Monday, February 28, 2011

Project Monday - Volcanos

By the end of last week I was a bit of a wreck. Keith caught a terrible death flu-gastro-tonsillitis combo that had him vomiting, feverish, bloodshot and confined to bed. Ted (or Trixie-Jeff, as he now insists on being addressed. Trixie-Jeff, dog save us) came down with a bad case of the night-naughties. Flying visits to Sydney, weekend guests. Many good things along with the bad, but just too many things. The tank ran dry by last night. I felt exhausted.

Today Keith is better and back out to his caravan. I decided to slow things down and get some happy house-time happening. I made it to hydrotherapy to warm the old bones early this morning, and then I put my crafty hat on. Ivy has been talking about volcanoes for a few days and the Internet read my mind and made clever Jean from The Artful Parent post about a volcano-making project she did with her daughter.

So we mixed up some green play-dough, put the gum boots on over the PJs and went on a nature walk with the collecting bags to find some volcano props.

Me, I took my own prop.

We built a leafy dino-land.

Teddy will eat anything.

Then we tried to erupt it. Keith even came out of his van for the big explosion.

Hmmm. Fat failure. Keith went back to the van. But we regrouped, thought like scientists, rebuilt with a smaller, fatter volcano, and:


Friday, February 25, 2011

The Age of No Reason

This column was originally published in Practical Parenting Magazine, September, 2010. Apologies for the confusion, I'm out of sync here. Ted has progressed from this brand of craziness, deep into the toddler-zone. This week he will only answer to the name Trixie and answers no to everything. 'More toast, Teddy?' 'No! But I'm Trixie! But no!' He cries if Ivy won't call me Robbie Rotten. Our easygoing, agreeable little fella is breaking bad...

My dear readers, I’m worried about T-Bone. It’s very early to drop such a heavy label on him, but I think he might be an addict. His relationship with condiments has reached unhealthy proportions. He begs for tomato sauce and mayonnaise and he weeps when he can’t get them. ‘Naynays. Soss. Naynays. Soss,’ he moans in a sorrowful, endless chant, and left near an unattended bowl, within seconds he looks like he’s been at the scene of some sort of chainsaw massacre.

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 before with his big sister Peanut, and it lasted 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 at top speed, forming complex and interlocking pathways. There are so many things to learn. So many rules to follow. Cups in the sink, T-Bone, not the toilet. Down from the table! Get off your sister, please. No, T-Bone, knife. Spider! Hot, T-Bone. Don’t touch. Sharp! Sharp! Poo is not for drawing, T-Bone. NOT FOR DRAWING, T-Bone. No! No! No!

At the same time, there is incredible magic too. It’s like watching a personality unfurl like a rosebud. First sentences appear, and early obsessions, and those light bulb mama-moments when you realise ‘Ah! He understands!’ At two, children have 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 witness. But it’s also often 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 Peanut, introducing Naughty Corners and Naughty Shelves and Time Outs, but the punishment zones all quickly turned into fun games.

‘Corner?’ Peanut would ask excitedly, knowing she was in for that hilarious gag where Mum and Dad carried her back to the funny spot, over and over again.

Ignoring the tantrum is the only real option, but toddlers don’t make this easy either. Peanut liked to bang her head on the floor in rage when she was going through the Age of No Reason. 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!’

T-Bone takes a more physical approach. If I try and ignore a tantrum, he simply moves the tantrum closer. Yesterday I tried valiantly to continue reading to Peanut while he wailed for tomato sauce. ‘Sauce is finished, T-Bone,’ I insisted, and continued on with Hairy Maclary. T-Bone wasn’t having it. ‘Ignore him, Peanut,’ 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 patience-sapping, brain-melting phase before T-Bone becomes reasonable and allows me to do my best parenting, which involves the judicious application and withdrawal of Milk Arrowroot biscuits and Wiggles videos. Until then, I’ll just keep us well-stocked in tomato sauce and earplugs.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

The Last Children In The Lounge-Room

True confessions: I'm a bit of a mole. Not moll - I almost always put on undies before getting out of a stretch Hummer and I wouldn't text Warnie with a ten-foot pole made of hand sanitizer. But I am an inside lass. A house mouse.

