Thursday, February 28, 2008

Granny A and Granny P

Tricky and I have scooted up to Newcastle. We are hanging out at my parents' place for a few days while C is in Adelaide. Tricky is of course delighted with the huge doses of Aphwa ('granny' in Burmese) that he is getting each day. Poor Poppy, his grandfather, and I are but second class citizens beside her fabulousness. Honestly though, I do feel Tricky's Great Love is getting a bit out of hand when I, his mother, am in the middle of reading him a story and the sound of Aphwah's key in the door has him launch himself from my lap. He stops only to to snatch the book from my hand and carry it out like an offering, along with a huge smarmy smile, whilst calling Apwa Readdis Readdis... as if he has been starved of all entertainment and made to amuse himself all day with a chairleg and two rubber bands. (Although actually I reckon we could get a good half hour out of those rubber bands.)

But in the meantime, another Granny, the marvellous Granny P of Rockpool In My Kitchen, who is also Penelope Farmer author of Charlotte Sometimes and many other wonderful books for kids and grownups, has written a review of my book Legs Up & Laughing.
You can read it here.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Letter To A 19 Month Old Delinquent

Darling Tricky

Good God, you’re 19 months all of a sudden!

Just like one day you will be 19 years and I shall be equally amazed and horrified. When I started to write this you were arguing with me about having a nap.

Are you tired, I asked hopefully.
Nahhh, you drawled back, like the delinquent you will no doubt turn out to be.
Yes, you are, I insisted, I am the Mum and I know.
Bonta! you replied in a jubilant tone that I found inappropriate under the circumstances and then you cunningly tried to change the subject by shouting Brrrrm! and driving your little red car away.
Cah! you called back over your shoulder just to add insult to injury.

This entire scene will be no doubt replayed 18 years hence, albeit with some slight word changes. I shall watch you speeding off down the street in your clapped out 2000 Holden having shouted obscenities at me and I shall have to ease the pain by recalling you now, when you were short and cute, you enjoyed dancing to your battery operated turtle and you thought flowers were the most awesome things on this earth.

We are still a few months off the “Terrible Twos” and indeed my mother-in-law told me that in her day, there were no terrible twos, twos were lovely, it was the Terrible Threes that everyone was terrified about.

I wouldn’t dream of saying that you were “terrible” just as I could not honestly say you were “two” but the word tyrant has been bandied about of late.

Is it the way you firmly take the hand of your nearest willing slave and drag them over to whichever item you wish them to pick up, read, or feed to you?

Is it the way you express your displeasure by dropping to all fours, shouting lustily and then attempting to bang your teeth against the floorboards? Obviously this just makes us laugh but all the books say that would be the wrong thing to do and so we are forced to snicker into our sleeves.

Also, changeable, what? The other day you decided that you wanted to eat organic apricots. Yes the same organic apricots that previously you had scorned. In truth, the organic apricot is an ugly beast of a dried fruit, resembling a leathery, tightly wrinkled and deeply tanned, testicle.

It’s not the kind of thing you’ll see decorating a pavlova say or garnishing a crème brulee. Even so, I was bemused when you expressed interest in eating the thing but complete horror at touching it with your fingers. Instead you grasped at my wrist forcing me to pick up the loathsome yet tasty morsel and hold it in front of your mouth so that you could bite off small pieces. All attempts to drop it into your hand led to shrieking and flinging of this wretched Quasimodo Raisin across the room. When I refused to feed it to your mouth directly and offered it to you in my hand you preferred to lean over and eat it from my palm like a very very small horse.

You are still having swimming lessons with your Dadda and much excitement came from you blowing bubbles in the ocean baths the other day. You obligingly recreated the moment for me in your own little bath. This was less thrilling since you had also just done a wee in your own little bath water but frankly those ocean baths are not the cleanest either and on some of the hot days we’ve had of late it’s a little like wallowing in a crowded tureen of soup.

I should note that you have also, finally done a poo in the bath, a little milestone I was waiting for you to plop on, thankfully your father was on duty. It was a good lesson learned for Dadda too…note that prolonged farts in conjunction with a studious expression will lead to poo.

You have a slight obsession with mosquitoes and the bites they inflict upon your chubby arms and legs. It’s hideous, they often swell up into big hard lumpy welts. We have some Stop Itch to dab onto these and when I first started to put this on I would say, sympathetically, Naughty Mosquitoes. They bite. You also saw me swatting a couple of the offensive insects and so now you have a whole routine that goes like this: Baht! (point mournfully at red dot on leg) Nottee Skeeto. (Squat down and smack hard at floor in best mosquito crushing impression) Cream! (Take hand of Willing Slave and drag into bathroom where stop itch cream is kept) Repeat for each red spot as appears.

