Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Breakfast Breakdown

It was probably after Miss Curly Mop had thrown the third pancake across the marble floor of the restaurant, skipping it like a stone 'til it rested against the foot of a very unimpressed waiter, and then let a mouthful of scrambled egg slide down her chin and let it stick there like a small, wobbly goatee that I wanted to cry.

When the Blonde Bombshell started sticking her fingers into the bowls of cereal on the buffet, while singing loudly about the importance of doing wees on the 'big' toilet I wanted to vomit.

But it was when I totally lost it with both of them in front of a restaurant full of people that I just wanted to die.  Let them stick hot needles in my eyes, surely it would be less painful than trying to manage two over-tired, far-from-home, cranky children in the very swanky, very expensive, very breakable Palazzo Versace on the Gold Coast.

I never wanted to come here.  Being surrounded by glass tables, crystal chandeliers, $200 bath towels and lots of breakable bling is not my idea of a relaxing holiday.  But through a series of unfortunate events here I am, sans husband, with two homesick children and three in-laws who probably wish they hadn't witnessed me have a complete melt-down only minutes after the plane landed.

By the time my parents-in-law joined me at breakfast I was literally shaking, caused by a combination of anger, sleep deprivation and caffeine.  I wanted to run screaming from the room but I was afraid I would slip on the marble floors and slide headfirst into a table of designer black lilies styled to within an inch of their genetically modified lives.

Luckily they took pity on me and took the children away, leaving me to shake and sob in solitude.  Around me, the detritus of breakfast: three uneaten pots of different flavoured yoghurts, four bowls of different cereals, nibbled upon pancakes, discarded breadsticks, scorned strawberries.

I stared hard at the table, trying to hold the tears in.

As I stood to leave a lady stopped me with a gentle hand on my arm.

'Your daughters are so beautiful,' she said.

I must have looked surprised (or dubious).

'Is this your first day?  Have you flown in from somewhere?' she wanted to know, guessing the answer.

'We came from Perth, we're a little tired,' I said. Making excuses for my (and their) behaviour.

'Well, they are just beautiful.  You should be very proud.'

And with that simple comment from a complete stranger, I was able to lift myself from my slum of self-pity, remind myself how lucky I am, and I was able to get on with my holiday.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Breast is Best

I took pity on Mr Sleepyhead tonight and offered to shower the Blonde Bombshell.

It's an unwritten rule in our house that he showers the big one, and I am responsible for the little one.  I can be a bit derelict in my duties and every now and then have to throw Miss Curly Mop under the shower with her big sister and her daddy and then it turns into something approximating World War Three, It's a Knockout and that kids show from the 90s where people got slimed.

But with him resembling three of the seven dwarfs (Grumpy, Sleepy and Sneezy) and likely to pass out in the shower and crush her by mistake I thought it prudent to take the Bombshell upstairs to wash.

After we had washed and we were sitting on the floor of the shower splashing in the water she crawled into my lap and asked me:

'Are you going to make another baby?'

I gave her a cuddle and said 'Would you like that?'

She nodded and smiled and then, very gently, very seriously kissed the tops of my breasts.

The Blonde Bombshell has always been quite fascinated with my breasts, mostly I presume because she was old enough to witness me breastfeeding Miss Curly Mop, which I did for a full year.  Despite their not being quite as perky or full as they once were, they still hold a fair degree of fascination and mystery for her.  It's a pity this isn't necessarily true for all members of the household.

'And how many new babies would you like?' I asked.

'Ten,' she said.

'I don't think I could make another ten, but I will certainly try and make one.'

After we were dried and dressed and our teeth were brushed we came downstairs.  Mr Snoozy was asleep on the couch, still in his work clothes.  I watched the Bombshell approach her Daddy and very gently kiss him on his hand before running back to me for a bedtime story.

How could I not want another?

Friday, May 27, 2011

Thank God I'm A Country Girl

We're having our back garden redesigned by a fabulous bloke by the name of Roger who has been doing a tremendous job transforming our dead, dirty and uninspired space into a kiddie (and adult) paradise. 

I'm talking cubby house, a 'stage' for performing, garden beds high enough to balance on but not high enough to fall and break little bones, flower beds, veggie patches and big beautiful spaces to run and be crazy (as kids are wont to do).

Anyway, I digress.

Most days I wander out for a chat. He is a very interesting man and sometimes I have had enough of talking about fairies and poos and painting with the Blonde Bombshell.

Today as the girls scampered around the garden watering what plants remain (and the plastic grass and themselves and the mud) Roger leaned on his compacter, looked directly at me and asked:

'So, are you from around here then?'

'Sure,' I said. 'My folks live in the suburbs a bit north of here.'

'But you're from the country right?'


Now I should state that I am a city girl.  Born and bred.  Raised in the 'burbs, private schooled, university educated [not that country people aren't any of these things].

'No,' I finally said.  'Do I strike you as being from the country?'

He shrugged.  'You just seem too sensible to be from the city.'

