Thursday, March 31, 2011

A tribute to the almighty Jamie Oliver


Washing still on the couch? Yep.
Kitchen still a bomb site? Uh-huh.
Kids still attempting to raise themselves due to my less-than-excellent parenting? Um. Correct.

Nothing new there, then.

Well, anyway, while we're sitting here on the couch ignoring my life, why don't I share a little recipe I made the other night for din-dins which was a resounding success?? As I recall, we discussed the whole supermarket / bulging shopping bags / squeezing into pantry mess / cooking for the ungrateful masses / scraping said cooking into the bin after every meal situation not long ago, right? And I know I'm definitely not alone in struggling to find an evening meal that actually makes it into the digestive systems of the entire family. (Do you know what would be helpful, though? Actually receiving an answer to the question, "What would you like for dinner tonight?" I realise that "Anything you feel like, honey" is intended to be non-demanding and accommodating, but PLEASE!! Just tell me what YOU want for dinner, just once. Because then I won't have to think about it!!! Ok. Rant over.)

So recently, the inner-anal-retent has pulled all of my beautiful cook books out on Sunday afternoons, when the kids are a bit sleepy after swimming, and before the almighty supermarket battle begins. And I have trawled through the glossy pages of Donna and Nigella and Jamie, attempting to find recipes that are kid-friendly, budget-friendly, and not designed to propel me towards auditions for the Biggest Loser. I've found a couple of concoctions that were received well. However, the other night Mr.Jamie Oliver handed me a hands-down winner, and I thought it might be nice to share it with you (as opposed to my usual sooky-la-la raving about kids or traffic or washing or something).

No jokes, Christian loved it (and even though he's very easy to please, I can always tell when I've made a dinner that he's not fussed about...and this one he took to school for lunch the next day!), Jack devoured it, the Ballerina kept repeating, "Mumma, this is a beautiful dinner! Well done!", and the Mouse ate every scrap in her little bowl, with the most enormous grin on her face. She didn't even drop any over the side of the highchair for the dog.

So here it is:

Jamie Oliver's Sizzling Beef with Spring Onions and Black Bean Sauce.

(I modified it slightly to suit the kids by removing the chilli and the garlic. Oh, and Jamie's version has an egg in it, but obviously I didn't put that in either. Anaphalaxsis on the side, anyone??)

Long grain rice
Sirloin or rump steak, cut into strips
a thumb-sized piece of fresh ginger (I used crushed gear from a jar)
2 cloves of garlic
1/2 a fresh red chilli
2 spring onions
fresh coriander
sesame oil (I used olive oil, don't tell Jamie!!)
2 tablespoons black bean sauce
2-3 tablespoons soy sauce
2 limes

Finely slice the garlic, ginger, chilli, spring onions and the stalks from the coriander.
Combine these with the steak strips.
Add a dash of oil and mix everything together.
Preheat your wok, add some oil and swirl it around.
Add all your chopped ingredients from the bowl.
Stir-fry quickly for a couple of minutes. Add the black bean sauce, 1 tblsp of soy sauce and the juice of one lime.
Keep moving the stir-fry around, adding soy sauce to taste.
Once the meat and veg is cooked, serve on a bed of rice.
Sprinkle with coriander leaves and serve with wedges of lime. Delish!

If you give it a burl, let me know how you go. And if you want the egg part of the recipe - you only need ask!! But seriously, if you make it, I'd love to know what your kids thought. Even if you end up scraping it into the bin. My next project is to find a Nigella recipe that is low-calorie.....bahahahahahahaha!!!!!

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

The Art of Anal Retention

I've always preferred to be organised, if at all possible. When I was a kid, I was a bit anal about my stuff and how it was arranged. You know, the bed had to be made just so, and the teddies and dolls that sat on it had a particular order. I had a dressing table with little ornaments on it that were arranged in exactly the way I liked. At school I was the same - locker neat and tidy, desk kept in order, homework done on time. Nerd. Dork. Anal retent. First-born child. Yep.

I can't say that I am still as organised these days. After all, I have quite a bit more to look after than a bed, a desk and a dressing table. But I like to keep the semblance of order, at the very least. I buy things to keep my receipts organised; I organise drawers and baskets for keeping toys and clothes neat; I make lists for the supermarket and keep leftovers in Tupperware (which, I'm sure we're all aware, is a poorly-disguised reason to indulge my fetish!). I stay up late putting things away (most nights); I keep my pantry and cupboards tidy; and the baskets in the bathroom are so numerous that Christian has increased his level of testosterone just to cope.

I realise that most of the time my anal-retentiveness is severely hampered by my three kids, two cats and one puppy dog. It is impossible to remain sane whilst living with three mini-hurricanes in a small two bedroom unit if you are constantly trying to keep the house ready for a photo shoot with Home Beautiful. So normally, I try and keep things until relative control, if only so that we can find clean clothes in the morning and eat while sitting at the dining table.


This week I have been so disorganised, I would struggle to organise the proverbial warm breeze in a curry-eating contest. We spent Saturday at my in-law's house, celebrating my brother-in-laws' birthdays. Which meant by the time we arrived home, there was insufficient time to catch up on the household chores I usually do on a Saturday (because Christian is home to share the question-answering and entertainment load). So on Sunday, I was already behind the 8-ball...and by the time yesterday rolled around I was drowning in an untidy shambles. (This is despite the sterling efforts of my husband, who enlisted the help of the kids early on Sunday morning to tidy the house while Mummy had a little lie-in. When I emerged from the blissful coma I had been permitted to fall into, the family room was beautifully tidy, and the kitchen was spotless. It's just unfortunate that by the time the kids had done their thing on Sunday afternoon, all of Christian's hard work had been undone.)

After school, kinder, and my cleaning and tutoring jobs yesterday, the house had been neglected, to say the least. I had a letter that I needed to get out to the parents in Jack's class, but whenever I had tried to print it yesterday, something went awry. So I spent a good part of today trying to rectify the situation (this is after I photocopied 700 notices for the cake stall at the school fete and distributed them to each class...all with Phoebalina and the Mouse in tow). I felt marginally better after I pegged out a few loads of washing, did the breakfast dishes, and began to tackle the pile of paperwork that had been dumped unceremoniously beside my bed. I managed not only to print out the errant letter, but I made 22 copies so that I didn't need to use the photocopier at school before collecting Jack.


After dealing with a late (forgotten) phone bill, a late (forgotten) credit card bill, and a lucky-you-found-it-in-time ambulance subscription renewal, I looked around...and saw the following: four baskets of unfolded washing draped attractively across one couch, enough toys on the floor to sink a Toys 'R' Us, the remnants of lunch on the high chair and table still waiting for the magic Chux to come and wipe it all away, an overflowing bin full of old paperwork I had just disposed of, and a baby gleefully eating bits of her sister's afternoon tea that she had found on the carpet. Nice.

So, my friends, what do you think I did? That's right! (You are so clever, you know me too well.) I picked up the Mouse, held the Ballerina's hand, and shut the front door behind us firmly. We gave the letters to Jack's teacher to be distributed, collected our boy, attended yet another fete meeting, and arrived back home to our pig sty mess unfinished jobs. Since Christian is at parent-teacher interviews all night, I managed the dinner / bath / bed routine by myself...but unfortunately, a naughty ballerina and an hysterically-sobbing mouse prevented me from even thinking about getting organised until nearly 8pm. By which time I needed respite, and turned to you.

So you see, the washing is still sitting there. As are the dinner dishes, and the toys, and the unwashed school clothes, and the unfed pets now delicately snoring at my feet. And the anal retent in my gut is slowly unfurling and stretching her claws. She's starting to poke me oh-so-gently in my lower intestine, and very soon, if I don't get off the couch, she will begin to blow hot air down my neck. The only way to quieten this serpent, is to start to fix the catastrophe that is my house. So I will chip, chip, chip away at the mess until the room starts to resemble a room again, and not a uni student's kip. I will find my kitchen underneath the debris of lentil shepherd's pie and yoghurt. I will excavate the mountain of unironed clothes to find things to wear tomorrow. I will put the toys, and the puzzles, and the pencils away in their proper spots. And tomorrow, when I have two hours between dropping Jack at school and visiting Argie, I will do a couple of things to make my brain stop screaming for order...such as pay that rent bill...and clean out the fridge...and send in the form for Jack's school photos...and when the girls have strewn toys everywhere at the end of the day, I will smile and sigh. And give my inner anal retent an elbow in the guts.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Spineless Cleaning Lady

I am so annoyed with myself tonight...nay...irritated is the word I need to describe how I feel. My vertebrae completely deserted me today, and I have no idea why.

I was chatting to some of the other mums at the school pick-up. We were discussing this Friday's mini-fete, and the cake stall that our Preps are hosting. (Actually, if I am to be accurate, the cake stall that our Prep Mums are hosting...the kids have bugger-all to do with it!!) I had not met a couple of these ladies, so we just made chit-chat about the fete in general, and last year's cake stall. After a few minutes of discussing how we were going to manage the logistics of wrapping and labelling the baked goods, talk turned to the time we had available to help out. I mentioned that I was busy working on Thursday, so I could give some time tomorrow and Friday. "Oh, what do you do?" asked one of the other mums. And I bent my head apologetically and replied, "I clean houses and tutor school kids. I'm really a teacher. But right now I clean houses." As though I was ashamed of it!!

