Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Beyonce and her "Baby Reveal" - and the "Once Upon A Time" Disclosure Behind Mine...

Image borrowed from here

Beyonce’s totally rockin’ on stage pregnancy announcement goes down as Best. Baby. Reveal. EVER. And so it got me reminiscing about the way in which I shared my exciting news with my public (aka The Husband) Though, to be honest it was on on quite a smaller scale, minus a song, dance and stage and a few million screaming fans...

We’d been trying for a baby for about 6 months when we decided to halt the proceedings.  The lack of initial success was taking an emotional toll (have I mentioned I’m uber impatient??) so with the silly season approaching we agreed to think about starting afresh in the New Year.  The upside? This then meant I had the green light to get rolling drunk at the many work Christmas parties I had lined up.

Things were frantic with work, with a restructure in its final stages.  I was mentally and emotionally drained from it and quite looking forward to a well earned bevvie or seven!

Of course, the sensible part of me felt it necessary to check I wasn’t pregnant before consuming my body weight in alcohol. ACP Magazines Party – check: pregnancy test negative.  Channel Nine Christmas party – check: negative again.

So it appeared I had the all clear to go forth and get very merry!

I remember declaring to my boss, as we drove from the city office to the Willoughby TV station that I was considering my rights to get completely rollicking drunk that night, needing to let off some steam and stress with the open bar, not to mention the fact Sneaky Sound System had been booked as the night's entertainment.  It had been such a rollercoaster year and how better to ring in the end of a weary work season than by dancing and drinking to this super cool band?

And for the record, yes, yes I did have far too many drinks, at both parties.  Here's proof:

A week later it was time for the final curtain call on the company I’d worked for the past few years; the end of an era as the demerger took place.  Many of my colleagues and I were parting ways so there was much to celebrate, commiserate and commemorate.  A long boozy lunch had been planned, and after which I was taking three weeks leave before starting my next chapter at the newly formed company.

Call it fate, but something made me detour via my local supermarket en route to the office early that December morn.  I was bone tired, but put it down to all the festivities and the full on weeks of trying to finalise so much for the demerger.  Yet a whisper made me walk in and purchase a pregnancy test on a whim.

And so, there in the toilet stalls of my workplace, to my utter surprise did I see the two little pink lines I’d been longing for, finally appear!

I was faint with shock.  For the first time I was performing a test with no preconceived notions of the outcome.  I had simply been acting on autopilot but suddenly was very alert to what I’d just witnessed. Perhaps there would be no wine for me that day after all…

The day passed in a blur.  I remember my husband calling me on the phone literally the minute I left the bathrooms, and me doing my best to sound normal on the other end.  The whole day my mind whirled with an incessant chorus of “Am I? Could I be? Is this it?” but the cynic in me refused to believe it.  Yet to be safe I shuffled my wine about in my glass at lunch, fervently praying no one would see me not partaking in the merriment.

I couldn’t get home quick enough.  Not convinced that one little test could spell out such desired fate, I purchased another kit at a chemist close to home and dashed furtively into the bathroom upon my arrival.  The Husband, for one rare occasion, had beaten me home so again I was faced with acting normal, when truly my brain was screaming with potential excitement.

Two minutes later, two pink lines.  Ladies and gents, we had a winner!

Now, the tricky part was decided just how I’d share this momentous news. Forced to think quickly, I placed the cap back over the test and scrambled to the spare room (or future nursery as my mind seemed to immediately squeal) for some Christmas wrapping paper.  The Husband had been lamenting the fact that although we already had our Christmas tree assembled and lovingly decorated, there were no gifts bearing his name from beneath.  I was about to recifty that.

As casually as possibly I walked over and stood by the tinselled tree, and commented that there was finally a present with his name underneath.  He was watching the sport on the news and couldn’t have been less interested.

I sat next to him, and bestowed his pen like present in his hands.  “It’s something you should open now,” I remarked, careful to keep my voice as even as possible. 

Again he regarded it with minimal concern, more transfixed with the events transpiring in the sporting world. That was, of course, until he had unfurled it from its festive encasing.

I’ll never forget the look he gave me in that very moment.  Eyes wide, mouth instantly agape, gasping and grasping for words all at once.

“Is it? Are you? Are We?!” Clearly struggling to string the sentence together that he so desperately sought, he clasped my face in his two hands, searching for the answer. With tears shining in my eyes, and mirroring his own, all I could do was nod and cry.

And for the record, according to him?

Best. Christmas. Present. EVER.   

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Grateful for celebrations, cupcakes, great cooks and the arrival of long overdue confidence

 Last week, in Casa de NappyDaze, we had something to celebrate and be grateful for.  And so I broke free of my undomestic Goddess shackles and threw my son a third birthday party – which also equates to a shindig to rejoice in the fact I’ve made it three years down this parenthood path and am still relatively sane.

It was a comment from the lovely Ms Styling You who pointed out it’s as much a milestone for the Mummy and Daddy as it is the child.  It’s a time to cast your mind back to the day all those years before when life as you knew it ceased and your heart expanded to a size that would rival Phar Lap’s.

