Monday, June 23, 2014

When Life Takes Away Your Lemons

"When life gives you lemons ..."

It's a saying we've all heard. When life gives us proverbial lemons, we crack jokes. Make lemonade. Ask for sugar and water. Squirt them in people's eyes. Get your friends to bring salt and tequila. Bake a pie.

We make jokes until we squeeze our way out of our sour situation into sweeter territory (terrible puns intended). But what happens when the situation spins a full 180, reverses right up onto your expectations, and life takes your lemons away instead? 

I recently had the juice knocked out of my tumbler when the universe decided to play havoc with the natural order of destruction, and take away my lemons - and the tree on which the lemons grew, and the backyard in which the tree stood, and the house over which the tree shaded.

The phone call from the landlord came on a nondescript Wednesday afternoon, an unceremonious conversation to announce that our beloved wild backyard was to be turned over the future: a scraggly grass canvas for a blonde-brick two-story townhouse resplendent with shortened eaves, double garage, paved courtyard and secure gun-metal grey letterbox. 

It would all have to go - the archaic lemon tree and it's communal bevy of produce, the stone fruit tree that ripened from hard to rotten with no in-between, the swaying verandah frame and it's pepper-holed polycarbonate roofing sheets, and the useless bicycle-part-and-reflector-light scarecrow buried beneath the overgrown lawn.

In the space of one phone call, I was brought back down to the reality that I was a tenant and not a home-owner, perched precariously in someone else's house at the permission of their contractual obligations and the mercy of their lifestyle choices, mortgage repayments and blonde-brick two-story townhouse dreams.

More the point, I was brought crashing down to the reality that we would have to move house. Again. With a dog. And a toddler. And three bedrooms full of furniture and cloth nappies and singing walkers and the general accumulated crap of two exhausted parents and a miniature hoarder with a penchant for shiny objects.

There was shock. There was panic. There was anger. There was extreme ranting at my husband, who looked like he might quite like to move house all by himself just to get away from me for a while. Then there was sweet, sweet denial.

The denial phase was kind to us. We had visitors from interstate, we potted plants in the yard, we bought more crap that would eventually have to move house with us, and our daughter  even managed to turn one, complete with a coming of age tricycle and number one birthday cake.

And so it was that we found ourselves knee deep in the aftermath of first birthday celebrations, covered in sticky green icing and crumpled wrapping paper, when the tree loppers arrived to exterminate the backyard and our ability to ignore the situation any longer.

The sound was horrific, much like a toddler squealing their dissatisfaction with the removal of their favourite toy, or a labouring woman expressing her vehement disagreement with her partner's decision to sit down for a quick cuppa and ham and tomato sandwich in the middle of transition.

After several hours of auditory torture, the tree lopping crew and the trees were gone, and with them, the sense of home. Without the trees, without the lemons, without the sun dappled light and the scratchy leaves and the boughing branches banging on the window, our rambling old terrace was nothing but an old house that belonged to someone else - crumbling mortar, sagging front door, cracked pavement, broken lattice, haggard tree stumps and an unshakeable tendency toward shedding dust and attracting ants.

Inspired by the devastation, we packed up our denial and our belongings and got out of there as quickly as we could. One truck, fifteen car trips, seven million trailer loads, and only a handful of tears and swear words, and we have successfully transplanted ourselves into another inner-outer-inner suburb, with the dog and toddler and tricycle all still (relatively) intact.

We don't have any lemons anymore, or a magnificent old lemon tree in a ramshackle old yard to shade under in the summer months. But we do have a giant olive tree out the front of the new place that looks like it's going to deliver in abundance.

Tapenade, anyone?

M x

Saturday, May 10, 2014

International Blog Swap Day 2014 - A Bloggy Blind Date with Cookies and Cwtches

It's International Blog Swap Day, and I'm lucky enough to have been partnered up and sent on a bloggy 'blind date' with the delightful Lina from Cookies and Cwtches. To mark the occasion, Lina has a written a special guest post! To really put the swap in International Blog Swap Day, I will be blogging over at Cookies and Cwtches today as well, make sure you head over to say g'day.

Hi I’m Lina and I blog over at Cookies and Cwtches. Cwtches is the Welsh word for cuddle or hug! I am 32 and a mummy to two little girls aged 7 and 3 and have another little one due in a couple of months.

As I’m writing this post for International Blog Swap Day I thought I would just introduce myself, my blog and tell you a little bit about me.

I live in a small town in Wales although I was born and grew up in London. Moving to Wales was a big change for me – there is much more countryside, the people are nicer and the houses are much cheaper than I was used to in London! I think Wales is a really nice area for children to grow up but I do get homesick for the hustle and bustle of London sometimes!

I started my blog because I love writing, and thought it would be a great record of my children’s growing up years. I write a lot about parenting in general as well as our little family memories too. I also really enjoy cooking and crafts and like to record recipes and our craft activities on the blog as well as share these ideas with other people who may be reading.  

To give you an idea of what I like to write about here are some links to some of my more popular posts…

A big thank you to Mumdanity for hosting my post…do pop over to my blog where she will be writing a guest post of her own.

Thanks to Lina for her post - head on over to her blog too!

Thursday, April 3, 2014

The Wintry Side of the Equation

It's been nearly two months now since I slipped into the exhausting slipstream thick of working-mum life. Most of the life dust has settled, but I am struggling to find out exactly where the time has gone, and where the halves of all the sad and single socks in our neglected washing basket have buggered off to. 

