We are Family

It is Sunday evening, and I have taken up residence in my husband’s man-cave for the next hour or so, while he puts the children to bed.  Not a bad payoff, I feel, for cleaning up the veritable mountain of dishes left over from today’s lunch with friends.  There are two reasons that I’m quite happy with this transaction:

a) I do a much better job of the dishes.  It’s my thing.

b) He is somewhat merry after our long lunch, and has been revving the children up with frenzied tickle fights, to the point that they are now behaving as though they’ve snorted a few lines of coke and followed it up with a red cordial chaser.  Good luck with getting them to bed, sucker.

I have my cup of tea, my computer, and that’s pretty much bliss, as far as I’m concerned.  It’s so quiet in here!  And experiencing the man-cave from within, I can appreciate it’s magnetic pull, which often causes my significant other to go missing in action.  It is here that we eventually discover him, after one of us notices his prolonged absence following simple tasks such as putting out the rubbish.

If I turn my head, I can look out of the window and catch a glimpse of the house, as a small nude body goes streaking through the sun room.  I can faintly make out high pitched shrieks (hilarity or injury? – It’s often difficult to tell the difference) and the thud of their stampeding feet.  And is that Dancing Queen he’s playing?  Christ, he’s had more to drink than I first thought.

The thing is, I now realise that I really do need to go to the toilet, but I fear that if I go back inside, the magic bubble will burst.  The children will instantly remember that they desperately needed me, to help them find the green Texta, or to make them a crumpet, or to referee their current argument about who’s turn it is to play the kazoo.  Maybe I could sneak inside without them noticing?  Nope – too risky – I’ll just hang on.  If I need to, I could always use my teacup, I suppose.

The studio used to be one of those old-school, dirt-floored sheds, filled with rusty tins full of nails and utterly creepy spiderwebs.  But my ingenious father worked his magic a few years ago, to turn it into a proper room to house Cam’s vast collection of old vinyl and electronic equipment, which he amassed throughout his former, pre-reproductive life.  It now also houses a ratty fold-out couch and our old refrigerator, elevating it’s status to fully-fledged man cave.

It provides a sanctuary from the crazies who rule our house (the children, not me of course), and doubles as a snoring retreat, for those nights when the red wine has been flowing a little too freely.  I also suspect, just quietly, it may be the place of some covert rum-drinking, from time to time.

The desk is littered with a colourful array of tiny wires, bulbs, screws, a soldering iron and something with wheels on it.  I think these are the contents of the mysterious padded post-packs addressed to him, which have been arriving on our doorstep with increasing frequency of late.  If you’re wondering – no – I don’t think he’s building a bomb (I’ve checked, and can find no trace of suspicious liquids or timing devices).  It’s just that when it comes to late night online shopping, we both have our vices -mine being fashion, and his being robotics.  Whatever floats your boat, I suppose.

My escape to the man-cave this evening is something my husband and I have come to refer to as a ‘free period’ (as in, the free period you had in high school, when you were supposed to engage in private study).  In my friendship circle, they are also known as a ‘spare’.  They can be a single (typically a few hours), double (the full day), or a full-weekend spare.  The latter are a rare beast – highly negotiated and desperately coveted.  I have one coming up in August, and the mere thought of it always elicits an impromptu happy dance.

Spares are allocated on the basis of need, and are run on an honour system.  It is usually quite evident when a spare is required.  For example, when I came home from work last weekend, I could see that Cam was losing the good fight.

At first glance, it appeared that the house had been ransacked by a very thorough intruder, leaving no stone unturned.  It also looked like someone had detonated a rice-filled device in the kitchen.  It was icy outside, the rain hadn’t relented all morning, and as a result, the kids were in stir crazy, difficult-to-please mode.  The gourmet fried rice he had prepared for their lunch just wasn’t right – they wanted a sandwich – and I could almost see the steam coming out of his ears.

And so, having the perspective and patience of the one who had been out of the house for the morning, I granted him an on-the-spot free period, banishing him to his cave for the remainder of the afternoon.  I felt like a (slightly underdressed) fairy godmother.  If I remember correctly, I think I added that he should really do his tax, but honestly, who was I kidding?