Lucky for me then we were having a little soirée… And by little I mean 26 adults and 12 children. Cue heart palpitations by culinary challenged me!  But, in the name of following my 2011 mantra of “getting comfortable with being uncomfortable” I forced myself to soldier on and make merry with the party arrangements.  All of which was fine, until it came to the one thing I feared most.  The food.

So I did what any undomestic Goddess does in situations such as these – I called in the big guns for cooking favours!

Enter my clever mother in law, the party cooking queen! She slaved away for weeks prior, answering my frantic pleas for help as the realisation dawned on me that I’d bitten off more cake than I could chew.  She graciously cooked and ferried food amongst our many guests – and when she wasn’t doing that she was busy making my invitees all feel at ease or cleaning up the big mess I’d made in the kitchen. Heaven sent, I tell you!

For my baking part (and to appease my conscience that I was somehow contributing to the festive foods on offer), I did proudly produce 24 cupcakes which (thankfully) received resounding praise.  So much so I may be seen to attempt them again in the far off future.  Ok, so they weren’t created completely from scratch but I still had to be in charge of them not burning or crumbling.  And I did painstakingly ice and decorate each and every one. It took me about an hour AT LEAST to perfect their final appearance.

My party piece-de-resistance (besides my smashing cupcakes!) were the “party poncho’s” I lovingly crafted for The Husband and The Uncle to wear.  Fashioned to these clear plastic “garbage bag-esque” wraps, were assortment of fun size chocolates taped to them.  The kids got to race around trying to tackle and throw themselves at the confectionery toting targets with the mission to relieve them of as many sweet treats as they could fit into their little hands!  

(And when I say kids I am also including my sister who has a sweet tooth to rival Charlie and his entire Chocolate Factory. She did not miss her opportunity to participate when it became clear her two offspring weren’t going to share their spoils with Mummy)

By day’s end, when my newly three year old Master H was laced in weariness, and we’d farewelled the last of our lovely guests I found myself with a moment to reflect.  Three years before, when I was cradling a newborn, and scared to hell that I’d never know quite how to look after it, I struggled with the notion of foresight.  I couldn’t seem to envisage me at this point, at ease with a little man fast becoming a big boy. And while I still have many clueless days where I wonder if there is some secret parenting book the hospital might just have forgotten to give me upon discharge, I’ve enjoyed an exponential growth in mummy confidence since the earliest days. Who knows, by the time he rolls around to turning five I might even be able to claim that I’ve finally got this parenthood gig under control. And begin to contemplate child number 2.

And while we missed those who couldn’t make it (Nanny & Poppy – oh and your yummy chocolate slice hehe…) I am grateful my boy had a third birthday to remember.  Here’s hoping he thrives on these happy memories for quite a long time as I shall be going into party planning retirement for the next 48 months at least…

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Sisters By Chance, Friends By Choice

In the fluid subtleties of life, there are always people who flit in and out of our world, perhaps around only for a season, perhaps only for a reason.   

But sometimes you can be blessed with someone so special, someone that you have known your entire life, who acts a constant in an ever changing sea of faces.

She is the one I’ve turned to in every crisis I’ve ever had.

She is the reason I was able to break free from the self imposed shackles of my life a decade before, when I followed her lead and took flight from my claustrophobic world.

She is the logic to my disquiet fears, the soother of my concerns.  

She is my confidante and nurturer of my self-confidence.

She is the one who stood proudly by my side as I wed my soulmate, and helped hold my hand during the trauma of childbirth.

She is wise.

She is wonderful.

She is my rock.

She is my sister and although its blood that began this bond, it is our lifelong friendship that keeps it sustained.

Sure we had spats as siblings but still there has never been another who had my back quite like her.  She has let me lean on her during the tough times, dried my tears through the heartbreaks of my teenage and early twenties, and has never been afraid to issue me with a well warranted kick in the butt when required too! Once upon a time she also saved me from making what could have been the biggest mistake of my life.

Our early years were coloured with many sparkling highlights of youth, whether dressing up our little brother in dolls clothes, creating imaginary arch enemies to build the numbers in our games (the oh so creatively called “bad boyfriend and bad girlfriend”) or the Christmases when our city cousins would come to stay and play. (Though Sis I could have done without being forced to endure “peg perms” or you wreaking havoc on the hair of my Barbies, while yours stayed perfect and pretty. Just sayin’…)

We eventually swapped pigtails and Barbie dolls for boys, beers and backpacking, partying all over Europe, dancing on any stage we’d find, and setting up a home in London.  Together we’ve seen such wonders of the world as The Eiffel Tower, The Colosseum, stood silently and infused with pride on ANZAC Cove on April 25; we’ve cheered on as the sun set across Santorini, explored the ancient ruins of Turkey and survived almost being arrested on the Turkish boat trip from hell.  We’ve sung songs around a beach campfire in Sicily (“you’re just too good to be true…”) and hosted some crazy house parties at our old haunt Club 39. 

