Last Christmas, I gave you my heart

I think I must have blacked out for a bit there. And now I’ve come to, Christmas – that sneaky, emotion-charged season – is in full swing. Do you know what that means? It means it’s a whole year since I looked up from making pom poms (those bastard little school fete pom poms) to realise that my marriage was toast.  It also means I can legitimately buy myself (I mean the kids) an enormous tiger soft toy and listen to soppy Wham songs.

I’m doing those things right now.Wham. Tiger. Me

Yep. Last Christmas was positively craptastic.  There’s nothing festive about sucking it up and holding it together for the kids, when all you want to do is crawl under a large rock. I was lucky, though, to have my sturdy support crew, who propped me up through December and January while I stomped my feet and cried bucket-loads. Whatever it took (wine, inappropriate jokes, nose blowing) they had my back, and helped me stumble through the season in a pretty rock ‘n roll fashion.

This Christmas is so much better.

Some marriage break-ups stretch out over a bumpy, painful road for years. Mine felt more like a gut-wrenching supernova at the time. But once the shell shock subsided, I realised that not only was I still standing, I was starting to feel a little inkling of something good. It felt like one of those stinking hot Melbourne days we have, after the rain washes all the heat and stink away. When everything feels fresher and newer, and suddenly you can breathe properly again.

I won’t sugar coat it and say it was a walk in the park from there on. Some of this year was absolutely, mind-numbingly, face-palmingly frustrating.

And here’s what really blows about being a separated parent. It’s the stupid (and not so stupid) little things:

Stupid little thing 1

The school uniform that got left at the other house.  And by the way, it doesn’t make any difference how many sets you buy – they always end up at the other house.

Stupid little thing 2

The Goddamn Tuppaware and drink bottles and homework books that you need right now, this very morning, but are also at the other house.

Stupid little thing 3

The freaking 20-pack of kids socks and undies you bought last week, which seems to have migrated, on mass, to – you guessed it – the other house. Or the grandparents’ house. Or their beach house. Or ANY HOUSE OTHER THAN THE ONE YOU’RE IN RIGHT NOW.

< Deep breathing >

(not so) Stupid little thing 4

It’s when you’re in the car, absentmindedly fielding questions about McDonalds / why you shouldn’t play with your doodle in public / why the lady on that song just said shit… And then the littlest one hits you up with:

‘Mumma, can you explain again why Daddy had to go and live in another house?’

It’s the little things that make your heart feel like it might just implode. Because you realise that these questions are just floating around in their subconscious all the time, and it’s only every so often that they rise up to the conscious level and bubble out as words.

At times like these, about the only thing that can save you from unravelling then and there, is a really funny motivational meme.

YOU'RE ALL MISS UNIVERSE

But the good news I have is that at this point, I’m still relatively sane. And on the whole, things have been pretty awesome this past year. Being mindful of attention spans and word count, I’ve decided to loosely classify the good bits into the following neat categories:

People. Dancing. And The Universe.

People

This year, from the comfort of my lounge room, and thanks in part to this little blog, I’ve met people from all over Australia. They made me laugh out loud, and reminded me I was fun again.  They saw me travelling to Byron Bay for 5 days of yoga, mindfulness and slightly raucous gin and tonics.   And to Darwin, for my first crack at a long distance relationship. And two stops on the train, for renegade dietitian meetings. These beautiful new and old friends helped me start picking up the pieces and sticking them all back together again.

And the kids – my little people . They’re just as baffling, and high maintenance, and hilarious as they ever were. I can’t help but be happy when I look at their precious faces and sturdy little bodies. Sometimes I want to eat them.  I mean like literally devour them. And sometimes, when they’re arguing (which is a large percentage of the time), I also want to knock their bloody heads together.

Dancing

I dance a lot these days. I’ve always danced in the kitchen and on big nights out. But six months ago I twisted the arm of a new buddy into taking me dancing (it didn’t take that much twisting – just a few scotches).  I’m talking beginner swing dancing class.

It was equal parts excruciating, exhilarating and hilarious.   Not unlike year 10 dance classes, except this time we didn’t have pimples or bad ’80s hair. We walked out with two huge grins plastered to our faces, and were hooked.

Dancing is nice because it gets you touching other people (albeit sometimes strange and sweaty people), and laughing and being a dork. In the words of Amy Poehler – dancing gets you out of your head and into your body. And by the way, I am totally in love with Amy Poehler. She has a lot of piss-funny and wise things to say about life and divorce. One of them is this:

‘Someday you may be in a happy couple again. Someday you will wake up feeling 51 percent happy and slowly, molecule by molecule, you will feel like yourself again. Or you will lose your mind and turn into a crazy person. Either way, let’s just hope you avoided tattoos, because most are pretty stupid anyway.

Oh crap.  I wish I read that last bit earlier…

Amy Poehler

The Universe

The Universe is a funny thing.  Sometimes it knows stuff you don’t, and puts you in funny places at funny times, to show you that stuff.  Sometimes it taps you on the shoulder, and then when you don’t listen the first time, it gives you a big old shove.  And then it slaps you square on the bum and grins.  Kind of like this:

Universe: Hey – look over here

You:  Ah – c’mon.. That’s ridiculous!

Universe: Yeah, I know. But trust me – I’ve been doing this a long time you know?

You:  That’s outrageous!  It’d never work.  Surely you can’t be ….. ?

Universe: Yes I can. Just shut up and go with this.

Sometimes you just have to stop overanalysing and defer to The Universe.  Because it knows stuff.  And maybe there just aren’t enough newly tattooed, swing-dancing, bar-tending, biker mole dietitian types these days.

Simples 😉

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The Obama ‘Hoff Inebriation Scale: A novel assessment tool for drunken behaviour.

It’s been a while between blog posts.  Again.  I suppose that’s what happens when you’re spending most of your time riding the intense single parenting train, and the remainder of it trying to be a grown up with a career and a social life.

