A Spring Kind of Feeling

You know that perfect feeling when it’s finally warm enough to wear a new summer dress and sandals but cool enough that there’s just a slight bite to the air? The world seems shiny and crisp, exciting and new, and anything seems possible.

When the grass is still dewy underfoot early in the morning.

The measly winter diet of oranges and pears begins to give way to summer’s banquet of peaches and mangoes, plums and cherries.

Days become longer, the sea becomes warmer, and the hemlines become shorter.

One of my favourite escapism websites is The Sartorialist.  A simple image of a girl in a frock (or a shirt?) can change your day and take you to another place.  http://www.thesartorialist.com/photos/on-the-street-via-guelfa-florence/

That’s all for now 🙂

It’s not I love my third child more…


Happy Sunday! Here’s a post I wrote a little while ago which was published on iVillage yesterday! So you can read it here or here: http://www.ivillage.com.au/its-not-i-love-my-third-child-more/150142

“Have you seen the preschool concert video Jane?” I was asked nonchalantly by a mother at school one morning, shortly after my youngest had started Kindergarten.

“Aaaah no” I replied, adding quickly with a flash of fear “Why do you ask?”.

“Because, um, you were having a bit of a cry” she replied.

This was exactly what I had hoped would not happen.  I knew they had taped the concert that day.

Because I did cry.  Boy did I cry.  I sobbed into my tissue as if I were at my life’s end watching a tape of my life in fast forward.

It was the bloody song they all sang at the end of the concert that did it.

40 of these gorgeous little 4 and 5 year olds got assembled in their confounded cuteness and sang this infernal song which went something like:

“I’m a big kid now,

I’ve got my hat and my bag and my shoes

and I’m ready for school

I’m a big kid now”.

Tear jerking stuff if you’ve ever heard it.

This was however the third time I’d sat through such a concert.  And the first two times, I was FINE.  Totally fine.  In fact, just quietly, quite happy that one little body would be out of my hands five days a week in the near future.

It isn’t that I love my third daughter any more than the others.  I don’t.  I in fact ascribe to the theory that you love them all equally, if differently.

She simply was my BABY and this was clear and irrefutable evidence that my baby was really a baby no longer.

It’s funny how when you’re in the thick of babies and toddlerdom and preschoolers you feel that this is a phase almost to be endured in some ways.  Yet once it’s gone you yearn for those dimpled bottoms, first steps, and tantrums on the supermarket floor.

Looking now at my 11, 8 and 6 year olds, I can see that in ten years time my gaze will fall upon a 21 year old woman and I’ll wonder how on earth we got there so fast.

But, I will still be her mum. And I’m sure I’ll be honoured to be associated with such a wonderfully smart and grounded young woman.

Happy Present-Mongering, Dear Friend

There are many seasons to a life, don’t you think.

One season which is highly enjoyable, yet at the same time irksome, is the present-giving season.

In quick succession, your once single off-the-wall friend, can be engaged, married, knocked up and then the proud caretaker of a wee babbie.

If the indignity of watching your friend turn into a sleep-deprived milk bar (or partner of one) wasn’t enough to bear, there’s the requirement to celebrate each step along this path by giving them a gift.

There’s the Engagement Present.  The Kitchen Tea present.  The Wedding Present.  The Pregnancy present.  The Baby Shower Present.  And then of course, the present for the wee squealing thing itself.

Now I’m not against present-giving.  Not at all. I adore both giving and receiving presents.  However, during this particular season of a friend’s life, it can be a bit much, no?

I heartily support the wedding present, and despite my preference for purchasing a tangible gift, do understand the wishing well affair that is now so popular since we shack up well before we marry these days.  You only need so many toasters and towels.

Also, the baby present.  There’s nothing cuter than buying OOO clothes again, or even a lovely pampering gift for the new parents themselves. Not that’s it about me of course.

However, the Kitchen Tea and the Baby Shower ? Meh.

I should be clear here though.  I LOVE parties.  Any excuse for a party.  I love dress up parties, dress down parties, cocktail parties, Christmas parties.  Any party really.  So if you’re going to turn your Kitchen Tea into an uproarious celebration, I’ll be there, literally with bells on if you’d like.  But a present?  You’re getting one in five minutes at the wedding darling, keep your shirt on.