This month also, you changed our names. For months we have been Mumma and Dadda. It is lovely to be called Mumma or Dadda, unless you are like the father of Tricky’s little friend Toby, who was also called Mumma and then, whilst still lovely, it got just that wee bit confusing.

But then, for no reason I can fathom, you started calling us Mummeeee and Daddddeeee, both said in a sort of drawn out, slightly mournful manner. It’s extremely effective at 6.30 in the morning, your preferred waking time for you and us, when you call from the other side of the bookshelves Mummmeee, Daddeeeeee up! Up! Peeeease. And then, if we’re not moving quite fast enough, the stern warning Poo Poo! Poo Poo! The very thought of a leaking nappy and a bed needing a complete stripdown and disinfect has us up bright eyed and bushytailed like no alarm clock can do.

Ah, but it’s lovely. You are such a bright and beautiful child, sweet and happy, slow to cry when you have one of your innumerable bumps and tumbles and oh so quick to laugh. Even your tantrums are not so tantrummy, not just yet, and a raspberry on the tummy is often a quick way to short circuit the Screaming Tomato.

Sometimes I look into your eyes and there are no words at all to describe the feeling that wells up inside me, that peculiar blend of joy and delight and all those secret mother’s fears, those unspoken terrors and worries and general fussings, and love and love and love and love and love.

Although then again, maybe Bonta comes close.

Your Very Own


Sunday, February 17, 2008


On Wednesday the Prime Minister made an apology, on behalf of the parliament, to the Australian indigenous population and the Stolen Generation. His speech was screened in various places about the country including Martin Place in Sydney and so we decided to go, with Tricky, because this was, after all, History in the Making.

The night before however was a Screaming Tomato in the making, which led to a sluggish start in the morning. Then, also, it was raining. And peak time.

When the clock struck nine and the apology began we were still struggling through traffic and so, rather than waving a flag in the rain in front of the big screen in Martin Place, we were sitting in the car listening to the radio.

It seems so obvious, an acknowledgement and apology for the terrible things that were done to these Australians as part of government policy, but obviously not to everyone. Not everyone wanted to say sorry, not everyone felt that it was the decent thing to do nor necessary to help heal some of the great tears in our social fabric, the poverty, the alcoholism, the domestic violence. And these things obviously aren’t solved by a little man in spectacles saying “We’re sorry”, but it does acknowledge and regret that for a great many years in this country families were destroyed by our government, thousands of families were torn apart. If so many of these problems are linked to poor self esteem and the dysfunctional family is it any wonder?

Many Aboriginal people wore teeshirts on the day emblazoned with the word "Thanks."
It's a simple word that means so much. Like "Sorry."

As we listened to the Prime Minister talk about the half caste children who were forcibly removed from their mothers, and who, in many cases, never saw those parents again, I glanced in the rear view mirror at my own little brown baby. In one case the parents had dug holes in the riverbank so that when the men arrived in their trucks to round up the children like cattle, they could run and hide in the holes. These children were rounded up anyway, screaming, by the strange men in trucks and the Aboriginal tracker they had brought with them.

The tracker, it turned out, had already apologized to those children many years ago.

The rain had stopped so we walked the rest of the way into the city and looked at the big screen anyway and waved some flags and drank some tea.

And later we took Tricky to see a sculpture that C and I used to pass every time I went to our IVF clinic, the House Of Groovy Love, for a blood test or a date with the dildocam. The sculpture is made up of two enormous white marble pebble type things, cold, smooth and pleasing to the touch. You can slip your way between the two and run around the outside. We used to call them The Giant Ovaries and we liked to touch them for luck. This is the kind of inanely superstitious gesture that we who are desperate to conceive often revert to.

I took his hand and led him up to the sculpture showing him how to stroke the marble, how the stones seem to butt up against each other at first but how in fact you can squeeze your way through to the other side.

And he ran madly about them, shrieking with laughter, hiding between the stones and shouting Boo, making strangers smile fondly and his father and I steal secret looks of joy at each other.

And then, climbing into his parents arms, ready for home.

Two giant ovaries, one giant apology. Big day for a little boy.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Being Prepared

I was a Girl Guide which will be of no surprise to anyone who knows me.
There are photographs existing somewhere of me in my blue blouse and skirt with my beret perched between my two pigtails and a solemn expression on my face.
This was in Penang in the 70s and the air was full of frangipani, satay smoke and the scent of joss sticks but in my private universe I was all about reef knots, square lashing and the trefoil badge. I was placed in the Kookaburra patrol and quite soon (due to the transitory nature of being a RAAF kid posted to Malaysia) I climbed the ranks to become seconder and then Patrol Leader.

Why did I love the Girl Guides?

It wasn't all jolly campfires and chocolate bananas in foil. There were monkey raids on our campsite (scary), and the time I cunningly created kitchen knife holders out of some sort of usefully large unidentified leaves which turned out to be the Malaysian version of Poison Ivy (itchy).