Somewhere, between reclaiming my work skirts from the back of the wardrobe and trying to source, chop, crumb, bake and pleadingly squeeze zucchini sticks into an eleven month old each evening, the trademark Australian summer days have shifted toward the wintery side of the annual equation. 

In true transitional fashion, we are still getting a smattering of hot days wedged in among the cold ones, but they are fast becoming the warm exception to the chilly rule, like finding a prized full noodle in a packet of resolutely broken ones.

For the most part, though, the long rambling evenings of the summer months have given way to the crisp mornings of April, and the train station platform has seen a resurgence of black tights, well-loved boots and mid-length coats topped off with football scarves. 
Our cold dinners have given way to casseroles, fish and chips at the beach have been replaced with fish and chips on the lounge room floor, and picnics in the park are teetering indecisively on the precipice of seasonal give. 

In the same vein, the tantalizing waft of summer barbecues has been phased out by the acrid smell of wood fire smoke, piping from a medley of disparate chimneys as fireplaces are cleaned and test-fired in readiness for the battle of the temperatures that lies ahead. 

The leaves are starting to switch on the trees, going out in sympathy with the browning grass and the gnarling twigs, ready to peter out as daylight savings does and fall to the footpath when the first windscreens ice up in the morning. 

My crumbling old house in the inner-outer-inner suburbs of Melbourne is also showing the signs of the season, with the last good lemons throwing themselves from the tree and the cobwebs closing in on the windows that no longer need to be opened.  

To protest the shift in the the weather, a small but formidable army of mice have found their way through the cracks, making a mockery of the endless deficiencies in our antique door seals and off-kilter walls and skirting boards. 

The washing machine is now full of sturdy toddler trousers, footed pajamas and corporate shift dresses and tights - a far cry from the primary colour carnival of short-sleeve onesies, cotton nappy covers and sensible breastfeeding singlets that have been swallowed up by the missing weeks. 

The seasonal shift has even got the washing line preparing for hibernation, catching its last few weeks of relatively useful sun before it will be forced to slink off into a cool grey corner of the backyard for the duration of the lacklustre-laundry winter months. 

Somewhere, somehow, summer has turned to autumn, new year has turned to mid year, daycare has turned from new to routine, bottles have turned to cups, crawling has turned to stepping, fast has turned to much faster and I still can't find a pair of matching socks - and by time time I do, my daughter will have outgrown them anyway!

Has time crept up on you lately?

M x

Friday, February 28, 2014

Time and Biscuits

It's been a few non-alcoholic drinks between posts, but I'm back and flumped on the good old blogging couch, recovering from my first foray into the working mummy world. 

After a year in the twenty-four-seven parenting game, with teethers and tantrums and teddies (and tearing out my brittle hair with alarming frequency and effectiveness), I was ready and almost excitedly waiting for my return to work to herald an upheaval of epic proportions. 

Prepared to be swallowed whole by the real world and seventeen thousand red-flagged emails, I put on a skirt, jammed some breastpads down my bra, wiped the toast from my blouse, grabbed a child unfriendly muesli bar and slobber-free water bottle and retraced the steps of my previous life to the train station.

Stepping back through the grimy doors of the morning peak hour train turned out to be an unpleasantly pleasant letdown, like a return to the same point in the mundane romance novel I had completely forgotten I was reading last year. 

For the most part, it appears the same cast of characters from my previous life chapter are all still on stage and ready for the next sector of my working journey - appropriately sleepy, hairsprayed, briefcased, toothpasted, headphoned and jaded.

The key players are still there, playing their parts. The angry girl who somehow manages to squeeze goth streetwear into the conformity of nine-to-five office attire. The mousey haired woman with the eternally crumpled jacket and sensible lunch bag. The obnoxious bicycle man with the exceptionally oversized backpack. The guy with the epic collection of fantasy novels. And the usual cluster of Carriage Seven school girls decked out in blue and white and stripe and straw. 

Despite the slap of a bitter winter and a long scorching summer, the train still bucks just the same way on the tracks that it always did. The ticket machines malfunction just as frequently, the wind still rips through the station overhang with the same ferocity, the tram dings the same way it always has, and the coffee place halfway between the tram and the office still takes as inhumanly long as isn't really possible to make a short latte on the run. 

Time has passed and the calendar has come full circle, but the time warp has found its way into the office as well. Colleagues have come and gone, the phone system has been replaced, and the cream biscuits in the communal kitchen tin have sadly been replaced by plain - but the calls still come and the issues still run and the fluorescent lights still flicker just the same. 

My business cards are still in the second desk drawer, along with a forgotten pump pack of moisturiser, silver coins leftover from the ghost of coffees past, and a pile of long-forgotten filing tattooed with my trademark scrawling sticky notes and bent paperclips. Evidence that I did exist here once before, and that my pregnancy brain was in full swing when I packed up my desk a year ago.

Somehow, right through the soul shattering screaming match of birth and the sleep deprivation of early parenthood, my ability to function behind a desk and my recall of procedures and protocols and important calendar dates and phone extension numbers has remained intact. 

Even my name has been retained in the complicated new phone system, which I have no idea how to use, almost as if my parallel self was there in the office all along while I wasn't. Or was I?

It feels eerily like I've walked back into a parallel universe, one that was mine and is mine, but actually wasn't and isn't and won't be mine at all, even if the cream biscuits are returned to their rightful tin. 

Sitting at my old desk, trying to feel current, trying to pick reality from real, it is plain that while some elements of my universe are identical to how they used to be, others have flown the coop and have no intention of ever coming back down from the big blue sky.

Belonging and longing have become two entirely separate but identical things, divided into a smattering of small segments that can never be put back together the way that they started, but will also somehow be one and the very same. 

