silky chill- organic kid’s cold packs

4 May

Our most popular design to date

A silky chill is a unique cold pack to soothe the everyday bumps and bruises of childhood. Made from super-soft fabric, silky chill goes from the freezer to the site of the pain, without needing to be wrapped. Filled with a fine organic filling, silky chill is safe for little ones, even if they chew on it. Endlessly re-usable, silky chill is the icepack kids ask for.

Handmade with mummy love.

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Hunter Walk 4 Freedom

29 Apr

I’m lacing up my joggers and putting my feet where my mouth is. Well, kind of.  My foot has often been in my mouth, but this time it’s for a good cause. The Hunter Walk 4 Freedom is about raising money and more importantly awareness about human trafficking. All sponsorship money raised will go to The A21 Campaign to help rescue, shelter, care for and nurture girls who have been sold, trafficked and held captive in the sex industry. It will also help to see that justice is done and human traffickers are fined and imprisoned.

Most of us think that slavery was abolished in the 1800’s but there are more slaves in the world today than at any other time. And their value is decreasing. A human being can be bought for as little as $90.

This Sunday’s walk is about valuing humanity, and saying that trafficking is not ok with me. I am fortunate to have a voice, so I am speaking up for those who can no longer raise a cry. Check out the website and A21 for more details. And then join me! Or sponsor me. Whatever you like. I’ll be the one in the black t-shirt 😉

Holiday Mode

18 Jan

I’ve been blogging for Sunny Days again…

http://www.sunnydaysmagazine.com.au/Stories/Stories/Holiday-Mode.php

Tomorrow’s the big day…

14 Jan

I’m super excited. Tomorrow I have a travel piece that is being published in the Sydney Morning Herald. This is super exciting for me personally and professionally, as I hope to be a writer when I grow up. 🙂

My blogging has dropped off as the real world/paid writing I do has increased. Ever so slightly.  Oh, and it’s also school holidays so trying to get much of anything done is like pushing sand uphill with a paddlepop stick.

So tomorrow there will be champagne. There will be celebrating. Hopefully, it’s the start of some solid writing work. The sweetest of sweet rewards- a nice fat cheque- will be waiting at the end of it. It’s only taken three years.

🙂

Spare time? What spare time?!?

3 Jan

Two posts in as many days. Who’d have thunk it?

Sitting down to blog about the cake incident, as it’s being referred to in this house, I remembered just how much I love writing. It’s flow for me. I sit down at the keyboard and hours have flown by. Something like being in your element, I guess. It’s only taken me 30 years to work it out. Better late than never, I guess.

Anyway, as much as I love writing, and I do love it most of the time, there is such a thing as the pressing need to earn an income. Precious little money in writing, and none whatsoever in raising kids. So I’ve started my own little business,-along with my cards and my book and my Sunny Days work- and I’m making something I’ve called a silky chill. It’s an icepack for kids. Satin soft and freezable, it’s for all those bumps and scrapes that my kids have every day. That’s enough plugging from me. Check it out here

www.madeit.com.au/detail.asp?id=199367

If you like the look of it, let me know, or better yet, tell all your friends!

Oh, I will get to that synchronised swiming blog, too. Might save it for tomorrow though. Here’s a taster.

Upside down cakes, synchronised swimming and ‘little scraps of underwear’

3 Jan

 

I know. Kind of a crazy title. Well, there’s quite a lot to explore and it has been a long while, as some of my regular readers have been reminding me… (Thanks for the prod, Shelley) 🙂

What with the end of the school year, the end of Sunny Days work for a brief few weeks and the prepartions for Christmas, I’ve had my hands rather full. There’s been lots of things that I’ve wanted to blog about, but time has been a precious commodity, with not quite enough of it for me to ramble on on my little self-indulgent rants…

So the upside down cake. That was my daughter’s fault. Poor kid. She’s too mch like her mother.

And as such, she has been organising surprise parties. Yes. In the plural. The latest of which was for her best friend from school. Lexie is moving away. Not just to another school or town, but to the other side of the world. South Africa, in fact. It might just be a tad too far to visit, so Lolly threw a party to farewell her in style.

For those not in the know, Lolly is just nine years old. She’s a kind-hearted, generous girl with very good organisational skills, except when it comes to organising her personal belongings in her own bedroom. But that’s another story…

The date for the party was set. The teachers were all clued in. The food allergy notices, Muslim dietary requirements and the food pyramid had all been taken into consideration. Every body was bringing something to eat, the money had been collected for the gift and the card had been signed. Lol was barely able to sleep, she was so excited. It was the night before, and this Mummy had been frantically orgainising lots of other elements of family life. All that remained to be done was to cook a cake. As I headed out to bookclub- I told you I was busy- I left out the recipe and the ingredients for a banana cake, her favourite. Daddy was coerced charmed into cooking the cake and everything was falling into place nicely. How prophetic those words were to be…

The next morning, we whipped some cream and decorated the cake with Lexie’s name and chocolate shavings and it looked amazing. Lolly was fair to burting out of her skin she was so flushed with excitement. We loaded the car with all the bags, hats, food, gifts and children for the trip to school. It was probably just an accident waiting to happen, but I let Lol carry the cake to the car.

It didn’t end well.

As I locked the house, I heard the shrill scream. Followed by the stunned silence of disbelief. And then partenered of course with the balling tears of a nine year old who had just totally lost it.

The cake had fallen, upside down- freshly whipped creamy topping first- onto the passenger seat of the car. Frustration, disbelief and the memory of an incident years before when a milk carton had spilled in the car in stinking hot curdling rancid January ran through my mind in jut a millisecond. Did I mention the fact that we were running late and I had to get to work?

I’d like to say that I was calm and encouraging, not bothered at all by the mess and wasted effort of the once pristine but now hairy and gritty cake. I’d like to, but I can’t. I let loose an unearthly yet strangely familiar groan/bellow/yell of frustration and “You can’t be SERIOUS!!!!”

My little organiser was falling apart before my eyes. Her longed for party was now, in her eyes, an abject failure, represented by the pile of squished cake and cream on the front seat of our car. All her plans and hopes of a touching farewell celebration were crushed, by that one, single albeit messy incident.

Somewhere deep inside me the wise maternal element was belatedly awoken. I grabbed my daughter and let her sob, trying to reassure her that it would be ok. We could clean up the seat- and if it started to smell, well, so be it. We’d lived with the sour milk smell before, we could do it again. The image of people ‘falling apart’ is used so often, but it really did feel like I had to gather all her broken bits of self-esteem and glue them all back together again, and fast! My reaction to the incident was crucial in how she would remember this mistake in the years to some.

 

It gave us a great opportunity to talk about life and it’s inevitable stuff-ups. It’s not if we make mistakes or not, but how we react to them and learn from them that counts. If our kids never get to experience those disasters, they don’t get to think on their feet and relaise that it’s really ok to mess up and that we can usually fix things up somehow anyway. It’s not a fun lesson, often it’s messy in lots of different ways, but the lesson was a poignant one all the same.

Thankfully, in our enthusiasm we’d whipped too much cream earlier that morning, so we grabbed the bowl from the fridge, mopped up the mess as best we could and with now only a slight hiccup or two from the child who moments before was hysterical, we drove to school.

I’m incredibly thankful for the terrific teachers at our school. Far from dismissing my daughter from the staff-room with a quick ‘you’ll be fine’, their sympathy was touching as they related their own culinary disasters. Her red rimmed eyes and still-swollen top lip from crying probably helped garner their support, but they willingly scraped off the top of the cake and replaced it with the fresh cream we’d brought, as I dashed to work, confident she was in the hands of people who would look after her emotional as well as her educational well-being.

