Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Naughty, Nasty Nostalgia

It's a funny beast, Nostalgia.

It creeps up on you without warning and smacks you on the cheek, then runs away laughing, looking for it's next victim.

Even when you're expecting it, looking out for it, lying in wait for still manages to sneak up on you every time.

During those endless days of high school, when you cannot think beyond the end of the year, let alone the end of Year 12, you never realise that one day it will all be behind you. That you might actually look back with fondness on the days of questionable fashion trends, dodgy haircuts, laughable crushes and the daily trauma of teenage embarrassment seems impossible (and let's be honest here, no one remembers who taught them Year 9 Science after a decade. I know. I'm a Science teacher).

And yet, the end of Year 12 is all about sentimentality and pledging friendships forever (and obviously, exams...pfft) because old Nostalgia has paid a visit. Pinged you with it's arrow, so to speak. You wouldn't have picked it, would you?

If you went to uni, you probably had a few years like me - autumnal days spent cruising around campus, a bit of library time, a few lectures and tutes here and there....and a whole lotta socialising. Is it a day ending with Y? It is?? Well then, get thy derriere to thy pub and drink merrily! Tis fun to be had!

It's no wonder Nostalgia comes roaring around with the memory of uni days. Sometimes, my lack of a social life is so dire I'd almost run away with Nostalgia if it came around to the house mentioning time spent at PA's in Carlton, or Naughton's...even a trip to Lygon Street just for cake would be welcome. And nostalgic.

Currently, I'm nostalgic for newborns. It's been long enough that I've forgotten the eyeball-searing reality of sleep deprivation. I am not drowning in a sea of vomitty Wondersuits and muslins. My nipples do not cry with pain because they know another feed is around the corner. Colic is no longer the cause of angst-ridden evening hours in our house (now, it's just me. I'm the cause).

I have quite a few preggy bellies in my life at the moment, and every one of them has me green with envy. How I would love to rub a firm, roundy tummy under my tshirt while tiny feet and hands pummel me from the inside. I would even love the surprising and slightly unpleasant sensation of a foetal full-body stretch, whereby the feet lodge under the ribs, and the head wedges itself waaaaaaay down low. What I would give for the exciting promise of a new, snuggly, mewing newborn, with it's newborn-smelling head and little clenched fists. Me, with my now-defunct uterus. Oh Nostalgia, you're a mean bugger.

Nostalgia would have been having a field day with me lately. The kids and I have found a nice little groove with the school run, and getting the washing done, and walking the dogs in the sunshine every afternoon. A normal day for us involves spreading toys all over the house with happy girly games while Mummy tidies the mess in the kitchen. By the time we do a load of washing, make and clean up lunch, and have nap time, it's school pick-up time. Sounds fairly humdrum? I'm telling you - it's a feast for Nostalgia.

You see, the girls and I have had yet another "normal" day. We spent the morning at my cleaning job (me scrubbing, huffing and puffing; the girls strewing My Little Ponies all over the house and watching Dora); trundled demurely through the supermarket, allowing Phoebalina to pay the lady for the newspaper and a stamp; posted a letter in the big red box (very exciting!); met Daddy for lunch (we ended up having a car picnic because by the time we got there, both girls were asleep in their car seats); took Archie and Daisy for a walk (tied to either side of the pram) in the glorious, freezing, sunshiny day, and collected our favourite son and brother from school at home time.

Just an ordinary day that would usually be swallowed up into so many other similar days in the memory bank. I know that when Nostalgia taps me on the shoulder about this period in my life, I'll remember days spent playing, walking the pram in the sunshine, my two little girlies sharing games involving many blankets on the floor and dollies being mothered to bits. The shame of it is, that even when Nostalgia comes sniffing around in two or three years when the Mouse is heading off to school, there are details I won't remember clearly.

Such as Phoebe's incessant chatter and the rambling songs she makes up as we drive along. And the way Maisie leans in when I say, "I love you", replies, "I you" in a breathy, husky little voice, plants a gentle kiss on my nose and leans her cheek on mine, saying "Ahhh". How Phoebe was so thrilled to post a letter today, all by herself. The sound of Maisie miaowing whenever she spies a cat, anywhere (real or otherwise!). How every animal other than a cat makes a "woo woo" noise like a dog (even penguins). The fact that Phoebe's hair is a soft mass of curls at the nape of her neck, more fine than fairy floss, and the Mouse's is dead straight on top and curly curls at the mullet. That if you ask Maisie where her nose is, or any other facial feature, she will point to her face and say, "Ize!" as though she is the cleverest creature on the planet.

I hope, when Nostalgia comes creeping through my front door in a few years, that these are some of the memories he brings. No matter what, I know he won't be kind. Nostalgia will leave out the broken nights, the prolonged toilet training, the tantrums in the supermarket. He won't remind me of changing wet beds twice in one night, or trying to convince an 18 month old that she won't die if Mummy puts her down to go to the toilet.


Nostalgia, being the mean old fella that he is, will bring me the best of my children's years of being small. Memories that make me ache for miniature fingers and toes; for seeing the sheer delight on a toddler's face when given a plate of strawberries; for the sensation of chubby little arms wrapped around my neck, coupled with secrets whispered in Mummy's ear.

Nostalgia will make me weep for years gone. He will give nary a thought to those around me who will suffer the sniffling of the ugly crier. And he will make me forget, momentarily at least, that with every lost moment of babyhood, there is an equally wonderful moment of childhood, or parenthood, just waiting to happen.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Queen of Contradictions

I am a bag of contradictions, this I know. Instead of rendering me infuriating, I prefer to think of myself as challenging. Or interesting. A mosaic of personality traits (as opposed to simply having multiple personalities...)

I am a girly girl. Give me pink, frilly, feathered, fluffy, swirly, flouncy, even. And yet I am perfectly happy leaving the house every morning in jeans, boots and a fleece, with hair scraped into a pony and a bare face (my Mummy uniform, if you like.)

I love having manicured nails, styled hair and skin that has been nurtured by a night-and-day routine of toning, cleansing and moisturising. But without fail, there's always something else that takes priority over my personal grooming. I just don't find the time. Anything beyond 'clean' goes out the window...

