Wednesday, 3 December 2014

All that Glitters


Lately, my son has been mentioning some remarks that have been made by his peers regarding people's wealth and material possessions  - or lack thereof. These comments are usually along the lines of how big somebody's house is, how impressive their car is or how much their shoes cost. I wouldn't go as far as to say these remarks disturb me, but they definitely irk me at times, especially considering my son, who was perfectly happy with our house when we first moved into it, has began making comments about how embarrassing it is to live in such a small home.

He's also convinced that certain members of his peer group have begun leaving him out of things "because they're rich and we're poor". When I accompanied his class on an excursion recently, I actually heard one child in the group I was sitting with at lunchtime announce: "Have you guys seen (such and such's) house?" in a tone that implied repulsion. He was not taking about my son, but it did give me an insight into the kind of talk Ben has been describing to me.

This attitude actually surprises me because this is the lowest socio-economic area we have lived in and yet it's the first time Ben has felt inferior at school on the basis of tangible wealth. Clearly, the kids' comments are reflective of their parents' and possibly precisely because this is a low socio-economic area, some people feel that they have something to prove.

I've done my best to explain to Ben that while our house may be small, we are rich in other ways - in our health, our family and our friends, in the knowledge we have gained through our travels and the strength we have gained by overcoming our adversities. It's a difficult thing though sometimes to explain to a ten-year-old who wants nothing more at this age than to fit in with his peers. I try to help him understand that money doesn't automatically make people happy, or kind or wise.

A few days after I had been on that school excursion, a friend of mine came over for dinner. She always has interesting stories to tell me and that night she told me a story apropos of wealth which I am unlikely to forget.

For the past year, my friend has been employed as a clinical psych registrar, a job that satisfies her intellectually but which is also enormously demanding. While we were eating, she mentioned that there are times when she finds herself wishing she were still employed at The Perth Mint - the job she had while she was a uni student. She had no 'take-home' work and no emotional attachment to the job the way she does now.

It was also an interesting place to work, she said, because each day an array of varied people would walk through the doors. There were tourists from a range of nations, buyers of bullion and connoisseurs of coins. And then there were those who came to peruse the opulent jewellery available for purchase and who had, quite often, too much money to know what to do with it.

Now my friend is restricted in terms of what she can divulge about her current job due to client confidentiality, but there is no reason why she couldn't recount some of her tales from her days at The Mint, including one about a lady who fitted right into the category of customer most recently mentioned.

Being a uni student and living away from home, my friend didn't have an enormous disposable income, but still managed to look fantastic (this is my own observation, not part of the story she told me!). Anyway, even though The Mint offered its employers generous staff discounts she still usually wore jewellery bought elsewhere because, despite the discount, the items were still astronomically expensive.

She had a pair of earrings that she often wore to work because they went well with her uniform and the 'look' she was expected to portray. They were a purchase she had made in a bargain jewellery franchise in a shopping centre which set her back $10. One particular day, she was wearing these earrings at work when a woman came into the jewellery section and began slowly examining the items behind the glass cabinets. My friend had seen her in there before and knew she had money and knew how to spend it.

The woman moved towards the cabinet where pairs of earrings sold for $20 000 and above. She asked to see one of the pairs. She took the box, looked closely at the earrings, took one out, looked in the mirror, shook her head and put it back in the box. She proceeded to repeat this process about half a dozen times, each time with a different pair of earrings priced at $20 000 or more.

Finally, the woman gave an exasperated sign and said: "I just can't find what I'm looking for. Can you show me where the ones you're wearing are kept? What I really want is a pair just like that".


Wednesday, 26 November 2014

Six things I want my son to Know {a guest post}


Today, I'm thrilled to be hosting Tarana Khan as a guest blogger on The Muddle-Headed Mamma. Tarana is an expat from India who now lives in Dubai where she writes her blog, Sand in my Toes. She is the mother of a three-year-old boy and her guest post is an insight into the life lessons she aspires to teach her son. I loved reading Tarana's list of Six things I'd want my son to know - it's full of wisdom, integrity and conviction and is written in the gentle but confident voice that characterises Tarana's writing and draws me to her work.

                                                                                                                  ***************

It's not rarely that I wonder how my son will be as a grown up. I wonder what kind of man he will be, and what women will think of him. Will he be sensitive in his relationships? I wonder what kind of friend he will be. Will he be a sincere and trustworthy buddy? I really don't know. And even if I make a little effort every day to teach him a few life lessons, I cannot predict how he will turn out as an adult. It is my belief that people are born with a certain type of personality, which remains the same whether they are children or adults - except under unusual or unexpected circumstances. So I wonder. If there are some things I could tell him when he was much older, what would they be?