If it wasn't for the exploding boobs and the desperate need to pick up some carrots and teething gel and make it to the childcare centre by six, I could almost get sucked into the time warp and let belonging and longing rest together in the filing cabinet until 5pm. 

Almost, almost, nearly. But not quite.

Have you discovered any parallel universes on your parenting journey? I'd love to hear your stories.

M x  

Friday, February 14, 2014

A Little Spot of Romance

Not yet seven and the baby's screaming -
good morning anyway, my tired Valentine.

Disheveled and sweaty in the least sexy way,
but I'm terribly glad we are yours and mine.

Please shut that superfluous alarm up,
it's trashing our orchestra of screams;
too late, the romance is playing dead, 
gone to dally with quiet morning dreams. 

We're up, she's up, the house is up,
Cupid, why can't we all just be down?
The dog is barking into the cacophony,
we must be waking up the entire town.  

I think there's fresh clothes on the floor, 
definitely dirty dishes looking for a clean;
yes, I know the household is a bit askew,
I'm going for the on-trend ramshackle lean.

Watch yourself, my coffee slurping Valentine,
Mini Cupidess just put weetbix on your shirt;
don't worry, rub it in with the banana gunk
And the miscellaneous congregated baby dirt.

Now I got you a card, all glittering and cheap,
Picked with love and thrift at the grocery store;
goodbye, take the garbage on your way out, 
There's no room in the kitchen bin anymore.

Naps, no naps, and tipped up sippy cups, 
avocado painting on the high chair seat;
high time to inhale a bag of gummy bears,
Mummy's sneaky own Valentine's treat. 

The dog's attacking the kitchen door again,
and balance has left the washing machine;
I'll let the mop make out with the broom
and leave tomorrow to work on being clean.

Hello, can you hear me, are you in the car, 
can you pick up more loo paper on the way?
I'll put the baby down and then we'll have 
our shortened parental style Valentine's Day. 

Carbonara, wine, some parmesan cheese,
And three candles on the television stand;
not the classiest restaurant in the suburb
but ample quality for exhausted demand. 

Documentary down and lounge lamp on low,
there's enough time for a spot of romance yet;
no, you're not imagining it, the baby's awake,
that wine is as lucky as you're going to get. 

Let's go to bed with a synchronized flump,
to pass out cold as we both just need to do;
let all the energetic love birds eat our dinner,
while we sleep and snore and love me and you. 

What is your Valentine's Day story?

M x

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

The Philosophy of In-Between

Everything we do in our lives is underpinned by something else - by our circumstances, our individual histories, our beliefs, our passions, our guiding principles, and the underlying framework of philosophies we have picked up and crafted along the way.

With personal philosophies being such individual works of art, constructed over many years with the paint of life and some random glitter and paddle pop sticks, it is fair to contend that no two philosophical outlooks are the same.

Some people I know have a firm 'less is more' outlook on the world, while others believe success is measured by the volume of stuff we can fit in our wardrobes and under our beds.

Some individuals operate on the basis that we should always look before we leap, while others give the most credence to digging in and getting covered in elbow grease, or eating their cake and having it too, or always thinking the worst to ensure they cut any possible disappointment off at the pass.

As can be seen from a quick tour of the personal philosophy gallery, our inner minds are all individual mixed bags, peppered with the random scrapings and tidbits left on the serving spoon after we've dished up the best our grey matter has to offer.

While there is plenty of philosophical debris flying around my mental cavity, every decision I make oscillates around the same immovable philosophy that has weathered the emotional roller coaster of my being, and the tumultuous climb of my teenage years and twenties: the philosophy of in-between.

My kid mind was introduced to the foundational milk crates of the philosophy of in-between by my grade five teacher, Mrs C, who specalised in delivering real-life lessons with a booming primary teachers voice, a perpetual waft of stale cigarette smoke, and an unjaded - unjadable - twinkle in her eye.

Mrs C was that amazing teacher you always wanted and never had. She left a fifty dollar note on her desk on the first day of the year and picked it up again on the last, leaving an unspoken lesson of trust in its place. She photocopied her weekend newspapers and taught us how to complete cryptic crosswords as well as close passages, a skill that I still lean on every time I wait in a departure lounge or have breakfast at a cafe.

She took maths problems off the board and turned them into blocks and books and other physical equations, and took book reviews and creative writing to whole new levels I never previously conceived possible. She took my ability to write and turned it into a passion for words, and an almost terrifying worship of crisp scented, freshly purchased library books.

Most importantly, though, even above the fifty dollar note of trust and the ability to detect an anagram in an apparently innocuous crossword clue, Mrs C imparted the wisdom that allowed me to unearth the philosophy of in-between.

True to her no-bullshit-but-eternally-cryptic style, she delivered the guts of the philosophy wrapped up in a discussion about our impending transition from gangly primary school kids to impressively cool-cat high school students.

She explained that during the six week space i
n-between the end of primary school and the beginning of high school, we would become high schoolers: we would cease to be children and immediately become teenagers, with highly effective legs and impressive waterproof capabilities that would miraculously allow rain to roll off us just like water off a ducks back.

We would no longer need to catch the bus to school or get a lift to our friends house two blocks over. We would also no longer need to be dropped off at the school gates or picked up from the basketball courts when it rained, and no longer have any practical use for umbrellas or raincoats or plastic ponchos or sensible coats. 

While most of the class giggled and turned back to their maths equations, eager to secure an early mark through being the first to return their correctly completed answer sheet to the front, my analytical little mind went into overdrive.

