Monday, July 29, 2013

My Date With Hawkey

Actually, it was a date with Keith, last Friday night, but Bob Hawke was there. Grumpy, impressive and incredibly hirsute, that's my take-away. Bob was alright as well.

We were at a Labor Party function celebrating the 30 year anniversary of the Franklin Dam environmental campaign. Run by these guys, in case you're interested. Bob talked the small crowd through his memories of the campaign. My friend Carol (political animal, goofball and seriously impressive woman) invited us, and I found it fascinating to check out the politicos in the room and swan about a little, pretending I spent my days in more lofty pursuits than wiping poo-bums and cracking jokes on the internet. White Anglo Saxon middle aged men in suits were robustly represented, in case you were worried about them. During Hawkey's speech, Keith's pocket somehow switched on the Winnie The Pooh app on my phone, but other than that, I think we got away with it.

I had a few whoite woines, and then Keith and I caught a taxi downtown and ate tapas. We had such a good time. I may have waved my wineglass and harangued Keith at some length over the patatas bravas about the importance of being politically engaged and tried to convince him to become sort sort of solar energy go-to-guy. In the morning, Keith asked me if I was still planning on becoming a Labor activist.

Who am I kidding? I can barely activate the microwave.

Great night though.


Wednesday, July 24, 2013

The Chuck Wagon

This post was originally published in Practical Parenting Magazine, June 2013

Last week I put my foot down.  Six year old Peanut, who had spent the day at school and then the afternoon making flower potions, was refusing to eat her dinner. She was bunging it on. I was sure.   ‘I feel nosey’, she moaned. ‘She means nauseous’, my husband Keith translated.

‘No, Peanut, ‘I said firmly. ‘You will eat that salad.’ She gazed wanly at me but I stood strong. There was a standoff. ‘NOSEY!’ she said. ‘Nope’, Keith answered. We winked at each other, pleased at the firm and loving boundaries we were setting together. And then Peanut threw up, copiously and violently, onto her dinner plate. When the heaving was over, she raised her head, eyes glittering with the thrill of victory, and probably fever, and spluttered ‘I told you I was sick!’ I don’t think I have ever seen her so happy. Keith patted her head and I fetched a tea-towel, and when our eyes met this time, the unspoken shared message was ‘Together, we will burn in Hades.’

Oh, vomit, you evil nemesis. You have been my constant, stinky companion for the last two weeks. All three kids have been sick, and the soft furnishings and I have been spewed on from every possible angle. I am so tired of washing linen and bleaching floors. So exhausted from days spent patting backs and rocking while the washing machine hums steadily in the background and the Mount Washmore of unfolded laundry grows terrifyingly tall.  I long for a mini-break to a pristine, antiseptic room with the freshness of Scandinavia.

But vomit, it seems, is part of the parenthood deal. And it starts early. I remember one day when baby Peanut lay kicking and gurgling next to Keith and I as we sat on the floor, eating lunch in a patch of sunshine. Such a charming domestic scene. ‘Eep!’ I said. ‘What sauce have you put on this chicken? Is that parmesan?’ I tasted it again. Ooh, bad.  ‘I didn’t put any sauce on the chicken,’ said Keith. I inspected the little pool on my plate, and realised, hopelessly, that the baby had thrown up on my lunch and then I had eaten it.

It gets worse. On the freeway a few months ago, I had all three kids loaded into the back of the car when Pudding, in the unpredictable manner of baby humans, vomited violently without warning. ‘Oh! Oh! Oh!’ shouted theatrical Peanut. ‘It stinks! I can’t stand it! It’s disgusting!’ I shouted her down from the front. ‘Stop it, Peanut!’ I said. ‘We can’t do anything about it now. Stop being such a drama queen. Just! Calm! Down!'

Peanut pulled it together, and we all moaned quietly as the cheesy fug filled the car. Pudding was unperturbed by the fact that she was carpeted in gastric juices and began to quietly inspect the food particles in her lap. The unthinkable happened. She began to pluck out the choicest morsels and eat them.

That was when Peanut and I both lost it. ‘No she’s not oh my god she is I can bear it don’t look don’t look in the name of all that is holy DON”T LOOK AT THE BABY’ we cried in horror. And there we were, on a freeway, screaming while the baby ate her own vomit. And while we screamed, we laughed.  Which is, when I think about it, a fairly accurate snapshot  of mothering three children under seven. Screaming with horror. Laughing hysterically. And vomit. 