The very next day, I’d had to call in the favour, after I spent a particularly long morning at the park, attempting to wear the little beggars out.  Back home only thirty minutes, Cam caught me.. well… hiding from the children, behind the wardrobe door, as they roamed the house endlessly calling my name.  ‘Mumma? Where is she? Muuu-meeee? I can’t find her! She was here a minute ago…MUUUUUMMMMMMEEEE!!! WHERE HAVE YOU GONE???’ Man, they just don’t take a hint.

And at this point start to I feel a bit guilty, a bit ungrateful, for wanting to flee their unwavering love and neediness.  Why do I feel such joy in escaping those sticky little clutches for a bit?  It’s because being a parent is utterly exhausting – that’s a universally accepted concept.  I know for a fact that after a few hours to myself, my patience stores will magically regenerate, and I’ll be a much better parent.  I’ll also be less likely to be sporting ‘that cross look’ (as my children refer to it), which has caused some fairly permanent frown-lines between my brows.

So tomorrow morning, during my few hours off for the week, you’ll find me revelling in my own space.  I will be enjoying my coffee without having to explain why we shouldn’t lick the table, or pick our nose in public, or wresting the salt shaker out of someone’s little mitts. To the casual observer, I might appear to be reading the newspaper, but I’m generally not taking the words in.  I’m simply doing nothing in particular, by myself, and loving it.

Re: Formal Complaint, School Holiday period ended 14 July, 2013


Dear School Holidays,

I regret to inform you that I am writing to make a formal complaint, which I plan to pursue through the appropriate channels, until I have a resolution.  My primary complaint is in regard to false advertising charges.

Firstly, you were sold to me on the promise of enabling quality time with my chilled out, engaging children, who would luxuriate in long sleep-ins and creative play opportunities.  There was no mention, in your brochure, of my children deciding to make an olympic sport of arguing, or of their plan to turn the house into a rubbish tip / war zone / obstacle course.  I certainly was not advised of the requisite five-fold increase in washing.

When I signed up, I did not realise that July school holidays came with mandatory waves of drawn out illnesses that would hit one child, then the next (just as the first one was coming good).  Frankly, I could have done without the bi-weekly doctors appointments, and surprise visits from feverish children in my bed at 3am.    I suppose you think that simultaneous croup and vomiting in the middle of Friday night Sex and The City repeats was amusing?  It was not.

On another matter, I would like to address the issue of art and craft activities.  Prior to all future school holidays, I would appreciate it if you would arrange delivery of a large shipping container of art and craft materials, along with a part time project coordinator (must have industrial cleaning experience), and a case of gin.  And on that note, I don’t know if you are acquainted with Mister Maker, but if you are, could you please ask him to tone it down?  His perky attitude and obsession with gloopy glue are getting up my nose, and placing unrealistic expectations on regular parents, who do not have ‘doodle draws’ or time lapse photography at their disposal.

I would also appreciate, in future, a list of appropriate suggestions to be used when my children complain of being bored, or being hungry, or having been wronged by their sibling.  I have completely over-used the suggested ‘you’re a smart girl/boy, I’m sure you can find something interesting to do’, the ‘you can chose a piece of fruit, or wait until the next meal time’, and the ‘please be kind to each other, and try to work through your differences’.  I have therefore been resorting to sarcasm, and ‘oh for F*$# SAKE!!’ under my breath a little too much, which I realise is not ideal.

Incidently, can you please suggest an appropriate consequence (I don’t think I’m supposed to call them punishments), for the following scenarios:

a)  Walking out of a store and wandering up Burke Rd alone, whilst I am engaged in the purchase of more frigging art and craft materials.

b)  Screaming and striking at each other in the bath over who’s turn it is to hold Kwazi Kat or the giant squid.

c)  Repeatedly sneaking dried apricots from the pantry when they have specifically been told not to (yes, I know it sounds petty, but it was the principle at sake)

My final issue is the absence of any actual ‘holiday’ component this school holidays.  Instead, I was regularly subjected to Facebook posts from families frolicking in Europe or the Pacific Islands, with their tanned, cherubic-looking children.  

