Friday 6 October 2017

Not quite what you expect

Rarely in life is anything quite like you expect it will be. If my 15-year-self met my 41-year-old self, I'm sure she wouldn't recognise me. As life really doesn't turn out like you plan.

Parenthood is definitely one of those things that wasn't like what I expected it to be. In all honesty, if it was something I'd signed up for and paid for I may not go as far as to ask for a refund, but I'd definitely be writing a letter to say 'this wasn't in the brochure'.

When my first-born was a newborn, I remember having a moment where I wished she was 7 or 8 years old. That she could talk and tell me what on earth was the matter, that I could just send to bed and not have to rock and pat and life as a parent would be a whole lot easier. Well, yes, it's true that some parts are easier, there are plenty of parts that are not.

Like every mother in the world, I have rolled my eyes when someone has told me to enjoy that time with your baby/toddler "because it goes so fast". Not bloody fast enough, I thought to myself. Now I see a gorgeous toddler and think wistfully back to those days at home pottering around and going for babycinos, carefully forgetting the sleepless nights, the mess and the constant nature of it all.

In the midst of the chaos of having young kids at home, I dreamed of a day where they would go to school all day, pretty much take care of themselves and I could just do the "fun" stuff. Yeah right.

Having kids in school sometimes feels like harder work. It's probably not harder, just hard but in a different way. People say to me now, you mustn't know yourself having the kids in school and being back in the office. And yes, I'd say it's true.

Take today for example. My youngest had a high fever and his cries in the night had me finding him in his bedroom hallucinating and speaking gibberish. After a lot of worry, a dose of panadol and some comforting he went back to sleep, seemed calm and a few short hours later the day began. You have to hit the ground running with three kids to get off to school. Lunches, uniform, books, notes, whatever weird and wonderful thing they need for that day.

By 9.30am today, I had already made lunches, got kids ready, had a parent-teacher conference for the eldest and attended an ENT specialist appointment for the middle one. All while answering Slack messages and emails from work. By 9.30am I'm usually arriving at work, but today with a sick boy, I went home after the doctor appointment, tag teamed with the husband while he went to the office.

Working from home can be good and bad. Some days I get heaps done, others not so much. This morning was warm and there was glorious sunshine so I took advantage of the situation and did a few loads of washing. I was feeling very satisfied with my less-full laundry basket and the sight of white shirts flapping in the warm breeze. You know, being grateful for small things.

It was then time for another few messages, some reading for work, a bit of fluffing around the house and attending to the patient, when the phone rang. It was Wendy the school secretary. I had already spoken to Wendy twice this morning about late students, absent kids, so I was surprised to see her number pop up again. The eldest wasn't feeling well and could I come and collect her. So off I went to school, seeing Wendy yet again and thinking, I speak to her almost more than anyone else in Brisbane.

Walking through the front gate once we got home, Lil screamed "SNAKE!" I was a little concerned but we'd had a few pythons around so wasn't too upset. This snake was different though. Yelling to get inside, trying to get a photo of the snake so I could identify it and Lil yelling at me that the door was locked and Darbs crying cause he felt awful. Inside, a few phone calls later and we had identified the snake as an Eastern Brown Snake. One of the world's most deadliest. Awesome. By this time it had fled, or had it?

In between, I was still answering messages for work and trying to post some social media posts for the company. It was decided that on advice from the friendly snake man that we just had to bunker down and hope our reptile friend had left or would soon leave. But then I still had to go and pick up the third child from school. And my washing was still on the line. Quite possibly where the snake was.

Third kid collected and then taken for a playdate, which seemed like a good idea as her siblings were unwell and there was a deadly predator in our yard. As I drove back from dropping the kid at the playdate a fierce storm blew in and all I could think about was my white shirts on the line. And the loads of washing in the machine. And could I ever retrieve them if there was a snake there. "The snake won't stay out in this rain, Mum," Darbs told me. True, I thought, but where would it go was my worry.

So now I'm sitting here. Not having got much work done, the washing wetter than it was this morning, nothing planned for dinner, a couple of unwell (yet again) kids and a brown snake potentially taking up in our yard. Rather than sorting out any of these issues, I decided to write about it instead.

Now, I know this isn't hard. Because having an potentially fatal disease is hard, living in a war zone is hard, not having enough money to feed your kids is hard. It is, however, surprising. And really not quite what I expected.

