A wee update

During the course of my foray into motherhood, I’ve encountered quite a few people, mainly men, who tell me that the thing that puts them off about babies is the nappies.  Early on, I always thought, ‘are you serious?’ the nappies are nothing compared to the fact that you’ve got to get these babes to sleep (which I’ve failed pretty miserably at unless we’re driving) and fed.  Now, I would say, nappies are nothing, absolutely nothing compared with the trials of toilet training.

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Driving a car apparently.  

We are currently smack bang in the middle of toilet training or whatever the politically correct term is because apparently it’s not training because they’re not dogs. On that point, we also welcomed Peggy-Sue the Huntaway x Saluki (or mongrel as the vet lovingly called her) over the past few weeks and she’s also learning the art of where and when to wee.  So I feel like I could do with a sponsorship deal from a paper towel and/or disinfectant wipe company. I started out by stocking up on exorbitantly priced novelty toilet training nappies with cartoon characters on them and more reasonably priced jocks with dinosaurs on them.  And away we went.  I didn’t bother to read any tips or tricks or parenting manuals because I’ve had trouble following the instructions before so we just went for it.

The first few days were trying.  There was wee (we’ve been lucky thus far on the number 2 front) everywhere.  They’d come running to say ‘come and look! I juts did wee in the corner.  Look, over there!’ and they were so bloody proud of themselves I told them it was great.  But next time come and tell me.  So they did – ‘look mum! I just did wee on the verandah’.  At times, it was a competition of the most or weirdest places wee could be done.  So then I ventured to K Mart and got one of those ladder toilet seat things and it was an absolute game changer.  As of today, we’ve had more wees on the toilet than any of the other creative places I’ve found it in the past and I am now a bit more hopeful.  Now to see how we go in public…

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Throwback to when they were babes, had cool clothes and started wrestling. 

 

In other news, the boys have taken to wrestling each other again.  This was something they used to do as babies and was pretty cute because they looked like little puppies rolling around and they didn’t seem to hurt each other.  Now they’e progressed to some fairly serious take down manoeuvres and it always ends up with one or both of them in tears no matter how hard I try to persuade them that this will be the case.  So of course this happened today, right in the middle of a happy little play session with all 6583945 of their toy cars.  Paddy took down Bede with an around the back of the head trick and he landed flat on his back.  Bede screamed, rightly so.  I was about to intervene when Paddy ran past me and said ‘don’t worry Bede’ so I stopped and watched.  Paddy went to the freezer and got Bede an icy pole and said to him ‘I’m sorry I hurt you Bede’.  And Bede said ‘that’s ok Paddy.  You’re the best brother in the whole world.’ And let him have a taste of his icy pole.  Then they sat and discussed the fact that some of the cars are sharp and it hurts and they shouldn’t hurt each other and then had a little hug.  Out of the mouths of babes, I tell ya.  It almost brought a tear to my eye.  Almost.  I just went on with the next load of washing and waited for the next stoush.  But it gave me hope that they might be lovely young men one day.

Confessions of a boy band tragic

The year was 1997. I had not yet discovered my own style and I shudder to think of the hairstyle I was sporting at the time. Probably a shoulder length bob in my natural colour (perish the thought!)  I was stuck somewhere between the dork I had been at primary school and the rebel with too many causes that I would become at high school. I firmly believed that I was destined to become Australia’s first female Prime Minister. I had a cat named Pepa (perhaps this ridiculous spelling was some indication of my fierce ‘individualist’ streak yet to emerge). And I was totally, passionately, completely in love with Hanson.

During the week I held the position of form captain of 7B – there wasn’t much responsibility with this role but I did like the badge. On the weekends, I would wake up early to watch Rage and then Video Hits and hand on every word of those young brothers with the luscious locks. My friends and I would pool our meagre resources to buy ‘Smash Hits’, Samboy salt and vinegar chips and raspberry lemonade. Sometimes even chocolate ice cream. We’d spend hours watching, listening and dissecting the significance of the slightest flick of hair or the possibility of hearing Taylor Hanson breathe in (how very normal and yet so exotic and intoxicating?) during the ballad ‘I will come to you’. From beneath our poster covered walls, we dreamt up impossible scenarios of meeting our idols, them falling instantly and inexplicably in love with us and we’d all live happily ever after. Of course we all loved Taylor, but if push came to shove, I was prepared to marry any of them, such was my devotion.