Monday, July 22, 2013

Mini Masterchefs

My two big kids are getting into watching Masterchef with me this year, and they have developed a desperate attachment to Rishi. They love him! Ivy even begs me to let her practice separating eggs just like him. (She's gotten pretty good at it too.) Their watching nights are Sunday and Wednesday, and the off nights, if the show is on, they are prone to scurrying out from their room to sneak forbidden glances at the TV and ask me 'Is Jules eliminated? How did the chicken turn out?' Ivy even called lamb a 'protein'. yesterday. I can't tell you how happy this makes me. 

I have been training these kids into their roles as my little soux-chefs for years. Years I tell you! 


We played Masterchef last week. The kids set all the toy food up as the pantry, and I gave them two minutes in there and a challenge along these lines Best Dinner Ever! Super Yummy!  They raced around making bizarre combinations of food, and then when I said '10 seconds to go! If you'e not plating up, you should be!' they both wildly threw food onto plates and presented it to me. We had one immunity challenge and one elimination challenge, and then we staged the grand final. I judged the winner as Ted, mostly because Ivy was less likely have a massive losers meltdown. 

Ivy made immunity pins and Masterchef signs for the judges seats. It was the best game we've played for some time. I read this blog post recently from an American ex-contestant. Ermegerd! The horrors! Can life off-screen for the Australian players be like this?   

Friday, July 19, 2013

Good Stuff For The Weekend

Warm your cockles: an eighty-one year old tells a tale of long lost love. It's funny and fabulous.

Have you been keeping an eye on the Pitch Drop experiment? I have (nerd alert). Guess what? It dropped! 

When a broadcaster is on the other side of the mike, they know how to give good interview. Richard Glover is charming and funny here  (and gets extra points for adoring his fabulous wife.)

Breakfast quesadillas. Yes please thank you.

When you tell your kids they are 'naturals' and 'gifted', are you helping them to fall apart when they fail at stuff?  Interesting stuff.

Tootsie is in my top ten favourite movie list.Top five even.  So I loved this Dustin Hoffman interview where he explores his feelings about playing a woman on screen.

My friend Shelley mines history (so you don't have to!) for attractive, interesting deceased folk in her hilarious and edifying series The Hot And The Dead.

Finally, this spoken-word piece on breastfeeding is moving and wonderful.

What are you up to this weekend? Right now,  I am excited about getting my birthday blowtorch on the creme brulee I just took out of the oven. After that, we've got a lot of soccer, a visit from Grandpa, some kid parties, a big old pile of washing to fold, and some writing projects to crack on with. Plus, a date with the final Mad Men episode (season 6).

Sounds good yes?

Hope you have a good one too. x

Thursday, July 18, 2013


Big footy game last night. Keith went and watched it at the local RSL, and he told me about the atmosphere when he got home. 

There were about twenty guys there, he said. Not a woman in the joint. They all had a beer or two and occasionally yelled at the screen. At one point somebody carried around a tray of party pies. 

When the game was over they peeled off from the group one by one and made their way home. I was interested to explore that. 'Did they say good bye, or just go?' I asked Keith. 'Yeah, said goodbye, but just, you know, peacefully,' he said. 'I am confused,'  I said. 'Why didn't you hang around for another half an hour and kiss each other a few times and start a few new conversations and laugh like witches?' 

'That is not our way,' Keith said. 

Friday, July 12, 2013

The Wrong Daughter

Huzzah, we are on the mend, but Keith and I are both feeling a bit frazzled after this weeks sleep disruption. In fact, last night Keith made perhaps his worst decision so far in our six years of parenting.

There has been a lot of coughing from the kids at night. Croupey, asthmatic, worrisome midnight coughing. We've been doing a lot of creeping in and replacing blankets and administering water, and a lot of lying in bed, listening to the hacking, and postponing that awful moment of actually leaving the warm nest.

Last night I lay listening to Ivy cough and splutter for ages before I said to Keith 'I think we should bring her in.' He was wasted with sleep. 'In here with us?' he said. 'Yeah', I said, 'in the warm.'

'Kay' he mumbled and staggered out into the hallway. To my horror he turned left, instead of right, and a moment later he appeared, carrying the wrong daughter.

'What are you doing?' I whispered in shock, as he tucked Georgie in between us. She snuffled with surprised satisfaction, and then Ivy started coughing again, and Keith realised what he'd done. He froze and we lay in silence for a moment, as the enormity of his stuff-up dawned upon us.

'Come on George, that was fun, wasn't it?' he said quietly, as he tried to carry the baby back to her room. 'Little visit to Mummy and Daddy, and now back to bed!' Of course she wasn't having any of it. She screamed blue murder and he had to get up and sit watching the cricket with her for an hour before she went to sleep again.