Hidden within the important lecture about my impending magical transformation into a high school duck, I had uncovered the philosophy of in-between:
somehow, somewhere, in-between one momentous occasion in our lives and the next, we will always find it within ourselves to adapt and carry on.  

The philosophy of in-between hit me like a ton of happy bricks, heavy with the previously unimagined lifetime of changes, possiblities and endless versions of myself. This was mind blowing stuff for an eleven year old, who previously hadn't thought much beyond the grade six farewell dance and the end of year dance concert.

I went into cogitation meltdown: if we humans could change in the mere breaths in-between primary school and high school, then we humans (and me, could obviously change in-between other milestones too. 

For the very first time, I became aware that I would actually change as I grew, instead of just getting taller and bigger and older and wrinklier. The continual ebb and flow of circumstance and scenario would unintentionally change me, and the continual ebb and flow of me would change to deliberately affect circumstance and shift scenarios as well.

There were light bulbs flicking on and burning out everywhere. I would change in-between my first kiss and my second, I would change in-between finishing the flag wade era at Nippers and starting the surf swim years, I would change in-between being allowed to go the shopping centre by myself for the first time and deciding to make my very own independent purchase, and I would change in-between learning to drive and being allowed to take the car out on the road solo for the first time.

This was mental gold, and I quickly adopted the idea as my own personal philosophy. Like the best play dough squashed deep within the carpet fibres, it has stuck with me ever since and thankfully served me very well, seeing me through all the big bumps and railway crossings and terrible green curries of life without ever letting me down. 

The philosophy rang true in-between finishing high school and starting university, when I changed from being an energetic high school kid with delusions of future grandeur to a fiercely realistic first year with just enough cash for a cheap floor fan and a five-pack of Mi-Goreng noodles. 

The philosophy was out in force when my husband and I made the transition from the country to inner-outer-inner suburban Melbourne a few years ago, with my inner country girl (mostly) adapting overnight to the twenty-four-seven mayhem and buzz, built from an endless procession of trams and trains and taxis and takeaway joints.

The philosophy's 'carry on' attitude rang in my ears while I adjusted to the omnipresent street lights and being able to hear my neighbours talking through the bedroom wall, and catching public transport to work every day and crossing the road with hundreds of strangers pressing against my shoulders.

Not to be ousted with the move, the philosophy kept me company again in-between losing my first pregnancy and deciding to try again; I shifted and changed in ways I didn't even know possible, growing harder and softer, hotter and colder, younger and older, all at the same sad yet unavoidable time.

The marathon of pregnancy challenged the philosophy time and exhausting time again, but somehow it stood firm, with my body adapting and then re-adapting to meet the growing needs and demands of my mushrooming on-board monster - morning sickness, water retention, leaky bladder, frightfully blooming breasts and prolific weight gain included. 

The philosophy really came into it's own in the short but important space in-between the screaming throes of labour (did someone say never, ever again?!) and the first night feed in the maternity ward. In that small window of time, when the world and my hormones and the screaming baby and the very friendly midwives required me to change more than I ever had before, I pulled on all reserves I didn't know I had, and I charged on through the adaptation wall.

In the space of a single wheelchair ride to the ward, I forever changed from being a puffy, sweaty  pregnant lady to being a MUM, who could stay awake for days at a time and change a nappy and try and breastfeed and hold my water bottle and nipple shield in my teeth and still feel (relatively) happy and in love.

In-between being discharged from the hospital and coming to grips with being a stay-at-home mother, in-between wanting to sleep and realising my baby didn't, in-between wanting to clean the house and needing to feed the baby, in-between my baby learning to sit up and my baby learning to crawl, in-between sending my baby to daycare two days a week and deciding to re-enter the workforce, I adapted - like we must, and we will, and we do.

It's tiring, this adaptation business. When I think I can't possibly adapt anymore, when I am bursting at the seams with frustration and exhaustion and hanging out for a glass of white wine and twelve months of motionless, stagnant reality, I remember my philosophy: in-between the moments, we will always find it within ourselves to adapt, and we will always carry on.

What are your personal philosophies?
What drives you forward every day?

M x

Brilliant blog posts on

Friday, January 31, 2014

Underneath the Fever

When my daughter started child care earlier this month, I knew that we would be up against a steady wave of daycare ailments and illnesses, resplendent and resilient in all their combined snotty, sniffly, snuffly glory. 

While I am not entirely naive, my first-time-mummy-self optimistically believed there would be an adjustment period, a blissful and relatively sustained snot-free time in the sand box before the first illness set in. 

Over my morning cups of sleepy coffee and cogitation, I always imagined my daughter's immune defenses to be nothing short of a solid wall, carefully constructed from nine months of exclusive breastfeeding bricks and iron-fortified cereal mortar. 

Every day, I would wrap my hands around the coffee cup, warming my fingers and the cockles of my naivety with the happy notion that it would take weeks, months, maybe even years, for the nasty viruses of the childcare world to chip away at that impressive wall.

I was delusional. Downright - stark raving, looney-tune, kilo bag of mixed salted nuts, dancing by myself on the side of the road in my worst holey underwear, seeing Bette Midler and Hugh Grant buying crumpets in a Melbourne supermarket, eating chalk seasoned with toothpaste for dinner - DELUSIONAL. 

Perhaps I drank too much coffee, or too few cups of the stuff, but I can openly confess that the great wall of baby immunity that I had built in my head was nothing but a shimmering mirage in a mental desert of exhausted parenting madness.  

It took all of two short days in care for my previously non-snotty daughter to lick the communal toys, lick some stolen sippy cups, and presumably lick the other babies and the educators and the nursery floor as well, and pick up her first unidentified daycare malady. 

