Thursday, December 30, 2010

Bring It On

A dear friend has given me, albeit in a roundabout manner, a huge opportunity.  A chance to spend some time with a professional writing coach, to have my writing read and critiqued by someone who gets paid to do this for a living.

This is not to say that I do not value the support and critique by you, my nearest and dearest, friends of friends, new friends and perfect strangers.  It's just that thus far, it has been all praise and little criticism.

I am not so deluded to believe that this means that you all think I am the world's best writer and they should just hand me the Nobel Award in Literature right now.  I am quite sure you would all have some pretty scathing advice should I actually press you.  I would actually welcome this, for if I cannot accept criticism from friends then I probably don't belong in this field.

But for now I am excited at the opportunity that lies just over the horizon. 

A writing coach. Bring it on!

Monday, December 27, 2010

The Christmas Story

On Christmas Eve I sat down with the Blonde Bombshell (3 and a half years) and read her the story of Christmas.  I explained that Mary and Joseph were having a baby (she understood that) but that the baby was actually the son of God, not Joseph (a small wrinkling of her forehead but no comment).

I explained that they had to travel a long way on a donkey because there were no cars ("no cars?") and when they got to Bethlehem there was no room at the inn ("it's like a hotel") so they had to stay in the stable with the animals, which she though was great ("I like cows, Mummy").

I told her that when Baby Jesus was born, although he was only a little baby, everyone knew he was very special and people came from all over to see him.  We looked at pictures of the shepherds and the wise men, and all the angels flying in the sky ("are they are white fairies, Mummy?").

It was easy to establish that Christmas was really a celebration about the birth of a baby called Jesus.  The Bombshell is all about birthdays, she tries to have one at least every month.  It was difficult though to segue our conversation, which had been going well up that point, into Santa and his reindeer.

"So is Santa Baby Jesus' friend too?"


I didn't want to cheapen the Christmas story with a lie, but I could not figure out how to explain how Santa with all his jollyness and modern day festive bling fit into the picture.  Was he a modern day Wise Man bringing gifts to modern day children? What did they teach me in school about St Nicholas? Think, Shannon, think!

In the end I kissed the top of her head and said "that's right, we are all Jesus' friends".  Good save Mum.

Then before bed we got some carrots out for the reindeer and a chocolate or two for Santa.  Then it was time for the advent calendar - a felt one with a little nativity character each day. Being the 24th, the final character was Baby Jesus in his manger.

"Look Mum, it's the Baby Jesus!  The Baby Jesus is beeeyoootiful.  The angel says the baby is back and all the other children come to see the baby.  The angels are Baby Jesus' friends".

I couldn't have said it better myself.

Merry Christmas everyone.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

All Quiet on the Western Front

And so they have finished for the year.  Tools have been laid down, the skip emptied. The scaffolding has come partly down and removed offsite. The remaining tarp blows lonely in the breeze.  The builders have gone back to their own families for Christmas.

I have been quite used to having them around, an endless parade of men in short shorts and big boots.

Now the temporary clean-up can start.  I started with the dead bird in the carport, though I hope that had nothing to do with the builders.  I can blame them for the empty drink bottles and cans dotted through my rose garden and the occasional cigarette butt under the scaffolding (it says No Smoking On Site guys!).  I think it's cute that I keep finding bits of Gladwrap along with the Red Rooster litter, someone must bring his lunch from home. 

I collected a Bunnings store worth of nails and screws and other bits of functional metal, and dumped them in a box next to the broken bags of cement, spilling into little piles on my verandah.  Although it's not really my verandah at the moment.  Nothing here is ours until everything is finished, and the last piece of scaffolding has been removed, the last sign packed away. 

I want the weather to cool so I can begin to sweep away 6 weeks worth of sawdust and brick dust.  That's all it's been - 6 short weeks and a new house has sprung up where once there was nothing.  I have floors and external walls, a new roof, windows, the skeleton of the plumbing and electrics and what looks likes hundreds of dirty little sheep shoved in between the timbers of the roof (apparently it's insulation).



So to my friendly builders, thanks for building us a house!  Merry Christmas and I will see you in the New Year.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Novel Inside - Every Single One of Us Novel Inside*

I do a lot of reading about writing.  And I do a lot of writing about living. 

But it is not deep, thought-provoking National Geographic living.  It's living-lite. 

When I start writing, I usually know how I want it to finish.  When you write about living-lite, you can usually sum it up in less than 500 words.

The thing is, I think I have a novel in me.  The other thing is, I don't know how it will end.

So do I start the novel and just see where it goes.  Or do I succomb to the natural born planner and researcher in me, and have a detailed plot and ending before I even start?

These aren't rhetorical questions.  I really want to know!

I read an article today by Delia Falconer in Australian Author** which was about writing your first novel.  She said that 'no experience is freer or more private than writing a first novel'.  This is because your first novel you write for yourself.  If you are lucky enough to write any subsequent novels, you now write for an audience.