She woke up later in the night and wailed again. I went in to find her standing up in bed. 'Out dere!' she shouted. 'Out Daddy! Out Daddy!' I fear she may be expecting a midnight cricket party with Daddy every night from now on.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Vacation Flu

There are some sick puppies in the next room. As in three kids barking away with croup in their beds. Me, I've got a headache and a sore back, and I'm annoyed that in all m y school holiday planning, I forgot to factor in the inevitable bloody vacation flu.

Teddy has been worrying us for a fortnight with his asthma, which has ramped up, day by day. The cold aggravates it, so he's been wandering about with a hot-water bottle tucked down the front of his puffy 'asthma coat'. And by 'wandering', I mean 'hopped up to the goolies on Ventolin and loony as all hell'.

Yesterday, his cough worsened and worsened. Keith and Georgie had both gone down with a throaty cold virus. George had kept us up all night needing in the rocking chair, and then partying in the bed between us. When she would sleep for a stretch, Ted would throw off his blankets, get cold and activate his asthma.  Keith, who is usually great at midnight kid-wrangling, was dead to the world. By morning, I was a wreck. I checked my email in the morning, thought my own witchy hair was a spider that had dropped on my face, and slapped myself in the nose. At the coffee shop, the girl asked me 'Name?'and I started at her for a good four seconds before I retrieved the information.

Ted spiralled downwards throughout the day. Keith was working in bed while Georgie slept and the big kids and I watched 'How It's Made' on Netflix (our new favourite show).  Ted's cough became more and more frequent and I held him on my lap and tried not to panic as he struggled to breathe. When he threw up, I made the call.  Hospital time.

I stuck my head in to break the news to Keith. He was buried under blankets on a conference Skype, and he muted the other eggheads while I told him I was taking Ted to emergency.

I cleaned up the worst of the spew, threw a tea-towel over the spot, grabbed a book for Ted and headed out the door. Teddy begged 'Don't watch how toilets are made, Ivy' as we left. Ivy looked thrilled to be left with full control of the remote and no supervision.

The hospital run was scary, as they always are. Ted fell asleep or passed out as we got near the hospital and I had trouble waking him up. After a few boring and frustrating and miserable hours, they loaded him up on Steroids and Ventolin and home we went, grabbing a pizza on the way.

Back at the house, Keith had been struggling to manage the kids while lying in front of the heater with his eyes closed inventing 'challenges' for Ivy like 'make some toast and bring it to your sister.'

When Ted and I staggered in, George had been pouring milk all over the dining table in a toddler version of Weet-Bix that did not involve a bowl. It was carnage.

It's taken me all day to restore order, and right at the end, my computer dropped and smashed its screen, so not only do I have to try and write using the TV, but I can't even go to bed now and zone out by watching  Sister Wives on Netflix.

Er me gord. School holidays suck.

Sunday, July 7, 2013

Ivy's Op Shop. Come Now! Come Then!

Ivy has spent the last couple of days planning a shop and it opened at the end of the driveway today.  She sold oranges, cards, jewellery and a lucky dip that contained home-made rulers and poetry.

'Mum, I am imagining a line of people stretching right up the road,' she told me last night. I thought I'd better manage he expectations a little. 'There might not be that many customers,' I said. 'It's a pretty quiet road.'

'No,' she said. 'I think so many people will come and they'll be, like...' She started pretending to walk along the road. 'What's this? Ivy's...what? Op shop? Wow! What is she selling? Oh, yes, jewellery, and lucky dips! Great! Wow! Awesome!'

'Well, it hope it works out for you, ' I said.

When Ivy set up her table she was thrilled to write SOLD across the 'cards' section of her sign. She had sold all her card stock to Nanna and her Aunty Sam the day before. Sam bought my favourite, which had a crying person on the front and the cheery phrase Sorry! Inside Ivy had lettered To: and From: with spaces to fill in the names and the transgression. Sam gave it back to me that night on my birthday present. 'Sorry!' she wrote. I didn't buy you a birthday card.'

Ivy and Ted sat and waited for the rush hour.

It was, as I feared, a very quiet Sunday. 

What else could I do? I quietly called Nanna and Pop. Good old Nanna and Pop. 

Nanna closed her eyes as instructed and rummaged in the lucky-dip. She fished out a poem. It read 'Love.  Love.  I love my dove. My dove in love with me.' Morally spurious, but very sweet.