The first sign of the unwelcome bug was when the baby's nose started to run away with itself - but much like with a nest of white ants, the framework was damaged beyond repair by the time the work showed itself on the surface. 

The opening days of the illness parade were uneventful: snot, snot and more snot, with a bit of grumbling and a lot of forcefully refuted saline spraying, nasal suctioning and unavoidable nose wiping.

The fanfare kicked up a notch about the time we ran out of tissues, when my daughter's liquid leak took on a distinctive indistinct yellow-greenish hue (the one time you really don't want to be wearing the Australian sporting colours), and the bug also jumped ship and took up residence in my nose and throat. 

Things became unpleasant. I was hot and sweaty and grumpy, and so was the baby. Our heads were abuzz with aches and thumps and the house was floating in an unpleasant haze of toxic little tissue parcels and lethargy. We couched, with Peppa Pig and Hootabelle and Elmo and all his friends filling the inevitable void.

Proving faithful old Murphy was still hard at work down at the law firm even while we were lazing about on our sick beds, my darling little liquid-leaker chose the height of our fuzzy head-cold woozies to become completely and hysterically terrified of all things sneezing, and all things nose blowing.

Every sneeze elicited an intense bout of screaming, accompanied by the angry kicking of little feet against the carpet. Every nose blown into a tissue, whether it was a petite little exhale of negligible proportions or a thunderously productive and powerful achoo, resulted in the baby turning red, scrunching up her face in the most unpleasant manner and squealing at the highest possible volume on her inbuilt speaker.

Just as the malady parade reached fever pitch, and the balloons started to drift off into the sky to make an environmentally unfriendly mess somewhere else, the whole icky parade switched direction.

Out of the snot and the fever and the aching legs, out of the tissue wasteland and the leaking bottles of baby paracetamol with adult-proof-child-safe caps, came a completely unexpected and virulent bout of mutant daycare bug gastro. 

Without any warning whatsoever, I was plunged into an abyss of throwing up into a bucket while trying to sing nursery rhymes and change the batteries in a malfunctioning, off key musical toy lion covered in cracker crumbs and snot.

Worse than the head-breaking lion was the unavoidable and instantaneous realisation that throwing up is far higher
on the baby noise terror scale than the mere trifling sounds of sneezing and nose blowing. For every dalliance with the bucket, my daughter would issue forth a blood-curdling scream that would send me back to the bucket, a circle so unpleasant it can't be painted with words.

With my husband interstate and my family very far away, I was left without back-up, looking hopefully at the crack of light coming from the back of the television, and pleading with the universe for a box of electrolyte lollipops and a wet face washer. 

Clutching onto some ice cubes and the dying tendrils of my dignity, I slowly scrounged up the walls of abyss, changing nappies and wiping noses and preparing finger foods and running baths and singing bedtime songs and throwing up (quietly) and reading Where is the Green Sheep, wishing it was anywhere else in the universe but here. 

Where once I would have curled up into a ball and focused on stillness, feeling atrociously sorry for myself, I jumped right into the ugly wave of sea sickness and sploshed around until there was nothing left in my stomach, and my daughter was fed, washed, giggled, crawled, storied and asleep.

It was horrible, and it was painful, and it was brilliantly colourful in the greyest of ways, but I managed to muddle through and come out the other side - and that, right there, is the underlying magic of parenting. 
It's the ugliest and strongest kind of magic, the one hidden between the sweaty bed clothes, the one floundering around listlessly at the bottom of the toilet bowl. It's the type of magic
that makes you all warm and fuzzy (and potentially feverish, depending on the intensity of the ailment) and sends your ovaries into a little spin and rinse cycle when you least expect it.
It's the magic that propels mothers to simultaneously fix mechanical lions and throw up in buckets, and makes fathers stay awake at night when they are interstate, and helps parents find the energy to become parents again and again and again.

It's the magic that gets you up at midnight and three in the morning and again at quarter to five, and it's the non-sparkly fairy dust that falls from the sky and keeps you going, through and beyond the eleventh napless day in a row.

It's the force that sees you change nappies that would be better attacked with a fire hose, and gives you the extra soul points to get you through another rendition of Old MacDonald Had a Farm, and the only reason that you agree to spend every happy hour dicing up finger food in the kitchen instead of hightailing it down to the bar for a cold mojito and share plate.

It's the reason people without children think about switching out Sundays down at the pub for Sundays down at the park, and the spare room for a nursery, and sleep-ins for just a few minutes of plain old sleep - it's the reason, even though those people don't actually know that the magic exists just yet.

David Frost once said: Love is staying up all night with a sick child - or healthy adult." Having just had my heart on my fluffy dressing gown sleeve and my sleep on hold for the better part of a very long and snotty fortnight, I couldn't agree more.

How do you get through the sick days at your house?
Where do you find the magic?

M x Brilliant blog posts on

Monday, January 20, 2014

Game, Set, Couch

With the recent heatwave done and dusted, it's finally cool enough to settle back down onto the couch and into my favourite summer sport: watching the Australian Open on telly.

To some, the Open is just another tennis tournament, a televised parade of extremely fit people hitting a small fuzzy ball from one end of a court to another, mixed up with a pastiche of grunting, drink sipping and towel wiping.

To others, like myself, the Open is the holy grail of the summer experience. It is better than lazy days at the swimming pool or keeping cool in the frozen section of the supermarket, and right up there with having your significant other scrub the shower and toilet while you take a sneaky afternoon nap.