The farewell surprise party went without any other hitches. The kids ate heaps, gave Lexie her card and gift and she was suitably farewelled from our little school. It was another success to chalk up to Lolly’s event planning career. And another learning curve for her, and for me.

NB Due to the length of this ramble, the synchronised swimming and little scraps of this titled piece will have to wait for another installment. Stay tuned!

Silver threads

23 Nov

There is something powerful in the bond between a parent and a child.

I have a vivid memory of being in a classroom as a seven year old. I remember sitting at my desk and imagining a long silver cord running from my heart, over the desk, out of the class-room, through the playground and up the hill to our house where my mum was at home caring for my little brothers and sister.

That cord was representative of our love. Our bond. Our connection. It was strange imagery for a kid in Year 1, but I can still see it clearly.

Back then, I still had a bit of separation anxiety on being left at school. Despite thriving at pre-school, I cried every day for the first three terms.

Looking back on it as an adult, I guess it was a way for me to console myself that even though my mum wasn’t there with me, we would always be attached. Over the years I have discovered that the silver cord is super stretchy, as it has never been broken yet.

It’s funny the things you remember.

Golden moments

17 Oct

As a parent, there are plenty of tear-your-hair-out moments in daily life, but there are also the occasional golden moments.

Like when you take your whole family to someone’s place for dinner and your child goes up to the hostess and asks if there is anything they can do to help. (If only it happened in your own kitchen on the odd occasion.)

Like when they are all tucked up in bed at night, smelling clean and warm, deeply breathing without a care in the world, looking like sleeping angels.

The time all three of them play with Lego on the floor together for an hour or more and build a new city or create a new breed of animal without arguing.

When your eldest creates a dog house out of a cardboard box and the youngest is content to curl up inside and sleep with a blanket thrown over them, panting occasionally and answering every question with a ‘woof’.

When seven year old boys discover their nurturing side with a soft toy, and it’s immediately given a name and it’s own blanket and patted and rocked to sleep in a way that carefully mimics the way you used to do it when he was tiny.

When you look after someone’s baby for an afternoon and your youngest child gets to play the role of big brother. Carrying the bottle and putting the dummy in the baby’s mouth are something he’s never done, but are all of a suddenly imbued with a sense of tenderness and maturity that he’s never displayed and you’ve never seen in him before.

It’s the hot afternoon in the school holiday break when all three of them swim and dive and race each other in the pool, only to climb out and place full buckets of water on the trampoline and jump and bounce and splash them off, laughing like it’s the funniest thing in the world.

And the quietness afterwards, when they spread their towels out on the hot concrete and bake themselves dry, stretched out side-by-side in a row of treasure that makes you melt.

These are the golden moments I tuck away in my heart and for when my children are  no longer children, but I am their mother still.

Becoming Family

28 Sep

There are lots of things no-one tells you when you get married. One is that you may never again see those distant relatives your mother insisted be invited to the wedding. Another is the fact that as your mother was never married to his father, there’s likely to be a few misunderstandings in regards to the perceived roles of ‘husband’ and ‘wife’. But the institution of marriage-together with its accompanying hopes, dreams and future promise- marks the birth of a new family. What society neglects to mention is that ‘family’ takes time.

Every family is different. Some families are small and quiet and neat and on time. Others are big and rambunctious and messy and very often, late. Some families are broken and hurting and hardly operate in the same universe, let alone share nuances of understanding. So often people related by blood are both incredibly alike, and yet incredibly different. Inevitably, to some degree there is friction.

Family is the connections between a group of people who are related by blood, marriage or heart. We are born into it, and become enmeshed in its fabric. To a large degree, our family of origin defines who we are and what we think. At the core, a family is a place of belonging and being known. Traditions are shared, history is understood and there’s a traceable heritage. A slightly different facet is created with each new addition, but the original essence is retained.

I never realised that my family was what people describe as ‘close’. We enjoy spending time in each other’s company, even when there’s no specific reason to. It’s noisy when we get together. We celebrate anniversaries, graduations, new jobs, new babies, Friday nights, footy grand finals. We make a big deal of Christmas and birthdays. It means cards. Gifts. Lots of food. And it’s not a special occasion without a cake.  Altogether, we are a tight unit.

Enter into this idyll an outsider- my husband. We met, fell in love and decided to get married. I naively expected him to slot into my family, loving and accepting them as I do. But I’d known them for 20 years longer than he had, and he’s a stranger they only knew for two weeks before we got engaged. It was not an easy time.

My husband’s kin live overseas. My relatives were the only local family we would have. When we got married, his biggest fear was that we would be swallowed up and operate merely as an appendage of my birth family. Like a little amoeba, we would just be absorbed into my big, slightly  messy and at times chaotic family cell.

On the road to ‘family’, the initial stages were decidedly bumpy. Establishing our own identity as a family (albeit a family of just two, which in my mind was just a couple) involved some heart-crushing disappointment and steep learning curves.

Just a month after our wedding, my new husband planned a surprise dinner for two for my birthday. He bought red roses and gave me the tiny shell picture we had bought together on our honeymoon. (“Oh, that’s lovely! Give it to me for my birthday!” Little did I think it would be the only gift he gave me that day.) He was so determined to create our own traditions and our own family identity that my parents and siblings were excluded from the day’s festivities. There was no sonorous rendition of Happy Birthday, no stream of small prettily wrapped gifts, no family love or raucous celebration. I felt lonely, isolated and ripped away from the heart of my family.

We have learned a lot from that birthday. My husband and I realised we have different personalities, different love languages and different ideas about what a celebration should be. When we got married, we both assumed we would just know how to get on with things.  In the same way that in-laws need to meet and mix and get to know each other, so too do rituals and ceremonies. It takes time to argue over, discuss, sort out and reconcile ‘the way we do things at our house’.  As the new traditions become realised, a new culture emerges and a fresh family develops a sense of ‘us’.

It’s the little things that can be infuriating when starting a life together. Do you dry dishes with a tea-towel or a tea-cloth? Is it a doona or a duvet? Does the toilet seat really need to be down? Is it acceptable to say ‘boring’ or ‘hate’ in our family? Do birthdays means cards and presents and seeing the rellies? How many times do you have to say goodbye to someone before they actually leave? Is wiping the benches down really a part of doing the dishes? Who decides how many pairs of shoes is too many? Do all these things really matter?

Unfortunately, they do. It’s the small things that fret the holes in life. They all need to be resolved to a degree that both parties are able to live with. Agree, disagree or agree to disagree. Whatever it takes to live in harmony and establish your own house rules. Small rituals and ceremonies make up the fabric of our daily existence and the rhythm of our years. Family traditions are something that develop over time.

Once children are introduced to the mix, a family’s identity really starts to solidify. Now there are entirely brand new human beings to mould and grow and shape and bond with, a new group of people to function in harmony with each other. As parents, we demonstrate the values that most resonate as true and important and work out how to translate them in a practical way, so we can instil them into our children. In the most philosophical terms, this is the most significant way we have to impact the world and make it a better place. How we raise our children is an integral part of the legacy we leave. For the sake of the environment, for society, but mostly because the values and connections we develop in and with our children will impact the way they live their lives and our future great-grandchildren. Generations of people affect the world in different ways. Imagine a population committed to close family relationships, caring about sustainability, caring about world poverty.

So often we start parenting with such lofty ideals. We’ll never make the mistakes our parents did, we thought. We’ll do things differently. We are so often a product of our up-bringing, yet choices always remain.  Do we repeat old known patterns or forge ahead into something fresh and untried?