These are the six things I would like to tell him: 

1. There's only one mom

I'm not being a possessive mother by saying this, or being jealous of future girlfriends. I just don't want him to expect any other woman to 'mother' him. There is a trait common in first-born kids, especially boys - they are pampered by their moms, and feel that they should be treated that way by every woman they form a relationship with. I'm not going to stop pampering him for sure, but I'd like him to know that no other woman will put up with tantrums, or pay such close attention to his wants, forgetting her own.

2. Respect men and women alike

Yes, women should be respected. But I don't want my son to grow up thinking that there is an inherent difference between men and women that we feel the need to emphasise respecting women. Respect should be given when it is deserved, whether it is towards men or women. I hope there is an improvement in gender equality in future, and women shouldn't have to ask for special treatment to be treated as equals, as they have to now.

3. You can't always win

With men, there is always so much focus on winning, and everything becomes a conquest or a race. I would like my son to know that he may not always 'win', but that he will always emerge stronger and richer in experience from putting all his effort into a project, or in dealing with one of life's many challenges.

4. Be honest in every relationship

Whether it's with a friend, a partner, or a co-worker, honesty is one quality I appreciate most in a human being. I hope my son realises the value of being true to himself and towards others. Life is automatically less complicated by being sincere in our interactions.

5. Choose to be happy

Choose happiness over material things, I'd like to tell him. In an age where things can appear unrealistic on social media, I hope he follows his heart, and doesn't worry about what his life 'appears' like to others, and how many possessions he has. There are many more rewards in life than the materialistic ones.

6. Be sensitive, but not foolish

Of course, I want him to be sensitive to others' feelings. But I wouldn't want him to discount his own. I hope no one takes advantage of his sincerity and kindness. I'd like for him to be trusting, but also keep his eyes open.

My son is only three, but nothing will stop me from thinking about the good human being I want him to grow up to be. I want him to know all these things, even when he's stopped hearing my voice.


Tarana Khan is mom to a toddler, living an expat life. She loves writing and has done her stints as a copywriter, reporter and content editor, before embracing parenthood full time. She blogs at Sand In My Toes, where you can drop by to read more of her parenting and other adventures! You can also catch up with her on Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest or Google+.

Sunday, 23 November 2014

Ten, Going on Twenty


I have a guest post up at the moment over on the blog of Dubai blogger Tarana Khan, Sand in my Toes, called Ten, Going on Twenty. It's all about my son and all the contrasts and contradictions in innocence and experience that characterise his current age.


I'd love it if you could pop over and have a read. You'll find it here.

Thursday, 13 November 2014

The Chronicles of Exhaustion



Last week, I went to give blood and as I was lying there on the donors' chair, rigged up to a machine with a needle stuck in my arm, I realised that I had not felt as relaxed as this since, well quite possibly since the last time I'd given blood. I didn't know, upon realising this, if I should laugh or cry. Yet this moment was indeed nothing to be scoffed at: I had my feet up. I was responsible for exactly zero children. I had even closed my eyes and started to drift off (that is, until a nurse ran over and asked me if I had fainted).

Now one thing that this business of blogging has taught me is the importance of capturing the minutiae of everyday life on camera just in case they may be useful for future storytelling. And so, as I was reclined in my donors' chair, dreaming that I was, in fact, reclined on a deckchair on a cruise ship somewhere in the Caribbean, I reached down the side of the chair to retrieve my phone from my handbag to take a selfie of my arm. This was not, shall we just say, one of my best ideas. I was so relaxed that I had forgotten that the nurse had elevated my chair before inserting the needle into my arm and as I reached for my bag, I almost fell out of my chair and onto the ground. As a result, I am unable to provide a photo of this moment and you will have to settle for my illustration instead, for which I make no apologies (I never claimed I could draw!)

I settled back into my chair and closed my eyes again, hoping both to escape the concerned gazes of the nurses and to re-achieve my previous state of zen. And as I lay there, I asked myself exactly why I was feeling so exhausted lately. Yes, I'm busy, but I have been just as busy in the past. Yes, I have interrupted sleep, but I've never let that break my stride before. I haven't blogged for three weeks. Three weeks and a day, to be precise. That's a record for me. I don't have writer's block - the ideas all still swarm around in my head - I'm just too doggone tired to type them out.

