Sunday, December 31, 2006

It's 2007!

I've visited all your blogs, and it sounds like you've all had at least some fun over Christmas! Now it's time to welcome in the New Year. I reckon it has great potential! Happy New Year to all!!


As you may know, I've been away the past week. I don't think I mentioned that the week was a week of travel - to Fatty's parents, to the family of his brother Newsreader (who has the head of a newsreader) where we were joined by Writer and his gorgeous wife Ten (she was nicknamed 10 at school - as in, 10 out of 10 - because she is so outlandishly pretty), then off to the land owned by another brother Goof (um, he's a goof) where we camped overnight. Then we retraced our steps, and arrived home two days ago. It was certainly busy, and there were no naps or reading of novels involved, but damn if I don't feel happy! And my eyelid has stopped twitching. How do you like that?!

I'd love to moan about having to visit Fatty's awful relatives, but in fact they are great people, and I must confess it was a lot of fun. Sure, I'd like to whack Writer over the head with the tea-towel at times (whilst explaining to him that meals don't make themselves, serve themselves and clear themselves away....geez!), but apart from that minor irritation it was a fabulous week.

Here are some photos....

All are photos from Goof's block of land, apart from the go-carting shot (Laura and me, at Newsreader's countryside home)

Happy 2007!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Friday, December 22, 2006

We Wish You a Merry Christmas!

While I'm away this coming week, please take care everyone, and have a wonderful Christmas!

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

somebody's a homebody

It seems I'm turning into my husband. Or, to clarify, I'm becoming more like him with each passing day.

I'm not growing chest hairs, and I'm not becoming unnaturally interested in the local weather website. I'm not forgetting upcoming social commitments, yet recalling the exact score of my football team's last winning game. I'm certainly not wearing shiny Wallace and Grommit boxer shorts to bed. And yet.... I think I've become a homebody.

Fatty likes to be at home. He likes to potter, to do jobs, to watch sport on TV, to read the paper. I, on the other hand, am somewhat more social (or at least I used to be). I look forward to seeing family and friends. If a weekend goes past without some kind of social event, I feel mildly disappointed.

But perhaps as I'm getting older, I'm changing. Because these endless rounds of Christmas gatherings are messing with my head. All these celebratory occasions should delight me. Instead I'm stressed about where I have to be when, and what salad/cake/gift I have to take to whom. My left upper eyelid keeps twitching. I'm afraid strange men will notice and think I'm winking at them.

I'd like nothing more than just to stay at home each day and night, right through until New Year's Day. If anyone wanted to visit, that would be fine. I have another fruit cake and some good coffee. But if I could just stay in the one place long enough, my mind might stop whirling and small body parts would stop flicking.

I can see now why they call it the Silly Season. I can also see the wisdom of my husband's ways.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Yuletide Yabbering

Writing Christmas cards is a tricky business. I had forgotten this, until just now when I sat down to write a few.

The thing is, there are some friends I only see every few years. The Christmas card from last year may be the last time we communicated. So although we may share a history, and have maintained a bond, I'm not completely relaxed about what I write in my message to them.

It's an odd thing, but somehow I find myself wildly rambling in greeting cards. It's as if, let loose on the blank page, my imagination knows no bounds, and I begin to write random thoughts. I end up sounding kind of frenetic, slightly manic. I'd be disturbed if I received one of my own cards (of course, that would also mean I had resorted to sending myself Christmas cards, which even I must admit doesn't seem healthy)

And then there are my clumsy attempts at humour. I can't understand, really, because as a child I was nothing if not earnest, and as an adult I don't get any requests to do stand-up routines. In fact, I have this amazing ability to take a joke that was stomach-clasping-funny when told to me, and render it inert, lifeless, completely un-funny. It's my special skill. Yet, whenever I write in cards I begin to crack jokes. Generally bad ones. Occasionally they are in poor taste. I joke about locking our respective children in a cupboard so we can drink champagne on the back deck, and then I wonder if the card recipient will think I am half-serious. Will they read my words and frown, their index finger poised to dial Childrens Services? I dribble on and on with the dumb wisecracks, and then after perusing the card, I wince and sigh. Why? Why can't I write a nice, sweet, heartfelt Christmas greeting? Is that so hard?

I can just see my old pals reading with furrowed brow, and passing the card to their spouses with concern. "She wasn't like that at school. I don't know what's wrong with her. Maybe she's not well?"

I'm well, really I am. I'm bouncing with wellness, and I just get a little silly. It's all that Christmas cheer.

Tomorrow night I'll try again with fresh cards. No jokes, no dumb remarks. Just 'hello, Merry Christmas, and a Happy New Year to all!'. Safe, sensible. Sedately sending Seasons Greetings.

I hope you have more success writing all your cards. Best of luck!

Saturday, December 09, 2006

Christmas, already?

My daughter had her birthday. I made her a cake, or rather - Dorothy from the bakery made the actual cake - I just cut it and decorated it.

We put up the Christmas tree.

I cleverly merely switched the Christmas lights on once again. Yes folks, I never managed to take them down after last Christmas. (It got to July this year, and I figured we were now closer to Christmas than not Christmas - if that makes any sense. Anyhow, it made perfect sense to me at the time) Oh, the joys of being slack are manyfold!

I have been braving the shops to search for those elusive magical gifts.

I have been finishing a scrapbook (my first ever) of our Canada trip for Benjamin, and starting one for Laura. I realise this project is progressing at a staggeringly sloooooow pace. My attitude can be summed up by this conversation I had in the arts & craft shop yesterday:

Cute blond teen salesgirl - "Oh, you're getting some cute colours. I just love scrapbooking!!"

Frazzled, headachey mother-of-two - "I hate it."

(short silence)

cute blond - "Oh! ha ha! Um, well, I haven't had much time for it lately..." (edges steadily away from frazzled mother)

I have been enjoying reading all your blogs, and hearing what everyone has been up to. I hope you're all beginning to feel that festive spirit stir within you ....

'It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas!'

Monday, December 04, 2006

respect gained

*Those who didn't read my post about 'Steven', my karate instructor, would be best to stop reading now.... this will bore you silly*

If you're still reading now, I'll try to reward you by being succinct!

Remember how 'Steven' was being rude and aggressive in classes? What I didn't mention in my story was the fact that 'Lisa', Steven's sister, also trains at the same dojo. And after Steven's particularly foul-mouthed outburst early last week, Lisa cornered me in the changing room and asked me what I thought about how he was acting.

Keeping in mind that Lisa was Steven's sister, I merely remarked that I thought Steven was trying to ensure we all respected him as our teacher. I added that I understood it would be hard to instruct a class of such a diverse age range, but agreed Steven was being too aggressive in his manner. I told Lisa that I was considering speaking to Steven on another occasion, when he had calmed down a bit.

For two days, I thought and thought about what I might say, how exactly I might word what I wanted to convey, without causing offence. Then I turned up for training again, and Steven was standing right beside the sign-in book.

"Hi, Steven", I greeted him.

Without any preliminaries, Steven replied, "What you said to Lisa - I completely agree."

My mind spinning (wondering what on earth Lisa actually said!), I managed a "Huh?"

Steven reiterated, "What you said to Lisa - you're right. I agree".

Not one to think on my feet, I mumbled, "Oh....OK!". I smiled, bowed in to class and lined up with everyone.

The class went well. Steven was warmer, friendlier, but still ran a tight ship and made sure we all listened and trained hard.

I went home, still amazed at Steven's response. Because I don't know about you, but when faced with criticism, I don't think I have ever simply stated, "You're right, I agree completely." If I manage to swallow my pride enough to accept what's been said, I will agree and apologise - but always with at least one small justification. Like, " Yeah, I was grumpy, I'm sorry. It's just that.. (blah blah- insert excuse of any kind eg fatigue, worry, illness, headache)".

Steven made no excuses, didn't rationalise, didn't give explanations - he openly acknowledged an error, agreed with a criticism, and changed his approach.

My respect for Steven has grown immeasurably. I've also realised that it's all too easy to criticise (like I did), but much more difficult to accept criticism gracefully.

Ironic, isn't it - I started off all indignant, thinking Steven needed to 'learn a thing or two'. Yet really, I'm the one who has learnt something new.

Life is full of fascinating twists and turns.

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

about face

Every now and then, my children do or say things to atone for the stress they cause me, the lifeblood they suck out of me, the emotions they wring from me. This is not to say that my dear offspring do not also bring me joy, fascination and the deepest, most indestructible love. I'm just saying - there's also the vomit-bucket-holding, the dispute-negotiating, the endless cooking and cleaning and bathing and dressing and toothbrushing and ..... I think I've made my point. Kid-raising is no light task.

So when I am given one of Ben's ferocious hugs, or one of Laura's soft cheek-dusting kisses, it is always a delight - an oasis of pure happiness in the day.

Sometimes, it is an amusing statement that makes my day. Last week, when I insisted Ben go get dressed, he pouted, "You're wrecking my life!". It was the absolute highlight of my day. For what could be a better benchmark for success as a mother than to check whether or not you are ruining your child's life? Ruining their lives is our job. I take that role seriously.

Other times, my kids reduce me to a pool of melted mother. They say the sweetest things, and I am putty in their grubby little hands.