But something got me giggling recently, in a very non-health-professional, snort-laughing kind of way.  And you’ll be pleased to hear that it has nothing to do with Pete Bloody Evans.

Last Saturday night was a big one on the social calendar.  The grade 3 parent mixer for my kids’ school.  It was going to be wall-to-wall couples, but I’ve known these people for four years now, and they’re a pretty cool bunch.  So I did what any self-respecting, awkwardly single parent would do – I took a deep breath, poured myself into my favourite supportive undergarments, put on my I’m Doing Better Than Okay face, and hit the scene.

Being a school event, it was local.  Meaning that most of us were within stumbling distance to our front doors.  And being parents, the feeling in the room was a mixture of exhaustion, and unbridled joy, to be out and kid-free on a Saturday night.

It started out nice: convivial, catching up on kids, jobs, holidays.  And then it got a bit rowdy.  And then there was dancing.  And then, all of a sudden, there were a lot of rather inebriated people in the room.  Parents – most of us in our forties and beyond – and yet it was like we were transported back in time.  Back to a time when it was de rigueur to get good and sozzled.  To hug and exclaim ‘I bloody love you!’ on the streets, and (inexplicably) to drink Bailey’s on the one-train-stop journey home.  Hilarious.

A friend, to whom I was relating the evening’s festivities, asked me this question:

So on a scale of 1 to David Hasselhoff,  just how inebriated were you?

I guffawed!  Because we’re all familiar with David Hasselhoff at his slurring worst.  And because as a health professional, I’m a sucker for a quantitative assessment tool. Entertainingly, we set about fleshing out this scale, and filling the gaps in between.

So without further ado, I give you The Obama ‘Hoff inebriation scale*.  It’s a thing now – I’ve registered it.  Please feel free to use it in your day-to-day practice.

Obama, bit drunk

Obama is after your first drink or two.  It’s nice.  A bit cheeky. You’ve got that happy buzz going on, and you’re working the room.  It’s a good place to be.

Tom Cruise, Oprah, couch

Tom is that excited, energetic zone.  You know the one.

Are you a bit drunk? Nah – you’re just invincible.  You spontaneously hug people.  You might fist pump the air.  And  (in my personal experience) this is where you might start pulling out some dance moves. You’re on fire.  The room loves you!

Tobey Maguire drunk

The Tobey is where things start to get a bit silly. Funny faces. Impersonations. Gossip. Poking fun. Giggling. You’re hilarious, and so are your friends.

Bill Murray, drunk

Ah Bill!  Who wouldn’t love Bill?

At this stage you’re getting pretty loose.  Silliness is peaking.  Coordination may be a little lacking, but it’s funny.  EVERYTHING IS FUNNY!  In fact if we all just stayed here at number 4, the world would be a pretty happy place.

Pam Anderson, Simon Cowell, Paris Hilton

It has to be a Pam / Simon / Paris montage for the half way mark.  Because at this stage you’re cutting up rough.

You might be Pam (the body is willing but the eyes are getting sleepy), you might be Simon (of course you should take a traveller for the trip home), or you might be Paris (surely no-one will notice if you take a little rest while you’re down there?).

Number 5 is where costume malfunctions start to happen, and it’s only a matter of time before you lose your footing.  It’s the ‘I bloody love youse all’ mark, but the dignity is slipping.

Britney Spears drunk

Oh dear.  When you’ve reached the Britney stage, you’re not fooling anyone (even if you’ve convinced yourself that you’re making a good fist of it).  The smile isn’t quite getting there, and the eyes are unseeing.  Best get yourself home – it’s all downhill from here.

Keifer Sutherland drunk moments

Okay, Keifer’s gotten himself good and drunk.

He’s bypassed the sleepy stage and gone straight to rowdy and inappropriate. Clothing is optional, and apparently pants-off at the table is pretty amusing.  He’s also fallen down for a bit there, but he’s not out for the count.

If you get to Keifer, you’re not going to remember a lot of the night’s proceedings.  And you may wake up without your pants.  Fun at the time, but in retrospect, not really advisable.

Gary Busey, drunk

Yikes! Gary’s not in a good way.  He’s dishevelled.  He’s finding it a challenge to keep upright.  His face says it all really.

DRUNK.  And a bit surly.

Courtney Love, wasted

Oh Courtney.  Can I get you a stretcher?

This is about as drunk as you can get without going the Full ‘Hoff.  Mouth open, eyes clocked off for the night, pasty, sweaty, highly vomitous.  There’s nothing pretty about getting to this stage.  She’s wasted.

David Hasselhoff, drunk

David Hasselhoff – AKA The Full ‘Hoff – is a sad state of affairs, I think you’ll agree.

He’s on the floor, eating with his hands, down to one syllable words.  All dignity is gone.

The only redeeming feature about getting this drunk is that you’ll have no recollection of the event.  Although if your kids are around and handy with the phone camera, it may just come back to haunt you.

Nobody ever means to go The Full ‘Hoff.  But sadly, it sometimes happens.

***

*Disclaimer.  Obama to ‘Hoff is not a scientifically valid assessment tool. And I’m not saying that drinking to excess is classy, or clever … but maybe it’s a bit funny when celebrities do it…

2014 – The Year That Shocked the Pants Off Me

Okay, no doubt you’re thinking it’s a smidge late for a 2014 Year in Review type post. And I wholeheartedly agree.  I realise all the Serious Bloggers had this one mapped out by November and scheduled to go in time for festive season reading.

I also realise that Serious Bloggers write for their target audience.  They don’t jump wildly between travel, cake decorating, fashion, nutrition, parenting, and flowery reflections on life, as the mood takes them.  And they fo’ shiz don’t disappear for months, without tacking the virtual equivalent of a ‘We are experiencing life difficulties – back in 5 min’ sign on the door.

Oops. But then I never claimed to be a serious blogger.

And the beauty of that, is that I can disappear when I just don’t have anything interesting to say, or when it all goes pear-shaped, as life often does.  And if I’m getting all excited about my revolutionary new system of Lego organisation, then I’ll bloody well write about that next (stay tuned folks – it’ll change your life).