I used to have a bit of a nocturnal routine: I'd put my kids to bed, do the dishes, have a shower, make a cup of tea, do some reading and writing, brush my teeth and go to bed. But gradually, the items on that list diminished until I got to the point where I would be lucky if I got my teeth brushed before I collapsed into bed. And more than once, I even hit the hay without even changing out of my daytime clothes (a nice contrast, don't you agree, with wearing my pyjamas during daytime hours?)

A couple of months ago, I gave myself permission to have my first nanna nap for reasons other than ill health. Ever since my eldest was born ten years ago, I had always filled up my children's nap times with various active tasks - studying, working, blogging, exercising. Even the occasional domestic chore. But once I finally said to myself 'you are tired, therefore you should sleep', it has become a habit that is hard to break. I find myself fantasising throughout the day about the next time I will be able to catch forty winks. The girl who used to run around like the energizer bunny on five or six hours of sleep has gone AWOL.

On a mission to find her, I brought up this topic with my bestie shortly after my trip to the Blood Service. She nodded at me in solidarity; like me, she too has experienced a relationship break-up this year and the spectrum of emotions that go hand in hand with that experience. "It's emotional exhaustion", she reasoned.

I chewed this theory over in my mind and it made sense. While I was in my relationship, my energy was propelled by fear and anger and my survival instincts. Now that I am well and truly away from that situation, those things that propelled my energy are no longer needed. I have finally given myself permission to relax. On the other hand, the near constant harassment and the continual need to fight off negativity is incredibly draining. I felt blessed to have the insight and the empathy of my best friend so she could help me to see this.

Sometimes, when we are in survival mode, our bodies put up with physical and emotional stress until we no longer have to live in 'fight' mode. When we can finally relax, that physical and emotional stress starts to take its toll. I remember reading once about prisoners of war who had survived in prison camps for years without dental care, but almost as soon as they were released from captivity their teeth started to show signs of decay. Their bodies were giving themselves permission to be unwell because they were finally in a situation where they could seek help for their physical problems. I am in no way suggesting that my experience is parallel to those of POWs, yet on a micro-level, it is a similar circumstance.

Now I really must add somewhere in the course of this post (and here seems as good a place as any), the role I think my parental participation in my son's weekly Little Athletics competitions is playing on my energy levels. It's a big commitment, this Little Aths. We have to be at the oval at 7am and the day isn't usually over until 2 in the afternoon. The parents are expected to help in some capacity with the timing of the track events or the measuring of the field ones, which is fun, but with a toddler in tow by the time the afternoon rolls round I feel like I've run, hopped, skipped, jumped and thrown every event out there with the kids. Oh and walked. I can't forget the race walking; it's the comical highlight of my week.

But here I am bemoaning the fact that I have to be wide awake and on my toes before 7am while my bestie, during the course of last week has: made and decorated a birthday cake, a christening cake and a wedding cake, completed a uni assignment and an oral presentation, played three games of netball and hosted her daughter's fifth birthday party. This is the girl who empathised with my emotionally exhausted state and yet still managed to do all that while being a marvellous mum to her three kids.

Urged on by her example, I planted myself in front of the computer last night determined to blog, only to discover that the computer had other ideas (which may have something to do with the fact that Annalisa climbed up onto the desk and jumped up and down on the keyboard the night before). Whatever the reason, no matter what I tried, it was not going to cooperate.

While I'm on the subject of broken things, I might just slot into this post that my car has also been broken for almost two weeks because some nincompoop decided it would be a good idea to drive into the back of me. That means that I have been walking a lot more which should, in theory, increase my energy levels, so I'm not quite sure what's going on there. Perhaps I'm not doing it properly. Perhaps I should stop giggling at those race walkers and start taking notes on Saturday mornings instead.

So here I am, carless, computerless, lying in bed in the dark, writing a blog post on my phone, hosting a pity party of one. I'm going to sign off now because my thumb is aching from all this phone typing (and if that's not a First World Problem, I don't know what is!)

But before I go, I have a favour to ask of you... 

Could you please either tell me that you've been here, done this and that before too long the energy does return, or could you please give me some tips on how to coax that energy back or, failing that, could you just tell me that you feel the same?

I will be eternally grateful.

one mother hen                                     The Multitasking Mummy
     
P.S please note - if you were planning on advising me to drink green juice in the morning, you'll also have to be willing to come over here and make it for me (I think I've already established that I don't do mornings :)

Wednesday, 22 October 2014

Rubbish Bin Art

In the suburb where I grew up, there is a cul-de-sac where. if you go walking on a Friday morning, you will be treated to a free art exhibition.