And the Baby Shower?  Well, in my opinion, it’s a little hard to kick up your heels at the Baby Shower.  As much as I enjoy decorating a teeny little singlet…. actually scrap that, I have zero interest in decorating teeny little singlets.

The prompt for this post was a friend’s bewilderment at what to put on the card for a baby shower.  I suggested “Happy Present-Mongering” which she thought hilarious but probably less than PC.

Having said that, I’m off shopping now.  My children are attending parties for 4 little darlings tomorrow, so it’s time to brandish the Visa.

That’s the next season.

To The Tooth Fairy: A Warning from HR

Dear Tooth Fairy,

It has come to our attention that you have been remarkably lax in the performance of your duties.

We refer in particular to the following instances  :

1.   Over 5 households have reported that you have repeatedly failed to attend on the night the tooth has been left for your retrieval.  Sweeping into a child’s room at 9.00am after they have advised their parent you have not attended is simply not acceptable and puts you in significant danger of being seen by a child (and you know full well the permanent, in fact fatal to you, consequences of such an occurrence).

2.  In Household B, we have been advised that up to THREE TEETH have waited in a matchbox beside the child’s bed before you decided to attend.  This child apparently made repeated complaints to their mother about this before it was brought to our attention.  (If this occurs again your contract will be terminated without further notice).

3 In Household C, you took the tooth out of the box in which it was kept for safe-keeping and replaced it with a number of LEAVES.  This has caused untold trauma to the child in question.  We have heard this caused you significant amusement.  It is not funny.  If this child takes action against us in future for mental pain and suffering due to your actions we cannot guarantee that we will not seek to recover from you any damages won.

Please take this as a final warning.

Thank you.

Why we should be teaching our kids Comparative Religion

My kids go to a public primary school in Sydney.  Scripture is offered at our school and conducted by external providers.  Our very Anglo-Saxon school has representatives of the local Catholic, and I think, Presbyterian Churches, who visit once a week.   All the other kids (save a few lucky ones that have recently been offered Ethics classes in the upper years, which is fabulous) spend scripture time colouring in, watching TV, getting zero educational or cultural nutrition.

I think we’re missing an opportunity here.  Why don’t we teach all our kids the basics of each religion?  The tenets of the Islamic faith, the Jewish, the Christian and the rest.   I think kids will be fascinated by this.   Give them an understanding of what each religion represents; how different cultures weave their religions into their daily life; what is represented by the external signs of religion we see around us – the Yarmulke, the turban, the burqa.  Teach them that the fundamentalist arm of each religion differs greatly from main group of followers.

Surely teaching children the differences (and indeed similarities) between religions would help them grow into more tolerant individuals.  As the saying goes, ignorance breeds contempt.

My religious education consisted of some Presbyterian “I love Jesus” pictures when I was in primary school, and my private Anglican high school’s “It’s our way or the highway” teachings.  This, by the way, led to some interesting conversations between the lovely Reverend and I along the lines “So, does that mean if you’re born in the middle of nowhere in, say, New Guinea, and you don’t know about our God, then you’re going to hell”.  He answered “Hmmm yes”.  (My 14 year old self had a rather large problem with this).

I can see many advantages of teaching Comparative Religion in our increasingly multi-cultural society.  Intolerance is something that grows in people as they age, and I think we could at least try to nip this in the bud with some gentle and engaging education.  I think the messages from such teachings would also educate many parents.

I know it is drawing a really long bow to say that teaching kids about other religions is going to stop people dying in fruitless religious wars, however, I don’t think many would argue that an understanding of other faiths would encourage a degree more tolerance of each other.

A story writing tip from a star procrastinator

Last Sunday morning I woke to find, to my surprise and delight, that my husband had taken all three kids to work with him giving me a delicious spanse of unplanned time.  What to do?!

I, rather surprisingly, chose to fill this time by starting to write a book.

I have wanted to write children’s books since I was a child.  As a young whippersnapper I was both a ravenous reader and writer of words.  I spent every spare minute either drifting off into other worlds (often with a mere sliver of light through the bedroom door to sustain my reading), or creating them for myself.  I like to think the words I penned at this time weren’t too shabby as my teachers used to keep my works to show others.  As a result, I have none of the stories I wrote from age 6-10.  My favourite story, which I remember with great fondness, was about a world within a box.   Unfortunately that’s about all I remember of my youthful storytelling.