But it’s true.  Last year did shock the pants off me.  And I think it quite apt that my first post for 2015 is written sans pants, from the shelter of my doona cave. It’s quiet, warm, safe… and there’s a whippet at my feet.

And so, let’s cover the good bits first, shall we?

In Blogging News…

2014 was the year I cracked the shits with celebrity chef Pete Evans and his ridiculous brand of food-wankery (you can read the post here).  Fortunately, this turned out to be the best move of my blogging career to date, as far as stats and follows go.  But more importantly, it got me writing about what I know as a dietitian.

So I’d just like to say thanks to Pete for the inspiration.  Thanks for making my blood boil every time I heard your name, and for introducing my blog to search engines around the world.  It was great while it lasted, but I’m kind of over you now.  You see, positive body image and moderation are the new sexy, and Rick Kausman has recently ousted you as top dog on my stats page.  Not sorry.

rick ousts pete 2

In Crafting News

For much of 2014 I crafted my arse off in preparation for the school fete – making some dear new friends and earning a few new frown lines in the process.

In the name of Hartwell Handmade I did things with parachute cord that I never knew existed, and discovered a plethora of uses for an enigmatic substance called Modpodge. I literally developed furballs while handcrafting 400-odd pom poms and then stringing them onto garlands.  And in hindsight…  I learnt about the dark side of Pinterest, and the virtues of delegating, and Ryan Gosling craft memes.

gosling

In Pet News

2014 was the year we adopted Billie the whippet puppy.  We mopped up lots of wee, and watched her grow from a needle-toothed little teddy bear into a sleek, speedy supermodel of dogs.

Billie was very busy in 2014.  She dug up the lawn, tortured the children’s beloved soft toys, and created her own doggy door by clawing and chewing at the back door until… it just wasn’t really there any more.  You see, Billie has persistence.  And mad DIY skills.

billie one year

And in other news

I’m not quite sure how to say this.  But I’m just gonna rip that bandaid off.  2014 was the year my marriage ended.

To me it was sudden.  Nonsensical.  Flabbergasting even.

‘I just think we’ve grown apart’

WHAT THE?..

‘I have feelings for someone else’

BAM!

And there I was, suddenly contemplating life as a 41 year-old single mother of two. And wondering how on earth it happened to me.

Rest assured I won’t be delving into the details here.  Firstly because no-one wants to read a 50,000 word thesis on the subject of my marital issues.  Ain’t nobody got time for that.  And secondly because I might be tempted to use the term conscious uncoupling, and I’m pretty sure that doesn’t go with the type of expletives I’ve been using lately. I don’t think Gwenyth would approve.

So… What’s on for 2015 then?…

Ah!  Thank you – Great question!

Well, there will undoubtedly be a lot of refocusing, rebuilding and being strong this year (combined with a good measure of wine-drinking).  I’m also going to have to learn how to deal with scary spiders in the house, and inexplicable computer issues.  And my awesome friends and family will be there every step of the way.

Of course the two most important people in all of this are my beautiful kids.  I’ll be snuggling them tight, and trying not to miss them too desperately when they’re spending time with their dad (gulp).

Who knows?  Maybe I’ll throw myself into yoga, or meditation? Or swing dancing!  I already have the perfect wardrobe for the latter.  Or perhaps this year I’ll realise some deep, previously-untapped love for endurance sports or rock climbing. (No. That was a joke people).  What about a sweet (little) rockabilly-inspired tattoo? Why the hell not?

However it pans out, I’ll be sure to let you know along the way.  And I promise to think of a smashing topic that has nothing** to do with my marital issues, for the next instalment.

**well.. maybe just a little, if I’m keeping it real

This is me.  Being all positive and 'bring it', in front of a lime tree.

This is me. Being all positive and ‘bring it’, in front of a lime tree.

Supermarket stupor

Well, it’s been a pretty big few weeks, I’ve got to say.  Firstly, I dissed the machine that is Pete Evans – and survived to tell the tale.  Secondly, I donned my invisible cape of assertiveness and pimped the story to a parenting website (at the risk of being descended on by activated nut-jobs around the country).  And thirdly, I joined twitter.

The freakish spike in my stats since last week’s post appears to confirm three things:

  1. Love him or loath him, Pete Evans and his ‘Paleo Way’ are very hot right now
  2. I’m not the only one who has completely cracked the sads with fad diets, food wankery and the people getting rich off the back of it all
  3. Secretly, we all have a little bit of Alf Stewart in us.
My (surprisingly real) Alf Stewart impersonation

My (surprisingly real) Alf Stewart impersonation

Happily, all of these factors seem to be working in my favour, and have brought about more than one spontaneous expression of joy through dance in my kitchen, and a record number of new subscribers.   So to the newbies, I’d like to introduce myself:

Hello. I’m Marnie.  And in real life, I’m not nearly as authoritative as I sounded in my last post (just ask my children, who never listen to me).

In a previous life (B.C.), I lived with my husband in cosmopolitan St Kilda, dined in the hottest restaurants, and worked with one of Australia’s most talented chefs (he was scary as hell in the kitchen, but a teddy bear outside of it).   But these days, I spend a lot more time reading Lego instructions than articles about the hottest new fad diet on the scene. And (quite dull I’m afraid), I spend a large chunk of my life teaching clients about basic nutrition, and preparing meals that my kids will actually eat.

I don’t usually make a habit of poking my nose into the business of celebrity chefs, or blogging about their peculiar food choices – but I’ve made an exception in Pete Evans’ case.  And that’s because he’s decided he knows a crap-load more than anyone trained in nutrition or public health, and has quite a penchant for dietitian-bashing.

The recent argy-bargy between Pete’s disciples and dietitian Susie Burrell is proof that many members of the public prefer to take dietary advice from a tanned celebrity, than an experienced health professional.  It’s also been a stark reminder of how downright revolting people can be, from behind the anonymity of a computer screen.