I have no idea where this reaction came from. That's why I'm so cross with myself. Throughout this whole unemployment debacle, I have held my head high, knowing that I did everything I could to try and find a teaching position. And when that didn't eventuate, I went out and found a couple of little jobs that would bring in a trickle of money to help us out. Each week, I take the Mouse with me on my cleaning job, which means that it takes me a bit longer than if I went solo. I figure she'd be with me if I was cleaning our own house, so what's the difference? At least we're together. Once a week (and soon to be twice a week) I leave the kids and Christian during an evening to go tutoring.

I don't think there's anything wrong with any type of work, if you're doing it to keep your family afloat (I am, of course, excluding paid Mafia-type hitmen jobs and things that are naughty and illegal. Of course.) And I certainly don't see anything wrong with being a cleaning lady. As a matter of fact, I am absolutely loving the fact that I am a stay-at-home mum, able to be there for my kids when they are sick, when they need to be picked up and dropped off, to have the time to make a nice home for them without being rushed off my feet after a long day at work. I am revelling in the time spent with the Mouse every day, and with Phoebalina when she is not dancing her way through a day at kinder. I would happily be an "unemployed" (read: unpaid) SAHM forever...but financially it's just not possible.

And that's where my little jobs come into the picture. Why I cringed, I don't know. Sure, I'm not contributing to my superannuation, or improving my teaching ability while scrubbing floors, or using my university education. But there's nothing wrong with honest work, especially when it means I can be at home with my babies, which is what I want. I have, to be completely honest, seen my lack of employment this year as a blessing. Sure, we might be strapped for cash, but I am home with my kids!! So when I see the mums at school pick-up tomorrow, and I have pruney hands from cleaning bathrooms, and a sweaty t-shirt from vacuuming and mopping, and bags under my eyes from tutoring a 15 year old until 9:30pm, I will be proud. I will hold my head high, with it's undyed regrowth clearly visible, and walk through the playground rejoicing in the fact that my "mummy" clothes are far more comfortable than my "teacher" clothes. And I will take the small earnings from my little jobs to buy the ingredients to make an awesome cake for the Prep fete stall, because I want my son to proud of me. And goodness knows, he doesn't care what job I do, as long as I'm there at hometime to pick him up.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Spreading the Liebster Love

I know that I haven't been blogging for a very long time. I know that there are days that I miss (and oh my lord, are those the days when I really need it!). I know that while I blog predominantly for myself (to save on therapists' bills), I also love love LOVE it when other people read my blog. I know that when someone actually leaves a comment on my blog, I do a little happy dance inside (because after all, we all know I'm still an insecure school girl on the inside. I'm just a pregnancy-marked housewife on the outside!) I know that not everyone who reads my blog "follows" me (but every time someone new follows me I do the happy dance again!) I know that my blog isn't the prettiest, or the cleverest, or the one chockers of crafty items handmade in between growing organic vegetables and weaving the hair of a yak on my antique loom.

And yet...the other day, a fellow blogger made my day. Talk about a happy dance - it was a full-blown, knee-slapping, skirt-raising, voice-whooping dance extravaganza complete with ra-ra skirt and tinsel falling from the ceiling. That's how happy I was!!! The lovely and delightful AMB from Suburban Sonnet nominated me for the Leibster Award, a pass-the-love-on award for little-known blogs with a handful of followers. Honestly, there are so many amazing bloggers out there in cyber-land, I was excited to say the least. The last certificate I won was for doing my anaphalaxsis training at work. And that was compulsory...and everyone got a certificate!!

So of course, this got me thinking about who to pass the award on to. Most of the blogs I follow have a bajillion followers already, and apparently you can only pass the Liebster on to those with fewer than 300 (and with 35, I most certainly qualify!!). My first two nominees were easy-peasy: my very gorgeous friend Casey has a brand-spanking new blog (actually, her second - she's very clever!!) all about cooking and babies and household hints (you should check out the one about getting rid of huntsmen...*shudder*) and weight loss - go and check out Milkncookies - you'll love it!! And when you become addicted to one of Casey's recipes, such as her choc-chip cookies, don't blame me!!

My second nomination goes to my beautiful surrogate older sister, whom you may recognise from some of my posts as "Aunty Cake" (thank you, Phoebalicious!) Aunty Cake has only just moved all the way to the land of peanut butter M&Ms, red pick-up trucks and all of the romantic settings from 'Sleepless in Seattle'...that's right, she's an expat in America. And her blog is exquisite - her detailed descriptions of the places she and her husband are visiting are incredible. Kate's blog makes me want to go back to the US tomorrow. You must must MUST visit her blog - Getting Off The Interstate - it's well worth the 27 hour flight!!

I trawled the internet for hours last night searching for a third blog to give a Liebster. To be honest, it took me a while to find one that stood out, with only a few followers. I'm so glad I persisted - the amazing Leesa at My Balancing Act is an incredibly strong woman (from what I can see) and makes the most divine children's clothing. Her precious baby daughter often models the clothes, and honest to goodness, I could buy every piece. Please, take the time to visit Leesa and read her story - she is an inspiring lady, and I'm so glad I found her!

This Liebster award is just a nice way of sharing the love, isn't it? And let's be honest - I think many bloggers (myself included) put their thoughts out into cyberspace to feel part of a community. Certainly, as a stay-at-home mummy, I began blogging because there were many days when I felt quite alone. Despite having many friends, and loving my children far beyond the point of rational thought, and being happy with my life, there are only so many times you can clean up vomit / wee wee / poo / lunch without feeling a bit blah. When I realised that my most exciting outing was to go to Safeway, and that I often found myself giggling hysterically to myself at jokes the Wiggles were making (and which I had heard many, many times before), I knew that I needed an outlet. And thank Buddha for my children, who have provided me with an endless supply of material. Even when they're being revolting, they're funny. When they're naughty, they're blogging gold. Hoo-ray.

Take today for example. Normally on a Sunday afternoon I do the big weekly supermarket shop on my own. It's an indulgence, I know - unmitigated me-time at it's finest. I'm such a devil I surprise even myself. Anyhow, today my beloved was desperately trying to get some correction done in a house filled to capacity with noise. So I eyeballed the big kids, threatened them with drastic action should the cross-voice have to make an appearance, and shipped all three off to Coles with me.

I had an iron-clad shopping list (for once in my life I had actually sat down and planned meals for the week, writing the specific ingredients necessary for each gourmet offering - incredible, no?) and we stuck to it, religiously. In the fresh produce area, Jack and Phoebe took it in turns putting things GENTLY into the trolley. We counted out apples and potatoes into the placky bags, my best Play-School-presenter's voice encouraging taking turns and helping each other. We learned that in supermarkets there was to be no running or shouting; we had a chance to make 'good choices' for school play lunches (and in Phoebe's case, 'good choices' for morning teas at home with Mumma) And I must say, my kids earned themselves gold stars for behaviour in the super-duper today.


The Mouse was perched in her cosy fabric-snuggly-thingy that covers the grotty trolley seat. It's one of her favourite places, apparently. And while the big kids were being so helpful to Mummy, Mais had her arm casually slung over the back of her seat. When I was busy choosing, pointing, describing, praising, my smallest fairy-girl was surreptiously taking grapes out of the bag in the trolley and stuffing them into her delicate little mouth. So when I caught her, and she froze, hand halfway to her gob, I chastised, "Maisie! Are you stealing grapes??" And she stared at me, huge blue eyes wide open, cheeks bulging, rosebud mouth pursed closed, and a tiny dribble of grape-juice running down her chin. And shook her head.

The other two burst out laughing, which meant Miss Maisie did too - a great big belly laugh with a mouth full of chewed-up grapes. She stopped laughing pretty quickly when I moved the grapes to the other end of the trolley, and spent the rest of the excursion trying to reach them! (She's a determined little miss too, because when I was packing the fridge back at home, she crawled underneath me to reach the grapes in the crisper!!)

If there was an award for children who behave in supermarkets, even when they are surrounded by Easter eggs and they're knackered from swimming lessons, then I would definitely give it to my sprogs today. Even the grape-thief. God help me when those nappies come around!!

Thursday, March 24, 2011

How Maisie's Crying Jag Made Our Day Perfect

A screaming baby and very little sleep delivered the most lovely day to me today. Ah yes, I hear you say. She has finally cracked. We've seen it coming for a while now, and she's finally lost the plot completely. And while you wouldn't be entirely incorrect, let me explain before you judge my sanity...(or lack thereof)

Last night was our third in a row without Daddy. I was in a dead sleep when the Mouse woke at 4.10am, bellowing as though there was a knife being twisted in her bowels. My shushing and patting was absolutely useless, as was her pink seahorse - she screamed "Dadda! Dadda! Dadda! Aaaaaaaaah!!!!!" for over an hour, pausing only to heave great racking sobs of baby sadness. It didn't take long for Jack and Phoebs to join me in the big bed, and I think we all nodded back off at around 5:30. I had surreptiously turned the alarm off, and when Mais woke Jack and I around 7:15 with gurgles of delight, I told Jack he wouldn't be going to school.

