Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Second verse...

But then see the clouds lift and the grumpiness goes and he is his gorgeous self again.

It started with the eating, yesterday he ate all his weetbix and then started harrassing me for some of my porridge and then he ate all his lunch and dinner instead of dumping it over the top of his highchair and flinging his spoon across the room. Last night he slept till 5.30 and then slept again until 7.20. And today we went Christmas shopping and he was hilarious, dancing about to the xmas musack, admiring his reflection in the giant shiny baubles.

The thing about having tests is that they rarely say anything except "have more tests". Unsurprisingly, the 2nd urine test was the same as the first...a tiny trace of blood.
Also unsurprisingly, Dr Toddler says we will leave it for a bit and then we can test again in the new year.

So, I've decided to do something novel and NOT WORRY about it.

Saturday, December 15, 2007

More sicky Tricky

So, yay because Tricky's fever nicked off after a couple of days (huzzah baby panadol) but then boo, because his little body became plagued with tiny red spots.
But then yay, because after a panicked rush into the clinic with me berating myself for being late with the immunisations, Dr Toddler said that it was not the measles but instead a spotty rash presenting itself as proof that Tricky did have a virus and that virus was now dead.
But then boo again, because the results of the urine test indicated a tiny trace of blood in the urine.
Then follows yay of less enthusiastic proportions as previous because at this point Dr Toddler thinks the only action necessary is to have another urine test to check again and while I'm thrilled that the test doesn't involve poking and prodding, what I really wanted to hear him say was that my baby was ALL BETTER NOW.
So now we wait to hear about the next test and in the meantime Tricky is all wussy and Not Himself and clinging like a koala to a gumtree and his once fabulous appetite has gone to the dogs and his fully loaded nappies are like tiny toxic waste dumps.
And then, just today, his cousin, aka Naughty Nephew the 3rd, has also come down with a nasty fever...

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Home and Away...

So since that last post (and thankyou, kind commenters with your lovely words) things have been a little wayward here. Well not wayward, things have simply been unfolding in their proper manner as per the universe as my Byron Bay Naturopath sister would say. (Except she probably wouldn't say 'as per'. That was me.)

C has been away filming Things On Farms (Ey oop Mr 'Erriot) and so Tricky and I have spent a jolly week in Newcastle, my former stomping grounds, hanging out with my dad and stepmum and also with Nanny Annie who is famous among many other things for having taught Tricky his first word.

Oddly, although Nanny Annie is sometimes known to myself and to her other old theatre-luvvie pals as "Annie-Pig", the word she actually taught Tricky was "Moo".

By coincidence (in that I had babysitting on tap), on Friday night was the City Of Newcastle Drama Awards. I so wanted to include a picture of one of these gold-look, glass winged beauties but my digital camera is stuffed and apparently in the entire world of Google Image search, no such picture exists. So I'll just put one of these things in.

Frankly, the CONDAs are exactly like the Oscars. Maybe less people in the audience. And smaller queues for the loo-lahs. Also no goodie bags. But we're talking speeches, we're talking high kicking musical numbers, we're talking sequins.

No sequins with me though, I decided not to wear my party dress ten minutes before leaving home because yet another storm was threatening to descend and six months ago to the day, Newcastle and surrounding suburbs, looked like this.
Instead, like some lily-livered, light-weight, girl's blouse, I decided to wear jeans and, well, a girl's blouse. Also sensible shoes for when my car would be suddenly surrounded in floodwaters and I would have to kick out my windscreen and swim for my life. However, luckily as it transpired, I did wear lipstick. Glamour? I am all about YOU my friend.

As if getting to go out with old theatre-luvvy friends (who all wore sequins and high shoes and looked gorgeous and no one had to raise an umbrella let alone kick out a windscreen)and drink champagne and wear lipstick was not honour enough, I also received one of these Uncannily-Oscar-Like Awards for "Match" a play I had written for a Newcastle theatre company. Nanny Annie herself received the Special Gold Brilliance Award For A Year Of Being Fabulous.

Afterwards I attended an exclusive after party which was held in Nanny Annie's (sadly soon to be ex)rehearsal space in an old radio station in once thriving Hunter Street. More champagne (which I cunningly blended with ginger beer to give me all the fizz but a fraction of the alcohol) more jolliness, and special trumpet fanfares by that little known Brechtian heroine Mother "Dutch" Courage as people came and went.

It was great fun indeed and marred only slightly when at the end of the night one of my (male) friends tried to one-up me in the "God I'm So Tired" stakes.

At least, he said confidentally, you won't be woken like me by my neighbour's incredibly loud snoring.
Well no, I said, I shall be woken by my screaming toddler. Is that better?

It was a ridiculous statement anyway. Although he may well have been woken by his noisy neighbour, he certainly wouldn't have to march in and breast feed him.

While we were in Newcastle, Tricky and I also continued our search for Playgroup utopia. This one had excellent sandpit facilities and several dolly strollers as well as a generally well equipped indoor area. This allowed it to score quite highly, but it was slightly let down by the instant coffee provided for carers and also the Slide of Death.

This last item was a plastic slippery slide that ended on a crashmat. Frankly no crashmat on this earth could halt the speed at which a small child sitting on their butt would barrel down this evil appliance. It was something to do with angles I expect, and also static electricity, what with the entire Newcastle region being one big lightning rod for the entire week.

Naturally, Tricky loved it.

And so here we are, back in Sydney, feeling rested, relaxed and freshly showered in Drama Awards (exactly like the Oscars I tell you, exactly) and of course this means that Tricky has come down with...something. Horrible spiking temperatures, much unhappiness, and, worryingly, no other symptoms which, Dr Toddler, has told us, could be a urinary tract infection.

In which case, he muttered as he taped a special collection bag to my outraged baby's bits, there could be need for Further Investigation.

These words, of course, with their menacing promise of prodding about in bits that have no desire for prodding, takes me right back to the glory days of Infertility. Today, thankfully, there has been no further need for baby Panadol and I am hoping like mad that that will be that and the tests will be normal and it was all just a little souvenir from Newcastle.

Fingers, and legs, firmly crossed.

Friday, November 30, 2007

Letter to a 16 month old Button Pusher

Darling Tricky

You are now 16 months old which means it is almost time to learn how to prepare mumma’s coffee just the way she likes it (strong latte).

Actually, more often than not, you are able to fulfil simple tasks and directions: “Give That Fragile Ornament I Stupidly Placed Within Your Reach To Me Please” “Backwards down the stairs!” and Stop Running Away From Me And Come Back This Instant.”

This last one I just put in, in the hopes that one day soon you actually will do this but at the moment you seem to interpret it as a command to stop, look over shoulder with a coy smile, and then peg off in the opposite direction as fast as your chubby little legs can take you.

The other completely useless command is of course “Shhh Lie Down And Go To Sleep”.
I actually tried this one night and to my great shock you did which is why ever since night after night I try it around 3.30 in the morning. Memo to my brain: IT DOES NOT WORK even though night after night I try to vary my tempo, my pitch , my inflection in the hopes of hitting those magical melifluous tones that led, once, to such joyous Camelot-like success.

None of this would matter that much except we are back in the Big House and so we are all sleeping in the same bedroom (with a large Ikea bookshelf between us). Still, some nights are diamond, some nights are…not. And frankly, give or take a mosquito here, an overly hot night there, an irritating virus or a loud party next door….I have not the faintest idea why. I probably never will. One day, I'm told, you will simply sleep through the night. And the next. And the next. And that will be that.

The big change this month has been your entrance into the brave new world that is Playgroup. Up to this point your social obligations have been limited to affectionate tussles with your cousins (often involving icecream) and a playdate here and there with the child of whichever artist/artsworker we are currently working and/or meeting with.
Fun times indeed but now you have matured to the point where we feel you can handle a heavier social life. Also, you, me, your dadda: that unique combination of free spirited wacky artistic types in one room was driving us all a little crazy.

And obviously we had to bear in mind the starsign combination; you’re a Cancer, I’m a Cancer/Gemini cusp, C is a Sagittarius, and not one of us is a Morning Person.

When we arrive at Playgroup you usually gravitate towards either the mini trampoline, or the baby doll stroller which you love to push round and round the hall. If by chance someone has left a baby doll in the stroller you will swiftly remove said doll and throw it unceremoniously onto the floor. Meanwhile I sign us in and pay a couple of dollars and a piece of fruit.

Depending on which Playgroup we are attending, at 10.45am I may also be cutting up said piece of fruit (usually banana) along with all the other pieces of fruit that have appeared. At 11.00am, I and another mother will then serve the chopped up pieces of fruit to a table of small children. Then, at 11.15am some other lucky mother will pick all the squashed pieces of fruit up off the floor.

Once a week you go to the Other Playgroup with your dadda. At the other Playgroup you don’t have to do chores or provide fruit but you do have to jump for Jesus. It’s ok, the people are nice and they have baby doll strollers there too.