If I had my 'druthers, I'd dress up in a slinky top, nice pants and clicky clacky high heels, and go out somewhere fabulous every few weeks. You know, drinkies with the girls, movies with my boy. But somehow the thought of my jarmies and Masterchef and my boy on the couch is always just too appealing!

I would eat all day if I could. But then I would berate myself for getting plump.

I am terribly house-proud. Which does not explain the baskets of unfolded washing and dishes in the sink that wait while I walk the dogs...

I love being a teacher. But the thought of going back to the classroom and leaving my Ballerina and my Mouse is too much to bear.

I could watch my kids, getting bigger and more cunning, every day and not get sick of it. I am so delighted that they are growing and learning, and there are so many things we can do as a family now that the "little baby" years are gone. However, my heart breaks with the knowledge that the Mouse is my last bubby.

I am thrilled to collect the outgrown baby clothes, the bunny rugs and muslins, the change table, the Jolly Jumper, the floor mats, the trolleys for learning to walk, and all the other baby paraphernalia for my little niece or nephew who we will meet in November. But every piece I put away must be sniffed, cradled and gazed at with eyes misted over with memories first, lest I lose a tiny piece of my children's babyhood.

I watched Jack last night at his very first parent-teacher interview, and I nearly burst with pride. He was so excited to show us his teacher, his classroom and his work. I could not have been prouder of our big boy. And yet...part of me wanted to rewind the clock so I could cradle my big-headed, baldy baby boy once more. (Which would then have meant we would be once again dealing with horrendous reflux...perhaps Jack being a big boy is not such a bad thing!)

So I suppose I am not only a sack full of contradictions, but I'm a messy, emotional one at that. Awesome. And now there's a sink of dishes waiting for my attention. I know I'll feel better once they're clean...and yet, I really can't be bothered...

Friday, June 24, 2011

Grateful for memories of a bride-to-be

The hair was perfectly cut and coloured.
The skin was soft, dewy and well-rested after six months of facials.
The fingernails and toenails were freshly manicured and painted a soft pink.
The waistline was slender; the limbs toned and trim.
The hands had arranged the flowers in the church.
The eyes had not rested until the cake was decorated just so (at home, with fresh-cut flowers, mind you!)
The legs had run hither and yon, delivering bonbonniere and list upon list to the reception centre.
The best friend had stuck through thick and thin, catastrophe and triumph, providing equal helpings of giggles and support.
The dress hung waiting, whispering behind it's white cover, the tiny beaded crystals and embroidery desperate to be worn.
The veil knew that it's moment was coming.
The brain knew that everything that could be done, had been done.
The brain also knew that excitement would prevent proper sleep.
The heart yearned for the morning, when the longed-for day would unfold.
The weather promised to be cold, crisp and sunny.
The groom promised to be at the church.
He was.
Six years ago tonight, I was a bride-to-be.
I was so grateful at the time to feel such joy, anticipating my wedding day.
I am so grateful now, knowing what a wonderful day it was.
And I am especially grateful for tomorrow, which I will spend with the wonderful boy who waited at the altar for me.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

So much to remember, not enough brain

One of my biggest mothering regrets is my failure to keep baby books. I meant to do it. I wanted to do it. But somehow...I had a baby. And then I had two...and then I had three....with nary a baby book in sight.

Being a self-confessed anal retent, I know that the only baby book that would have sufficed would have involved daily jottings. Not just the main milestones, occasional favourite words and a lock of hair. No sirree. My baby books would have contained descriptions of the cute, the funny, the downright disgusting. Tales of new words learned and the darling mispronounciations associated with them. Foods flung, foods consumed, foods demanded.

So it's probably a good thing for all concerned that I didn't keep proper baby journals. A stresshead / anal retent / teacher on maternity leave can only handle so many ulcers brought on by list-making and general over-zealousness.

If I was intelligent, I would have started this blog when I was preggers with Jack. I could have saved myself quite a bit of grief. It was just the minor issue of working full-time while up the duff, and then having three kids in under four years (did I mention doing a Masters by correspondence?) that put the kybosh on rational thinking. I'll let you know when that situation rectifies itself.

All jokes aside, I don't know a mother alive who has enough time read the newspaper, let alone maintain a running record of her sprog's daily achievements. Which is a shame, because the little blighters seem to do something funny or sweet or completely foul nearly every day, and there's no way I could remember it all without writing it down.

For example, the Mouse has become quite the kiss-blowing queen. She smacks her lips together, waves a palm off her lips, and says, "Ma!" whenever she is asked for a kiss, a thank you, or to say goodbye. It just about smooshes my heart in two watching Maisie say goodbye to Daddy every morning. He gets a "tuddle", and then kisses are flung in his general direction. As he backs out the front door, she runs to him, blowing kisses frantically, grabs another tuddle, and then watches him through the window next to the door. She knocks on the glass, squealing "Ai!" (Mouse-ish for "bye!") until he is out of sight. Way too cute. Definitely more adorable than washing her hair with yoghurt, which she did yesterday morning.

And Phoebalina, who can speak perfectly clearly but still insists on substituting the letter B into some words that start with D. Not all D words, mind you. Just certain ones. Phoebe loves 'bessert', especially if it comes straight after 'basarnya' (that's lasagne in Phoebalese). One cannot underestimate how much Phoebs loves both bessert and basarnya. She also loves dressing up in her ballet 'leotarb' and is currently obsessed with Snow White and the Seven Elves. Possibly because she thinks they're a short-cut to Santa?

We are now on the countdown to Phoebe's birthday. She asks me at least once a day if I have organised the Hello Kitty cake and the magic pony cake. And if she can invite so-and-so from kinder, and if she can have pink balloons. And how long is it until she is five, like Jack. Her birthday is in September. When she will be four.

Jack has turned into a 'big boy' in the six short months since starting school. He's all about Transformers and life savers...not the lollies, but the swords they use in Star Wars, you know? He loves school so much, that after our car accident the other day, I mentioned the possibility of going home instead of continuing on to school. Jack looked at me, horrified. "But Mummy," he said. "I might be the star helper today! I have to be there." Right then. Lucky the ambos didn't get in his way.