This morning, I made some remark about my face. I can't remember exactly what I said, (though I can reassure you that it was unlikely to have been, "Gosh but my face is looking terrific this morning!"). Laura, always wanting to make her mother happy, chimed in with, "Mummy your face is pretty".

Ben spoke clearly from the opposite side of the table, "Your face isn't pretty Mummy." I glanced over, and raised an eyebrow (because really, if you can't brainwash your children - who you have incubated, birthed and nurtured - to believe their mother is beautiful, then what hope have you got with the rest of the population?)

Ben grinned devilishly and finished with, "'s adorable!"

Ah. Good save, my sweet son. Well done! Now excuse me while I find a corner to go melt in.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006


Where I train in karate, the head instructor's son (aged in his mid-20's) has recently taken over most of the classes. This young man (I'll call him Steven) is knowledgeable and experienced. In the past, when he taught occasionally, I enjoyed his classes. He taught us new things, or taught us things we already knew from a different angle.

Since Steven became the main teacher, though, he has become very defensive. He is critical, with very little praise to offer. He bridles at any question regarding techniques, however innocent. With the older students (and there are quite a few of us in the 30-50 age group), he has been particularly curt.

I understand what is going on here. Steven wants to be sure we are all giving him the respect he deserves, as our teacher. The trouble is, he is aggressive, and somewhat disrespectful in his attitude towards the class members. Tonight, when he became annoyed by a 50-ish black belt student who Steven thought was defying him (when actually, the man had made a geniune error), Steven told the man to 'f*#k off' out of his class! To be completely fair, there has been some conflict brewing between Steven and this other man for some time (through misunderstandings, from what I can tell). However, I thought the swearing was extremely unprofessional. But then I guess I'm not 24, and I'm not trying to teach a class ranging in age from 15 to 55 (70 if our oldest member comes along!)

I'm frustrated by karate classes these days. I can feel Steven's defensiveness and aggression. I want to tell him, 'You can't force people to respect you. You must inspire respect. Be a teacher who is firm but patient, who corrects but also encourages." Of course, this would go down like a lead balloon!

Still, I might try speaking to Steven in private. I might tell him how much I've enjoyed his classes, but how I would enjoy some positive feedback as well as correction. I might let him know that I respect him as a teacher but that I sometimes don't feel respected as a diligent student (which I am). Because really, if there is no change, I won't want to continue training. And to leave without at least trying to discuss the issues seems like a cop-out, and a waste of all my years training at that club.

Hmmm. Might sleep on it!

Friday, November 24, 2006

touchy feely

As blogfriends, we have no real way of knowing what each other would be like in person. Many of us never show our faces on our blogs. We don't hear how other bloggers sound. We can't see our blogpals' gestures, mannerisms. And we have no idea whether, were we ever to meet, a particular blogger buddy might smother us in a breathquashing hug, kiss on the cheek whilst performing a small shoulder pat, extend a stiff hand, or nod shyly.

When it comes to how affectionate a person is, I reckon most people fall into categories 1 to 4:

Category 1: kisses and/or hugs everyone except the garbage man. Takes any social greeting as an opportunity to grab a hug, and lay a smacker on the other person's cheek (people belonging to subcategory 1b will actually plant a kiss on the mouth of any stray relative, no matter how distant. Whiskery Great Aunt Joys are often to be found in subcategory 1b). Touches others readily, and without self-consciousness. Category 1 people are known to rub the pregnant bellies of complete strangers.

Category 2: greets close friends and close family with hugs and/or kisses, but is a little more discerning with casual friends or extended family members. Especially loving and affectionate with children and partners, Category 2 people are very cuddly within their select circle. Will often touch an acquaintance on the shoulder or hand if the acquaintance is upset or ill, but will otherwise keep their hands to themselves.

Category 3: more guarded, Category 3 people will generally regularly embrace close family only. Even then, they may receive complaints that they don't show enough affection.They will make an exception for friends or other family members in distress. They may even learn to accept hugs from friends who belong to category 1 or 2, but category 3-ers will rarely initiate this physical intimacy. Category 3 people are not naturally 'touchy'.

Category 4: these people are extremely self-contained, and rarely touch others. Category 4 members will only offer another person a hug at funerals, and only immediate family. They may stiffen if embraced by others, and leave their arms like planks of wood by their sides. Although some category 4-ers have blood-stained axes under their beds, many more were simply never shown physical affection as children.

Personally, I think I'm a category 2. Some of my husband's friends are category 1, and I enjoy their vivacity and warmth. Fatty is more of a Category 3, but lucky for me, I'm in his 'inner circle'! I hope my children grow up to be affectionate, too. I want to receive hugs from them all my life.

So, are any of you prepared to reveal your category?!

Monday, November 20, 2006

Christmas comes early

I blame it on Alice. I'm sure it was her talk of Christmas baking that had me daydreaming of a dark, damp, drunken fruit cake.

I've never baked a Christmas cake before. I'm not entirely sure why, but I think the reasons may have been work, work and too much bloody work, followed a few years later by two small children and even more work. Christmas cakes are quite labour-intensive. And frankly, when my kids were younger, given a choice of:
1) bake for 3 hours , or
2) read a little then go to bed early....well, the reading/sleeping option was always going to win out.

This weekend, though, I had energy to burn. I was riding high on a post-sick-kid wave of euphoria (no vomit! what a glorious day!). I followed my recipe, which was called 'The Perfect Fruit Cake'. I dutifully chopped, boiled, beat, stirred, sifted, combined. And LO unto my stove top a Christmas cake was born. And it was good.

I hate to blow my own trumpet, but someone has to toot my horn. This cake is seriously delicious. I could polish off the entire cake in a matter of days. Today I've eaten a piece after lunch and a piece at dinnertime. I may have to hide the cake from myself.

Of course, it's not really Christmas cake, it's November cake. Because truthfully, the only trace left by Christmas will be the scatter of crumbs beneath this table.


Thursday, November 16, 2006

things that go bump in the night

Ever been awake in the dead of the night? Surely everyone has, at one time or another.

Lately, I've been awake at odd hours, looking after my son (see previous post). Even when he's settled again, and I've returned to my bed, I lie there listening, alert to any sound that could indicate I'm needed. Last night- lying, listening - I realised that there are all kinds of weird noises in the wee hours in our house.

Some of these night noises are comforting and well-known.

Each evening around midnight, there is the mournful screeching of a faraway goods train as it rounds a sharp bend. When we first moved here, I thought it was a solitary, sad cry. Often I heard the train as I was sitting alone, feeding an infant in the half-dark. It seemed the train was calling out in both pain and resignation, as it rounded the corner on its track. With time and familiarity, though, the goods train has become like a reliable old friend. The sound is a happy one - a tireless train forging ahead. I hear it as I head for bed late sometimes and think - Ah, there's the goods train ..... all is right with the world.

Another routine sound is the thumping, crashing, romping of possums across our tin roof. Although initially this can be startling (because it really, truly does sound like three fully-grown men are having rooftop races), I soon relax and smile to myself. Our possums must be the boldest, bounciest possums in Australia.

I'm used to the fruit bats, who squeak now and then through the night. I barely notice the dog's whinnying snoring. I'm reassured by the soft thud as the newspaper hits the front lawn.

But last night there were mysterious sounds, as well. First there came a soft rhythmic hiccuping. I was intrigued, and after a moment I shook back the covers to go check the children. Laura slept, motionless, with one irresistable peachy cheek uppermost. Even my soft kiss didn't wake her. She was not the secret hiccup culprit.

Benjamin was pale but breathing quietly, and still. The hiccuping could not be blamed on the little guy.

Fatty woke when I asked him if he could hear the noise...

me: "You awake hon?"

Fatty: (drowsily) "Hmmm?"

me: "Oh, you're awake! Can you hear that noise?"

pause while Fatty listens obligingly

Fatty: (slurring a little) "Sounds like someone hiccuping."

me: "Yes! It does! Except no-one is hiccuping!!"

Before we could conclusively solve the mystery of the hiccup (Fatty decided ' It must be a bird'. Of course, Birdman would think that), there came another noise. This one was a pathetic whimpering. And no, it wasn't Fatty begging me to let him get back to sleep.

I got up again, this time with a heavy sigh. Which child wanted me? Was Laura sick, too? But again, I found both children slumbering. I stayed awhile in each bedroom, to be sure. Not a sound. I returned to bed, and the noise came again. Fatty began to snore softly.

I lay listening to the whimpering come and go. I knew Fatty, the dog, and my children were safe. I had no energy to spare for investigating further. Eventually, the noise stopped, and I fell asleep, pondering the strangeness of noises of the night.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

an apology and a whinge

Dear Blogfriends,

I'm posting briefly to apologise for my temporary absence, and particularly for my lack of commenting on your blogs. I have been a little haphazard with my reading, and a bit reticent with commenting, even when I have been reading. So please don't think I have abandoned you all.

My son has been sick over the past three days (and right now is lying in a feverish sleep nearby), so looking after him has consumed most of my time.

This is the 7th stomach bug our family has encountered over the past 12 months. I am just a tad fed up. And in case you were wondering - no, I do not prepare food un-hygienically, and yes, I do make sure my kids wash their hands before eating! Before this past year, neither of my children had ever been ill with a vomiting illness. I suppose they are simply making up for lost time! I'm not impressed.