During my darkest days, when I lost a dear friend too soon, she dropped everything to be with me and was endlessly patient while I grappled with grief so far from home. We’ve clung to each other during crises, amidst our Dad’s massive health scare, and having to bid farewell to our beautiful grandparents.

And in the last decade, I witnessed her bring life into the world and she the same for me. I’ve seen her blossom into a beautiful mother as well as a brilliant businesswoman – and quite the awesome wife to her lucky husband G!

Although we don’t get to spend nearly as much time together as we used to, (or as I’d like to!) there is no denying the precious bond we share nor the myriad of mad and magical memories we’ve made over 32 years of being in each other’s worlds.  Happy birthday Shez, yours is a resilience I admire, and a confidence to which I aspire. Sisters by chance, friends by choice.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Reflections of a first date, 3 years on...

It was a chilly August eve when we first met. Winter had descended months before but the icy sting in the air was still somewhat surprising to me, even though I’d anticipated it being present.  It was much like the feeling of the first time our introductions were made.  I’d known for a while the day was looming when we’d finally cross paths, yet when it occurred, the shock of it still shook my foundations to the core.

Most first dates are fraught with the fear of first impressions, and the battle to reveal your best self.  But we were on an even keel here, because while you were far from polished at this initial introduction, I was no match for Heidi Klum on that night either.  To be fair, we’d endured quite the rocky road in getting to this moment in time. Glamour had hours before gone out of the equation.

In the heady cocktail of excitement and relief, I hurried to drink in the vision before me.  I had been loving you sight unseen for the last 40 weeks, but now was thirsty for the real thing.

Gushing a sigh of relief, I dared to take my first peek from beneath my puffy eyes.  Shockingly, (shallowly) my first thought was “thank God he’s cute” even though I am sure you were anything but.  In fact, as I recollect now, with the benefit of drug-free clarity, you were much like a tomato; flaming red skin, squishy to the touch, a tad misshapen and bruised on top.  But then, our eyes met.  Yours, though swollen, were a piercing blue that bored deep into the recesses of my soul, shattering any barriers that may have been clinging to unspoken fear. Eyelashes, curling forth like a perfect pipeline wave, framed your inquisitive eyes that stared relentlessly at me, as if trying to comprehend just how we came to be cradled together so intimately when we’d only just met.

To me you were flawless, even with the angry red welt that protruded from your perfectly rounded face.  I lightly traced the length of it with my finger, hoping this delicate touch would help fade any trauma that lingered because of it.  I let out a soft laugh at the sight of the tufts of hair vying for attention atop your tiny, slightly indented head.  Black as the night sky outside, they rose and fell in haphazard poetry, framing your angelic face.

Falling in soft folds, your gossamer skin was sheathed in that first flush goo, and gentle to the touch.  Then there was your little Buddha belly, announcing its arrival earlier than the rest of you, jutting forth from the tangle of limbs that held you as one. It was already demanding to be filled.

The look you gave me was a combination of comforting and unsettling.  You studied me as if we’d met before, and were being reunited after a long absence.  I felt as if you intrinsically understood that I was meant for you, and vice versa.  That fate had ensured we wind up together once more.

Perhaps you knew instinctively that very first night, that I’d need a favour here most of all here.  That because I had endured a terrible trip on the road to meeting you, you would in turn offer me a night of peace.  Teeming with adrenaline, throbbing with pain, and unceremoniously thrust into a ward with three other new mothers (one of whom made it her personal mission to ensure the entire building knew her business, with her louder than thunder voice) my stinging labour side effects left me emotionally and physically reeling.

But blessedly, you slept … And as far as first dates go, that is what I had hoped you’d do.  Sure, I was wreathed in a sweaty fear of reality, enduring an endless pulsating agony no birth book had described to me, so much so I was unsure how I would even be able to shift to pick you up, should you cry.  Maybe you knew, because you did not move.  Countless hours crept by with me unable to sleep, I watched your tiny chest rise and fall with all the grace and rhythm the angels above had intended.

Being someone who’s fascinated with superstition, I felt it a sure sign from above that this was a blind date with destiny. The supremely impressive sequence of numbers that announced your arrival into this world: 20.08.2008, at 8.20pm is rather unique!

And now, three years on, each day offers up another magical memory and milestone that we’ve moulded together. The smarting recollection of labour still haunts a little, but the very first vision of you is sheathed in sunshine, of our unforgettable first date… Happy third birthday, my beautiful boy Harrison x

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Not Just Jeans To Me

This may be the first and final time you ever see something resembling a fashion post here (I leave those to the likes of experts, such as Ms Styling You.)  But I am in mourning after the demise of a devoted pair of denim jeans. And by devoted I mean they have seen me through 36 seasons – yes, that does equate to 9 years - not to mention the various weight stages of my life, including pre, present and post pregnancy. And don’t get me started on the Heathrow Injection.  The fact these jeans saw me through this fast food and pint swilling stage of my life, when nothing else would fit nicely, eternally endears them to me!