And that’s what was on my mind, last Friday afternoon when i-village parenting site published an edited, (somewhat less entertaining version) of my Pete Evans rebuttal.  As I quietly closed my laptop, and bundled the kids into the car for the shopping trip I’d be putting off all day, I realised I had just put myself out there amongst the trolls.

And it was in the supermarket, under that horrible flurescent lighting (my shopping list predictably forgotten) that I experienced a severe case of Supermarket Stupor.

super stupor

It went something like this:

‘Okay kids let’s think about what we came here for THINK Goddammit. Visualise the list and stop pulling the trolley – it makes it hard to steer’ Oh God… have they started slagging me off yet?!  

‘I think we’re out of juice [toxic cocktail] Who said that?!?  and cheese sticks’  Oh no – excess packaging = bad.  Will get 1kg block and cut into cheese sticks.. [probably from miserable grain-fed cows] Excuse me? What are you doing in my head?!  Hmm.. maybe should buy organic cheese – is that a thing? Quick! What would Rosemary Stanton do?

‘You wanted granny smith apples?  There – grab that bulk pack. Oh FRIG the packaging thing again –  must send message to evil supermarkets re: obsession with wrapping everything  No – get the loose ones and put them in a bag I’ll reuse the bag for dog poo and Arlo STOP pulling.  It makes it VERY. HARD. TO. STEER.’  Ommmmm… Breathing… breathing is good….

‘Mummy!! You said we could choose one thing – can we have CLIX?! Yeah CLIX! CLIX!’ here we go – this is my fault for letting them have Clix last week

‘No. We’re not getting Clix.’ stop frowning – people think you’re a grumpy cow

‘Pleeeeaaaase?’

‘NO!’ because I’ve just published a post professing we all need to eat less processed food and more plants, and I’m pretty sure Clix biscuits don’t fit into the second category there, and ? is that guy looking at me strange ?  Is he going for his..?!  No of course he’s not. Don’t be silly.  He’s just looking at his phone.  

‘Mumma can we have Shapes then?’  Maybe he’s waiting to snap a picture of your kids with Clix and Shapes so he can post it to Pete’s Facebook page with the caption:

Just encountered outspoken paleo ridiculer and brainwashed brand-slave dietitian Marnie buying her kids processed crap in the stupor market this evening #slavetothefoodindustry #dietaryguidelinesfail #badastherestofthem

 

*   *   *

You’ll be glad to know that I eventually pulled myself together and escaped the supermarket without appearing obviously unhinged.   I also stopped worrying about my potential death by social media suicide, and enjoyed an extremely delicious Thai takeaway with a friend while we watched Dead Poets Society and toasted the life of Robin Williams.

But the point of this post (I think) is that being a parent is a tough gig.  Sometimes, all of the noise and clamouring and expert advice out there about what we should and shouldn’t eat drives me a little batty – to the point where I just want to pack up, go home, and cuddle the dog.

But when I take a breath and a step back from it all –  I realise this:  Rather than freaking out and reinventing our way of eating, I just need a reminder, every now and then, to get back to basics.  And so my aims this week are simply to say no to the pester power of packaged rubbish, and to pack good, simple food in their lunches.

I’m also working on my new book I know stuff Pete Evans doesn’t – which I’m writing in the hope it will convince my husband and children that I actually do know what I’m talking about.  Wish me luck.

i know stuff pete evans doesn't

Abaondoned undies, exhausting forks

It’s occurred to me lately that we need to rethink the division of labour in our household. Because as the kids are growing up, life is getting seriously busy – and I’m slowly turning into a grumpy old cow.

Long gone are those toddler years when staying in jamies until noon was de rigueur, and ordering drive through coffee in your ugg boots was an acceptable days outing.

early days

These days there are alarms going bleep-bleep and befuddled children to boss about.  There are sustaining breakfasts and inspiring lunches to be negotiated. There are bags to pack, uniforms to locate, permission slips to be signed and teeth to be brushed. Those teeth need to be brushed Every. Single. Morning.   Top if off with a school bell to meet, and it gets me almost every time – I’m doing that shouty thing before the day has even properly started.

And the days when I try to complete the whole saga and then continue on my way to work?  Multiply the degree of difficulty by approximately 1.75, if you expect to a) remember your lunch and b) not look like you’ve been dragged through a bush backwards.  Some women do it every day of the week – and it baffles me how.

But then I read a few of those smug, ‘it’s really not so difficult if you’re organised’ type blog posts and came across this gem:

I have 3 young boys to get to school in the morning and have no trouble . We have a timetable. 6.30 – 7am – breakfast and shower. 7 – 7.30 – Chores, which are broken into 3 groups and they do each morning. They rotate at the end of the week. 7.30 – 8 – relax, 8am – depart for school. Lunches are made on Sunday night and packed in the fridge/freezer for the whole week with their name on them. Have been doing this since the youngest was 4 yrs old and have no problems at all.Pocket money of $5/wk is paid every Sunday. My boys are healthy, responsible, organised, good at school and sports and very happy..

Is she for real?  Do people really get their jollies packing a week’s worth of lunches every Sunday night, before unwinding with a well-overdue sock drawer inventory and a cup of camomile tea?  Obviously Ms Smarty Pants here doesn’t need to ask her children to do something at least three times before it will even appear on their radar – giving her plenty of time for her pelvic floor exercises while cooking day 13 of her 20-day rotating menu cycle.

Anyhow… I recently decided to implement a system of weekly chores and pocket money – because it dawned on me that if I don’t, I may well miss the bus, and end up with children who still don’t know how to use a washing machine at age 35.

The bedroom formed the ‘core focus’ of my new system.  From now on it was up to them to ensure it was tidy every morning, or they could kiss goodbye to their sweet $2 on Sunday.  In addition, he would take charge of emptying the dishwasher cutlery basket, she would help sort the clean washing, and they would both take turns feeding the dog.  I wrote it up, had it laminated and hoped for the best.

high hopes

One week down the track, we hit a snag.  My daughter had ‘run out’ of underwear, and so I went in to investigate and found no less than 5 pairs of underpants (balled up within various garments) in the bottom of the closet.  I delved deeper, and discovered several pairs of pyjamas covered in vegemite smears or crusted-on porridge, and shoved in various PATENTLY NON-PYJAMA draws throughout the room.