Today I am feeling particularly isolated. No-one has phoned to see how Ben is - not my close friend Chooky, who knows Ben is ill, not my Mum (who is probably working, to be fair), not Fatty (who is also at work), not my sister-in-law, who was here the day it all started. What are these people thinking - do they not realise the world revolves around me and my children??? Gee whiz.

Ben whimpered to me today, with waxy face, "I wish I was you, Mummy. Then I wouldn't be vomiting."

Hopefully tomorrow will be a better day.

Friday, November 10, 2006

ring a ding ding!

Look what my wee daughter found
by the sandpit, on the ground -
something shiny, something bright
that made me grin with pure delight -

Fatty's long-lost ring is home!
and no more shall I let it roam.
(I have a plan that's sound and true
involving tubes of superglue)

Welcome old ring, back to the fold
Sorry new ring - make way for the old...
I thank my lucky stars above
For old rings, old friends, and longlasting love.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

pay it forward

Sometimes I get to feeling a bit maudlin. Often there is no clear reason for this. It may be merely that a friend has been a bit offhand with me. I may be worrying about a patient. Other times I absorb the mood of those around me - feeling unsettled and sad because a friend or colleague is unhappy. Sometimes the feeling I have is most like loneliness. I miss spending time with my friends - time that is just no longer available now that we have children.

When I get in a funk, I wallow for awhile. I soak up cuddles from my kids, and have to resist the urge to cling to them. I go over events in my mind, I think about everything that I dislike about myself. I fantasise about quitting work. I whine to Fatty and my friends. I wallow.

Inevitably, because this is just a crappy mood and not depression - (so no comments suggesting drugs or therapy, please!), I stop navel-gazing. I lift my gaze and see the real problems in the world. I try to think of what I can do for someone else, to make someone else's day easier, happier.

I'd love to say I do things for others because I am such a good person, but the truth is I try to make small gestures (make a cake, send a card, deliver dinner to a sick friend) because it gives me a sense of purpose, and makes me feel good. Of course I want to help out, but I'm also getting high on this sense of purpose - filled with joy at doing something for someone besides myself. I can highly recommend it as a cure for those transitory blues.

So today, instead of considering how I feel, I am going to consider how everyone else around me feels. I'm going to try to make a difference to someone else's day, no matter how small.

Yesterday, a close friend listened to me, empathised, and restrained from telling me I was a silly selfish cow. Now it's time to pay it forward.

Sunday, November 05, 2006

gumboots and grass and galahs

We had planned to go camping, but inclement weather and the lure of an orphan calf that Mum is bottle-feeding found us spending a couple of days at Mum's farm.

I expected the calf to be sweet and cuddly, but he alternated between skittish and outright rude - butting unsuspecting adults between the legs with his head, as if we all had suddenly grown udders. The kids enjoyed feeding him, though, and he does look quite appealing.

Fatty photographed a new bird and was positively exuberant.

I walked around, snapping farm photos and soaking up the sights and sounds I love so much.

I hope you've all managed to find some time to soak up some beauty in your weekends, too. Happy Sunday!

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

my little super-heroes

Do you suppose they were contemplating trying to fly? That could have been really messy.

As it happens, no one flew or fell. Ben informed me that I was Super-Mum, which I chose to take as an affirmation of my super parenting skills (cough). I realise Ben would be unlikely to come up with the concept of Doing-The-Best-I-Can-And-Sometimes-Stuffing-It-Up-Anyway-Mum. But Super-Mum sounds so.... strong and powerful. It has a great ring to it!

Yesterday I was an inattentive mother. I didn't spend much time with my kids - I wanted to read, to talk to my friends, to get certain jobs done. I was being selfish, and I don't like myself much like that. I know it's forgivable to be a dodgy mother for one day, but today I want to do better.

Parenting is hard work.

Saturday, October 28, 2006

sunny funny holiday

If you measure a successful holiday by seeing jellyfish bobbing, a snake dozing, a sea anemone wafting, sea turtles drifting, dolphins surfing, and a whale spouting.... then this holiday was a cracker.

If you measure a happy holiday by the running on the beach, the leaping over waves, the poking in rock pools, the swinging on the playground monkey bars, the camerastalking of water birds, the leaning together watching wet sandy children and the strolling aimlessly, just thinking.... then we are all happy as clams.

If you measure a satisfying vacation by the number of gelato ice-creams eaten, the glasses of cold white wine sipped on the balcony, the cheese and crackers nibbled upon whilst chatting lazily, and the barbecued prawns and fresh salads devoured......we've definitely had our fill.

I don't think I've ever had such a relaxing holiday. My kids had so much fun that they fell into slumber within minutes each night, and didn't wake until morning. Fatty laughed more than he normally would in a month. I sat on the balcony mesmerised by the the endless procession of white-crested waves. At night I lay listening to the surf.

The second-last morning, I jogged alone along an empty stretch of beach, before turning to walk back home. The clouds were studded in a threadbare blanket across the sky - except for one round window of cobalt blue. As I strode along the tide line, my eyes were drawn to that portal in the sky; I felt so buoyant that I imagined myself simply stepping into the air and rising up through that space. I felt all things were possible.

It was a good holiday.


I want to add a special thank-you to my secret post-writing friend, who wrote a pack of sweet lies about me and made me sound much nicer than I really am.

Friend, you are irreplaceable. Thank you!

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

My friend, my friend

Well hello.

It's not Jellyhead. She's still enjoying fun, family and friends at the beach, the lucky . . . *ahem*

Jellyhead is a very good friend of mine and I am here to tell you about her.

First, Jellyhead is a very pretty woman who exudes health and happiness. She wears her hair up almost all the time. When she wears it down, I always tell her how pretty she looks and she always protests and says things like, "No, no. I am messy and unkempt." I beg her to wear her hair down and she refuses, saying it gets in the way. I've seen her dressed in her work clothes and I've seen her in her pajamas just after waking and she is pretty, either way.

Jellyhead is almost always smiling and even her frowns somehow seem good-natured, like her mouth is just waiting for the next opportunity to smile. When she is worried she furrows her brow and leans forward on her elbow. When she is really troubled, she rakes her fingers through her hair and sighs heavily. When she laughs, she leans back in her chair and sometimes shakes her head at me as if to say, "I don't know what I am going to do with you." When she is embarrassed and amused at the same time, she giggles so hard that she shakes and covers her face with her hands.

Jellyhead is freakishly perceptive. I've yet to successfully hide my feelings from her. She always guesses what is on my mind even when I could swear I have done nothing to give it away. I always tell her I am going to have to work harder on my poker face because, at least to her, I am completely transparent --an open book.

I'd be hard pressed to find anyone that I'd rather share my thoughts with, though. Jellyhead is open-minded and kind. She is rational and tolerant. She takes things in stride in a way that I only wish I could.

I often stand in awe of Jellyhead, to tell you the truth. She is adored by her children and is such a loving and careful mother. She goes to work and takes care of patients and then calls to check on them on her days off. She and Fatty enjoy romance and friendship in a seemingly perfect balance. She is a black belt in karate and just laughs at the suggestion that she is capable of kicking some serious butt! Not long ago, her finger was broken during sparring and she just laughed it off. (It was broken when she kept beating a young girl in the sparring matches. After losing a few times, the girl jokingly declared, "Oh, you are going DOWN!" and, the next thing she knew, Jelly's finger was broken)

I could go on telling you how wonderful Jelly is for hours. (But I won't. I heard that collective sigh of relief!)

But really and truly, what I want you to know after reading this post is that Jellyhead is my friend and I just feel so lucky to know her!

Here's hoping that Jelly is having a fantastic holiday at the beach.

Friday, October 20, 2006

beach bums

Tomorrow we're heading off to the beach for a week. It will be our fourth year at the same spot, with the same friends staying next door, in the same block of units. Just call me the Routine Queen.

Last year, although we still had some fun, we had both children sick at various times over the week. So this year, I will consider us eternally blessed if everyone remains hale and hearty for the week!

Wherever you are, whatever you are doing, I hope you enjoy your week. See you soon!

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

what happened next

Was it the post I wrote? He doesn't usually read my blog (see previous post regarding Fatty's general lack of interest in my fascinating thoughts). Yet it seems too coincidental to be simply luck.

Whatever may have prompted Fatty (he said, "I saw them and they looked pretty"), I am adoring these blooms and feeling guilty for implying that my husband is not romantic. I take it back. I eat my words. He is simply a romantic with erratic timing.

And he can still surprise me.

Sunday, October 15, 2006

the note

Do you have one of those marriages or relationships in which your significant other leaves you sweet notes tucked under your pillow? Does your spouse write you soppy cards for no reason except to tell you how incredible you are? Pah! Humph! Be gone with you! Or stay, but just don't tell me the sordid romantic details.

My husband is a gorgeous bloke, who does the dishes every night, plays games with our children for hours, and encourages me in all I do. He is just not terribly spontaneous. Flowers are a rarity. Love notes are almost unheard of. Cards are given, but only on birthdays. He shows his love in more practical ways.

So I should really know better than this, but when Fatty was late coming home from playing sport yesterday afternoon, I began to toy idly with the pleasant idea that perhaps he had stopped off to buy me flowers. It was a lovely daydream.