"Oh Mummy," he said quietly. "I'm glad to stay home. I've missed you very much this week and I'm very tired. Can I stay in my pyjamas and can we watch kids' shows?" He didn't need to squeeze my heart like that to convince me to put ABC Kids on the box. Phoebalina rose around 8:15, and we all stayed in our jarmies until way after decent o'clock. Yesterday the girls and I had made a 'home corner' with dollies' cots and Phoebe's little cupcake oven, and the doll's high chair and even the tiny ironing board Phoebs received from cousin Yvey at Christmas (how excited am I to pass the ironing torch?? How young is too young??) Today, we extended the "house" to include a bedroom under the dining table, complete with blankets over chairs to make walls and a mattress on the floor; a potty for the toilet; and the area in front of the telly was the "park" where we had a picnic for lunch.

I found two huge bags of assorted teddies under my bed, packed when we left Pakenham and therefore, brand new today! My three little monkeys spread those soft toys all over the house (not hard when we live in the one room), playing all sorts of imaginative games. Maisie had a lovely time just bouncing on her knees and then flopping into a huge pile of woolly teddies. Since it was pouring outside, we had Ernie, Bella and Daisy inside too, so there was an added edge of hysteria to the games when the pets got in the way!

When everyone got a bit tired from all the teddy-fuelled fun, we snuggled on the couch and watched 'Tinkerbell' under blankets. Once revived by fairy dust, the big kids spent some time drawing and 'writing' at the table while the Mouse had a nap. Jack was very pleased with his drawing of Santa and himself - although I am a tad concerned that we may peak a little early if he's already thinking about Christmas? My mum arrived just as the kids were finishing their dinner, and being an angel in disguise, she helped me bath and dress them in clean, warm pjs.

I can't tell you how nice it was to have a cuppa with my mum when the kids were so happy and relaxed that our biggest problem was hearing each other over the shrieks of joy (and that was just the Mouse!) Teeth were brushed, stories were read, Mais had her special Mumma cuddle, and they all went to sleep. Just like that. I was so taken aback I kept tiptoeing in to see who was playing funny buggers with me...but it would seem I have underestimated my chickens. I expected a rather average day with tired, cranky kids and a helluva bedtime, but instead I got a cruisy, happy day with kids content with their own company. I had fun with my kids today, without screeching at them or getting even close to using threats or the naughty fact, now that I think about it I didn't even pull the cross voice out today! And even when we got to the notoriously tricky end of the production (aka bath time), I had my mum for company and a second pair of hands.

Today was far and away the best day of the week, and I can honestly say it will be the sort of day that keeps me warm when I'm an old lady and my kids are middle-aged with mortgages. The type of day that makes you proud to be a mummy of such happy, cuddly kids, who blow kisses to their Narnie and snuggle in when you do the voices of Meg and Mog. And tomorrow, when my beloved returns exhausted and rough from his week camping with the Year 8's, we will all be so happy to see him. I know how much the kids have missed Christian this week, and he them. So he should have no problems at all taking them all out somewhere lovely on Saturday morning, to enjoy their company and hear their lisping stories. And me? Well, I plan on rejoicing in my husband's return home by closing my eyelids and dreaming for a very, very long time. Probably with a little snore every now and then. Mmmmmm.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Hump Day

Three days down, two to go. Now that the kids are all in bed, and Hump Day is officially over (let's not look over yon shoulder and see thy unwashed dishes just yet), I am beginning to think that I may survive this week without my hubby. Yes, yes, I know there are many, many more terrible things in the world than being a single parent for the week, but you must admit it sucks, right?

I suppose that in addition to being the only one available to fix any problem or break up a squabble or wipe a bottom or wipe a nose or cut up food or mop up Weetbix or get up to change a wet bed at 2am or settle a baby who just won't quit, is that there's no one here at the end of the day to laugh with and share the ridiculous little stories that you only find funny or cute if it's your own kids that you're talking about.

For example, Maisie loves to click her tongue (like making the noise of a horse's hooves), and she really only does it so that you will join in with her. The other day, she watched me have a drink of water, and when I finished I exhaled as you do after a really long drink (try it - you'll know what I mean when you involuntarily go "aah" after your long slug, but it sounds ridiculous trying to explain it!) So now, she'll sidle up to you, click her tongue three or four times, open her mouth wide and huff "Aah! Aah!", with her pearly little teeth showing and her tongue stuck out, and grin cheekily until you do it back to her. It's like the secret joke of my own personal little Kalahari bush person. I'm not quite sure how ridiculous I look doing this with her, but the good people of Fountain Gate very kindly turned away when we were there yesterday!

The girls and I met up with Aunty Calorine and baby Robot to have coffee a la Kath and Kim at Fountain Lakes, which was a welcome social distraction this week. It was nice just to trundle around Big Dub and Pumpkin Patch together, with our prams and all the other bits and bobs we managed to collect along the way. I must say, Phoebalina was exceptionally well-behaved, running and skipping alongside the pram with nary a whinge the whole day. She wore every necklace and bracelet she owns, as well as her tiara (or 'bitara', as she affectionately calls it). At one point, Phoebs was running parallel to Maisie's pram, clutching her tiara and laughing from her boots. People were smiling at her and saying things like, "Hello Princess!" and "Oh look! There's a princess at Fountain Gate!". She was so infectious that I started laughing out loud at her deliciousness, only to be greeted by the stony face of a woman who clearly did not find my beautiful daughter as amusing as I did!

I think Jack has found Daddy's absence more difficult that any of the rest of us. He has come out of his bedroom several times a night, seeking cuddles and asking if it's time for Daddy to come home yet. Tonight he was in floods of tears, simply because he missed his Dadda. He's been such a good helper to me this week that at times I have had to remind myself not to rely too heavily on a four year old. Each afternoon when we get home from school, he dutifully shakes the day's sand out of his shoes at the front door. I know when Daddy arrives home on Friday, there'll be a small hill of sand waiting for him on the doorstep! And, most likely, a little boy simply bursting with stories to tell his Daddy. Like how his class had a little party on Monday to celebrate 25 days of Prep, and he ate 25 cherry tomatoes. And how he played pirates with the boys the other day, and he was the boss pirate. How he wrote his whole name on his work, all by himself, even the 'K'.

It's taken me a while to type this post. I have been in to settle Maisie Mouse three times; succumbed and breastfed her once; located batteries and a screwdriver to replace the dying batteries in her beloved pink seahorse so that we might all listen to the dulcet tones of it's lullabies, and get some shut-eye tonight; dispensed drinks of water; wiped bottoms after last-minute toilet stops; and stroked foreheads calling out for Daddy in their sleep. I know that once this bubba is in her cot (as opposed to in my arms while I type one-fingered), I will wash the dishes, iron the school uniform, feed the pets, tidy the toys, and fall into bed exhausted. And tomorrow, it will be one day closer to my sweetie coming home. And then he can do all the housework and child care. Surely after this week I have earned some respite? Perhaps at the rehabilitation centre at the Sheraton? I hear they make wonderful medicines for over-tired mummies....

Monday, March 21, 2011

Flying solo

Christian left me early this morning.

I can't say it came as a shock. I've known this was on the cards for some time. Even still, it seemed to happen so suddenly that I didn't really think about what was happening until he walked away. And then he was gone.

The kids haven't noticed any difference yet. It's always me who takes them to school and kinder, and it's always me who collects them. So Daddy's absence probably won't be noticed until dinner time, at which point I will have to explain. Daddy has gone away. He won't be back for dinner, or for bath time, or to tuck them in. He won't be here to read stories, or to entertain Maisie Mouse while I attempt to clean up after dinner. He won't be there in the middle of the night, when someone wets their bed, and someone else needs a drink, and someone else has a bad dream. It's just Mummy, all on her own.

I know that really, Christian's leaving has nothing to do with me. I didn't do or say anything wrong; he grew to accept the unfolded washing on the couch long ago. He has never grumbled about having baked beans on toast because I was too disorganised to throw anything decent together. He had, apparently, come to terms with my unhealthy addiction to Tupperware (or so he said). And his recent adoption of the title "blogging widower" gave me the impression he didn't mind the time I spent on the laptop, but found it all rather amusing. However.

This morning he packed a bag with a few essentials, kissed the kids, and walked away. I don't know how I am going to cope. Well actually, I do know - just as when Christian worked 18 hour days last year, I will feed, clean, and cuddle the kids; feed, water and cuddle the pets; and wave a duster at the house and pretend I'm Samantha from Bewitched doing the housework. But at bed time, when I have to lock the house up by myself, and curl up in the middle of my bed by myself, and keep the boogy men away from the kids by myself - that's when I'll struggle. I have quite a few friends who are single mummies, and I simply don't know how they do it. Without exception, they are strong, confident, wonderful women who do the jobs of both Mum and Dad every day, with a smile on their faces (and in the cases of a few, fabulous hair too!) I look at them, and am in awe of their strength. (There's some major love coming your way, chicks! You know who you are xxx)

So now the Mouse is waking up, and there is more work than usual to be done. I'm going to make a cuppa, roll my sleeves up, and pretend that all is normal. Thank you for listening to my sooky la-la whinging - I promise there will be no more. And when Christian comes back from school camp with the Year 8's on Friday, there will be four very happy little campers waiting for him at home!