Arlo started out brilliantly with the cutlery task (completed with more precision than my husband, who favours the ‘turn upside and tip’ approach).   But predictably his enthusiasm faded, to the point where a direct transcript from his most recent unpack goes something like this:

Oh… this is soooo booorrrring (drop one fork into draw)…  It’s going…. to…. take…….. all………day… (drop one spoon into drawer) …. It’s….. tooo…. hard…. and… booooorrrrrring….. {enormous sigh}

Observing this spectacle, I fought against every fibre of my being, which wanted to take him and shout: JUST LET ME DO IT YOU LAZY GOOD-FOR-NOTHING OVER-PRIVILEGED UPSTART in an alarmingly Alf Stewart fashion.

Surely I should just save myself the angst and do it myself, properly, with no need for the drill-sergeant routine?  But that would be quitting.  So we’re pressing on.

I’ll let you know if the point ever comes when the kids ‘helping’ actually saves me time, and doesn’t make me want to stick a fork in my leg.  But until then, I’m keeping a good stock of Bombay Sapphire at the ready.

He got the cutlery blues

 

And then there were five

Life in our household used to be a bit mad.  And by mad, I mean up and down like a yo-yo with an average noise level rated as extreme.  It was also mad as in one minute we’re all getting along swimmingly and the next minute it’s fisticuffs.  I think the madness level was pretty much on par, for a family with two young children.

And then, along came Billie.

Along came BillieBillie who has impulse control issues and a penchant for destruction.  Billie with her fetish for eating pencils, the children’s soft toys, and human food (straight off the table).  If she’s not supposed to have it, you can bet she wants it – with every fibre of her being.

Billie is what you might call a keen gardener.  In fact keen is an understatement – I’d venture she’s more of a fervid gardener.  She has a grand vision for our back yard, and in this vision, succulents just will not be tolerated.  The ones in pots are toppled, and those in the garden beds are enthusiastically chomped apon.   I like to think that her online dating profile might go something along the lines of:

‘Hi, I’m Billie.  I have a shoe fetish and a penchant for rigorous pruning and excavation work’.

Needless to say, we’ve given the winter veggie garden a miss this year.

Billie is also a keen collector.  She curates and covets the strangest things – such as the awful fluorescent green wig and the Hulk mask from the kids’ dress-up box.  These enigmatic items are so much more tasty and interesting than the dedicated dog chewy toys we bought for her. And her collection continues to grow – so that this week I had to buy her a toy box of her own.

She fills it by slowly appropriating more and more of the kids toys – each desperate dash into the playroom being carefully timed and orchestrated.  She has learnt, you see, that possession is 9/10ths of the law.  And persistence pays off.

naughty billie brady bunch.jpg

And then there’s the food thing.  The problem is that Billie just isn’t that fond of dog food – which is troubling for me as a mother, dietitian and general food enthusiast.  I simply can’t have a skinny dog.

I mix up puppy milk for her every morning (even though she’s technically too old for it now). Sometimes I squat next to her and coo words of encouragement while she eats.   And the other night I even added double cream to her doggy kibble, in an effort to bump up the calories and tempt her little tastebuds.

I know – she’s a Whippet, and they’re skinny right?  But I can’t seem to help it – I’m a feeder.

I can, however, confirm that she is growing, because last Friday when I tried to bath her in the laundry sink, she didn’t really fit anymore.  There was a lot of scrabbling, splashing, slipping around and sweary outbursts until we finally emerged  – both utterly flustered and dripping wet.   It was not unlike trying to bath a baby giraffe.

Another development of late is that my weekly purchases of paper towel and disinfectant wipes are slowing, and I can’t remember the last time I stepped in a puddle of urine.  In fact, Billie has recently taken to tapping at the back door to go out for a wee. Can I tell you how exciting that is?!  To me, it’s a bit like finding a forgotten fifty in my jeans pocket.

What - they do dog graduation certificates now?

What – they do dog graduation certificates now?

The main reason she’s learnt to do this, of course, is the treaties.  If we learnt nothing else from puppy pre-school, we learnt that treaties are the currency Billie works on.  Thanks to treaties she can also sit, and drop, and wait at the road.  Which is why my pockets are always full of liver treats these days (no forgotten fifties to be found).

It’s also the reason why the people at City Farmers LOVE me.

And when I add up all the food, the paraphernalia, puppy pre-school lessons, kennel make-over expenses, doggie parkers (plural, because she ate the first one), vet bills and registration ..

…well, the truth is that I don’t.  I think it would give me a small coronary to see the final figure.  And that wouldn’t achieve much now would it?

The cost of Billie

So what’s life like with a Billie in the family?  It’s a little bit more mad than before, but it’s good.

It’s good to see the kids race out to greet her when we get home, and to hear her skidding around the house at top speed first thing in the morning.  I secretly love it when she goes missing at night, and I find her quietly snuggled up and eyeing me sheepishly from one of the kids’ beds.  And she gets us out of the house and walking every day.  She reminds me that what really matters isn’t that the beds are made or that the floor is mopped. Housework will always be there tomorrow.

We’re just so in love with our kleptomaniac, hyperactive, little bony-assed dog, it’s insane.

Billie goes to the park

 

 

 

 

 

I can see clearly now

Man, how time flies.

This time last year, Cam and I had just returned from two decadent, amazing weeks in New York City.  If I remember rightly, I was on cloud nine – firstly to be reunited with the kids, and secondly due to my greatly enriched wardrobe.  And a year down the track, my New York dress and Freddies jeans are still on regular rotation.  They’re the souvenirs that keep on giving.