I was actually quite chuffed, not only for all the country people who are apparently quite sensible, but also for me, that someone (who has been privvy to all the madness and screaming and tantrums going on inside my house over the past few weeks) thinks I am sensible.

On his return from work this evening, I told this little story to Mr Scornful and asked him if he thought I was sensible.

His response?

Something approximating 'hummph'. It's possible he even chuckled.

What would he know?

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Ensuite Ambivalence

For the first time in my life I now have an ensuite.

It's pretty fabulous when it comes to showering late at night, because it means I am no longer in danger of waking two sleeping children with clanking pipes and dodgy singing.

It's great when it comes to brushing my teeth in the morning because I can wander around the bedroom and fidget with my books and necklaces, or bounce up and down on the bed (something I tell my four year old you should never do when you have a toothbrush in your mouth).

But I have come to the conclusion that when it comes to the middle-of-the-night-pee, having an ensuite totally sucks.

Yes, the proximity is great.  Yes, it's brilliant not having to run the gauntlet of creaky floorboards and run the risk of waking the entire household.

But at 3am the house is very quiet. 

And three metres is not a very big distance.

And when you combine quiet house and short distance, you may as well be peeing on your husband's side table for all the good a hollow toilet door is.

So what do I do at 3am, when it is freezing and the Blonde Bombshell's ex-birthday balloons are popping downstairs and freaking me out completely?  I walk to the downstairs bathroom and pee there.

Curse my early morning modesty.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Old Time(r) Rock and Roll

I have always been an avid listener of TripleJ.

From my teenage years, right through uni, when I was married, through my 20s and into my 30s, it was the only station for me. 

Probably by the time I hit my 30s I began to realise that many of the presenters were a good decade younger than me.  They would talk about their 21st birthdays... in the future! They would talk about what they had done at school, the previous year!  And they would talk about being born in the 1980s and 1990s...

When one of the older and more respectable presenters left TripleJ to work on an 'adult' radio station I begun to wonder whether I was getting too old for a 'youth' network.  But I loved the music and even if I didn't always understand what the presenters were saying I still felt I wanted to beat the drum.

Yet, driving home from uni yesterday it became clear that I had begun to listen to a new station.

It started with the Perth bushfires back in March, when I tuned into 720AM to get updates of the fires.

Then I began tuning in on Wednesdays as I was driving home from uni to get the road reports.

Then I realised that I had stayed on 720AM for over a week and was happy listening to the news, the talkback and the old time music.

It was rather unsettling.

Does this mean I am old now?  Can you ever really go back when you make the switch?

How do you know that you're getting old?

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Found: My Future in a Piece of Homework

It’s one of those ‘ah ha’ moments when you find yourself banging on the table and looking around for someone – anyone - to share your revelation with.  But the house is empty, the kids are at daycare, the husband at work.  I have to be content with nodding my head and using so much orange highlighter that the pages are beginning to get soggy. 
I have just finished reading ‘Letters to an Unknown Friend’ by Robert Dessaix (one of my uni readings) on the personal essay and my first instinct was to jump on my blog and tell the world. Finally I had found an art-form that was for me.  Intimacy, conversation, unknown friends, small topics, admissions of uncertainties and self-doubts, incoherence: these are words that describe my life at the moment, my life as a new writer.
The only problem I have is when people ask me what type of writer I am (and that more awkward question ‘have you written anything I would have read?’).  I do not have a succinct answer for them.
I knew I did not want to be a novelist.  Not yet anyway.  I didn’t want to be a hard-nosed journalist chasing down leads and working to ridiculous deadlines.  I already knew I hated academic writing: you are so dependent upon other people – as sources, references, experts – and you were not allowed to feature in your own writing. I like to take front stage in my own words.  In my own life I prefer to take a back-seat and let others take the stage, but in my writing I need to be present.  A script-writer?  No, I have a tendency to ramble on. A poet? Unlikely.
At heart I am a storyteller. However I feel most comfortable when I deal with reality and life. I like to write about my life – my children, my renovations, my desire to be a writer. And upon reading Dessaix’s commentary on the personal essay, I finally felt things falling into place. 
I can be a personal essayist.
I do not see a lucrative career ahead of me, but that is not why I want to be a writer.  It is a far less tangible and more visionary approach to life I am taking.  It helps that my husband has a good job and we are not on the breadline.  If my family were dependent on my literary outputs to put dinner on the table we would be knocking on my parents’ door within a week.
Dessaix describes the essayist as ‘the leisured aristocrat’ with an ‘underlying air of incoherence’ – how could this literary lifestyle not appeal to a harried mother of two under four with mad plans for another?
Yet as I mentioned, my instinct was to jump on my blog and share this discovery with my own known and unknown friends. Dessaix would not approve.  He lost a relationship over his refusal to read a friend’s blog so I doubt he would ever deign to share his ramblings via this medium.  He sees personal essayists as having an intimate conversation via the essay, and modern day communication via tweets, blogs and Facebook as simply ‘living out life’s banality.’
I disagree because I find the generalisation a little unfair. There are many writers out there in cyberspace who use blogging as a valid platform to practice their craft and hone their skills. Just like we are encouraged to ‘Find 30 every day’ to improve our physical fitness, I use blogging as a way to improve my writing fitness. 
I loved this article because of its inherent smallness.  It is not about civil unrest in Libya or the plight of refugees or the nuclear threat in Japan.  It is a small piece about a small topic. I love that within the personal essay we are given permission to just write – uninhibited by the need to present cold facts or the Big Important Topics.  Permission to ruminate on the small things in life, to ask questions both of ourselves and others without expectation of actually needing to provide answers.  
Some people may hate this, and believe the very concept of personal essay to be the ultimate in self-indulgence.  However I find it to be the perfect solution to what Dessaix rightly points out is the unfortunate affliction of twenty-first century Australia: we are always busy, we are not allowed to be idle.  The personal essay: short, succinct, humorous and relatable might be the ideal medium to share our musings in a world where we only have five minutes before our next rendezvous.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