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Obviously, my cooking sucks

Have you seen the price of bananas in Coles lately? For a household that is accustomed to consuming acres of the yellow fruit each week, it has come as a bit of a shock. Not that I blame the poor farmers in Queensland - goodness knows, they need our business more than ever. I've been buying five bananas a week instead of about 20...for roughly the same price. But I figure it's worth it, because at least some of the money will get to those who grew them, and my cherubs will still get a taste of nana. However.

I am beginning to wonder why I spend so much time each week at the supermarket. Depending on how many other mummies are there, and how many munchkins I have 'helping' me, on average it takes me an hour to acquire the food necessary for a week. It takes roughly fifteen minutes to load everything in the boot of the car, and then take it all out again at home. And then of course, I have the joy of unpacking it all in the kitchen, and attempting to fit it into the teeny tiny sliver of a cupboard I call my pantry. So all in all, an average weekly shop takes about two hours of my life every week (not to mention a sizeable portion of the treasure hoarded in my purse).

This is not, of course, counting the trips I need to do mid-week for things like milk, and nappies, and the bits and pieces I forgot in the big shop. Oh, and the ingredients for the cake I need to make at the last minute for a morning tea at Christian's school. We have not even touched on the delicate subject of time spent cooking and preparing meals!! And because I am trying not to completely screw my kids up (and because due to Jack's allergies I have to make most things from scratch), the majority of the food I buy is fairly nutritious and fresh. And expensive. So my question is this: why do I bother spending so much time and money buying, packing, sorting, unpacking, and cooking lovely jubbly food, when I throw so much of it out?

I suppose it feels as though I have chucked more food than usual this week, due to the Mouse's unholy vom-fests. She hasn't eaten much lately, this is true. Compared to many of my lovely friends, my kids usually have what could be called "healthy appetites" (meaning that when we are in other people's houses, they eat enough to feed the starving masses) Let's be honest - my kids do eat an astonishing amount of the foods they like. And they will try anything, especially if the promise of 'sumpin else' is taken away until the plate is clean. But, like every kid, there is always something left on the plate after at least one meal every day. And when it comes to Mistress Mouse, the amount of food left on the high chair tray (and the floor, and secreted under her tushie, and on the dog) is undeniably more than the amount actually in her tiny tummy.

If I make Weetbix for her brekkie, she might eat three or four teaspoons. Toast gets mushed between her fingers and dropped on the floor. I always think the sultanas get eaten, only to find them in unusual places several hours later. Pear gets licked and squished; banana is sometimes devoured and sometimes becomes art; avocado is simply fun, apparently. The only foods guaranteed to go down my girl's gullet are yoghurt and cheese. And as I'm sure you know, you never, ever give a spewy baby dairy food...unless you are a masochist.

So here is my conundrum: do I persist in enduring marathon efforts at the super-duper every week, and the associated packing / unpacking / cooking / money / manic episodes that go with it? Or do I adopt a more relaxed attitude towards my children's nutrition and allow them to start foraging for food on their own? I'm sure Mais could find a few days' worth of nibblies stashed in and around her high chair, and the big kids could most likely beg snacks from the neighbours. Surely if I left the door of the pantry open, they could rummage around and find something edible? I could view it as an exercise in extending their creative talents. Here children, take these canned lentils, a bottle of five-year-old honey-soy marinade, and some stale rolled oats, and see what sort of masterpiece you can create for dinner. Most likely, Maisie would eat the whole lot.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Grateful for having underpants free of vomit

I love being a part of Maxabella's weekly 'grateful' posts - it's a nice way to remind yourself of all the good things in your life. And, as always, I am grateful for my family - but today, I was particularly grateful for Maisie Mouse.

After dropping Phoebalina and Jack at kinder and school, Miss Mouse and I walked back to the car together in silence. And just as I was thinking how quiet it was without my chattering ballerina, or the running commentary about life that usually spouts from Jack's mouth, my littlest girl twisted around in the pram to give me a toothy grin.

"Ah," she said. "Na ah ah um, mumma. Da da dadddaaa na um. Ah." And nodded her head in the way of a very wise old woman. I agreed entirely. It was indeed, a lovely morning. And I was grateful to my baby for sharing her observations on life.

We drove to my parents' house, and Maisie enjoyed some quality time with Pa, wandering around the garden. They looked at the birds, and the trees, and the dogs. I think my girl quite likes being high-up on Pa's shoulder, because the nodding and the "ah-ing" went on for some time. And I was grateful to my little one for reminding me how wonderful it is to see your parents with your children. And I was grateful to my Dad, who had managed to make a rather sick little girl contented and quiet.

Mais fell asleep as soon as she hit the car seat, and spent the next few hours catching flies. I watched her sleep, and wondered how it was that I could happily sit for hours and do nothing but gaze at her while she snoozed. What is it about a sleeping baby that is so mesmerising? The creamy eyelids? The slow, even breathing? The little crinkly-eyed smiles they do from the depths of their dreams? The simple fact that they are finally, blessedly, asleep? And while she slumbered, I was grateful for the time up my sleeve to hang out washing, and tidy the kitchen, and sort my mess out, without having constant questions or colouring pencils strewn everywhere or interminable requests for more morning tea. (Not that I don't adore my big kids - but I am always grateful for an hour of peace and quiet!)

Last night, after the Mouse's spewing jag, I did question why, in my extensive reading of pregnancy and toddler-related books, no one ever mentioned the possibility of having baby vomit in your underpants. I'm sure I can't be the first person to experience such an interesting sensation. And despite having to strip down to my under-chunders last night to remove the chunders from my unders...I am grateful to Maisie for not spewing on me that badly in public! Oh yes. I'm a glass-half-full kind of gal. And I am very grateful that she did not spew again today, because I still have not caught up on the spewy washing after last night....

I am grateful that, after having it confirmed this week that I am definitely, certainly, never ever able to have any more babies, that my littlest baby has been so snuggly. She lifts her little arms up to me for cuddles at every opportunity; invites me to chase her by crawling away as soon as the nappy is removed, giggling fit to burst; pats my hair and pulls my earrings while she feeds herself to sleep each night; hides her face in my shoulder when faced with a new stranger, and practically leaps from my arms with excitement when we enter the school playground full of shrieking kids; and is always, always reminding me how much she loves her mumma. For that, I am eternally grateful.

And finally, I am grateful to the Mouse for being the one toy in our house that Jack and Phoebe do not squabble over. They both love her to pieces, and constantly smother her with kisses and hugs and declarations of love - even when she is shoving them away and shouting her objections. The first thing Jack does every morning is give Mais a kiss and a cuddle, and the first thing he does after school is run up to her to see how she is. And tonight, Phoebe sang a husky little lullaby to her sister that made me well up. She cannot wait until they are "two sisters sharing one pink bedroom" in our new house. I can't wait for that either.

Thursday, March 17, 2011


I am so stupid. Seriously. I should know by now that all three of my children are skilled communicators, and all I have to do to make my life run smoothly, is listen.

Obviously, Jack and Phoebalicious can speak clearly (and often way, way too much and definitely too loudly), with the occasional exception when Phoebs mangles her words into her own strange little version of pixie-English. But at least when she wants a "hair-listic" I know to grab the clips and hair elastics to put her hair in pig tails, when she asks for "peanut in a wrapper" I know that she wants a pitta bread with peanut butter for lunch, and when she asks "is this the right?", she's clarifying if the article of clothing she has just donned is on the right way or the correct foot. Simple, right?

And the Mouse has joined the ranks rapidly, jabbering away in babylish and punctuating her speech with pointing fingers and an almost-manic giggle. Being only 14 months old, her communication skills fall mainly in the body-language-and-gestures department, with a few discernible words thrown in. She has the basics such as Mum, Dad, and ta (with "ta" being her most used word, since she has learned that it will earn her the big-ticket items in the high chair). As we have discussed before, our pets have all been given breathy little names (all with exclamation marks on the end), and recently Maisie has begun calling a drink of water, "na". She calls for 'na' often, by pointing at her sippy cup, or grabbing for my drink, or shouting "NA!" repeatedly when the other kids are taking too much of my attention. Heaven forbid.

I was having trouble interpreting my baby's signals this afternoon. She was absolutely fine this morning, and at lunch time when we visited Pa. But by the time I went to a specialists' appointment mid-afternoon, she was starting to be clingy. We arrived home in time for Maisie to don her cranky-pants in earnest. She refused to eat the dinner her Daddy tried to feed her. I thought that she was exerting her independence, so I put some finger food on the high chair and sat her up. She threw it all on the floor and then cried when I looked sideways at her. She whinged and sooked and clung to my legs, so I diagnosed tiredness and put her in a growsuit. I was supposed to be tutoring tonight, so I thought I'd give her an early feed to send her to sleep before I left. The last thing I wanted to leave Christian with tonight was a tired, cranky baby.