High pants on the highline

Wearing my high pants on the Highline

I started writing this post last week at the Royal Childrens’ Hospital, as Arlo and I waited for his annual opthalmology appointment.  And because it’s only once a year now that we make that trip, I always find myself taking stock of life.  Every year I cast my mind back to those horror few months when he was tiny, and we were told he may well be blind.

From about six weeks of age, I’d noticed that Arlo wasn’t responding to visual cues as did his eagle-eyed big sister.  I could walk by him, and he wouldn’t turn his head – nor would his eyes follow me around the room.  And at times I noticed his eyes would waver from side to side in a slow, rhythmic fashion.  It was unnerving, but he was so little.  I told myself that they all developed differently, and tried not to worry.

early days snuggles

early days snuggles

But by twelve weeks we were booked in to see our first paediatric ophthalmologist.  She assessed him, and was fairly blunt about the situation – we were given the various forms we needed for a battery of further tests, and wandered, shell shocked out to the car.  I bawled.  And for a month or so we lamented and agonized over the idea that our precious little guy might never see our faces.

If we skip forward almost five years, those of your who know Arlo will know that he is not blind – not even close.  He has a condition called congenital nystagmus – essentially a weakness in his eye muscles that makes focusing difficult, and causes a slight jiggling of his eyes (which you may notice if you’re up really close).

He does lose me easily in the playground (there have been more than one of those announcements over the loud speaker at school), and finds it hard to pick out tiny details in the distance.  But oh – how I wish I could show him to the heartbroken mother who bawled in the car that day.  I could save her a lot of anguish by telling her what we have since learnt: a twelve week old baby who smiles cannot be blind (and surely that is something that any paediatric ophthalmologist worth their salt should also know?).

barwon heads jetty jumps

We never saw that doctor again – we got a second, and a third opinion, and had an enormous amount of support from the wonderful people at Vision Australia.  We were overjoyed to see his sight improve – slowly but surely – to where he is now.

And what of this year’s appointment?  Arlo has improved one line on the vision test, and although he’s still technically below the driving level, we’re not worrying about that for a good eleven years or so. If it’s warranted in the future, there is the option of surgery – which can’t fix it, but should help a bit.  And we’ve been off choosing glasses frames this week, to see if correcting his slight astigmatism with lenses will also help.  He’s chosen the Country Road frames, as he felt they looked ‘sporty’.

And so, as I do every year around this time, I look around at how fortunate we are, and I thank my lucky stars that my little man can see.

Ten things I’d really have liked for Mothers Day

Okay.  I know this is an easy target.  And there are probably a lot of these lists going around.  And of course, if I really could have anything I wanted, I would wish for world peace and end to poverty and a cure for cancer and MS and every other bastard degenerative disease out there.  I’d also wish for a happy ending for all of the women who so desperately want to be mums, but aren’t yet.  Excruciating.

So thank you to my beautiful children, and their handmade cards and gifts.  And thank you to my husband for buying me flowers and vacuuming the car and making me dinner.  I salute you.

mothers day delights

Here are ten things which would also have been awesome Mothers Day gifts:

1.  It would be really nice if, for once, my daughter nailed the ‘what I love about Mummy’ question, at the school mothers day morning.

You know – the bit when you all sit around in a circle, and every child has a turn at saying something nice about their mum?  In front of EVERYONE.  And I see her start to squirm… Some acceptable examples, as voiced by her classmates last Friday, were:

  • She’s AMAZING
  • She’s beautiful
  • She’s the best mum in the world (5 children said this!)

And what I got was:

  • She cooks me food

Now this is a true statement.  I do, in fact, cook her dinner most nights, and pack her lunches every day.  And yet… I’ll admit to being a little underwhelmed.  Surely an adjective or two wouldn’t go astray here?

fish finger guys

(I do make awesome dinners)

2.  I would love a shoe re-homing device

Like a Robomaid, only it specifically seeks out shoes (must be able to climb walls to reach those placed on the mantle piece out of the puppy’s reach) and returns them neatly to the correct closets.  Just a little thing, but I think it would make me immensely happy.

my mantle piece

3.  I’d like my children to remember to flush the toilet and wash their hands

Again, just a little thing.  And not a terribly difficult concept to grasp, one would think.  But do you know how often it is that I walk into the bathroom to be greeted by Mr Hanky staring back at me?!  Far too often.

I think what I need is one of those space aged booths with automatic flushing and a lock-in system which denies exit until you’ve washed your hands (with soap Goddamnit).  This would also eliminate the ‘did you wash and flush?’ question, which I currently ask at least five times daily.

And while I’m on the subject of toileting,..

4.  Is there such a thing as doggy toilet training boot camp?

And if not, can I maybe have that Chesty Bonds Vet man from the tele come over for some intensive toilet training assistance?  And I can make him cups of tea and regale him with cute puppy stories..

Why are you looking at me like that?  Did I say that out loud?

bondi vet man

What? Are you saying I’m the first person to have this fantasy?

Oh and one more while I’m on the subject:

5.  Can I please be allowed to go to the toilet in peace?!  PLEASE!?

This means no barging through the door as soon as I have closed it.  Or, for that matter, trying to hip-and-shoulder the door down if I lock it.  And no thumping on the door and asking me questions.  And no wailing MUUUUMMAAA I need you!

And finally, no slumping heavily against the bathroom door and breathing loudly until I am finished.  Just NO!  Okay?!

6.  I would like a mute button for the children

Now I don’t wish to sound harsh here.  I adore my children.  And they say some of the most delightful things.  So I would just like the option of the mute button for emergencies, and I promise I wouldn’t use it too often.

4878030109_3ace30595c_z

7.  I’d like a CCTV slow motion playback / external referee to sort out the children’s arguments

Imagine how much easier this would make my life?!  All I’d need to do, in the event of the screaming match / sobbing child / mysterious chocolate swindle, would be to make that special sign they do (where you draw the outline of a screen with your fingertips, and look up to the heavens).