So if I am going to do this, I should write entirely for myself, assume that no one else will ever read it, and luxuriate in the utter self-absorption and self-pleasure (yes, yes get your mind out of the gutter) it will bring.

Funnily enough, in the same edition of the magazine there was an article for new writers by Helen Barnes entitled 'Don't Quit Your Day Job'.   She offers the following sage advice:
'Find something else to do.  That's the only advice I can offer with any sincerity.  Writing is boring, hard and thankless.  It makes you paranoid, ungrateful and snippy to your loved ones'.

Well that's fortunate because I'm sure I am already those things.  Gosh if writing is going to make me merely snippy rather than the raging madwoman I already am, then surely that's an improvement. 

Maybe the key here is venting verbally in a private manner, rather than losing it at the 3YO Blonde Bombshell in a public place

Anyway, novelists/writers/readers out there, please send your advice. I really want to know.

*Apologies to INXS for this rather lame joke
**Australian Author, Vol 42, Number 3, December 2010, the official magazine of the Australian Society of Authors (of which I am a proud new member!)

Monday, December 20, 2010

Every Cloud has a Silver Lining

In March this year, Perth suffered a horrendous hail storm, the costliest natural disaster in Perth's history.  We came off relatively well considering we were in the eye of it - damaged car, blinds and awnings, leaking roofs in two rooms, flooding to one room, damage to our pot belly and a plastic tub full of baby toys!

But it could have been so much worse.  The room that flooded - our living room - had been completely emptied due to a kitchen reno that was planned for two days hence.  So what could have been the nightmare of flooded rugs and couches and toys and TVs, instead was just me with a mop and bucket cleaning the empty tiled floor.

(Don't get me wrong, there was a lot of freaking out and swearing at the time.  But it could have been so much worse.)

The roller shutter that my hubby bought and had installed - that I hated because they're so ugly - was damaged in the storm, but it protected the glass windows and prevented damage to our spare room (and all the precious bottles of wine that were stored under the window).

Every cloud has a silver lining.

On the weekend the glaziers installed the wrong windows in my new upstairs bathroom.  Obviously they think we are complete exhibitionists and clear glass in our massive bathroom window is the way to go.  But less than 24 hours later there was an unseasonal and massive downpour, and those ridiculously see-through windows protected the new bathroom from flooding.

Ever the optimist, trying to see the positive in bad situations is good for the complexion. Right?

So it is with this in mind, that I ponder the good in today's misfortune.

A cracked tile, a misguided tarp, a pile of bad luck and this morning we wake up to a flooded lounge room.  Water flowing through the ceiling and wall vents, down the wall and pooling on our mantle piece.  The TV, PS3 and Foxtel box I could care less about (sorry Foxtel) but my beloved Grandma's antique clock was sitting in a puddle of dirty water and the wood has already begun to warp.  And that makes me incredibly sad.  That clock was a special gift from my Grandma before she passed away, a gift that my Grandad gave her.  I regard it as one of my most precious possessions.

So I am yet to discover the silver lining in this small cloud.

However, I can say that my 11 month old has already discovered her silver lining in this disaster.   The only safe and dry place for the TV was in her bedroom, and when she discovered the enormous screen on her dresser, it was pretty clear that she thought all her Christmas' had come at once.

Friday, December 17, 2010

How Much is Too Much?

Writers out there, answer me this.  How much is too much information?

Do you share with your loved ones and supporters every time you submit an article, think up a story idea, or enter a competition?  Do you let them give you encouragement and support each and every time?  Do you let them build up your (and their) expectations?  What if everything comes to nothing? 

Is it better to share the rare piece of good news or is it better to share the regular disappointment of rejections?

If  indeed it does end up being the regular disappointment of rejections, should I perhaps be looking at another line of work?

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

The Sweet Sweet Taste of Child-Free Canapes

Tonight I went to a networking function. 

Not to a playgroup or mothers' group function.  But an actual grown-up function, with grown-up conversation, and the youngest person in the room would have been in their late 20s.

There were prawns in chilli and lime dipping sauce, little tarts with goats cheese and onion, pastry cones with salmon and dill.  I was in heaven.

There were no vegemite scrolls or juice boxes.  No neat cubes of fruit and no cupcakes with sprinkles.

I put on a pair of high heels and a fancy necklace.  I took the nappies and baby wipes out of my handbag.

I shook hands rather than shaking my head.

I mingled and chatted with a number of very interesting people.  Sure, we talked about children briefly, but it was not our main focus.  We talked about work!  Granted, for me that was a pretty short conversation considering I have not 'worked' for well over a year, but I had plenty to say about what I wanted to do next year. 

Each new person I spoke with renewed my excitement about my journey.  With each encouraging word I felt more energized about my decision to become a writer. 

And when I came home, I kicked off my heels and put the nappies and wipes back in my handbag, then went to kiss my girls goodnight, both soundly asleep in their beds.

With a Little Help From My Friends

Hello my 11 special friends.  Followers. Supporters.

I wanted to write and acknowledge you all, and the rest of you who may not necessarily have become a 'follower', but still read my blog and make comments or send me supportive emails.