It’s quite possible I jinxed these beloved denim jeans of mine; as recent as a week ago I remarked to The Husband that the pair of pants I was wearing had been high on my wardrobe for just under a decade. Naturally he was surprised (I think he thinks I am donning something new each week – so not the case unfortunately).  I commented that through every closet spring clean I couldn’t bring myself to part with them.  They were as faithful as any best friend and always worked to flatter me and make me feel good at any size.  I was attached in such a way I’d never known with other wardrobe items.  And now I wonder just how I will say goodbye.

They hold sentimental value as well, purchased just prior to me leaving the time of my life behind in ol London town.  Ahhh, Topshop, Oxford Circus: with 4 floors of retail bliss on offer I was a 22 year old Aussie backpacker living the Charlie in the Chocolate Factory dream. Good times indeed.

Their 1st outing, to a Greek Taverna
in Soho, London - smashing plates and
perfectly fitting jeans = heaven!
What I so adored (and the thing I have never been able to replicate in other jeans since) is the minor miracle that they were the perfect fit from the very minute I slipped them on.  And trust me, when you are just scraping in at five feet tall, this NEVER HAPPENS.  I usually spend half the price of the pair of pants getting them taken up (and then grieve over the fact they don’t quite look the same afterwards).

So, make me feel better all you doyennes of denim (or bone fide anti fashion mavens if you too are reading this) – have you ever own an item of clothing that you happily kept recycling each season, until the day they finally wore through? And enlighten me where I’ll find the next perfectly fitting pair of jeans for a five foot woman in her early thirties…!

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Boys will be boys?

Riddle me this: as a mother (and a female) is it fair to assume I will never understand the unwritten rules and overt desire that relates to little boys and rough play?

You see, I fear my son has started to resemble a Greco Roman wrestler in the playground. He wants to rumble, tackle, grapple anyone within close distance – and I for one am unaware what the boundaries of this sort of rough housing are.

Sure, some of the contenders in the ring as just as keen to show off their kiddie cage fighting skills as my son, and they duel tit for tat, under the guise of Ben 10 and his gang and the gift of imagination. But as parents (and as females) who know better, we always understand it will eventually end in tears.

Like at playgroup last week; it’s all fun and games til someone gets hit in the face with a hula hoop.

Every time I looked up from my social chit chat, there he was again barrelling down with brute force on the next unsuspecting victim. Sometimes his rough and tumble antics were greeted with equal unbridled enthusiasm, other times it was met with many tears (see hula hoop reference above). And as someone who dreads the thought of being labelled the mother of the bratty, bully boy, I was in there in a flash to extradite my overly rambunctious son from both the willing and unwilling participants of rough play and firing off embarrassed apologies every five minutes.

I’ll admit the fact Master H had been cooped up for the 24hrs prior, fighting his croup virus, may have had something to do with the torrent of toddler energy that was unleashed with force. It also may have had something to do with our playgroup were on a field trip to a kids dance class – and he had zero patience (and tolerance) for waiting for his turn in a nice orderly fashion, like many of the older kids around him.

So I ask, was I being a bit of an overly protective helicopter parent, hovering and intercepting at will, or should I have just left it to the kids to blow off steam and fight their own make believe battles? And how does he learn the difference between tough and tumble time with Daddy (which he adores and I loathe) and the lesson we ought not to act like this with any of our unwilling little friends?

Enlighten please, mothers of little men – is this akin to being a typical two year old (though that excuse is about to expire in 4 days…) and that most quite enjoy dabbling in play that to me might appear tempestuous but in their eyes is all part of the rowdy rules of boys being boys? In the wild jungle that is the playground, is it hit or be hit; tackle or be tackled? Because as far as I know as a Mum, it seems to boil down to “apologise or be apologised to” (and I am not sure yet which is the worse of the two categories to be stranded in…).

Saturday, August 13, 2011

One woman's trash is another's medicinal treasure...

Here ‘s the thing I am most grateful for this week: that the garbage man doesn’t come to collect on a Wednesday night.

Rightly you might be wondering what is the significance of this designation trash day and how does it relate to the rather odd announcement above. Well, settle in and allow me explain this tale of trash & treasure…

Fate would have it that a few days I did something quite out of character, and in a fit of spontaneous spring cleaning madness (even if it was in fact winter), I began to do a bit of de cluttering.  This included the contents of the fridge.  Because (and it could well be just me) there are always unidentified items lurking in its midst that, while not reeking of rot, have been sorely overlooked in terms of the expiry date.  

Spying a silver chemist bag tucked away behind my row of sauces, I nonchalantly tossed it over my shoulder and into the bin.  I guiltily assumed I’d left Harrison’s June dose of antibiotics lingering unnoticed instead of tossing them 6 weeks before.