One Blue Line

Technically we weren't even trying, so it shouldn't be such a disappointment.

I always said I didn't want another January baby, so I should be relieved.

Those feelings of nausea, perhaps caused by inadequate breakfast.  Or a lack of sleep.

All those strange sensations inside were just a figment of my imagination.  Or last night's dinner.

Perhaps it's ironic that I found out on Mothers Day that I wasn't pregnant, though I had strongly suspected (and hoped?) that I was.  I would be lying to myself if I said I wasn't a little sad.

I thought I knew my body well, I thought I could read the signs.  However it turns out my body wants this just as much as I do, and is prepared to falsify evidence.

It seems to me that positive feelings, such as excitement, are usually caused by a positive and actual event.  The receipt of a gift, the witnessing of something joyful. Yet the negative feelings, such as disappointment are caused by the absence of these events. 

They are marked by a deficiency, an emptiness. Or a lonely, single blue line.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Aussie Farmers Direct Into my Heart

It was about 6.05pm and he really should have known better.

The box of full of dirty nappies by the front door should have been his first clue, even if he hadn't noticed the Frankenstein garden, simultaneously full of overgrown weeds, struggling lawn patches and mostly dead rose bushes.

Perhaps the noise from within should have sent him running - three different female voices, all yelling simultaneously from different parts of the house.

A lesser man perhaps would have left quietly, hoping not to be noticed. Yet he knocked regardless.  Or would have if I had actually managed to close the door after returning home from daycare pick-up with two screaming children (I had accidentally squished the Bombshells's head in the car door and the Curly Mop was hungry and demanding food).

He stood at the screen door and shouted a polite, and vaguely Pommie hello over the din. 

'Oh thank god!,' I said, not actually noticing the man wasn't my husband.

'Umm I'm here from Aussie Farmers Direct', he said.

Aussie Farmers Direct? I started salivating at the thought of freshly baked bread dropped silently on my doorstep twice a week, milk magically appearing just as we were beginning to run out, and delicious cuts of meats that had never seen the inside of a freezer.  My friend had goodies delivered from Aussie Farmers Direct, and her BLTs were always fabulous - freshly baked bread, farm fresh salad and delicious bacon.  I wanted to be an Aussie Farmers Direct mum.

I walked away from the dinner I was cooking on the stove, leaving it to hiss and spit and brown alarmingly fast.

I walked away from my eldest daughter, stuck on the toilet, afraid to hop off and wipe her own bottom because there was a small pile of sand on the toilet seat and her knickers were now inside out.

I walked away from my youngest daughter, singing to herself as she rubbed crumbed chicken in her hair.

I walked to the door and smiled at Gavin because he was going to make it all better.

He started the spiel, although I already knew it.  My friend had long sung the praises of AFD and since I had tried both the competitors and they had failed miserably, I had been waiting for the day when I could switch teams.

The dinner spat and burned.

The eldest howled hysterically on the toilet.

The youngest gave herself a head massage with a chicken breast.

Somewhere between learning about the three hour old bread and hot scones and the farm fresh cuts of lamb my brain dug itself out of its gourmet gorm and tapped my sanity sharply on the shoulder.  'Uh, dinner's burning.'

'You'd better come in,' I told him.

So as I tried to resurrect dinner he completed his sales pitch.  I was already sold, but his presence was keeping the man-eating toddler happily distracted and by this stage the eldest had emerged from the toilet, blessedly dressed and not sporting too many obvious side effects of having been abandoned on the loo.

While the toddler rummaged through his bag looking for food, and the Kindy kid sulked in the corner, I signed on the dotted line and poked at the mess on the stove. I was sold. 

He had run out of the complimentary freezer bags but assured me he would be back within half an hour to drop one off.  By the time he had returned, my husband was home and the four of us were settled almost quietly at the kitchen table eating dinner.  Gavin practically threw the bag from the end of the verandah so it landed on the nappies by the front door.

With a nervous wave he turned and ran.  Apparently he did know better.

Disclaimer: I am not being paid any monies from Aussie Farmers Direct for this dripping endorsement of their service, but if they want to send me some, that'd be fine by me.
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