It is funny to see you in this mosh pit of tiny humanity, negotiating your way through the big kids in the sandpit, waiting your turn for the trampoline, stealing the baby stroller when the little girls have their backs turned. It is funny and it is lovely and it makes my heart sing to see you with your lips pressed determinedly as you roll the giant cylinder away or slide into the ball pit and then start joyously flinging the balls to the far corners of the hall.

You are deeply in love with buttons of all kinds…telephone, toy cash register, television or belly. (Coincidentally, as anyone who knows him will attest, your father is also a button pusher, from way back.) No small rounded raised surface is safe from your eager prying index finger and you will happily press said surfaces over and over saying BAH-TUN, BAH-TUN as you do.
This becomes doubly enjoyable for us if you are eating a cracker as well because then you will alternate that with CRAH-KAH, CRAH-KAH… Also, you can tell us that living in our house apart from MUMMA, DADDA and TSST is NEH, KKKK, MAH, GHHH and AHHHL. We also have some pet MAH (not to be confused with either your eldest cousin or that thing on your face that sits under your ney).

This isn’t a new thing or a 16 month thing by any means but can I just say here how glad I am to have you in my life?

How, despite the shrieking in the middle of the night, despite the wailing when you first wake, despite the…oh who am I kidding you’re actually a great toddler.

When my friends tell me about their toddler who can’t travel in the car for more than fifteen minutes at a time (you: eight hours from Country Town to Big House with brief stops for seesaw and sanity), or their toddler who won’t eat more than a grape at breakfast (you: three weetbix, plus you whinge at us to feed you porridge from our own bowls) or their toddler requiring invasive surgery and endless doctor’s appointments, I am reminded of how grateful I am for my car-loving, generally-healthy, slightly-sleepy, always-hungry boy/screaming tomato.

And when, after spending a couple of hours away from me, stealing strollers and jumping for Jesus, you walk into our house and see me and your eyes light up and you run at me laughing and calling Mumma, as if I was the best thing since sliced bread, or at least sliced fruit, well… then… you manage to push all my buttons and I just know I’m yours for life.

Your very own

Friday, November 23, 2007

It's Time

See that's what happens when you start blah blahing on about your fabulous new time management regime, the blogging goes to shit because let's just face it YOU'RE SLACK.

Suddenly deadlines have reappeared, deadlines that were not just DONE AND DUSTED they were also cremated and their ashes readily sprinkled upon the ocean. This is irritating fiddly non-creative deadline stuff that irks one with its presence, like grit in one's teeth or sand in one's swimsuit gusset. Anyway, enough with the crap similies, it's stuff that has demanded my attention.
In the meantime these things have happened or are about to happen and some shall be written about in the next few days:
* Tricky has turned 16 months.

* We have now entered that special magical place they call "PLAYGROUP". It is special. It is magical. It has sandpits and also tiny trampolines. Tricky has not yet learned to jump on a trampoline but he has learned that if he stands rigidly with his feet splayed and a wry expression on his face someone will obligingly bounce the trampoline with their hands. This shall be deemed "fun" and worth screaming for when it stops.

*I have written another play but shorter and funnier than the one mentioned above. I wrote this because I find I am often at my most creative when I am meant to be doing something else.
*I was part of a very interesting workshop last week for playwrights. It was about depictions of mental health and suicide in the media. We heard from carers, service providers and people with various mental illnesses. During the day these people made themselves available to us as a "living library". We writers could talk one on one to a "book", hear their experiences and ask any questions we wanted before going away and writing scenes based on what we had heard. It was pretty full on and I'm still processing some of the things we heard.

*Tomorrow, Saturday the 24th, I am signing books! That's right! Me! From 11am I shall be wielding a pen, or possibly a sharpened toothbrush which I will periodically dip into a small bowl of soy. This shall be at the Dymocks at the new fancy shmancy big shopping plaza thing in Maroubra on Anzac Parade.
If you are, say, shopping, and you feel the urge to purchase a copy of my Hilarious yet Poignant Tale of Finding and Losing Motherhood "Legs Up & Laughing", then hightail it over quick smart. We can also swap tips on Opening Weekend bargains to be had.

* Also tomorrow, Saturday the 24th, is an election. A federal election in fact, for those readers not federally located as it were. It's quite possible that after this weekend we will have a spanking new federal government.

I don't like to harp on these things too much because I'm superstitious like that.

So I simply leave you with this...

Saturday, November 10, 2007

No instruction manual on that one…

Except after someone said that to me the other day, I realised that actually there is loads of stuff in various books about Looking After Yourself and Don’t Forget Your Partner even if there isn’t one specifically that says Warning Being A Parent Can Be The Straw That Crushes Your World’s Back.

It is a sign of my level of unhingeability that I gaily decided to take part in the Write A Post Every Day Of November blogfest that is NaBloPoMo . Quite quickly I realised that daily writing was physically beyond me and my cheese brain but every second day was not only achievable it was worth noting just to the right…in my profile.

Oh ho ho ho, how I guffaw at myself sometimes. Silly sausage that I am.

Things have been (ahem) difficult of late. It is a mix of travel, living in what is effectively an artists’ commune where everyone is eating, drinking and thinking Project 24/7 when we are in Country Town . Back in our City Abode, we (C and I, I mean, the rest of the family have managed to organise themselves) still have not managed to completely unpack and put things away, in fact up till a few days ago, our kitchen cupboards still contained groceries that were moved with us nearly two years ago. Some of those weevils dated back to the beginning of the Great Big Fertility Ride.

So there’s the clutter and the travel and the Stress From Work and then a few Screaming Tomato Nights and then C being too busy to look after Tricky and so no time for me to write and then NO QUALITY GROWNUP TIME and then my head exploded.

Well actually it didn’t but I did feel pretty shithouse. About me and my relationship and my writing which seemed to be suddenly not happening at all.

Anyone who writes, not necessarily for a living, but regularly, honestly, as a way of expressing and creating and illuminating, of documenting or celebrating, of reaching out through this strange dark house that is our lives, and finding someone else who reads or hears and understands, will know that when you don’t write, your life feels pretty crappy.

You don’t even realize that’s what it is at first, the non writing, because you’re too tired or busy or sad, but then it becomes a vicious circle and the less you write the less you want to write and the more crappy and cranky and evil you become.

And so it is with me.

But then, a miracle happened, the miracle of Conversation With Your Loved One. Prior to this our conversation was limited to short terse directions and snapped out questions. What happened was that we went back to Country Town but instead of flying there we drove and it took us eight hours including stops at various playgrounds along the way. And so there was talking. And weeping, which for me is par for the course, I am a Known Weeper (I made myself cry yesterday singing The little Drummer Boy to myself and getting to that bit where he sings “I played my drum for him pa rum pa rum pum, I played my best for him pa rum pa rum pum etc”. ).

And in the end some changes were decided on.

We realised we must work on properly setting up our part of the Big House, removing weevils and other clutter and organizing the space so we don’t feel like we are living in a temporary storage unit. We worked out a new fairer system of care for Tricky which allowed for me to have daily writing time. And also we emphasized how important it was to have regular fun family times as well as regular fun couple times and indeed regular QUALITY GROWNUP TIME. Then we stopped and had a cuddle because it was a red letter moment and we both felt so much better and there was no champagne to hand. But this was better.

And so, although I haven’t been doing the every second day writing the blog thing, I have been doing a lot of writing. In fact, over the last week I have actually written a new play. It took me a whole day of futzing about and googling with all my new found free time but the next day it just started coming and now I seem to have a first draft. Actually, a bit more than a first draft.

I printed it out and C read it and I read along over his shoulder and when he had finished we just laughed and clutched at each other and were amazed. I’m not saying it’s brilliant but it was written. There was time allocated for writing and writing was done.

And I feel so much better.

Saturday, November 03, 2007

A toddler is staying with us at house in Country Town or Le Maison dan la Ville sur la Pays (did you know I was bimangle?) and he is not my toddler, he is the Other Toddler and not only that he is several months older and with many more teeth but oddly, both my toddler and the Other Toddler want exactly the same toy car at exactly the same time.

Or, exactly the same biscuit, or, exactly the same annoying beeping siren shrieking hell machine.

Tricky has already freaked out the Other Toddler who is a sweet and gentle soul, by forcing him to submit to a torturous round of Facial Feature Identification.

Using his inflexible pointer finger, Tricky has managed to ascertain that Other Toddler has a nay, a mahw full of tee, a nye, another nye, a neeyah and some lovely curly heyah and…ooh look another neeyah, let me just poke my pointer finger into it just to make sure. And what about down here? Is that a button? My pointer finger will make sure. Oh wow, water is welling up in your nye. Is that a tear? My pointer finger will make sure…. And now you’re running away from me. But I can run too, look, and then I can hug you and then when I’ve stopped you in your tracks I’ll just make sure you haven’t dropped an ear, eye or nose along the way.