As you can see from the photos below, the residents of this little road have jazzed up their rubbish bins. The first time I saw these works of art, I wondered if maybe an entrepreneurial teen had offered to decorate his neighbours' bins in exchange for a fee, but I'm pretty sure that's not the case as each of the bins are so different from each other and it's hard to imagine they were all done by the same person.

I then wondered if perhaps the residents had some sort of an arty party one day where they all got together to give their bins a lick of paint. The street does seem to be a bit of an artists' hideaway; several of the houses have studios on their properties and one even has an old railway carriage.

This seems to me the most likely explanation, but I suppose there is always the possibility that one Friday morning, one creative mind wheeled his spruced-up bin onto the curb and all the other residents had a case of artistic envy and quickly followed suit.

Whatever the circumstances, it's definitely a fun street to walk down on bin day ...












This last one would have to be my favourite ... just in case painting a bin is not creative enough, this household crocheted a 'bin cosy' for theirs! 



Mummy Mondays Linky                               one mother hen


Which of the bins is your favourite?

Have you ever painted a bin yourself?

Have you ever crocheted something for an inanimate object? 

Tuesday, 14 October 2014

100 Word Story - Reader's Digest Australia Competition


I've wanted to take on the challenge of writing a one hundred word story for a few years now and recently, I saw in the Reader's Digest Australia magazine that their 100 Word Story Competition is on again. The prize for the overall winner is $1000 and since I have taken my car to the mechanic and my teeth to the dentist both in the same week, I decided that now is well and truly the time to enter. I had thought that the challenge was to write a story of 100 words or less, but it turns out that it must be exactly 100 words. After adding and taking away words half a dozen times, here's what I came up with:
  
                               
                                                                           source

She sits in front of the cake, eyes gleaming, totally present in this moment.

Her family gathers around her, smiling, taking photographs. They wouldn't have missed this party for anything.

One of them lights the candle, another turns off the lights. Her gap-toothed smile broadens, she starts to drool. Someone leans across with a napkin and wipes her chin.

She's can't express her gratitude with words, but they can see how much she's enjoying herself.

They start to sing. It's time to blow out the candle. Just the one, to symbolise a century; one hundred would have been too many.


                                                  ************************

                                                      

The Reader's Digest 100 Word Story Competition is open until the 31st December 2014. You can enter your own story here. Hyphenated words count as one. Good luck!

Have you ever written a 100 word story or any other very, very short work of fiction?

Wednesday, 1 October 2014

How to Get a Baby to Sleep - Wheelbarrow Style

Last week, Annalisa and I were visiting her grandparents and were out playing in the garden. She walked over to the shed, where she knew the wheelbarrow is kept, pointed to the door and said "Brrrrm" (Brrrrm is her word for anything that has wheels). I'd given her a ride in it before and she must have remember how much fun it was. So I got out the wheelbarrow and gave her a ride around the garden. 




But after only a couple of laps of the house, she started to get sleepy ...


 And then a minute or so later, I looked down and saw this ...


This was the girl who has taken an HOUR to get to sleep in her cot the previous afternoon!


So we took a bit of a tour de jardin in the spring sunshine. I couldn't believe how peacefully she slept in there.














  
Eventually, I stopped wheeling her round and left her to finish her nap by the lavender.


  

                                                         
Have you accidentally discovered any other weird and wonderful ways to get a baby to sleep?

Monday, 29 September 2014

Easy Raw Chocolate Recipe

I must confess I have a new love in my life. And no, it's not a member of the opposite sex. Heavens no. It's raw chocolate.



I discovered an absolutely delectable brand of raw chocolate in the supermarket a few months ago and it has been an obsession ever since. I do have some competition for my new love though - my rascal of an eighteen-month-year-old, who adores the stuff just as much, if not more, than I do.

The ingredients in the chocolate are all natural so our obsession isn't a problem as far as our health is concerned, but I have been starting to think that perhaps it is becoming a bit of a problem as far as our finances are concerned. At $2.59 per small bar, this choccy isn't cheap. I worked out that if we had just one little bar a day (not that we do. We do have days off, but we also have days when I eat four or five in a row so that evens things out), that would end up costing $945.35 over a year.

So I decided I had better learn how to make it myself.

After studying the ingredients on the back of the packet, looking up various recipes online and doing a bit of tweaking and experimenting, I've come up with an easy peasy recipe for raw chocolate balls:

Ingredients

1 cup of dates, chopped

1 cup of nuts, crushed (I used 1/2 cup of almonds and 1/2 a cup of cashews. You could also use pecans, walnuts or macadamias or a combination of whichever nuts take your fancy).