Or perhaps you just read my blog every now and then and think nice thoughts.  Like: 'that really is a pretty background'...

I am so incredibly chuffed when someone sends me a comment, that someone cares enough to read this blog in the first place, and then takes the time to let me know they enjoyed it. 

All comments are emailed to me, as well as appearing on this blog, and I still save each and every email in a special folder because I get so excited to think that perhaps, just perhaps, I can make a go of this writing gig.

I hope that when I have a dozen books in print, syndicated columns in every national paper and magazine and a lecture theatre named after me, I still get excited when someone writes a positive comment.

So to you all out there, thank you.  I hope you continue to enjoy the show...

Monday, December 13, 2010

How I Became the Grinch who Stole Christmas

Yesterday I made a grand sociological observation about the social conditioning of our young. 

Previously I had thought that pre-schoolers behaved badly because it was in their nature, and they were simply learning to push boundaries and determine how they can influence the world around them.

What crap.

Preschoolers, or more specifically my pre-schooler (the three and a half year old blond bombshell), behaves badly because - get this - she learned it from me!

In front of a room full of people (my wonderful in-laws, bless them) I embodied that which I despise - a petulant, whining, argumentative three year old.  I stooped to her level.  I forgot I was an adult, and for a moment, actually believed I would win the war of wits with the following exchange:

Her: 'Be quiet Mummy'.

Me: 'No, you be quiet'.

Ok, writing this I realise that it doesn't look all that unreasonable.  But if you could hear the tone of voice I used, you would have thought you were overhearing a screaming match between a bunch of whiny siblings. 

And then to top it off, as I frogmarched her to her room - I told her that I would call Santa and tell him not to bring any presents this year.  I actually told her that Mummy's have a direct line to Santa.

Where does this stuff come from?

Sometimes I am so ashamed of what I say I find myself cringing in the next room, shaking my head in disbelief. 

And then, a matter of days later I find myself shaking my head in disbelief yet again, as my pre-schooler repeats the same offensive offering to her sister or father or aunty.  I am creating a monster.

I know parents often say that they wish their kids had a mute button, but I think in this household, it is me who needs one.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Everybody Needs Good Neighbours

Because my washing line is currently in a passionate relationship with a two storey scaffolding, and has recently given birth to a family of spiders, I have had to seek drying accommodations elsewhere.

Luckily I have a fabulous neighbour who told me that I could let myself into her back garden any time of day or night and use her fabulously generous washing line.

So the other day, after collecting my towels, and staring over the fence with more than a little concern at the monstrosity that is my new additions upstairs, I let myself through her side gate when I heard a voice from the other side of the fence.

'Who's that then?', asked a friendly but cautious male voice.

'It's Shannon from Number 14', I told him.

There was a bit of a pause, then he said 'Oh, the big house on the corner.  The building site'.

Yep, that's us.

The thing is, although we have lived here for more than 5 years, we have never met the people who live only two doors down.  So we made our introductions over the fence.

While my initial (and very brief) reaction was annoyance at being held up while lugging around a washing basket filled to the brim with towels and pegs and few pilfered tomatoes, my over-riding response was reassurance that people do actually still care about their community. 

This man was making sure that my neighbour wasn't getting broken into, and after being convinced I wasn't a burglar (he hadn't seen the tomatoes) he then wanted to spend time to get to know me.  Afterall, we are neighbours.

I am proud to live in a neighbourhood where people watch out for each other. 
I am not proud that it took me five years to realise this.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Women are from OCD-land, men are just delusional

Will someone explain to me why, when I leave the house with my baby I need to take a huge bag containing nappies, wipes, a spare dummy, tissues, spare clothes, a container of crackers and a toy but when my husband leaves the house with the baby, as he has just done, he just takes the baby?

Why is he so confident that nothing will go wrong?  Why is he so presumptuous to think she won't do one of her 6 daily poos while they are at the shop?  What does he plan on settling her with when she starts screaming in hunger because it has been at least 15 minutes since she last ate?  Will he just use her own sleeve to wipe her nose when it starts to run?  Give her a Mars Bar to chew on when she cries?

I'm not sure what I am more upset about.  The blatant cockiness that he doesn't need any of the accoutrements and doohickeys that I pack religiously in the event of baby melt-down.  Or the fact that absolutely nothing will go wrong for him anyway.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Acceptance Speech

Good evening.  I am here to humbly accept the award for most prolific writer.  When I first started this blogging gig, I sometimes worried I would not have enough to write about.  However, we then started doing some major renovations, and those worries disappeared.

So I would like to thank my builders for continually giving me material to write about.  It's as though they are implicitly supporting my quest to be a writer.

I mean, why else would they disconnect the power to my bore and reticulation so that my garden died in the summer heat.  Why else would they take almost a fortnight to fix it, so that by the time they reconnected the power, the pump had rusted and seized so that it doesn't work anymore anyway.

Unless they were providing their support to my burgeoning writing career, why else would they disconnect the power to my kitchen and laundry in the process of reconnecting the bore and retic.