As I said before, I am stupid. What my lovely baby was trying to tell me this afternoon and this evening, is that she felt rather poorly. Most likely, her tummy was hurting, and all she wanted was a cuddle and some water. Because five minutes before I needed to leave, and as Maisie was finishing her night feed, she vomited the biggest, wettest, lumpiest, most mammoth spew that I have ever seen. It went all over her sleeping bag and growsuit, all over my jumper, blouse, jeans, and everything underneath, until it pooled on the couch under my bottom. And it wasn't just the milk she had consumed, or her dinner - there were grapes in it. She ate grapes for morning tea. *shudder*

So, I didn't go tutoring. I tiptoed through the house, dripping chunks of vommy on the floor, and peeled off my stinking clothes. Maisie and I showered together...actually, she cried, and I scrubbed, and still she stunk like spew when we emerged. And then I fed her to sleep again, and thought. If I wasn't stupid, and if I listened to my little girl when she was clearly trying to tell me something, then I wouldn't have been deluged in vomit, and had an enormous mess to clean up, and felt rather vommy myself. So I only have myself to blame. *sigh* I really need to learn how to communicate more effectively. Perhaps if I point and grunt at the pile of spewy clothes on the bathroom floor, someone will know what I mean, and do it for me? No. Perhaps not.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Mummy Blogger Ranting

The lovely Zoey over at Good Goog got me thinking this morning. Now, there's some pretty amazing women out there blogging their little hearts out every day, and I'll admit I'd love to have the numbers reading my blog that follow the likes of Maxabella, Lucy, Chantelle, Beth and Zoey, to name a handful. These ladies are all mummies who juggle paid work, unpaid work, school runs, kinder duties, friends, family, you name it. And they all blog so beautifully, it's a joy to read about their lives every morning.

What I'm so confused about is the apparent vitriol aimed at mummy bloggers. Why is it such a bad thing to blog about motherhood? To the untrained eye, I suppose motherhood could be summed up in a few words, eg. nappies, vomit, nappies, poo, nappies, whinging, supermarket shopping, nappies, sleepless nights. And, if we're being bleatingly honest, some days that's what it feels like.

But if you are a mother, be it biological, adoptive, surrogate, foster, estranged, whatever - if you have, at some point in your life, cared for and loved a young child, then you understand that mothering is all about loving. And sometimes, no matter how much you wanted it, or prayed for it, or love doing it, being a mum is just plain old hard work. Knowing that you can turn on your computer and either read about another mummy's exploits from that day, or pour your own thoughts into the keyboard provides a sort of salvation, in my mind. There have been days when I have done nothing but deal with gastro and tantrums and spiders and an empty fridge, and the only thing that has kept me from turning to hard drugs is the thought, "At least this will make for a good blog". At least someone else might find my misfortunes funny, or relate to them, or perhaps have a better day because of reading my blog.

And about becoming a "mummy blogger"?? Well, did I enjoy creative writing at school? Yes. Was literature my favourite subject in high school? Yes. (Nerd!) Did I, in fact, marry a Literature teacher? Yes ( a rather lovely one, at that). Are there many opportunities for a Biology teacher to write creatively? Well, frankly, no. Until I was on maternity leave, doing something like blogging never entered my mind simply because I didn't have the time, or the inclination to look at a computer after looking at one at work all day. I completed my Master of Education when Phoebe was 6 weeks old, which meant that I had maintained a working relationship with my laptop through the births of two babies.

It wasn't until Maisie was tiny, and I wasn't "working", and I needed a creative outlet for myself, that I started blogging. And being a stay-at-home mum, what else would I write about, but mothering? Some people are bothered about being 'labelled' as a mummy blogger, or being reduced to nothing more than a mother. Personally? Label me whatever you want - it's no skin off my nose! Do you enjoy reading my blog? That's a more pertinent question.

I realise that some women wish to retain the aspects of their lives that they had prior to giving birth. You know, career, friends, social lives, hobbies, political views, opinions on important issues - the whole idea that "I'm more than just a mother, you know". And I'll probably be lynched for what I'm about to say here. I have been labelled many things over the last 34 years - daughter, sister, wife, friend, student, graduate, sales assistant, camp counsellor, bar maid, nanny, teacher - and all of those roles were important in different ways. But in my opinion, the most important role I have played, is mother. Being a mum is what defines me. I am a mum before anything else - not exclusively a mother - but a mother first and foremost. All of the other roles in my life, and all of the experiences I have had, help make me the mother that I am.

And because this is what takes the majority of my time, at this point in my life, I write about being a mum. It may seem at times as though I am obsessed with the mundane (for example, today Maisie did five poos. FIVE! Will seriously have to consider her dried-fruit intake), but this is my life. As far as I'm concerned, you make the most of the only life you have, because it will be over before you know it. And if you don't like mummy bloggers? Then don't read them!! If you do like mummy bloggers? Excellent!! Tomorrow's rant shall be about people who steal the 'Parents With Prams' car spots at Coles even though there's not a child in sight. Grrr!!!!! (Just kidding. Don't have a clue what tomorrow's blog will be about. Am not doing anything after the school run, except perhaps sitting on my bum all day watching Day of Our Lives and eating Tim Tams...that's what housewives do, right?)

Monday, March 14, 2011

Happy birthday Aunty Calorine (aka Farmer Girl)

Once upon a time, many years ago, I travelled around the world with a backpack and very little money. After two years I came home, completely broke and utterly delighted with the places I'd seen and the people I had met. I had seen enough of Europe to know I needed to go back; I had been a bar maid in London long enough to see the UK on a shoestring; and I had worked for two summers at Indian Head Camp, a beautiful spot in Pennsylvania, as a camp counsellor and group leader (amongst other things!) Several of the friends I made while working at summer camp are, to this day, among my dearest friends.

I met Caroline (or Calorine, as my children call her now) when she was one of the camp receptionists during our first year at IHC. She came back in the second year to be a camp counsellor with me, which was just a hoot from start to finish. Caz was so fun, and so fabulous with the girls we cared for. When I think about my time at camp with Caroline, Lauren, Cat, Beans, Piper and Weisy, the nostalgia is almost deafening - they were such gorgeous mates, and we had the most amazing fun. Would I do it all again? In a heartbeat. Even the night when I stood on a frog in the dark and slid on it's guts. Even the time when there was a skunk under our cabin and it was the start of Olympics, and they got a fire engine and set the siren off outside our bunk and the skunk got a fright and sprayed under the floorboards. Even when I missed curfew and had to face the wrath of Shelley the morning after....ok, maybe not that. But you get the picture!!

I spent Millenium New Year with Caz in her hometown of York, watching the fireworks over York Minster and having a little tipple at a local pub with her friends (yes, a little tipple. Followed by a bigger tipple...and then another, larger tipple...) And after many fabulous times in America and the UK, I finally convinced Caroline to visit Australia. So she arrived just in time for me to move into my very first own house, and we spent a few months living together while I taught and she worked at a local restaurant. And we had a ball.

Of course, as she had planned all along, after a while Caz went off to see the rest of Australia, and then home to England. And while we were apart, she got married over in the UK (to a lovely boy whom she had met while living with me - so her mum completely blames me for taking her far, far away!! Sorry Anne xxx), moved back to Australia, gave birth to a beautiful baby boy, and is now a dairy farmer's wife in the country! Which brings us to today - which I'm sure my children would call "A Day At The Best Farm In The World".

Being Aunty Calorine's birthday today, we had been invited to a barbie on the farm in Gippsland. And oh, did Team O'Toole have a wonderful day! There were doggies to play with, piggies to oink at, day-old baby calves to pat, moo-cows to moo at, and sodidges in bread for lunch. I do declare, Jack and Phoebe would have upped and stayed with Aunty Calorine (or Farmer Girl, as Jack called her until we put a stop to it!) forever had we allowed them! And oh, the clean, fresh air, and the view!! Such a magnificent vista from Caz's back yard - I could have stood in the milking yard and looked at the hills for hours. It was enough for Christian and I to start talking about chucking a holiday shack on a bush block one day...

It made my heart glad to see Caroline so happy. She has a wonderful hubby (thanks for the dairy tour, Matt! We'll be back for our baby calf tomorrow...), a divine bubby (who will not escape from Aunty Sal's cuddles next time), and a beautiful farm in the most picturesque spot imaginable. I hope she had a happy birthday. I was very grateful to spend it with her - because seeing Caroline today melted all the years away, and took me back to being a 23 year old chick, hanging out with one of the best friends I've ever had. And I don't think it will be very long before we return to the farm. My children apparently had such a wonderful day they have decided the best thing to do is bug me about visiting Aunty Calorine again, until I capitulate. They don't need to bug me. Happy birthday Farmer Girl!!

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Grateful for Miffy and Whale

Imagine this:

You have three very young children.

Both you and your lovely husband lost your jobs on the very same day.

You sold your house, and the one you are building has been delayed so badly that you're beginning to think pitching a tent on the block of mud would be simpler.

You have no income whatsoever, and have been relying on the kindness and charity of your family and friends.

And it's Christmas.

This was the situation we found ourselves in at the end of last year. Luckily, our family and friends were very supportive and understanding when we explained that we simply couldn't afford Christmas-plus-all-the-trimmings. I had a pre-paid agreement with the big man in the red suit (thank you, thank you 6 month lay-by!!), and other than that, all we could give to our loved ones were hugs and home-made chocolates.

We asked our families if we could abstain from present-giving. I didn't feel comfortable receiving gifts knowing that we couldn't give in return, so I had asked them not to buy us anything at all. And like all good families, they listened to me...and completely ignored my request. So throughout Christmas, I would estimate that the kids each received double the number of presents they normally would have. And Christian and I were thoroughly spoiled - and I mean, ridiculously so.