Thursday 5 October 2017

You can't have one moment without another

I have been doing a lot of thinking lately about ‘living in the moment’, which seems to be the modern-day mantra. Everywhere you turn there is someone telling you that you need to live in this moment, forget the past and not look too far forward. This moment is the one we have.
To an extent I believe in it, but to be honest, I think original idea of ‘living in the moment’ has probably been corrupted. Instead of appreciating the ‘moment’ or being present in a moment, it’s turned into a self-centred, do what makes you happy now and forget everything else type of thing. Which to be honest, is not a life. Not a life with any real substance anyway. 
I do believe that you need to soak in the now. Appreciate what is going on around you and really relish it. Otherwise, it just becomes a blurry half-hearted memory. On the other hand, I think the past and the future is equally important and can never be discounted. The old saying that life is a tapestry is true, all these ‘moments’ equate to a life and they should be woven together to make the best life possible. How do you do that if you don’t consider what has gone before and what is coming ahead? Which is why I prefer to try and be present in each moment, rather than “live” in the moment (or worship the moment as I feel we’re being asked to do by this trend). 
Rushing into something because it “feels good” or “right” in a moment and not thinking about the past or the future will create a life of half-finished things and regret. It’s not bravery, but foolishness and to an extent cowardice. And how will you create anything of value? 
“Life is what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans.” I see that to be not just about living in the moment, but it’s the small things that you do over and over that make up your life. You can try and make each “moment” special and glorious and important, even make it special with it's 'simplicity', but god that must be tiring, not to mention disappointing. And just because you don’t appreciate and ‘live’ in every moment doesn’t mean you’re living a lesser life.  I think that it’s perfectly OK at times to appreciate things in hindsight. 
When I look back on my life, some of the most memorable and important moments are the ones that I wished I could fast-forward through. Fortunately (or unfortunately), you don’t have a remote control for life and there are plenty of times we just have to endure. I certainly didn’t ‘live’ in those moments or relish them. Those moments I won’t forget and I’m glad I experienced them because they have made me who I am, how I react to things and I carry them with me. Yes, I will move past them, but you will always carry your history with you. How can you not? So, I internally roll my eyes and tell them to shut up in my head, when I hear someone say let the past go, don’t think of the future only think of the now. 
You can’t change the past, but the past certainly changes you. You can only create your future if you know what you want your future to be. Above all life will throw at you what it will and it will be up to you to play the cards you’re dealt. Build yourself into life, rather than build life around you. 
Pain and sadness are valid emotions, and equally important as joy and happiness. You can’t have joy without sadness, I believe. I also believe that emotions aren’t destinations, but they are simply emotions. I don’t think you aim to be “happy”, happy is just one of the many emotions you feel in life. And if you do everything just to be “happy” then you are setting yourself up for failure. You may work hard to do all the right things to make yourself happy (or what you think will make you happy) but ultimately we have no control over life. What makes a life worth living and a life of substance is your attitude, your values, your principals. The way that you live, the way you treat others and how you do things creates your life, not just the “moments” that you live in. 
I recently read a piece by Brienna West, which really struck a chord. She also believes that life is not about living in the moment but more about creating a legacy through small repeated actions. I will leave you with this quote that I love:
“The truest love is not how you feel, but how you act. If you want a ‘soulmate’ relationship, think of it not as something you find, but a person you choose and then grow with over time. If you want to find your purpose, think of it as whatever you are good enough to keep doing, until you leave a legacythen it is your calling.It is not in premeditation that we decide what the big, important parts of our lives are, it is doing. Particularly, what we do over and over again. Doing defines our lives, our characters, our relationships—everything.” 

Tuesday 29 August 2017

Weeklies, caramel buds and Saturday morning cartoons

My middle girl has been home unwell for what feels like a year. Yesterday she wanted to watch something and thought of having YouTube crap on in the background made my skin crawl, so I suggested that I pick something for her to watch. I have memories of watching old movies when I was unwell as a kid, "Gaslight", "Rebecca", "Pollyanna" and a host of other old movies that I fell in love with.

My girl is always keen to see something new, so she agreed, as long as she could could have the final say.

First choice, "Little Women", nup, sounds boring.
Second choice "Anne of Green Gables", oh I've heard of that, nup sounds boring.
Third, and final choice, "Playing Beattie Bow". Hmmmm OK, I'll try it.

Now, the fact that I can find all these movies at the press of a couple of buttons still amazes me. I sat with her for the first part of the movie to get her into it. A tale about a girl from modern Sydney who's transported back in time to 1873. As I watched, I realised that "modern" Sydney of the 1980s was almost as foreign to my girl as Sydney of 1873.

Listening to a cassette player after school ("What's that?"), eight year olds left to roam the streets of central Sydney, enormous boom boxes carried on people's shoulders, big bright Ken Down-esque jumpers. It's a strange place to a nine-year-old from 2017.

My other two have been equally fascinated by the world of "when you were a kid, mum". Darbs was asking the other day if I watched Pokemon as a kid. He was shocked to hear that I didn't, but was relieved to know that I at least had Batman.
"But cartoons were only really on a Saturday morning and sometimes after school," I told him.
"That's messed up, Mum!" he replied. "Couldn't just choose something to watch?"
"We didn't have Netflix then," I told him.
"What? Not even Stan?" was his reply.
"Nope, not even Stan. Just five channels and we had to watch whatever they decided to put on."
"Well, at least you had Batman. And at least you had telly, Grandma said she didn't have one. How's that!"

I then told him about videos and going to the shop to rent movies, having to rewind them to watch again.
"Did you have to borrow food from the shop too?" he asked.
"No, just videos. It's like the library, but we had to pay for them."
After a while, my antiquated world started to bore him.

Lil-lil was then interested to hear about lollies from the '80s. I told her tales of mixed bag of lollies that came in white paper bags and cost 20c for what seemed like a bounty.
"So you went to the local lolly shop and picked lollies?"
"Well, we didn't have a local lolly shop. You'd go to the milk bar and choose freckles and caramel buds for 1 or 2c each. Maybe a banana or a pineapple if you were feeling rich. When I went to the pool they had made up bags of mixed lollies and they were pretty good too. We had giant pythons too, but they really were giant," I told her.
"Wow, I wish we had a milk bar, that sounds awesome."
"They really were," I had to admit. Far better than a 7-11.

It's funny how things that are such a big part of your childhood really are just a snapshot in time.

Rewind before you return.

Sunday 25 June 2017


When I was 15 or so I watched a new TV series called Twin Peaks. Oh my goodness, how could a TV series change your life. When you're 15 everything changes your life. A song, a band, a movie - all of it makes you feel alive, makes you feel like you're living life in the world for the first time. No one has seen the world this way before you think.

My mum is here at the moment, helping me with the kids during the school holidays. Goosey was telling Grandma about Bruno Mars and just how amazing he is. She played a song of his to share and then she put on the Beatles and danced with equal gusto. My mum reminisced about the first time she heard the Beatles and how an older neighbour pined about just how terrible they were with their long hair and the racket they played.

Life is the same. But different. The kids listened to my mum tell about being their age and lighting the stove for dinner when she got home from school and walking to the outhouse in the dark and cold. They were horrified! Kids are much different today they said. Not so much, she replied. They still have the same worries and insecurities and fun and moments.

The new Twin Peaks is back on the box and I was so excited. I wanted to pick up where I left off. I wanted to have that feeling I had when I was 15. Except, I'm not 15 anymore. As much as I want to love it, it's darker and heavier and less innocent. There are more distractions. It's not the same. Neither am I.