Surely coming home to no fridge, washing machine, kettle or toaster was simply their way to provide yet another opportunity for me to sit down and hone my writing skills (in this case a letter of complaint - because all writing is good practice). 

So in closing, I would again like to acknowledge my builders for their tireless, behind the scenes support.

Keep up the good work guys.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

For Sale: Thin Skin

Rejection is never fun.  Whether it's being picked last for lunchtime dodge ball or that boy who you thought liked you, but really doesn't... being told you're not good enough is no fun.  And whatever they tell you, just because something doesn't kill you, doesn't make it good for you. 

I had hoped that in December I would be able to share my joy with you all when I won my first ever writing competition, or in this case, a mentorship program with one Australia's peak writing bodies.

I had hoped to fast track my writing journey, to avoid the years of disheartening failures and rejections.  I had hoped that my unedited, uncontrolled and untrained writing would earn me a scholarship. I was obviously living in some fantasy land inhabited by talking rabbits and freakishly big headed gnomes.

You see, they're right to reject me.  But it still hurts.  But the thing is, it doesn't hurt as much as I thought it might.  I'm not crying into my pillow, nor have I drowned my sorrows in a generous glass of something fruity from the south island of New Zealand.  Instead, I'm hamming it up with you good people.

Before I embarked on this journey to become a writer one of my main concerns was that I take things very personally, hate confrontation and, let's be honest, just want to be liked.  None of these things hold me in particularly good stead to take on a career where the rejection rate is astronomical.

But my good friend Amanda, who actually is a writer and has given me the confidence to attempt this as a career ( told me that rejection is made a bit more palatable because it is rarely face to face, and usually comes via a letter, or in my case, a very polite but ultimately unhelpful email.

She was right.  I'm disappointed but not broken.  Chalk that one up to experience, and submit the work elsewhere.  Just because they didn't like it, doesn't mean the next publisher won't see its potential and send me a cheque for $10,000.

Well that's me for tonight, I have a prior engagement: my friend the talking rabbit has just poured me a glass of something yummy.

Monday, November 29, 2010

The Voice in My Head

The voice in my head is fierce. 

She is confident, articulate and ballsy.  She says what needs to be said, even if it is difficult and painful.  Especially if it is difficult and painful. 

She doesn't ramble or make excuses.  She can think on the spot.  She keeps her cool.  She is not afraid of confrontation.

She is everything I am not.  She is everything I wish I was.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Christmas Comes Early in the State of Commercialism

Our three and a half year old has been begging to put the Christmas Tree up ever since they appeared in the shops in mid June, or whenever the big chains had decided they had milked enough out of Easter and it was time to move onto the Festive Season.

So in early November, thinking we were being smart, we told her that when the Tree went up at daycare, we would put ours up.

The tree went up at Daycare the very next day.

So true to our word we hauled the Christmas Tree out of storage.  However, because our 10 month old is now crawling and trying to pull herself up on things, we thought it might be prudent to avoid the 6 footer with all its baby crushing ability, and simply put a small tree on a table. 

I hauled a decades worth of decorations out of the cupboard, thinking I would let the eldest child chose a few decorations to put on our tiny tree.  Silly old Mum, doesn't she know, there's no such thing as a three year old who can make a simple choice.

So now the tiny tree is groaning under the weight of practically every bauble, star, candy cane and novelty ornament we own.  Not to mention the Christmas lights that must be turned on every day, so the girls can stand/sit under it and admire the festivity.

Our final yuletide effort was the classic and classy 'Santa Stop Here' sign, now covered with a fine layer of sawdust, wedged into a pot of geraniums on the front verandah.  Santa can't really miss the house at the moment, it looks like a circus tent with its red and blue tarps.  It's probably visible from space.

The downside to this early Christmas cheer is that every time we walk past the Santa Stop Here sign, the three and a half year old gets sad that Santa hasn't been yet, and no amount of explaining the concept of mid-November versus late December is sufficient to satisfy.  It almost breaks my heart.

Oh well, I guess I can drown my sorrow in the Hot Cross Buns that should be out in the shops shortly after New Years.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Diary of a Voyeur

This could be me, or it could be you.  Let's call her Jane.

Jane wakes up and the first thing she does is peek out through the blinds at the neighbours who are having a row in the street.  The wife is in her pyjamas and her hair is a fright.  Jane smiles inwardly.

During breakfast, Jane scours the local papers, looking for familiar names and faces.

Jane takes her daily constitutional, walking briskly around the neighbourhood, eyes scanning the houses for anything of interest, while she keeps her head straight. There's no point advertising the fact she is peeking into houses.

Over morning tea, she peruses the real estate section of the paper, trying to imagine what life must be like in the picture perfect houses, silently judging them on their choice of decor. 

Online she enjoys the celebrity gossip pages, with the before and after pictures.  Over-inflated lips and dodgy boob jobs!  Really! Jane revels in the superior high ground.