We memorised the lyrics and divided the posters evenly between us. Clearly Hanson were the most coveted, but Human Nature, Backstreet Boys and Savage Garden were also quite acceptable. We’d listen to the cds – still quite a novelty and a world away from the on tap information the teenagers of today enjoy – on repeat to the frustration of our collective tribe of brothers and cap the night off by watching Freddie Prinze Jr movies.

Hanson, and to a lesser degree the other boy bands of the 90s, were our lives. We treasured every morsel of information we unearthed in the best way we could, pre social media. To be honest, I’m glad I lived in that far away place before the advent of Twitter, Facebook and the internet at large. This gave us so much more time to wonder, to dream and to while away our salad days with our innocence protected from the ravages of the information superhighway.

Something happened. I can’t remember the exact moment or what it was, but Hanson slowly but surely slipped off the radar. Replaced by real life boys, Greenpeace petitions, dreadlocks and of course new bands. Yet they failed to elicit the same kind of response Hanson did.   Our first real love. As I morphed into that teenager with too many causes, I died my hair, dressed in black, pierced my thumbnail and discovered Machine Gun Fellatio. I must have decided to eradicate the boy bands of my youth to the dark recesses of my mind, because surely, it wasn’t ‘cool’, and ‘cool’ I thought I now was. And so the next decade and a bit passed. I moved to Melbourne, followed bands around, got a few degrees and a real job. And then…in 2012 the news broke. Hanson were touring. And I just simply had to be there.

Having lost my copy of their debut, breakthrough album ‘Middle of Nowhere’ I used the ease of the 21st century to download it and refamiliarise myself with the content. Listening to Mmmmbop (not sure of the official ‘m’ count) still set off of a feeling in the pit of my stomach that I couldn’t quite explain, but I loved just the same. It was a chance to rekindle friendships that had been suffering under the burden of distance, lifestyle and the absence of any group of impossibly perfect boys to occupy our thoughts.

I won’t pick apart the night in all its glory – to do so might take away some of the magic, except to say that it was amazing. Beyond my wildest dreams amazing. Whilst I perhaps should have stayed on the raspberry lemonades instead of the Melbourne Bitters, it was definitely a night to remember. And then, fifteen years later, against all odds, I bloody well met Hanson.

It wasn’t quite how I imagined it, not least because we are all quite happily married to other people. We snuck around to the back entrance of the stage down a dark alley and waited for them to come out and greet us, their adoring fans. Perhaps my mind was playing tricks on me, but I swear that there was a light behind the brothers as they emerged from the door and made their way towards us as god-like figures. Let me just clarify, when I say ‘us’ I mean my group of friends and few dozen others who also had the same idea, but let’s not let the facts get in the way of a good story.

What struck me the most about this meeting was not just that Taylor was even more good looking that he had been, but the years had also been exceptionally kind to Isaac and Zac as well – but that they are really good blokes. Like really. Despite how many thousands of screaming, passionate and maybe a little bit tipsy 20something women they must meet every year, they managed to make each of us feel as though we were important and that they actually cared about whatever tiny morsel of conversation we had to offer. They signed everything that was thrust in their face, posed for photos and throughly wooed us all over again with their southern charm. Personally, I buckled under the pressure. After more than a decade, a few beers and the proposition of breathing the same air as Taylor bloody Hanson, I couldn’t even put together a coherent sentence. But I did manage to get a signature and a hug.

For a brief moment, my childhood dream came true. If I could tell my 12-13yo self something it would be this: you’re ok. And you will be ok and it will all be ok. Just breathe. Oh yeah, and one day, you’ll meet Hanson and it will better than you ever imagined it could possibly be. Even though you won’t have Taylor’s babies. Maybe I’d leave out that last part. It might send the dorky, socially awkward and devoid of style me into a state from which she would never recover.