Six o'clock came, and I realised there would be no flowers. The shops were long closed. I began to imagine sports-related injuries, because that's the kind of freaky worrier I am. To be fair to me, I do often think in worst case scenarios, but I also began to fret because Fatty once rang me, en route from squash court to hospital, to say he had busted his Achilles tendon. So that got fixed but, you know, he hasn't done the other side yet.

So while I grated zucchini into the bolognaise sauce (hiding vegetables from children is my special talent), I wondered where my husband had gotten to. I started to clear the kitchen table for dinner, and there it was.... a note! A note for me! I hadn't noticed it because it was written on an envelope the kids had decorated in felt pen swirls.

The note read:

Have gone to find a Baillon's crake


I was swept away by the utter devotion and desperate romanticism of his words. If you read between the lines, it is quite clear that Fatty meant, "Jelly, my love for you is so expansive and vast that I feel I could soar on its breezes like a Baillon's crake". Don't you think?

Friday, October 13, 2006


I'm not signed up for twanging instument lessons. Yet.

I received an e-mail from Writer the same day I last posted. He wrote:


It's a terrific piece.

The marked copy will arrive at your place tomorrow. There are a few (minor) suggestions.

Love Writer.

The copy didn't arrive yesterday, so I am still waiting with some trepidation. I'm encouraged, though, because Writer is not a gushy person. I've never heard him say one thing and mean another. So those few words of praise mean a lot to me.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

the waiting game

Some of my longer-term readers may recall that Fatty's brother is a writer. He has written four books, all of which were sold in mainstream bookstores. He regularly writes for several newspapers and magazines, is also on radio and occasionally does interviews on TV. He is our family's only claim to fame! So it seemed to make sense for me to seek his advice about an entry I have been working on for a medical writing competition.

I say it seemed to make sense, because now I am obsessively checking my e-mail every 3 minutes, looking to see if Writer has sent back his critique of my prose. I'm nervous, I'm antsy, oh my goodness, what was I THINKING??!

I asked Writer to help me with some awkward phrasing, and to tell me what might be better cut out; what might be best more padded-out. I told him I wouldn't take offence, and that part is certainly true. I won't be snooty or miffed by any suggestions for improvement. I can't promise I won't be hurt, though, if he tells me that what I have written is beyond salvaging, for instance. Or if he kindly suggests I might be better learning the ukelele. I can't believe I have shown a published writer my half-baked, half-assed short story. What was I thinking?!

I dreamt last night that Writer told me my piece was offensive to Canadians. There is not a single mention of Canadians in the story. Perhaps the dream ended before Writer was able to list all the other nationalities in the world as well.

I hope you are all enjoying your day. I'm going now, to check my e-mail......

Monday, October 09, 2006

It seems to be Monday morning already. The weekend has vanished into thin air.

I am feeling off-kilter today. Fatty has lost his wedding ring somewhere at our friends' place, I don't want to face work today, and I have discovered that I have wrinkles at the very corners of my mouth! All silly little things that are not important. I've got to snap out of this.

So, instead of writing any more whilst in this self-indulgent mood, I will show you some spring flowers from our garden. I'll think back to the weekend, when Fatty mowed the lawn under a vivid blue sky, I went swimming with my slippery giggling children, and we ate a seafood lunch on our friends' back deck while the kids ran crazily around the yard.

Inhale. Hold. Exhale.

Fake it until you make it.

"Hi ho, hi ho, it's off to work I go!"

Friday, October 06, 2006

365 days of blogging ...give or take

It's hard to believe it's been an entire year (plus 2 days) since I tentatively entered the blog world.

It all began with an article I read in a medical magazine. The author mentioned how he enjoyed reading The Underwear Drawer, a blog written by a young New York doctor called Michelle. I started reading her blog, and was fascinated. I blogsurfed a bit. After awhile, my Google page began to display an ad line- 'get your own blog for free'. I found this a little spooky. I was also tempted. I began to write lame posts, and absolutely no-one knew me or commented for awhile.

One of my first ever comments was from Mackeydoodle. I was writing about the stress of trying to run to time at work, and she wrote a supportive and kind comment. I was astonished that a complete stranger would be so friendly. And then and there I was hooked on blogging.

Since I began blogging, I have come to 'know' so many fascinating people. I have opened my mind to many differing points of view. I have realised the untold power of compassion and humility. I have laughed out loud as I sit reading the words of my fellow bloggers. I have shed tears over poignant posts. I have made friends I hope to keep for life.

I also have rediscovered my love of writing. As a child and adolescent, it was a habit of mine to express my thoughts on paper, but somewhere in the pursuit of my very science-based career, I had stopped writing. Medicine seemed to have wrung all the creativity out of me. I sporadically tried to put pen to paper, but the sheer awfulness (don't tell me that's not a word) of what I wrote stopped me continuing.

So now, I may not be a brilliant writer, and I may use dubious words and awkward phrases, but damn I'm having fun! Words flow more readily, and I am able to convey all those thoughts that used to clog up my head. I'm happier, my mind is clearer. And best of all, I have all you lovely blog readers to 'talk' to!

It's been a year already. How about that.

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

my baby's no baby no more

It is four years now since I was handed a round fat ball of wrapped-up baby Benjamin. His face was chubby, and his brow was creased as if he was deeply concerned. Fatty and I looked at each other and grinned. "He looks like a front-rower!", Fatty murmured proudly.

Our infant son has grown to be a nuggety little fellow, who today celebrates his birthday with the aid of his new Superman outfit and a set of walkie-talkies. Ben is a fiercely loving, chatty, vigorous kid who never ceases to amaze us with his humour and his inquiring mind.

He greets us in the morning by shouting "Cock-a-doodle-doooooooo!" from his bedroom (not so cute at 6am, but tolerably cute as I recall this now). He farewells me before work with, "Bye Mum. Love you. Drive carefully. Don't crash!". At night, he delays sleep by getting up to ask us intriguing questions:
"Were ankylosauruses plant-eaters?", or "When Holly (his kindy teacher) is old, how will we know which nursing home she's in?". When he falls asleep at last, he looks much younger - clutching an old cot sheet, thumb in mouth.

Before Ben came along, I worried that I could never love a child the way I love his sister, our beloved Laura-girl. And yet, here is proof that the heart has an infinite capacity for love - I love my son deeply, powerfully, utterly.

Happy Birthday, Ben. May you have a life full of the happiness you bring to us each day.

Sunday, October 01, 2006

my riveting weekend....

As I posted these pictures, I was thinking what an uneventful weekend it has been, and how good that was. Funny - when Fatty and I first were married, I was always keen to go somewhere, do something on Saturdays and Sundays. It was a 'wasted' weekend if we simply poked about the house and yard.

Having children alters your perspective enormously. Suddenly it is an unexpected delight if the little ratbags play happily long enough for me to read the papers. I enjoy the peaceful rhythm of making my favourite carrot cake, and giving the kids a spoon each to lick when I'm finished. I even get some warped satisfaction from bringing in sunshiney sheets from the washing line, and making up the beds with fresh-smelling linen. And of course, after last weekend, I consider our family truly blessed simply because no-one is losing digestive by-products from any orifice. The flowers are showing their faces all around the garden, and it's perfect spring weather.

All in all, it's been a grand old weekend!

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

hand in hand

My daughter has had a rough few days. For three days, she did not eat. Her shoulder blades are like fragile wings, folded ready for flight. Her legs have changed from coltish to spidery. The vertebrae are spiky down her back. So today, although she has finally ceased ejecting her stomach contents, Laura remains wan and lethargic. She is indecisive - unable to choose what she might attempt to eat, what she'd like to do, where she might lie.

I asked whether she felt able to take a short drive to the local DVD rental store. Laura pondered this, pale-faced and serious.

"Yes, that would be OK. It's not very far to walk from the car."

I pressed her further : "But sweetie, we'd be walking around inside a bit, choosing the DVD. Are you sure you have the energy?"

Laura looked at me steadily. "I could do anything with you to hold my hand."

I realise Laura didn't mean this in a sweeping, generalised sense. She's only five, and I guess she was being quite literal - she could go get a DVD if I helped her along, she could come for a short walk with the dog, if I helped her along...

I prefer to believe that Laura feels nothing is beyond the realms of possibility, if only I will be there with my hand in hers.

Sunday, September 24, 2006

woeful weekend

One of the many good things about becoming a parent was the way it helped me understand other parents. More specifically, it made me realise how stressful it is when a child is ill. These days, when a parent brings their child to see me at work, I completely grasp how worried they are; I can comprehend that a seemingly minor ailment or injury can cause untold anxiety for a mother or father. Before having children, I was aware that parents got very concerned about their children, and I tried to be kind and reassuring, but often, the concern seemed vastly out-of-proportion to the problem, and I didn't quite get it. I'm sure that came through in my demeanour.

I have been humbled by having my own kids. The distress I feel when they are sick or hurt engulfs me. I am a complete baby when it comes to my 'babies'. And the less they complain, the worse I feel for them. My daughter Laura has always been such a stoic little thing with illness. She doesn't cry, she lies quietly and doesn't call out. I'll hear a small sound in the night, and find her standing over the toilet, being sick, with no fuss. She is a real trooper.