Brining our first child home from hospital, my husband and I looked at each other over her head and said ‘What do we do now?’ Through those early weeks and months, after reading books, talking to our mothers, the baby health nurse and friends whose kids were older than ours, we eventually found our own rhythm. Despite the sleeplessness and unknown territory, we delighted in the microcosm we had created. Instincts kicked in, and we gave ourselves permission to believe that we could parent our daughter.

We have realised that our highest ideals are authenticity and being intentional. And we’ve raised our kids with those ideals. Our parents have been terrific. They loved us wholeheartedly and have given us a terrific legacy to build on. We’ve tried to take all the great stuff they did and use it again. But we’ve added our own subtle twists. We are different people to our parents. Our family needs to reflect our personalities, and be a comfortable fit for us and our children. Like a fine wine, our concept of family is something that develops with time and maturity, and gets richer and more agreeable as the years pass.

Letting the Cat Out of the Bag

6 Sep

It must be infinitely easier to go through                                                                       life cruising under the radar. Living a life The cat's out of the bagwhere nothing extraordinary ever happens seems a much simpler option that ‘putting yourself out there’ and having people know what you are actually capable of. Because once they know what you can do, the cat’s well and truly out of the bag, and all of a sudden people have expectations of you.

They are formidable, those expectational measuring devices, and they are everywhere. Held up to us throughout our lives, it starts from the moment our creased cranky faces emerge after birth and we ‘score’ on the Apgar test. School is the long-recognised nursery for learning about what society will expect of us for the rest of our lives and even spouses have plenty of un-verbalised expectations they weren’t aware of themselves until you both return from your honeymoon.

The general expectations of good behaviour and tidy bedrooms, being kind to your siblings and calling when you’re going to be late- those are fairly reasonable expectations and not too much of a hassle. My advice is to do what is required. Glide along. Don’t ruffle any feathers. Be beige. Don’t stand up and don’t make too much noise.

Just don’t do anything remarkable. Forget acts  that may be perceived as worthy or admirable or requiring skill or valour or hard work. Under no circumstances whatsoever do anything which may require- do I even dare mention it- gulp- self-sacrifice or better yet, organisational skills??

Because once you’ve given birth without drugs or done the groceries with 4 children under school age in tow or made that really excellent bridesmaid dress or organised that massive function on a shoe-string budget or painted the entire bedroom all on your tod, people will expect that you will be able to do it again. Nay, that you even enjoy doing whatever it was that you did, as you so obviously have such a natural ability and affinity for such a task.

A good friend of mine insisted that I stop showing her how her new espresso machine worked. “Don’t!” she said. “Hubby is the expert.  I don’t want to learn how to make a good coffee. If I show him I can brew with the best of them, he will expect me to make it!” I know just what she means.

Decades ago when my Dad was an eager young boy at work in the sulphide, he was reprimanded by the older men who had worked there for years. His crime? Doing too good a job and working too fast. “Slow down, son. Don’t do too good a job or they’ll expect us all to work like that.”

Regular readers will know that I recently co-ordinated our school fete. The team worked so hard to make it happen and the weather was glorious after being consistently feral. It was a terrific day, a runaway success that brought our school community closer together and raised several thousand dollars.  People continue to marvel at how well the day went and what a fabulous event it turned out to be.

The problem was, now they know what I can do, I’m becoming known as ‘the fete lady’ in the playground. No longer just some kids’ mum, now it’s known that I have skills that can help our school. It’s going to make it incredibly difficult for me now to slide down in my seat and be invisible at school meetings as the call goes out for helpers to organise x, y or z.

What was I thinking? Now even the office ladies know that I can organise newsletters and out-of-uniform days and donations and source excellent jumping castles and foster good relationships with local businesses. Those kinds of people are rare! You don’t let them slink off into oblivion after one good fete. You work them to the ground. Get them on committees. Task them to fundraise. Call them when the canteen helper is sick. Too valuable to drift back into living their own lives, too often the ‘people with skills’ – you know, the busy ones who get things done around the place- they get burned out. Chewed up and spat out by the machine that benefited most from their abilities, their only options is retreat.

Well, it’s not their only option. There is also that little ‘no’ word. And while I don’t want to come across as hard-hearted and selfish, my family and my own life deserve some of my attention. A goodly portion of it, in fact. While it’s been fun and I’m glad everyone is happy with what we did, I’m not planning on becoming a martyr  to the school or to anyone else in society who wants to give me a job that will end up benefiting their organisation. Despite people’s now-inflated expectations, as long as I have a say- and I do- there won’t be a school fete next year. The year after, I might just do it all again, but next year- no.

Part of living that life less ordinary is the ability to savour the precious bits- the people we love, the crosswords and coffee on the deck, sleeping in and being un-available. At times it means putting our hands up to do the big jobs, dealing with the immense workload of it all and then humbly placing it all back where it came from so life can continue on as normal.

Until next time.

Keeping Abreast of the Situation

15 Aug

The last 24 hours have really brought home society’s fascination with all things mammary. I can’t turn around at the moment but I’m confronted with the same issue, and then, when I do turnaround again, there’s yet another (rather stretched and saggy) pair staring right back at me. 🙂

It started  innocently  enough.  I generally don’t go out fully clad for war on my high horse looking for an agenda to push, but it so happened that the agenda was thrust upon me regardless.

Yesterday, I was standing with the other mums, braving the icy blasts of wind on the sidelines of a soccer pitch as our collective sons were trained by a kindly, soccer-savvy dad. One of the mums has a gorgeous three month old baby who sat in her stroller, protected from the wind by a mountain of pink fluffyblankets. My clucky goo-goo ga-ga baby love still burns brightly, and I was cooing over this adorable chubby-cheeked baby who was a picture of health. Cue reactionary comment.

“You gorgeous little bubba. Look at your cheeks! Your Mummy has such good milk” said I.

Now, the last time we met on the windy sidelines of a soccer pitch, said Mummy had been breastfeeding said baby so my comment was not totally without basis.

Her quick comment back to me was “Oh no, I’m done with all that. I’m a bad mother, but she’s on the bottle now. We’re done.”

This sparked a dicussion amongst the other mothers about the old breast versus bottle debate, how people always tried to make you feel guilty when you stopped breastfeeding and the Nazi-like reactions of baby health clinic sisters to the possibility of early weaning.

I am learning to only give my opinion when it is asked for, so I said nothing, prferring to be enthralled by the cute pink bundle swaddled in her blankets.

Later on, somehow it got out that I wrote for parenting magazines and I was quickly labelled. “Oh, you’d be the one who wrote the ‘Breast is Best’ article, wouldn’t you.” My comment that I didn’t actually write that article or any like it was lost in the once-again heated discussion that included words like ‘guilty’ and ‘versus’ and ‘bottles’.

It all became clear that the whole ‘breast-feeding thing’ is used as an indicator by women and society of our ability as mothers. My friend herself told me she was a ‘bad mother’ as she’d stopped feeding her young baby, yet felt angry that the baby clinic sister would try to encourage her to continue nursing and dissuade her from her choice to formula-feed.

Breastfeeding raises a whole lot of issues. Whether or not we choose to feed our babies our own milk depends on so many factors. Sexuality, self-image, attachment, bonding, cracked nipples, mastitis, night feeds, health, culture, allergies all play a role in successful feeding. Despite earning the name of ‘fun-bags’, breasts are designed for feeding our young, whether or not we choose to do so.

That was yesterday. Today I saw breasts, quite literally, in a whole other context.