 

 

All the small things

There’s a men’s razor in a cup in our bathroom.  It’s surrounded by the boutique toothpaste that the boys insist on using and their novelty toothbrushes and despite the fact they have morphed from babies into toddlers and maybe even now children in the blink of an eye, they’re not yet shaving.  And Shane has had a beard for about five years.  Not because he’s a hipster but because he was renovating our bathroom at the farm and as usual, it took longer than expected and so without a sink and probably to save a precious few minutes, he just didn’t shave for a while.  But that razor is one of the most precious things in our house because it was my dads.

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I don’t have very much in commons with Malcolm Turnbull, perhaps nothing and I definitely find his politics a bit brutal and inhumane; but he did say something (just the once) that really resonated with me.  I’ll try and paraphrase it here.  He was talking about the loss of his father and the fact that after he had passed, every little thing of his became special because you’d never get anything else.  And that is so bloody true.

Lately my hollyhock (which is actually from my nan’s original hollyhock, another ‘small thing’) has been copping an absolute nibbling from some caterpillars and the boys have taken quite an interest in them.  So I thought we’d read the classic “The Very Hungry Caterpillar” and the first page brought me to tears.  Not because of that little egg on a leaf in the light of the moon, but because Dad had bought it for the boys shortly after they were born and had written in it.  So even though we have about 1000 children’s books and some of these are in various states of disrepair, certain books with dad’s distinctive handwriting have to be kept up high and almost handled with white gloves because there will never be any more.  It’s beautiful and heartbreaking all at once.

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There’s been a running joke in our family that we’d need a holiday to recover from a holiday with dad because he didn’t believe in wasting time relaxing when we could be exploring.  And he never came to our place without a list of jobs he wanted to get done – gardening, sorting out the cellar, collecting wood, metal detecting etc etc and in order to make the most of his time and streamline his packing, he left his ‘work clothes’ over here in a drawer in the cottage.  I found them the other day.  And left them there.  Just in case.

We talk about dad a lot.  The boys can pick him out of a photo and sometimes even put the one of him drinking wine next to Tex the Wonderdog and tell him that ‘here’s grandad drinking wine at our house’.  But then I have to swoop in and rescue that photo because there will never be another one.

Of course we have lots of ‘big things’ from dad and then there’s those sayings like ‘as long as we live, he does’ and all those other things that we tell ourselves and each other to try and make sense of our experience of life (and death I suppose).  But I’ve found that it’s all the small things that bring me undone on the daily, so I’ll just keep them safe for a bit longer.

Warning: Explicit Language

I’m not against swearing, far from it.  I’m a firm believer in freedom of speech and I think that at times, the ‘f’ word is an excellent sentence enhancer.  In fact at times I’ve launched into monologues that would surely make a sailor blush.   But I must say, I was quite taken aback a few weeks ago (it’s taken me that long to get over it) when the boys uttered their first four lettered words.

It happened like this.  We were about three and a half hours into a four hour journey to see my brother’s new baby.  Everyone was sick of the car.  We were in traffic and out of snacks.  Shane decided to do some singing which usually works to calm the troops.  On this occasion, he was told, in no uncertain terms, to ‘shut the eff (I just can’t bring myself to actually write it) up’.  In fact, that’s exactly what he was told.  The English teacher in me was pleased that he had used his new academic vocabulary in context; the parent in me was horrified.  We looked at each other to confirm that we hadn’t misheard.  Then we made a game plan.  It was our first real parenting dilemma.  Do we tackle it and tell him off?  or Ignore him and hope it never happens again?  While we were trying to work out what Dr Phil or Supernanny or any of the thousands of parenting experts on Facebook would do, Bede came up with his own version and could be heard shouting ‘shuck up’ very forcefully in the background.  And I have to admit, this was a little bit hilarious.

Now before I go any further, I’d just like to point out that even though I love a bit of colourful language from time to time, I don’t actually speak to the boys in this fashion but who knows what those characters on ABC Kids are up to these days!