Ivy invented a sales cry. 'Ivy's Op Shop!' she and Teddy shouted, at any sound of a distant car.  'Come now! Come then!' They spent hours sitting at their little table at the end of the driveway valiantly calling for custom. There were a few staff problems. At one stage - it was hard to get the full details - somebody drew on somebody else's paper and somebody yelled in somebody's face. Teddy took his break. He stomped past me at the door and I watched Ivy do a tragic sales call. 'Ivy's Op Shop!' she wailed, voice trembling. 'Come Now! Come th-e-e-e-en!'

In the end, a young couple walking their dog stopped and bought some items, and that marked the close of business. I would myself have called it a pretty failed business model, but Ivy was delighted and says she is going to run the shop every weekend from now on.

Nanna and Pop are going to go broke.

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Excuse Me, I Think There Has Been A Terrible Mistake

This post was first published in Practical Parenting Magazine, May 2013

As a single person I was hopeless at looking after my own finances. Paperwork was always lost, and bills were always paid late. Periodically I would enthusiastically begin new ‘systems’ to manage the admin of my life. This bit was very enjoyable: notebooks, highlighters, Post-Its, steely resolve. This time! This time!  Within days the system would collapse.

And here I am now, the custodian of three small children. Suddenly I have to keep track of the most enormous amount of administration. There are school reading diaries and fundraising documents and fees. There are permission slips and vaccination schedules and sports registrations. It is like a tsunami of paperwork and it all makes me want to shout ‘Excuse me! I think there has been a terrible mistake! You have mistaken me for another kind of mother!’

I do occasionally (okay, frequently) forget the school lunch and/or the school hat and/or the lunch-order, but I have never forgotten to pick the actual child up from school yet. I think that’s pretty good. But where are the prizes for that, I wonder?  Who raised the bar so bloody high that it became expected for school mums to all be super-organised PA’s for our demanding child- bosses? Was it always this way? Did my lengthy, indulgent, enjoyable pre-parenthood years just give me a false picture about what being a proper adult really entailed?

In lots of ways, motherhood has asked me to step up and be better. More patient. More compassionate. Less uptight about defecating in front of an audience. Able to juggle hot-button questions like ‘Is God real, Mum? Like Santa?’ even before I have had my pint of morning coffee. And as I enter the kids-at-school years, motherhood is asking me to get my act together and stop behaving like a secretary on my final warning.  Motherhood is requesting, in fact, that I become a grown-up.

There is a theory that I like that says that bad habits can’t be ‘undone’; just over-ridden and replaced by good ones. The brain sets in place the neural pathway of any habitual behaviour, and each time you do the naughty thing, you reinforce and strengthen it. The only way to build new habits is to practice and practice until you create an alternative, equally strong neural pathway. I have spent my adult life reacting to paperwork by putting my fingers in my ears and saying ‘lalalalala!’ and my brain has become very used to that strategy.  But now it’s time to stop.  And once I get started, there are other bad behaviours to address. 

I will replace my takeaway-latte addiction with organic green tea. I will replace fruit-and-nut chocolate with kale smoothies. I will stop averting my eyes from the kitchen floor and wash the kitchen floor. I will catch up on my yoga exercises instead of the Real Housewives of Beverly Hills. First things first: the administration.  Step One: stop putting school paperwork on the floor of the car to gently compost with the takeaway coffee cups and lonely sultanas.  Step Two: Create a new system. This will need equipment!  Step 3: Buy highlighters, notebooks and post-it notes. Step 4: Definitely stick to system this time. Definitely.

Monday, July 1, 2013

Electric Blankets And Dr. Damn Drew

This winter is sending me into a state of gormless hibernation. I have so much to do, but I can't crack on with any of it. When I can escape the jobs and pleasures of family life, all I want to do is snuggle with my electric blanket and watch Dr. Drew's Celebrity Rehab on my laptop. (hangs head, accepts shabby overcoat of shame.)

And yet.

These school holidays are upon me like a young Labrador, and I am determined to do a better job this time than last. I am armed with a Sulky Tax (10 cents per raised eyebrow, snarky comment or unreasonable whinginess), a Rewards Jar (movies on week 2 if I fill it with enough good-behaviour pasta bits), and a commitment to bringing my own best self to the project.

We're going to bake butterfly cakes, explore some projects from this website of wonders, read A Wrinkle In Time and hang out with the cousins.

As long as I can tear myself away from Dr Drew and that damn warm, warm blanket.

If you have any school holiday tips, fire away. Also, Dr. Drew. He's got something. Like, something special, am I right? No? No?