I could bag on about the cameraderie and the community spirit and the being allowed to play with matches but the truth is, I loved the badges best of all. These delightful brightly coloured embroidered discs could be awarded for everything from arts to ...well...crafts.
Yes, things needed to be done for them, basic tasks etc but once they were ticked off the Guide Leader (Monyet or possible Kuching) would send away to Australia and lo they would arrive months later just as you had forgotten you had earned them.
I started with the Hostess Badge (cup of tea, thankyou letter, plate of pikelets) and I never looked back. I also never learned how to properly stitch them onto my uniform and so after the first wash they shrank into thick saggy misshapen blobs dangling from my sleeves by the five or so frankenstein stitches I had managed to perform.
Needless to say, no Sewing Badge for me.

Recently Maggie May (click on the award to find her) awarded me one of these sturdy looking items and I thank her and my parents and the academy and Monyet and Kuching...

It is an E for Excellent award which is tops but even more tops is that I get to pass it on to TEN other blogs in much the same way that I passed on blisteringly itchy palms during that fateful camp.

Here, in no particular order, are my ten. Some are well known, some are not, all are excellent in their own way, for their own reasons.

Some are authors, some are playwrights, some are parents, some are trying to be parents, some are photographers, all are writers and interesting people with interesting points of view.

I hope you enjoy it and please, remember, careful tiny stitches to avoid disappointment.

Thursday, February 07, 2008

Peas and Cues

For a few weeks now we have been trying to teach Tricky to say please and thankyou. We feel it helps give his customary barked orders (Wattah! Crackah! Cheeeeese!) a slightly softer feel.

I can now report that our patience was finally rewarded this morning at 5.45 am when we were suddenly woken by the following loud and plaintive wail: Daddeee! Up! Peeeeeeeease....

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Shiny Shiny

Tonight my toddler could have drowned in his bath while I was standing not two feet away. I say ‘could’ and then hasten to add ‘but did not’ because I don’t want to incite alarm. Not at this point.

I don’t for one minute believe that I am the only person in the world to take advantage of those blissful times when the non-screaming tomato is happily engaged in drinking out of the tap or sucking the fetid soup from the blowholes of his bath toys. In these moments I have been known to perch daintily on the toilet beside the bath and read, or perhaps, in a spasm of usefulness, sort out the laundry. But I do these things in the bathroom and, as I gently remind my husband when it’s his turn to do the bathing and I catch him in another room sitting at the computer: DROWNING IS A SILENT DEATH.

Tonight however, I realised that despite the close proximity, there was a definite heightening of the risk of Silent Death because while Tricky was splashing about I was cleaning the bathroom sink. I will rephrase that, I was Swish and Swiping, a loathsomely cheerful phrase that really means ‘very quick lazy way of cleaning without proper cleaning’.

Swish and Swiping involves taking 15 minutes to do things like pouring shampoo down the toilet and using your dirty towels to mop the floor and most of all it involves using loads of Windex to clean your glass, mirrors and surfaces, buckets and buckets of the blue stuff. I love it. In just 15 minutes my bathroom appears a model of wholesome cleanliness and I am filled with the joy of domestic smuggery and must fight the urge to lick my own reflection in my crystalline mirrors.

I give credit for all this to the Fly Lady, she of the wacky cleanliness website, she who exhorts us to ‘polish your sink’ and ‘get dressed to shoes’ (FlyLady is not above Swish and Swiping the English language to suit her needs).

I first stumbled onto this site because I was sleep deprived and mush brained and coated in the deitrius of my own filth but too tired to do anything more than gaze sadly about the floor. I needed professional assistance and so I googled something like “MY HOUSE IS FILTHY, HELP” and “I AM TOO TIRED TO NOT LIVE LIKE A PIG.” I was thus led to FlyLady and her crisis cleaning pages. Every now and then I click back when I want more cleanliness inspiration or just to scare myself reading testimonials of how women have turned their homes into the equivalent of a B&B, just for them and their husband, or how much they looove wearing shoes and shining sinks.

The FlyLady site illustration suggests a slightly larger built woman with an unfashionable haircut wearing wings. She may actually be a large swarthy man with a hairy back and a winning way with exclamation marks but her dainty ways and humorous acronyms suggest a fifties housewife with a noughties sympathy for all the poor dirty sluts like myself who need to be reminded of the joys of a sweet smelling toilet and this is why I secretly love her.

Either that or I have become addicted to the smell of Windex.

Monday, February 04, 2008


Something is happening in the Big House right now, something sly, something nasty, something creeping and insidious, something that I expect will eventually leave its foul mark upon us all, all four children and three adults (one having briefly escaped to Europe). And though I choose not to name all those in the Big House that have been currently smitten with this thing I do choose to name this thing and it shall be named Liquid Poo.