This weekend, Laura Lou has been unwell. She has vomited 17 or 18 times (I've kind of lost count). She has not shed a tear, despite this. Right now, she is finally asleep for awhile. And here I sit, knowing she will be OK, knowing she just has a particularly nasty gastro bug, but worrying about her and feeling anxious just like any other parent (actually I suspect more fretful than is normal!). I want to fix things so she feels back to normal, straight away. I don't want to go to work tomorrow (even though Fatty - her perfectly capable father - will be home with her) because I know Laura slightly prefers her mother when she is sick. I want a cackling anti-vomit witch to come and make us a magic potion. And while she's here the witch could hang out all the sheets and towels and pyjamas I've had to wash.

So I just want to make it perfectly clear that I do now 'get' parental anxiety. I get it already, I got it with Laura's first cold almost 6 years ago. I don't want to know how much worse it would be if I had a seriously ill child. I am tired of just the regular worries. But I'm a parent, so I'm not allowed to get tired of it. Parents must just endure.

Enduring is only relieved by whining. Thank you for listening.

Thursday, September 21, 2006

a happy postscript

My aunt phoned this morning. She'd read the post below, about Mama. Apparently I made my aunt cry, too. My Aunt 'Zany' (I'm sure she'll approve of that pseudonym and won't be offended..... I hope!) is the youngest daughter I mentioned, who visits Mama several times a week. Aunt Zany wanted me to add something to the post I'd written.

When Zany visited the day after I did, she saw in Mama's visitor book that I'd stopped by. She prompted Mama by saying, "So Jelly came to see you yesterday?". Mama looked unsure for a moment, then replied brightly, "and the little one!".

She remembered. Such a small thing means so much.

My Mama is not going down without one hell of a fight.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006


I've been avoiding visiting her. I tell myself it's because I'm so busy, but I know that's a half-truth. I defer spending time with Mama, my grandmother, because she is succumbing to dementia. She is no longer the woman I remember. Like a petulant child, I am avoiding unpleasantness - the sad discomfort of witnessing Mama's decline.

She once was an auburn-haired woman with sturdy arms and legs, capable of anything. My Mama raised seven children, and cared for her chronically-ill husband until his early death. Mama worked at a care facility for disabled children. She cooked a mean roast dinner and the best peanut biscuits ever. She chaired a women's writers group. Until the past year or two, she giggled like a schoolgirl at any mildly off-colour joke you could come up with. I went to see Mama today, in the nursing home where she now resides. My mother warned me beforehand that Mama's memory had deteriorated since I last saw visited. Mum wasn't sure if Mama knew who any of the family were any more.

As I walk in, I see her. Mama sits at table, snowy-haired and blue-eyed, looking so small. She is smiling in my direction. She looks pleased and surprised, though slightly perplexed. It must feel like when someone greets you at the shops, and for a moment you just can't place them. It must feel like that for Mama every day.

Mama knows her memory and language are failing. Over and over she starts to speak, then shakes her head in exasperation when she cannot finish. Tears fill her eyes, and she puts a hand to her forehead, "I'm going silly in the head". Her lips quiver as she tries to get a handle on her emotions. She repeats, " I'm so silly", and apologises. I touch her arm and tell her she's not; it's OK. I tell her I know she must feel so frustrated. I feel useless in the face of Mama's obvious pain.

Mama is touchingly concerned that my little son needs entertaining. She suggests a walk to a small sunroom.
"See the birds, they...."
"One of the other ladies put a ...."
Mama's sentences go unfinished as she struggles to grasp the words, or is it the thought itself that slips away? Eventually, another resident in a wheelchair comes and speaks to us. She describes how she has bought a seed stick and wired it to the fence, to attract the crested pigeons. I can see a bird now, feasting on the sticky treat. Mama's face lights up, as her meaning is finally conveyed; as we stand together watching the bird peck and fluff up its' feathers.

We walk to Mama's room, and she excuses herself to use the shared ensuite bathroom. A few minutes later, Mama opens the door to leave the bathroom, then hesitates, and slowly manoeuvres back into the bathroom to wash her hands. She washes thoroughly. She places a piece of paper towel carefully under the soap dispenser, where there is a small amount of liquid soap pooled. She takes the paper towel she has dried her hands with, and meticulously wipes down the taps and basin top. I am fascinated by her deliberation and thoughtfulness. I feel guilty to be surprised that Mama's nature remains essentially unchanged by her dementia. I know some people are changed. That must intensify the distress for their loved ones. But my Mama is just as lovely now as she ever was - gentle but prepared to have her quiet say, always thinking of others, loving, quick to smile. Her sparkling intellect has been dulled, but I remember it clearly - so clearly that I sometimes believe it is still there.

A cleaner bustles in to the bathroom, chatting breezily about how fast the toilet paper gets used in the bathrooms. Mama quips, "They must eat it, hmm?". The bustling blond cleaner laughs out loud. "I reckon they must!". Mama pipes up again, " This is my grand-daughter. She's a.... she's a doh....". Mama's eyes well up again, and she shakes her head.

The cleaner is well-meaning, but she has that high-pitched and over-exaggerated manner of speaking, as if talking to a child. " Don't worry love, you're doing fine, you speak really well", she gushes to Mama. I feel a prickle of annoyance. I don't want her speaking to my grandmother in such a condescending tone, however kind the intention. Mama is still insightful, she still knows she is losing her mind to dementia. To deny her the right to express the hurt and confusion she feels seems wrong.

Mama lifts her head up, wipes her eyes, and tries again. "She's a doctor!", Mama blurts triumphantly. The cleaner looks suspiciously at me - I am wearing ponytail, running shoes and cargo pants. I nod, and confirm that I really am a GP. I grin at Mama and she grins back, all proud grandmother. I'm so proud of her.

When it's time to leave, Mama insists on walking us to the front door. As she begins on her wobbly walker way, I realise I will have to escort her safely back to the dining hall before I can depart. We will become locked into a repeating cycle of accompanying each other to the car park and back to the common area. I find a volunteer who offers to walk with us.

On the front path, I kiss Mama's papery cheek. Ever-polite, she thanks me for coming by. Morbidly, I wonder if this will be our last conversation. I tell Mama that I love her as I hug her goodbye.

My mother tells me that Mama doesn't remember when people come to see her. The very next day she has no memory of ever seeing a visitor. Sometimes she is forlorn, believing that no-one ever visits, yet her youngest daughter comes by almost daily.

I will remember the visit in her stead. I will remember her as she was, and as she is now. She is a woman of infinite grace. She is my beautiful Mama.

Sunday, September 17, 2006

Sunday morning mooching

It's a sleepy Sunday morning, and even the early-waking son obliged by sleeping in til 6:30 am. Ah, the sheer bliss! Mind you, I had initially been woken at 5:36 am by the rustling and shuffling of my beloved Birdman, as he gathered his equipment and dressed to go 'birding'. You know what they say - the early worm gets the bird. Or something like that.

So now the non-bird-obsessed members of the family remain at home, munching peanut butter toast, resisting the pleading looks from the beagle. I can't seem to relinquish my Thumper pyjamas in favour of daytime attire. Flannelette is just so darn comfortable (not awfully attractive, I grant you, but just sooooo cosy!)

I'm contemplating some housework, but contemplation is all I've managed so far.

Maybe after another piece of toast......

Friday, September 15, 2006

reclaiming girlhood (just for a few hours)

Picture this if you will - a big yellow room with two comfy couches, and lots of pillows. There is not a Lego brick in sight. "Bette Davis Eyes" is playing softly in the background. Someone with a bad sense of humour has put up posters of Wham and Kim Wilde. On the coffee table are two empty dessert bowls - remnants of ice cream cake still smeared around the edges. A platter of crackers, cheese, dips and fruit sits waiting to be devoured.

Two thirty-something mothers (with 4 kids between them) are lounging languidly on the couches, discussing topics ranging from travel to teething.They have watched a DVD of a recent 'chick flick'. When they can stop giggling about Fatty's latest birdwatching quote ("The channel-billed cuckoo is what I really want to see") and Ocker's desire for daily sex (ha-ha! double HA!), they will switch the TV on again to watch "Pretty in Pink". Or perhaps "Sixteen Candles". It doesn't really matter what it is, although having Molly Ringwald in the movie is guaranteed to make these mothers feel teenaged again. Grey hairs, wrinkles and all.

I've been looking forward to this night with Belly all week. The very thought of this evening has kept me smiling through tantrums, tears and ferocious messes. I've been unusually serene at work (even the lady who presented me with an 11-page handout listing her daily symptoms over a 4 week period did not disturb my equanimity). And providing our children's good health prevails, Belly and I will be there, on those couches, in less than 12 hours.

'Celebrate good times.....c'mon!'

Monday, September 11, 2006

the name game

I suppose many of you have pet names for lovers, spouses, friends, siblings? My friends and family do, too. I think Australians are particularly fond of nicknames and shortened monikers. Take my dearest friends - Belly, Chooky, KP, Tootie. Not a sensible name amongst them.

My father loved to call me anything but my Christian name. When I was small, he called me, depending on his mood, Chicken Pie, Toukie, Poobah (it's OK, I was a baby then so I didn't mind), and many other silly nicknames. If he called me my actual name, I knew things weren't looking good.

I hardly ever call my husband by his real name, either. I call him 'hon', 'lovie', 'darl' ..... and Fatty. Anyone who has read my blog a few times would have realised this: Fatty = Jelly's husband. I don't know why I began calling my beloved husband by this term of endearment. I suspect the word just popped out of my mouth. I could just as easily have called him Buckethead, or Tickle. But the other day, a blogger friend commented on the nickname. I realised I haven't made it clear that Fatty is not actually fat.