1/4 cup of coconut oil

1/2 cup cocoa powder

1/2 teaspoon cardamon

1/4 teaspoon cinnamon

1 teaspoon vanilla


Method 

1. Chop dates, place in a bowl and cover with boiling water. Set aside to soak for one hour

2. Place nuts in a sandwich bag or plastic bag and bash with rolling pin until crushed. You can also use a mortar and pestle for this if you have one. But I recommend the sandwich bag and the rolling pin because the bashing process is enormously fun. In fact, I'd go as far as to say it's actually therapeutic. Perhaps I should bash nuts more often.



3. Once dates have soaked for an hour, strain, making sure to catch excess water in a bowl

4. Place dates, nuts, spices, coconut oil and cocoa in a bowl and mix all ingredients together

5. If more moisture is required, add some of the remaining date water until desirable consistency is achieved (this is a sticky mixture though so you may not need any at all)

6. Line a tray with baking paper. Place rounded teaspoons of mixture onto paper

7. Place in refrigerator. Leave to refrigerate for at least an hour 

8. Sit back and indulge
Bake Play Smile
Do you like raw chocolate?

Do you have any other tried and tested recipes for it?

Have you bashed anything lately with a rolling pin? 

How to Recover a Deleted Blog Post

A couple of weeks ago, I logged into blogger to edit a post and as I was scrolling down the list of previously published posts, I realised that one of them was missing. 
Now google + often likes to play tricks on me and make blog comments sometimes disappear at random only to reappear a couple of days later, so initially I didn't worry about it too much. But as the week went on, I checked back several times and the post was still not there. I checked in the blog archives on the main page of my blog; not there either. I tried clicking on links from other blogs that had linked to that post; those links were broken. I did a cached search of the direct URL of the post; no luck. The post had vanished.

I was angry and I was confused, as any blogger would be on discovering that their work had disappeared. Unfortunately (and naively) I had not backed it up anywhere. There are several of my posts that I really wouldn't mind being lost in the oblivion of cyberspace, but this wasn't one of them. I kind of liked this post. It pretty much summed up who I am and described an event which has subsequently led to a beautiful friendship. Not only that, but a lot of people had left comments on it and, as most bloggers would agree, nothing makes us happier than lots of comments - they're the bread and butter of blogging.

I'm still in the dark as to exactly how this happened. In one of the moments when my eighteen-month-old got hold of my phone, did she, in the short time before I rescued it from her, press the exact combination of buttons to get into the backstage bits of my blog and delete the post? High unlikely, but not impossible. Or did someone log into blogger and delete it on purpose? There is only one person I know of who could have done that. I'd like to think that this too is unlikely, but again it's not impossible. While I was contemplating this possibility, I remembered a conversation where I told him my password. I can remember distinctly what he said to me when I told him. I'd like to believe that even he wouldn't contemplate doing something like that, but I changed my password nonetheless. And then there's a third possibility: it simply vanished because of an unexplained technical error with blogger. That possibility makes me feel very vulnerable as a blogger, thinking that something like that could happen again.

But there is a happy ending to this story. Not a perfect ending (I couldn't retrieve the post in its original form with the comments), but I'll settle with happy over nothing.

After much googling and trial and error, I discovered how to retrieve a deleted post. There is a place on the web called Way Back Machine where it appears that everything that was ever published onto the net is eventually archived. That means that nothing is ever truly lost or hidden (which is kind of cool and scary at the same time).

This is what you need to do to retrieve a lost post:

1. Go to archive.org/web/

2. enter the URL of the post you have lost

3. click the 'browse history' button

4. click on one of the dates highlighted in the calendar on the page that will appear and your deleted post should appear

It is possible that the post you are looking for has not been archived. I tried locating about a dozen of my current posts using this method and while most of them were there, a couple had not been archived. I was lucky that the one I was looking for had been.

I hope this works for you. In the meantime, here's the post that mysteriously disappeared ...

A Cautionary Tale About Pyjamas & The School Run

I have often wondered if all mothers of school-aged children were asked to do an anonymous survey about whether they had ever dropped their child off at school in their pyjamas (assuming, of course, that they didn't have to get out of the car) what resulting percentage of secret pyjama wearers there would be.

I must confess that I am guilty, not just of a once-off or a now-and-then offence, but of being a serial pyjama school run mum. And while I'm being honest, I might as well confess that I'm sometimes still in my  PJs when I go to pick my son up from school in the afternoon too.

