Sunday, October 21, 2012

One Day The Prince Will Come (Just Not Today)

It was like some kind of Barbie 'So You Think You Can Dance'.

The dolls were dancing for Prince Eric, and whoever was deemed to be the best would marry the Prince. I couldn't tell if the Barbies were selling themselves short for the affection of a plastic mound, or if Prince Eric was some kind of man-slave in this scenario.

The Bombshell had asked me to play Barbies with her this afternoon, so I did what any girl would do. I plonked myself down on the floor and began undressing dolls and then re-dressing them in the biggest, most elaborate outfits I could conjure.

Then the Bombshell came after me, and found each of the dolls shoes, 'so they wouldn't slip when they dance'.  This is easier said than done, because of the 24 dolls (yes, you read that correctly), only half of them were genuine Barbie dolls, the rest of them random plastic dolls of varying dimensions, some with removable heads, some with wings, and some with mermaid tails hidden under their ball gowns (no shoes for you!).

After we had sat them in a group it was time to dance. I couldn't help but stare at some of the dolls whose non-poseable plastic legs prevented them from sitting in a ladylike manner, their legs spread wide as though they were taking a trip to the gynaecologist. Luckily, five year olds don't notice these things.

My job was to play the music. Each doll was allowed about five seconds to dance and impress the Prince, who sat in stony silence at the end of the bed.

I was under strict instructions 'not to see' the Bombshell, as she 'helped' the Barbie's dance. She lifted their dresses, and stuck their legs up in the air, whirled them around, and helped them defy gravity and a number of laws of physics.

And still Prince Eric sat, unimpressed.

Three different Ariels had their turn. Then a fairy with bent wings. Then Jasmine and Tiana. A neckless Barbie with a crew cut had her chance and failed when The Mop came through like a taffeta destroying tornado.

The crowd began thinning, as the Barbies moved from the staging area to the couch, where they were recast as 'Mummies' and 'sisters' in a violent new drama by the Mop.

Eric's interest had been piqued. He had fallen over, but was now staring directly at Ken, who was rather dashing in a purple padded dressing gown and Mary Poppin's bonnet. I began to understand why none of the Barbie's were scoring 10 out of 10.

'I wonder who the marry-er will be,' sighed the Bombshell, who thinks that weddings are simply a chance to wear a big dress and dance while everyone watches. But not kiss a boy, 'cause that's gross.

I rewound the music box and prepared for the final few contestants  I admired the Bombshell's unwavering determination that all dolls get an equal chance, even though I was already so bored I was mentally writing the shopping list and trying to remember that thing my husband had asked me to remember, but I had forgotten.

'Dinner,' hollered my husband from out back where he was barbecuing some snags.

The Mop suddenly bounced across the room, threw herself on the bed and sent Eric flying.

He landed, happily enough, right on top of Ken.

'So who wins the Prince?' I asked the Bombshell as we got ready for dinner.

'Oh, I don't know,' she said. 'I don't think the Barbies want to be married today.'

That's lucky, I thought, because I was pretty sure Eric had found his prince.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Dumped For Weetbix

As parents, we are just as fickle as our children.

It is 5.50am Sunday morning. I am lying in bed, in that half-sleep-half-waking-state when I hear a muted sob from downstairs. The Mop is awake. A single sob is unusual, once she wakes she usually treats us to a rousing chorus of heartbreaking tears and tantrums, but not today.  She is very quiet.

She is so cute, I think to myself. With her little cherub face, and her little pigtails. I want a cuddle. I will her to come upstairs. My jedi mind powers don't seem to be working.

My husband and I are both pretending to be asleep so we don't have to be the one to get up. It's only a matter of time before she starts crying and wakes the other two girls. So far though, silence. I wonder what she's doing.

It has been ten minutes and she has made only the smallest of noises.  It's raining outside and a bit cold for October, I don't really want to get out of bed, but I would like a cuddle. Why won't she come upstairs to find us, then I can pull her into bed with me.

Eventually we hear: 'Mummy? Daddy?'

Then: 'Mummmy? Dadddy?'


My husband bounds out of bed. Maybe he doesn't know I am awake. He 'accidentally' tosses a pillow at me.

Yeah he knows.

I open my eyes and tell him, 'Can you get her to come upstairs for a cuddle?'

Soon a little head appears, with wonky, slept-in pigtails. So cute.

She is preceded by a devastating ponk.  Oh, that's what she's been doing.

'I done poo,' she says.

'I know,' I tell her. I really wanted a cuddle but I don't really want the poo-monster in my bed.

'Why don't you go downstairs with Daddy and after he changes you come back up for a cuddle with Mummy?'

I expect her to get very excited, cuddles with Mummy in bed is rare indeed. How often, as Mums, are we in bed while our kids are up?

But she shakes her little head.

'No' she says. 'I want breakfast.'

And that was that. Dumped for a bowl of Weetbix.

Saturday, October 13, 2012

NaNoWriMo - OMG I'm Going To Do It

Like many of us, I have a novel inside me. In the past it was just an idle dream, so blurry it was like my baby had been smearing her grubby fingers across my glasses.

Then, the other week, the idea crystallised (but I'm not telling you what it is).

November is International Novel Writing Month, so I asked my good friend Amanda Kendle - writer, blogger, mother, and social media expert - to write me a guest post and get me in the mood. 

So, if you are a wannabe novelist as well, will you join us?