In Ms Babylove’s excellent second book “The Mighty Toddler” she points out that actually toddlers are not known for their deep love for fellow toddlers. I am paraphrasing of course but it seems that the toddler spares his deep love for those familiar adults that surround him and give him exactly what he wants. His second deepest love is for children who are old enough to give him almost exactly what he wants (for instance the Naughty Nephews when they let him touch oh so gently their pet mice). Other Toddlers come quite a way down on the list for love, after biscuits, toy cars and annoying beeping siren shrieking hell machines.

Tricky’s deepest love of course is for Jimmy the Dog who has that hilarious flapping tail thing which is the funniest thing in the world ever but more importantly lets him poke his pointer finger into his nye and neeyah whenever he feels the urge.

Thursday, November 01, 2007

Run run run as fast as you can

Sometimes I am aware that Tricky is trying to tell me something very very important. He knits his brows and looks deep into my eyes and sighs heavily and says uttttah uttah petakah bedagah.

And because I am trying to encourage his speech and communication I smile brightly and nod as if I know exactly what he is saying. Miraculously, every now and then I actually do understand what he’s saying.

“Water! You want a drink of water?”
“Biscuit! You want me to get you a biscuit?”
“Poo poo? Go to your father.”

It’s as if he has an entire language all his own, of which I know a few basic nouns, and frankly it’s like living in France again.

At that time I only knew enough of the language to apologise for not knowing more. I did try, honestly. I went to French classes and practiced as much as I could but I found a weird thing happened. The more French I started to learn, the less English I was capable of writing down on paper. And given that the reason C and I were in Paris in the first place was because I had received a 6 month writers' residency to write a play…c’est la vie.

At least that’s the main reason. The other reason was because I kept getting myself into trouble.
Very early on in the residency I bought some gingerbread at a market near Versaille and began one of my usual friendly but retarded French conversations with a very patient stall holder.

Hello! I enthused in that most romantic of languages. I am Australian! I am a writer!
Patient Stall Holder smiled gently and welcomed me to his country. I gleefully held up one of his home baked cakes.
I would like one spice cake, please! You cook your house?
Patient Stall Holder nodded and smiled. He explained that the gingerbread contains farine…
Ooh yes! Flour! I know flour!
Also it contains miel…
Honey! Good! Very good! Thankyou!
and some epice…
Spice! Yes! It is the bread of spice! He was delicious!

Then, perhaps tiring of my enthusiastic but repetitive shouting aloud of his ingredients, the Patient Stall Holder diverted from his list of nouns and tried to explain something very important to me about this bread of spice that was cooked in his house. Something essential to my enjoyment and understanding of the gourmet treat I held in my two hands.

My smile froze and I stared at his lips, concentrating hard, as he repeated what he said, again and again. Finally, disappointed, I shook my head. No, I couldn’t understand, he was using things like grammar and also, I suspected, words that were not nouns.

I'm sorry. I am Australian. I speak only a green pea the French.

He tried again, slower this time and I recognised a couple of words. I realised he was saying that the gingerbread was made “without” something. Something... that is often contained in your regular supermarket bought, non-house made bread of spice. It was natural, so it was without…

A light went off in my head.

Sans preservatif! I shouted triumphantly.

There followed one of those rare moments of communication between two people who cannot speak the other’s language, yet have managed to connect through compassion, through humanity, and through a shared love of the bread of spice. Sadly that was also the moment that I realised I had loudly told the Patient Stall Holder and all his nearby customers that his gingerbread was made “without condoms.”

Luckily, with Tricky, we are still up to button, star, car and cracker. We're yet to discuss contraception or indeed its place in any of our baked goods.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

I Blame The Water

So the other day Tricky and I were waiting in the garden bit outside the Country Town Airport and he was running about on the grass in his soft shoes, being generally cute and I noticed that all these people sitting on a nearby bench were watching him and smiling.

Then Tricky wandered even closer to them and started singing quietly to himself and turning himself round in circles and one or two of his audience chuckled.

But then, Tricky stopped and stared at the ground just in front of the bench. He had spotted a large ant meandering about on the concrete. Everyone seemed to be fascinated, watching him watching the ant and I thought Ha! You people thought the running and the singing and the circles were good? COP THIS!

So I said “Look darling, what’s that?”

Tricky paused for dramatic effect and pointed at the ground.

Ann” he said.

Just as we were all smiling, the People On The Bench at the extreme cuteness and me out of pure smugness, he suddenly and quite horrifyingly lifted one soft shoe and deliberately crushed the ant underfoot.

And then he said in a voice that came straight from either The Simpsons or The Omen:
“HA HA!”

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

...but he knows what he likes....

Because Tricky is the child of feckless artistes I dragged him to an exhibition opening at the Country Town Art Gallery.

This wasn’t about me being thoughtless towards other spectators, or even just me being a pretentious middle class left leaning wanker, because the exhibition in question was all about young people and there were indeed other children present.

Tricky was not at a height to truly appreciate the artwork but he was the exact height to appreciate the large expanse of polished wood floor and man didn’t he and his soft shoes go to town?

As the speeches began, he started his patented zig-zag dash through the crowd and I followed in his wake with a little smile playing upon my face. It was a smile I hoped would be interpreted as “relaxed” or “amused” or even “coping, just”, but really it was to hide the dismay I felt upon spotting one of those Other Children sitting calmly on their mother’s lap.

At least I think it was The Mother, it may actually have been one of those automated nannybot things that featured in the movie AI; the ones that looked real and sounded real but maintained complete control and aplomb at all time thus betraying their robotic interiors. In fact the more I thought about it, as Tricky dashed and squealed and drooled and had to be removed from the room, the more obvious it became that the so called "child" was also one of those robots and, obviously for the duration of the speeches (which seemed to go on and on), the batteries had been removed.

I mean, yes, the childbot seemed slightly older than Tricky but surely that wasn’t the reason for its almost eerie calm? And the other thing was, and I was certain this would have NO EFFECT WHATSOEVER, was that the child was a (ahem) girl. It would be too much of a cliché I thought, as I retrieved Tricky from the temptingly laden buffet table and removed five slices of salami from his firmly clenched fist, to think that gender can determine behaviour. Not like, say, Ritalin or an electric cattle prod. The very notion seemed wrong. And horribly unfair.

As if to add his emphatic support, Tricky let out the War Cry Of The Screaming Tomato and I hastily strapped him back into his stroller and began the frantic to and fro rocking of the Parent With Toddler In Public or else the clinically insane.
Sympathetic ex-toddler mothers behind the buffet table handed me a glass of wine.
"Have you seen that other toddler in there?" I asked them over Tricky’s wails. "Have you seen how beautifully she’s sitting on her mother’s lap?" They nodded kindly and pressed another glass into my hand.

As I gratefully slugged it back, a perfumed air wafted about me and I looked up to see The Mother. In her arms was the aforementioned Other Toddler, resplendent in her pale pink frock and boing boing ringlets. And, I was saddened to see, absolutely no indication of batteries at all. We did the ubiquitous Mothers Club smile and I congratulated The Mother on her child’s behaviour. “How old is she?” I asked jovially, hoping she might say “21 but her dad was very short.”
“She’s 18 months,” The Mother sipped at her glass.
“Oh great,” I laughed, gaily. “That means my toddler will be like that in a few months!”
The Mother winced slightly.“I’m... not sure,” she said. “Mine's always been like this, very focused, very interested... She likes to sit and concentrate on things like Art.” I was going to tell her how wonderful that sounded but a loud choking noise claimed my full attention and the moment was mercifully lost.
It seems Tricky had been concentrating too, on stuffing his fingers down his throat and making himself gag.

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Letter to a 15 Month Old Australian TV Critic

Dear Tricky

My darling baby boy.

Actually I just wanted to write those above words because I realize as time goes on you are becoming less of the baby and more of the boy.

You are fifteen months old and you now wear big boy trousers and big boy shirts and yesterday you actually did a big boy poo in the toilet. Well, to tell the truth that last was a bit of a fluke, you had just had your bath and I set you on the carpet to frolic and caper in the ever popular nudie run. I was talking on the phone to your pretend uncle, Mysterious George, when I suddenly saw you standing very still and concentrating very hard.

“Wait George,” I said “just hold that thought about the state of the Australian television industry…darling are you doing a poo poo?”

You looked up at me with those big brown eyes and said quite decisively, “No.” But luckily I put my hand under your bum just to check and then there was much shrieking and running to the toilet to sit you upon it. But also there was suppression of the shrieking because I didn’t want to traumatize you and have your eventual toilet training become a terrible emotional burden and there was much encouragement of you and enthusiastic exclamations of “Good Boy! Yay!”