Last night, we enjoyed one of our Christmas presents - one of the most thoughtful, generous, wonderful gifts I have ever received. My beautiful baby sister Miffy and her gorgeous boy, Whale, paid for an exceptionally lavish meal at a local restaurant (paid months in advance with a standing reservation!), and threw in free babysitting for our three sprogs. Now seriously, what parent would not jump for joy at the thought of a night like that? And considering how long it has been since we've eaten somewhere fancy (I'd place the time frame in years), it was a golden night.

To put this in perspective - the last time we took the kids out for a meal, Christian and I shared a $10 pizza. And a jug of water. Last night, we savoured every mouthful of eye fillet like it was our last supper...and then followed it with lemon tart with a brulee crust (Christian) and japonnaise, a French concoction of meringue, chocolate, vanilla cream and berries (for moi). Not to mention a glass of local chardy, a couple of coffees, and the joy of sitting just the two of us, eating and chatting, without having to get up from the table even once.

And when we arrived home, all three kids were happily asleep. Apparently the Mouse had fallen asleep holding Uncle Whale's hand. Bless. The knowledge that our kids had been loved, and played with, and had gone to sleep happy, while we enjoyed the best meal I can remember, made Miffy and Whale's gift indescribably wonderful. I cannot thank them enough for the gift of last night. I am so grateful for my baby sister, and my gorgeous BIL. Hopefully they know how much.

Now, how long so you think I should wait before I ask if we can do it all again?

Friday, March 11, 2011

I heart Tupperware

* Before you read this, let me just assure you this is not a promotion of Tupperware. I have not been sponsored by Tupperware to say any of this. But I just love Tupperware. A lot. (So if you work for Tupperware, and you want to pay me in Tupperware to say nice things about it, then that's ok. I accept!!)

If you know me in Real Life, you know how much I love Tupperware. Oh my goodness gracious me, how I adore anything to do with Tupperware. I love it's practicality, I love it's plasticky goodness, I love the bright colours, I love how it stacks neatly to make my pantry look organised and presentable. I love how it keeps weevils and other little critters out of my flour, I love how it keeps my food fresh, I love how it stops me from using reams of Glad Wrap and hurting the poor, damaged, trembling environment.

If Tupperware is the darling of the anal-retent, then I am that anal-retent. The only thing that prevents me from completely organising my entire house in Tupperware (colour-coordinated, of course) is money. Since I have not yet invented a bottomless purse which magically fills itself with $50 notes, I cannot spend wildly on the Tupperware of my dreams. And so, I attend parties every so often, and collect a few more pieces for my gorgeous collection. (And before you ask, yes, I do acknowledge that it is an illness. And no, I don't want a cure. Christian wants me to be Tupper-immunised, but I'm afraid that won't happen.)

When we sold our beautiful house and put all of our worldly possessions into storage, the majority of my Tupperware was packed gently and lovingly away. I know it's there - but I miss it terribly!! So when my lovely friend Casey from invited me to my first Tware party in a year, I was a tad excited. (Forgive me Father, for I have sinned. It's been twelve months since my last Tupper-purchase. And during that time I have lusted after plastic storage containers with a lifetime replacement warranty, and all in pretty colours.)

Casey is an amazing cook, and regularly posts her gorgeous recipes on her blog. So I knew she would have been baking for her party while keeping her two little sprogs entertained, and preparing her house, and doing all the other little things we girls do when expecting a crowd. The Mouse and I were only five minutes late, which was an excellent effort given that it took half an hour to eat her sandwich today! (Too much time spent cooing at the cat. Then again, Ernie IS rather enchanting...) So I was surprised, and relieved, to discover that the majority of Casey's guests had not yet arrived.

I was completely gobsmacked when, forty minutes after the time stipulated on the invitation, it became clear that only three of the twelve women expected were going to attend. Casey had baked enough cupcakes and mouth-watering biscuits to sink the proverbial; the Tupper-display sat gleaming and ready for us to paw over and drool on; and the kids' play room was being anxiously watched by Casey's daughter, who could not understand why her playmates had not arrived. And still, no one came.

So our Tupper-fest was far more intimate than planned, which did not dim my excitement at seeing some new Tupper-inventions, and some old favourites not yet acquired. And yet...I could not shake my anger at the no-shows. It's not difficult to throw a Tupperware party - in actual fact, I really enjoy it. But still, you clean the house and spend money on nice things for afternoon tea or supper, and you spend time preparing for your friends to have a good time. And it's certainly not hard to turn up to someone's house for a cup of coffee and a chat, particularly when you have said that you would.

What I hate, is that as a Tupperware hostess (or any other party plan hostess), all you ask of your guests is to come and have some fun. You're not holding a gun to their heads to buy anything. And so what if you've seen it all before? Would it kill you to look at it again while being social?? The hardest thing about throwing a party is those people who act as though you asked them to something really repulsive, or difficult, and either come and make disparaging comments, or don't turn up at all. And since Casey is so beautiful, and such a welcoming hostess, I felt very bad for her today.

So here's a message to those "ladies" who failed to honour their RSVP today. Us girls had a lovely time, chatting, drinking coffee and fantasising about having enough money to buy the Tware roasting dish. It was lovely to be around such positive, pleasant company, rather than eating a sandwich on my own, standing at the kitchen bench. I only bought a couple of pieces today, but I enjoyed every minute. So a big thank you to Casey for such a lovely day. You have helped re-ignite my passion for my beloved Tupperware, and I know it will only be a short time before my lounge room is blessed with the scent of new plastic and brightly-coloured seals. Now, all I need to do is convince Christian that Tupperware is indeed the answer to all of our problems...or that it is something about me he will need to learn to love. Because I heart Tupperware. And that's all I have to say about that!

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Child-rearing via peripheral vision

Do you ever feel as though you haven't been the best possible parent you could be? Lately, I have felt as if Phoebalina has got the rough end of the stick, so to speak. Obviously when there are three children in a household, sharing goes with the territory - the sharing of toys, of snacks, of germs, and inevitably, of Mummy's attention. And lately I have had the mother-guilts quite often, as both Jack and Maisie have been taking quite a bit of my time, for various reasons.

Not that Miss P has been ignored - rather, I probably haven't spent the one-on-one time with her that she is accustomed to receiving. But with so much time and effort being invested in Jack's first term at school (and the preparing for school, getting to and from school, talking about school, being well-rested for school), he has claimed more than his fair share of Mummy's attention lately - for good reason!! And for safety reasons, my eyes have spent the majority of their time (whilst not driving) fixed on the Mouse as she learns to walk...which apparently involves a lot of climbing dangerous objects, pulling things over onto oneself, and banging on the windows with heavy objects to capture the attention of the pets. So it would be safe to say that Maisie is the attention-hog at home during the day...and Jack takes up most of the rest.

As a result, poor Phoebs has resorted to trying to grab my attention any which way she can. So today I'd decided to remedy the situation, and spend some quality time with my biggest girl. The plan was to drop Jack at school, go to the ballet shop to purchase a new cross-over top for Phoebe's ballet lesson, and then spend the morning at a play centre, just Phoebe, Maisie and me, in a ball pit. However, the shop was closed when we was the play centre. Grrrr. It was 9:30am by this point, so we drove into the centre of town, found a car park and went to a cafe for morning tea. I bought my girl a smiley-face cookie, and she loved every crumb (as did the Mouse, who begged a piece from her sister with a barrage of earnest "Ta! Ta! Ta!"'s)

We meandered through Target, where I bought new snuggly dressing gowns for the big kids. Phoebe helped me push the pram up the street to a little boutique where we purchased a little birthday gift for a friend of mine. And we were having a lovely time, chatting and strolling together, my girls and I. Back at the play centre at 10:30am, the car park was so full I decided to cut my losses. We came home, had lunch and quiet time, and I got a load of washing out. I was determined to get to the play centre (particularly since she had her little heart set on it), so we were out of the house at 1pm.

Fifteen minutes later, I sat in the play centre car park with two fast asleep daughters in the back seat. So I did what any good mother should do...I joined them!! About ten minutes after drifting off, I woke to the sounds of two mothers chatting next to my open window, and my wide-mouthed snore...charming. Maisie was looking at me expectantly by this point, so I wiped the dribble from my chin, pretended my hair-do was deliberate, and drove to the ballet shop.

After a quick stop at the grocer's and the bakery, we made it to school on time with fresh hot cross buns for afternoon tea. And after all I had planned to do with my girl today, all the special things I had in mind to show her that I did love her, that I did pay attention, that I do enjoy spending time with her...well, most of it went down the plughole.