He still does some very sweet little-boy things though. Such as the other day, when Jack came to Christian and I with a baby doll wrapped tenderly in a bunny rug. Phoebe stood demurely behind him as they introduced their new baby to us. I asked if she was a good baby, and he sighed as he cuddled her and said, "Yes. But she cries sometimes at night, so Phoebe takes her into bed and feeds her." And Phoebe nodded her head and patted her 'baby' gently. Sob.

Isn't it a pity I never kept baby books? Even though it would have meant spending every spare moment scribbling down my children's every utterance, I could have remembered all of these gorgeous moments without fear of Alzheimer's. Ah well. Perhaps if I begin "teenager tomes" for the challenging years ahead, the milestones might make for interesting reading...or blackmail material, perhaps?

Monday, June 20, 2011

Dodgem Cars

Do you ever find yourself overwhelmed with the desire to complete some obscure and completely unnecessary task? Just to clarify - by "completely unnecessary", I mean a task that is not essential to feeding or clothing your family at that precise moment. For example, reorganising a pantry whose contents is spilling out onto the kitchen floor. Or clearing out all of the toys and other debris from under the couches and vacuuming the poor, neglected carpet under there. Or ironing of any description. You know. Unnecessary.

The other day I was driven by some unseen force to clean out the toys, books, sippy cups and random collected rubbish in my car. I pulled out the foot mats, banged the dust out of them, and dust-busted the lot. When I had finished, not a speck, not a crumb, not a long blonde hair remained inside my vehicle. It looked almost respectable. And all the while, the Mouse slumbered peacefully in her car seat, the little angel. That girl can sleep through any noise...except my whispered voice at midnight.

This morning I was ridiculously grateful for having a clean car (on the inside, at any rate...). It could have been very embarrassing otherwise.

We pootled off to school this morning in high spirits, because I was to be the parent helper in Jack's classroom. He was so excited. We were stopped in a line of cars at a busy roundabout when I heard an almighty bang. Let me be perfectly clear - it was LOUD. Like a clap of thunder above the car. Looking in the rear vision mirror, I watched as a line of cars banged into one another...and then slammed into the back of mine.

Thankfully, I had left enough room in front of me so that when we jumped forward a metre, we did not strike the car ahead of us. According to Jack, when we were hit I "squealed like a little girl". I was just relieved my children didn't learn to swear like wharfies.

What had happened was, a work truck had hit a Hilux with a large trailer, which hit a (week-old) Chrysler, which hit us. The poor lady in the car behind us could see the car seats in my car, and had been frantically braking to avoid hitting us. She had been concertina-ed, and was in a very bad way. All of the tradies in the first two cars were lovely men, and kept checking on me and the kids every thirty seconds.

What with an ambulance with flashing lights and a siren, and a police car with real live policemen in it, my kids were in heaven. I thought they would burst with excitement when first a paramedic opened the car door to speak to them and admire their teddies, and then the nice policeman gave them a pep talk about the importance of wearing seat belts. Talk about fodder for Show and Tell!! Jack now has enough to keep him going for a term at least.

They were given the all-clear by the ambos, and we were escorted to school by Daddy, who had hurtled his way to us from school. After a quick visit to the doctor to get Mummy's whiplash sorted, the Mouse and I abandoned our plans for the day and went home to rest. Half an hour after taking some painkillers which made me a bit wibbly, I received a phone call from the sick bay at Jack's school...

So once again, Daddy came to Mummy's rescue, running to pick up Jack and Phoebe from school and kinder. Aunty Miffy came up and spent the afternoon dispensing hugs, drinks of water and cups of tea. Even though it was only a sore neck and shoulder, I felt soapy. Just vague, and a little bit...well, drunk. Jack's 'tummy ache' seemed to clear up pretty quickly once the dress-up box was flung open and Alice's adventures in Wonderland were on the box.

I had a moment this afternoon when I stopped and asked myself why I was so shaken. There was only minor damage to the car, which will be covered by insurance. The kids are fine. The medicine and lovely pain killers I got from the doctor will fix me up, no probs. But it was the thought - what if the Hilux and the Chrysler weren't there? What if that truck had hit us first? Everyone involved was very lucky that the trailer on the Hilux took the brunt of the impact. It was a very sturdy, quite large trailer full of metal fence pieces - and it was crushed badly. I cannot imagine what would have happened if my car was hit first. Actually, I can. Instead of a trailer being crushed, it would have been my three babies, who were singing together rather than fighting, for the first school morning I can recall.

So I am going to take my hot water bottle, my tablets, and a cup of tea, and crawl into my bed. You know the tiredness you feel when adrenaline leaves your body? That bone-tired, I-could-sleep-for-a-week exhaustion that pervades you after a shock? That's where I am right now.

Tired. Grateful. Weepy. Relieved. Annoyed. Tired. Craving chocolate. So, just a fairly average day, then. Night night.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

One Lovely Blog and a Very Untidy Cranium

Wow. Really, really sorry about that.

The break in transmission was not planned, nor would just seem that one day's break from blogging turned into...what? Nine? Yep, nine. Oops.

All I can tell you is that whilst vacuuming the inside of my head, the hoover became clogged with all sorts of junk. So I had to stop and clean out the filter, and you know how tedious that job is (except you, Fancy  -I expect your Fancy housekeeper does that??). And after the vacuuming I had to wipe down the inside of my cranium with oven cleaner, but it still wasn't clean...

Suffice to say, it took longer to sort my head out than I expected. So, apologies, lovely people!!!

But never mind me and and my cluttered brain. Do you know Jess from Diary of a SAHM? You don't? You should! You see, Jess is a bit of a wonder-mum who writes a funny, truthful, gorgeous-to-look-at blog in between raising four lovely kidlets and being a super wife. I recently found her and immediately became a fan. And do you know what she did?? (I so, so love her for this.)

Jess gave me the One Lovely Blog Award!! I cannot tell you how much it meant to me, to receive a bit of bloggy love like this. Especially during a week when my head stuffed up the vacuum several times. So thank you, Jess, for giving me a serious case of the warm and fuzzies without even looking at a bottle of wine. (And if you love me, you'll visit Jess's's worth it. Seriously.)

One of the conditions for receiving this award is that I must spill...I mean, I must share seven things about myself with you. And I will admit, this has been playing on my mind for a few days. Seven? I suppose she didn't stipulate that it had to be seven interesting things, or seven things you'd never heard before....because let's be truthful, we would have to think for some time to find seven interesting things about me. I could give you seven ways to cook with mince...but that wouldn't be very interesting, now would it?