This morning, after dropping the eldest two at school I had to take my youngest son to the doctors. Our GP bulk-bills for every consultation, apart from the first visit of the year. Due to my son’s ruddy good health, he hasn’t seen the doctor so far this year, so today we needed to pay.

Like most doctors surgeries, our good GP is stuck somewhere in the last century, as indicated by the age of the magazines in the waiting room and the lack of EFTPOS facilities. Yep. I needed the hard stuff. Good old fashioned cash.

We headed next door to the rugby club. Seeing it was only 9:30am they were, understandably, closed. The only other ATM in walking distance was at the purple pub on the corner. I’ve got cash from a pub ATM before, no big deal, I thought.

I should have twigged something was up when I saw the hordes of men in hi-vis shirts swilling beer on the back deck. At 9:30am.

I found my way in, with my four year old holding my hand. As I peeked into the bar, I asked a guy where the ATM was. He pointed to his right, and there was a woman standing not too far away.  I thought her shirt was that funny flesh colour when it looks like you’re not really wearing anything, and then I realised that she really wasn’t wearing anything.

My belly jolted with the realisation of what I had just stumbled in to. I felt like I had just entered some parallel universe. Call me prudish, but I really wasn’t ready to see a naked breast in a pub at half past nine in the morning. At anytime actually, but especially in the middle of surburbia on a week day. Here I was, a mum with a pre-schooler in toe, just dashed in to grab some cash and here I am confronted by this woman’s bits.

What a different kind of conversation was happening at the bar compared to the one where breasts were being discussed on the sidelines yesterday. The tone here was different, the playing field a whole new ball game. This was a place of objectification. Symbols. Innuendo. Voyeurism.

As I stood stiffly at the ATM, giving out ‘married, clothed and maternal’ vibes, I felt degraded. I was embarassed and my palms were sweaty and I couldn’t remember my PIN number. I felt sad for the girl. I wondered if those mens’ wives knew where they were. And I hoped and prayed like crazy that my son’s attention would be held by the fascinating multicoloured texta I shoved in his line of sight . Thankfully, it was.

So that’s the boob story. Twice in 24 hours the significance and connotations of breasts have hit home. Be they objects of nutrition, beauty, sexuality or fertility, it seems society has a never-ending vested interest in the female body and what it can do for others.

All this serves to make me evaluate the way that I feel about my own body. What are my hang-ups? What do I allow? What do I believe is best for me and my family? How am I treated and am I valued?

I realise that I’m at ease with the decisions I’ve made. I don’t feel guilty or regretful. Society might have lots of ideas about the way I should feel about my body, but I’m glad I get the final say.

Apron strings and other things…

11 Aug

Once again I’ve been experiencing the familiar guilt pangs of the battle that rages in my mother-heart.  You might like to check it our here.

It must be Fete.

2 Aug

Right now I feel just a little   overwhelmed by everything I have to do. Our family-sized calendar for August is scarily marked with red pen and capital letters, yelling reminders at me not to forget the myriad appointments and functions my family has scheduled in for the next four weeks. We’re talking dead-lines, sports days, speeches, doctors appointments, election polling, birthdays, school excursions and organising the school fete.

Oh yes, you may well laugh. Most of my friends did once I sheepishly admitted I had put up my hand to organise our school  fete. As if I had nothing better to do with my so called  ‘spare’ time.

The fete was supposed to be held last year, but due to Uncle Kev’s  Education Revolution our school got a brand spanking new hall plonked right in the middle of our playground and the date was post-poned. Come the New Year, the $20 million question was posed. Was I still able to co-ordinate the big day? Ahh, um, what could I say? Right now I’m working on my book, writing like a mad thing for parenting publications and trying to keep life a positive experience for my hubby and three children. Sure. Of course I’ll organise the fete for you. It’ll be a blast.

Sure, the timing is rubbish, but if I’m totally honest, I have to admit that I actually enjoy organising things. My siblings tell me it’s to do with my bossy eldest sister training. My mum recognised it when I organised the whole class to set up a surprise party for a teacher whan I was in Year 3. At uni I did public relations thinking I would like to be an events organiser,  and I had to organise a major event at Maitland Gaol to graduate. They were all just practice for the real thing.

My thirtieth birthday party. Ah, now that was a party to remember. I’ve been to weddings where they didn’t put as much thought into the day as I did with my 30th. The food, the cake, the band, the costumes, my dress and of course my beautiful red shoes, all were planned months in advance. The party produced some terrific photos and great memories. I had a picture in my mind about what I wanted, and actually managed to exceed even my own inflated expectations.

But it was all just training, really. When it comes to organising a fete, there are insurances and floats to consider, of both the horse and money variety. People to organise, volunteers to co-ordinate, food to cook,  media to inform, comittees to liasise with. Tickets to sell, balloons to order, posters to print, etcetera, etcetera, etcetera… you get the idea. It’s massive.

On August 28th, our Grand Winter Fete is going to be a terrific. It will be a traditional, old fashioned family fete, just with better coffee. I’m incredibly thankful to have a great team to help me and our end goal is, other than raising a potload of money for our school of course, to increase the sense of community in our school. It’s starting to happen in tiny increments, and the signs are positive. If I make it to the end of August, I may just manage to surprise myself once again.

Picture Perfect

7 Jul

It’s school holidays right now where we live. For me, that means having three lovely, though somewhat boisterous and rather messy children in my care 24 hours a day. Said children are with me, often in our home for the duration of the holidays, except for those times when I am driving them from this or that friends’ house to the movies to soccer practice or to a sleep-over at Nana’s.

Cup of tea?It might sound shallow, but they kinda cramp my style. Not my ‘amazingly gorgeous, immaculately turned out, coiffed within an inch of my life’ style, rather the overall general tidiness of our home.

I don’t have one of those minimalist, clean surfaces and long white lines kind of interiors. I don’t really have any ‘interior look’ to speak of. As far as I’m aware, squished playdough in the carpet hasn’t made it to trend status yet, apparently spurned by those who see a kettle and a toaster on a bench as ‘clutter’. Call me easy, but I’m happy if the floor is clear enough to walk on without tripping, the cushions remain on the lounge-(note to children!)- and the dishes are done.

In my neverending domestic quest- the washing, the tidying, the cleaning, the vaccuuming, the cooking, the folding, yada yada yada- I’m yet to drop whatever it is that I’m holding and, inspired, leave the room, hell bent on creating a masterpiece out of sticky tape, pipe cleaners, cotton wool and old shoe boxes. Maybe it’s old age creeping up on me, but I manage to finish one task- more or less- before I start the next one. My clothes usually make it into the dirty clothes basket as opposed to dropped into a soggy puddle next to it, and unlike Hansel and Gretel, you can’t see where I’ve been by the trail of crumbs (or books) that I’ve left behind me.

My mum, an amazing mother to five now mostly grown up children, has a little picture on her kitchen wall. It says ‘Keeping house is like threading beads on a string with no knot at the end.’ And there is truth in that. It’s not comforting, to be fair, but it certainly holds true.

But before the drudgery can set in, my eyes were opened to an even sadder fate. Around the corner and down our street, there is an immaculately tidy and very handsome  house. Recently and beautifully built, it boasts a wide verandah with a table and chair set, just right for enjoying a cup of tea in the sun. The garden is a maze of colour and foilage and weeds would never dare poke their unwelcome heads in such an ordered place. The husband and wife that live there tend their garden and their home with such dedicated care. I once saw her dusting her windowsills, her external window sills. There wasn’t much to dust, believe me.