The past couple of weeks, I've realised that I miss a time when there's no iphones or texts, or social media or streaming or binge watching. When you went out, you went somewhere and hoped you ran into people. You met up and talked. You waited a week to watch a show at a certain time, along with everyone else. News was news, because they didn't have to update endlessly. You waited to hear a song on the radio or you went to a store to buy a CD. Got excited to feel that crisp magazine cover in your hand and couldn't wait to get home to open it. Got excited by the prospect or something. The experience wasn't diminished by reading a review online as you walk in. Life felt more adventurous. When you're alone, you're alone. The moment was far easier to live in. Much less distraction.

I realise that makes me a dinosaur, but I'm OK with that. Actually I feel lucky to know what it's like to live without being ruled by device. To dream about what might be and not worry about what's not important.

I'm the mean mum who (for the moment) won't let my kids have iMessages and the like. But they can have their holidays doing exactly what they're doing and I know that when they see their friends on the first day back at school they'll have that exciting moment where they can swap stories and laughs. And that to me is precious.

Wednesday 3 May 2017

Future blindness

It's a funny thing writing a blog and having all these little thoughts and memories to look back on. Sometimes I cringe and other times I'm reminded of a time and place that is long buried in the back of my brain. For whatever reason, I've been quite nostalgic recently, maybe due to binging on Party of Five last week.

I recently re-read a post I wrote about the dangling carrot of life and how we're often focussed on looking ahead to reach a "goal".  While I still believe a lot of what I wrote in that post, there is a part that feels a little naive and I realise I've become a little more jaded as the years have gone by. In other ways, I'm also a little more optimistic.

As the great John Lennon wrote: "Life is what happens to you while you're busy making other plans" and this is all too true. Recently, though, I've spent a lot of time thinking about how things may have been if I'd done things differently. Hindsight is always 20/20, especially if you learn some lessons about the mistakes that you make and the wrong turn that you take.

Whatever path you take or choices you make, life will continue to unfold. It's relentless like that. Well, relentless until it's not.

The thought that keeps popping up into my head over and over is while it's great to be in the now and appreciate where we are, I'm going to go against current wisdom of living in the moment and say that I think we sometimes need to think longer and harder about how what we do now can affect where we end up.

As I drove the kids home last night from soccer training, thinking about having to spend another two hours tonight at netball training, hat will I cook for dinner so the kids can be fed, bathed and in bed at a reasonable hour and that I may actually get a moment to chat with Skip so we're not passing ships in the night. Darbs pipes up: "I can't wait to be an adult and do whatever I want, whenever I want!" As the thought that I wasn't doing anything I really wanted to be doing sprung into my head, Goosey quickly replied: "It wouldn't be that good, cause you'd just be dirty and eat lollies all the time, then you'd end up with diabetes and you'd die."
"No I wouldn't!"
"Yes, you would!"

Ahhh yes, being an adult and being able to do whatever you want to do....

Later in the evening, I was talking to one of my kids and asking if they'd been mean to one of their friends that day. "Well, yes, but it was funny."
I had to drag out the whole, "when you do something think about if you'd like it done to you, if don't then don't do it" lesson.

It's that old lesson, that I hope and pray will go into their heads, but as I look around life as an adult I wonder if it does. Ever. So often I see people who just go on, head charged and do things, because they deserve it. They're entitled to it. It makes them happy now, don't worry about later. Who cares who is hurt or affected. The live in the moment, YOLO rules, are adapted for themselves.

So, yes, my thought is live in the now and appreciate what is around you, learn from the past, but don't forget that what you do will affect the road ahead. After 40 years of life, I've discovered this to be oh so true.

Tuesday 18 April 2017

Remember when...

What a wonderful weekend. Easter, my favourite time of year as I wrote about in my last post. This Easter weekend we managed to pack all my favourite things into one weekend, so that's very special.

Friday we spent relaxing at home, watching a documentary on Whitlam (I do love a good documentary, especially a political one), eating, taking a stroll and just being.

Saturday we hit the markets and bought herbs and fresh farm eggs, before coming home to frock up for the races. The sun was shining and the kids lapped up the horses, picking winners and cheering them home. Then it was home for a glass of delicious wine and a home cooked meal, while watching a movie.

Just when I thought the weekend could not get any better, Sunday, after eating some our chocolate goodies, we hit the road for Byron Bay. Buskers, good food and splash in the surf. Before heading home, we sat at Wategoes Beach and ate hot chips while licking the salt off our fingers. We were then tempted to jump into the waves again as the most glorious sunset framed us.

Diving under the waves, seeing the kids giggles their heads off and watching the sun set was one of those magic moments in life, where you take a photo in your mind and know that you'll remember this time for years to come.

Feeling so relaxed and content, seeing Skip and the kids so happy makes all the boring, stressful, mundane moments in life worth it.

Last night, over dinner, I asked everyone what their favourite moment of the weekend was, unanimously we decided it was that time at Wategoes.

Thinking about it this morning and after reading through some old blogs posts, I started thinking about memorable moments. Living in the moment is often touted as the key to happiness, which I won't knock, but I think it's more than that, it's also about building a library of memories you can reflect back on. As a family, sharing those moments, even the bad ones, are what bind you, what make you a family. "Remember when we flew that kite and ate fish and chips on the headland?" "Remember when Darbs stuck marshmallows all over his face?" "Remember when we yelled out PIZZA while skiing?" "Remember when we got locked out of the house on Dad's birthday?" "Remember when..."

Being a parent, I find I get preoccupied with making sure they brush their teeth, get enough sleep, have clean clothes, have a roof over their head, etc, etc, etc. This is important, of course, but I think my most important job though is ensuring they have a catalogue of wonderful childhood memories to look back on. To share with them. When everything else is gone, when I'm gone, this is what they'll be left with. I want them to remember laughing together until their cheeks hurt, how those chips on the sand were the best thing they'd ever tasted, how free they felt diving under the wave while so safe at the same time as their Dad was holding firmly on to their skinny arms.

I feel happy today knowing that we created some lifelong memories that won't fade anytime soon.

Thursday 13 April 2017

Egg-celling at Easter

As Darbs would say: "I'm a big fan of Easter!"