Ok. Seven Things About Me:

1. My favourite colour is pink. If something comes in pink, I want it. It began as a shameful admission when I was at uni (after repressing it all the way through high school) and evolved into a fully-fledged obsession. Shamefully, I have passed this fetish onto Phoebe, and I fully intend on infecting the Mouse. Just the other day, Christian bought me pink Converse (which I have coveted for many, many years.) I was blissfully, deliriously happy to wear my pink shoes. They're pink!! Awesome.

2. When it comes to music, I'm afraid it has to be 80's if you want me to be happy. I like some 70's disco, and there's a smattering of 90's (which shall be explained in #3), but on the whole, I'm an 80's chick. I know the lyrics, I sing them badly. I may even have been known to learn the entire choreography to a Spice Girls song....and then perform it on stage at summer camp wearing a Union Jack teatowel. Ginger Spice, eat your heart out.

3. In the early 90's, when I was at high school, I was into grunge in a big way. Flannie shirts, Trigger Bro trackies, ripped jeans. Kurt Cobain? Oh yeah, baby. I used to walk to my after-school job with the earphones of my walkman jammed in, playing cassettes of Nirvana, the Chilli Peppers, Mudhoney, Soundgarden. I actually wore out my 'Nevermind' tape, I played it so much. I still love that music....but now I just like to wash my hair every day.

4. I really loved doing my Master of Education. Even though it took me a few years, and was completed with first Jack, and then Phoebe draped over my shoulder while I typed with one finger, it was worth it. One day, one day, I'll take the work that I did and turn it into a PhD. Not only am I excited about my research and want to extend it, but I want my husband to be married to a doctor. He just loves being married to someone more educated than himself (and yes, honey, I know...without your editing there would never have been a you!)

5. When my kids are a bit older, I'd love to learn how to tap-dance. And speak French. I also want to learn how to belly dance, cook a to-die-for sponge cake, and look like Nigella in the kitchen (with pink accessories, of course!)

6. Thanks to a cracking dose of stress and a sweet tooth, I managed to put on a fair few kilos last year. In fact, there would be people I have met IRL in the last twelve months who probably think I have always been on the plump side. This is not true. I used to be normal. Well, normal-ish. But anyway, in the last six months I have lost 12 kilos. Given that I am still (STILL!!) breastfeeding, this is no mean feat for me (you may recall that I am, in fact, a stubborn member of "Women Who Cannot Lose Weight While Breastfeeding No Matter What") And even though the last six kilos appear to be so excruciatingly affectionate that they are determined not to leave me, I am going to peel them off. Even if it kills me. And when I do, quite possibly I may tell you. Or not. It depends.

7. I am married to my best friend. When the proverbial hits the fan, and the kids are eating toast for dinner, and the house resembles a Chinese laundry, and the pets make unholy messes, and there's too many things to cry about, and my head clogs up the hubby still makes me laugh. He is the best thing that ever happened to me. He does the washing on the weekends, makes me a cup of tea every morning, cuddles me to make the ugly crier go away AND he bought me pink Converse. Surely, the perfect man. Love you, babe. You're my whole brain.

So there you go. Seven things about me. I didn't promise they'd be good ones...

The third condition of the One Lovely Blog award (after thanking the beautiful Jess, and blathering on about myself seven times) is to pass on the bloggy love to five other blogs. So here goes:

To Casey, at Milk n Cookies, because she is amazing and you should read her. Promise.

To Prue, at Totally Inept Balcony Gardener, because no one gardens like my PJ. A truly incredible lady. Check her out.

To Lucy, at Diminishing Lucy. Lucy has cheered me up more times than I can remember over the last year. I loves you, Luce.

To Kate, at Getting Off The Interstate. Because everyone needs an escape, and Kate's talk of her new life in America makes me want to escape right now....

And to Fancy, at I'm So Fancy. Fancy's blog makes me laugh out loud. She is my comedic relief at the end of a hard day. And for the life of me, I cannot comment on Fancy's blog. So here is my way of spreading the love!!! Love your work, Fancy-pants!

And now that I've spilled my guts to you all, spread the bloggy love-fest, and enjoyed my warm and fuzzies, I'm off to find a broom. There's still some cobwebs right at the back of my skull, and they tickle....

Friday, June 10, 2011

Funny Miss Phoebalina

Phoebalina has been a lifesaver this week. Actually, if I'm to be completely precise, all of my kids have provided the most awesome distractions over the last few days, for which I am eternally grateful. But Phoebs in particular had some stand out comedic moments that prevented the ugly crier from rearing her hideous head...and I thought thanks was necessary.

I'd like to bestow an award for services to Mummy's community (that would be the multitude of voices that currently reside in my head) to Miss Phoebalina Ballerina, aged three and a half.

On Thursday morning, when I was feeling very drained and flat after the funeral, Phoebe sneezed. Now, to ordinary people this may simply be a sneeze. In our house, however, sneezes are a big deal. As a result, we have a well-oiled system. Last winter, when the Mouse had a cold for about four months, we trained the big kids to shout out if her sneezes were "dry" or "wet". You know wet sneezes - the ones which shoot projectile yellow snot out both nostrils, so that it hangs below the chin. Both of my girls have a propensity for exploding with 'wet' sneezes as soon as I am driving down the freeway on the way to school in the morning. Which, as I'm sure you can imagine, poses all sorts of problems.

Anyway, whilst sitting on the floor waiting for Mummy to be ready, Phoebe sneezed. It was a double-barreled, waaaay past the chin, colour of an egg yolk, sneeze. And she sat very still, looked me calmly in the eye, and said, "Wet one, Mummy." Dry sense of humour, anyone?

What I wanted to say was, "No sh%t, Sherlock!". Instead, I simply replied, "Yes, babe, it is. Grab a tissue or five, ok?" And attempted (poorly) to keep my mirth under wraps.

Later, when we had dropped Jack at school, I ran into the shopping centre with the girls. I didn't want to see anyone. I had puffy, red-rimmed eyes (the ugly crier wakes up the morning after a day crying with eyes so puffed they're slitty), tangled hair, trackies three sizes too big, my old faithful polar fleece, and a case of the sads.