She checks through her favourite blogs and websites, keeping up with the latest happenings.

On the way home, she can't help but stare when she sees two cars twisted at the side of the road, their occupants arguing about who is to blame.

While cooking dinner, Jane watches the news, but really only listens to the stories about people whose names she recognises.

With a glass of wine in one hand and remote control in the other, Jane channel surfs, stopping briefly to watch snippets of fat brides being yelled at by gym instructors, families with dozens of children and more on the way, medical shows with blood and gore, and extreme makeover shows.

Before she heads to bed, she selects a new book from her pile of biographies and autobiographies.

As a final thought, she sits down at her computer and logs into her blog, spilling all her secrets and thoughts to an unknown audience, who wait at their own computers for her to sate their own thirst for voyeurism.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Time Stops for No Mum

There is more than a grain of truth to the saying 'time flies when you are having fun' and even more in the saying [which I just invented] 'time stops when everything sucks'.

Yesterday three things happened. 

Firstly, nothing happened.  On the house that is.  All day the wind blew through the tarps, making them flap upwards a bit like a can-can dancer flashing her knickers.  Occasionally I thought there were men up there, walking on the roof.  But alas, it was just the wind and some rather alarmingly high stacks of roof tiles.  After all the action and progress of the first three weeks, this week has been rather quiet and lonely. 

Secondly, my eldest daughter turned three and a half.  So we threw an impromptu surprise party for her, complete with invitations, balloons, and party hats.  As Aunty C. pointed out, she is now halfway to 7.  Uncle N. followed this up by saying she is one sixth of the way to 21.  My baby can't be 21!

Thirdly, I went to Kindy orientation, as my baby, who is halfway to 7, will be going 'big school' in the New Year.  I still remember the day I found out I was pregnant with her.  I still remember the day she was born.  I remember the first day she crawled.  She can't be going to school already.

A friend and I stood in the Kindy playground last night, in the dark, discussing how we are fighting to slow time down.  With our eldest children off to school, and our youngest coming up to their first birthday in a matter of weeks, we can feel this special time slipping away.  The time of having a Baby.  Before they are walking and become toddlers.  Before they start throwing tantrums.  Before they start talking (and talking back).  While they still have those fat rolls on their thighs and they can still put their feet in their mouths.  Before they have a mouth of teeth.  While you still count their age in months, not years.

So a plea to keeper of time, speed up the building process, but slow down the aging process.  I'd like to keep my baby for a bit longer please.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Renovate or gestate?

Last night I stood in my new bedroom.  Sure, it didn't have walls or a ceiling.  Or a bed.  But it actually looked like a room and felt like a room and it was very exciting. 

There wouldn't be much privacy should you want to spend the night, because the tarps no longer fit over the top much like clothes no longer fitting over your tummy when you are 9 months pregnant, but after only two and a half weeks, there is now a recognizable house up there.

After a painfully long conception (I'm just going to keep on with the pregnancy analogy) while we battled with the local council about what we were and weren't allowed to do (no designer baby for us), things have happened rather quickly.  I guess this is like 'showing' early on in pregnancy. 

But I am prepared for the fact that it probably is all show at the moment, and the rest of the build will drag on forever. 

The first few weeks have been sheer hell, the noise and stress and frustration is the home renovators' version of morning sickness.  Being woken early, not by nausea but by the sounds of tarps blowing in the wind or the sound of an air compressor starting outside the window.

Then I imagine we will enter the second trimester.  The house will begin to look like a house.  People will begin to compliment us on how well it looks.  The final payment won't yet be due, so it won't be so unwieldy that we can no longer walk (or afford food).  We will feel energised as we can imagine the finished product and what colours we should decorate it with.

Then we will hit the final trimester.  The interest repayments will begin to swell up, and we will start retaining discount vouchers and coupons in order to save money.  Instead of screaming 'get this baby out of me' I will be screaming 'give me a hammer and a paintbrush... let me up there!'

Finally will come the day we can move in.  We will think it's all finished and done, but it won't be.  Instead of nappies and breastfeeding, there will be carpeting and painting.  But until that day, I can continue to look forward to sleeping in my new bedroom, one storey closer to the stars, a new addition that will change our family forever.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Disappointment is a Dirty Word

What is the worst thing about disappointment?  The frustration or the powerlessness?

The frustration is what makes you angry.  The powerlessness is what makes you sad. Or lethargic. Or depressed. 

Right now, I'm angry.  It's all so unimportant really, in the scheme of things.  Trying to sort out kindy days and day care days and uni classes.  Hardly world peace or developing a new type of green fuel that will change the world. 

But the thing is, it IS my world.

First I was disappointment by daycare, who couldn't manage to find places for my two girls on the same days.  But at least I got places.

Then I was disappointment by kindy, which despite a very specific phonecall to confirm which days my (to be) 4 year old will attend next year, has seen fit to change them.  Now kindy days and daycare days and my uni classes all clash. And I am powerless to change them.

And I am disappointed, because this is my life right now.  My eldest child attending Kindy and my baby starting daycare so I can return to university to Become A Writer.  This is my life. 