We drive past this house numerous times a day, and often in the evening as well. The wide bay windows are graciously draped with grand plush curtains, revaling richly upholstered mahogany furniture. The tasteful decor is lit by an antique lamp that casts a gentle pool of glowing light on the still life of the interior. And that’s just what it is. A still life. With everything placed just so, their house is an empty illustration for decorative purposes only.

In the year and a half we have lived here, I have never seen the old man and his wife enjoying the fruits of their labour. They don’t draw the curtains at night, becasue they don’t live in the elegant lounge room. In that curious way that old people have, it seems they are ‘saving it for a special occasion’. They choose just to close the door and save the bother of messing it all up.

I know I’m a sticky beak and a busy body and all those things, but my theory was confirmed a few months ago. It was a gloriously sunny day, and as I walked past with my kidlets, I could hear a radio tuned to AM. Ah, old people about, I thought. And I was right.

The elderly couple were pottering away in their garage, radio on, roller door flung open to catch the sun’s rays. They were well set up. There was a kitchen table with wooden chairs, a dresser with a kettle steaming away and tea cups at the ready, a slightly battered but rather comfy looking 1970’s sofa and a rocking chair. This was their real home. This was the place where they felt comfortable enough to relax.

They have worked for many long years to get where they are now. Hard work and sacrifice has enabled them to build their gracious home and appoint it with lovely things. But they don’t seem to enjoy what they have built. Perhaps it’s too grand, or not cosy enough. Perhaps they don’t feel comfortable enough with all they have amassed to be able to savour their reward.  Perhaps it’s just not suited to them after all. After years of making do and living simply, the habit has stuck, though the need to do so has evaporated.

Or maybe, they are so fiercely house-proud, it’s easier to live in the garage so nothing destroys the gorgeous look of their home. After working so hard to achieve a state of perfection, there is no joy in using the trappings that money can buy, because it will all just need to be restored to order again.

My issue is this: What if I become like the old couple? What if I turn into a screaming banshee mother who flips out about rice on the floor and towels on the beds? What if I’ve spent all this time and energy creating this ‘ideal’ home environment and nobody wants to spend any time here in case they crush a cushion? Am I too unreasonable? Am I too house-proud? Is the state of my home more important than my realationships with my kids and my friends and family? Will my family walk on egg-shells, unable to relax in the home that I’ve tried in vain to make a welcoming, restful cocoon for them?

Thankfully, I think not. The lesson of our neighbours has hit a chord with me. I can strive all I like to achieve a veneer of perfection, and then not even appreciate the good stuff when I see it. I want to look beyond the surface clutter of our home, and see what kind of culture we have created. And mostly, I am happy with what I see.

Yes, there is glitter stuck in the grout between the tiles in the bathroom. There is even a hint of mould in the shower. The walls are decorated with small, grimy handprints and crooked initials that I can’t bear to wipe away. But there is an aroma of dinner in the air. There are a few flickering candles throwing a wonky glow about the place and a fleecy rug to snuggle up on the couch after dinner. There is laughter and love and true warmth in our home. And that is the kind of interior I’m truly intent on pursuing.

Domestic Blitz

2 Jul

I can’t really believe I’m going to rhapsodise about the joys of housework. And I’m not. I promise.

I just can’t believe how FREEZING it is here lately. It’s 12 degrees  in my bedroom today. At 2pm! I’ve been bundled up in singlets and spencers and skivvies and scarves and other articles of clothing that don’t start with the letter ‘s’, as my children say courtesy of  Cool Runnings- ‘freezin’ my royal Rastafarian nin nans off’. I may not actually possess Rastafarian nin nans, or nin nans of any kind, but you get my drift.

Responsible eco-aware mother that I am, we try not to use the heater during the day. (And He Who Pays the Power Bill is careful of our use of it in the evenings too, as luck would have it.) Instead, I find often myself typing with fingerless gloves on with a blanket over my legs, granny-style, to keep our power bill and little black balloon count as low as possible.

So today, after the million small chores that make up the running of a home and family, I procrastinated no more. I got out the trusty Dyson, mop and bucket. I scrubbed the toilet, the sink, the mirrors. Vacuuming, mopping, packing away, I tidied like a frenzied thing. And as I did, the layers came off. I got HOT. Not just warm, or pleasantly comfortable, but hot.  There may have actually even been some perspiration present.

It’s quite a lovely sensation really, to be toasty warm. The only place I really feel warm at the moment, warm to my bones I mean,  is swaddled under my cloud puff of a doona in my bed. Well, I can’t say it any more. I am also warm when I’m doing the housework. Whether or not that will be enough inspiration for me to continue doing it on a regular basis, and what that means when it gets hot again, I don’t know. But for now, I’ve got my blood flowing, my home clean and I didn’t have to bother about going to the gym today.

Lest any readers out there think that my home is spotless and my domestic goddess trophy is gleaming on the  now dustless mantle, be fooled no more. Although I would like to achieve that Nigella Lawson peaches and cream, tasteful cardigan-ed glow, the truth is, we’re having take away for dinner tonight.

The Hobbit’s Birthday

23 Jun

Today is my youngest son’s fourth birthday. Amid the flurry of wrapping the ‘parcel the parcel’, baking cupcakes to take to pre-school and trying to get the washing dry, I have scant time for writing. So thanks to the wonders of  technology, here’s one I prepared earlier. Two years earlier to be exact. Though my son has changed, my feelings are pretty much the same.

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Today is the Hobbit’s birthday. At 4:45pm exactly, he will be two years old.

As his sister and brother crept into our room this morning, laden with presents for him and anxious for him to waken, they both cooed over his sleeping form.

“Oh, he’s such a cute baby!” I laid there beside him, sharing my pillow and gazed at his creamy round cheeks and long lashes. He was a sleeping angel all right, but it occurred to me, rather rudely I thought for such an early hour, that he’s not a baby anymore.

He’s a growing, independent toddler, who in the last week has replaced his baby names of “barduk” for “bird” and “rah” for “dinosaur”. He can tell me he’d prefer a mandarin to a banana, and this morning even said “milk” when I asked him if he’d like juice with his breakfast.

Our little Hobbit’s decided to toilet-train, despite my wintry concerns. Scorning his nappy and removing it whenever the mood takes him, he wants to wear his new plane undies. Instead of his sippy cup, he likes to drink out of a normal cup like his older siblings. He’s even sitting on our normal dining chairs for meals, not his chair with the booster on top.

He thinks he’s more grown up than he actually is. Yes, I know he can play a CD on the stereo himself, get out his own toothbrush and jump on the trampoline, but he’s only just two! His rate of maturity has just hit exponential growth, but there are clues that he’s still little, really.

This kid doesn’t know himself when he’s tired.  His level of self-awareness hasn’t yet progressed to being perturbed if he happens to be carrying a pooh around in said favourite undies. And despite the wearying baby years of sleep-deprivation, I have never yet fallen asleep while still clutching a cup-cake in my hand as he did the other day.

So today, as I bake and decorate a car birthday cake and justify the dinosaur lollies because they have all natural colours and flavours, I choose to celebrate the change. I will comfort myself with the fact that my baby may be growing up, but my son is still his gorgeous vibrant self, a precious part of our family. I am thankful for the future joy of watching him grow for many more years, into someone that I really like, and am incredibly proud of.

Happy Birthday, precious boy.

No Place Like Home

10 Jun

The sweetest homecoming kiss

Life can be a bit crazy when you have kids. Good crazy, of course, but full-on none the less. When you say it quickly, it sounds easy, but we know just how much is involved in doing the school-run, washing, tidying, refereeing, cooking, toilet-training, blah, blah, blah.  At times I wish I could just run away and be me again. To get away from the repetition, never-endingness and the mess of family life. And once a year, I manage to.