I might use my mute button whilst waiting for the decision.

red card


Sorry kids – official decision is final

8.  I’d like the children to call out ‘DADDDYEEEEEE!!!’ in the middle of the night, in the event of a wet bed / tummy ache / evil Kermit in the cupboard / unexplained night terror / pending vomit

Enough said.  Moving right along..

9.   I’d like an extra 5 minutes sleep for every F&#KING loom band I find around the house.

I mean SERIOUSLY!  These things are everywhere.  And the dog tries to eat them.  And then I have to chase her.  And then she thinks I’m playing with her.  And then by the time I’ve finally caught her and prized open her jaws, I’ve forgotten what the hell I was doing in the first place.loom bands

10.  I’d like a four day mini break in Noosa with 7 old friends, a rooftop spa and and an afternoon beach cocktail party

And that, my friends, is exactly what I’m doing this weekend!  Come Thursday morning I’ll be boarding a plane (without a million activity pads and snacks and changes of clothes) and ordering myself a glass of sparkling.

It’s a Mothers Day present I’m giving to myself.  And it’s going to be awesome.

 

Burnt chop syndrome (and other real life lunch scenarios)

Well I can’t blame an evil publishing giant this time, but tonight I’m clambering back on to my school lunch soapbox.   You see, last night it took me no less than 40 minutes to assemble three sets of kinder/school/work lunches.  Seriously.  And as I finally snapped the lid on the last box I wondered – what is wrong with me? Surely it shouldn’t be that hard.

But after debriefing with friends today, I find it’s not just me.  Evidently, there is a certain state of mojo required to expedite a school lunch.  And if you’re not feeling it, you’re in trouble.

Now in retrospect I have to admit that the wine (and the resultant CBF state of mind) probably didn’t help.  But I also blame the cute kleptomaniac who now lives with us.

Billie


I’m sorry? What is the sweet potato you’re referring to?

At one stage I had to give chase in order to wrestle a sweet potato from her jaws (mental note: never look other way with pantry door ajar).  A moment later I turned around to find her balancing on top of the rubbish bin – looking simultaneously gobsmacked and delighted by her own daredevil feat.  And seemingly every two minutes from that point, I was downing tools to rescue various household objects or human appendages from her needle-sharp choppers.

Added to the amusing puppy antics, it seemed like every plastic container I sought out was either missing a lid, needing to be washed, or had mysteriously vanished from the face of the earth.

So what did the lunch boxes finally consist of?  As you can see below, I seem to have peaked early, with child 1.  By the time it came to packing my own lunch, I was functioning solely on autopilot, and all I could muster was a Vegemite sandwich.  I was suffering a bad case of burnt chop syndrome.

burnt chop syndrome (school lunches)

Anyway, burnt chop or not, it got me thinking about the other unfortunate school lunch scenarios I’ve encountered over the years.  And here’s a sample of my top five.

Can I hear a few ‘HELL YEAH‘s in the house?!

Scenario 1.  The Incorrect Fruit

Mother:  (unpacking lunch box)  Why didn’t you eat your banana today?!

Child:  (looking revolted) Because I hate bananas.

Mother:  No you don’t – you like bananas.  You can’t tell me you don’t like bananas.

Child:  No I DON’T like bananas and you don’t know because you’re NOT ME.

Mother:  (breathes deeply) You ate two bananas yesterday.  Of your own volition.

Child: (sulking) Well I don’t like them when they’re black and squishy.

Mother:  Now come on – I put that banana in your lunch this morning and it was not black and squishy then.  It’s black and squishy now because it’s been thrown around in the bottom of your bag all day.

Child:  (stoney-faced) Well I don’t like bananas anymore OKAY?

Outcome:  Mother mentally crosses banana off ‘acceptable fruit’ list, sighs and absentmindedly takes bite of squishy banana (then forces self to chew and swallow when realises child is watching intently).  Mother looks at bowl full of bananas purchased that day, and inwardly screams.

Banksy bananas


(image: Jez)

Scenario 2.  The Incorrect Cheese

Mother: (unpacking lunch box) Why didn’t you eat your cheese today?!

Child:  Because it looked funny.

Mother: What do you mean it looked funny?  It was just cheese.

Child:  But it didn’t have a picture on it.

Mother:  That’s because I cut it off a block of cheese.

Child:  (withering look) Well I only like the wrapper cheeses.

Mother: But the wrapper ones cost $60/kg, and the block of cheese is the same thing but costs $15/kg. I don’t see what the problem is?

Child:  It IS NOT the same!  Your cheese is disgusting!

Outcome:  Mother feels defeated by marketing conglomerates and pours glass of wine.  In future, mother buys ‘pretty’ cheese with strange girl or robot faces on the wrapper in order to provide cheese option which child will actually consume. Child / marketing company celebrate.

Acceptable cheeses

Scenario 3:  Sandwich Rage

Mother:  Okay, quickly now, would you like ham/cheese/tomato, or turkey/cranberry lettuce, or tuna/celery/mayonnaise in your sandwich?

Child:  Jam.

Mother: (visibly tenses) I didn’t offer jam.  What about cream cheese/carrot/sultana?

Child: (deadpans):  Honey.

Mother:  (through clenched teeth)  Are you serious?!  ARE YOU!?

Child: (defiantly) Well I don’t feel like any of those options!  Why can’t I just have jam?

Mother:  (in small, tight voice) Because you had jam yesterday.  Because you can’t have jam every day.  Because you need to eat VEGETABLES!

Child: (sighs dramatically) Okay well give me cheese then.

Mother:  (no words… Stalks to fridge, takes cheese slices and slams into sandwich, throws into lunch box)

Child: (face crumples and begins to wail dramatically) Why do you have to be so grumpy at me?  You don’t even LIKE me!  (stamps ridiculously out of room).

Outcome:  Mother feels simultaneously furious (for being stamped out on), dejected (over recurrent lunch drama), mean (over shouting and sandwich slamming) and exhausted (always exhausted).