And something will have to give.

Monday, November 15, 2010

How to Sleep Like a Baby

'So where exactly is your baby sleeping?', the nice builder man asked me.  We had a plan of the house in front of us, and I jabbed at the corner of her bedroom where her cot was located.

'Oh that'll be ok then', he said.  'At worst, some plaster might come down on her change table though...'

For some inexplicable reason, my 10 month old had decided to go back to sleep after her morning feed.  The same 10 month old who is not normally known for her predilection for sleeping, had fallen asleep and stayed asleep during the most incredible noise - men walking on the roof, throwing tiles, air compressors, hammering, shouting...

We had been told that we should make ourselves scarce this week, as the roof was fully removed, the air conditioning uninstalled and reinstalled, and the new floor hammered into place.  'It might be a bit loud', they had told us.  'You might want to get the kids out'.

No worries.  Last night I had packed the portacot, the laptop, a basket of clothes and nappies and toys, three meals for the baby and one for me, and I had planned on abandoning ship long before 7.30am. 

The only thing I had forgotten was to tell the baby. 

And so she was sleeping, like the proverbial baby.  In a room that was literally shaking as the men hammered posts outside her window, and removed the roof from above her head.  There was dirt showering down on her ceiling, and circles of sunlight showed around her light fittings.

Maybe that is the secret to a sleeping baby. Noise and lots of it.  Either it creates a sense of nostalgia of sounds from inside the womb.  Or perhaps she was awake and crying all the time and I simply couldn't hear her over all the noise.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

My house as a ship

I came home today and the roof had disappeared, replaced by billowing red and blue tarps, attached tentatively to my house by a few ropes.

Even in the modest breeze it feels like a gale is blowing and it sounds like... actually I don't really know how to describe the hollow, ominous noise of dozens of massive tarps flapping and whipping in the wind.  When the wind rises and the tarps blow up, I can actually see the skeleton of my house.  I feel so vulnerable and unprotected.

With the massive scaffolding surrounding my house like a metal and wood rigging, and the tarps filling like sails, I can imagine the house literally floating away in the next stiff breeze.  It's all very Peter Pan.

I just hope that this particular adventure is not one of the 'ever-after' sorts, and we get to keep our feet on the ground.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Technology is making me backwards

I realise that what I am about to write could well raise the ire of those of you without a dishwasher.  I am well aware that there are many many people way less fortunate than me who make do without fancy technology, many who make do without electricity.  Or houses.

But today my dishwasher broke and it cannot be fixed for a few days.  Therefore I will have to get my hands wet and dirty and wash dishes the old fashioned way.  In the sink.  With my hands.  Having lived in a house with a dishwasher for five years now, it has been a while since I have had to wash dishes by hand.

(Of course, there was the six weeks earlier this year where I was washing dishes in the bath tub when our kitchen was being redone, but that probably doesn't count.  Actually, it's something I prefer not to think about.)

My point though, is not to moan that I might have to do some actual work, but to point out that there are basic skills we are losing because technology is there to do it for us.  And our children will not know any different.

The Blonde Bombshell, at three and a half, knows how to load and unload a dishwasher.  She knows how to fill the washing machine, where to put the detergent, and which buttons to press to start a load*.  She knows how to put a DVD in the machine and turn the TV on.  She knows how to use a computer and how to send text messages on a mobile phone (I didn't teach her that!).

And I guess it is my job as a mum to make sure she grows up knowing how to wash dishes properly by hand, how to cook a meal from scratch, how to build a cubby out of chairs and old sheets, how to make paper mache and how to amuse herself without staring at the TV or relying on computers and electronic gizmos. 

I guess she needs to learn to be a kid 'like in the olden days'... when we used to catch lizards after school, and use an old icecream bucket of water to paint the fence or driveway.  When we could spend an entire weekend building a mini golf course in the backyard out of nothing more than plastic piping and bits of wood (thanks Dad xxx).  Where a grassy slope and old cardboard box made for a rollercoaster and some borrowed props and plenty of imagination made for a crowd-pleasing variety show.

So in the spirit of technology-free childhoods, I guess it will be acceptable if we eat off paper plates for the next few days.  Picnics in the backyard and tea parties on the floor.  Nothing to do with the fact that I don't want to wash dishes, you see, just making it fun for my children!

*Before the overly concerned amongst you call Child Protective Services, I am NOT using my daughter as child labour.  She's just a very useful engine**

**Yes, I am aware my child is not actually a train.  She is a human being.  She just likes Thomas the Tank Engine and being told she is helpful.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Mother Love

For the past few days it has been just my baby and I, the two of us in our own little world while her big sister is at Grandma's and Daddy was away.  The house has been quiet and we have spent many hours on the floor as she learns to crawl and begins to explore an increasingly larger space.  I have been falling in love with her over and over again. 

It almost hurts, the love I feel for my children.  There is a fierceness there that doesn't exist in any other type of love, mixed with tenderness, and pride, and fear.  The exquisiteness of this type of love has been beautifully portrayed by Lilly Blue at and the ache doesn't go away just because the child is absent.  Or being annoying.

