Thursday, February 21, 2013

Out of the mouths of (growing-up-oh-so-quickly) babes


My oldest child is nearly 10.

A really awkward age when he (mostly) knows how to throw an insult out there
but often doesn't know how bad it is
or even what it means.

In the past 2 days alone,
thanks to assorted friends and books,
he has managed to offend practicing Christians ("for the love of Jesus Christ"),
elderly people (his grandparents are"fossils")
and pretty much anyone in between.

His best to date, however,
was to tell his little brother that he had a big dick.

A teasing fail firstly because his younger brother didn't even know what the word "dick" meant.

And secondly...well, for obvious reasons.

It proved very difficult during the parent-child talk about not using adult words
to restrain myself from explaining why this wasn't actually an insult
and why, one day, he might be praying desperately that someone might say it to him.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Breathing on my own.

JFM 2013

When I took the kids back to my folk's place in the new year,
my parents were very keen to have the children visit by themselves.
Yes, all three, easily bored, demanding and hyperactive children visit by themselves.

JFM 2013

There was a suggestion of me flying over, leaving them for a week and flying back home 
but I recognise the limitations of both the grandparents and the grandchildren
and felt that it was in the best interests of healthy relationships for all concerned
if I wasn't that far away and if I wasn't gone that long.

JFM 2013

So I took myself off to Hobart for two days.
Two days.
All to myself.
No kids.
No commitments.
Not even a hubby to please.

And oh, it was soooooo good.

JFM 2013

Being a mother,
I feel a certain obligation to announce that I miss my children.
Do you know what I mean?

But in the short term it really is a general absence makes the heart  grow fonder kind of thing.
did I spend two days wondering what they were doing at any given moment,
keen to get back to them
or wishing that I was there to tuck them in?

In all honesty, I didn't.

JFM 2013

I have to be honest and admit that, 
...while I love my kids more than anything on this earth,
while I will defend and protect my children ferociously ,
while I would die to save them,
the whole mother's pledge of honour...
 I sort of thrive when I am apart from them.

JFM 2013

I spent 2 completely self-absorbed days.
I shopped.
I wandered.
I sat in cafes and knitted and watched people.
I sat in my undies in the heat in my hotel room
sitting up late watching movies and drinking iced coffee for dinner.
I wrote blogs posts in my head and started sketching.
I read.

My world, standing on busy city streets, was suddenly a quieter place
without demands of life and family
and it cleared my head.
I swear that I could almost feel my creativitiy returning.

JFM 2013

Something else happened that I wasn't expecting.
I felt really nostalgic about my childhood.

JFM 2013

I spent of lot of time in Hobart as a young child
as my working parents sent my brother and I off to nan and pop's for the holidays.
My nan is gone now,
and it is dozens of years and two houses ago since they lived in this city.

But I remember how much I loved it then
and still love it.
It has history. 
And, for me, many memories.

JFM 2013

We used to ride the ferries when they were working boats
but now the couple left are taken out as tourist attractions

We'd stroll around Salamanca Market,
which is still size, quality and personality.

We used to wander around the docks after the Sydney to Hobart yachts arrived,
though back then it took a lot longer for the boats to get to the finish line.

These are the strong memories,
so many others faded and gone
now that I can no longer have a conversation with my nan and pop
and have them remind me of some experience we shared that I have forgotten.

All memories of times not shared with my mum or dad
which seems fitting in the context of this post.

JFM 2013

I guess I have a guilt thing happening
that I can actually be away from my offspring and be doing a happy dance.
I feel like it is not what I am meant to feel.
I imagine it is similar to what some women feel when, for whatever reason,
they had a C section or bottle-fed their baby.

But my kids are with me in my heart and mind
and I wouldn't have it any other way.
It would seem that I am just a person who needs to breath on my own for a while.

JFM 2013

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Talk the talk.


People who know me well will tell you that you can't shut me up
or get a word in edgeways, upside down or inside out once I start talking.
This is true and yet as a rule I find it very hard to make ongoing, polite conversation with people that I don't know in social situations
(in part, I admit, because I just can't be pfaffed)

I am blessed to be a stay-at-home mum
but in those 6 or so hours while the 3 kids are at school,
I thrive on being a loner.

I love pottering by myself
and enjoy my own company probably more than is good for me.
I get to be in my own space,
(usually a bra-free and fluffy-slippered place)
accompanied by a never ending cup of coffee 
and the ipod cranked up to play everything from show tunes to synthesizer music from the 1980s.

But if I do have to (God forbid) don a bra and actually leave the house, 
watch out anyone who makes eye contact and hesitates in their stride.