We grabbed a bone at the butcher's for Archibald, took some bread from the baker, and were flying towards the super-duper when my middle cherub clutched my hand tightly and smiled up at me. With one hand on the pram and the other holding on tight to Phoebs, I asked if she was ok. "Mummy?" she said sweetly. "You look fresh!"

Quite frankly, it was not what I was expecting. And I'm fairly sure my darling girl does not know what 'fresh' means, despite her excellent vocabulary. But I took the compliment graciously, smiled, and whisked my fresh self through Safeway in record time, lest someone I know see me and notice my distinct lack of freshness.

Phoebe's company all day on Thursday was exactly what I needed. Apart from being ridiculously funny, she was sweet with her little sister, an excellent packer-upperer, and refrained from teasing Jack mercilessly after school. So I would like to give her a special award, titled the "Thank You For Keeping Mummy Off Lunch Time Wine" award.

Special mention must go to the Mouse, who not only laughed uproariously throughout the whole funeral service, meaning that I could do nothing but smile back, but who has upped the ante since. Mais has discovered standing on her head, so that her bottom sticks up in the air. It is humanly impossible to stop giggling along with her while she does this. She has also taken to miaowing at random strangers in the supermarket. I don't need to tell you how hilarious it is, particularly when she does it to someone grumpy. And finally, when we walked in the door at La Porchetta tonight, the Mouse clapped her hands. Clever kid.

And Jack? Jack gets a special mention for making Mummy laugh for several minutes without drawing breath. In the car today, while Daddy was reversing and Mummy was in the passenger seat, a little voice floated over from the back seat..."Daddy, you're all over the shop." Priceless.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

The Four Rainbow Day

Sometimes, beautiful things happen for no apparent reason.
Sometimes, horrible things happen for no obvious reason.
Sometimes, amazing things happen that make you acknowledge the horrible things, and be thankful for the beautiful things.

The girls and I drove Jack to school this morning, as we do every week day. During our fifteen minute journey, we saw three rainbows. Not one rainbow moving away from us. Three individual rainbows, in different locations, all spanning the sky in a perfect arc. Never before have I seen more than one rainbow in a day. It was (I think, anyway) incredible. It seemed to mark the day somehow.

(By the by, and completely random I might add, when Phoebalina saw the rainbow she exclaimed, "Amazing! Mummy, when I grow up, I'm going to be a doctor and a pony." When I asked how she would grow up to be a pony, she said rather patronisingly, "By using my magic, Mummy." Of course.)

This afternoon, Christian, Phoebalicious, the Mouse and I went to Stan's funeral. It was freezing cold, with grey skies, and hundreds of sombrely-dressed people were entering the church from every direction. It didn't surprise me in the slightest that the funeral was enormous. Stan was loved. Which made the thought of burying a 51 year old man even harder. I have been trying to convince myself that there is a reason for a reasonably young, very active, and happy husband and father to be taken by the heavens above. So far, I have been unsuccessful.

The longer I spent at the funeral, the more convinced I was that Stan was there. Quite apart from the stories swirling around his friends, making people want to laugh despite their grief, one extraordinary thing happened to me today.

Phoebalina behaved absolutely impeccably at the funeral (This was not the extraordinary thing, by the way). There never was a better-behaved three year old than my daughter today. Sitting on my knee before the service, she asked me why all the people were sad. I told her that we had come to say goodbye to Stan. After a few minutes she asked, "Mummy, when is Stan getting here?"

The Mouse, on the other hand, was removed from the church after 15 minutes for being too joyous. I know nobody would have minded the happy chatter bubbling from my smallest daughter's mouth (least of all Stan), but she was interrupting the eulogy. So I tiptoed and sorry-ed my way out through the crowds, put Mais down to have a run on the grass, and walked straight into Jen.

Jen was one of my closest friends. We had taught together, socialised together, and laughed together at Rosebud. She was one of my bridesmaids, and a beloved companion. And somehow, through obstacles thrown at us by life, we had not seen each other since Phoebe was born. We had been in contact, yes, but I had not clapped eyes on her in almost four years. It had reached the point where I was dreaming about her because I missed her so much.

We hugged and cried, and cried and hugged. We talked and giggled and whispered. We held the Mouse's hands and chased her when she got too far away, and shushed her when she swaggered up to the men standing in the doorway of the church and announced, "Dada!" And I'm not exaggerating when I tell you that every time Jen went to go back into the church, she started coughing again. Seriously, she would move out of the freezing cold wind and towards the threshold of the church, and her hacking cough would start again. So we spent the most part of two hours outside, in the oh-sweet-jesus-it's-cold icy wind, just catching up.

I have no doubt that Stan, who we both loved to bits, was behind this little reunion. Knowing him, he was shaking his head and laughing at us, saying, "Go on, girls. Sort yourselves out. Life's too short." And grinning that huge white toothy grin he was famous for.

And after a while, Jen rocked the Mouse to sleep in her arms, and then passed her onto my shoulder. Which is how we were when the procession left the church, and the people who came to celebrate Stan's life, and grieve his loss, came out to wave goodbye. And as the hearse drove away, and friends embraced and cried and laughed, I noticed something in the sky. A fourth, perfect, unbroken, clear as a bell, rainbow.

I know, from the deepest recesses of my heart, that Stan sent those four rainbows today. It was no ordinary day, in more ways than one. Beautiful, horrible and amazing.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

My sister is awesome

Not last night, but the night before, I got up to let Archie out for wee-wees four times.

Christian got up to let him out three times.

Jack had a nightmare and ended up in our bed. I love my son, but I don't sleep well pinned under the weight of a hot, restless five year old.

I decided I needed some sleep and moved into Jack's bed around 3am.

Maisie woke screaming around 4am.

We all got up to get ready for school at 6. As you can imagine, I looked pretty damn hot after 2 hours of broken sleep. Especially since I hadn't been able to find Jack's pillow in the dark (it was under his bed, obviously), so I had put Iggle Piggle under my head instead. Yep.

I wore five-day-old jeans, a dodgy t-shirt, and a polar fleece possibly carrying it's own life forms on the school run. I can't remember if I brushed my hair.