Although I have found the whole experience decidedly harrowing, I would feel inclined to overlook the above issues, and withdraw my complaint, if you could see fit to arrange a suitable island escape (preferably Polynesian) for the coming holidays this September.  You may liaise with my husband on this issue, as I wash my hands of the whole affair, and would prefer not to be bothered with the details.


M. Nitschke


If I Knew You Were Coming I’d’ve Baked a Cake

Tonight I’ve been pondering what to call my blog.  Clearly I can’t keep calling it Escape to New York for much longer.  It’s totally false advertising.  Especially now that Cam has finally unpacked and put away his toilet bag – one month after we came home.

As long as that toilet bag hung on the back of the bathroom door, he was still a little bit on holiday, or at least, just back from holidays.  But this weekend the toilet bag is gone (it was a necessary step, but I am a little saddened at the site of the unadorned door knob) and I have begun to wonder:  How do I find a title to befit my ramblings, which started out as a travelogue, but failed to die a natural death when the holiday ended?  Escape from Glen Iris is a fraction bleak, I feel.  Suburbileaks? Sickyleaks?! Domestic Counter-Terrorism?  Thwarting domestic terrorists, one day at a time…

I Googled it, of course, and found catchyblognames.com, which yielded some fairly pedestrian suggestions.  According to their formula, my ideal titles would include Distasteful Dietitian,  Haphazard Housewife, or, one of my personal favourites: Multitudinous Marnie.  Awesome – they really know their shit.  I can see the literary agents beating a path to my door as I type this.

Further searches caused my eyes to glaze over, with boffins banging on about SEO (that’s technospeak for getting more google hits), and led me to the lowest common denominator: Name Thingy? All you need to do is stare at the screen, as it churns out random two-word combinations.  Mind-numbingly inane, but for a while I found it difficult to tear myself away.  Rather like an Ab-Trainer infomercial for the baffled home blogger.

On reflection, I’ve realised that the key thing I need to decide is what I am actually on about here, and at present, that seems to change daily with the weather.  Last week I was all excited about Operation Out of House (my current OOOH statistics are yet to be filed, but I’m pleased to hear so many of you have taken this mantle and run with it).  This week, I’ve been acting like Boroondara’s answer to Bakerella, churning out cake pops and musing over the merits of non-dairy frosting and disposable piping bags.  Who knows what I’ll be banging on about next time?

line drawingNow that I think about it, I do have a track record for being somewhat faddish in my pursuits.  For example, last year, in a mad ‘must have some me-time’ moment, I signed up for an all day drawing workshop, and surprised myself by producing quite a fetching line-drawing of a botanical scene in nature.  I got all excited.  Maybe this was the hobby I had been missing, which would give me a creative, medititive outlet as well as some awesome line drawings to hang on our wall, and regale visitors with?  Needless to say, the fancy paper and fineliners are now stashed away deep in the corner of the Art and Craft drawer, supposedly for that elusive, rainy day when I find myself with a few hours to spare.

crochetTwo years ago I taught myself how to crochet, and then spent a few months at it like a woman possessed.   Now I never got to the stage of crafting pieces of clothing (which I realise is a good thing, in retrospect), but I do have a collection of granny squares, a passable cushion and a large bag of assorted wool to show for those two lost months.  I’ve also done more than my share of life drawing courses, tried my hand at jewelery reworking, applique, and remember getting a bit excited about decoupage for a brief spell there.  For God’s sake, there is a sewing machine in my hall closet, but I don’t even know how to thread it!

And so there you have it: an easily distracted (if enthusiastic) woman, who finds herself in charge of a household and two endearing yet exhausting mini people.   Work, professional development, the bits of paper that come home from school and need to be read / actioned / signed / returned, the provision of groceries, packed lunches, nutritious dinners…  Is it any wonder I struggle to see most projects through to completion these days?

So with blog name unresolved (feel free to offer any suggestions on that front), I will now segway on to the topic of children – particularly my little boy – who celebrated his fourth birthday this week.  He is fast growing up, and starting to establish his own identity in this world, so I saw fit to throw him his first proper birthday party, with all the trimmings.  Twenty kids, winter, a small house.   I decided to outsource.