It is like an uncontrolled craving for human interaction takes over me once I enter the real, functioning world.
It doesn't matter which complete stranger ends up being the deer to my headlights.
I am off and chatting before they have a chance to retreat.

Admittedly, some individuals do rise to the challenge of  a two-sided conversation.
In others, however, I can see the physical change of eyes glazing over,
as the smiles and nods become an automatic reflex
and their brains daydream them to happier places.

I have had a lengthy discussion about boob jobs with a complete stranger behind the counter
at the local newsagent.

I have discussed the pros and cons of my post-natural-childbirth toiletting habits with a lady 
at the local chemist.
(Luckily it was at the chemist.
The person serving at the bakery might not have been so soothing and sympathetic)

I have discussed the likelyhood of vomiting on my children
(yes, vomiting on my children) with other parents
in a waiting room.

Don't get me wrong.
It isn't all bodily fluids and ablutions.
I have chin-wagged with various, individuals about global warming, 
ever increasing supermarket monopolies,
Pokemon versus Skylanders,
men's sex drives, online shopping, 
the crap printed in the gossip magazines,
the tastelessness of tomatoes...
I could go on.
(They might say that I do go on)

Sated, I come home,
get back into my comfy slippers,
at peace knowing that I can still hold a conversation with other real human-being-adult-thingies,
and resume playing "Defying Gravity" at high volume.

But what has really struck me this past year
is that my kids are growing up
and with that, the conversations are growing up too.

No more discussing if Bob the Builder's Lofty the crane is a boy crane or a girl crane.
No more talking about "tana" toast and "nana" bread.
We have finished the chats about why one should wee in the toilet rather than in one's undies.

While a small part of me is mourning the loss of my  sweet babes,
a big part of me is running around with my shirt over my head 
shouting booyah at the top of my voice.

In the past month, we have discussed racism and acceptance, Christianity and faith,
circumcision, home-branded products and supposed "Australian made",
where babies come from (as in physically- where they actually come out from)
umbilical cords and belly buttons,
the implications of losing your belief in the tooth fairy when you have a young sister
who hasn't even lost a tooth yet.

Even Hitler, albeit a very sanitised version, got a look in.

I get to talk lots.

And as a bonus, it is really interesting stuff.
But it is really interesting stuff laden with responsibility as a parent.
This is our chance to teach our kids the real facts 
and to shape that moral compass that will make them better human-being-adult-thingies.

And I can do it all from the bra-free, slippered-feet comfort of my own home.
I can get my fix without having to bail up neighbours and strangers 
in the supermarket aisle or in checkout queue.

Now I am just going to enjoy these conversations until I need to start talking to my youngest,
my daughter, about boys and "women's things" in general.
That is, I hope, more than few year's away yet.
Before then, my boys will want to talk about (or more likely not want to talk about) girls and "men's things"
but that is sooooooo Mr Boozle's job.
I'll be changing out of my slippers, putting my bra on and heading out the door and leaving them to it.

Monday, February 11, 2013


JFM 2013

Growing up in Tasmania meant two things.

(Well, three...if you include the ever-lasting bitterness at being left off the map
by our own countryfolk at the 1982 Commonwealth Games in Brisbane)

It meant that you were very familiar with two-headed, incest jokes
and it meant that you were cold for a lot of the year.

Most people associate Tassie with being cold and wet.
It is generally a fair call. 
You can be there in summer and need jumpers and tracky daks
in the middle of your beach holiday.
I always prefer to go there for winter as you only need to pack for one season.

Mr Boozle and I sniggered 5 years ago when we were visiting the rellies and the radio announced that it was going to be "a scorcher" at 30 degrees.

JFM 2013

But things are changing.
Yes, the weather is still unpredictable
and yes, it is still bloody freezing down there in winter
but it is a common misconception that it is a lush, wet state
and that it is always cool.

Early in the new year, I took the kids home to my folks' place
just outside of Coles Bay on the east coast of Tassie.
Driving from the airport to the coast,
you could see how dry it was.
Not yellow. Just brown.
Vibrant greens of the winery vineyards dotted the thirsty landscape.

JFM 2013

After a couple of days,
I headed south to Hobart for a couple of child-free days.
It just so happened that it was the hottest day on record for Hobart
and it was the day that the major fires broke out.
(It also just so happened that I had no air conditioning in the car
and my ipod informed me that it was turning itself off as a survival measure)

In Hobart, it was hot.
And it was windy.
A strong, dry wind that made it hard to stand upright.