Well today's post is a little cautionary tale about why one should actually dress oneself in a socially acceptable manner before leaving the house ...

As we leave the house in the mornings, my nine-year-old son and I have developed a bit of a routine: I grab the house keys, the car keys and the baby and go out the back door. As I do so, I stick the house key into the lock, leaving the door open. While I am putting the baby in her carseat and warming up the engine, Ben follows me out of the house, turns the key in the lock, gives me the keys and runs next door to get Han, the little girl who lives there, who we take to school. This usually works quite well because I can threatened Ben, who is the slowest breakfast eater in the history of the world, that if he doesn't hurry up I will drive Han to school and leave him at home. Fortunately for me, he likes school and this always speeds him up. He also doesn't want to miss out on seeing Han.

Last Friday, however, our little routine did not go altogether smoothly. Neither Ben nor I are morning people and we were running even later than we usually do. The morning fog had also not yet lifted from our brains and, although we didn't realise it at the time, we were both operating in a state of muddle-headedness.

I drove the kids to school in the usual way, decked out in pyjamas with a hoodie over the top. The little girl next door is used to seeing me dressed like this now. She either thinks it's completely normal or else she thinks I'm officially insane and is just too polite to tell me, because she's never mentioned it.

After dropping them off, I drove home, parked the car, got the baby out of her carseat and patted my left pocket where I always put the housekeys. A feeling of dread washed over me. The pocket was empty.

I checked the right pocket. I checked all through the car. I checked to see if they were still in the door. But alas, the door was locked and the keys were nowhere to be found. There was only one place they could be: in Ben's pocket.

Now if I had been clad in socially acceptable attire, this would not have been much a problem. I would simply have driven up to Ben's school, knocked on the door of his classroom, explained the situation, got the keys, end of story. But this was not the case. Now don't get me wrong, I'm really not too concerned if people like the way I dress or not, but I had my son to think of here as well. It is doubtful if he would ever truly be able to forgive his mother for turning up to his school, where he is still very much the new kid on the block, in her flanellette pyjamas. Added to that, I was braless, make-upless and wearing a pair of big fluffy slippers (not that turning up to your kid's classroom in pyjamas is okay as long as you're wearing make-up, a bra and nice shoes, but I'm just trying to draw a picture of my physical state).

I looked a little something like this, only hundreds and thousands of times worse, because this is my 4 pm face (I got Ben to snap a re-enactment shot when he came home from school) and at the time I had my 8:30am I-don't-do-mornings face on and believe me, you should be grateful that you're not looking at a photo of that.

At this point a number of things went through my mind. Should I call the school and ask the secretary to ask Ben to meet me in the carpark? That might have worked, but my phone was inside the house. Should I drive to my sister's or my best friend's house, ask them to come back with me in the car and get them to knock on the door of Ben's classroom? That seemed like a plausible solution so I got back in the car and headed off and then realised that I had no petrol. Both of them live twenty minutes away and I would have been lucky if the car could have got half that distance. Even if I swallowed my pride and ventured into the petrol station in my nocturnal apparel, there was the small problem of money; my purse was locked inside the house too.

Perhaps I was just going to have to risk it. I'd just get in there, get it done and get out as quickly as possible. If I put on my sunnies and just popped my head round the corner of the classroom door, keeping my body concealed, then surely there was a chance I might get away with it. I put my hand to the top of my head to reach for my sunglasses (which I never go driving without, even if it's overcast), but all I could feel was the top of my head. Of all days, of course this day would have to be the one where I forgot my sunglasses. I hunted round frantically in the car for my old ones which I knew had been floating around there recently, but all I found in the way of eyewear was a pair of 3D glasses. That's really all I needed to top off my outfit and give me a lifetime reputation as a flat out freak.

At that point I also remembered that, being Friday morning, the whole school would also be having assembly. Parents are always invited to this of course, but this was far from a comforting thought. So besides gate-crashing the assembly and scarring my son for life, the only other alternative I could think of was waiting outside the house until school finished six and a half hours later. It was chilly, I had no clean nappies for the baby and the only thing to eat would have been the nasturtiums in the front garden.

So desperate times led to desperate measures. The only thing left to do was to ask Han's mum, Thuy, for help. Thuy and I have met and greeted each other several times since we moved to the area a couple of months ago and she was very happy when I offered to drive her daughter to school, but up until that point, we had never been inside each other's homes and she had definitely never seen me so casually dressed.