Easter time has to be one of my most favourite times of the year. The weather usually involves crisp, blue skies, there's a hint of coolness in the air. There's four days off work and school. There's none of the pressure of Christmas - you don't hear: "So what are you doing for Easter?" six months out. Friends don't utter the words: "We must catch up before Christmas!" There's not a great big meal that needs to be dished out. There's usually just relaxing and chocolate and doing whatever you want under those crisp blue skies.

I'm really looking forward to the next four days. There is nothing planned and they are spread out in front of us full of opportunities. What more could you want?

These holidays have been a much needed time-out for the kids. They were ragged with exhaustion and it made me realise that they had been dragged from pillar to post for the past few holidays.
These past two weeks we've hung out and chatted and relaxed together, albeit it it took me some time to fall into their rhythm. I've had time to just sit and chat with them about their worlds individually and together. We've done silly quizzes on the internet, I introduced them to my favourite movie when I was their age, we've talked about what's important in their worlds, there's even been a great trip to the beach. I feel like I know them a whole lot better than I did two weeks ago.

I haven't worried too much about having this done or that and have just enjoyed time with them, which is really precious. As a result, they've been delightful. Sure there have been tears and tantrums from all of us, but there have been a lot more laughs. They've been thick as thieves as a trio and there have been less fights. There have even been less eye rolls and stomping off when I dare to ask them to do something.

It's funny I didn't realise how much we needed that time until it was thrust upon us.

The whole time I've been thinking in the back of my head that we'd go to Sydney or go away, but life has intervened to stop that. Maybe just for this exact reason.

Happy Easter! I hope your four days are filled with fun, blue skies and chocolate.

Thursday 6 April 2017

Street kids

 School holidays have been upon us for a week now, thanks to two extra days due to the 'extreme weather situation'. We have not done much I must say. A lot of time at home. Play dates with mates. But mostly the kids have been out on the street. Street kids.

We are lucky to live in a quiet cul-de-sac, filled with kids. This means that they all spend most of their free daylight hours 'on the street'. Games are played, balls are kicked, adventures mapped out. There is also bickering, a few tears and some yelling. When it all gets too much it's just a few short steps home to regroup before being lured out there again. It's the stuff of childhood dreams.

There's freedom, there's dirt, there's a tree swing, there are scooters and handballs. There's also a touch of The Lord of the Flies. I so believe that at times they are learning as much about the world out there in the cul-de-sac as they are in school. While they play and laugh and fight and cry, they also inspire each other and create new ideas and fire up their imagination.

While it is magical, it's days like this I lose my little mates and I miss my constant companions. On the other hand it makes school holidays easier as they are entertained, there is little asking for theme parks or movies or even just trips to the playgrounds, because they have all they need on the street.

Wednesday 5 April 2017

Cooking up a storm

Something weird has been happening to me the past few weeks, I've been cooking up new and wonderful things each day. This is unusual for me. Sure I've always liked experimenting in the kitchen now and again, but I boringly had a menu on rote, that I didn't really have to think too much about. I really like eating good food, but I wouldn't describe myself as a good cook, more of a competent home cook.

I've never really enjoyed cooking either. I do it more out of necessity than anything. I do it to provide nutrition to my family at the end of the day. I've always tried to make something nice for my family to give them a little bit of my love at the end of the day. It may sound corny, but it's true. What better kind of love can you give than a homemade meal to feed and grow your most important people. In reality though, I've never had the confidence or the intuition in the kitchen. Skip definitely has both and I've learnt so much through him.

Recently though, something inside has changed inside me. I'm whipping up new kinds of meals and salads. I'm blending up marinades and dressings like I'm on MasteChef. I'm making things that taste good, really good (with a few exceptions - looking at you last night's Jamie Oliver's Asian salmon with sweet potato). I've got this kind of kitchen Mojo happening. It's weird.

Just this morning I was blending up two types of marinade for tonight's dinner and since then I've been thinking about dressings and potentially making cauliflower rice. Who the hell am I?
Last week we had guests and I made up way too many salads and desserts.

I'm sure there's lots of deep dark psychological reasons these kitchen capers are occurring or maybe I'm just developing a new hobby later in life. Either way, it's giving me a little bit of happiness.

Monday 3 April 2017

A Byron tonic

I've lived in 7 cities across four countries during my life. This makes it hard to call a place home. I've been thinking about this a lot lately. This idea of "home". While the most obvious place to call home would be Sydney, where I spent the majority of my life, where I was born, where most of my friends and family are.  But less and less Sydney feels like home.

The past week, indeed the past year, has been a challenging one. Yesterday morning, I woke up feeling drained and empty. One of those kind of mornings when I could have easily pulled the doona over my head and stayed there all day. I did think about it.

Instead, Skip suggested a drive. We took off down the highway, headed for the border and waved the Sunshine State goodbye, for a couple of hours at least. We drove into Byron Bay and within minutes of getting out of the car I started to fill up with goodness. There is something in the air there. The sky in a special colour, the grass is a special colour, even the dirt is a special colour.  The light is different and there is just a magic I can't translate to words or a picture.

There's always music in the air and as I took deep breaths I felt like I was drinking up a tonic. Before long all the anxiety melted out of me and I felt .... better. The kids laughed and ran, it has the same affect on them. Skips eyes brightened and I could see him visibly relax too.

I chuckled at the memories of my girls as tiny dots scurrying on the beach, loving their "Bine Bay", eating 'circle fish' and chasing sea gulls. As a busker played a Pearl Jam song I was taken back to standing on the same spot 22 years earlier feeling the first tastes of freedom of being a 'grown up'.  I really didn't want to leave.

We walked around and the girls pointed out places they remembered too. "That's where the pink lemonade got spilt", "That's where we watch the Anzac Day march", "That's where Uncle Jack bought us ice cream".

It's funny how a place you know so well, but has never actually been 'home' can feel so much like home. It's a place that has so many good memories, that makes me feel so good, I know that I will feel like that every time I return. Hopefully one day, I will have my own little patch there to call home. I know that it will always be my special place to go and regroup and feel like my true self. It was always be my tonic.

Byron Bay makes me as happy as these guys...