There is something quintessentially Australian about lying spreadeagled on the couch under a pedestal fan, with remote and beverage in hand, yelling swathes of ocker encouragement and dismay at the players, and grunting in perpetual disagreement with the umpire.

There is something even more iconically Australian about catching an overloaded tram to Melbourne Park and sweating through a five-setter on an unshaded outside court for four hours, with only an expensive hot dog and your ground pass for sustenance.

It's oddly addictive, this Open watching business, a sweaty fortnight of chance and upsets and possibilities. Can Lleyton do it again? Can the Feds hold off the young charge? Can the new kid knock the socks off the number three seed and blow the tournament wide open? Will the compere say something completely inappropriate during his off-the-cuff interview and throw the whole affair into scandal? Will the roof stay open?

If you had a spare afternoon in the beer garden, I could buy a jug and bore you into a siesta with the minute details about the most memorable matches of the past decade, or the picky reasons I prefer one commentator over another, or the sixty-seven plus reasons why I will always barrack for Federer.

But for the life of me, I could not get out on the court and show you how it's done. As so often occurs in the world of passionate sport enthusiasm, my love for the game belies my complete inability to actually play the dratted sport in any way, shape or form.

My lack of skill was not borne from a lack of effort. As a child, I spent countless summer days standing on the tennis court in direct midday sun, smothered in an unfortunate mix of sunscreen and shambling embarrassment, trying my uncoordinated little heart out.

My repeated attempts to hit the ball resulted in little more than wild air swings, dull thuds, tangles with the net, endless double faults and exasperated friends and coaches. My mind had trouble focusing on the ball, wandering off to the choose-your-own-adventure book I was reading or through the latest piece of choreography from jazz ballet class.

I put it in extra effort. I tried hitting the ball against the wall like the famous Australian tennis star Evonne Goolagong Cawley did as a kid, I tried marathon totem tennis sessions in the backyard, I tried sticking my tongue out at all sorts of various acute angles on the hope a bit of concentration face might help - but it didn't.

Eventually, I had to put tennis away in the 'not for me' basket - along with Nippers, basketball, netball, athletics, squash, trampolining, kanga cricket, volleyball, body boarding, BMX riding, mini-golf, roller blading, ice skating, table tennis, frisbee, rope climbing and competitive swimming.

It took the majority of my childhood and teenage years to work out I could dance, and I could run long distances reasonably well, but that I couldn't (and shouldn't try) participate in team sports or go anywhere near a ball or bat of any sort, without at least wearing protective headgear and an inflatable suit of armour.

While I love teaching my daughter new things, sport is the one aspect of life where I will happily step aside and leave all the lessons to her infinitely more physically coordinated father.

I will sit on the sidelines with my fingers and toes firmly crossed that she can throw and catch, hit and bat, putt and bowl, and jump and sprint with even a modicum of the sporting grace and coordination I dreamed about from the chilly icepack embrace of the first aid office.

If sporting prowess was measured in effort, I would be a World Champion with an impressive trophy cabinet and several lucrative sponsorship deals - but as it's not, and I'm not, I will stick with cheering the tennis gods and goddesses on from the physical safety of my couch. 

Thirty, love. Hit on!

Do you follow the tennis?
Do you enjoy watching or playing sport?

M x

Wednesday, January 15, 2014


While the top half of the globe recovers from the wrath of the recent polar freeze, Australia is in the grip of a seriously cranky heatwave, and we are rapidly melting back into the earth here in our inner-outer-inner Melbourne suburb.

When I say heatwave, I really mean HEATWAVE. Hot, sweltering, sweating, stinking, fire breeding, fire breathing, brain draining, soul sapping, heatwave conditions.

And when I say hot, I mean HOT - we've just sweated through two 42 degree days, with tomorrow forecast to reach 44 degrees before dropping back to 42 degrees on Friday. That's Celcius of course - for those of you playing at home on the other side of the world, we're talking Fahrenheit 107.6, 107.6, 111.2, 107.6.

The Australian Government Bureau of Meteorology's brand new Pilot Heatwave Forecast, launched just a few hot days ago, has labelled the current state of play in Melbourne as being an 'extreme heatwave.' The service forecasts that we still have a few more days of 'severe' and normal heatwave conditions to endure before the climatic oven door gets opened again this weekend. 

Extreme heatwave. Image from Bureau of Meteorology.
Our beloved crumbling terrace house normally tides us safely through the many hot peaks and cold troughs of the Melbourne year, but every now and then it gets knocked for six by an extreme weather curve ball. And this extreme heatwave is definitely one of those times.

The rambling monster
has ripped off its hipster chic facade and is now showing its true blue stone heart, sucking up the heat like a nursing baby during a growth spurt and radiating it straight back through the floorboards.

On show with it's heart it's its age and mixed bag of unfortunate structural quirks, and the heat has wasted no time in exploiting the many gaps in the skirting boards, broken air vents, uncovered man holes, poorly sealed windows and less-than-well hung front and back doors.

Despite the obvious defects in our attack arsenal, and the inevitable futility of our efforts, we are still putting up a valiant fight against the elements with the humble weaponry of drawn blinds, pedestal fans, wet flannels, rolled up towels and cool baths.

We have also enlisted the help of a small portable air-conditioner, which is currently sucking the guts out of the kitchen at a distressing volume and dripping water all over the floor (although the sight of any liquid is actually pretty welcome at this point).

The relatively shit little air-con box is struggling with the intensity of the task, but is admittedly providing a modicum of relief if you stand in the kitchen. Immediately in front of the air vent. With a wet flannel on your head. And an ice cube in your mouth. Naked.