I knocked on the door and when she opened it, I blurted out "I need your help". I didn't even need to explain the whole story. As soon as I said "Ben's got my keys in his pocket", she nodded her head, got her coat and came outside. An amused little smile spread across her face. She doesn't have a car, so we both drove up to the school in mine. She got out and braved the crowds at the assemble to find Ben and bring the keys back to me where I was lying low in the car.

When we got back to our houses, she invited me in for a coffee. I hung out in her loungeroom, without even bothering to go home and get changed, for another two hours. That little smile didn't leave her lips the entire time.I think we're going to become good friends.

That afternoon when I asked Ben to take a photo of me for my blog (because, let's face it, I really have no life and don't have anything else to blog about), instead of apologising for pocketing my keys and allowing me to endure such emotional exhaustion, he said very matter-of-factly: "It's lucky you didn't come up to assembly this morning in your PJs, mum; your pyjama top doesn't even match the bottoms!"

So in future I shall be far more careful. In future I shall ensure that I always go to bed in matching pyjama top and bottoms so the next time I get locked out of my house, at least I will look fashionably co-ordinated when my neighbour opens the door to me. 

So tell me the truth ... do you do the school run in your PJs?

Have you ever been caught out?

Could you trust your neighbours to save you from public pyjama shame?

Saturday, 20 September 2014

Ten Things I Love about Here

I've had this post growing in my head for more than five months now.

It took root while I was thinking one day back in April about all the things Ben and I left behind when we left the home we used to share with my daughter's father. My losses were great, but my son's were greater because he had no control over the decision to move away from his school and his friends and a limited understanding of why it was necessary to move so far away.

At around the same time that I was having these thoughts, a number of things started to go wrong in our little cottage: the roof sprung a large leak, we were visited by several rodent guests, the oven decided it would stop working whenever it was raining, the washing machine decided it would only work when it felt like it, and half the light bulbs in the house stopped working all at once. Some of these problems were reasonably easy to fix. Others have been ongoing challenges.

So Ben and I came up with a little motto to help us put things into perspective and appreciate our house more during those times when we get fed up and want to rant about our house being too small or too leaky or that it stinks of dead rat-in-the-ceiling, That motto is: "it's better than camping" and it makes us remember all the things we have, like beds and hot showers and a computer and a power point to charge my phone.

And so, on that day back in April, I thought to myself, actually there's a lot to be thankful for around here. I started to make a list in my head and every so often, as the weeks went by, I'd add something to that list in my head. I'd go back to that list whenever I felt my thoughts returning to the things I had lost and left behind to remind myself of the beauty and fortune in our lives.

Tonight, I thought I'd finally get that list out of my head and onto this space. So here it is,

Ten Things I love about Here


1There are three parks in walking distance from us

We visit them often when the weather is fine. Sometimes, we even go on a park 'crawl' and go to all three in one day. And it's as good for me as it is for the kids - it's a pretty good work-out chasing a toddler around a park! It's really quite embarrassing how quickly I work up a sweat and start panting.



2. We have the best of both worlds

We live in quite an unusual suburb of Western Australia in that our house seems to straddle two parallel worlds. On one side of the river near to us is the hub of urban life, but on the other lies a laid back of cul-de-sacs and cottages, some of which are among the oldest buildings in the state.


If we walk out of our driveway and turn left and walk for five minutes, we come to a mini suburban metropolis where we can find top-quality coffee, a library, three major supermarkets, a video store, a post office and a take-away pizza chain. Oh, and the liquor store I told you about in this post.


But if we walk out of our driveway and turn right and head for five minutes in that direction, we go past  properties that are semi-rural, some with geese and chickens, some with horses and one with alpacas. Yes, that's right, alpacas. I was walking along one morning with my top-quality take-away coffee in my hand and all of a sudden, I looked up and there was an alpaca. I had to do a bit of eye rubbing.

This is where I planned on inserting a photo of an alpaca or a horse. I went walking this morning to snap one, but the blighters were all hiding from me.

3. We live in walking distance from a train station

I know that might not sound particularly riveting to some of you, but Ben loves train travel and after living so far away from any trains for such a long time, it's all seems rather exciting for us. We've taken a few trips into the city of Perth and also to Fremantle.

                                                Ice-cream time in the city with my lovelies last weekend.


I don't notice the toots of the trains anymore as they come and go from the station. When we first moved in, I noticed them all the time. But it was strangely comforting because it reminded me that I wasn't completely cut off from the world the way I had been before.