It's not that I worry you may all think I am married to a chubby man. Who cares what weight he is? However, I would hate you all to think that my husband struggles with his weight yet I choose to draw attention to it by calling him Fatty. The fact is, Fatty is not porky. Not even a little bit. He's pretty lean; always has been.

I remember going to a party, several years ago, where a drunken woman in a tie-dye dress plonked herself into Fatty's lap, and proceeded to berate me for daring to call him Fatty. She told me, with a serious face, that I was belittling Fatty, and sloshed her drink onto the grass as she gestured. I was astounded that she could take offence at a nickname that was so obviously NOT fitting. At the time, I was horrified at being so miscontrued. On reflection, I think the drunken hussy just wanted to get into Fatty's pants. And now I've completely lost track of what I wanted to say.

Oh, yes. That's right. I wanted to say this - Fatty is not fat. If he were, I would never call him Fatty. And one more thing - if you ever think of putting on a tie-dye dress, drinking way too much wine, and jumping onto Fatty's lap, well ..... just don't. Remiman and John Cowart - you've been warned.

Sunday, September 10, 2006

So, wha'd I miss?

Has it been a week already? My life is spinning by crazily. I want to slow down, but then I also want to do all these things that I do.

Just to make life more tricky, we went camping this weekend. And as much as there was a fair bit of work involved, it was just brilliant! There are very few thoughts that thrill me as much as the idea that Fatty and I are building a strong family unit, and giving our children happy childhood memories. So whether it was Laura running half-exhilirated, half-terrified into the waves, or Ben (the city slicker) enthralled by the stars ("Look at all the lights in the sky!") - I found each moment golden.

I hope you've all had plenty of happy times over the past week... I'll be stopping by to hear your news very soon!

Sunday, September 03, 2006

blogging blues

Lately, it seems there is never enough time. I feel like I rush from one place to another, and when I do have a spare moment, there are so many jobs I should be attending to. I feel that I'm letting some things slide that really should be done.

I love blogging, I really do, but sometimes, before I realise, I've been reading blogs for an hour. While that's OK now & then, I probably can't afford to do that every day. And the fact is - I often do.

I was really sad when I went to manababies site yesterday, and saw that she has shut down her blog. I will miss her sweetness and humour. Yet I could understand why, with her currently extra-busy life, the blogging had to go. As she said herself, 'it's time'.

I'm not planning to stop blogging altogether - I don't think I physically could! But I think I'll take a leaf out of John Cowart's book and take a short break. I think a week should do it.

I hope you all have a happy, healthy week. See you next Sunday :)

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

when three's company

I think blog world has gone to sleep. It seems everyone has closed their laptops and gone off to defrost their fridges, trim their nose hairs or do their tax. All vital tasks, of course, but still. I feel that I need to stir things up a bit.

I was over visiting John Cowart's blog, and read his excellent post about the bad choices made by supposedly smart people. It reminded me of a particular situation that I know to exist between three people in this very city. I know this because two of the people in this story were dear friends of my pal Chooky. I'm going to have to change names and occupations, but otherwise the story will be true to life. Here it is:

Sarah and Craig met at school. Their relationship began when Sarah was still half in love with another boy she'd been dating. Eventually Craig won her over, and in their early twenties, they married. They seemed very close and loving. They were affectionate together, they laughed and teased often, and whenever they were apart, they missed each other terribly. Sarah was clever, and completed her studies to become a social worker. Craig wasn't a natural at his studies, but did very well for himself, going into business.

A few years later, they had a gorgeous little boy. Sarah and Craig were doting parents, and continued to radiate happiness - they seemed a beautiful family.

There came a time when Sarah and Craig decided they both wanted to learn a sport - for fitness and for fun. They began having tennis lessons with Crystal - a stunning redhead in her early twenties (can you hear that alarm bell ringing?.... brrrrrring brrrrrring!). Crystal was a self-proclaimed lesbian, who was in a relationship with an older woman. Sarah and Crystal became friends as well as being instructor and student. Crystal confided in Sarah when her relationship fell apart, tearfully admitting she felt lost and hopeless. She had to leave her lover's house. Where, oh where would she stay? (brrrrring!)

Sarah and Craig offered Crystal the downstairs area in their house; told her she was welcome to stay as long as she liked. Things were looking rosy for Sarah and Craig - they could afford to be magnanimous. They had just found out they were going to have another baby.

After that, the details are hazy. Chooky was told by Sarah and Craig that they both admitted to each other one day that they each 'had feelings' for Crystal. Crystal apparently felt the same. So yee-haw! they became a threesome and have remained so for the past year. When their second son was born, they named him Crystal's surname.

My friend Chooky was shattered by all this, because she'd always thought that if anyone had a rock-solid relationship, it was Sarah and Craig. They'd always seen Chooky through any emotional crises with compassion and wise words. Chooky had always counted on Sarah's sensible and practical advice. And now, this 'golden couple' were no longer an exclusive pair, and all their marriage vows were broken. It was not the morality or sexual choices that Chooky struggled with (although she did find the whole situation quite confronting) - it was the shock of realising that you may never truly know a person - you may never really know what a person is capable of - even someone who is a close and treasured friend. That takes some getting over.

Chooky has tried to maintain a friendship, of sorts, with Sarah and Craig. She doesn't ask how things are going between the 'threesome', but Sarah often sounds exhausted by caring for the baby, and Craig seems to spend a great deal of time away from the house, letting the two woman do the child-rearing. It's a bizarre set-up. It's like something from a sordid midday soapie, only more sordid.

I have met Sarah and Craig on several occasions, and they seem perfectly friendly, intelligent and interesting people. I just don't know if they're ever going to manage to be happy again.... if they ever were.

Monday, August 28, 2006

geeky li'l ol' me

Have you ever found yourself feeling about 12 years old again, and just as awkward? Have you ever been in a social situation that should have been easy, and yet struggled to find your way? This happened to me last week, and it made me feel such a nong. To be more precise, the whole interaction made me feel faintly silly and staggeringly dull. How does this happen to an otherwise reasonably well-adjusted woman in her thirties? I thought I was past these kinds of feelings - where you doubt yourself socially, and wonder if anyone truly enjoys conversing with you (or is everyone secretly mouthing 'Help! She is SO boring!!' behind my back?!)

Weird. A few hours with someone who:
a) seemed to be in a ho-hum sort of mood
b) is naturally slightly reserved
c) yet is normally interesting to talk to and likeable, hence I actually care whether or not we get on together ....
.....a few hours of stilted conversation with this person, and I felt so small and pointless. And that is exactly how I felt a lot as a kid. At least, I felt like that whenever I had to interact with the 'cool' kids - you know, the ones who could talk to adults with ease, speak in public without blushing/shaking/stammering, the ones who seemed to brim with self-confidence. (Looking back, I realise a lot of their 'confidence' may have been an act, sheer bravado. But at least they had an act!)

I've been trying to shake off those old feelings of inadequacy ever since. Because although I was a self-conscious, uncertain child, I have grown into a woman who believes herself to be friendly, genuine, occasionally funny and no more boring than anyone else. Or perhaps I should clarify that most of the time, I believe this. Some days I just have to re-convince myself!

So, is it just me? Or is someone else prepared to admit to sometimes feeling nong-ish too?!

Friday, August 25, 2006

Fatty and Jelly twitter together

An honest-to-goodness conversation I had with my husband late last night:

Fatty: "I'm really excited about my Latham's Snipe." (he had gone out bird-watching earlier that day)

me: "Yeah?"

Fatty: "Yeah." (thoughtful pause) " I actually was hoping to see a Buff-Banded Rail, or even a Spotless Crake. But I ended up seeing the Latham's Snipe."

me: (unsure how to respond to this suddenly frighteningly nerdy man lying next to me) "Mmm. That's good, hon."

Silence. Fatty undoubtedly planning his next birding adventure in his head. I'm still in shock at the oddity of the conversation we just had. I wonder if Fatty might end up being a trainspotter one day. I kiss my funny husband goodnight, and lie on my back, soundlessly memorising the bird names Fatty just mentioned, so I can write about it the next day.

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

worst case scenario

At the dinner table tonight:

Benjamin - "Do you know what the worst thing in the world is?" (pauses briefly) " Being dead."

Laura - "No! Mummy said that sometimes people are really, really sad. That could be worser."

I guess that could well be 'worser'. Severe depression must feel like the deepest crevasse, the blackest night, the loneliest place on earth. How strange that my five-year-old daughter was able to remind me of that fact this evening. Children sometimes have the keenest sense of the truth.

Major depression affects approximately 6% of the Australian population. Too often it goes undiagnosed and untreated - especially when sufferers hide their distress, or complain more of the physical symptoms, such as fatigue, insomnia or problems with memory or concentration. I suppose we all need to be vigilant in watching our nearest and dearest for warning signs. And that includes ourselves.

Of course, for those transitory blues or momentary stress-outs, there's always chocolate. It has proven mood-elevating benefits (I'm sure I read that in the New England Journal of Medicine, or was it Who Weekly?). With the amount of Old Jamaican Rum dark chocolate I ate tonight, I should be cruising through the rest of the week, happy as a clam!

I'll let you know how it goes.

