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.