The sun was glowing that brilliant, stunning orange
that you know is a masquerade for the smoky atmosphere
which heralds fire somewhere not too far away.

JFM 2013

Then it got surreal.
Turning on the news, I found out that the road leading down the peninsula to Coles Bay
was closed.
The Bicheno fire was sweeping south west and heading towards the northern end of the road.
My children were not in any danger but it was unsettling to know that I couldn't
physically get to them.
The winds would have to change direction and it would take some time to reach my parents' house
and they had good access to wide beaches and shallow water if need be.

JFM 2013

I got messages from mainland friends who knew that we were going to Coles Bay
and had heard that the road was closed
and worried whether everything was OK.
City life carried on but the topics of conversation over coffee and at the markets had altered 
beyond discussing how hot it was to how awful the fires were.
Tourists were redirected towards areas not closed down.
I heard one man on the phone informing his son that their beach shack had gone up in flames.

When I headed back up the coast on Sunday, 
I was driving not knowing how long I would be waiting in a pull-over till the road into Coles Bay opened.

The drive was eerie.

As I drove further out of Hobart, the smoke got thicker
and we were passed by local fire trucks.
 A fire had broken out not far from the road further north
so there was new smoke to add to that drifting up from the huge southern fires.

JFM 2013

Traffic was thin and I can't tell you how unnerving it is to drive into a gully road,
surrounded by a smokey haze,
with one half of your brain telling you that the road is open and that it is all good
while the other half is wondering where other cars are
and knowing that there was no way out until you reached the end of the gully.

Even when I finally hit the coast, the pervading smell was of smoke.
I had to drive a lot further up the coast before I could trade that smoky smell
for the refreshing smell of ocean salt.

JFM 2013

It was short lived.

JFM 2013

The road that I had driven along less than a week before was now a dry yellow landscape
with a dingy brown-grey haze,
broken only by the flashes of brilliant green of occasionally vines.

I didn't see any traffic moving in my direction.
A large convoy of cars passed me at one point
and I honestly wondered whether I should be turning around.

I felt like I was driving into a fire.

JFM 2013

JFM 2013

Views that I took for granted each time I passed them had been swallowed.

When I arrived at the road closure,
the official word was a one to five hour wait.
Luckily it was only a little over an hour before they let us through.
We drove past pine fence posts still burning 
and plastic road markers doubled over from their exposure to the heat.

When I got back to my folks' house,
it was unsettling to see that my mum had packed the kids' suitcases just in case.
There was never any sense of urgency or panic;
just a recognition that if it happened, they would need to go.
My folks were pragmatic enough to know that if they got themselves and the kids
(and hopefully some family photos) to safety, the house didn't matter,
unlike their elderly neighbours who didn't seem to appreciate that any fire that was heading up the hill
towards them would not be stopped.

So I found myself back at our annual beach holiday,
building sandcastles,
following sting rays in the kayak,
admiring the large flocks of birds, temporary visitors
until they could return to see what damage had been done to their homes.

JFM 2013

JFM 2013

JFM 2013

But we were surrounded by ever shifting smoke.
The tourists had gone and the wind had dropped.
It was so quiet and so still.
We wondered when the power would go off again.
While our only road out was closed,
we checked to see if the police were still stationed at the corner to make sure
that no-one would attempt to use it.
We wondered if the town across the bay had lost their power
but really knew that it was due to the thick haze between us and them.
We assumed that the smoke coming over the nearby hills was due to back burning but checked the
website over and over just to be sure.

JFM 2013

JFM 2013

I am a city girl
with a home in a built up area away from the coast and the hills.
I consider myself safe from fire and flood.
(Our house is, however, built on one of Adelaide's two fault lines
but there has been no action there since 1954
so I am choosing to ignore the fact
that the my geologist-father-in-law reckons that it is time for another quake)

But it had never occurred to me to consider the fact that my parents
have retired to a small township on a peninsula of densely wooded national park
and that one day the winds may not be so benevolent
or that fire may not be so far away.

JFM 2013

I was only on the periphery of those fires.
But it gave me an awareness that I didn't have before.

JFM 2013

JFM 2013

While I cried for the livestock and the wildlife that would have perished,
above all else, I found myself be thankful each day that no human lives had been lost.

Let me state the bloody obvious-
because it came to me with perfect clarity last month
somewhere on the drive down that gully...
No matter how much we get caught up in our possessions, our earthly goods,
when it comes to the crunch,
there is nothing that comes close to knowing that your children, your partner,
your friends and your loved ones are safe.

JFM 2013