Thursday, August 17, 2006

small humans go feral

Over the past 24 hours, my children have morphed into evil creatures. I want to make a list of their misdemeanours. One day when I am driving them crazy (dribbling, muttering spitefully about their spouses, getting lost in the grocery store), this list may soften their hearts towards me.

In the past day, my angels have:

1) foraged wildly in our store-room, tipping out the contents of several boxes of carefully-sorted old toys onto the floor

2) decided to refill the paint pots in the easel downstairs - in the process, spilling paint onto themselves, the floor, the couch (eeek, not the couch!), the hallway (from their feet, as they trotted down to the bathroom to get a cloth to 'clean up'), the bathroom sink, counter, floor, and the shower recess. I'm not sure WHY there was paint in the shower recess. It was one helluva mess.

3) brazenly ripped some plants out of the ground when we visited friends yesterday evening (causing me to have to send one child to the laundry and one to the spare room, where they sat, wailing mournfully, as if I was an unnaturally mean mother)

4) shoved the other, violently (Laura did this to Ben)

5) bitten, in retaliation (Ben did this to Laura)

There were other more minor incidents, (such as sneaking peanut butter from the jar with grubby fingers, when my back was turned), but the crimes I've listed were the major ones. I figure if I have to put up with another 365 days X 15 years of this, I'll be well within my rights to become a truly crotchety old lady. I'm going to start right now with the muttering.....

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

thinking, thinking

I've been quiet lately, I've realised. No post for almost a week. The fact is, I've been thinking (which could be a dangerous thing - but here I am, bravely thinking away regardless)

One of the medical magazines I read is running a writing competition. The prize is a trip away, a flashy dinner, a laptop computer, and being published (published in the magazine, that is). And seeing as I once got a poem published in the local Sunday newspaper when I was ten, I figure I'm ably equipped to win this competition. Easy as pie.

Actually, I'm interested in the laptop and the trip away, and I'd like to give the writing a go, but I'm extremely daunted by the idea of trying. The requisite is: 1000-3000 words, theme is 'Time'. What would I write about? Could I even write that many words? (without writing things over & over like, 'I must not pull grey hairs out with the tweezers'). Could I manage a work of fiction, or should I write something from real life? The task seems fraught with difficulty. I feel silly even discussing this, because I doubt I would be able to concoct any kind of competition entry. Even if I could, what would be the chances of winning an Australia-wide competition?! The whole idea is just ridiculous. And yet, maybe if I start to enter writing competitions now, I will start to write better prose. Then one day, when I'm as old as the hills, I might just win something. I could peer with rheumy eyes at my new laptop and smile a crooked smile at the achievement.

With that image in mind, I'm going to return to thinking. Time...... what could I write about on the topic of time? (reader input is beseechingly requested!)

Friday, August 11, 2006

conversation, child to great-grandfather

We went to a Chinese restaurant with my grandfather last night. Grandpa is 92, and though his eyes are watery and his back is hunched, his mind is sharp. He's a living wonder, and a truly good man.

As we ate, Ben decided to speak with his great-grandfather.


Grandpa, being slightly hard of hearing, continued to munch his stir-fry vegetables and rice.

"GRANDPA!", Ben shouted.

Grandpa looked up, and turned his head slowly, to see who was bellowing his name.

"Yes, Ben?"

"I can't see your smile", Ben explained.

Grandpa looked puzzled, and turned to me. I reiterated what Ben had said, unsure if Grandpa had failed to hear Ben's comment, or if Grandpa had heard and was understandably perplexed.

"Can't see it for the rice, hey?" Grandpa grinned, as he chewed and chewed.

"It's because you're so old", Ben pronounced, and resumed his meal. I widened my eyes across the table at my half-brother, and we smirked, embarrassed. Grandpa either failed to hear the comment, or wisely chose to ignore it.

Grandpa and Ben sat chewing together. I pulled out a scrap of paper and wrote down their conversation, verbatim. It seemed important to remember.

Thursday, August 10, 2006

morning march

I started today by going walking with my pal, Chooky. She is a bitingly-funny, clever and gorgeous woman, who is paradoxically prone to sadness and self-doubt. Whatever her mood, however we spend time together, I love to be with Chooky. We've known each other since we were twelve.

We walked in the chilly dawn, with a pale moon still hanging low in the sky, like a drunken dinner guest who had lingered too long. The sun was already rising, though it wasn't warming us up much! We strode along the streets at a cracking pace, dragging the beagle reluctantly behind us (What's wrong with you, oh my hurrisome owner? You don't want to sniff the gutters?! But there's a DEAD BIRD to snuffle!).

For awhile I felt slightly queasy. I think it may have been the mountainous terrain we were traversing (or at least the small hill we started our walk by climbing). Or maybe my body was in shock that I was denying it coffee. Whatever the cause, I soon felt good again, as Chooky and I walked and talked. We talked of friends, we talked about men and love, we spoke of children, we discussed body image. We listened to each other. We teased each other.

It was cold, it was ridiculously early, but it was a sparkling way to start the day..... just Chooky, the beagle and me.

Monday, August 07, 2006

"No one listens to me!"

......These are the words that I wailed, as I finally left my consulting room this evening. The receptionist laughed her throaty laugh, and didn't try to console me with platitudes. She knows I'm telling the truth... or at least a partial truth. The fact is, as much as you might think that patients come to see a doctor to get medical advice, this is often far from the reality. Why seek advice from Dr Jellyhead, when you can consult the latest issue of Woman's Day? Why ask my humble opinion about a symptom when you can google 'sore throat' and conclude that you have acute thyroiditis? Why bother to ask the GP what they think, when your neighbour can tell you across the fence that you definitely have what she had last week? (which needed that particular medication to clear it up). Just figure out your own diagnosis, then come to the GP to demand the appropriate tests/medication/referral to a specialist. (Am I sounding a little bit *TETCHY* here?!!!!)

Today, a young man of 16 came to see me with his mother. The boy, 'Nate', walked in with a slight limp, and his ankle was mildly swollen. He explained he'd played a game of football the previous day, and noticed his ankle to be sore as he came off the field. He couldn't recall noticing anything amiss before that moment. No pain, no' snaps' or 'cracks'. This morning he found the ankle was more sore, and had swelled up.

Now this boy's mother was a nurse, and as much as I have great respect for nurses in a medical sense, they are often terrible patients, and terrible patients' mothers (Heather, don't hate me for saying this! I'm not referring to you! And I'm sure doctors as patients must be the all-time worst!). Nurses have seen too many dodgy doctors, they have seen too many serious illnesses and complications. The nurse patients that drive me crazy have reached the stage of distrusting everything a doctor says, and fearing every illness or injury is their (or their child's) last. I understand this, but nevertheless it drives me nuts.

So I see Nate, and check him over thoroughly. His ankle is minimally swollen, not at all bruised, stable, and he was able to bear weight easily. It is not broken. I'll run up & down my street naked tomorrow if that ankle is broken. ANYWAY. I tell the mother why I think it is a sprain. I tell her that it would be extremely unlikely that someone could break their ankle and not notice it. I ask her to continue with the treatment she's given Nate so far. And, to appease her(because I know she's worried), I give her an X-ray form, to use if the ankle gets worse, or doesn't improve over a few days.

Sound like sensible advice? Well of course it was - I'm full of sensible advice. Ask me any question, I'll give you the sensibullest advice you could ever imagine. But did the bad bad Nate's mother take any notice of what I said? Nooooooooooooooo she did not. Later this afternoon, we got a from call from the local X-ray facility, asking a question about Nate's X-ray form. Nate and his mother were there, getting the X-ray already! HMMPH! Pah! Stomp! *Various other noises of the temper tantrum variety*

I'm nothing but a writer of slips, a paper pusher! I am a referral service!

Also, I'm a whiny baby. Whining in my blog, over and over...... nooooo-one listens to meee!!!!

Saturday, August 05, 2006

truth is stranger than fiction

Yesterday morning, I went to my usual Friday morning gym class. I think I have mentioned before how I go to an energetic class involving boxing and running and a muscly instructor. Although, being married, I never notice the instructor's muscles. Much.

So yesterday I breezed into the gym, only to notice a distinct acrid smell in the air. There was a smoky scent, and another woman asked the instructor, "What is that awful smell?" It turns out there had been a fire the previous day. This fire started when some towels in the cupboard spontaneously combusted!

The towels had been used by the massage therapist who comes to the gym, and although they had been washed, apparently there was some residual oil in them. The towels had then been tumble dried, and stacked in the cupboard while still slightly warm. They began to smoulder. Smoke was eventually seen coming from the cupboard, and as soon as the doors were opened, the fire took hold in earnest. The owner, who was either incredibly foolish or incredibly brave (depending on how you look at it), picked up the stack of burning towels, which was not yet ablaze top and bottom, and ran outside. As he threw the towels onto the footpath, the extra oxygen to the now separated towels caused them to burn up in a WHOOSH of flames. It was a Towelling Inferno.

There's a lesson in this story somewhere...... maybe - if you see smoke coming from a cupboard, tell someone else, then leave the building quickly? No, that's not it. I'm not quite sure what it is, but someone's bound to know. John Cowart?