And so, I didn’t bother to give that bag another thought until the early hours of Thursday morning, when a distinct sound woke me from my slumber…

If you are a parent of a child who suffers at the hands of croup, then you will understand the icy fist of fear that clenches your heart when you hear that first, oh so distinctive barking seal cough.  Nothing can wrench you from a deep sleep or rip you from the warmth of your cosy bed on a cool winter’s night like the sound of your son struggling to breathe.  The first time it happened I’m certain I lost ten years off my life

And thus a dreaded realisation dawned on me in the pale fridge light at 1am Thursday morn, while my son wheezed away in his bed; what I presumed to be an unused portion of antibiotics was actually the unused steroid prescription required right now to reopen my son’s airways!

In the interests of avoiding more middle of the night mad dashes to hospital for the steroid medicine, we were filled a prescription for these midnight emergencies.  That was back in March.  I hadn’t thought about it since.

The oversight struck with such force for a minute I was paralysed with inaction and fear.  Then I sprang to life, remembering that all was not quite lost, as long as I could locate the missing medicine.  Throwing on the lights and lunging for the kitchen bin, I began my mad rifle through but soon realised my next error.  It had already been emptied the day before and was nicely decomposing with the rest of the week’s trash in the outdoor wheelie bin.

Oh, the horror.

Feeling a bit frantic this point as the weight of this bungle hit me between the eyes, I rushed to wake the husband.  Needless to say he was less than impressed.  In a few short hours he needed to be leaving for work, and instead of getting some much needed sleep, here was I confessing the crazy error in judgement I’d just realised I’d made. 

Asking him to stand guard at the front door, I ran to retrieve the offending rubbish.  Neighbourhood Watch seemed to have shut up shop early for the night as thankfully there appeared to be no rustling of curtains or peeping out at the strange woman doing a moonlight PJ’s run to wheelie bin, to recover the required refuse. A small victory.

The husband, bleary eyed and bemused, watched over me as I donned my faithful washing up gloves and trawled through the decaying miscellany, including such delights as discarded dinner leftovers and nasty smelling night nappies, as I desperately searched for the medicinal treasure.

And amid the greasy cobwebbed concoction of waste, there it gleamed: the silver chemist bag.  Inside it, glistening like the Holy freakin’ grail of all things medicinal, was the prescription medication.     

So my boy got his much needed dose and commenced regular breathing patterns.  

I got a much needed new set of washing up gloves. And the lesson that I shall never bother with spring cleaning the fridge ever again.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Guilt Be Gone!

As you know, NappyDaze has recently started featuring a column in I-AM Magazine: click here to read or feel free to linger a little here and peruse this month's offering!


The concept of guilt is something that clutters my consciousness far too often for my liking.

I’ve written about it often in my NappyDaze blog, detailing how my guilt complex rivals the land mass of the Soviet Republic and that it’s been lingering like a poison chalice around my neck long before I joined the parenthood posse. But of course it’s morphed in to a whole new monster since then.  Because it’s no longer all about me – I have a precious little person in my world for which my axis spins.

Whilst I covet any glorious chasms of “me time” that come my way, they are ALWAYS laced with guilt.  It’s as if I have inadvertently trained my conscience to shroud these activities with secrecy, lest it depict me in an unfavourable light; such as an unloving mother who doesn’t want to spend every second of every day side by side with her offspring.

After a recent chat with my friend/ hairdresser (worthy therapists in their own right!) about my son being in in daycare whilst I concentrate on my writing dream, I mentioned I felt like I often had to skulk in and out of the centre, uncomfortably aware that it appeared I was abandoning my child in favour of a day on the couch eating chocolate and watching endless daytime TV.  Yes this was far from the reality but I had myself convinced this was how I was being (unfavourably) viewed.   

She pointed out to me “you’ve got to stop feeling so guilty! It’s not like you don’t pay them, and not like you aren’t doing something worthwhile with your time! Plus, Harrison loves it there, doesn’t he?”

Suddenly, it clicked! Yes, he does adore it, I am using this time wisely to forge a new career; and I am paying for the privilege. This sentiment was EXACTLY what I would be advocating to my friends, yet here I was, afraid to take my own advice.  

So, here’s to and end of the irrational culpability and remorse we women feel far too often. Let’s do ourselves a collective favour, and vow to go easy on the guilt trips we endure. We are just as entitled to a slice of serenity, whatever shape that may take. Because having a happy parent, who has a sense of self and sanity restored, is ultimately the best present we can give our children.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

A community service announcement for the Perfect (but as yet not an actual) Parent

It’s time to decant with a rant – and the recipient of this rile is directed at The Perfect (but as yet not an actual) Parent.

This gang get my goat often. They are the type who enjoy espousing their strongly worded opinions onto those more vulnerable prey (ie first time or overwhelmed mums) and harbour the belief that the perfect parent is not so much a myth but a plausible and achievable pursuit.

More often than not, they’re also yet to dive into the deep end of the child rearing pool, having no little people of their own on which to practice their apparently perfect parenting skills.   They also don’t quite grasp the concept that there is a difference between offering advice and butting in.  And when you haven’t had the pleasure of a child crushing your pelvic floor for 9 months (in my opinion) you aren’t qualified to put forward your unsolicited opinion.