While I was preparing our dinner tonight, Maisie practised her wonky walk across the room with her trolley, Jack sat quietly watching Pinocchio, clad in his Batman suit, and Phoebe? Phoebe played gently on the floor with her baby doll, feeding it a bottle, wrapping it in a blanket, and crooning softly to it. She did not do dances or turn tricks to grab my attention. She did not continously call out to me with ridiculous rhymes or stories. She only teased her brother when Daddy arrived home (the battle for Daddy's attention is a completely new field and begins as soon as he opens the front door...). And for the first time in a long time, Phoebalicious seemed happy to play near me, content that we were together. Happy that I was with her, that I knew she was there, that I could see what she was doing. That I had assured her, simply by spending a day just with her, that I was paying attention. I just need to make sure she knows it more often.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

The Tail-Gate Tease

I drove a long, long way and didn't really get anywhere in the course of today. I drove to school, and dropped Jack off for a day of high jinks with the other Preppies. I drove to my MIL's house, and dropped the girlies off for a morning of giggles and fun with Grandma. (So far, my children were definitely the winners of today, I can tell you!!! Staying with Grandma is always a happy, happy day - coming with Mummy not so much!) I drove to a doctor's appointment for myself, and then drove myself back to pick the girls up. I drove home to give the girls a play and sigh sadly at my mountains of unfolded washing (has anyone noticed how often I blog about washing? Perhaps if I blogged less often and emptied my washing baskets more regularly this problem would cease and desist...perhaps if I had a glass of wine with breakfast this would actually happen...???) I drove back to school to collect Jack. I drove home again. I can only imagine how horrific my carbon footprint is. Perhaps a bit like the giant at the top of the beanstalk.

Whilst driving my many, many kilometres today, I realised something about myself that is not particularly nice. And, I might add, something I do not intend to change, not in the slightest. I like to tease tail-gaters.

You see, around here, there are many "rural" roads complete with rough edges, bendy corners, gravel verges and more than a few hills. There are sections of highway, scores of roundabouts, and more roadworks than is healthy. Having grown up in this area, I have learned the various nuances of the local roads that make them safe, or dangerous, or slippery when covered in cow poo. I have become familiar with short-cuts, stop signs that people ignore, and places where you are guaranteed to be overtaken. I am also exceptionally aware of places where horrific accidents have occurred, and in particular, where people I know and love have been seriously hurt, or killed.

And because on top of all this, I have three rather precious parcels in my backseat most of the time, I drive very, very carefully. If there's a speed limit, that's where you'll find me. Double line?? Not crossing it. There are even some roads around here that I refuse to overtake on, simply because I know the twists and turns in the road that are coming up, as well as the pot holes, the corrugated gravel on the side of the road, and the koala crossing that is hidden around a bend.

As a result of all this, I quite often find lead-footed people behind me shaking their fists and brandishing pitchforks. All of which I find exceptionally amusing. Coming back from the doctor's today, I was on a very windy, hilly road, which is currently undergoing major roadworks. It is quite narrow, has a very deceptive hairpin corner and has a speed limit of 100km. Due to the work being done on this road, I got stuck behind a huge truck. The road was wet from early morning rain, the truck was laden with rock, and there was a steady stream of traffic coming from the opposite direction. Even if I'd been inclined to overtake, I couldn't have.

The woman behind me was so close, I'm sure she could have picked my nose for me. I realised she was there when I copped an eyeful of her in my wing mirror, and couldn't see the front of her car, only the windscreen. I kept a safe distance behind the truck, and watched her fury mount. I'm not quite sure what she wanted me to do, but I realised that I had unwittingly begun applying the brakes uber-carefully, and was accelerating very gently. Every time she got close to my bumper, I touched the brakes lightly - however, this was a hard-core tailgater. This did not bother her in the slightest. So I waited until a particularly dicey corner was coming up, and braked hard (safely, though - I promise!! Would I do anything rash and stupid??)

The screech of brakes, fishtailing rear-end, and the distance that appeared between our cars gave me huge satisfaction. And that is when I knew - I am a tail-gate tease. I enjoy driving like a granny when I know it's bugging the person behind me. I get a kick out of seeing their blood pressure rise when all I am doing is obeying road rules and sticking to the speed limit. I adore not being in a hurry when the person behind me has two minutes to reach their destination or perish. I realise that this probably makes me a horrible person. That they are probably not driving recklessly simply because they think they can, but because there is something terribly important for them to get to.

But the way I look at it is this: you want to drive dangerously? You want to act like an idiot on the road for the sake of five minutes? You want to act cool and drive fast, because you are invincible and an excellent driver? Do me a favour, and do it elsewhere. I choose to be a sensible driver. I choose to take the necessary precautions on the road to not endanger my children's lives. I choose to look out for other drivers who might hit a slippery patch, or blow out a tyre, or brake suddenly when a dog runs into the road. I choose not to behave in a way that might see me take another person's life.

And so, my friends, there you have it. My ugly confession for the day. I am a tail-gate tease, and proud of it! C'mon, join the cause! I dare you.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

A Fish Called Jack

I am as proud as punch today. In fact, I was so proud this morning, I nearly burst, leaving splatterings of blood and bodily parts and bits all over the place....luckily I held it together, hey?

Jack has been having swimming lessons since he was about two, and even before that he was a true water baby. The first time I immersed him in the warm, chlorinated waters of our local pool, I expected that stiffening of the body that babies do when they're freaked out by something. Instead, he shrieked with joy, splashed himself silly for half an hour, and cried violently when I took him out. Since then, we've had a hard time keeping him out of the water, and often spend many minutes explaining why normal people DO NOT swim at the beach in the depths of winter.

Jack has always rejoiced in swimming, regardless of whether it's at the beach, or the pool, or a deep, muddy puddle in someone's driveway. There is a look of utter delight on his little face when he is in the water, as though he is in his natural environment. The pool is one place I never have to worry about him being cheeky, or misbehaving for the teacher, because it would devastate him to miss out on his lesson.

Today our boy was assessed to see if he was ready to move up a level. After watching him splash his stuff a few times up and down the length of the pool, his teacher looked across to Christian and I, held up four fingers and mouthed "K4!" Now, where our kids have swimming lessons, the levels are delineated K1, K2, K3, and so on, right up until K12, at which point they graduate as accomplished swimmers. The significant thing about moving up from K3 to K4, is that Jack will move from the little 'baby' pool into the big pool. This is where stroke technique is perfected, strength is acquired, and confidence makes young men and women proud of themselves.

And my baby was so, so proud of himself today - as were Christian and I. At the end of every lap of the pool, be it a torpedo, or a platypus kick, or backstroke with wobbly, uncertain arms, Jack stood up, smiled broadly at us and waved. He knew he had achieved something big today, and he was so chuffed, it was gorgeous to watch. He didn't mind that I was also watching Phoebalina kick madly with her floatie on her back, blowing bubbles until her eyes popped; or that I was waving at Maisie singing "Hokey Pokey" with her Daddy. (Truth be told, watching all three of them is an art form - you need to continuously scan the three lanes so you don't miss anyone doing their thing!! I always need a coffee afterwards...)

I'll be honest - it's been a tricky few weeks since Jack started Prep. I have felt as though I've been walking on a tightrope keeping nap times for babies and play times for toddlers and meal times so that school boys get to bed on time...almost as though if I don't keep the balance right, the family will fall off kilter. Silly, I know. But he's my biggest baby, and he's been through so much in the past year. Not many four year olds would have had to cope with the events that were thrown at Jack in 2010. So I suppose I feel responsible for making sure everything is ok, and that he is happy.

To make the most of his achievement today, I cooked a 'celebration lasagne' for dinner tonight.We told the kids it was to celebrate Phoebe's excellent listening and kicking in the pool, and Jack's move up to the big pool. Maisie didn't care what it was for - she was pleased that Mum had cooked such a squishy dinner!! I love the fact we can celebrate these things together. And now my little fish is fast asleep, probably dreaming of being underwater. I hope he keeps waving to me from the pool for a few more years yet...even when it's embarrassing to have a proud mum sitting on the sidelines!! Maybe I'll just have to invest in some obscuring sunglasses...

Saturday, March 5, 2011

A Day in the Life of Maisie

6am: Wake up, stand up in cot and wail until Mummy comes to scoop me up. Am taken into Mummy's bed for a snuggle and a feed (to keep me quiet)

6.30am: Mummy gets up after I spend half an hour kicking, tugging, wrestling, and eventually talking, instead of feeding. Mummy sighs.

7am: I watch the other kids while I sit in my highchair. Mummy puts cut-up fruit on my tray and tries to feed me cereal. I squish the fruit between my fingers and play tennis with the cereal-filled spoon. It's great fun - especially when the cereal splatters everywhere!

7.30am: I practise my pulling-up on the couches in the loungeroom. It's a good time of day to surreptitiously watch Jack and Phoebe to learn some new bad habits, because usually Mum is too busy cleaning up after breakfast to notice.

8am: Being Saturday, we don't need to get in the big noisy moving thing to take Jack to the big noisy place with lots of kids. Instead, I have plenty of time to crawl around and find things to break. Am particularly interested in Phoebe's toy oven, with all the pretty little things that fit perfectly in my mouth.

9am: Felt a lot better after filling my shorts. I laughed a lot. Everyone else looked distinctly unhappy.

10am: After Mum had wrestled me into some clothes, I wanted to sit on her lap and make her watch the pretty pictures on the big black box. So I sooked and carried on, twisting and fake-crying until she cuddled me on her soft, warm lap. Much better than sitting on the floor. The floor has less padding.

11am: Was put back in my highchair for lunch. Mum gave me some bread with that black sticky stuff on it (Phoebe calls it 'Medgeemite' so I guess that's what it is), and some banana. I hid the bread under my bottom and threw the banana to the dog, so they'd think I ate it. Then I pointed repeatedly at the yoghurt until they got the hint. Sometimes my mother is a bit slow on the uptake.

Midday: Mum put me in my cot because she thought I was tired. I called out for a while and carried on, but after a while it was easier to lie down for a kip. Besides, that pink seahorse Mum put in my cot for company is very soft, and it plays sleepy music that can be quite persuasive!!

