Friday, 31 May 2013

I've got this

"Mum, I don't feel well'

Those words are always so heavily laden with dread but never more so than hearing them at two o'clock in the morning.

It's dark, it's cold and I'm in my deepest sleep. The voice comes from the left of me which is strange 'cause I can feel a small, warm body cuddled up to the right of me. Oh right. The youngest has made his way into my bed sometime earlier, slipping in unnoticed. It's the eldest who's standing next to the bed. Sniffling.

"You'll be ok hon. Just go back to bed and try to sleep it off"

I'm not good at being woken up in the middle of the night. When the boys were newborns I was ok because there was no middle of the night. I was working on a 24 hour clock broken into increments of 'feeds'. Now though, the middle of the night is not a good place for me and I will do anything to stay in bed. Including sending my sick son back to bed without any intervention from me. Which he does.

Exactly 8 minutes later he's back. 

"I still feel sick Mum. I feel really, really bad. I need you to come."


So now I'm up. Dressing gown is on and I'm at the medicine cupboard. Thermometer. Check. Kids Panadol. Check. Measuring cup. Check. Cup of water to wash down the Panadol. Check. Deep breath and smiling bedside manner. Check.

He's waiting for me all bundled up in bed. He's miserable which is very unusual for him. My eldest doesn't like a fuss. He hates to be sick so will usually do his best ignore all symptoms and just get on with it. Not tonight though. The thermometer beeps and confirms my lips-on-the-forehead assessment. 36.7C. No temp. 

"What do you feel hon?"

"My throat is really sore." 

I'm not a doctor but I have had 8 years of diagnostic training. I check his neck. His glands are up and he's a bit tender. Tonsilitis? No fever so probably not. I sit there in the dim light and consider what it could be. And then he coughs.

And he sounds like a seal barking.

"Oh hon, I think you've got croup."

"Is that bad Mum? I feel really bad."

"No hon, it's not bad. I'll make it better."

It's now 2.30am and I'm giving him Panadol. I promise to stay with him until he falls asleep again, which I know will be about the time that the Panadol kicks in. I slowly and gently rub his back and watch his 8 year old face relax.

I'm back in bed just after 3am and immediately I feel warm little feet against my legs. The 5 year old is still there, hogging my pillow. I'm awake now so I mentally prepare for the day ahead which will start in a few hours and which I'm facing with half a tank of fuel. A trip to the doctor; notify the school; cancel my morning's meetings; think about dinner 'cause we're clearly not going out now; be ready for the little one who'll be jealous that the big one is staying home and he's not.

I sigh, no longer pissed off that I've been woken up in the middle of the night. I feel strong. Tired but strong. 

I'm a mum. I've got this.

Wednesday, 29 May 2013

Dear Dad

Sorry I missed your birthday this year. I’ve always found it ironic that my French Dad’s birthday is on Australia Day and that while I celebrate being an Aussie I always raise a glass of wine and say a ‘salut’ to you too. It wasn’t always that way, of course. We used to celebrate your birthday, just the two of us, at a beach somewhere. It was what I needed for a long time. I’m happy we’re past that now.

It’s been a while since I’ve written I know. I’m sorry for that too. Life is just so busy these days and I am consumed with living every minute to the fullest. Mum reckons I get that from you. She’s probably right.

I know I always told you that I wanted to marry you. Or at least a man like you and sadness would touch your smile when you would say 'No. Not for you ma petite chere'. Turns out you were right. Life with Mark is good. You like him don’t you? I know. What’s not to like? I wish you were here to drink with us. I’m sure marrying a man in the wine industry was more destiny than accident. He thinks so too. Have I told you what a good palate I have? It’s true. Mark reckons it’s in the genes. I don’t argue that. I like the inference. He’s different to you. Considered instead of reckless. Calm instead of passionate. Controlled instead of emotional. Consistent instead of irrational. He’s a good husband. Let’s face it, he’s a better husband than you were. That’s not an accident either.

Do you remember when you used to have all your friends over and Mum would cook French food for everyone and you’d all sit around the kitchen table and drink wine until all hours of the morning singing... and crying? My kids will never have those memories of their Dad and I’m happy for that.

Jason is doing ok. He misses you but keeps his feelings close to his chest. Sometimes he’ll be telling me a story and wave his hand about and I feel as though a younger you stands before me. It’s disconcerting. Mum feels it too and I see that it makes her happy and sad. She’s coming to visit you this year. 45 years after she met you and she’s finally going to see where you’re from. No, she could never be accused of being radical. You two. So different.