Saturday 1 April 2017

Flood tide

Yesterday morning started off like any other morning. Crawling out of bed after a late night, making school lunches. The rain had been bucketing down all night as the remnants of Cyclone Debbie headed our way. I kept looking out the window wondering how I was going to make it to school drop off without an umbrella.

There was a knock at the door. Our neighbour checking in on us. Warning that our street may get flooded in, it's only happened three times that she could remember, but it was a chance. Oh and it you have anything under your house you may want to move it to higher ground.

Hmmm, I thought, but wasn't too concerned. I went under the house and moved a few odds and ends up. Cleared the drains around the house. Then felt pretty ready.

As I came back inside the TV had "Queensland schools closed today!" in red across the screen and Skip relaying the news. What? I thought. That can't be!n Crazy! Like Dubai, when a drop of rain could cause a school to close!

So I abandoned schools lunches and got on the phone to let my class (that I class parent of) know not to bother to turn up to school today.

A quick trip to Woolies to get some food for the rest of the day and the rain kept on coming down. Dreams of cuddles on the couch with the kids, popcorn and movies.

Movies were put on the telly. Toys were dragged out. I kept checking around the house that the drains were cleared. Slowly the backyard was beginning to fill with water, but nothing too remarkable. I drained water from the pool twice as the rain kept coming down. Of course we were fine, what could happen? We're not near the river. Or anything. It will just be a wet day.

The street began to fill with rain water and the gutters poured out a water fall. More and more and more water. Hmmm. I worried about the front path, looked at the door. We'll be fine.

Skip arrived home from work drenched. The office shutting for the day mid-morning. Overboard! We looked around and he decided to get changed before taking a look around outside. While he changed I went outside to take a look around, just as I had many times already, and just as I did a torrent of water came gushing down. Filling up the underneath of our house. A wave. A brown wave of water.

"We're flooding!" I yelled. "Kids let Dad know that we're flooding."

I looked up near our pool and it was a river coming down. The water was up to my knees and rising. I looked under the house and our washing machine  was floating around in a couple of feet of water. I looked out the water kept coming. Rushing around as the water kept rising and rising. Dark brown water, I sloshed through. Every moment or so hoping there was no snake. No lizard. No toad. Especially no snake. Kids leaned out their bedrooms windows. "What's happening! Look at the water!"

After what felt like a lifetime the water stopped rushing through. Calm came over. Water sloshed under house slowing pouring out. The pool was a brown swirling mess. Branches, trees, rubble mess.

The news report said "This is nothing, the worst is to come". Seriously? Shit! It felt like calm but we were braced. What else could we do?!

Thursday 23 March 2017

Returning to middle earth with a thud

Last week, the husband and I went away for a week. It's the longest we've spent away from the kids since Lil-lil arrived 10.5 years ago.

Returning this week has been a thud back to reality - school lunches, tuck shop duty, parent/teacher nights, netball organisation, bath/dinner/bed routines, being woken up to  "Muuuuuuuuuuum" in the wee hours of the morning. Winery lunches and late nights at whisky bars it's certainly not.

Of course, coming back filled me with all the things I need to focus on and would like to achieve for the rest of the year. Becoming an employed member of society, making our home more of a home, expanding our social circle, entrenching ourselves into life in Brisbane, worrying about the kids.

Feeling like I haven't ticked nearly enough boxes and feeling a little of the post-holiday blues, I've been rather down at the mouth the past couple of days. Those times when everything just seems like too much or too much hard work or too something.

As hard as the post-holiday blues are, it's worth it in so many other ways. Spending time with Skip, seeing new sights, just chatting away or soaking up the spectacular scenery in comfortable quiet, being adults -  not mum & dad. Doing what we want on the spur of the moment and not having to hear "Can we go home now?" Now that's special.

Next week, we'll have been married 12 years. This is our 20th year together. So many stories, adventures and life tales we've created together. We've lived in many different cities and even countries together. We've packed a lot into the half a lifetime we've spent together. It's a rich story. Above all else, he still makes me laugh.

On the plus side of returning home was seeing the kids. I've had a whole week of being appreciated, which is almost unheard of! The eldest keeps telling me how happy she is to have me home, she even stopped and chatted with me at tuck shop today rather than pretend she didn't know who I was. The middle one keeps giving me little notes that say "Even though I don't always like you, I love you more than anything". The youngest keeps cuddling me and telling me "You're the best!". So I'm soaking up the love before it's replaced with eye rolls, door slamming and "Mean mummy!"

Life can never be all winery lunches and whisky bars, or I love you notes and adoration. It's mostly scrubbing pots at tuckshop and remembering to have clean uniforms ready for the morning. It's scraping uneaten dinners that were lovingly made into the bin. Arguing over whether "Neighbours  really existed in the olden days" (it did and Toady was in it even then) and buying outrageously expensive netball uniforms. It's about explaining why you can't tell the tuck shop that you were supposed to have tuck shop when there's a bread roll you know full well about sitting in your lunch box and there must have been 'some kind of mistake'. "Real life" is annoying and frustrating and unpleasant and boring, but at the end of the day as I scrape those uneaten dinners into the bin I hear that laugh. That laugh that makes me sigh deeply and then chuckle myself.

Tuesday 7 March 2017

One man's tip...

Today, I was weeding in the garden while also gathering up a mighty pile of old palm fronds. This is without doubt one of the my least favourite things about living in a house. As I painstakingly pull out tiny weed after tiny weed, I mull over how much I wish I was back living in a Dubai skyscraper where weeds were someone else's problem.

Then I looked up to see the mighty pile of palm fronds that I'd been gathering at the side of my house, wondering what kind of wildlife had been making its home in there or what kind of fire hazard I was creating. Way too much 'green waste' for our fortnightly collection, I literally shoved it all into the back of the car, squirming and itching as bugs and dust showered over me.

In my mobile jungle I made our way to our local Refuse Recovery Centre (aka The Tip). This may surprise you to hear, but the tip is one of my most favourite places. Sure, given the choice I would probably go to Venice or Vienna over the tip, but given the choice between pulling out weeds and going to the tip, the tip would win every time.