When I tell people I’m going away for a girly weekend sans kids, the mothers I know just close their eyes lustfully, wishing they could escape too. The dads I know tend to sympathise with my husband, wishing him all the best and telling him of a really good local fish and chip shop. Some older mums, whose kids are grown up, reproachfully tell me that they never had weekends away from their children when they were younger, and I start to feel that perhaps I shouldn’t leave my brood either. My guilt-ridden second thoughts are banished by encouragement from my hubby and his adage “A happy wife means a happy life”.

So I go. Not simply, because there are three children and a husband to accommodate. Bags must be packed, child-care arranged, meals organised and school uniforms washed in readiness for my 48 hour leave of absence. But in the end, I get on the train, and read a magazine uninterrupted for the two hour trip to Sydney. Let’s face it, the relaxation has already begun.

I’m met by my long time friend from school days, who is carrying only a gorgeous, minuscule handbag, unfettered as she is by the need to transport vast quantities of baby wipes, Matchbox cars and spare hairclips. We jump in a taxi and go to her tiny new apartment.

As if I need reminding that we are in a child-free zone, I notice that the carpet is white, there is medication lying on the coffee table and no colourful plastic anywhere. We take champagne and cheese onto the balcony and sup to our hearts content. We catch up on month’s worth of news, hers of exciting job offers and new houses, and mine of the kids starting back at school and our family holiday.

Our weekend consisted of a work wrap party with free alcohol in Wooloomooloo, coffee and breakfast out, shopping, lunch, coffee, more shopping, Japanese for dinner, more wine, a DVD. Do people really live like this? By now I was starting to feel like an imposter, but going with the flow, we shopped some more, drank more coffee and browsed leisurely in posh shoe shops.

With my senses slightly anesthetized by all the shopping, I noticed that I was in Pumpkin Patch, looking for a rashie for my daughter, and wondering if that hat would fit my youngest son. I had been testing fragrances to find one for my man, and already had a book in my bag for my new big school boy. A little boy ran along the path calling “Mummy?” and I turned around, despite the fact my children were a hundred km’s away.

I noticed all the newly toddling babies walking with their parents, and each child’s gorgeous fresh skin and shining eyes. The reason I was away from my family was to have a break, a rest from the constancy of being a parent. Instead, I find that wherever I go, the parent part of me comes along for the ride. I may not have a tribe of kids trailing behind me, but my mother-heart is the one that keeps me alive and is an integral part of who I am. Yes, there is still that part of me that is a separate individual identity and exists mainly at the back of my mind for the time being, perhaps to be pulled out and aired occasionally, for use at a later stage. I have various identities other than being mother and wife, but this is a role I have chosen and longed for. I am privileged to be known as Mum. I want to be fully present and immersed in it, and I don’t want to miss a thing, because I have wanted this since I was a little girl.

So a day later, I step off the train, and my children run up to me and throw their arms around me, as if I’ve been gone for months. Their welcome is authentic, funny and gushing and loud. They’ve planned a special dinner with Daddy, and have all sorts of news and things to show me. Their effusive warmth is so genuine and heartfelt that it brings me to tears. I clasp them all tight and thank God for the love, affection and genuine tenderness we share as a family. It’s great to have a break and get away now and then. I always come home with a much clearer perspective.  There really is no place like home.

A Lifetime in Red (This is the self-promotion bit)

4 Jun

The lady lawyer with the shoe thang over at  Caveat Calcei kindly asked me to write a guest blog for her. I did, and I had a ball.

Here it is, and if you’ve just come from there, welcome and enjoy.

http://lawandshoes.wordpress.com/2010/06/04/guest-post-a-lifetime-in-red-shoes-by-red-on-purpose/

Sticks and stones

29 May

You know the old rhyme- ‘Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me’. Twenty five years after first hearing the old adage, I find I disagree.

This morning, we took the kids to the foreshore to ride their bikes. This particular bike track happens to be at the optimistically named Mount Carrington, (obviously Mound Carrington doesn’t have quite the same ring to it.) The path meanders by the harbour, so when Lolly and Shark needed a rest from riding, we sat on the big boulders that separate the path from the water. Boys will be boys, and our boys immediately scrambled down the rocks to start a competition to see who could throw a stick the furthest into the water.

Seeing possible danger at every stick throw, I warned them, as mothers are wont to do. ‘Be careful when you throw sticks!’

Lolly was by my side, collecting some sticks. Without even looking up, she said ‘Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me.’

As I sat there on the rocks, icy wind howling around my ears and strands of hair in my eyes, I was taken back to the playground of my primary school. After being called ‘Snothead’ and some other choice names, I was upset and crying. I set off to tell the teacher of the other children’s meanness. She was probably sick of all the dobbing and was counting the minutes till she could get back to the staff-room for a coffee. Either way, this lady had very little sympathy for taunts. She told me the old rhyme, and reiterated that the warned me of the dangers of projectiles and told me that insults wouldn’t damage me.

But as an adult and a now parent, I think she was wrong. I know the old adage was oft repeated to tell kids to ignore stupid words from taunting children. But there is power in the spoken word, and both names and words can, and do hurt.

If we say something enough times we start to believe it. And so do our kids. We become a self-fulfilling prophecy. ‘Oh, I just couldn’t do it’.  ‘I’m not really very good at that’  ‘It’ll always be like this’ ‘I’m such a terrible mother’ ‘You are so naughty!’ ‘She’s going through the terrible two’s’

As a writer, words are rather important to me. My husband and I have always been intentional about the way we speak to our kids. From the beginning of our children’s lives, we banned the phrase ‘I hate…’ because hate is a word with a lot of weight, one that shouldn’t be bandied about. Our children are not allowed to call someone stupid or dumb, because no-one is either stupid or dumb.

I cringe when I hear parents swearing at their kids in the street or the supermarket. Sideline comments at the sportsground can wound, too. No child deserves to be called fat, lazy, stupid, ugly, or useless. Those words wound a person where no-one else can see the damage, and sometimes those words are never forgotten

We tell our children every day that we love them, and that they are precious to us. Our nicknames for them are Gorgeous, Spunky Monkey, Beauty, Precious, Sweetheart and Handsome. Our aim is to encourage and build them up with the words we speak. They will rise to our expectations for them, so we want them to know we think they can do great things.

The world will try to insinuate that my daughter isn’t thin enough, or pretty enough and that her value lies in only one thing. My sons may feel pressure that they are not handsome enough, not man enough, not clever enough, not strong enough. The media is using words and images to make us all feel inadequate in some way, while at the same time showing us where to buy just the right antidote to ‘fix’ us.

Words have the power to build up, or the ability to tear down. The power of life and death is in the tongue, according to the Good Book. I want the words that impact my children to be positive life-affirming ones that they can carry around lightly for the rest of their lives.

The sports ‘carnivore’

17 May

Red ones make you go faster, don't they?

My 8 yr old slug-a-bed has been asking Dad to get her up early so she can do her ‘exercises’ in preparation for the school’s winter highlight. Yes, it’s time for the sports carnival, or as the Shark has so aptly named it, the ‘sports carnivore’.

I hope the ‘carnivore’ mispronunciation isn’t prophetic and it won’t really be ‘a dog eat dog’ affair, but you never can tell when it comes to kids, their parents and competitive sport.