And of course, because you have a highly attuned internal Applaud Now! sign set deep within your cognitive bits, you automatically started clapping your hands, and what with me trying to balance you between my legs and not get my poo hands over your clean naked body, it was quite the effort. But finally it was done and I wiped your bottom (“Hooray! Just like a big boy!”) and set you on the carpet again while I washed my own hands.

That's when I learned a toddler’s poo is never really over, and this time I failed the catch.

Luckily I heard Dadda coming through the front door and so I was able to call to him (but not in a panicked, poo-on-the-carpet-alert kind of way, more in a ‘Come join us for larks. Now’ kind of way.) And then there were two grownups with poo hands in the ensuite bathroom with an applauding naked toddler and more enthusiastic non-traumatising joy than you could poke a child psychologist at.

We are back in the house in Country Town after more than 10 weeks away and it is a strange sensation to be back in this place, with funky youth worker HRS and dedicated film maker D, both of whom were delighted to see you again and marveled at your curls and your walking abilities and the fabulous Upside Down Baby! trick and your cunning way with words that have the ‘ah’ sound in them. (“No” for instance is pronounced “Nah.”)

It is strange to see your new grownup ways with the toys you played with as a 12 or 13 month old. When we say ‘go and play in your tent,’ you actually go! And you play! And the thing you play upon is a horrendously noisy plastic car dashboard which allows you to create the soundtrack of a horrible car accident, complete with squealing brakes and wailing ambulance siren. (Somewhere out there is a toy that gives you Mozart and Bach when you press the little plastic buttons but I bet you can’t buy them for $2.50 at a garage sale in Country Town.)

You point and acknowledge things now, especially cars and of course dogs. When I took you for a walk in your stroller, the first day back in Country Town, you looked up at that big blue non-rain cloud-free sky and pointed and said ‘tar!

And in fact it was the moon, but even so, snaps to you for seeing it in the first place and registering that it was one of those heavenly body things.

Also, while we have had great success with you pointing out your teeth, hair, and ear (especially ear or ‘eeyah!’ as you like to squeal) when we ask you to show us your nose you always reach out to grab ours. I don’t know why you’d prefer ours because yours is such a cute little brown button, but in your world, our nose is your nose.

Over the last two weeks, in fact around the time we were in Newcastle for Aunty K’s wedding, you became the clingwrap baby again and I couldn’t even stand on the other side of the room without you becoming a Screaming Tomato.

Only Apwah and Jimmy The Dog could substitute and even then only for short bursts. Once again I left you with my dad, your Poppy, during your afternoon nap while I went out shopping with your Aunties and once again you woke early, discovered me gone, and then proceded to give my poor dad an absolute caning for the next three hours until I got home. Only this time you could walk and also you could imperiously put out your hand and then drag Poppy from room to room in search of missing Mumma. Jimmy the Dog gave Poppy some respite but after a little half hearted eye poking from you, it was back to Screaming Tomato On Legs. Bless him for staying calm and not phoning to recall me immediately from Foundation Undergarment World.

And then a couple of days after the wedding I found the most enormous molar sprouting from your back gums. This seemed a bit unfair, I always assumed they started from the front and worked their way round but no, apparently teeth can appear whenever and wherever they like. And now I see that they’re coming up all over the shop and it’s like you’ve got a mouth full of popcorn.

Dadda has been taking you for a swim in the pool most mornings and for the last two days I have come too and how sweet it is to walk down the street with you holding our hands.
I look down and see your blue hat bobbing between us and your little brown soft shoes patting their way across the drought cracked brown earth and C and I look at each other and do that goofy in-love smile that once, 15 months ago, was just for he and I but now is for you too.

Around this time, two years ago, your father and I were on the Great Big Fertility Ride and this happened and it was devastating.

As your father and I held each other and cried on the carpet of that Melbourne apartment, we had no idea that you were in our future, waiting for us to hold you and love you and be, finally, after so long, your very own Mumma and Dadda.

What with one thing and another it’s been easy to forget that time but just this month I received the bill for another twelve months of embryo storage because one of your Petri dish buddies is still on ice. Dadda and I have been thinking a lot about that embryo but also about you and how wonderful you are and what a blessing you have been to our lives.

Our nose is your nose.

And our love is your love. Always.

Your very own

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Toddler At Wedding. A Fun Day For All.

So when my sisters and I get together pre-wedding we shop.
We need frocks. And champagne. And new lipsticks and shiny bobbly things to wear in our hair. And also more champagne. But it is an indication of just how far we have all come that the very first thing we bought, all four of us, was the hitherto unknown to me: Foundation Undergarments.

These sturdy beige coloured beauties flattened my sloppy tummy with brute elastic strength. I have never worn such aggressive underpants in all my life. So efficient. And so, so attractive. Between us we had four pairs of aggressive underpants, two sets of angry miniskirt things, and at least one full tummy, bum, thigh ‘you will be flat if it kills you’ ensemble.

Now the thing about having an almost 15 month old toddler at a wedding is that they look so adorable, so cute, in their cream linen suit with the vest and the buttons. But the other thing is that sometimes they do not like to be held. Not by grandmother, not by visiting ex-amah Rani, not by Dadda who is in any case taking photographs like a dervish, and certainly not by bad mean Mumma.

It seems that Being Held At A Wedding is tantamount to having toothpicks shoved under your fingernails or being forced to dance barefoot over something very hot, like say, the sun. It is definitely not for nattily linen clad toddlers with their kicking legs and their flailing arms and their club-like head that whips from side to side, much like those dinosaurs. You know the sort. The ones dressed in linen. Possibly named Screaming Tomatosaurus.

Call it the thrill of romance, call it the spirit of the lake alongside which the wedding vows were made. Call it sheer bloody mindedness, whatever, the Tricky wanted to run. And shout. And play the Upside Down Baby Game. And this is hard when solemnity is taking place on the other side of the rose petal strewn red carpet.

But then, just as you might have thought that you could simply tether him to a nearby tree and let him prance about happily, the Tricky decides that actually he does want to be held. And only by Mumma. And it shall be right after the bride and groom exchange rings, in fact at the exact point that Mumma is meant to be reading something called “The Art Of Marriage.”

And it shall be done with additional flailing so that she will need to juggle him with her piece of paper with the "The Art Of Marriage" printed upon it. And she will be slightly distracted because the dress she bought two days previously is a wrap around thing and the nippy lake winds have already blown it embarrassingly high and exposed aggressive tummy squashing underpants never meant to be seen by human eyes.

The only fly in the perfect meringue of my sister’s wedding was the empty seat for Grumpy Grandad. He almost made it, my sister AJ and I had spent a pleasant afternoon doing his (ahem) personal grooming, trimming his hair (both head and nasal), fingernails, and making sure his suit fit over all the additional accessories that the doctors have seen fit to attach to him. My dad shone up his shoes, we tee-ed up a wheelchair, we were all systems go but on the morning of the wedding that sneaky low blood pressure did its thing.

Still, despite the missing GG, despite the flailing linen clad Screaming Tomato, despite bride’s oldest sister continuous flashing of scary foundation undergarments, it was a beautiful day.

Monday, October 08, 2007

Drop The Peg Or The Mouse Gets It

For the past week C has been away in Country Town while back in Sydney I have been a Single Stay At Home Mum Of An Insane Toddler, and lordy aint that been a barrel of laughs.

From the first moments of our day (known to most as the crack of dawn) to the stroke of 7.00pm when come hell or highwater he is firmly sedated and restrained (via sippy cup and zip up sleeping bag thing as inherited from his cousin Naughty Nephew the 3rd) it’s just go go go. Also ‘stop’, ‘get away from those stairs’, and ‘what’s in your mouth? Spit it out.’

Actually some of those above sentences are quite complex and practically Shakespeare compared to the standard of our chat during a recent attempt to hang out clothes:

‘Where are the pegs darling? Give me the pegs, no then put the peg in the bag. Put the peg in the bag. No, then give me the pegs. Give me the pegs. Drop the pegs. No, drop the pegs. Give me the bag. Drop the pegs. Pegs. Give me the. No, drop the. Ug.’
See now I’ve typed that out, it’s actually sort of like Beckett if Beckett was known for doing laundry which I’m not sure he is.

Let’s say ‘it’s been a challenge’ and then lets laugh hysterically. But not for too long because it’s currently nap time and that means precious Insane Toddler free time and god knows I’m not going to waste it on mirth.

Meanwhile my own cleanliness has taken a back seat. Showering for instance. Who was the greedy hedonist with way too much time on their hands who insisted that one should shower everyday? Madness. Now reading Maisy makes Gingerbread ad nauseum, that, that should be mandatory daily routine. Wait did I say daily? I meant hourly. Half. Because, she’s funny that Maisy. And clever. And so sociable with her friends, that chicken and that crocodile whose teeth are painted differently on every page. You fascinate us Maisy. And also, I suspect, hypnotise. Or maybe it’s the lead paint on the pages; you may be created in England but I’m sure you’re printed in China. Very soon I shall be reading out the lesser known sequel to Maisy Makes Gingerbread - Maisy makes Arsenic Tea. And then I’ll have a shower.