The first time I went to the tip was up in the northern suburbs of Sydney, in Belrose. We got to drive past Paul Hogan's house and then we drove down a windy dirt track to what I can only describe as one of the most glorious sights I'd ever seen. Piles and mounds of stuff! There were piles and piles of unused colouring books, there were toys and bikes and bits of colourful plastic. "People are throwing this stuff away?!"I thought to my five-year-old self. It was like a shop where you didn't have to pay for anything, except my mum wouldn't let me take home any of the treasure I found. For months after I dreamed about going back and and climbing the mounds looking for treasure. I decided that it might even be a good idea to have my birthday party there. It was just the most magical place in my young imagination.

A few years later we to another refuse centre, I was buzzing with excitement. What would I find this time? Except when we got there it was just a big concrete-lined hole with a mechanical compactor. There was no way for me to touch my treasures, I just had to watch as it was all squashed together. It was most disappointing.

As I drove up to the tip today and I smelt that distinctive smell, I won't deny that I got a little excited.  It was all so organised and I eagerly looked around at all the signs "car batteries", "mattresses" "green waste", "recycling". My five-year-old self wanted to run around and see what everyone was throwing out. Seeing the cars and trucks and trailers with their hauls driving here and there to right locations, I have to admit that I had fun! As I pulled out the palm fronds one by one and threw them high on to 'green waste' mound, I was smiling widely to myself.

Image courtesy of Nyberg

Wednesday 1 March 2017


Across the front of today's paper is splashed: "Hottest summer in Queensland's history!" I was chatting to some mums at netball the other day and they were all complaining that it was the hottest summer they could remember, not having anything to compare it with I had to trust them and it appears they were right. There were 64 days above 30 degrees. That's a lot of sweating!

It's funny, because while it was hot, it didn't feel especially hot to me. Sure it was warm and I sighed in the humidity, but I also noticed that my kids could still play outside and there was a breeze and cool changes. I guess those long, long hot Dubai summer's have steered me well. Before we moved to Brisbane, so many people said to me: "Why would you move there, it's so hot!", but when you live through months and months of temperatures that never dip below 38 day or night it's a relative thing.

My kids, like most kids, are prone to a hyperbole. They often have "the best day ever" or "the worst day of my life" or "the toughest life". I often irritate them when they say something is "the worst thing ever" that their life must be pretty good that's as bad as it gets.

Us humans generally go through life looking out from just one perspective, after all, that's what we know. Then occasionally we're shown another perspective or viewpoint or something changes our perspective and it's like waking up. Oh my goodness, that same old outlook appears completely different! It's like being in a new world and we can't remember how the old view looked.

Over the weekend, I jumped into the pool by myself a couple of time (being the hottest summer ever, after all). I floated and looked up at the clouds and they swirled in the blue above me. I started to feel a little queasy as I wasn't exactly sure where I was as floated around, was I about to bang my head on the wall? Which way was which? It was relaxing and unsettling at the same time. The pool that I look out at each day seemed like a whole new place.

Most arguments we have are because we feel like people can't see the world the way we see it. And, of course, we believe we're seeing the world in the 'most true' way. I know that I get so frustrated when I look at people who are bogged down by what they see as 'the right thing', not realising what they're missing or who they're hurting, wishing they could see something just out of their line of vision. Thinking that if they took a look from a different angle, or from a different viewpoint a whole new world might just open up.

I need to remind myself of this constantly, even if it feels strange or makes me queasy. We might not want to look from another perspective, we might be afraid that we'll discover that our vision isn't quite what we thought it was. That thing we felt was so strong and so true, that thing that has hypnotised us, actually looks a bit fake. Like when you're in the cheap seats of a magic show and you can just see the fishing line the magician is holding. Or when you're on the side at the theatre and can grab a glimpse backstage of the actors changing costume.

Perspective changes everything.

Tuesday 28 February 2017

Lose yourself

Walking up through the schoolyard today, I spotted Darbs' best mate. A gorgeous little boy who has been over to play, who was there when Darbs broke his arm and as Darbs says: "We're old friends. We've know each other ever since kindy" (which was just last year). This little guy saw me, gave a big grin and a wave, yelling out: "Hello, Darby's mum!"

From the moment you're born, life is working out who you are. As a baby, these weird things fly in front of your sight and you discover they're attached to you, they're your hands. Then you learn your name, your place in the family, what you like to eat and the list goes on and on.

The more you grow, the more you put into yourself. You're told it's about growing yourself. Getting to know yourself. Once school finishes, you spend your late teens and twenties 'finding yourself', discovering who you are.

Then you meet a partner and you show off the best of yourself and you find out yourself as a couple.

Eventually you may go on to have children. This is when it all goes awry. All those years of developing yourself and finding yourself and discovering yourself go out the window in an instant. You suddenly completely lose yourself. Or, at least, I did.

All those years trying to work out who I was, I suddenly discovered a complete stranger. I suddenly found I had completely forgotten who I was.

Ten years on and nothing much has really changed. I look back at the person I was before I had kids and the essence is still there, but that person doesn't really exist anymore.

Corinne has morphed into Lil's mum, Goosey's mum and Darbs' mum.

I was chatting to a friend the other day, she has kids similar ages. She's been at home taking care of them for the past 10 years, while her husband has progressed his career. She told me it was always on the proviso that one day, she would get her chance to chase the dreams that she put on hold. Now she is starting to take a few steps toward that dream. Excited and nervous, she has suddenly found that all that confidence or naivety you have when you're young has suddenly vanished. She has started to wonder if she can actually get out there and do the things that she would like to do again. If she's still able to use her brain. Be brave. Jump in and think later. She is really scared that she's going to fail.

Being a parent is so much of squashing yourself into a little corner and letting everything else take over. Nappies, meals, story time, playing, swings, kindy, school, homework. It's so easy to let everything wash over and flood your life. Sometimes too easy. I often think I should have tried to harder to hold on to that little part of myself that I spent so much looking time looking for.