Some kids have been training seriously for this event, their ticket into the zone and regional finals. True little Aussie champions, they (and their parents) can see bright sporting futures ahead of them. The NRL, AIS and other organisations known only by their initials beckon our would-be sporting heroes. Little Athletics and the school sports carnival this week, in a few years, who knows? Surely every little athlete worth his salt will be slogging his guts out on the track. A well-planned regime of training schedules, balanced diet and vitamin supplements may be the way forward to attaining those goals and breaking personal bests.

It sounds like a sensible plan, but obviously not to my daughter. Lolly’s idea of training is to get up and skip outside on the damp, cold concrete in her pj’s for 10 minutes before her feet get numb. The carnival is on Tuesday, she started training on Monday. Maybe she didn’t want to peak too early.

Her dietary concerns were explained this morning as I handed her her usual school lunch, including a cheese sandwich on wholemeal bread.

“I s’pose I won’t complain about whatever sort of bread you give me at the moment Mum. What with the carnival coming up and all. I know it’s good for me, so I’ll eat it, even though I don’t really like it.”

As I unpacked the groceries this afternoon, she wrote me a list of what she would like included in her lunchbox for tomorrow. I record it here, unedited.

Watermelon  breadrools  rais on toast and some chocolate biscuits

(Interesting, isn’t it, that my eight year old can spell chocolate but not bread roll? Hey, that’s another story.:) )

She justified the first two items as healthy, the third as healthy and yummy, and the last as a special treat and ‘because I like them’. I must admit, I can see her point.

I smiled inwardly this afternoon as my young dynamo dashed outside to scoot furiously up and down the path to the washing line, in between the shows she likes to watch on ABC Kids. She jumped and skipped on the trampoline, and did some sort of Pilates-inspired stretching on the grass, before retiring to her room to lay on her bed and read for the rest of the afternoon.

So she’s ready, apparently. Her joggers and sports shorts are waiting beside the bed, laid out in anticipation of the great day ahead. Personally, I’m anticipating wind-burnt cheeks, straggly hair, grit in my eyes, terrible coffee and cold sausage rolls. She’s so excited though, I just have to agree when she tells me she can’t wait until tomorrow.  Whatever she does or doesn’t achieve in the events, she’s had a lot of fun getting ready for it. And isn’t that really the point when you’re a kid? I know she will do her best with everything she has in that incredibly elastic expandable heart of hers. And that’s all a mother could ask.

Fitting into the Mother’s Day box

4 May

May is a great month, if you happen to be me. Not only does Australia recognise the fact that I’ve given birth and thus far successfully raised three human babies, but the day of my birth is also remembered.Bring on the presents, cakes, friends, family, food and bubbles that comes with all that celebrating, cause I love it!

It’s a terrific time of year to have a birthday if you are female, because every chain with a half decent advertising executive targets a stack of ‘sales’ toward the ‘mother’s day market’. Clothes, perfume, kitchen appliances and any kind of lotion you have ever even thought of buying is slashed in price, making it oh-so-easy to spend that birthday money from Nanna.(Thanks, Nan.)

But if you’ve taken a peek at any of the junk mail that has somehow managed to infiltrate your household, you may be surprised to discover just exactly what society deems suitable gifts for mothers.

If Mums were cars, we’d obviously be the models that are built for comfort. Amongst all the belted cardigans and slippers, most of what you find on the first few pages are photos of young, relaxed-looking mums in their pyjamas.Why? Is it because as kids, the first and longest-lasting image we have of our family matriarch is of her in her jim-jams and dressing gown waking us up so we won’t be late for school? (That could be just me.) If so, the mums in the catalogues are of a different breed to the hard-working and rather tired-looking Mum I grew up with. In their colour-coordinated pyjamas with matching robe and cute slippers, and without any evidence of the usual smearings, these pyjamas are almost all, disturbingly, covered with pitures of cartoon characters.There’s Elmo, Little Miss Chatterbox, Cookie Monster, Snoopy, Tinkerbell and strangely enough, Sponge Bob Square Pants. Are mothers supposed to know who Sponge Bob actually is? And care enough to wear him on their night clothes?

There’s some sort of strange inversion happening here that I don’t understand. When I was little, all I wanted was to be grown up, wearing my Mum’s high heels, her long dresses, bags and make-up. I was into the perfume and the shoes (of course) and the driving and the weddings. All the trappings of adulthood held a certain fascination that I loved to indulge. Never did my mum express a desire to wear my little pinafores, Strawberry Shortcake or Rainbow Bright t-shirts. In the 80’s, adults dressed like adults, and kids were dressed like kids.

Back then, when I was little enough to be reading my mum’s Women’s Weekly magazines, I vividly remember one article having a dig at Lady Di for her new hairdo. She’s had the audacity to allow it to grow a bit longer, and to pull the sides back with combs. I thought she looked beautiful- who in the 80’s didn’t?- yet the writer of the piece described her look as ‘mumsy’. So what? Was that suppossed to be a taunt? I was desperate to look like a mum, act like a mum and one day be a mum. Here was Princess Diana, looking gorgeous and dealing with new babies, a royal title and all sorts of other royal inconveniences. Which mum in their right mind wouldn’t have wanted to look like her?

But perhaps, us merely common mothers are destined for more ‘mumsiness’, and should never aspire to the heights of fashion, or even managing to get out of our tracky daks. Just take a look at the catalogues.

Apparently we should fill our wardrobe with a ‘cosy sweat’, ‘casual pant’ or any one of a zillion nasty-looking, furry acrylic pair of slippers. When a jumper became a ‘sweat’ and a pair of pants became ‘pant’ I do not know. Maybe it was a symptom of the GFC that I missed. Having to cut back on our consonants for the sake of economy, perhaps.

So if your mother’s day list isn’t full of pyjamas, tracksuit, slippers or kitchen appliances, you may well not be fulfilling society’s obligations for motherhood. You have the option to read a cook-book while you lay on your electrically-heated blanket, indulge in chocolate or re-stock the linen press with new towels. Other than that, I have noted a strange inclusion this year that hasn’t previously been seen in Mother’s Day advertising material. A Nintendo DS. Who are they trying to kid? Perhaps it’s one of those ‘suggestions’ they slip in their for the cashed-up kids and Dads to ‘give’ to mum when instead, they’re really buying it for themselves. It’s quite sneaky, really, and should not be tolerated, especially when it’s Mother’s Day next weekend.

Hang on a sec. They could be on to something here. It’s only four months till Father’s Day.I’m sure my husband will need a new Dyson vacuum cleaner by then. Or perhaps tickets to see a classic musical. Didn’t he mention a hankering for a bit of retail therapy in Melbourne? The possibilities are endless.

Have a happy Mother’s Day, whatever you do and whatever you get. May you appreciate the luke-warm cups of tea and the burnt offerings from your children. May we all recognise the privilege that it is to be a mother, and the gift it is to have a mother.

Dawn service

25 Apr

As you may or may not know, I am not what is so glibly described as  ‘a morning person’. I cautiously admit that I rarely rise before 7:30am, even during school term, and would much prefer to lay in until at least 8:30.As a mum, the most frequent dawn service I contributed was early morning breastfeeds for three ravenous babies. Throw in the occasional groggy up-the-back-pooh nappy change and a handful of stumbling wet-bed sheet changes and I can count fairly accurately the amount of times I’ve seen the sun-rise in the last nine years.

So it would be fair to say that it takes something fairly important to get me out of bed before the sun is brightly shining and the birds are singing. Well, this morning I was up at 4am. Wow! Who’d have thunk it? There really is a 4o’clock in the morning! My husband laughed at me when I told him what time I’d set my alarm for, not really believing I’d drag my weary bones up at that hour. But I did.