I dropped Archibald off at the vet's before school. Since it was raining hard enough to consider an ark, I ran in with my wet puppy in my arms, because I had forgotten to bring the lead. Clever.

After leaving Arch at the vets and the kids at kinder and school (I actually got that right for once), the Mouse and I went on our cleaning job. Maisie only threw one toy in the toilet.

I bet, at this point, you're pretty glad you're not me. I mean, it's funny and all (ha ha hardy ha ha). But you're still thinking to yourself "geez, I'm so glad I'm not that dirty, tired, pathetic specimen who smells of wet dog". You are, admit it. I would be too, if I wasn't me. Sigh.

I spent two hours with my sister Miffy after finishing my cleaning job. The Mouse snoozed on Miffy's baby bump, and then when she woke up, she spent over an hour chasing the dogs, the three-legged kitten, and the duck. Put simply, the Mouse was in heaven.

I was pretty darn happy myself. Besides being disgustingly filthy by this point, tired beyond reason and.....yeah, just really dirty, I was in a happy place. I had the company of my little blister, a soft, purring kitten curled into my lap, and a peanut butter sandwich. Seriously, the nicest afternoon I could have imagined. It was the highlight of my day. If I have to be me, at least I have my sister. She makes it worth it!!

But all good things have to come to an end. So after a few cups of tea and a failed attempt to teach the Mouse to say 'neigh' instead of 'woof' at pictures of horsies, we said goodbye to Aunty Miffy and went to collect Sir Archibald, newest canine eunuch. Despite his recent general anaesthetic, he was as bouncy as any normal border collie pup. Which is pretty bouncy.

The lovely vet nurse informed me that I had to keep him quiet for ten days. Which means no walks for five days, and then only five minute walks until his check up on the tenth day. No ball games, no chasing, minimal movement. I'm sorry - what? You're sending me home with one of the most energetic breeds you can get with instructions to keep him "quiet"??? Right then. Just shoot me now.

Picked up the kids while Archie cried in the car. Arrived home to find that our other dog, Daisy, who is confined to the house until her slipped disc heals, had done an 'accident' on the tiles in the hall. (We're talking a solid accident, people. A proper accident.) Cleaned up the accident without dry-heaving too much. Couldn't understand why the smell persisted. Checked Maisie's pants. Nope. Checked the cat litter. Nope. Walked into the bathroom. Ah. Found two more of Daisy's accidents piled in the bathroom. Big accidents. Huge.

Cleaned up the dog's accidents. Put the crying puppy to bed. Heard the words, "Mummy, Bella's done poos on the carpet!" Turned around to see our littler cat walk out of the litter box with some pesky faecal matter stuck to her paws and tail. Do you know how far a tiny cat can flick and kick poo when it's stuck annoyingly to her fur? Quite far, apparently.

Cleaned up the cat poo.

Fed and cleaned up the kids. Cleaned up Maisie's poo. Thankfully she didn't see the need to flick and kick it everywhere.

Heard Ernie, our big cat, having a fight with another cat outside. Let him in the front door. Watched him walk rain, hain, bits of tree, mud and blood down the hall. Put him to bed after soothing him and giving him some food and water.

Cleaned up the cat blood.

Last night, I only got up to Archie four times. Maisie only screamed for fifteen minutes at 4.15am.

We were only five minutes late to school this morning.

Sure, we got caught in the hail coming back to the car after school tonight. But you know, it's only ice. And freezing water.

Fed, bathed and put the kids to bed by myself tonight, since Christian is out with the school debating team. The cats are in bed. The dogs aren't crying or pooing on the floor. The kids are asleep. The kitchen is a bomb site. Never mind. I may be a grotty, late, sleep-deprived wench with a penchant for messy pets, but at least I have an awesome sister. You can't ask for more than that.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

The Crazy, Deaf, Socially-Inept Dog Lady

I was having trouble clearing my head today.

I will readily admit that I have spent a great deal of time this weekend thinking about Stan, and many of the friends I worked with before Jack was born. It's a natural progression when you work in a school, that the majority of your social life stems from your colleagues. So I suppose it follows that when you go on maternity leave, your social life goes the way of uninterrupted sleep and taut skin on your abdomen.

I absolutely loved teaching at Rosebud. Quite apart from enjoying my job and the wonderful students there, I had a great group of friends. The best part of my job was coming into work every day and seeing my mates. When I went on maternity leave and Christian changed schools, we moved far enough away to make socialising with our old friends difficult. Even though I still see quite a few of them, I have felt the loss of the daily comraderie.

This weekend, after the passing of a man who embodied everything that was wonderful about the school, I felt out of sorts. I was grieving for Stan, I missed my old friends. I could not settle to any task, nor could I sit still. So after swimming lessons today, when the kids were resting after lunch, I took Archie out for a walk to see if the wind could blow the restless cobwebs out of my head.

It was the type of day that made it very difficult to feel blue. Sunny, cold and windy - the sort of weather that makes you want to rug up and go outside. There were crunchy leaves scudding everywhere, an enormous blue sky, and an empty footpath stretching out in front of me.

Since Archie is still only young, he is very nervous of all the new and exciting things we encounter on our walks. Being such a blustery day, I took my time encouraging him to walk past scary autumnal leaves, terrifying cracks in the footpath, and the decidedly disturbing dogs we could hear barking kilometres away.

After about half an hour, I was feeling a little better. More balanced, more aware of the things I am thankful for. And Archie was clearly enjoying himself, because he had settled into a good rhythm beside me, stopping only occasionally to grab an alluring scent from a fence or tree.

And then I had a run-in with an interesting personality, which undid a lot of the calming work my walk had achieved. A woman with an enormous dog came up behind us, and I moved off the footpath to let her go through. Now, if you saw an obviously young pup hiding between it's owner's legs, with it's tail tucked firmly underneath, you'd keep your dog away and walk on, right?

Not this moron idiot stupidhead person. First of all, she let her dog barrel straight into Archie, claiming he was being "friendly". When I told her my puppy was young and frightened, and that we were on a walk to get him used to the neighbourhood, she continued to let her dog harrass Archie until I put myself between the two dogs. Archie began to cry loudly, something he has not done since he was 8 weeks old and separated from his mummy for the first time. By bending down to comfort him, I must have clearly given my consent for a barrage of canine-related advice.