Well, that would be aside from the story I wrote when being lazy one day which was a blatant rip off of Hans Christian Andersen’s Fir Tree about the poor Christmas tree who gets cut down, his subsequent adventures and final misadventure.  My teacher clearly hadn’t read the profoundly talented Mr Andersen.  She thought my tale an utterly brilliant example of personification!  What talent I had!

Why is it surprising that I started writing a story last week?  Because, sadly, after the age of 10 my writing gradually slowed down over the years to the point recently where my writing was limited to writing brochures, marketing letters and the like in my working life.

I am very proud (this is probably pathetic for any proper writers who happen upon this) to announce that I wrote 2,565 words last weekend!  I started on a proper story! Callooh Callay!  And I can’t resist telling you it’s about a girl called Maya, who is 10, has enough spunk that I’d like to meet her, and who is in possession of a slightly tarnished halo that you might see reflected in her shiny silver Converse boots.

You may have noticed that I carefully called this post a story writing tip, singular.  My tip, for any other of you with tragic unfulfilled literary ambitions, is to write.  Write for yourself.  Write anything. Write something you’re passionate about and the words will flow.  To paraphrase from the brilliant and sadly recently departed Ray Bradbury “You must write every single day of your life… You must lurk in libraries and climb the stacks like ladders to sniff books like perfumes and wear books like hats upon your crazy heads… may you be in love every day for the next 20,000 days. And out of that love, remake a world.”

Oh, and the truth, which those of you with an eagle eye and mind have already gleaned, is of course that this whole post is a fantastic example of my skills in story writing procrastination, nurtured over many years.

Have a lovely weekend all 🙂

Lego – Ikea training for kids?

I was out on a boat ride with some colleagues on Friday night when, I can’t remember how, we started talking about Lego and all the different sets you can get now for your kids – the Harry Potter and the Star Wars, the police stations and the airports.

We discussed how most parents carefully keep these sets in their boxes, so that the next time the kids want to make the Harry Potter castle they can do it with the right pieces and instructions to hand.

There was general consensus that when we were kids, you pretty much had a bucket of Lego that was used for making up stuff! Kids used their imagination (yes that old chestnut) to work out intriguing ways to make the spiffy rocket or gargantuan all-terrain vehicle that their heart desired on a quiet Sunday morning.

One among us made the observation that Lego and Ikea instructions are remarkably similar.  Pictures, diagrams, no words.  I’m guessing some smarty pants at Ikea made the observation some time ago that millions of kids around the world have managed to follow Lego instructions, so it would probably be a good way to go with their global domination plans (which appear to be going swimmingly to date).

I like to think that they have a Lego-Ikea Deed of Instructional Similarity  drawn up, ensuring that their instruction manuals maintain at least a similar look and feel, or perhaps as time goes on even introducing features into Lego to make it even closer to Ikea.  Look forward to the introduction of the Lego Allen key folks, it can’t be far away.

But enough of conspiracy theories.  How about a small suggestion instead.  If you, like me, have to date kept those individual boxes together, it’s time.  Chuck out those Lego boxes, throw all the pieces into one ginormous bucket, bring it down to the lounge today and see what they make!

That is of course unless you want your kid to grow up to be  a Gold-Certified Ikea Putter-Togetherer, which is admittedly a handy certification to have.

For me? I’m off to collect those boxes together, find a bucket, and let some Lego police mingle with Lego doctors.  Ciao ciao….

The Perfect Pavlova

Today I am in a good mood, considering the freezing weather here in Sydney.  Because of this good mood, I am going to share with you my tips on making the perfect pavlova.  Before you think I’m some domestic goddess or something, I am, like, tooooootally not, but I do think I cook a pretty good pav 🙂

Firstly, the recipe.  My favourite one is Bill Granger’s recipe, here’s a link to it http://www.abc.net.au/local/recipes/2009/08/14/2655854.htm/.  Don’t worry about the yoghurt cream bit, just the main pav recipe bit.