Slowly I'm trying to pull her back, or at least create a newer, more improved person. I definitely don't want to be the person I was 10 years ago, before kids, as I'm a much better person now. She was a fairly two-dimensional person, kids and age have given me something. I'm definitely something and someone more than someone's mum though. Niewiadomsk

Wednesday 22 February 2017

Hearing aid

We're at that busy time of the year, where school routines have settled down and sports training has just started up. It's going to be a busy year for us with netball, soccer, swimming and young innovators (coding and computer stuff).

I love the kids to have the opportunity to experience things and discover what talents and passions they may have. I'm also always conscious that they need time to chill out and be bored, because when they get bored and are forced to used their brains this is when they discover the really good bits about themselves.

I don't want the kids to be overloaded with extracurricular activities, as they get worn out enough with school. Still there's always that creeping doubt or guilt or something in the back of my mind "What if they are dancers/cellists/rock climbers and I've never given them the opportunity to discover that?" Oh what a privileged problem to have, I know.

In reality, though, all they really want the most is our time. Just to sit and chat and work the world out. I get that. All any of us really want, at any stage of life, is to have the people who mean the most to us just listen to our thoughts, feelings and dreams. I've been trying to have some time with each of the kids every day to do this. Just chat. Or laugh. Or discuss. Mainly, just to listen. It's so easy to neglect this, when there is so much other stuff that needs to be done, ticked off and crossed out. Or sometimes you're just not in the mood to hear about what Oliver did at morning tea, how this Lego set is awesomeness or how terrible it is that they can't have a playdate every day of the week. The results also mean that the kids are just so much happier and easier to deal with when they've had these chats. These moments to be listened to. When big sister isn't butting in or little brother isn't yelling over the top. When they're more than just one of the kids, battling to be heard.

More and more, I'm beginning to realise that this is how they develop who they are and their place in life. Just as much as joining a team or playing an instrument or perfecting a plie.

My middle girl and I had a conversation the other day about the difference between listening and hearing. We agreed that it's easy to hear anything, but it takes much more to really listen to something or someone. I then realised that my 8-year-old was actually teaching me something.

Having kids is noisy, I know of a dad who wears earplugs just to block out the racket of having kids. I know that I relish the quiet for a few minutes in the morning after the kids have gone and I eat my breakfast between the remnants of bowls of Weet-Bix, toast crumbs and homework sheets. It's so quiet that my ears begin to ring. But when they are here, I need need to make sure at times that I step through that noise and listen to the words. Drown out the "It's not fair!" and listen to the much quieter: "I'm worried that my friends think I'm strange". Hearing the "I don't want to go to bed yet" but listening to the "I'm so happy that I reached next reading level".

Looking back I think there are many times I've heard their words, but probably haven't really listened to them. Often the day becomes an obstacle course, all the traps and hurdles put in front you to dodge and weave, that I'm focusing on the finish line and blocking out everything else. Just trying to reach that moment when I can clock off before it starts again.

The other day on Facebook one of those memories popped up of Lil-lil at one wearing her first pair of proper shoes. I smiled as I remembered how proud she was of those shoes and how she kept lifting her feet up to look at them. It felt like such a short time ago. Then it suddenly hit me, if I fast-forward the same amount of time, she will be an adult. So here and now is the time to both hear and listen.

Image: McKend

Tuesday 21 February 2017

Community centre

I'm not what I would describe as a joiner. I'm much happier hanging out on the periphery, taking in a scene rather than creating it. I don't feel a need to be the centre of attention, in fact I'd much prefer to just bask in reflected glory. Up until recently, this is how I lived my life.

The thing is, this is all well and good if you've put in years of standing on the sidelines. On the sidelines, you'll find likeminded people who you have time and patience to get to know. You can create little routines and slowly build your spot around you. When you're flung into a new place, this isn't possible. Living somewhere where I knew no-one and no-one knew me, meant putting my hand up more times than was comfortable.

Last year was very frustrating, because I kept pushing myself out of my comfort zone to meet people, to build a spot in our community. Time and time again, I felt like just as I pushing through the door it was slamming back in my face. Many, many times I felt completely invisible, just chatting to myself. It was pretty demoralising. I really began to feel that I just didn't fit and possibly might never fit.

If I had put in that much effort in Dubai, I would have been full-blown centre of attention with social dates every day of the week. In Brisbane, loneliness was my constant companion.

This year, all the seeds that I've sown have finally begun to sprout. All the doors that I've pushed are starting to fling open. Volunteering, class parent, tuck shop, organising, helping out, sports teams. All the things that sent shivers up my spine and are so not "me", are now crammed into my day. Yet, slowly, slowly things are beginning to change. I stop for multiple chats on the school run. People thank me for things I have done and ask my opinion on things. When Darbs broke his arm at school, word spread and I had people texting and emailing to see if I needed help. Some of the people I had never met.

Gradually we've become part of the community. We're still the "new" people, but we're not invisible any more. I look at the names scrawled across Darbs' cast, names of people of all ages who've become important in his little life, people who a year ago we didn't know existed. That little symbol alone feels like we're creating something.

It would've been easy for me to not step up. To not fight every part of me that hates volunteering and being "that" mum. With no friends or family around us, we had to make an effort to create our community. It's not just about having people to chat with, it's about having people I can call out to as I'm jumping into the back of an ambulance to look after my older kids and know they'll be OK. People to rely on, when family is 1000km and more away.

As I walked Lil-lil into school late after an appointment this morning, I saw the school principal for the second time that day, he yelled out to me: "Oh my goodness, I'm going to have to start charging you rent!" Still rolling my eyes at his lame joke, we walked into the office to get a late note, which was handed over before Lil could even utter her name. I guess we really are no longer invisible!