I then got subjected to her life story, and that of her dog. I received a lecture about how big Archie would become, and how I should socialise him with children and other dogs, and that I should take lots and lots of photos of him, because before I knew it, he'd be grown and I'd be bored with him. By this point, I was backing away, thinking, how stupid can one person be?

Clearly, she was deaf too, because I tried several times to end the conversation with gems such as, "Well, we'll be going now" and "Ok, enjoy your walk!", and even "I need to go now. My children are at home and they need their insulin." Still, this imbecile talked about her dog, and my dog, and how I didn't know anything about my dog, but she did.

I had actually backed myself into the middle of the road before she took a breath. Amazingly, she did not see that I was trying to escape - as I turned my back on her, she called out for me to come with her to the park to throw balls for the dogs. I threw an apology over my shoulder, and ran. They say border collies are smart dogs - I reckon Archie is an absolute genius. You've never seen a dog run away from a lunatic so fast in your life. He hurled himself against the lead and gasped all the way home, occasionally glancing behind us to make sure the crazy lady was not chasing him.

Archie took a while to settle down after we returned home. Poor puppy, his feathers were badly ruffled. I got stuck into cleaning the kitchen, tending the new herbs growing on my windowsill, washing dirty clothes, stripping our bed after Phoebe had an "accident", cooking dinner. The kids played their current favourite game, "Fire Baby", which involves the Mouse being the fire baby, and the other two running screaming away from her in delight. All three love this particular game of their own invention. Daddy and I have learned selective-deafness.

Before I knew it, it was time for tea. A cold Sunday, early-night sort of tea, eaten around the table together after a bath and clean jarmies. Pussy cats and puppy dogs huddled inside out of the rain. Washing drying on the clothes horses. Sunday night telly.

And my head is still sad, but much clearer now. No thanks to the dog-lady-lunatic who roams the streets of my town, searching for fellow dog-people to berate / befriend. And do you know who would laugh his backside off at all this? Yep. Stan. Well mate, I hope you got a giggle out of it. One day I might.

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Goodbye, Stan

Once upon a time there was a teacher.

He was one of a rare tribe - the secondary school teacher who doesn't blend into the generic memory bank of "high school", in which the names and faces of teachers morph into a blurred composite after a few years.

No, this man was such an inspirational teacher, so clearly passionate about his subject area and his students, that he was loved by many. And forgotten by few.

When he was one of my supervising teachers on my final teaching round, he was the reason I chose to teach secondary school Biology, rather than primary school. Sitting in his classroom, watching him interact with his students, I wanted to be like him. Kind but firm, interested and interesting.

I was lucky enough to become one of his colleagues the next year, when I began my teaching career. At that time, the Science faculty was made up of a group of friends who truly enjoyed teaching together. The fact that they socialised and surfed together was testament to their friendship. I gained so much from being taken into this group. I will always be grateful.

Even when he moved away from the classroom to take on more senior roles in the school, he was still popular. Students would wait outside his office, trembling at the thought of the shouty discipline sure to come their way. In this man's office, no shouting ever occurred. Instead, he would calmly talk to them about their misdemeanours, and encourage them to make better choices.

This teacher had a huge, ready smile, and an easy laugh. As serious as he often needed to be in his administrative role, the grin was never far away. In his company, you could be guaranteed a joke, or a funny comment, or even just a friendly exchange.

His love of the ocean was well-known. I'm fairly certain that in a perfect world, he would have found the time to surf every day.

He was a devoted and loving father to three lovely kids, and an affectionate and proud husband. I had the pleasure of working with both him and his wife for a few years, and it was always clear how much they loved each other. It was obvious that his family was his world. As they should be.

Yesterday, Christian and I heard that he had lost his battle with stomach cancer. We had known he was ill; we had heard recently that he had taken a turn for the worse. Even still, it was like a blow to the torso. That this kind, clever, funny, inspirational man, a father, husband, friend, teacher and colleague, could be gone, is so unfair that even now I can't quite process it.

It seems unfathomable to me that he is gone. That never again will I hear his easy laugh, and enjoy his company.

I am grateful for having known him. For having heard his advice for dealing with tricky students; for having been infected with his passion for teaching; for having the honour of teaching his eldest son. Most of all, I am grateful for his friendship. And I can only hope that he is now at peace, buoyed on a cloud made of the love and gratitude of the thousands of students, colleagues and friends who are the richer for having him in their lives.

Goodbye, Stan. We'll miss you.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Introducing Jitterbug! Ta dah!!!!!!!!

Does anyone remember a secret I hinted at a little while ago?

I wrote about my Dad's beautiful children's art, and how my sister and I are starting a business with him. It's taken about six months to get everything up and running, but I can now safely say:

We would like to proudly announce the arrival of our baby business, Jitterbug!

And now I would like to shamelessly brag about my talented papa, and tell you exactly how you can get your hands on one of his divine canvases for your own sprogs. So indulge me, ok? Ok. Thanks!

My Dad has created a gorgeous little gallery in Balnarring on the Mornington Peninsula. There are two rooms, with one room devoted to his vibrant paintings for children. Whenever we visit Pa, my kids stand in the middle of the gallery and point to the ones they want next. I don't think they've cottoned on to the fact that our wall space is finite...Jack already owns three of Pa's canvases, Phoebe has two (with her eye firmly fixed on the unicorn next) and Maisie is the proud owner of two Pa originals.

My children's bedrooms have been decorated with these gorgeous, colourful, enormous pictures since they were born. One of Phoebe's is personalised, with her name emblazoned across it. When we are settled in our new house, I am going to ask Pa to paint each child's name and birth date in a particular way - you'll see what I mean. I'll explain later!

Very soon, Dad plans on adding accessories such as lamps and cushions to the range. I have plans for quilts and matching tote bags down the track...but I do love an accessory! For the moment, the Jitterbug range includes paintings of cows, piglets, sheepdogs and lambs, whales, dolphins, dinosaurs, tractors, rocket ships, caterpillars, butterflies and flowers, dragons, seals, unicorns, entire fairy land wallscapes and dinosaurs.