Next Saturday my baby sister K gets married. (Alright, she’s 28) Tricky and I have come to Newcastle early because we will be an enormous and essential help with preparations. But also, because we will be staying with the Grandparents whose middle names are Willing and Slaves.

And, in a stroke of incredible and bizarre Good Luck, also staying in the house is Rani, who was, many many years ago, our amah in Penang. She looked after K when she was a baby, as well as the rest of us, and now she’s coming to the wedding. It’s incredibly exciting because I haven’t seen her for 27 years. But also because we’ve been here for just on 24 hours and I’ve already had two showers, washed my hair, shaved under my arms and changed my undies.

Thursday, October 04, 2007

Dog Twitchers

Bird lovers have The Field Guide to the Birds Of Australia (Pizzey & Knight 1997), algae and scum enthusiasts have The Observer’s Book Of Pond Life (Clegg 1956) and small folk whose faces light up when they catch even a distant glimpse of our four legged friends have Hairy Maclary from Donaldson’s Dairy (Dodd 1983).

Tricky loves dogs. All dogs, all shapes, all varieties. He loves them deeply, from afar mostly, calling out “da!” and smiling delightedly at their hilarious doggy antics.
Because I want to be an integral part of all the things he finds delightful and also because I want to impress upon him that I am Very Clever Mumma, I scour the landscape for dogs that he, being so short, may have missed and then I point them out along with a short informative description:

“Look! It’s Bottomley Potts! Covered in spots!”

This works reasonably well when the dog in question is actually a dalmation, or (in the case of “Look! It’s Schnitzel von Krumm with his very low tum!”) a dash.. datch... sausage dog.

However, often these dogs are unfamiliar to me. This is because they are of a breed not covered by L. Dodd in her excellent series, or worse still, a mixture of several, and then Very Clever Mumma comes a cropper by insisting that a passing large dog is “very much like” Hercules Morse (as big as a horse) or that a glimpse of something fluffy on legs must be Muffin McLay (like a bundle of hay) or similar, and anything not large, not fluffy and vaguely streamlined can only be Bitzer Maloney(all skinny and bony)

This last caused some consternation when we were at the markets recently and the owners overheard our dog-spotting. The dog in question was actually quite healthy looking and not skinny and bony at all, but certainly it was…you know…slim.

I could have gone the other way and called it Hercules Morse because it was also a larger breed but the “big as a horse” bit could have suggested that we saw the dog as hugely fat, obese even, and the owners as uncaring, brutish, junk food scoffing troglydytes who wouldn’t know the first thing about proper care for their poor, canine, Elvis-heading-for-a-heart-attack beast.

Of course they knew nothing of Ms Dodd’s magnus opus (even though it should be mandatory reading for all dog owners) but luckily I didn’t want to buy their pickles anyway, and, as I consoled Tricky, there were plenty more Bitzers, Bottomleys, Hercules and Schnitzels out in the world.
Or similar.

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Another Night Of The Screaming Tomato. But much more Screamy. And Tomatoey.

It was one of those impeccable timing things, almost spooky in its perfect synchronicity.

We left the relaxing idyll of the Beach Shack and (via Newcastle) returned to the big House in Sydney. C flew back to Country Town to continue work leaving us, his loving spouse and child, in the Big House with the Naughty Nephews and their parents (and mice).

And at 9.30pm Tricky metamorphosed into his evil alias: The Screaming Tomato.

It was horrifying. At first I fretted about the rest of the family, and the next door neighbours, trying, and no doubt miserably failing, to get to sleep, but after several hours of on-again off-again Hellspawn shriekfest it was every man and mouse for himself.

I tried everything I could to get him to sleep. I patted (hopeless), I rocked (useless), I even tried tucking him alongside me into bed (actually agitated further) which the books say very sternly not to do unless you’re prepared to deal with co-sleeping until at least puberty(or similar).

And finally, I succumbed. I broke my own rule and sometime, well before midnight, I picked him up and breastfed him even though I knew he would be awake again by 2am.

For months I had been holding out, night after night, waiting for the magic hour of 5am, often feeding earlier, even as early as 3.30, but knowing that having fallen into the deep sleep that always follows a nightly nurse he would stay that way for two hours. I don’t know why this is so, I only know that it is. This is what happens, this is the law. It’s a given, it’s concrete, it’s absolute, it’s like gravity or herpes. It’s permanent, it’s unchangeable, it’s unbreakable, it may as well be written in letters of fire on the palm of Buddha: AFTER BREASTFEEDING AT NIGHT YOU GET TWO HOURS OF SHOOSH.

It broke my heart last night to discover that the two hour shoosh rule was complete crap. It was bogus, it was fake, it was no rule at all.

Instead, as soon as I put him back into his cot, he let rip with a Level 11 bloodcurdling shriek. My mouth dropped open. He had been toying with me all this time. I went back to the above mentioned list of completely Useless Settling Techniques. They were equally useless the second time around, and the third as well, but at least they filled in time before I could attach him to my breasts again which seemed to be the only thing that worked and kept him quiet.

The only good thing was that finally, when i eventually did fall into a coma, I did so without torturing myself over that radio interview last Friday and thinking of all the clever, sensible things I should have said.

Monday, September 24, 2007

Q.35a Stress And Infertility. Discuss.

I feel like that time in Primary School when we had to do folk dancing for sport and the boys had to ask the girls to dance. And one by one, all my friends were chosen and got up to take their place for the Convulsing Weasel or whatever the name of the stupid dance was, and I just sat there, smiling uneasily and picking invisible threads off my skirt.
p.39 Legs Up And Laughing

Thanks to the book, this week I am speaking on an ABC Radio National show (Life Matters) about Infertility and Stress.
Cue wild hysterical laughter.
Stress? And Infertility?
Surely everyone knows that the two go together like a blocked fallopian tube and a crippled sperm.

I imagine a time, way off in the future, when I look back and smile, and perhaps even chuckle gently at the bitterness surrounding my attempted journey from nothingness to babyness. I won’t remember that today, for instance, I lay on the couch blubbering and saying pathetically, “I don’t understand…why is this happening…why do we have to have so many things wrong with us?”

For me, infertility and IVF related stress is a bit like the old boiling frog story. You jump into the baby making bath, it’s tepid to start off with, time passes, temperatures rise and one day you realize you’ve turned a bright lobster red, your eyeballs are melting and Life is making soup out of your ovaries.

I’m partly stunned at how doggedly we keep going, step by step, dollar by dollar, blood test by blood test, drug by drug. Friends and family ask about how we are coping and say that we’re doing amazingly well, but I don’t feel like we’re doing well, I don’t feel like we’re doing anything. We’re locked in our little carriage on the Great Big Fertility Ride, hair on end, hands gripped over the rails, knuckles white, rocketing forward. We’re not doing anything, it’s all being done to us.
And driving us, dragging us, forward and ever forward, is this urgency, this desperate need and want.
This desire.


To this day I still wonder how my relationship survived, how my friendships survived – particularly with the friends who had babies during those years, how we stayed sane.

It was killing me that our previously sexy lives had been so completely upturned by thhe fight for our fertility. Bit by bit, the routine, the alternate hope and disappointments, the practical, clinical, mechanical nature of each seemingly futile attempt was wearing us thin. And how long before we start to rip at the seams?

How does anyone manage to cope with infertility? I have friends who have had multiple unsuccessful IVF attempts, others who attempted just the one with everything riding on it, still others who have not tried IVF at all, not tried any form of alternative fertility treatment, just wanted and hoped and wished for years.

I was almost numb with despair. With the unfairness. With-the-why-does-it-have-to-be-so-difficult? And with the waste. Along with everything else, I suddenly felt that I had spent all this year and more, working and focusing and yes, obsessing, on trying to fall pregnant. The IVF cycle had, each day post-transfer, wound this thread still tighter with each injection, each unit of lucrin or puregon, until finally it came crashing down with that first drop of blood on a cotton pad.

It was as if this was all I was, a woman tying to fall pregnant, and I had failed. I had lost not just a pregnancy but a year of my life and part of all the years of my life when I had wondered: will this be the year?.

There is stress when you attempt treatment and stress when you don’t. There is the stress of seeing your life suddenly reduced to monthly cycles, that weird moment when you realize you don’t have a clue what day or date it is but you know for a fact it’s Day 11, the waves of alternating hope and despair and sheer bloody minded anger; at your specialists, your friends and family who seemingly conceive with ease, well meaning people who advise you to Just Relax, randomly pregnant women who cross your path, your partner and above all, with yourself, your stupid, hopeless, unforgivably non-fertile body.