After a few furious moments of whispering to each other about what to do, stifling laughter (because at times like these if you don’t laugh you’ll cry) we decided to ignore what they had said and hope it went away.  For the most part, that seems to have worked.  I haven’t heard the ‘f bomb’ dropped again and they seem to have reverted back to their much more innocent ‘dear oh dear oh dear’ when calamity strikes.  Phew.  Fingers crossed.  And just to be on the safe side, I’ve been especially careful to express frustration with the incredibly sophisticated phrases ‘far out brussell sprout’ or ‘geez whiz’.

 

I had a shower this morning.

Yep.  You read that eye catching headline correctly.  This morning, I had a shower.  It’s not something I usually do, and I’ve got to say I’m not sure I’m in a hurry to repeat the activity.  Disclaimer: since becoming a ‘busy mum’ (which, incidentally, is one of the phrases I hate most in the world so this is a bit of a joke), I’ve not let my personal hygiene habits slip entirely – I just usually shower at night when I can do in peace and Shane can man the fort.

How did I come to choose today to have a morning shower?  I just couldn’t be bothered last night.  I just wanted to keep watching “Mad Men” on Netflix and savour the last season of Don Draper and I absolutely did not want to have a shower.  So I thought, I’ll try and have one in the morning, how hard can it be?

Well…I started by locking the door.  Because the last thing I needed was two escapees on the railway line when I was halfway through shampooing.  I debated whether to just put “Thomas the Tank Engine” on for them and shut the door to the bathroom, but since they can’t go 2 minutes without telling me or asking me for something, I decided I’d just leave it open.  I’m still not sure if this was a mistake.

I think the task would also be easier if our shower had a door, but it’s a walk in job and I lost count of the amount of times they told me that their feet were getting wet as they played with their trucks in the water.  I was treated to a running commentary – oh there’s bubbles, mum’s washing her hair, mum has birds on her leg, why do you have buttons on your side and so on and so forth.  But then they tired of this and decided to trash the bathroom instead.  At last count, I’d found no less than four toilet rolls stashed all over the house. They ripped all the towels out of the rack and put a motor bike down the toilet.  A toy one thank goodness because I’m not sure if I’d be able to get a real one out again.  They grabbed the dog by the jacket and dragged him to see that mum was having a shower.

They cracked it when I put my hair in a towel to dry because apparently that is definitely not what a towel should be used for and then they jumped on the bed and started performing circus tricks complete with a ringmaster who said ‘welcome to the show everybody’ with outstretched arms and all. And then they stashed some more toilet rolls.

I probably should be a bit more of a disciplinarian or something but I generally take the approach that I should pick my battles.  And in fairness to them, they’d been faced with the prospect of having to entertain themselves whilst I had a shower before so it could have been worse.  Maybe.  But I think I’ll stick to nocturnal bathing from now on.  Now that I’ve discovered the wonders of dry shampoo to tame my Jeff Kennet c.1990s morning hair.

Kids say the darndest things!

I haven’t written a post in a while, mostly because I’ve been too busy laughing at all the things the boys are saying now that they can talk.  Since they’ve been able to converse, things have simultaneously become a great deal easier and harder.  Easier because now I know that they desperately need that blue truck before they can possibly exist for another second; and harder because they desperately need that blue truck before they can possibly exist for another second and either a). I have no idea where it is or b). there’s only one of that truck and of course I should have bought two.

The first time I was wowed by the words coming out of the mouths of my babes was about Christmas time when we were staying at mum and dads and the boys would have been about 19 months old.  I asked Paddy if he would like to eat some of his lunch and he replied ‘I’d prefer to ride my bike’.  And things have got progressively funnier.

Last week I was having a dress fitting for my bridesmaid’s dress for a friend’s wedding later in the year.  Paddy said to me ‘take that off mum, it’s too small for you’.  With kids like that, who needs enemies?  And just for the record, the dress WASN’T too small.