Now I did feel a few twinges of middle class guilt in this decision – surely four year old boys are not that difficult to entertain? I hear some of you say.  Give them some cake, some chips and a tonne of Lego to play with, and they’re sorted.  But my accumulated parenting experience over the past six years has taught me that: a) I am somewhat anal, and therefore, prone to run myself ragged trying to throw the perfect party, in a tidy house, whilst trying to look effortless and unflustered (the latter being the hardest part), b) I am not a professional entertainer, nor is my husband, and children have an ability to sense my deep discomfort in trying to pretend otherwise, and c) Sometimes you owe it to yourself to take the easy option and just pay the bloody money.


Anyway, that decision left me free to go mad on the birthday cake front, which after all, is the most enjoyable part of throwing a party.

I imagine that most of you have thrown your hat in the birthday cake ring at some stage, so I’ll put the question out there: how satisfying is it to pull off a great cake – a WOW cake – to the accolades of your children and their friends?  Okay, and also maybe to your friends?  And maybe put in on Facebook so that your friends’ friends also see it?…  I would venture that it’s one of the perks of being a parent.

So last Saturday, I spent the best part of the day squirting orange icing through a piping bag and trying my hand at crafting cake pop eyeballs from scratch.  There were many tense moments, rather too many unsavoury expletives, and an unholy mess from one end of the kitchen to another, but it was all worth it at the end of the day.


Behold:  The monster cake – made possible by the magic of Google, and the phenomenon that is You Tube.  And it is also the first instance of me using Pinterest for something other than mindless procrastination purposes.  Excellent!

It started with some pyjama-clad family time on the couch Saturday morning – myself trawling the internet and both kids jostling for position to watch nerdy baker types present their craft.  The crumb layer of icing – good, got that.  The correct dipping technique for cake pops being to dip and rock back and forth (you mustn’t twiddle in the chocolate, lest you loose the cake pop right off the stick) – great advice.  And then ‘Mummy?…’  Arlo ventured cautiously, ‘are they called cake pops because they go pop? When do they go pop mummy?….’cake pop

Of course, I am not the only one among my friends who has been seized by the need to go to such lengths to mark their childrens’ birthdays.  It doesn’t seem to matter whether you’re a creative in advertising, a health professional or a home mum – we all feel the allure of the WOW birthday cake.

The swimming pool, below, was my first serious birthday cake, which came straight from the pages of the Womens’ Weekly Birthday Cake cookbook.   Buy a few packets of biscuits, bake a cake, make some jelly, and you’re in business.  But I blame Marteen for turning up the heat.

swimming pool

Charlie's dragon cake

For her son’s third birthday, Marteen did things with fondant that I didn’t even know possible, to produce the adorable dragon featured on the right.

As you can imagine, it blew everyone away, and in my mind, raised the stakes in birthday cakes from that day forward.

Favouring the ‘use a motherload of frosting, then throw a lot of coloured sugar sand and lollies at it’ approach, I countered with the roadworks number three.  Crude, but effective.

roadworks cake

And then, earlier this year, my friend Sally (a doctor of psychology, and a newcomer on the cake decorating scene) also decided it was time to pull her finger out, and dive into the world of themed parties and amateur cake decorating.

Sal watched a few You Tube tutorials, rolled up her sleeves, and set to work on one of her first forays into fontant art.  A pirate ship for her son’s pirate party, complete with individually handcrafted fondant decking planks.  She even decided it was cheaper to make her own chocolate marshmallow fondant, rather than pay for the commercial variety.  Now that’s confidence.  And how awesome is this cake?

Pirate shipI think you’d agree that Sal’s slam dunk with the pirate ship cake is further evidence of  what most of you already know: that women can do pretty much anything they set their mind to.  This is because:

1.  We’re awesome, and

2.  If we’re not sure, we can just Google it.

But how in God’s name did our mothers get by without the internet?!  A topic for another day, no doubt.

And the most sage piece of advice (which Sal gleaned from a You Tubing baker-nerd type, and has since passed on to me), is not to be ‘intimidated by the fondant’.  A simple, but effective mantra, for the modern woman.