As she administers yet another blood test, the fertility sister asks if I’m feeling any side effects from the Lucrin injections.

'Like what?' I ask. I wonder if I should mention the incredible Room Clearing Farts I seem to be managing these days.

'Feelings of worthlessness,' she says.

In my head a little movie plays at about a billion miles an hour of this whole heartbreaking, soul sucking, humiliating, dehumanizing, infuriating experience. This crappy bullshit babymaking routine spanning over the last five years, wrenching at every fibre of our courage, humour, creativity and love.

‘I feel sad,’ I tell her. ‘Having to inject all that stuff into my body. Every time I pull the needle out I have a little moment of sadness.’

Christopher picks up the showbag and we say goodbye and head for the lifts. We don’t say anything for a while, we just stand side by side, letting our fingertips touch.

Do I feel worthless?Oh yes. But I also feel angry, excluded, weary and generally lost.

The thing is, I know my husband feels like this too. And I don’t think I can blame that on the Lucrin.


If some of this strikes a chord with you, would you consider leaving a comment?

How did stress manifest for you? How did you cope? Or not.

I would really like to hear your thoughts on the stress surrounding infertility.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Letter To A Fourteen Month Old Beachcomber

Darling Tricky

The day you turned 14 months old was the day your father and I celebrated our 3rd wedding anniversary, two days after we celebrated our 13th year together. We had champagne with your grandparents who are visiting us from Western Australia, which was not the most romantic way to spend an anniversary perhaps (the champagne was lovely) but was still enjoyable.
This month you had a sort of brainwave thing happen because all of a sudden you seemed to be recognizing names and objects. You look in the right direction when we point objects out to you: car, ant, dog, trees, monkey, giraffe (Some of these objects are not native to the North Coast of NSW) and often you will make quite a good attempt at speaking their names: “car” “ann” “ahgh” “ghhg” “ahah” “ahhhh”.

Frankly it all goes a bit downhill after “ant” but nevermind, you have other skills, like your fluency in Clicking Beetle language which continues unabated.

Eating is something you continue to excel at, along with filling your nappy to the brink of explosion. Your sleep routine is settling pretty well. These days (sudden frantic knocking on wood) you have a nap around 11am which may go for two hours and at night you sleep till around 4.30am when you wake for a quick feed and then back to sleep till 6am. Apparently once, long ago, you slept in till 8am. It seems as unreal as the thought that once, in another lifetime, your father and I sometimes slept in till 10am. I know! Crazy!

Just on the nursing, an odd behavioural quirk has emerged here. It seems you currently prefer to feed sitting up. Vertically if possible and with both breasts available at any time. (It’s the sort of access your father can only dream about.) No longer the discreet first one boob and then the other, it’s both or the highway. I don’t know what this is about but your frequent bobbing from left to right makes me laugh, even at five in the morning.

When we ask you if you would like a story your face lights up and you scan the pile of books we have with us to see what takes your fancy. This month we are back on that old fave “Commotion In The Ocean” (with all its scandalous aquatic untruths) as well as it’s literary twin “Rumble In The Jungle”. This time round you can say “shark!” when we get to the appropriate page (well alright it’s “arrrr” but you say it with ferocious intent).
The Mr Men books are also starting to make an appearance although I admit to some judicious abridgement. I’m a big fan of the English twittery wryly-humourous and somewhat pedantic style but not so much for this age group. Maybe next month.

You seem taller, even thinner, which I assume is because you are walking all over the place (for “walking” read careering about in a perilous manner which often leads to crashing, toppling, tripping and various other uncontrolled impact type events). But then again that could just be Mad Fond Mother At Large.
At least your father is exactly the same. Yesterday I overheard him haranguing Papa and Gramma about the mental brilliance you recently displayed down at the beach. From what I could gather you walked over and tried to pick up your bucket in one hand (ambitious little minx you!) and when that failed you reached across with your spade and pushed the bucket into an upright position, and then you picked it up. Papa and Gramma wisely nodded and agreed, mmm yes, utter genius. I may have spoiled the moment by pointing out that it was just like a monkey using a stick to poke ants out of a nest.

There is a point that comes in some stories that I think of as The Flip Flop Moment. They’re unexpected. They’re not always welcome. There are certain song fragments that cause this effect, an emotional tuning of the body as if, in the playing of these chords, the resonance echoes through the very chambers of your heart.
These happen in films too, moments where tears suddenly spring to your eyes, where you find yourself catching your breath, where you realize that in the space of a second your mortality, your tears, your hopes, your childhood dreams, urges, yearnings, are unpeeled and laid bare. Like a camera flash illuminating the dark corners of your soul.

In that moment, in that pin prick of life, it is as if the world is suddenly shown as it is, so that you feel in sync with every person in the room or the cinema or the theatre and you can see all the possibilities, the worth and the weight, of all the unfashionable attitudes: compassion, mercy, unselfishness, nurturing, and how much more beautiful the world is because of these things.

All this is different for different people, different layers of memory and experience built up and polished every which way.
And all this I felt this morning when I walked down to the beach to meet you and your father.
It took me a while before I realised that dotted through all the footprints of all the early morning walkers, I could see yours. Weeny little feet, tiny toes. Delicate as a bird’s, chaotic and erratic, threaded round the heavy wide footed prints of your father’s.

From far away I saw you, standing by the water's edge. I could just make our your tiny form crouching by your father, both in blue, both wearing hats, both bent over examining something on the sand. I walked on towards you, thinking how nice it was to see the sun, how clear the water, how bright the sky. I was aware of you both but not really, not intently.
When I was still a little way away, I realised that you were both looking up at me and your father let go of your hand. You ran towards me, your arms outstretched.
It caught me by surprise, this.

Your thin brown arms and legs, the bright blue of your sun suit, the damp brim of your hat, the gappy grin and those bright dark eyes fixed upon me. Your strength and your fragility, your resilience and your vulnerability, your capacity for love and for pain and for all that life has to give you were there in those tiny running steps from your father to me.
A great wave of love hit hard at me. I gasped in and sighed out, with the shock of it.

It caught me by surprise, and by the heart, and by the soul and by the pit of my stomach, my baby boy in blue, so that I dropped my bag in the sand and ran to you, laughing, crying, scooping you up and feeling your small wet sandy arms clutch me to you.

Thankyou for this month my darling.
Your Very Own

Friday, September 14, 2007

Lift Off 2

The Newcastle launch was held at Macleans Books in Hamilton. It was fun, it was full and the weather was nice. I did manage to bring a pen this time but it was a stupid big fat blue biro. For some reason the petite, sophisticated black pen I had carefully packed into my handbag failed to materialize at the crucial time.

It was an odd feeling standing on my little stool (no pulpit) and reading to the crowd. There were family members there, friends new and old and nodding acquaintances. It was one of those strange situations where you assume you must know everyone present and if someone appears unfamiliar then it’s because you are suffering temporary insanity. Thus I spent a goodly amount of time nodding and smiling at one woman and racking my brain to recall who she was before finally realizing that in fact it was fine not to remember her name because we had never actually met.

Some of these people I had not seen in over twenty years.
One was a girl from my art class. Our entire friendship had been based on our shared love of a) Princess Diana (we saw her when she visited the RAAF base and spent many a conversation worrying over how thin she looked and what a ghastly shade of pink she was wearing) and b) guinea pigs. Now here she was, holding my book, laughing at my shocked expression when she walked through the door.
Two of my high school teachers were also present.

I am a big big fan of teachers, two of my favourite blogs belong to high school teachers Dramalish and Spanglish. Being an airforce brat, I managed to sample a number of schools during my years of education. It makes me shudder to think about the directions my life could have taken me if I had finished my education at Students-Must-Be-Pigeonholed-And-Quickly High School or St Destroy-All-Self-Expression Catholic Ladies College.

Instead I ended up a semi rural public school half an hour’s drive from Newcastle. Truthfully there were some unattractive features of this school but I was lucky enough to have some great teachers. My English teacher, for instance, who taught me for four years. She encouraged me, she inspired me and where necessary she slapped me over the head with the Stop Being A Lazy Cow And Hand In Your Work Now stick.
It’s because of her (and the feisty director of the University of Newcastle revues, and the artistic director of the first professional theatre company I ever worked for) that I started writing and then kept going. These people were all at the book launch (the artistic director, now the executive director of the Hunter Writers Centre, was the MC) and it was a very satisfying moment to be able to thank them publicly.

It all seems a long way away when I watch my baby totter along the sand (we're still at the Beach Shack) but I wonder what school education will be like for him, and whether he will be lucky enough to find teachers and mentors along his journey who were as good as mine.

During the signing bit of the launch one of my ex-teachers passed me a book. I picked it up and paused.

Unlike my English teacher, the last time I saw Mrs Modern History was probably on the last day of my exams. ‘I um...I can't write "Mrs Modern History' I said.