This week we set up a mud pie kitchen, inspired by some of these amazing set-ups.

I was also fascinated last year by Richard Louv and his book The Last Child In The Woods (you can read more and listen to a podcast here.) He talks about modern kids being affected by what he calls Nature Deficit Disorder. We're surrounded by bush and beach so we've got no excuse, like your groovy urban kidlets, but still, we're too often inside, cooking and pottering.

Keith is a lizard, always in search of the sun on his face, so when he gets off work he is always taking the kids off to the beach to explore, and they love it. But within sight of the house, one or both of my little house mice will play for a while and then squirrel back into the house to their books and puzzles.

There are many charms to the inside life, of course. Right now Ivy and Keith are reading together this lovely 1912 copy of Peter Pan. (Ivy is especially gripped by the thrilling gory tales of hand-chopping and crocodiles.)

But I do think we should get out more.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Pregnant Women are Smug

Via my favourite fellow gestater Sally

Saturday, February 19, 2011


Thanks to Michelle for this workout link. I was thinking yoga...but now I'm torn.

Hippie Fail

Friends, I have stumbled along the crunchy road to Green Heaven.

Today I bought shampoo and washed my hair.

It felt so good, and yet... so sad.

I haven't used shampoo for nearly six months. Keith hasn't washed his hair with shampoo for a couple of years now, and I've been meaning forever to do the experiment too.

Sodium laurel sulphate, the foaming agent in shampoo, is the work of the devil's chemist. And the argument goes that the oil-stripping-oil-replacing cycle of shampoo and conditioner just ruins the natural method by which your scalp can clean and regulate it's oils.

When you go no-poo, every week , or few days, you scrub your scalp with bicarb soda and then rinse with apple cider vinegar (oh, the glamour.) It's supposed to take up to eight weeks for your hair to regain it's natural mojo. There are a lot of people that argue that after this settling -in period, their hair is softer, cleaner and nicer than before.

But I think my hair is a bad hippie. It's been forever. And I can't wear it out. It just looked feral. It wasn't smelly, or probably that noticeable screwed back in a sort of topknot, but left out, it looked terrible.

I hit the wall today. I'm pregnant, I'm pale, I need a leg wax. At least, I need some good hair, dagnammit.

So I bought shampoo - sulphate free, which makes me happy.

And I washed my hair.

Please don't judge me.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Other People Have Smart Thinkings

Firstly, thanks to everybody for your blessings on our Plum announcement. I am touched and grateful for your support. It's been quiet around here because I'm still feeling pretty craptacular. Mornings of late I've been hurling in the shower, and generally, all I want to do is lie in bed and read books, lie in the bath and dream about interior decorating, or lie on the couch and watch bad TV.

Hoping to be injected with some energy soon.

In the meantime, I thought I'd link to some bloggers who have been writing thoughtful and interesting stuff while I've been growing tiny toes and eyelashes and watching My Restaurant Rules ( a lame-ass substitute for Masterchef addicts.)

Insightful Tasmanian mum Veronica from Sleepless Nights on Internet privacy (I've been thinking a lot about this.)

Glam and adorable Tori from food blog Eat Tori with the first in her Oscar Food series for the Huffington Post

Sweet smart Min from Lost in Bellambo's on the 'Cinderella Ate My Daughter' syndrome

The very funny Maxabella Loves on getting 3 kids out of the house for school (I'm taking mental notes.)

Happy weekend, my buddies.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Introducing Plum

Big news, my friends.

Big belly!

I'm twelve weeks peachy with a new Mogantosh. This one we're calling Plum while it cooks.

Plum is due in in August.

So far: morning sickness, shortness of breath, fatigue, headaches...

...and extreme whinging.

But happy!

So, so happy.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Come Back, Dr Freud, All Is Forgiven

The heatwave broke today. Actually, it's been pretty fun, with lots of water fights and icy-poles and cold showers and trips to the pool and frosty watermelon.