Friday 3 February 2017

Points and dots

  • What a weird week it has been in the news. The old saying: "Truth is stranger than fiction" rings so true at the moment. In between watching the news and watching House of Cards, it's really hard to decipher which one is the fictional TV series. I was talking to an American friend at school drop-off this morning who was about to go for a run and listen to a news podcast and we both decided that it was hard to tell the difference between the real news sites and the satire news sites at the moment. God knows where this will all end up, but buckle up because we're in for a ride!
  • I've been putting together some flatpack furniture this week and have been listening to old Conversations episodes, including one with former PM Paul Keating. It was fantastic to listen to, what he lacked in charisma and charm, he made up for in policy production and grit. It's five years old, but he makes some great points that are still relevant, if you're interested take a listen here. There don't seem to be any politicians like this around at the moment. 
  • It has been hot and humid in Bris Vegas this week. Just that still oppressive humidity that covers you like an old damp doona, where you sweat a lot and not much else. Still, it doesn't come close to a Dubai summer, so I'm thankful for that and the fact that the kids can still play outside. 
  • Another podcast I was listening to this week was of Waleed Aly and he said something along the lines of, you don't really know a subject or an idea until you write about it. Explaining that he has what he thinks are great, sound ideas all the time and then he starts to write about and realises that he has no clue. That rang so true with me as I keep having 'flashes of brilliance' and then I start to write and they kind of just trickle off…. and I realise they're not as brilliant as I once thought. Maybe I should just Tweet….
  • So here I am, just writing. Writing anything to just get the words and the keys tapping. In an attempt for the ideas and the word to work cohesively in my brain. In the hope that soon the words will start flowing out better once again. So bear with me. 
  • It's been so great seeing all the 'first day' of school photos on social media this week. So many of my friends have their kids starting school this year. There is nothing better than seeing them in their enormous school uniforms, over-sized backpacks and excited grins. One of the oldest and dearest friends had her third child start school this year like me. We actually met on the very first day of Kindergarten back in 1982 and we have remained friends ever since. I saw her first day photos of her three kids and I got a physical jolt because when I saw he second-born child I could have been looking at a photo of her from 1982. When she messaged me and said it was cool that we were still friends after all these years, I reminded her that I was lucky she became friends with me at all! I believe the first time she ever saw me I was throwing up into a school rubbish bin. I'm nervous chucker and have marked every big occasion in my life by vomiting. 

If you've got this far, well done! I'm impressed. I promise to lift my game soon.

So tell me. Is it hot where you are? Are you waiting for the moment that Trump comes out and says "Gotchya, it was all a big hoax"? Do you miss Paul Keating too? Do you have any friends from kindy who are still friends? Are you a nervous chucker, or is it just me?

Monday 30 January 2017

Monday musings

Ah Monday, Monday, can't trust that day…

As Monday arrived for a long week ahead, here's what was going through my mind.

Healthy eating….
From about August last year, I started eating a lot healthier and exercising most days of the week (aiming for 5-6 times per week). I lost some weight, toned up and felt a lot better. The Christmas/New Year period, plus a two-week visit to good food capital Melbourne, has meant that I've lost my way a little. This week, it's back to solid healthy eating and exercise again.

It's been a while since I binged watched a really good telly show (besides re-watching Mad Men over Christmas), so the past little while I've been indulging in The Crown (which is fab), but last week we finally succumbed to House of Cards (about 5 years late, I know). After the first episode, Skip and I looked at each other and shrugged our shoulders but decided to give another episode a go. Hook, line and sinker! It's so good and so addictive. Kevin Spacey's character is delishly bad. We've pretty much watched the whole first series since Australia Day. With Skip away for the week, I have to find something else to watch and save my fix for the weekend. Have you watched it?

Queensland has been back at school for a week now and we're settling into routines again very nicely. Exhausted and happy kids, which is so good after the Christmas holidays. They were happy to get back and see their friends and I was happy to have a few hours away from meal preparation.

It's been a year since we left Dubai and the past few days I can't stop thinking about the desert city and longing for it a little. It's the little things that keep popping into my head, like the supermarkets, restaurants and the streets I used to drive on. I wonder when (or if) these waves of nostalgia and Dubai-sickness will stop?

The orange one….
Even if you wanted to avoid him, at the moment it's impossible not to have Trump on the brain. Every time I see him I can't believe the power that has been given to him. The things he's said and done (especially in the past week) are frightening. Like most of the world, I can't help wonder how this is all going to end up, as I think whatever happens it's not going to peter out quietly. Personally, I'd prefer to watch fictional evil politicians than real ones!

I've really missed writing the past 12-18 months and I'm really going to try and set aside some time to write again, whether it's here or elsewhere. I know I've said it before, but this time I will.

And that's my Monday!

Tuesday 24 January 2017

Stirring the pot

It's a really interesting time in the world at the moment. As I was sitting in the car on the long drive home to Brisbane from Melbourne, we had the radio on and there were many hours of hearing the news bulletins on repeat - Trump's inauguration and the awful event in Melbourne were, of course, the big stories of Friday and Saturday.

I'm a positive person, I'm not someone to start yelling that the sky is falling the moment something bad happens, because the unfortunate nature of our world and of humans means that something bad is always going to happen. On the flip side, something good is always going to happen too.

As we saw on the weekend with the Women's Marches around the world, people were stirred up and being stirred is a great thing. When we get angry, riled, passionate, when we feel something, good things can come of that. We realise the importance of truth, kindness, respect and how not only how fragile those things can be, but also how, in the hands of a majority of people, how strong they can be too.

I know that Trump and the people like him (such as a certain redhead regaining popularity in our country) are going to say and do some despicable things in the forthcoming months and years ahead. In reaction to this I also see a rise in good people speaking out too. I see a rise in people being urged to write and create. I foresee great music, movies, art and literature being created and used as a weapon against ignorance and fear and intolerance. As history has told us bad things happen and nasty people exist, and in the face of it good people dig down and create good things in response – as long as we keep feeling something and not remain apathetic.

Perhaps, it's a great reminder, especially for the younger generation that we need to continue to fight for the things that are important. A reminder that is wasn't too long ago that women weren't able to vote, to easily divorce, have control over their own bodies or their own lives. A reminder that those before us had to fight incredibly hard to gain the rights that we take for granted. That it wasn't so long ago that, shamefully and mind-bogglingly, indigenous Australians weren't even recognised as Australian citizens.

So as long as we keep thinking critically and logically, as long as we stay stirred up and keep apathy at bay, as long as we aren't short-sighted or have short memories, I truly believe some great things can come about. What do you think?
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