She laughed and told me her first name and so, with a flourish of my big fat blue biro, I signed her book.

It wasn’t the sophisticated petite black pen I had envisaged, but the words, I realised, were still the same.

Monday, September 10, 2007

Lift Off

A rainy night and a city full of visiting APEC delegates couldn’t keep a warm and very lovely audience away from Shearers bookstore and (hoopla!) the launch of my book!

(Actually it did keep some folk away but that just meant MORE WINE for the rest of us.)

C and I (with Tricky in tow) arrived to find one window full of pastel blue books, each featuring a pair of thin white legs kicking away in a jaunty Dildo-Cam Be Damned manner.

“Ooh look,” said C excitedly as we walked through the door.
“ Mmm yes,” I said, and swallowed back a tiny bit of sick.

Cunningly, part of the bookshop seemed to have been custom built for launches and/or hellfire sermons to the Quivering Brethren (ala Uncle Amos of Cold Comfort Farm fame). In one corner, looming over the masses was a pulpit type contraption that featured a microphone and quite possibly a glow in the dark crucifix.

From here ABC Radio’s James Valentine peered down at the audience, thumped his fist a couple of times and launched the book in true JV style- a blend of the very arch, the very funny and the slightly perplexed, with occasional use of the word “speculum”, whilst I skulked ‘back stage’ deep breathing and pondering the fate of all those books I could see stacked up behind the pulpit.

When it was my turn I wobbled out my thank you speech and then read my Amusing Snippet for the crowd. Proper writers must be very tall people I have decided. I spent most of the reading on my tippee toes so I could actually see over the top of the pulpit. A great many warm and friendly faces smiled back when I did so, including three Naughty Nephews who had shot their arms immediately into the air when James asked if anyone in the audience knew that they appeared in the book.

After this, I did that book signing malarky. What an odd thing. Firstly because I was herded through the shop, sat down at a little table and lent a pen (because of course I didn’t have one on me. Pen? What? Why? Oh.) and secondly because people then lined before me in an orderly manner clutching my book.

Looking down the line all I could see were multiple pairs of kicking white legs. It was like some strangely surreal cancan number.

And then the signing thing. What does one write? And why hadn’t I thought properly about this before. Which page should I pick? And on it went… in the first moments, people presented their books to me, people I knew and loved and still I stared at them blankly until they gently reminded me of their names.
Even then, I was a mess. “Suzie….?” I gulped, as if this was the most bizarre and extraordinary name I had ever come across… “is that um with an ‘s’?”
This, with a woman I am friends with, I have shared playwriting prizes with, attended theatre workshops with, exchanged numerous emails with - all beginning (remarkably enough) with the words “Dear Suzie….”

I blame it on the bright lights. And the sicky in the stomach feeling. Also the wine, even though I didn’t drink anything other than water till all Writerly Duties were complete.
And this week I do it all again, in Newcastle. At least this time I’ll know to have a pen.
PS I fear that there is No Launch For Melboune. I KNOW! Outrageous! Will confirm this with Powers That Be but in my heart I know this to be the case...

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Once Was Wireless

ARRGGH! This is the sound of someone tearing out their hair after a full month of dial-up. What kind of third world banana republic do I live in? How can I blog freely and easily when I have to unclip the thing from the phone, stick it in the thing hole in the side of my computer and then wait for a connection to be made? There are toddlers to be chased. Interviews to do. Toddlers to be chased etc etc.

This means that many moons have passed since I last wrote (including that freaky red lunar eclipse) and a multitude of small yet bloggable events have occurred most of which have slipped porridge-like through my fingers.

But, basically....


Sandals? Wrong, all wrong.

Tiny baby feet that have begun to take cute tottery little steps are soft and innocent and unformed. They must be shod not with hard-soled buckle on sandals but with similarly soft, innocent and unformed leather type booties that allow said little feet to develop naturally.

Tricky managed to wear his Evil Sandals for one day before we got the news about the squashy soft type shoe. C and I sat in a cafe for a full hour in a little town in the country and fretted about arch support and ugly spade like hobbit-feet before we realised that the cafe was next door to a hippie shoe shop. Hippie Lady in shop was all about releasing and unfettering the feet and cloaking them only in soft unformed leather shoelets. I believe she may hold similar attitude towards bosoms.


The difference between this year's Father's day and last year's was all in the shopping. Tricky was with me during the crucial five minutes I had to dash into a bookshop while C was getting ready for a presentation in town.

Unsurprisingly, as a 13 month toddler, Tricky is a wee tad heavy as compared to last year's morsel of scrawny baby goodness. Also he wanted to try out his new soft unfettered-foot shoes. Sadly this meant he was inspired similarly to unfetter all the books in the book store.
Bad shelves. Bad nasty restrictive shelves. Be free, humourous travel book! Take wing, o witty volume of domestic poetry.

The upshot of all this tottering and snatching at shelves and me oopsing and reshelving was that I had to carry him in one arm as I made my dash from book to card to till. I thought about this late on the night before Father's day as I spent valuable Minutes That Could Be Sleeping measuring and cutting down the Father's day card I had bought because I had inadvertantly picked up the stupid buggery bum wrong size envelope.


I have done a few interviews for the book now and I think that possibility I'm getting the hang of it.

For instance I have now learned that when one laughs ironically about those far off days of free love when your biggest fear was, say, getting pregnant, one should not in the same breath refer to highschool. Then, when one notes the slightly aghast expression on radio interviewer's face, one should not compound one's blunder by saying hastily: "actually when I said highschool, what I actually meant was university or my early twenties," and then follow this unconvincing bit of bollocks up by hysterical nervous laughter.

Tonight is the Sydney launch and I have to say, I feel a bit sort of... nervous. There's been a lot of good feedback and some very kind emails and comments so, you know, fingers crossed...

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Letter To A Thirteen Month Old Footwear Gourmand

Darling Tricky

You are now thirteen months old. Lordy. How time flies.

Milestones keep zipping past like G-Strings at a New York strip club when Kevin Rudd is in town. They’re not, I hasten to add, the milestones that get all the publicity in the Babylove book or the annoying emails I keep getting from PerfectMother.com (not its real name) that regularly inform me of all the things my baby is failing to do, like pointing, or controlled waving. Or cross stitching.

What about the more subtle milestones? Applauding Your Mother, for instance.

This milestone was successfully reached during the last two weeks. I was singing Incy Wincy Spider and when I finished you smiled and then you STARTED CLAPPING. And you did the same thing after Twinkle Twinkle and also after Five Little Ducks.

Applauding Your Mother is a sadly underrated milestone that needs way more publicity because we all know it completely disappears by the age of five and soon after is replaced by the far less delightful Milestone: Scowling At The Extreme Dagginess Of your Mother.

This will last for the next nineteen years.
Here’s another underrated Milestone that you have successfully achieved at quite an early age: Chewing On Shoes.

I assure myself that this milestone helpfully boosts your immune system. This means you should have the resistance of an elephant (the very healthy kind) because you really do like to chow down on those soles and some of our boots have seen a lot of action.

Rarely do I put on my grey fluffy slippers without noting the fetching little half moon of saliva above the toes and I smile and think: my baby is growing up.

Other milestones?

Scoffing. As babies go you seem to eat a lot, to the point where people remark upon your levels of consumption. This could be because of the delicious and wholesome food my loving hands prepare for you but in truth I think it’s because your father and I have the food distraction technique down pat and most of the time you wouldn’t have a clue what goes down your throat because you’re so gobsmacked by the incredible SHOW!! that goes on at every dinnertime.
Roll up, roll up for the Great Big Dinner Show! We got Songs! We got Funny Faces! We got Silly Noises!

When Dadda does the cooking he also creates pleasing to the eye patterns upon the surfaces of your food and thus is his Inner Barista briefly liberated.

Of course the whole concept of Dinner And A Show is hardwired into your parents' makeup because you can’t work as an actor in this country without at some point “doing” dinner theatre. It wasn’t Dirty Dicks but it left its scars and also that annoying boom tish noise and a tendency to puns.

Still, as long as we can sing it, or chant it, or make our fingers do the dancing across the dinner table, you will eat it. And often, if there is singing is involved, you will applaud it.

We’re not complaining. We just fret a little because it’s not strictly art.

You talk more now; the old faves still apply “up!”, “mama”, “dadda”, “nahnah”, “get me another beer, wench”, but we are aware that one day more words shall be forthcoming.

Words and then phrases and then conversations and then soliloquies and then great ranting diatribes to journalists from current affairs shows about parents who blog about their children.

Ah yes, it’s all ahead.

You saved the biggest Milestone so far for the day that you turned thirteen months. On that day it was as if a little switch went off in your brain, and lo the little switch was marked: “Walking Is Not Half Bad”.