The heat is starting to make mince meat of our brains, and make chaos out of our normal order. Sleep has already gone by the wayside, and our daughter is slowly but surely winding up like a crazed jack in the box, sans sleep, sans nap, sans routine, sans comfortable body temperature.

Bucket-head Dog (still stuck in her bucket collar, still feeling sorry for herself) has given up on the outside world, and has glued herself to the kitchen floor in an attempt to absorb all the air-conditioned cold benefit before it spreads to the rest of the family. Skulling water with a cone on her head is proving to be her most difficult challenge, with a serious lack of spatial awareness surrounding herself and the cone going on.

Other than rearranging our small cache of cooling methods and trying them again, though, we are all as short of options as we are effective air-conditioning and cool temperament.

It is too hot and mad out there for us to go to the pool - think exceptionally fair skin, babies wriggling out of their rash vests, sweaty bum cracks, school holiday swim classes, searing concrete, exploding hot dogs, melting cobbers and four hundred foam noodles and fluorescent kick boards fighting for water space.

The sun is too ferocious to risk a trip to the beach with a baby under wing - and even if we did succumb to the powers of heat exhaustion and make it down to the sand, the rolling heatwave news coverage suggests it would be impossible to find any space to swim among the miserable, melting, Melbournian hordes.

We cannot take a quick stroll to the park without actual fear of acute sunburn and heat stroke, and the same goes for pushing the pram to the local cafe for a refreshing organic smoothie (or tall iced chocolate with extra whipped cream, if I'm being honest).

Despite being known for their gale force air conditioning, I am reluctant to seek refuge in shopping centres unless there is an actual emergency alert issued. The last thing this Mummy can fathom is sharing my very limited personal space with several thousand hyperactive children and their exhausted parents, whilst fighting for the last four chicken nuggets and high chair in the food court.

Much the same goes for cinemas, ice skating rinks, gaming centres, bowling alleys, giant all-you-can-eat restaurants and sporting complexes - anywhere really, that involves children or food or high chairs or even just lots of people crammed into the one room.

In a mixed moment of ingenuity and sugar cravings last night, I sent my husband out to stock up on ice-blocks to make me at least feel better (and sweeter) over the coming days - but it appears that the miserable hordes beat us to it and cleaned out the freezer section on their way home from the beach.

The hordes beat us to it!
Except for a few broken boxes and atrociously unlucky flavours, the ice-block shelves were completely bare - and the ice-cream and sorbet chests were not much better. Even the freeze-yourself-fruit-tube varieties in the dessert aisle were sold out.

With a little heatwave luck on his side, he managed to secure the final berry sorbet in the store (and possibly, in the whole of southern Australia) and make it home without getting mugged by overheated shoppers or stopping in the car park to devour the whole tub himself - a frosty new addition to our freezer, and to our rapidly diminishing heatwave arsenal.

If only we could buy a truckload of icy cold sorbets and deliver them to the service and emergency crews, though - the electricity workers attending to wires, the ambos treating heat affected souls, the transport workers fixing rails and lines and jams, the firies fighting fires in unbearable heat. The people who will get us through the next few days, and the next heatwave when it arrives.

I like my sorbet, and I dislike the heat, but the fact I'm sitting here typing my blog with a shit portable air-conditioner, electricity, internet, and berry sorbet means I'm doing okay. And it's all thanks to them.

According to the forecasts, we're halfway there Australia.

Keep cool.

Are you feeling the heatwave? Are you reading on from somewhere cold? How do you keep cool in the heat?

M x

Friday, January 10, 2014

The Hardest Decision, The Easiest Day

Sometimes, the hardest things you can imagine actually turn out to be the easiest - as was the (unexpected) case when my baby started childcare this week.

After winning the childcare place lottery in October, I spent two and a half long months dreading the inevitable moment of separation, and second-guessing my hard fought decision.

On the days I was scrambling to keep the contents of the house off the floor while simultaneously pureeing pork and mash and paying the car rego at the Post Office, I could see the wisdom of my decision shining through the cloudy oven door.

On the days when I was writing articles to deadline and submitting job applications amid chaos, I would flop open my mind and mentally skip down the childcare driveway with bottles of expressed milk and bouquets of roses in hand.

On the days when I watched my daughter playing with other babies at Parents Group catch ups and annual family gatherings, pushing toys back and forward and freaking out when they touched her hair, I would relax into my decision and start prattling about the many virtues and benefits of social interaction from a young age.

On the days when my daughter would light up the room, or unexpectedly manage to stand on her onesie clad foot, or suddenly find a decisive 'bird' or 'ball' from within the constant stream of babble, I would emotionally bail on the whole childcare caper.

I would resolve to become unresolved, and start preparing my fiery argument against childcare, for consideration and endless discussion in the marital decision court over turkey burgers and salad come dinner time.

As we descended into the final fortnight of unadulterated stay-at-home-mummydom, my clingy mother status skyrocketed from lousy home brand cling wrap to the top shelf, brand name stuff.

I spent countless hours holding onto my baby for dear life, even when she clearly wanted to be out of my arms and exploring the ceaselessly amazing fluff content of the lounge room carpet.

My hug and kiss rations multiplied, and where I would normally give one kiss, I started to dole out ten, with an extra butterfly kiss and a special peck on the cheek for added good measure.

I unintentionally dug deeper all round, ensuring that every block tower was knocked down with unusual oomph, every outfit change was selected with unexpected fastidiousness, every Incy Wincy rendition delivered with extra special hand movements and embarrassing facial expressions. 