So, life is good Dad. Nathan just turned 8 and Stefan will be 6. I can hear you exclaim “Already??” I can’t believe it myself. It only seems like yesterday that I was telling you that I was pregnant and sharing the wonder of growing your grandchild in my bloody huge belly. Nathan is so proud that I gave him your name as his middle name. He tells everyone. Especially Stefan. Just something else to tease him about. I know you are proud of my boys. Do you see yourself in Nathan? I do. His eyes. His face. His mouth. His body. So much of you in him. It makes my heart burst. Stefan is a bit more of a mix of Mum's side and Mark’s side of the family. He’s got your passion though. And your hair. 

They talk about you sometimes. They’re learning French at school and have excellent pronunciation. They love reminding their class mates of their French heritage too. Now that we’ve cleared up the confusion that they are not actually Aboriginal. Don’t ask, Dad.

It’s been a bumpy ride, as life tends to be, but the bumps seem to be in the right places. I’m sorry it’s been so long. I know I promised that it wouldn’t be. I’ll write more often. I promise. Again.

I miss you Dad.

Rest in Peace xx

Monday, 27 May 2013

8 ways to exercise when you don't have time

I'm not one that exercises. I'm just not. I don't schedule time for the gym or for a run or even a walk. I always feel like that's a waste of time. Even though, I know that not true. It's just that in these time-poor days, planned exercise seems unachievable to me.

What I am good at, is incidental exercise. The kind of of exercise you don't need to make time for and that you don't realise you're actually doing. 

1. I walk my kids to school and back every day. I don't live far so it's not an arduous job. I know I'm fortunate to live that close but I watch every one line up in their idling cars to collect their kids from 'kiss and drop' and I think to myself, if they had just parked their cars at my place and walked... they would get there quicker, save some petrol [and fumes!] and get their body moving.

2. I raise my hills hoist clothes line up higher than it needs to be so that I am forced to stretch to hang my clothes out. It's a simple thing but when I'm hanging out at least one load a day, and often two, it's good for my arms and shoulders.

3. I don't waste my time looking for the closest carpark to the shopping centre door. The further from the door you look, the more car parks there are and the extra metres walk will do you good. Oh, and I ALWAYS return my shopping trolley to the bay. Even if it's far away. Even if someone's waiting for my park. It's not only a good way to move your body, it's also manners. 

4. Wherever I can, I take the stairs. Unless I'm going up to the 15th floor. I don't want to reach the top dead. 

5. I clean my house. Cleaning bathrooms, dusting, vacuuming, mopping and sometimes even cleaning windows once a week is a massive work out. Plus just making three beds every day gets the blood pumping.

6. Don't underestimate grocery shopping. If you're lucky enough to choose a trolley with shithouse wheels that won't steer straight, then we're talking real resistance training. Plus lifting full bags from trolley to car to kitchen does wonders for the arms.

7. Weeding. I like weeding. Bending, kneeling, pulling. Good movement and therapeutic. Plus you're outside... great for the vitamin D levels.

8. Dance, dance, dance, dance!!! I dance. Around the house. In the shower. When I'm driving in my car. I put my hands in the air like I just don't go care. I wiggle when I cook. I shuffle when I vacuum. I bust a move when I'm getting ready. I get down when I go out. Dance people. It's a winner.

What are some tips you have for those of us who don't exercise?

Friday, 17 May 2013

Viva la Vagina

Dear marketers, young girls, young boys and anyone else who's confused... vaginas are not dirty. Women do not need special soap or wipes for their intimate bits and quite frankly I’m offended that the products even exist.

What the fuck is going on?

I’m worried for our latest generation of girls and young women. It bothers me that the conversation they are involved in talks about hairless vaginas and intimate cleansing. It infuriates me that our latest generation of boys and young men are eavesdropping on that conversation. The conversation which carries, far and wide, this message.

Vaginas are unclean.

Remember early high school? I do. I remember lots of disgusting jokes about fishy smelling girls and snail trails and the grossness of periods. It was a tough time for a developing girl. It was shameful. We noticed that ‘down there’ did smell a bit. We noticed that there was that discharge that we couldn’t control. We were already embarrassed. We were already uncomfortable. But advertising wasn’t what it is today. There wasn’t social media. There wasn’t a life online. You copped the ribbing at school and went home and tried to forget about it.

Girls and boys are still the same today. Boys still joke about that stuff and girls are still uncomfortable. But now, they’re being told that the boys aren’t actually joking. Now, they’re being told they should be embarrassed. Not in those actual words of course. No it’s far more insidious than that. Today’s conversation is wrapped up in fancy packaging and words like Femfresh Intimate Wash and Libra Get Fresh Wipes. Make sure that dirty area is fresh. ALL.THE.TIME. And, while you’re at it, make sure you get rid of all that hideous pubic hair. You know, the stuff that differentiates your grown up vagina from that of a child. Eeewwww can you imagine it? A woman who smells like a woman with a hairy vagina??? #wouldntfuckherwithyourdick

Seriously, I’m mad. I can’t even articulate it without swearing. Profusely. The ads on tv offend me. The bottles of feminine hygiene I find in my ‘ladies lunch’ gift bag offend me. The entire fucking message offends me. I’m livid that girls my sister’s age are not only uncomfortable being a woman but have no idea how to celebrate it. They're waxing their vaginas to hairless peril just in case they hook up with a guy. A guy that’s probably only ever seen hairless vaginas.