The other day I came across a mum who was juggling her unhappy child in the midst of a crowded café, bustling with its lunch time trade.  Now I was not at all perturbed by the toddler shenanigans, and I envisage most other mothers present wouldn’t have been as well.  I was actually silently applauding her for keeping such a cool façade in the face of her son’s fracas, mentally taking tips for the next time my own child was due one of these scenes.  However once the lady left, a plume of vitriol descended over the table of two young ladies who had obviously not been enjoying their salad sandwiches.

 “If that was my son, I’d have taken him outside and shown him who was boss” one self righteously huffed, while her companion agreed emphatically, swinging her perfectly blow-dried blond locks over her well dressed shoulder.

“Imagine letting a child get away with whining like that all the time. That’s just not on”.

It was all I could do not to walk over and slap them into seeing sense.

ALL mothers know that these situations are unavoidable. I don’t care whether you have been awarded Peacemaker Mother of The Year, and your offspring are angels incarnate.  There will come a time when you or your child will have a bad day. They will channel the 80’s evil child doll Chuckie and ensure your every shred of patience and serenity vanishes quicker than an US retiree’s savings on the Stock Exchange. And it will likely all play out in some public arena, for the viewing pleasure of all in the vicinity.

So here’s a novel idea for the members of this nasty gang:  instead of attacking a mother behind her back for the way in which she chooses to handle her child in a temperamental situation, how about empathising with her and sending some love her way?  Even a sympathetic smile can make a world of difference, such as the other day when Master H went into full scale nuclear meltdown mode, throwing himself down on the tiled entrance of the Chemist, having been dragged in and out of the car one too many times that particular day.  The Pharmacist gave me a kind “sisterhood” smile that told me she’d walked in my shoes before.  There was no judgement, no butting in with unwanted advice, and no reproach in her eyes.  In fact she may well have been thinking “Damn I am glad those days are well behind me!” (I’d not have begrudged her that thought!)

Do not, as the not-so-nice-yet-blessed-with-youth hairdresser I was forced out of desperation to take Master H to once, huff and puff and snap angrily him, as he grew increasingly agitated with his personal space being invaded: “if you’d just stopped crying and moving around I’d have been finished right now”.  Part of me just wanted to shrivel into the cracks of the floor, as I made the decision to remove him from her wrath, with only half of his hair cut complete. But the more incensed side of me cast a curse on her as I skulked away with my screaming child; that once her child bearing days are due, karma comes back to bite her on the bum in the form of a screaming banshee baby. 

Because as we bone fide parents know all too well, what goes around comes around (particularly when it comes to vomit and poo…) so all of you perfect yet-to-be-actual-parents beware of what potential karmic consequences await J

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Europe Encountered - The French Finale

Sunset, Eiffel Tower Style

Tis time to fill you all in on the French Finale, which will draw a long overdue close to this novel-like travel reflection. Drum roll please.......  

Day 10 dawned on our merry little Contiki crew, many of us greeting the day with heavy heads as a result of over inebriation from the previous night’s onslaught at Space Electronic. Needless to say, the bus trip from Italy to France would have to go down as the quietest in all the sixteen days as there was not a soul on the bus (except for Pete the bus driver of course!) who wasn't feeling any ill effects from the night before. Sleep had been in desperate short supply, and it was as if we all just hit the wall simultaneously!

However, once we caught that elusive first glimpse of the stunning aqua blue Mediterranean Sea, we sprang to life as the realisation of where we were about to embark was upon us.....two nights on the famous French Riviera. Ahh... Bliss...   

As our bus weaved its way down and around the winding road we each oohed and aahed at the magnificence of the scenery and silently pondered just how fabulously the other half (that being the extremely wealthy half) lived.   

That night we visited the principality of Monaco, and after dining in Monte Carlo, sat sipping cocktails in a casino that overlooked the spectacular harbour, Mohammed Al Fayed's yacht swaying delicately in all its majestic glory, seemingly gloating at we mere plebs.  

Our respective reverie's broken, we boarded the bus again and were treated to a trip around the Monaco Grand Prix Circuit, and although the Rainbow Bus could not quite match it with the makes of Mikka, to Pete’s credit, he certainly did his best to imitate those mad racing moguls, screeching the breaks, squealing the tyres, and answering our chants for more by revving the bus to its max.   Slowing down to a calmer speed, we drove by the Royal Palace of Monaco, and noted with interest that the royal flags was flying, an indication that the family was in residence that night. And considering this was a decade prior to playboy Price Albert’s wedding you can imagine the excitement this caused for some of the girls travelling with us.  

We continued on partying to the early hours of the morning at a local nightclub, with the enticing thought of having a full day off the next day keeping the adrenaline pumping. It didn’t matter that I had had about a total of three or four hours sleep in two days - I had all day to lay in the dazzling sunshine the next day to soothe my sore bones, and recharge and revitalise for the last few days on tour.  