November is NaNoWriMo. No, this is not related to Movember (despite the Mo) so I won't be growing a moustache, but it will be even sillier. Ridiculously crazy, in fact. NaNoWriMo (shortened to NaNo by those in the know) stands for National Novel Writing Month. In fact it's really International Novel Writing Month as people across the world take part, but I guess IntNoWriMo doesn't have the same ring to it.

As you might guess, this is a challenge where people go about writing a draft of a novel in just one month. The idea is that you should write at least 50,000 words, which works out at 1,667 words per day. This is probably a little short for most novels but it's a good chunk of it at least. The focus is on quantity rather than quality, since the biggest problem most people have with writing novels is that they never finish them. NaNo encourages you to get all those words out so that you've then got something to work with.

When Shannon asked me to write a guest post about NaNoWriMo, she was under the impression I had completed one of my novel drafts since my son was born. Unfortunately, I'm not that amazing. I've "won" NaNo (their expression for reaching 50,000 words by the end of November) just once, the year before my son came along. I've tried since, but not made it.
But. BUT! This year is going to be different. I've had NaNo on my to do list (with a bunch of question marks) for a few days but I've decided I'm going to do it. My son is two and a half, he sometimes (okay occasionally) sleeps through the night and on a (very) good day he even sleeps until 6am. I only work half-time so I think I can squeeze the time into the day to get my 1,667 words done. However, I am trying to use lots of the lessons I've learned from previous NaNo fails to help me to another win this time. My strategy is:
  • Spend October (oops - well, the rest of October) writing a reasonably detailed outline of the novel I want to write. On my first (and curiously, successful) NaNo attempt, I had no plan at all. I got the 50,000 words done but the incredible amount of rewriting I've had to do on this (including completely restructuring it) is not something I want to do again.
  • Aim to write 2,000 words each day. There will always be off days (sick child, anyone?) so you need a buffer to deal with them - there's nothing worse than trying to catch up thousands of words in a day. (Although I did once write 15,000 words in a day for this very reason. You may correctly assume that they were not very good words.)
  • Be brave enough to meet up with other NaNo writers. There are groups everywhere who meet up to write together. I'm hoping to persuade Shannon here to take part, which will be a good start (don't tell her, though, that someone with three young kids is even more insane than me to try this).
  • Plan a couple of mega-days where I leave the house, head somewhere without the internet, and write for three or four hours.
  • Remind myself constantly that this is just a first draft and nobody needs to read it except me - I can make it more "beautiful" in the next draft.
If you're as crazy as me head over to and sign up. The website is full of great resources, a forum to meet others, and you can log your word count every day (I love watching the graph go up and up!). And happy writing.

Amanda Kendle is a would-be novelist, mother of one and a blogging and social media consultant; she blogs at and will report on her NaNoWriMo attempt at

Monday, October 8, 2012

The Treasure You Find On The Beach

The five of us are crammed inside a holiday unit, the two older girls thumping around upstairs, every footfall and shriek echoing downstairs where the baby is trying to sleep.
My patience has worn thin. It requires immediate medical attention.

In desperation I take them by the hand and tell them we are going for a walk.

We step outside. The air is fresh, the sun warm and the breeze light. I feel my mood begin to lift as I let the girls choose the direction we will go. Even though they have complete freedom, they still steer themselves towards the shore, like baby turtles returning to their beach of birth.

The roads down here are without curbs, the bitumen running to grassy edges. To me it is a marker of a seaside town, a reminder of summers past spent in Dongara with my cousins. Swinging our arms we march towards the beach. Cardigans and jumpers are peeled off and handed to me. They gain momentum and speed as we hit the grassy dunes. Little pink sandals are removed and lined up at the edge of the track, marking our path home, like Hansel’s breadcrumbs, only these are covered with patent leather.
The eldest runs out across the sand, feet barely touching the ground as she heads towards prime seashell hunting territory. The smallest is more cautious and insists on holding my hand as she bends to investigate every pile of seaweed, every cuttlefish.

She is afraid of the water. The ocean at home is rougher, it grabs her ankles and threatens to pull her under. I tell her that the water here is like a little puppy, gently licking her feet. The water at home is the boisterous older dog, jumping up on her, pushing her down. She pauses, considering the puppy analogy – she loves puppies – but shakes her head. She remains unconvinced and will stick to the sand.
We are hunting shells. The eldest picks up anything and everything, regardless of colour, shape and integrity. Nothing is deemed unworthy - even if it’s broken. Everything is a treasure. Everything must be collected and recorded and kept.

The youngest wants to keep wandering up to the grassy dunes. I do not know what she is looking for, but I am concerned she will find something that bites. She is not interested in shells until her older sister finds her one that is still connected, its two halves spread like butterfly wings. She holds it carefully in her little hand. She is not allowed to break it.
The ocean spreads before us, rich blue, blurring at the horizon where it melts imperceptibly into the sky. Completely flat and still, it must seem larger than anything the girls have seen before, but they seem unable to see beyond their own feet, eyes trained downwards. The magic of the stillness is lost on them.

I though, stand and take in the peace. In the distance the jetty stretches over a mile into the water. We are completely alone, in complete silence. I can’t remember the last time I have been in complete silence and not felt a sense of dread.

I realise my breathing is mirroring the gentle movement of the waves and I feel my mouth move. I am smiling. I am at peace.

There is something in my hand. I look down. Two little girls are curling their fingers into mine, their other hands brimming with sandy treasures.

It is time to go back.
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...