You know what I don’t get? Men stink. Their arses smell and their balls sweat. Is there a ‘Manfresh Intimate Sack Wash’ for them? Do they have ‘Lynx Get Fresh Arse Wipes’ in their gym bags? Are they waxing their balls and their crack? Nope. Not a chance. Why?

I want to change the conversation, I just don't know how. I'm no activist but I am pissed off. And I do truly believe there's something wrong here. 

Don't you??

Friday, 10 May 2013

What does a mum look like?

My mum looks amazing. She looks strong and proud and determined. She looks fit. She looks like a tiger, always ready to pounce, always protecting her cubs. She looks like a lady with painted nails and coloured lips. 

She looks like a kick boxer, always in her family’s corner. 

She looks like a dancer. She looks like a dad. She looks like a daughter who is sad without her mother. She looks like a child laughing with my boys. My mum looks like a racing car driver with her seat laid back and her gloved hands on the wheel. She looks like a bread winner. She looks like a model walking in heels with a strut I’ve never been able to imitate. She looks like a boss. She looks like a clairvoyant, calling on her intuition to predict the future. She looks like a clown holding court with her hilarious stories. She looks like a counsellor always ready with advice – sought or otherwise. 

She looks like an inspiration. She looks like an aspiration.

My boys’ mum looks like me. I hope they see a mum that looks like their protector. I hope they see a mum that looks strong and fit. I hope they see a mum with arms big enough for the whole family. I hope they see a mum with a heart that shines through her eyes whenever she looks at them. I hope they see a mum that is larger than life itself when they stand behind her for protection. I hope they see a mum that laughs with them. I hope they see a mum who’s not ashamed to cry. 

I hope they see a mum with magic in her kisses. 

I hope they see a mum who stands on the sidelines chanting their name and heading their fan club. I hope they see a mum who knows when to be quiet and let them shine. I hope they see a mum who is a mind reader that somehow knows what they’re thinking even when they don’t. I hope they see a mum who they will always want to hug. I hope they see a mum who is a master chef. I hope they see a mum that’s important to the whole world, and not just theirs. I hope they see a mum who is fair. I hope they see a mum who leads. I hope they see a mum who will follow their dream too. I hope they see a mum who is smart and has the answers. 

I hope they see a mum who’s not afraid to tell them that she doesn’t know. 

I hope they see a mum who thinks she’s beautiful. I hope they see a mum who looks for the beauty in others. I hope they see a mum who delivers on her promises – good and bad. I hope they see a mum they can respect. 

I hope they see a mum that they can point out to their friends and proudly say ‘That’s my mum’

What does a mum look like to you?

Wednesday, 8 May 2013

What do you see?

It’s lunch time at King’s Cross in Sydney. There’s a couple walking along, hand in hand, laughing and looking in shops. He’s tall with a head full of thick, grey hair. Light eyes and fair skin. He’s smoking. He looks about 45 years old. The girl with him is young. Dark skin, dark eyes and long dark hair all the way to her bum. She looks a little bit Asian, but her nationality isn’t clear. She’s wearing a denim mini skirt, lip gloss and a small, red, studded shoulder bag skims her exposed thigh. She clutches his arm as they walk and every now and then he pulls her to him and kisses her cheek. She giggles when he whispers things in her ear. She looks about 15.

Do you see anything wrong with that picture?

The cops on the street did. Young, underage sex-workers make good business at the Cross. And they make that business with older guys. So the cops intervened.

They stopped the couple in the street and much to the protests of the man, they separated them to question them. The young girl looked scared but she answered all the questions honestly as she watched the man from afar try to defend himself. He was mad. He was outraged. And he was loud. Most people went about their business, but plenty stopped to see what was happening. The girl was mortified. She was confused. She was embarrassed. But mostly she was deeply offended. So she squared her, not 15 but 11 year old, shoulders and said “That’s my dad”

Did the cops do the right thing?

It was this article on Mamamia this week that reminded me of that day. Of how it’s easy to misread a situation at face value. I couldn’t understand how the police could possibly think that I was a prostitute or that my dad was one of ‘those’ guys. It was a very special outing for us and I was thrilled to be out and about in my school holidays. My mum had bought me a brand new handbag that, until then, I was so proud to wear. I had always looked older than my years and I felt bad for that on that day. I felt as though I had invited the judgement into our innocent world. I felt guilty and I felt mad for a long time [and my dad was seething] But now, as a woman and as a mum, I’m glad that happened. I know I didn’t do anything wrong and I think the police did the right thing too.

Has something you have done ever been grossly misjudged?