Sunning ourselves on one of the most famous stretches
of coastline in the world: The French Riviera
And, oh, what a glorious way to spend a Sunday! At 11am we sauntered down from our closeby hotel to the one of the world's most well known stretches of coastline, where the famous frolic, and the powerful people play, accompanied on this day by a small group of Contikians trying their hand at imitating this luxuriating lifestyle.   We lolled about on deckchairs, alternating between soaking up the divine sunshine, and diving into the refreshing sea all day long and just when we felt as if we had successfully mastered the technique of being waited on, it was sadly time to go...  

Raw from the excessive exposure to sunlight meant that the next day was a bit of a struggle for me. My skin had succumbed to the "Pommy Factor” after living in London, and it did not handle the sudden change to climate too well.  A few good lashings of Aloe Vera were indeed in order so as to enable me to even walk!  

We called in to the Papal City Avignon and witnessed the Palace of the Popes as we strolled through the busy streets. The heat was stifling, and the air conditioning of the bus was never more than a blessing than on this afternoon as we headed north towards Lyon

I was really quite taken with pretty little town, strolling through its centre til we found somewhere special to eat a fantastic and hugely filling dinner, washing it down with a couple of bottles of sweet wine. It was here I decided to stretch my rather limited palette and attempt to devour a traditional French delicacy - snails! I have to admit I was more than a little dubious as Roberto passed me the fork laden with a tiny sample of this slimy cuisine. Squeezing my eyes shut, and willing myself not to think about the fact that I was about to eat something that was commonly found in my parent’s garden, I took the plunge and bit into it. And, surprise, surprise, I loved it!  

The Golden City of Paris was to greet us the next day and from the very first glance of the Eiffel Tower in the distance, I became totally entranced with this pristine city. I know without a moment’s doubt in my mind that this was my favourite destination, as I was utterly overcome with awe each and every time we passed yet another famous landmark. It was just divine.  

Climbing the Eiffel Tower too, was mind-blowing! Being up there it felt as if I was finally fulfilling a dream. This was something I had always hoped to do, and thank God my vertigo didn’t hamper my enjoyment of the outlook from the top. I was just so entranced any queasy thoughts vanished!

In the evening we were treated to a twilight tour around the main monuments of Paris. And the final effect - it further fashioned my love for this city that was just so swollen with patriotic pride. 

Group shot in front of Paris's most
famous attraction
 We had the whole of the next day to envelope ourselves in the ambience of Gay Paree, visiting the gothic, yet overpoweringly beautiful Notre Dame Cathedral (at the time declaring this was where I’d be holding my future wedding, no less!), climbed the horrendous amount of winding stairs to reach to top of the Arc De Triomphe, strolled down the Champs Ellyses, and can now also lay claim to the fact that I have witnessed the enigmatic Mona Lisa up close in all her surreal mystery whilst at the Louvre. To actually get close enough to get to the front of the queue required the implementation of some of my 'Tube Techniques'. ie, elbows out and just push!, and hey presto, you are front and centre!  

The Arc De Triomphe was also an event within itself!!  There is an accident on this most famous roundabout about every six minutes, and after seeing for myself how the crazy French motorists drive, I am not surprised! We witnessed many near misses, and it was quite a hilarious spectacle to behold from the safety of our high deck bus. (Though I would not have liked to be a passenger in any of the cars attempting to safely enter the fray!)   And, I was also not aware until the seconds prior to our turn to negotiate the roadway, that no one was covered by Travel Insurance at this time.  Not a comforting thought if you have no faith in your driver, but Pete, of course, did not let us down!  

And then, before I knew it, the dreaded Day 16 had arrived and it was time to say goodbye to all my fantastic new friends who had become like family to me.   It really was a more sombre mood that day, heightened for me by our stop in at Vimy Ridge, a WWI Canadian War Memorial.

It was eerie as I walked towards the impressive monument, an ominous thunder rumbling in the distance. It was as if one could almost feel the pain still lingering in such a sacred place, the horrific effects of war seizing control the atmosphere for all time. And the undulating fields that surrounded the area as a result of Trench warfare added to the overall poignancy felt as I stood in silence surveying the scene before me. It did not matter that I was wet from the rain falling above; that was nothing compared to the events played out here some 80 odd years before.  

Our final blaze of Glory (and “Safety Dance”!) was to come after we returned to our starting point in London, partying at the London Pub and Cheers Bar, one last assault as a Contiki group and time for some teary goodbyes after one of the most memorable times in my life.

Put your hands in the air like you just dont care...
The 22 year old in me will eternally cherish the carefree days of encountering Europe via Contiki; it was character building and inspiring in every possible way! From what started out something nervously akin to a Year 8 Excursion with all the rules and regulations meted out to us on Day One, we successfully produced many magical moments and amazing friendships that still linger with me a decade on. 

"We can go where we want to
A place where they will never find
And we can act like we come from out of this world
Leave the real one far behind
And we can dance” *

*('Safety Dance' by Men Without Hats, Contiki Theme song 2001)

Friday, August 5, 2011

Jumping for Jeans for Gene's Joy!