I'm feeling better, and Keith has had a great first week as head honcho of Lone Wolf Enterprises. Ivy, too, has been so well behaved. It's because she's obsessed with Charlie and The Chocolate Factory and will only answer when addressed as 'Charlie Bucket.' She calls me 'Miss Bucket' and Keith 'Grandpa Joe.' Because Charlie is the 'good boy', and Ivy is totally Method, as long as I remain in character as Miss Bucket, she is obedient and sweetly-spoken. But as soon as she forgets she's being Charlie, she throws a dramatic wobbly because her Band-Aid fell off or a dog looked at her funny.

Tonight at dinner we had a long chat to Charlie (who has decided to live at our house for five days) about his friend Ivy. Ivy is good some of the time, Charlie says, but naughty a lot. Ivy likes Star Wars, Charlie said, and when they play Star Wars together, Charlie is always Princess Leia and Ivy is always Luke Skywalker.

Confused? Welcome to the psychedelic wonderland of Ivy's head.

Ted, meanwhile is still refusing to get his head around the potty thing and has taken to wandering the house wagging his finger and chanting 'Bibbity bobbety boo. Never do a poo.'

Paging Dr Freud?

Road Trip

Back to all the words. This blog is where I keep track of stories as they are published, so apologies if you're tired of all the wacky. This piece was written for the Summer issue of Early Years Magazine. And p.s:- Tania, is this your wee-bath story? I wrote this column a while ago, and I can't remember, but it made me laugh for days. And now it is immortal.

Close your eyes, readers. Come with me on a little trip back in time. A faraway time, deep in your distant past. A time BC: before children. And now, in that misty memory, imagine you are taking a road trip. The guitar is there, the chocolate, the bottle of port, the crossword. Thick books and driving CD’s are piled high. Ribbons of coast road unravel before you as you cruise along, minds blissfully empty, needing only to stop at an occasional farm-shop for eggs and honey, or a country cafĂ© for a leisurely latte.

Wake up, parents! Those days are over. Wake up now! Wake up with a shock, like a person with kids. Wake up like my friend who recently relaxed into a warm bath to have a potty full of wee poured over her head.

Once upon a time, in our lazy, hazy pre-baby years, Keith and I would borrow my parent’s campervan as often as we could convince them to lend it. We’d load up, take off up the highway and shed our worries as we camped in various National Parks across New South Wales.

Some years later, life has changed. I’m preparing for a seven hour drive with our two kids in tow, and the packing is a whole different kettle of fish fingers. The CD’s are less of your indie-folk genre, and more of your Hooley Dooley’s (and you know you’re listening to too much children’s music when you and your partner are singing along to ‘I’m A Slug’, and agreeing ‘you know, they’re really very talented.’)

Road snacks don’t include chocolate peanuts or ginger beer. Snacks, these days, are boxes of dried fruit, cheese and crackers, sliced apples; carefully prepped for excitement of eating and separated into containers to give maximum time and interest. There are emergency wafers and caramels for the inevitable moments of madness. Surprise toys. Mapped-out stops at parks for running races, Duck, Duck, Goose, and other desperate attempts to tire out the tiny travellers.

I’m working hopeful, this trip, with a fully stocked Fun Bag. It took me hours and it contains a range of fiddly activities, intended to keep us twenty minutes ahead of the meltdown curve. We travel with a Rewards Chart complete with fairy stamp. We have lolly snakes for every hour of happy behaviour. We have a Dictaphone for Ivy to record and play back her own stories on. Trading on the vanity of the pre-schooler, we have little photo books featuring Ivy and Ted engaged in different activities, so they can gaze lovingly at themselves for a very long time. I know it sounds like the work of an obsessive mother, perhaps one in need of anxiety medication, but really, it’s just what I’ve been driven to after three years of listening to Ivy lose it, loudly and theatrically, in the car. Once she spent ten minutes on the freeway straining desperately against her car-seat and shouting ‘Undo me! I can’t undo me! But I have to get ooooooouuuuut!’

In the end, we make it, without having had any meltdowns. It’s been OK. At times, it’s even been fun. But it’s taken hours of preparation and a constant vigilance on the mood of the back seat to get us there in that state. And yet, somehow, for the last few hours, Keith and I indulged in a dreamy conversation about taking a year out to drive the whole family around the country. I’m sure that would turn out OK too, but I may rethink the anxiety medication in that Fun Bag.