Husband enters kitchen with ‘what’s all this about’ look on face and receives ‘don’t look at me that way’ face in return.  Mother wonders what is wrong with her as she is already shouting at 8am, when she had vowed it would be a shout-free day.

The terrified sandwich

The terrified sandwich (image: Sakurako Kitsa)

Scenario 4:  The ‘Forgotten’ Lunch

Child:  What’s for afternoon tea?  I’m starving.

Mother:  (staring in disbelief at contents of lunch box)  You didn’t eat ANY of your lunch today!  What is going on?

Child:  Oh.  I forgot.

Mother:  (still incredulous)  What do you mean you forgot?  How can you forget to have lunch?

Child: (looking furtive)  Well it was Lucy’s birthday and she bought in cupcakes.

Mother: Yes…?

Child:  And Charlotte’s mum was on canteen so we got a lolly snake and Jumpys.

Mother:  And so I wasted my time packing you a healthy lunch today, so that you could eat lollies and cake all day instead?

Child: (angelically)  I didn’t waste ALL of it – I ate the Tiny Teddies at recess.

Outcome:  Mother throws sandwich in bin, feeling her life is one big cliche, and curses self for implementing spartan Mon-Thurs no drinking rule.  Mental stocktake of house for any form of liquor uncovers half bottle of sticky in fridge from weekend entertaining.  Mother wonders at acceptability of drinking dessert wine before dinner.

Is this a thing?  This should really be a thing..

Is this a thing? (this should really be a thing)

Scenario 5:  No Bread In House

Mother:  So sweetie, we seem to have run out of bread.  You’ll have to have biscuits and cheese today.

Actually..  sorry.. I think these biscuits are a bit stale.

Child: I’ll have to have a lunch order!

Mother: (sounding upbeat) No no, I’ll just make an antipasto plate for you – you don’t need to have bread every day.

Child: (uncomfortable with deviation from the norm)  But I just want a sandwich…

Mother:  How about some…. baby beetroot… and some crab dip… and some chorizo and rice crackers…?

Child:  (panicking now)  Why haven’t we got any bread!? I can’t eat any of that – I need a lunch order!

Mother:  (slowly losing resolve) But it’s good to try something different!  You might start a new trend amongst your friends – I bet they’ll all be jealous… ?….

Child:  (detects weakness and goes for the kill)  Everyone will laugh at me and I’ll have no friends and I’ll be hungry and (sobs) I – just – want – a – lunch – order (sobs again while peering through hands).

Mother:  (dejectedly) Oh okay I suppose.  But no party pies.

Child:  (Miraculously recovers from lunch panic and beams triumphantly).

Outcome:  Mother sips tea and tries to look at upside – calculating minutes of free time bought by lunch order.  Contemplates drying hair or putting on make up, then looks over at younger child and realises kindergarten does not have canteen.

Mother takes deep breath, channels Zen state, and returns to fridge…

 

It’s cool to be a bit crap

With a short (but welcome) burst of school and kinder again this week, I’ve found myself taking stock of my winning and non-so-winning moments these school holidays.

Let’s start with my great moments – the ones where I was patient, creative and engaged with the children.  I baked with them (to be honest, it was more for them than with them).   I painted and crafted with them (and then finished their projects when they got bored and drifted off).  I took them to the library, to live theatre and the movies.  I spent a whole day making over their bedroom until it was fit for the pages of a glossy coffee table magazine.  I even strapped my bewildered feet into ice skates for the first time ever, in a surprise mother-daughter bonding session.

Looks pretty impressive on paper, doesn’t it?

School holiday moments (the good ones)

My feel-good school holiday montage

But in the interests of transparency, I’ll also share some of my not-so-great moments. Such as the three days straight where it rained pretty much constantly, and the puppy crapped and pissed in the house a lot.  On those days, the children fought and sulked, I yelled (even though I realise it’s not cool), and frequently resorted to eating chocolate hiding behind the pantry door.  To be honest, I was a bit of a grumpy cow.

And what made my mood even more morose was that all of my friends seemed to be doing interesting, fun-looking stuff on Facebook and Instagram.  I wondered why I was stuck in a funk at home, while everyone else was (apparently) exploring Melbourne and revelling in their children’s company?

Social media can be a bugger like that at times.  Like when you’ve just stepped backwards into a puddle of urine (again) and thrown the dishcloth dramatically across the kitchen and bellowed WHY IS THE DOG INSIDE THE HOUSE AGAIN?  AM I THE ONLY ONE WHO EVER TAKES HER OUTSIDE FOR A WEE!!? At times like this, it can seem like everyone is a more creative, proactive and fun parent than you.

creative parenting

What’s wrong with me? Why didn’t I think to fashion superhero elements into the children’s clothing this morning? (image: Abbey Hendrickson)

But looking back on those grumpy cow moments, I’ve decided to cut myself a bit of slack, because the truth is that being in charge of little people doesn’t always make for a relaxing, uplifting experience.  At times it can be exhausting and (is it okay to say this?) pretty boring. I’m just not that into hide and seek. Or playing memory match, with the house a veritable pigsty around me.  Does that make me a crap parent?

What I suspect is that everyone has their crap parent moments.  We all lose the plot now and again, and say things we regret as soon as the words are out of our mouth (even the most excruciatingly patient, earth-mother types).  It’s just that we generally don’t broadcast them on social media.

And in the parenting stakes, I’m pretty sure it’s okay to be a bit crap now and then.  We’re human, after all.

So next time you read that blog post – from the amazing, inspiring tree change family who live in the idyllic farmhouse and gather organic vegetables, which they cook in their rustic kitchen and eat at their hand-crafted, reclaimed timber dining table every night … just imagine what doesn’t make it into the blog.

Like maybe sometimes the children refuse to wear the romantic gumboots and be photographed picking berries, and instead chuck an enormous tantrum and demand to play on their mother’s iphone, which she is constantly shoving in their face at every instagramable opportunity.

You’ve got to admit – it’s kind of fun to conjure up.

gumboots are so hot right now

Empty gumboots (image: Monica Hoinkis)