Unfortunately, cling wrap is not thick enough to keep out the world, and my excessive hug-a-thon eventually dribbled away into the inevitable orientation day that had been marked on the kitchen calendar for so long.

Orientation was far cooler than I had been prepared to give it credit for. It was a bit like my own personal halfway house, all the freedom and responsibility of entering the real childcare world with the safety net of being able to run back up the corridor and into the nursery room whenever my panic got the better of me.

As I tiptoed out of the room for my trial separation, heart somewhere between my esophagus and my churning stomach, my daughter pounced on a pile of triangular shape sorting blocks and stuck a plastic stegosaurus in her mouth - go away, mum, you're cramping my prehistoric dining adventure.

With my heart still somehow inside my body and the trial separation inked in the childcare day book as a theoretical success, we progressed with lightning speed to the real deal - the first day of childcare, no safety net attached.

My husband and I decided to climb the mountain together - or rather, I dragged him up the mountain against his will to help push me along when I tried to turn around and roll back down to the safety of another day at home with a morning nap and afternoon pram walk. 

After so much anticipation and dread, though, the mountain seemed radically smaller in real life. Despite months of technicolour nightmares, I did not self combust or hyperventilate or have to dodge cesspits of fire and brimstone. 

Perhaps it was the afterglow of the orientation trial separation, or the promise of uninterrupted french toast and coffee for breakfast, or the wonderful teachers in the centre, but I felt strangely calm as I dropped my daughter off and effectively tipped our lives upside down forever.

I kissed my daughter goodbye and simply stepped out the front door and into the new world order, leaving her to crawl off into a wooden mirror maze with a look of baby awe plastered all over her face.

My daughter didn't notice I was gone, I didn't cry like a baby or wail like a banshee, my toast and coffee did not get tipped on the floor or covered in steamed apple and pear once - and I even managed to vacuum the skirting boards properly for the first time in nine months.

Six hours later, my daughter greeted me at the nursery door with a shoe full of sand and a face full of sheer excitement - and in that moment the hardest decision I ever made suddenly became the easiest.

Have you had to make tough family decisions? Have you left your child in care? I would love to hear your stories.

M x

Sharing for #FYBF at

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

The Loudly Quiet New Year

New Years Eve is a quiet affair when you have a baby.

At least, that's what folklore and commonsense led me to believe.

After spending the Christmas break road tripping nearly 3000 kilometres across three states in just nine days, my husband and I didn't have enough festive frivolity left for a big night of New Years Eve social shenanigans.

Aware of our relatively recent transition from vibrant-twenty-something-land to quiet-suburban-parent-ville, we tried to muster some mild enthusiasm for the upcoming annual event, but there was nothing: zip, zilch, nada, not even a single sparkler of enthusiasm.

We were broken - from the highway, the overflowing roadside toilets, the prepackaged sandwiches, the crowded petrol stations, the brewing MasterCard statement, and the latest epic pooplosion installment in the unfortunate ongoing series.

The baby was broken from nine days of ridiculously stimulating Christmas wrapping paper and exotic portable cot locations, and even the dog was broken after an unexpected spot of painful festive season ear surgery and a bucket-head collar to stop her scratching the wounds.

As the final afternoon of the year gave way to evening, there was nothing left on our silly season list but to fetch our trackies and set up camp in the lounge room with our old friends Vodka and Christmas Chocolate, while Bucket-head lamented in the kitchen.

Several vodkas in, with some mindless comedy on the telly and the baby well and truly ensconced in her nightly REM party for one, it became apparent that perhaps we had JUST enough energy to bring in the New Year with, ahem, a bit of romantic bang.

A few more vodkas, a few more minutes on the clock, a few less pairs of tracksuit pants on legs, and we were getting ready to bring in the New Year ...
when Melbourne unexpectedly lifted and exploded under us like one giant communal cracker.

All hell broke loose. The sky above our house switched on with the impressive illuminating powers of the official Melbourne fireworks displays, while our inner-outer-inner suburb nearly lifted off the ground with the force of several thousand consecutively sparked illegal fireworks.

The kids down the road (whose parents had presumably consumed far more vodka than ourselves and were missing in action), set up an alarmingly impressive arsenal of fireworks in the middle of the road and tried to literally bring the neighbourhood into the new year in a blaze of illegal glory.

An entire city of police car sirens went off in almost-perfect unison, whizzing around the cracker-filled streets like a super-sized nest of really angry bees, with far too many targets for far too few stings.

Call and response style, all the cars on the main drag started honking their horns in an obnoxious salute to the new year, setting off a Mexican wave of discordant honks and beeps across the suburb: an orchestra being strangled in tediously slow motion.

Bucket-head went ballistic, breaking through the doggy-kid-drunk adult safety gate and bolting across the lounge room for the apparent safety of the front hallway, nearly decapitating  herself with her own bucket several times on the way through and taking a pair of discarded trackies and a cushion with her.

The baby, having slept through the start of the end of the earth, woke to the dog tearing down the hallway and proceeded to sing and squeal her way into the New Year, her less-than-dulcet baby tones amplified through the baby monitor for good measure.

Seven minutes and a whole lot of noise into the new year, we relinquished the final dregs of our unexpected romantic mood and called it a night, determined to find our trackies and the inside of our eyelids as quickly as possible.

Shoving the last chocolate in my mouth and searching for my trackies in the hallway, I pondered how I could possibly have forgotten about the New Years Eve fireworks: after all, the two go hand in hand, much
like ravers with glow sticks, tea with bikkies, and parents with sleep deprivation and tracksuit pant romance.

Ahh well. At least we got a New Years bang of sorts.

Did your New Years Eve live up to expectations?

M x