Friday, February 4, 2011

In Which I Shut Up And Ivy Makes The Dinner.

In December, I dropped and broke our camera and I haven't yet replaced it. Funds are low but I'm looking for a digital camera with video that has some sort of fun tinkery aspect rather than a straight point and shoot. Maybe second-hand. Any advice gratefully received.

Any the how, our summer has gone largely unrecorded and this blog has gotten very wordy. I'm sick of myself. My, kids say the darndest things. Haven't done the washing-up. Ooh my pants fell down! Etc.

So as a little relief, here is a small series of Ivy making dinner in early summer.

Start with your little tomatoes. Eat a few, arrange a few...

Drizzle. For shizzle.

Grating cheese is totally exciting!

Still, sometimes it ends with Band-Aids (the chef's badge o'glory.)

Mix up a few Ribena mocktails.

And dinner is served!

This last photo really makes me laugh. For ages we were all perched around the kids table while the dining table held up some work-in-progress in the corner. Now it's back - no photos, so I can't prove it - but we're sitting around a big persons table like proper grown-ups.

Happy weekend, everybody.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

My Imaginary Children

This post originally appeared in Practical Parenting Magazine, November 2010

Sometimes, I am faced with a certain parental schizophrenia, although I haven’t yet required medication, or constructed myself a foil hat with flaps that channel messages from the Sunrise team. I do occasionally talk back to the Wiggles, but that’s just when I’ve been forced to watch too many DVDs and feel compelled to offer advice. ‘Your pants are too tight, Anthony! Too tight! And tell Murray to back away from the L’Oreal Copper Collection!’

No, my mental disconnect is the furry line between reality and fantasy which delineates my imaginary children from my real ones. It happens across a few aspects of life. Take dinnertime, for instance. My imaginary children eat whatever I put in front of them. They say ‘Brown rice and broccoli! Woo-hoo! Thanks for optimising our future dental health and academic success through a balanced diet, Mum!’

In real life, T-Bone will eat anything but by ‘eat’, I mean convey food to his mouth after taking each forkful on a journey across his outfit, the table and his sister. At two, he is barely stringing words together, but when I put spaghetti bolognaise down in front of him last week, he still managed to shout ‘Dog food, Mama!’

Three-year-old Peanut, meanwhile, says, as a reflex: ‘I don’t like that,’ whenever dinner is placed in front of her. An average mealtime might involve three visits to time-out, four threats to withhold dessert and six months off my life-span. When forced to chew, she can make one mouthful last longer than the Middle East peace negotiations, and if allowed, she would exist solely on frozen blueberries, sausages, and the thrill of drama.

In my head, my kids dress in organic cotton, hand-made, fair-trade garments, woven on the earnest hips of a female collective from a developing nation. Logo-free, calming neutrals, they would be worn with just a touch of whimsy. A bespectacled owl badge, perhaps.

In real life, Peanut’s all-time favourite outfit goes like this: Sportacus underpants worn beneath a pair of satin Wiggles boxer shorts and a Thomas the Tank Engine singlet topped with a stretched-out, over-loved blue top that reads ‘Bring Back Warney’. She likes to top this ensemble with a pair of sunglasses I made for her third birthday that feature two Wiggles stuck on straws and leaping, maniacally and permanently, off the side of her head. T-Bone fights Peanut for the Wiggles shorts, but he prefers to wear them as a hat. Lately, he has developed a passion for a striped sun frock that he calls his ‘dancing dress.’

I can’t really blame the kids. To be honest, I am a different mother in my imagination too. There, I never withdraw to a quiet place in my own head where the whinging can’t reach. The television doesn’t function as a fat, square, twinkly babysitter. I use only cloth nappies, feed only organic and I am fully Present in the Moment.

Then again, maybe, my imaginary mother-self is a bit much. I would probably avoid her at the park. And those imaginary kids…, well,the other children would probably hang them up on a basketball hoop by the strap of their home-sewn underpants. Perhaps, in the end, reality ain’t so bad.