4. This little corner of the globe is quirky (and we do like a good dose of quirk now and then)

This means our family walks are rarely dull. I'm not just talking about the people we meet either. We have a route that we follow when we're going for a walk just for some exercise and fresh air and along the way, in among the houses of the back streets suburbia, we pass a graveyard (which Ben always wants to enter), a caravan park, an antique shop and a veterinary clinic which doesn't look like a veterinary clinic at all because its premises is a rather rundown suburban house. We often hear a cacophony of assorted barks, squawks and brays coming from inside when we walk by.



5. We have corner shops - TWO of them - spoilt for choice

I was delighted and surprised to discover that there are two surviving corner shops close to us, when all over the country, these iconic institutions seem to be dropping like flies. It's even more surprising when you consider just how close they are to some of the major supermarket chains. But how could a supermarket ever hold the same intimacy as a corner shop? Actually, if I'm buying more than one item, the man who owns the one I go to most often usually tries to rip me off by ten or twenty cents each time. He looks over whatever I've put on the counter then just tells me a price. Maybe he's just really bad at maths, but I tend to think he's a very cunning business man taking advantage of the fact that he doesn't have to scan items or give receipts. If he managed to get an extra ten cents out of every second customer every day, that would really add up over a year. But I'm onto him. And I still love corner shops.


6. All is going well at Ben's school

He has really hit the ground running at his new school. He came in at week eight of first term and had been invited to two different boys' homes for a play before the end of the week. He's made friends with both boys and girls of different ages and backgrounds and never wants to miss a day of school. I try to remind him often that I'm so proud of how good he is at making friends.

The only real thing that's not going so well is his inability to stop talking in class. I think I will have to nominate his teacher for earthly beatification.

7. We have orchards, vineyards and rolling hills practically on our doorstep

There are two ways that we can drive to my parent's place from our house. The first way involves two highways and several sets of traffic lights and for a while I thought that was the only way. Then one day, we were out driving about and exploring and we realised that there is a back way to their house through the Perth hills. This way takes about ten minutes longer, but has winding roads through the bush instead of highways and beautiful scenery instead of traffic lights. I take the back way whenever I can (except at night because there's no street lights on those windy roads).

In some places, the scenery on this route reminds me of the landscape around parts of the south west of Western Australia, where we lived for two years before moving here. Driving through these roads, with their apple trees and grapevines, helps to ease the longing in my heart for the place we had to leave.



8. Our garden is full of endless surprises

When we first moved in , I had no idea that there were so many natural beauties in our garden. I was allowed fifteen minutes to inspect the house during the home opening before making an application for it, so there wasn't enough time to explore the garden in detail. Since then, we've discovered an olive tree, a locut tree, a jade plant (which is also known as a money tree apparently, so hopefully it will bring me good fortune) and as the seasons have changed, roses, lavender, hawthorn, black-eyed susans, nasturtiums and poinsettia have all sprung up and made our garden alive with colour and flooded with fragrance.



There's also this beauty whose name I can't remember. I think it starts with D. If anyone knows, please tell me!



9. I have neighbours who bring me food

This point will have a entire blog post complied in its honour one day I'm sure. On one side of us lives Fadima from Singapore, who brings us exotic spicy delicacies whose names I can't pronounce and on the other side lives Thuy from Vietnam, who brings us coconut curry and noodles and desserts made with banana and tapioca. I make them biscuits. They always tell me they were delicious, but never know for sure if they eat them or not :)

10. Happy people

Since moving to this area, I have been surprised and touched by how friendly so many of the people are around here. One thing I noted straight away was how genuinely happy the people who work in the supermarkets are. They seem to take a pride in their job en masse that I haven't observed in any other place I've lived in before. On two separate occasions, when I've asked ladies in Coles to help me find a particular item, they've ended up sharing their own recipes with me too.

I'll be honest and tell you that before moving here I had a preconceived notion that this was not a particularly 'nice' area and that the people here would all be rough at best and maybe even dangerous. Well some of them are, but most of them are anything but. They might not be 'refined', but at least they're not pretending to be anything they're not.

Recently, I was telling a friend of mine how amazed I was by how open and friendly the people are around this area. The place I lived in before had a reputation for laid-back locals and a welcoming attitude and yet, I found it was much more the case in this new place. And she said to me: "Maybe it's you that's different. Maybe because now you are free to be yourself and you don't have to worry about who you talk to anymore or what you say and you're not so full of anxiety, maybe that draws people to you".

I've been thinking a lot about what she said, and I think she might be onto something :)

Linking up this weekend with Lizzi for her Ten Things of Thankful link-up.


What are you thankful for in the area where you live?