Yesterday I watched my two beautiful daughters at a family gathering, and I couldn't have been more proud.  I may be falling apart, wrinkling, spreading, with soggy biscuit on my cardigan and in need of some TLC, but my children are so perfect, so bright and sparkling and through them I feel renewed.  Purposeful.

I wish I could bottle this feeling of right now, so I can bring it out again and again, as the girls become tweenies, and teenagers and hopefully one day mothers themselves.  I write because it is the closest thing I have to recording a feeling, or capturing an emotion, to remind me of how it feels when things are still new, and bright and sparkling. 

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

It's hot out there

I currently have two, half naked young men, liberally covered in tattoos lounging on my front verandah.  Some of you may think I am the luckiest girl in the world, others may shudder at the thought.

Today the scaffolding is being erected: a great spider web of concrete covered metal attached to my house. 

There have been a lot of alarming sounds, from small metal objects pinging against the windows, to the thud of heavy wooden beams being dropped on bricks, and what sounds like war cries coming from the guys as they stand on my roof.  The three and a half year old Blonde Bombshell tells me they are 'hurting the house'.

It's the hottest day in months, at least 38 degrees.  Neither of them have hats or sunglasses... or clothes apparently.  Their shorts - commonly known as stubbies - are not leaving much to the imagination.  Their lack of shirts mean we can see their dragon 'drawings' all over their arms and backs, which the Bombshell finds quite fascinating.

But despite their otherwise apparent lack of sun-sense, I did see one of them liberally slather himself in suncream, which the Bombshell pointed out to me.  She said she was very proud of him.  Being about nineteen years of age, I doubt the compliments of a preschooler impressed him much.  But perhaps it means that tomorrow he might be wearing a shirt!

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Please stop hitting my car

Don't get me wrong, I like old people.  I even plan on being one myself one day. But please hear me those of you who are youth-challenged:  if someone is standing in front of you in a car park, waving their hands to STOP, and asking you to reverse your car, it doesn't mean go forward. 

The brake is the one in the middle, or possibly on the left if you have an automatic.  It is NOT the one on the right (well, it possibly is if you are in a country other than Australia).

I have had a very bad year when it comes to cars.  Things keep hitting me.  First it was hail stones the size of walnuts that took out one side of the car.  Then it was a caterer in a teeny little van who rear ended me on the way home from the shops - he took out the bumper and all the rear chassis. 

Then, when my car was in the shop being fixed, my mum allowed me to drive her car.  Two days later I was the front car in a three car pile up, where Mr P-Plater slammed into Ms Beetle and pushed her into Mum's Car. 

Today as I was loading my car with some groceries, a little old lady in her old lady car attempted to park in my car space.  It's the only explanation for why she ended up scraping the side of her car against my wheel rim (thank heavens for rubber rim protectors).

She didn't even seem to notice.  Not even when I tapped on her bonnet and said 'Stop!  You have hit my car, please reverse'.  She began moving forward!  This lady is why elderly drivers get a bad name. 

I did keep my cool, which is a change.  The last time someone hit me I yelled at them.  The first time someone hit me I almost cried.  This time I planted myself between my car and hers while she make her second attempt to park.  In hindsight, perhaps that wasn't the wisest thing to do considering her dubious ability. 

And after she parked, I watched her get out of the car and scurry away into the shops.  Not a word, not an apology, not a care that she had damaged her car. 

I let her go.  My car was fine.  But I didn't tell her she had parked illegally in a loading zone, so maybe karma will sort her out.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Waiting for God Knows What

It's the waiting that gets you.  The not knowing. 

Today, allegedly, is the first full day of our new building project.  I say allegedly, because it's almost 10.00am and the only the thing that has happened is that our neighbour occasionally sticks his head out to see if anything interesting is happening.
It's not.

More than 18 months ago, literally a lifetime ago, my husband and I sat down and decided we would add some rooms upstairs.  We are planning for the distant future, when we have two (or possibly three?) teen aged children.  I remember being a teenager.  I was hideous.  And there is no way I want to be sharing a bathroom with two (or possibly three?) hideous teenage girls.  My husband doesn't even like sharing a bathroom with them now.

And let's be honest, they won't be moving out before they're 30.  I don't see how anyone will be able to afford houses in the future, so assuming that we will be sharing the house with multiple offspring, boyfriends and girlfriends, hangers-on, cousins, aunties, exchange students and the inevitable dog, I will need at least a few more walls separating me from them.  And my own bathroom.

I won't be naming the company we engaged, just in case this whole process is all too much and I start slandering them accidentally on purpose.  But today was meant to be the first day on site.  I was expecting truck loads of tradies, mountains of materials, a chorus of curses and a glamorous porta-loo to converge on our property and start building my new life.  Nothing. 

You know the scene from Westerns, where the birds circle overhead in complete silence.   That's us.