2pm: Woke up just in time to go to the playground. There were heaps of big kids running around. I wanted to run too, so I made Mum and Narnie hold my hands while I practised walking. I still can't quite make my legs do what I want, but I'm managing to kick fewer people now. Narnie put me on lots of things at the playground - she has much more patience than my Mum!! Mummy wouldn't let me eat the tan bark, couldn't understand what her problem was. Some germ phobia, probably.

3pm: They wheeled me up the street in the pram to get a drink at a cafe. I shared an apple juice with Jack and Phoebe, which was nice - usually they make me watch while they enjoy the big-kid treats. I have eight teeth now - how many do I have to have before I qualify as grown-up?? Seriously.

4pm: Fell asleep in the car on the way home; let Mum carry me in and put me in the cot. Was too warm and cosy to care about putting up a fight. I know how much Mum enjoys those cuddles, so sometimes I snuggle in just to let her have her moment. She'll need something to hold on to when I'm 15.

5pm: Woke with a raging appetite and a wicked glint in my eye. Was definitely ready for some fun! Dinner was a smorgasbord of pumpkin, baked beans, cheese and peas. I ate the cheese. The rest looked very fetching in my hair. Mum just sighed a lot, again.

5:30pm: Had a bath to get the pumpkin out of my hair. I love baths - you can throw yourself around in the water, and when it goes over the side it makes a great big splash!! The best part is getting Mum and Dad soaked. They haven't cottoned on to the fact that I know precisely what I'm doing. And I'm too cute to chastise. I reckon I've got at least a few more months up my sleeve.

6pm: While the others are being made to pack up the toys, I sit in the corner "reading" books and practising my 'cute' voice. It comes in very handy when I've done something naughty and I need a distraction.

6.15pm: Saw the dog and cats through the window. Abandoned everything to crawl rapidly across the room and started shouting/squealing at them. If only I could get my hands on one of them!! All I want to do is have a ride...and stick my finger up their noses to see what they would do...and sample that delicious-looking food in the bowl outside. Mum gets all fidgety when I go near the pets' food, like I might give them germs or something. Pffft.

7pm: With the big kids in bed, I have some one-on-one time with Mum. It's my favourite time of day. She'll sit for hours holding me while I feed, as long as I make sure my eyelids look heavy and I cuddle in close. She really likes it when I touch her face gently, so I make sure I do that periodically just to keep her settled. I like to have a good, long feed before bed, so that my tummy is full of milk. And it's a lot nicer to go to sleep in Mum's arms, rather than in bed - she's my personal hot-water bottle!

7.30pm: Around this time, I get put into bed, enclosed in my sleeping bag and snuggled up to my pink seahorse. I don't get asked to tidy up the toys, put away my shoes, say please or thankyou - all I have to do is cuddle, giggle in a cute fashion, and occasionally eat the food rather than flinging it. No wonder I'm always smiling!!!!

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Can You Keep A Secret?

Can you keep a secret?

Me, I'm pretty good at it, especially if it's a really good one. I can hold my tongue about other people's pregnancies (and to a certain extent my own!), birthday presents, surprise parties, naughty deeds that may or may not have been committed. Christian is absolutely hopeless. I am fairly sure this is because he just hates waiting for surprises when he's the one being surprised. Or perhaps he's just really bad at keeping secrets?? Our fantastic night out last week was the first time my hubby managed to keep a secret from me since he had my engagement ring made without my knowledge. So I suppose with him, it's quality, not quantity, right?? Haha.

Well. I have a secret. And since it's such a good one, I thought I would share it with you. But only you, ok? Promise you won't tell??

My Dad is an outstanding artist (but that's not the secret!). Ever since I can remember, our garage has been full of easels and paints and turps, and pretty much every spare minute my Dad ever had when we were growing up, he was painting. He can do portraits in watercolour and oils; he can do beautiful landscapes with different textures; he does amazing animal portraits, and once did an exhibition of native Australian birds; and he also does gorgeous art for children. He has painted surfers, footy players and racehorses. He has entered the Archibald contest numerous times, each portrait depicting a different famous face.

When my brother was a baby, my Dad painted a mural in Josh's bedroom that covered an entire wall. He painted Snow White and the seven dwarves in a daycare centre, which would have made Walt Disney proud. And when my kids were born, they were each presented with two of Pa's paintings to hang in the nursery. My Dad is modest, to say the although he has a gallery, and has done commissioned paintings for about 30 years, he has never really sold his kids' artwork. He preferred to give his canvases as gifts, thinking no one would want to buy them. Oh, how wrong he was.

People have always commented on the art work hanging on my walls, particularly the beautiful, bright paintings displayed in my children's bedrooms. On New Year's Eve while we were at Gertrude's house, Esmerelda commented on the canvas hanging in Will's bedroom. She asked if it was one of my Dad's, and remarked that they must sell well. When I told her he gave them away, she was shocked, and suggested that they would be very popular if we set up an online business.

So, given that I completely agreed with Esmerelda (and had, in fact, attempted to persuade Dad to sell his children's art previously with no success), I approached him once more to see if he would set up on online business with me, selling his stunning paintings for children. And finally, he said yes. Not only that, but my sister is on board, too. Exciting much???

So my super secret is that after months of feverish painting and ideas being thrown around, our fledgling business is almost ready to go. We will begin with framed and unframed canvases, but there are already plans afoot for matching lamps, satchels and other gorgeous bedroom accessories. You will be the first to know when our launch date is...but until then, I am keeping the best part of the secret to myself. The unveiling of our baby business, it's name and it's website will happen very, very soon...and then you will be able to feast your eyes on our stunning art work. Until then....ssshhhhhh!!!!!!!!

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Victim is a dirty word

I need your opinion. Seriously, I think my judgement on this one is waaaay out of whack...and yet I seem to be unable to change how I feel.

This afternoon, I answered the front door with Maisie dangling under one arm and Phoebe hanging off one leg. There was a man on my doorstep, and he quickly flashed a name badge at me and asked if he could come in to discuss my electricity connection. He said he had already knocked on my door earlier and I had obviously been out, because I hadn't answered.

Already my hackles had gone up, because while I had been collecting my son from school (which I do at the same time, every single day) this man had been at my house. And he was back less than one hour later.

I told him it wasn't a good time, as I had three very small children. Oh? He replied. So you'd be home a lot, then? I replied quickly, oh no, I'm in and out a lot.

I still didn't understand exactly what it was he so urgently needed to discuss, so I told him I was happy with my supplier and went to close the door. He mumbled something about Origin speaking to all of their customers, and needing to door-knock the last few "who had so far been unresponsive or had not been home when Origin representatives had knocked".

He asked when it would be a good time to come for a chat. I umm-ed and aah-ed, and told him that I didn't really know, as I was really busy. He pushed on, asking about tomorrow afternoon - was that any good? No, I replied. Thursday? Friday? No, I lied, I'll be working then. What about Monday? Say about 3 o'clock? Knowing that I would be once again collecting Jack at that time, I said yes, and closed the door.

I had to hide my shaking hands and obvious jitters from the kids, because I learned a long time ago that they pick up on my anxiety. I know for a fact that I will not be home on Monday when he calls again, even if it means I have to invent an excursion. So why am I being so ridiculous?

Ever since two men forced their way into my home twelve months and eight days ago, leaving my husband with eight armed, drunk and drugged men on the front lawn, I do not cope with strange men. I do not cope with people shouting late at night; I do not cope with loud, fast cars speeding past our house; I do not feel assured in my ability to protect our children with a stranger in our house. I do not want this man in my home, with only my small children present. I understand that this man is probably only doing his job, and is most likely a lovely person; I just don't understand why Origin sent a person to talk to me so urgently, in person, and why I have to have this person in my house. Am I being stupid??

I still vividly remember what it felt like to have two shouting, violent strangers in my loungeroom in the middle of the night. I was cold, despite the summer night, because I was acutely aware of being clad only in a nightie. I was frightened, because I did not know what these men wanted, or were capable of. I was angry, because I was a mother who was physically incapable of protecting all of her children - I had a newborn at one end of the house, and two toddlers at the other. I was helpless, because I could not have left the house if I wanted to. I was heartbroken, because the sounds of screaming coming from outside my front door indicated that my husband was at least in a great deal of trouble, or could quite possibly be dying. And I was abandoned, because my phone call to 000 yielded absolutely no response from the police.

I understand that Christian and I escaped from that experience physically unscathed. I understand that to dwell on that night makes me a victim, which is apparently a negative thing to do. I understand that in the eyes of the police, we are not victims. According to them, nothing happened at out house that night. To be recognised as "victims of crime", we needed to be physically harmed. What I would like to know is, how can the police say that nothing occurred, when they were not there? That what DID occur, happened because they did not see fit to respond to a cry for help, on the only emergency system our country possesses? I would also like to know whether, after all of this, I am justified in refusing entry to a stranger to my home?

Tell me, what would you do? Would you think twice about letting someone into your home? Would you check their credentials and then feel safe? Would you, like me, get the shakes just thinking about letting a stranger in? Tell me honestly - are my fears justified?? I know the only way this bloke is crossing the threshold of this house is if Christian is here. And even then, I will be like a cat on a hot tin roof.