My sister and I have suggested chickens, roosters, fairies, dump trucks, seahorses, lady birds....the possibilities are endless. And as soon as we give an idea to Dad, off he goes to the studio to start another painting! (A few years ago we had a little sheltie called Penny. She was a very sweet pup, quiet and unobtrusive. However, we discovered one day that she liked Dad's studio when she appeared wearing half an oil painting...needless to say, Dad dries his finished creations inside the house now...)

The beautiful thing is, you can buy a print in several different ways. If, for example, you live overseas or interstate, we could post you a rolled-up unframed canvas, no worries. If you wished to have a canvas stretched on a frame, we can do that for you. Or, you might choose to have your picture framed in a more traditional manner, with a white-painted wooden frame. The choice is yours.

The other bonus is that if you were after an original painting, done just for you, Dad is more than able to take commissions (unashamed flogging here, people!!) And this is where the really, really exciting part comes in. Let's just say you wanted the rocket ship (because goodness knows I do!) If you sent us a photo of your cherub (or came into the gallery - we could have a chai latte together...or the tavern is right next door...Lucy, Maxabella, Mrs. Woog, Casey - I'm looking at you!), Dad could paint a portrait of your child peeking out of the window of the rocket! Or driving a train...or in the middle of a adorable is that?

When you visit the gallery website, take a gander at the painting of Maisie's name. Dad has painted the letters of her name as though they are flowers growing out of the soil. It is absolutely the most darling painting, and she loves it - the pointing becomes quite feverish when the Mouse spies her special picture! We haven't done a boys' version yet - but we were thinking of doing a train. What do you reckon?

Anyhow, enough from me - you really need to check it out for yourself. We'll be featuring in a local magazine very shortly, but until then - visit and scroll through some of the paintings on offer from my very talented Dad. And most importantly - let me know when you have had a look. We need feedback! And suggestions - if you are setting up your very first nursery, or pimping up the one you already have, or redecorating your child's room as they grow - what would you want on your walls? What could we paint for you?

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Under the influence

I've written before, about the ways in which our children copy our actions. How we see our mannerisms reflected in our children, more often than not in a comical manner. Certainly, my children have a knack of imitating me in a way which highlights my foibles in a less-than-flattering light. But because they're little and sweet, it's funny. To my husband, at any rate.

Every now and then, I see one of my children attempt to replicate my attempts at parenting. Sometimes it's a bit scary. And other times, like this morning, it fills my heart with hope that I have not yet condemned them to a life of expensive therapy.

The kids were sitting on the couch this morning, watching Bananas in Pyjamas while I put my shoes on, put the dogs outside, and tried to remember what I had forgotten (always a futile task). I noticed Maisie was busy with her baby doll, and stopped to watch her for a minute. She lifted her jumper up, put the doll's face to her belly button, and sat very still. When the 'baby' had finished feeding, she gently kissed it on the face and walked towards her little doll's pram. By this point I was just about clutching my heart and sobbing at the sight of my smallest chicken breastfeeding her doll and smothering it with love. Isn't that just the sweetest thing ever?

Then, whilst trying to put her baby in the stroller, she started stumbling sideways (ok, who gave the Mouse beer for brekkie?). Determined to get her doll in the pram, she started jamming it in the seat, all the while falling this way and that, arms flailing wildly. When she failed to secure her baby in the pram, Maisie began to scream and shout at her child for it's shortcomings. Clearly, it was not behaving itself. She then threw it on the floor and huffed away in her cuter-than-cute squeaking pink shoes. By now, any child psychologist worth their salt could probably surmise that I was a drunkard who abuses my children for my own mistakes.

Once we were safely ensconced in the family wagon, I turned the radio (as I always do) to Gold 104. It's the only station I can trust to have kid-friendly music and chat on the school run (let's just say my old favourites of Nova and Triple M tried to teach my kids some naughty words....and Triple J doesn't really cut the mustard with the under-5 set). We tootled over the railway line, through the shopping centre, and before the windows had even de-fogged properly, Phoebe shushed Jack sharply. "Shoosh Jackie! It's Dee Dee's dirt alert!!"

I'm really hoping that my three year old daughter doesn't realise that at 8:20am, Dee Dee on Gold 104 spills some pretty lame showbiz gossip. I'm really, really hoping that she just likes and remembers the funny name for the radio segment. And I'm really, really, really hoping that she just thinks it's funny because more often than not, Mummy has a good laugh. Whatever Phoebe knows about Dee Dee's dirt alert, she has learned from me. Which reminded me that we are entering the ages when my kids will actually retain some of the words and information they hear on telly and radio. So it's probably a good thing I don't watch Sex and the City or Grey's Anatomy during the day time anymore.

So anyway, immediately after the dirt alert, the boppy sounds of "Video Killed The Radio Star" filled our car. Maisie clapped and nodded her head; Phoebe swayed in her seat; and Jack sang the words. I mean, like all of the words of the chorus. And sang the tune. To my knowledge, my five year old son had heard that song only once before, again in my car on the way to school, when I sang gaily (and out of tune), and told the kids it was one of my favourites. I just hadn't realised until this morning that I had been unwittingly brainwashing my kids into being 80's pop freaks. Just like me!

All of this occurred before 8:30 this morning, which scared me somewhat. You see, I reckon I've taken care of the 'big' things pretty well - I don't swear in front of the kids, they've got a fairly good idea of what constitutes good (or acceptable, at least) behaviour, and we've covered the concept of 'everyday' and 'sometimes' foods. But it's the finer details that are going to trip me up, I reckon.

They're noticing so many tiny details and remembering so many habits and mannerisms of mine, it's time I pulled my socks up. Seriously. Maisie has taken to holding any object that remotely resembles a mobile phone up to her ear, and walks around the house, jabbering away and then throwing her head back in an open-mouthed guffaw. I don't do that. I don't. Do I?

I guess I just need to make sure I make "good choices" for my behaviour, just as I am always asking my kids to do. I'll sit nicely at the table (and not read New Idea as I eat). I won't shout at terrible drivers who get in my way (not out loud, anyway). I'll try and listen to music other than anthems of the 80's (but I won't like it.) I'll eat all my vegies at dinner time (and not follow them with ice cream...well, not every night.) I will share my toys...oh who am I kidding. I always have to share Daddy. And if anybody tells me to go to bed at 7pm, and to go straight to sleep, I promise I will. Straight away. That's one rule I wouldn't have a problem with!