I don't know why I am so surprised.  It's not as though anything has gone smoothly up to this point (but that's the subject of another post).  Yet I continue to hope, and I continue to wait.  Hopefully I will have something to report soon. 

(5 second later)

My god!  There is a man outside my window. And yes, it is a builder and not some random peeping tom. Talk about heart attack. 

And that, dear readers, is why we must never lose hope.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

The sad looking mature aged student in the corner - will be me!

I am used to being one of the youngest people in a crowd.  When I did my Masters in 1999 there were only three of us under the age of 30.  At work, at uni, even in my Mothers group, I have always been one of the youngest people.  But now as I prepare to embark on a new postgrad course at University next year, I have discovered that the first unit I have enrolled in is actually an undergraduate course.  Which means that I, at the ripe old age of 33, will be studying with teenagers who could potentially be about half my age.

These kids will have been born in the 1990s.  They will have no concept of a time without mobile phones, a time before laptops, or a time when there was only three free-to-air TV stations.  Johnny Young Talent Time?  Wombat?  Hey Hey it's Saturday, when it was actually shown on a Saturday. Pre DVDs, pre 9/11, pre internet.  This is a writing course: will they all be writing in SMS-speak?  Will I understand them?  It has been more than a decade since I have attended a university campus as a student.  Has much changed?  What do I wear?

Oh my god, I am going to be the dorky mature aged student in the corner that no one talks to.  Worse than that, I will be the dorky mature aged student with baby vomit or dried cruskit on my cardigan.  While the rest of the group head to the pub after class, I will be heading to daycare to collect my children. 

Coincidentally, the year I start back at uni my not-yet four year old will be starting Kindy for the very first time.  We will both have our new backpacks and pencil cases full of exciting new stationery.  We will both be trying to make new friends.  Except she will be one of the youngest, and I may be one of the eldest. 

But I am guessing that is something I will probably need to get used to.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Things I Wish I Could Tell Myself

Hi Shannon 2010,

It's Shannon 2020, about ten years into the future and there are a few things I wish I could tell you as you start your new journey to become a writer. 

Firstly - you are already a writer.  Don't be afraid to call yourself that.  It is just as much a state of mind as it is a job title.  Just because you have not yet been published, and have not made a cent from writing does not mean you are not a writer.

Secondly - you can do this.  You have been able to achieve pretty much everything you have set your mind to up to now.  Why should this be any different?  Surely it can't be any more difficult than being pregnant and having babies.  There is considerably less bodily fluids involved too, which is always a positive.

Thirdly - be realistic with your goals.  Importantly, for you this also means don't expect too little of yourself.

Finally - you can't make everyone happy.  Some of what you will write will undoubtedly upset some people and bore others.  Don't deliberately set out to antagonise people, but don't try and please the whole world. Remember that you already have a group of people, your family and friends who support you and love what you do. 

Stay strong and enjoy the ride
Shannon 2020

Monday, October 25, 2010

Putting Myself Out There

Writing a blog is a new experience for me.  I am Putting Myself Out There in a way that makes me a little uncomfortable.  It's like leaving the house without your underpants. Or forgetting your mobile phone (depending on what type of person you are).

Normally my written rants are emailed to friends and family - people who are generous with their praise and stingy with their criticism.  One actually wonders whether my nearest and dearest actually read them - my most recent email about the exploits of my two daughters included - in the subject line no less - the misspelling of my youngest daughter's name. No one said anything.

My conclusions:
a) everyone was so dazzled by my brilliant stories that no one noticed the typo.
b) people saw the typo but were too polite to mention it.
c) no one actually read the email.

When I write to family and friends, the words flow. I march on regardless of little things like grammar and spelling.  I am uninhibited by punctuation and couldn't care less if a single sentence takes up an entire paragraph.

I know I probably cannot get away with that online. And so each word is cautious.  I find I am thinking so much about what I am writing that the words have dried up, like the fuzzy feeling in your mouth the morning after a big night.

But if I want to be a writer I need to open myself up to scrutiny. I need to put myself out there and wait for the tempest. Or perhaps the silence.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Starting a new life - today is as good as any

Today is the first day of my new life as a writer. Hopefully this will be the first of many blogs, describing my journey from being a Mum who loves writing about her kids, to being a professional writer, who happens to be a Mum.

Since having my daughters (now three and a half years and nine months old), I have loved being at home with them. I have enjoyed it a lot more than I ever expected, and now the prospect of returning to the world of work doesn't seem as enticing as it once did. If I have to work, I need to love it as much as I do being at home with my kids.

My dream is to be a writer.

And so I find myself on a Sunday morning in a blogging course, in the very flash computer labs at a rather swanky private boys school. Sure, the computer screens are covered in the fingerprints of hundreds of grubby little boys, but I am sharing this space with 19 other likeminded wannabe bloggers and we are all energized with the potential of what we can achieve.

Today is the first day of my new life as a writer. Now I just need to find the time and mental space to marry this new identity of mine with being a mother of two, a wife (of one), uni student, and home builder. Easy.
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