Sometimes I spy on them while they’re playing with each other and I have to say it’s a bit heartwarming.  Despite the fact that I often tell them to ‘take a deep breath’, ‘use your words’, ‘be careful’ and the mot ubiquitous, ‘hang on a minute’, when they play together, they are actually really sweet.  They often hold up two toys and say to the other ‘which one would you like?’  And they often are the first on the scene with a pat on the back and an ‘are you ok?’ when something catastrophic happens-  like running out of witches hats when one is planning an epic road work scene.

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I fear that I’m in danger of people thinking I’m quite out of touch with reality, because the boys I have at home are so very different to the boys I have when out in public.  They don’t really say much at swimming, but when we get in the car on the way home, they tell me how much fun they had and Bede will often tell me how he swam like a boat. At home, they sing and talk and talk and talk.  But when I take them to a singing session, they grab my legs and try to crawl into my skin and shake their heads ferociously when I ask them if they want to join in.  But they’re all talk (and song) on the way home.  They even get an old tennis racquet out and put on a concert complete with pats on the back and rounds of applause.

They especially love talking to Tex the Wonderdog and the goats and sheep and alpaca and they get quite miffed when Queenie the cat simply refuses to let them pat her let alone respond to their questions of what she’d like for breakfast.  I like to think that despite my haphazard parenting style which can best be described as ‘benevolent neglect’, seems to be working out ok if my little conversationalists are anything to go by.

Home stay: George Street style

Mum has been staying with us lately which has been great.  For us.  For her, I think it’s a bit of a challenge.

We have a tiny house, just two bedrooms and they’re pretty full at the moment.  We also have a little cottage on our property which is the perfect place for visiting friends and family.  But it’s currently full of furniture that is too big, unnecessary or we just don’t know what to do with but don’t want to get rid of yet; baby furniture and toys and boxes of nostalgia that we can’t part with, so it’s not the most comfortable place to stay.  Hence, the mattress on the floor in the dining/play room arrangement for mum.

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In our defence, at least it’s the queen size mattress and I like to think that it gives mum the full, authentic experience.  Cos, you know, after having four of her own kids, she hasn’t had enough ‘authentic’ experiences of parenthood.  At our place, she has the now obsolete high chairs as a statement bedside table (because we haven’t got around to taking them to the cottage for storage yet) and gets to fall asleep to the dulcet tones of Tex scratching on the door because he’d love to be bed with her.

When mum comes to stay, she cooks up a storm and generally leaves enough for us to eat for a week.  Well for Shane and the boys anyway.  It’s a well known fact that whilst Shane is happy to eat vegetarian, he’d much prefer at least one kind of meat at every meal.  So she whips up lasagne, stew, roast, you name it, she’s making it.  This trip, she’s also perfected the chocolate mug cake as a quick afternoon tea or dessert.  Which is delicious, I just don’t need to eat any more of them.  She has an apron at our house that says ‘get the cook a bottle of wine’ and she definitely deserves it.  But getting to the bottle of wine is an effort in itself.

Our Tex is a fairly enthusiastic dog who loves to show his affection by jumping up frantically and licking obsessively and mum just doesn’t appreciate that.  So in order to get to her wine collection in the cellar she has to do battle with Tex, then the dodgy gate on the way to the cellar, the steep stairs and the dog following her and the temperamental lock on the cellar door.  And then repeat the process on her way back.  She needs the wine.

I’m generally a big picture person and I often have quite grandiose ideas and little to no idea how to execute them.  Luckily for me, Shane and mum are ‘doers’.  This weekend, my idea has been to rip out a section of garden and replant it.  Turns out, it’s a pretty big job.  I was flat out preparing iced tea concoctions, chilling champagne and offering words of encouragement.

When mum finally does get to go to bed, she has to pick her way through the Duplo, apple skin and soft toys which have been put to bed throughout the day.  And sometimes she has  to retrieve her doona from various hiding spots around the house because it’s been used as prop to dress up a dragon, a dinosaur and/or peacock.  It’s a far cry from our lodgings earlier in the week where we debated which was better; The Windsor or The Intercontinental.  But I like to think that what we lack in style and comfort, we make up for in love and good times.