OK, so here’s the important tips:

  1. Get the eggs out of the fridge a little while before you’re going to cook with them so they’re not too cold.  Easy!
  2. Make sure your mixing bowl is scrupulously clean, dry and oil free before you start putting any egg whites in.
  3. This is the most important one, ready? If you get any egg yolk mixed with your egg whites it won’t work.  You will not get a perfect pav!
  4. Which brings me to Tip 4.  I always, always, use two glasses when separating my egg whites from my egg yolks.  One at a time I crack an egg over one glass, pouring the white into that glass, plopping the yolk into the other, and then pouring the individual egg white in my mixing bowl.  Then repeat! Voila! That way one stuffed up egg white can be chucked into your yolks (perhaps to make a delectable lemon tart later if you’re really keen) and you don’t mess up all your egg whites and have to start again.
  5. Beat your egg whites until they’ve got soft peaks and then add your sugar very gradually.  I find that if I add sugar gradually right to the end of the sugar, I get a more crunchy, chewy pav on the outside which I love!
  6. Then mix your cornflour, vinegar etc in with a metal spoon, and spread this delicious mixture onto a piece of baking paper in a circle, not too thick.
  7. Cook for the minimum time and then turn your oven off and let your pav cool down in there.
  8. Top with lashings of whipped cream and your favourite berries.
  9. Share with your favourite people!

Oh and here’s one I created earlier for some of my favourite people 🙂

Rude fingers

A dear friend visited our home a few years ago.  This friend was inordinately fond of our then three year old daughter Petunia (not her real name), whom he had always found charming and engaging.

Upon entering our lounge our friend encountered Petunia who looked at him, smiled, raised the middle finger of her left hand in what is undoubtedly an internationally recognised gesture, and waved it at him. She kept the finger raised  and danced her hand around a little in the air.

Our friend was shocked, really shocked.

Luckily the situation was saved seconds later when our five year old advised him that Petunia was showing him her “invisible finger puppet”.  And she was.  Earlier in the day she had been in possession of a lovely horse finger puppet and though she had now lost the actual prop, she wanted to share with our friend her now invisible finger puppet.

Much hilarity ensued, but my eight year old was confused.  When everyone had left the room she came and demanded to know what all the fuss was about.

“Well Petunia showed him the rude finger” I said.

“The rude finger?!” she repeated.

“Yes the rude finger” I replied.

“Hoooooooow can there be a RUDEEEE finger?” she bellowed.  “HOW ridiculous, how can a finger be rude?!” “It’s just a finger!”

Which made me think.  Because she was right.  It really is quite ridiculous. But the fact of the matter is that raising your middle finger at someone is now one of the most offensive things you can do now that a host of swear words have become part of many people’s daily vocabulary.

There is no moral to this story, the only take away being that if someone under the age of five flips you the bird, don’t panic, for it is possible that they too are sharing with you their invisible finger puppet.

Insights from a Wimpy Kid

Good Evening!  My 11 yr old and I just returned from from a trip to the Sydney Opera House to hear Jeff Kinney, the author of the comic/novel series Diary of a Wimpy Kid.

Jeff was a surprisingly warm, engaging and funny speaker.

He began with the story of how he wanted to be a cartoonist from a young age but finally realised that he couldn’t draw well enough.  In his words, he decided “maybe I should act like I’m drawing like an 11 year old on purpose!” and thus the idea of Diary of a Wimpy Kid was born.

His is an interesting story of knowing where you want to get to in life but taking a slightly unexpected path to get there. First, he wanted to be a pure cartoonist, and when he realised that way was unlikely to work out, he thought about combining the words of a 11 year old with his 11 year old style cartoons.  Next, he thought his book would be for adults, reminding adults of what it was like to be a kid, and was initially dismayed when it was suggested that it would be more suitable to a younger audience.

Jeff is one tenacious guy.  When he decided to write his book, he spent 4 years sketching out ideas in a notebook, and then another 4 years on his first draft.  8 years in preparation!  This guy deserves his success.  On the plus side, having published 6 books, he is still working through the ideas he sketched out many years ago.

Jeff appears to remember his childhood in uncanny detail and obviously draws (literally!) from it in his books.  One of the questions from kids in the audience tonight was “How do you know so much about what kids are like?” and his answer was essentially that he remembers it.  He loves how kids create their own myths, describing a piece of cheese he recalls left on a playground when he was at school and how no-one would go near it or move it, as if it was cursed.  This cheese went on to become the first scene he ever wrote/drew for Diary of a Wimpy Kid.

Tonight’s last note for the audience was the answer to a question around the best thing about being an author: “proof that I created something”.  Perfect.

And for anyone with young fans out there, he is working on his next book – it’s about Valentines Day, based around Greg trying to get a date for the high school dance.