate for action! And, finally, the character-building challenge of doing all this while bacteria fight for control of my own colon!

My computer is broken, so my link to the adult world is gone, as is the radio I stream through the Internet during the day. Keith was in Canberra for two days. He got home late last night - buggered, getting sick- and Ted decided to have a party in our bed for an hour.

"Medicine! Need medicine, Mama! Where is nose? What is dis? Mama! Open eyes! Need medicine!'

Yesterday, a cold virus took advantage of our compromised immunity to add to our family fun. So my stomach has stopped hurting but my sinuses are blocked and aching. At least I can't smell the Eau De la Vom wafting from the laundry.

I'm at the library today for my work-day. Thank God, both kiddoes are in good enough shape to make it to day-care and pre-school this morning. I've tried to start writing but for the life of me, I can't find where I saved my last, almost-finished column on this goddamn little pen drive.

That's it.

I'm going to take off to a lunchtime movie, eat a sandwich and see Angelina's lady-action in Salt.

Friday, September 3, 2010

Dancing Pants. And - oh! Irish Cream!

I've got a little sister. She's only fifteen months younger than I am and we have always been a solid twosome. Like Ivy and Teddy, who currently love their invented game 'Hug-Running', Sam and I spent childhood making our own fun. One favourite game, called Irish Cream, required us to make milkshakes and pour them into little shot glasses.

We would spend a long time setting up the mise-en-place, then we would pretend to be Grown-Up Ladies, just chatting, who came across the scene.

'Well, I couldn't believe it,' I would say to Sam as we sauntered across the kitchen. 'He had green hair!' 'But why on earth!' she would answer, and then we'd pause dramatically in front of our bar, and say together: 'Oh! Irish Cream!' We'd do the shots, set up the bar, start again. 'Well, green! I ask you. What sort of a child...' etc., etc., etc. We played Irish Cream for hours, and for years. And Mum and Dad weren't drinkers, in case you're wondering.*

Our main recreational pastime, though, was in the The Art of Dance.

Sam and I were always choreographing routines, 80's style, and making Mum watch them. We had 'signature' moves we would often incorporate. We made a lot of use of the stairs, we always included some floor-work, and often we would rhythmically shake hands. Liturgical dance moves from church would frequently creep in. Once we did complicated routines for every song on one entire side of the Sweet And Sour soundtrack album. In between songs we would freeze, pant, and shout at Mum if she tried to get up.

Ivy and Ted already show great individuality as dancers. They are not constrained by self-consciousness or focus on 'technique'. Ivy likes to begin by removing her pants, then she wildly swings, jumps and points at the ceiling, Lately she's been throwing in a little Robot. Ted's style involves nodding his head to one side, stamping his foot, turning in a circle and pumping his fists.

I'm proud to say that I think they've got my genes.

Any the hoo, this lengthy, rambling trip down memory lane has been leading to this clip - found via dooce -of some crazy-hot dancing. I love this so much. As soon as I'm set up with my new computer, I'm going to watch this every morning just to get the Happy flowing.

Sammy, I dedicate this one to you.
Sit down, Mum! This post isn't finished! Sit down!

*They were goat-sacrificing, nudist volley-ballers though.

Howdy! And babies.

So my computer has been infected, nay, eaten alive, by a corker of a virus. It's rolled over and kicked its little legs in the air for the last time.

I'm buying a new laptop this weekend and I am mondo excited. But in the meantime I've been off the intertubes.

Although you can read a guest post I wrote for Megan over here at ecomilf. She's just had a baby. A really sweet, delicious little baby. Ooh, I love the babies.

I've got babies on the brain.

Babies babies babies.

While I've been forced off the keyboard, I've been sewing, trying to make ginger beer, and kissing the fat little legs of my offspring.

This morning I started hydrotherapy. It was great to spend an hour in a steamy little bathhouse with a pool full of elderly patients laughing a lot. Good for the soul, and good for the spine. This spine has got to be in good shape if there are any more babies on the cards for this little tribe. There's nothing to report (Mum.) Really. I'm just a slave to my hormones, currently.

Babies babies babies.

Hope you've all been well too.