For about 15 years, since some time when I was a teenager, I’ve thought of going to an Anzac Day dawn service. I always had very good esleep to catch up on etc etc. But my sister, bless her, attended her first dawn service at one of our local beaches last year. She was almost poetic in her patriotic praise for such a momentous occasion in our national psyche. So today, I joined her. I wanted to see what all the fuss was about.

Anzac Day has been growing in popularity for the last decade or so. Thousands of young Aussies flock to the shores of Gallipoli, and thousands flocked to our beach-side service this morning, in the drizzly dark pre-dawn. Something was drawing us, but I wanted to know what it was.

I wanted to know if it was a nostalgic remembrance of the Anzac spirit which we seem to perpetuate by continuing to talk about ‘the Anzac spirit’. I wanted to see if it was a glorification of war, or an idolisation of those who gave their lives. I was interested in seeing if it was something that I would take my children to in years to come.

What I found at the beach at 5am this morning was a quiet, respectful reverence. Despite the thousands of people, despite the myriad cars, traffic hold-ups and lack of car-parks, despite the rain and not being able to see anything that was going on, people were still. Both young and old, veterans and the general public, men and women, we stood there, patiently honouring the sacrifice that our servicemen and women made in wars both past and present.

As we stood on the sand,the waves rolled in and we listened to the haunting call of the Last Post. It was easy to imagine being on another beach, 95 years ago, holding my breath, bile in my throat, waiting for all hell to break loose. The stillness of the dawn, the sense of trepidation. The sickening sense of fear that today, we have the privilege of being released from.

As the sun made its faithful journey over the horizon, the service ended with an overwhelming sense of gratitude. I couldn’t help but be touched by the sombre, yet grateful and respectful mood that pervaded the air. It bound us all together, as though we were all a part of something bigger than ourselves, and shared a common purpose. I guess that’s one of the reasons that our defence forces do what they do, and an especial credit to them that they serve voluntarily.

I wanted to freeze the atmosphere and disperse it over our whole society, each and every day of the year. Imagine what we could do with such respect, so much goodwill, appreciation and a common purpose. When the ties that bind us together are bigger than those that divide us, that’s the kind of community that I want to raise my children in.

Lest we forget.

Would you like some porn with your paddlepop?

19 Apr

Is the sexualisation of children something that makes your blood boil? Go here to sign an on-line petition to change the standards about the display of pornographic material where children can see it. Have a look and if you agree, circulate it to your friends. I believe that as parents,  we can’t afford not to stand up for our kids.

http://www.sayno4kids.com/blog/

Big waves and a mother-heart

16 Apr

We’ve just returned from a glorious 5 day break up the coast, hence my absence here. Each Easter, like so many Aussies, we head away with our car packed to the hilt- I literally had my legs crossed on my seat the entire trip so we could fit the coffee machine in- to enjoy the autumn sunshine and camp with friends.

It was a chunk of time dropped from heaven. The weather was perfect- warm during the day and hot enough to swim, but cool enough to enjoy an early shower, rugging up in trackie daks and smoking ourselves silly around the fire. The company was a blend of old riends, treasured and known and loved, and new friends with great kids and similar values.

Us parents jointly banned any electronic devices, so no DS, iPods, Wiis or anything else we didn’t have when we were kids. And no TV, unlike some of the other campers who surrounded our tents. Yes, we took a coffee machine  and a fridge, but when you’re feeding 12 adults and up to 20 kids, those little appliances make a world of difference.

Instead of having ‘screen time’, the kids played together. All day. Every day. And I can even say truthfully that there were hardly any squabbles to sort out. The kids have all been friends since they were babies and they don’t go to the same school, so they love spending time together, especially when they don’t have to say goodbye after a couple of hours. They rode bikes, dug in the sand, played cricket and soccer, found secret hideouts, played chess (I know-incredible), Uno, Yahtzee, got their faces painted, did drawings, toasted marsmallows and scribbled their names with sparklers. And they surfed.

We all enjoyed the beautiful beaches and clean surf. Mostly the waves were great for body-surfing, and the adventurous ones amongst us got out the body boards and surfboards. The water temperature lured us in with balmy promises, and the squeaky clean sand was hard to resist. The waves were generally kind, but occasionally vicious. After being slammed a few times, I got out exhausted and with sand in way too many places. But my 8 yr old daughter stayed out in the waves. She squealed with delight, and my heart squealed every time a big wave lifted her up and she was perilously close to being dumped.

Funnily enough, the Dads loved it. Frollicking about in the waves, they were like big puppy dogs, throwing their bodies around with reckless abandon, forgetting that they had to drag those same bodies to the office in just a few days time. Spun around in the barrel waves, they were swept up onto the sandy shore only to get up and head out again into the surf, grinning like little boys.

As the waves got more ferocious, numbers dwindled. One after the other, the kids came back to the safety of the shore, bleary-eyed and spent after one too many wave thrashings. My dear friend Jen and I kept count of the heads that we were observing. Three dads, six kids. No- wait, three dads, five kids. Is he one of ours? No, wrong coloured rashie.

‘Oh, no.’

‘Ahh. Ouch!’

‘Why do they do that?’

‘Oh, I can hardly watch any more.’

‘Be careful!’

As each wave rose, our hearts leapt into our mouths. With maternal foresight we could imagine danger lurking at the base of each wave, just waiting to see someone we loved, hurt and grazed at the bottom of the ocean floor. I know what that woman meant when she said that to be a mother is to forever have your heart walking around outside your body. We watched, chewing our lips, knowing we would feel better once everyone was safe and dry back on land again.

Something changed in the world of Neptune, and beach cricket suddenly got a whole lot more popular. There were now just two brave little girls out in the surf with one dad to watch over them. And then the massive set started. Lize caught it all the way in, a bit the worse for wear, but still standing on ever-so-slightly wobbly legs. Now there was just my firstborn out in the massive waves of the Pacific Ocean, just a few metres away from me, but achingly, just out of my reach.

It sounds melodramatic to say that the waves were menacing, but to me, watching helplessly as my daughter faced them, they were. I felt sick to my stomach as one after the other they rose up, shadowing her in their path. We leapt to our feet as if that would make an difference to the wave that was about to swallow her.

“Under! UNDER!” I screamed. She duck-dived neatly under the wave and I breathed out again. Adults around me were all standing, focussing on her and getting her out of the water safely. My husband bellowed “Under again!” as another big one threatened to dump her. She didn’t panic, but I felt sick.

One of the dads picked up a board to go out and bring her back in. It felt like forever, although I think it was only about five or six big waves, just pounding, one after the other. Finally, the set ended, and relative calm returned. She swam just a few strokes back to the shore and walked dripping and pale to me, sobs in her eyes. I felt like crying too, the near panic relieved by holding her salty, gritty body close to my heart and hugging her tight. She understood the gravity of the situation, and was aware that it had been a few scary moments for us all. She was teary, but happy to finally be back on dry land.

After a good cuddle and being wrapped in a snuggly towel, her equilibrium quickly returned. In half an hour, she was back to teasing her brothers and hassling me about what was for tea. It took slighlty longer for me to feel relaxed again, playing it over in my head and reliving the overwheming fear of ‘what if?’

That night as she lay in her sleeping bag, looking exhausted and still incredibly child-like, my heart swelled again as I watched her sleep. To be given responsibility of something so valuable and so irreplaceable is such a privilege. There are times, I admit, that it’s a privilege that I don’t really value.  And there are also times, little reminders like that day at the beach, when being a mother is something so sacrosanct, so special and so precious that I hardly feel worthy to hold the title of Mum.