For the past few weeks you have teased us, us, your Doting Parents, with the hint, the promise, the prospect of walking, more than that; you have laughed at us, scoffed at us, taunted us a second time and insisted our mothers smelt of elderberries.

Crawling, you seemed to say, is what all the cool kids were doing, not that loathsome walking, or if not crawling, then simply being carried from point A to B (and then C, D, E and F) by your Willing Slaves.

True, sometimes you would rise from your sitting position, as if to say, Behold Me! I Am Risen (From The Sitting Position) and then you might take a few steps, sometimes as many as ten, while the Willing Slaves gathered and cheered from the sidelines and smiled as they massaged their aching backs.

But then, it was if you suddenly tired of the adulation and the fancy footwork and everyone knows crawling is so much quicker anyway and hey you, slave, pick me up I say. Jiggle me on the spot. Now sing. Sing I tell you! Sing Toot Toot Chugga Chugga Big Red Car! Again! Quickly! Make a Funny Face while you do it…no wait, you bore me…give me to someone else.

Having got used to you being at ankle height for so long, it is almost shocking to see you amble past at above knee level.

Firstly, because you’re not actually that good at it and when I use words like stroll, meander and amble, what I really mean is
Stumble Like A Dwarf Extra on “Shaun Of The Dead”.

And secondly because it looks so…well, so not like a baby. More like a…little boy. A little zombie boy maybe, but a little boy none the less. In very dirty socks, because you don't have any shoes.

Yesterday we decided it was time, now that your feet were making regular committed contact with the ground, for you to finally have shoes and so we took you to a shoe shop.

God I wish we had a camera with us, not just to photograph you in your new sandals but also to document the embarrassingly drippy way your father and I behaved.

How we smiled and simpered, how we hugged ourselves with big beaming grins, how we dabbed at our moist eyes and made awww! noises, as you tottered your way around the shoe shop.

Look, I wanted to say to the other customers, That Is My Son! He Is Walking! In His New Sandals! Make way o lowly shoe patrons, because He Has Risen and Now He Walks Amongst You!

How we triumphantly sang as we began to drive home, songs of ducks and big red cars and twinkly stars, and how you clapped and laughed and kicked your newly shod feet.

He’s falling asleep, your father said later. We were still driving and it was now dark. We had stopped by the river earlier for fish and chips and that led to a drink at the pub and now we were rushing slightly. You had gone ominously quiet and there was still supper and bathtime to go. I turned on the light and leaned over the back seat, preparing myself for another loud round of Toot Toot Chugga Chugga.

But you weren’t asleep, I saw, far from it. One newly sandaled foot was wedged into your mouth and you were chewing contemplatively as you stared up out the window at the stars.

That’s two milestones at once, I noted. My baby is growing up.

All my love

Your Very Own

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Holiday Statistics

Days spent at Beach Shack so far: 8

Mornings Mama has spent Sleeping In while Dadda takes baby to beach: 8

Oysters consumed so far: 60

Bottles of wine consumed: 5

Dolphin Sightings: 1 (but was in fact pod of about 20 spotted from loungeroom window leading to hurried rush down to beach, allowing exciting and quite close range viewing)

Kangaroo Sightings: 2 (one during bush walk, the other was FIVE KANGAROOS SUDDENLY APPEARING IN OUR BACK YARD)

Minutes of Fascination for baby provided by Kangaroos In Back Yard Incident: 2

Minutes of Fascination for parents provided by Kangaroos In Back Yard Incident: 15

Minutes of DVD filming of KIBYI before realising that Kangaroos eating grass, while exciting in real life and happening 2 metres away from you, is actually extremely dull footage: 15

Number of Digital photographs taken during KIBYI: Too Embarrassed To Say

Number of Individual Kangaroo Turds discharged during KIBYI: 80 to 100

Number of Individual Kangaroo Turds picked up by baby in attempt to eat: 1

Number of Individual Kangaroo turds picked up by Mama with plastic bag and unpleasant look on her face: 80 to 100

Number of Loud Shouting Incidents between Parents: 3

Number of Near Poisoning of Baby Incidents, via previously unnoticed cockroach bait (and leading directly to one of the Shouting Incidents above): 1

Number Of Loud Shouting Incidents Averted By Sudden Viewing Of Pictures Of Baby on Computer Screen Saver: 3

Level of Satisfaction with Special Magical Grownup Time while on Holidays: Very High (but have decided to not share this statistic with Other Parent so as to guard against complacency)

Sunday, August 05, 2007

What OvaGirl Did Next...

Sleazy hypnotists and dancing chickens, pagan weddings and costumed sheep, oversexed guinea pigs and the smell of boiled wet dog. IVF, infertility and family…
It’s a love story...

I started blogging in January 2005. The year before that my partner C and I had discovered, via a series of unpleasant and embarrassing tests, that we were infertile.

The discovery came after a very long period of “casually” trying to conceive– since if we admitted we were actively trying then we would also have to admit that we were actively failing. And so the years rolled on by in a great flurry of work and travel and generally doing all the things one does when one is not with child.

“No no,” we would say jovially, “we haven’t quite got the knack of making a baby yet, but we’re having a lot of fun practicing.” And that was funny for about, oh, six months.

In 2004, finally, we had to face the fact that there was something amiss with the plumbing – either mine or C’s or both, and a trip to my GP saw me coming away with a referral to the fertility clinic at a nearby hospital.

This was us on the official first stage of The Great Big Fertility Ride. That day we came home from the hospital when the specialist told us we needed to go straight to IVF was a particularly special one and I rate it up there with the day my mother died and the day I was diagnosed with MS.

Everyone has different ways of coping and mine was to get onto the internet and randomly google terms like “barren”, “my uterus sux” and “dried up girly bits”.

And so it was that I discovered a hitherto unknown world of blogging. Not just a world of blogging but a very special corner of that world where People Who Can’t Seem To Have A Baby write about the way they feel.
I think I’d heard of blogs but I had no idea what one was and suddenly I was reading stuff by women who felt as angry, as hurt, as totally fucking ripped off as me, and it was like coming home. At the same time my husband, also hurt and bewildered, but also seeing the devastating effect this news had on me, had dug out the number of an alternative practitioner whom we would eventually come to know and love as the Chinese Fertility Goddess.

And then I started to write.

Years ago I had a friend, Simone, who used to refer to acts carnal as ‘legs up and laughing’. This seemed a cheerful descriptor of what was generally a funny activity (at least where C and I were concerned) and so I mangled it to give me “L’Eggs Up and Laughing”. At first I wrote about the hideous tests, the unhappy news, the weird smelly herbs we had to boil up for the Chinese Fertility Goddess, but quite quickly it became more than that.

In my efforts to make a family I had begun to examine my relationship with my own family, my childhood, my small nephews who had come from London to live nearby, and, my relationship with this man, my husband C, who sat beside me in the carriage of The Great Big Fertility Ride and indeed all the carriages of all the rollercoasters of our life together.

One day, looking back through some of the things I had written on this blog, I decided to send a few posts to my agent. She in turn sent these onto a publisher.

And they said…yes.

Well, actually what they said was that they wanted me to write a book. And it would be the blog, but also more again.

And so I said… yes.

And this September, two years after our first IVF cycle began, My Book is being released.

This means some things will change.

For instance, it may surprise you to discover that OvaGirl is a Made Up, Secret Squirrel, Clark Kentish sort of name. I know! Shock!

And also, this blog may seem to have slimmed up, since last you saw it.

That’s because I have deleted most of the early entries, ie those leading up to Tricky’s birth. (And let me tell you that caused me no end of heartache because of the beautiful comments people left for me.) I did this because the book contains nearly all these entries anyway, but polished up and with incriminating names and patently stupid bits removed.

But I have left some posts, including the start and the end, intact, because I wanted people (who don't read the book) to see that there can be a happy ending to the Great Big Fertility Ride, even though its carriages might get a bit skanky and scratched and pong of chucked up steak sandwich.

I’m having a wee little holiday now.

I’m also doing Book Stuff, launches and publicity guff. If you’re in Sydney and you want to come to a book launch on September 5th, let me know on the comments or contact me through my profile. There will also be one in Newcastle and hopefully Melbourne and other places at some stage.

Legs Up And Laughing will be available in the UK in October. And in the US?... well, I don't know. Ask your bookshop! It's published by Murdoch Books and it's a Pier 9 imprint.
And it has a pretty cover!

And finally, if you are from that Corner Of The Blogging World I talked about before, (and further afield too, the theatre people and the political people and the writerly people) then I want to let you know that at the end of my book, on the acknowledgements page is this:


To all those who read and commented and supported me on my blog “L’Eggs Up And Laughing”, throughout the events of this book. You shared my grief as well as my joy. You made me feel part of a community who knew exactly how I felt. You kept me writing.

Back Soon (honest)

Your Very Own OvaGirl...

Vanessa xxx