Thursday, August 03, 2006

future women

My daughter went to a jazz ballet class today. She's never been before, but her friend goes to this class, and Laura wanted to try it out. I sat in the foyer, spying on these miniature dancers, as they hopped and stumbled and skipped around the room. It was amazing to see that these little girls are showing already who they will be when they grow up.

One little blond looked haughty and ambitious, at the tender age of 6 or 7. She held her chin in the air, she spoke only to one or two others, and she her face was china-doll beautiful. This girl is bound to be a school prefect, and she'll probably be the Queen Bee in the 'in' group of girls. Of course, I could just have a wildly overactive imagination.

One little girl was unlikely to be the Queen Bee at school. She clumped when the others tippy-toed. She landed with a thud when the others sprang lightly. Her timing was all wrong, and her movements were awkward. She yawned and looked over at me with huge, limpid brown eyes. This doe-eyed child had thicker limbs than all the other girls, and her body was stocky. She will probably never be skinny; she may never be graceful. Her eyes were arresting. I hope someone tells her she is lovely, often.

I remember being a little girl, and I don't think I have changed much since then, in essence. At the dance class, I would have been scared, without visibly quailing. I would have been frightened of any criticism from the teacher, trying my hardest to get the moves right. If another girl had been dismissive, or mean, I would have chewed my lip, hard, trying to quell the tears. In time, I would have started to chat, getting more & more animated if anyone responded. I would have been just like the little girl yesterday with a fraying ponytail of mousy-brown hair - not outstanding, and just a little more fearful than the rest.

Yesterday, watching my daughter, I was glad for her. Because, like I would have done, she was concentrating hard, focusing on the dance steps. But between dancing, she never so much as looked like chewing her lip. She smiled, she twirled, she giggled with some of the others. Her confidence was a joy to behold. As she stepped in time to the music, and flicked her little hips side-to-side like she'd been born to wiggle (1-2, 1-2-3!), I felt my heart grow huge with pride. What a wondrous creature my daughter is! She is like me in some ways, but in many ways she is un-like me. And I couldn't be happier to know this.

Tuesday, August 01, 2006


Mama Bear tagged a few of us to do this meme. Now that I have written mine, I am concerned I may have ended up disclosing some slightly odd stuff. But at least I don't have model airplanes in my closet!

5 things in my freezer:

1) 2 blackened bananas (you know, for the banana cake I've been intending to make for, oh, 5 months or so)
2) a large chicken - dead, beheaded and de-feathered, of course. I looooove cooking roast chook!
3) Sara Lee rum 'n' raisin ice cream (there's gotta be ice cream!)
4) a golf-ball sized hailstone, stored assiduously by my children since the last hailstorm
5) leftovers in tupperware, for those nights when my frown is larger than my smile

5 things in my closet:

1) a short winter skirt that I once wore with tights and boots, but now could only wear with a very long skirt over top. It needs to go. I need to face reality.
2) a mouthguard, chest guard, shin guards and sparring gloves in a backpack (for karate)
3) my wedding top and skirt, hanging forlornly, wishing they would see the light of day again. Sorry guys.
4) bridesmaids dresses. Like the wedding outfit, they wait in vain.
5) handbags I have known and now know to be ugly.

5 things in my car:

1) crumbs
2) tissues
3) street directory
4) dinosaur mini-torch
5) 1-2 children, depending

5 things in my purse:

1) gum
2) baby wipes
3) ibuprofen
4) diary
5) roller mini-bottle of perfume my daughter gave me for Mother's Day. It is very floral, and very stinky. I pretend I love it.

5 things in my wallet:

1) photo of my hubby and kids,
2) photo of my brother and sister
3) stamps
4) ticket stub from the last movie I saw
5) old shopping list that reads:' floss, fly spray, salt, bread, beer, wine, crayons, paper, mags'. I don't know what occasion these items were for, but it sounds like it would have been fun. Except for the flossing, of course.

I'm done, all done. Who else feels like rifling through their belongings? Feel free to leave an abbreviated version of this meme in the comments section. I'd be interested in your freezers and closets, in particular!

Sunday, July 30, 2006

tenuous connections

I used to visit her every day. She made me smile, giggle and laugh out loud. She had a knack with words that fascinated me. She was soft and sweet; she was sharp and sassy. And underneath her jokes and banter, there was always her raw and brutal grief, a grief that I wished with all my heart I could wipe away.

This woman was not an actual friend of mine. The 'visits' I speak of were visits to her blog. Yet I had read enough of her humour, and taken in enough of her pain, that I felt I was beginning to know her. Then, just over a month ago, she fell silent. Every day I check to see if she has written. Every day I see the same words, dated several weeks back.

Whenever she was going to be away, or knew she would be busy with her family, my fellow blogger would mention it in her posts in advance. She posted almost every day. Her last post was chatty, cheeky, light-hearted even. Now I wonder if she was actually fighting off a terrible despair, even as she typed those teasing words.

Where are you, my friend? Are you overwhelmed by your loss? Are you struggling with a new difficulty? I hope more than anything that you have someone to hold your hand and stroke your forehead. I worry that something awful may have happened to you, and I shake that thought away.

Wherever you are, please know that you are remembered, with compassion and fondness, with respect and admiration, and with a big smirk at the thought of all your cheesy puns. Please take care. You are one of a kind.

Thursday, July 27, 2006

thinking back

Before we went to Canada, I wondered if perhaps we'd bitten off more than we could chew (so to speak). I know that these days, hip and happening parents go trekking in the Himalayas with their 3 week old babies, but I have never been hip and happening. I thought Fatty and I were adventurous whenever we ventured out of the house with our first child. I thought we were extremely bold when we took our infant son and two-year-old daughter on a domestic flight to visit their grandparents. So to take a trip overseas - let's just say it was a big step for Fatty and me.

It's been a real confidence boost to see that, with some careful planning, and a lot of plain good luck, too - we managed it. We managed it, and we really enjoyed it (So there is life after children!).

One of the best things about the holiday, for me, was working together with Fatty. We are very different sorts of people, who often go about things in quite different ways, yet we worked in parallel to make the holiday run smoothly. Sometimes, tangled up in the details of day-to-day living, I fret over our disparities. I forget that we're a good team. We complement each other - yin and yang.

It was good to spend time with our kids, too. They were amazingly tolerant of all the tedious things about travel, and they were full of joy and vigour when it came to sightseeing. We talked, and walked, we ate and laughed. We had running jokes that continued the entire trip. We were just a regular, happy family on holidays, but I felt like the queen of the world. I woke up smiling every day.

Now life has returned to its usual pattern, but I am renewed. It's been brilliant to travel in Canada. Best of all, I did it with my sweeties.

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

back in the saddle again

As I dressed for work yesterday, I gave myself a little pep talk:

"Come on, it'll be good to see everyone there."

"I'm sure your brain hasn't really atrophied during your four weeks off work."

"It'll probably be an easy morning; stop getting your knickers in a knot!"

Armed with a suitably perky smile, I strode into work, greeting various other staff members, and replying that yes indeedy, my holiday HAD been good. Very good. Too good!

The morning was running pretty well, and I was beginning to relax, when I called in 'Jenny'. She looked uncomfortable yet sheepish at the same time, as she explained she'd had this chest and left shoulder pain since yesterday afternoon. "I'm sure it's just a pulled muscle, but, you know, dad was only 62 when he died of a heart attack".

Right. "Let's just go get you on some oxygen," I suggest firmly, leading her to a treatment room. In many ways, a patient having angina or a heart attack is a straightforward scenario to manage (unless they go into an life-threatening arrhythmia or actually arrest in the surgery- which luckily is not too often). You have a certain formula to follow - check this, give that. Of course, as a suburban GP, there is one vital action to be taken - something a good doctor learns early, something that requires great wisdom and intellect. Want to know this most important step? Oh, alright, I'll share the secret. In an emergency, the most crucial job is .... asking the receptionist to call an ambulance. Pronto!

The ambulance arrived, with two burly paramedics. I had been about to insert an IV, but seeing as the paramedics can do IV's standing on their heads, and considering I only insert an IV about once a year (if that), I let them take over. Unfortunately, Jenny had tiny veins, and when one of the ambulancemen tried to put in a drip in Jenny's hand, it went right through the vein.

Now usually I am not especially confident as a doctor, and I would never put myself forward to take over a situation. But it just happens that the one procedural skill I have always been good at is inserting IVs. Even as an intern, I would be called to do the difficult drips. Once, a third-year resident saw me passing near the emergency department, and despite that fact I was on a day off, and was wearing a checked flannel shirt, called me to try to insert a drip in the arm of a large Fijian lady who'd already been 'stabbed' by various doctors half a dozen times (I don't know what the poor lady thought of the lady lumberjack who was poking her with a needle, but I got the drip in!) So it was very unlike me, but when the paramedic started talking about trying another vein in a position where the drip will often block up or fall out, I tentatively approached. "What about this vein here? I could have a try, if you like", I offered. "Sure doc", one of the ambulancemen replied. Now I really felt under pressure. Trying to get a wide needle into a small vein - was I going to stuff this up, and feel like a real goose?

No! I didn't stuff it up! Hooray and hallelujah!

It's amazing what a buzz I got from such a simple task. I can't explain why I should feel so pleased about such a silly thing. I suppose when skills don't get used, you wonder if you still have the skills at all. But it's OK. I can still whack an IV in.

And all of you who have nodded off can now wake up. This post is over!