Yes, that is Master H, wishing everyone a very happy Jeans for Gene's Day - and wearing his Daddy's specially designed donation shirt!  (As you can see, the attempt at getting him to capture Mummy strutting her stuff in denim didnt go down too well but please do enjoy the abstract camera angles of my front garden!)

If you haven't already done so, be sure to don the denim and support this worthy cause, which raises money to support the Children's Medical Research Institute.  They are fighting the good fight, to both extensively research childhood genetic diseases and unlock the mysteries that surround them.  All parents, whether blessed with healthy offspring or otherwise, should feel humbled that there is such a dedicated foundation focusing on this issue.  Because as 1 in 20 births result in some sort of genetic  or congenital abnormality, there but for the grace of God goes you or I...      

A special thanks, this Jeans for Genes Day also goes to the lovely Karen (aka MiscMum!) who ran a comp on her blog to spread the word on this worthy cause.  Happily my name was picked as the random winner and now our little family is not only rockin some too cool Jeans for Genes supporter wear, but were able to indulge in some Jeans West retail therapy after being sent a $250 gift card!  While The Husband and I went about updating our wardrobe with some funky new essentials, Master H decided that all he was interested in was the oversized (on him!) Jeans For Genes t-shirt that he proudly models in the video clip.  So attached did he become to it that he insisted on wearing it to playgroup today.  Here he is rocking the "boho chick" look on the tramp!

A shout out too, to the team at Ogilvy PR who sent me my very own J4G patch, to proudly display today, to help promote this commendable charity.

Please, be sure to visit the Jeans for Genes website, for more information, or to donate. At the very least, wear your denim and keep the discussion going, long after today is done and dusted.  Spread the word, far and wide, to keeping jumping for Jeans for Gene's and bring joy, bring prevention and hopefully one day, bring cures to the scores of children affected.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Cant cook for quids...

Here’s the thing about me that is bound to make me unpopular with the vast majority of TV viewers in Australia – I loathe cooking shows. Most likely because I also loathe cooking.

If the ratings are anything to go by, I know I am an island on this one. Millions of people are tuning in to watch culinary cults such as Masterchef and My Kitchen Rules each week, yet I can safely state, hand on heart I have never seen a full episode of either  (let alone even a single minute of the MKR franchise).  Even the jingle to “Ready, Steady Cook” irritates me in a nails on a chalkboard kind of way that I cannot explain.  To me it is not enough to be a food lover to watch these offerings, (which I am) because of the fact I fail rather spectacularly as a food creator. And no TV show can convince me otherwise that I will ever be game enough to attempt a croquembouche for tonight’s dessert offering, or make a meal out of a various assortment of random ingredients.  

Sometimes I convince myself the reason I am not more gastronomically gifted is that I just don’t have the time. Come nightfall and I am (mostly) home alone with the toddler, trying to painstakingly put together some fancy feast, while simultaneously juggling bath time seems like a literal recipe for disaster.  Then there’s the stronger than average chance Master H will shun the meticulously, loving created dish in favour of fish fingers…  

And speaking of recipes – it’s likely just me, but they might as well be written in Swahili for all I understand from them.  How the hell does one flambé a banana for example?? 

My nearest and dearest thankfully (sadly) are aware of my lack of culinary prowess and generally cut me some slack.  “My skills lay in other areas” is my standard disclaimer attached to any meal I offer up.  I don’t mind cooking for others, but I am often nervous as hell about the taste and appearance of the finished product.  Even as recently as last Saturday night, when I invited my brother in law to stay for dinner I managed to not only inadvertently pass off the cooking duties to him, but even burn the one thing I was responsible for – the garlic bread!  Oh yes, hostess with the mostess, that is me… While I did repeatedly offer to resume the cooking duties he’d assumed while I multi-tasked with other household chores, he insisted on overseeing the production.  And damn he did a kick-ass job – Master H and I are still revelling in the left overs days later!

Might I just add, this is the brother-in-law I speak of, who is featured in this months Cleo!  

The husband too has been a wonderful utensil that all Australian kitchens should come standard with.  The fact he has never once complained about the fare I’ve served him up with over the years surely shows the way to his heart has thankfully not been via his stomach, as is the tradition with most romances. It must be love on his part because I know at times it’s far from inspiring food he’s coming home too, yet he never complains (probably because he’d then be coming home to Vegemite on Toast – which incidentally I could live off if it came to that). At times however, I surprise myself, such as last week, on his birthday, when I pushed myself out of my comfort zone to cook him an entirely new meal made from an actual recipe (one thankfully NOT written in Swahili) – one that I know was a success because the super fussy child actually polished off the entire bowl!   

So even though I am sure the rampage of cooking shows will continue to dominate our TV screens, it will do nothing to cure this cooking affliction of mine.  And despite the years of practice I’ve had in trying to retrain my culinary challenged brain I will just accept I may always be miserable failure on the food front.  I’ll just remind myself if all else fails vegemite on toast will do me just fine.