Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Smile Like Cocaine

The way my Poppet’s smile affects me, so my insides turn to fluid and my mind to mush, so that I would be quite happy to spend all day just staring at her, nuzzling at her neck or playing with her toes to make her smile, has been scientifically proven. 

A baby’s smile affects it’s mum in a similar way to cocaine or nicotine, bringing on a rush of dopamine. 

I have a greater understanding of drugs now.

She is, quite simply, perfect. And I am, quite simply, addicted.
I know that all mothers think this about their baby (and each one is, of course, right) but the way my Poppet looks at me, saving her best smiles for me, her brows raising in question and then her whole face lighting up as if to say – Oh mummy look! Isn’t this wonderful
Aren’t you wonderful!
The joy and delight, the awe and mischief, all caught up in her tiny face, is nothing short of miraculous.
Of course, the Poppet’s big brother, the Sprocket’s, smiles affect me in a similar way, but the smile takes on a different context when it’s shot over a shoulder as he empties the coffee jar all over the floor (as he has carefully climbed up onto the kitchen bench having pulled out the oven door to use as a step) 
There is an element of exasperation mixed with the amusement and love. I think the memory of all those smiles is embedded, but it takes awhile to dig to when you’re woken up at 5am by sharp little teeth in your shoulder… just because, or he’s watering the couch with pink milk.

But sometimes, when we’re walking along or reading a story, my Sprocket will look up at me with the self same smile, (O mummy, isn’t it wonderful!) he looked up at me with when he was a baby, the smile that’s just between the two of us… and my insides turn to mush again.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Two years ago...

Heir to Sevenwaters
Julliet Marrilier 

It's two years ago today since I first read this book and I'm feeling all nostalgic. 

I saved this book for two months after I bought it, carefully hoarding it in my hospital bag. Marillier is such an evocative and entrancing writer that I try to savour all of her books and being somewhat naive back then, I saved Heir to Sevenwater to ready during labour with my firstborn, the Sprocket. 

Obviously I had a lot to learn. 

I didn’t end up reading Heir to Sevenwater during labour (being too taken up with, oh, you know, the pain,) but the following night when I couldn’t sleep due to flashbacks of feeling vast gushes of blood pour out of me, of people pounding on me to try to stop the vast gushes of blood, of the sheer agony of someone pushing a needle through places where, let me be clear on this, needles should not go and yanking, repeatedly, of spewing forth fluid from nearly every orifice, of my baby crying and crying and me unable to hold him as they tried to stop the bleeding and stitch me up, I read it.

My beautiful baby was sleeping in his clear plastic crib beside me, his perfect face, round, small-featured and doll-like, framed in his swaddling, but whenever I tried to close my eyes, images of gore assailed me, so I gave up and lost myself in Marrilier’s World instead.

And she didn’t fail me.

Vivid and beautiful, based on myth and folklore but deeply Marrillier’s own, with yet another brave heroine, Heir to Sevenwater was well worth the wait.

Reading in the early hours of the morning, attached to a catheter and a tube for a blood transfusion, feeling floods of warm blood every time I so much as blinked, Heir to Sevenwater saved my sanity.
Along with Clodagh, I fell in love with the hero. I fell in love with the mythical ancient irish setting, and mostly I fell in love with the changeling woodland baby, who in his vulnerability and imperfectness seemed to reflect my own state. Awkward and needy and wild, the changeling babe is impossible not to love.

My love for the little changeling babe became intermingled with my love for my own new babe (although I have to say that apart from their babyness I do not think they bore many similarities, my baby being large and plump and soft and warm, with fingers that constantly moved like little sea aenenomes and an endearing ‘arf-arf’ as he tried to cope with all the milk, and the changeling baby being, well, twiggy)

So yes. Two years ago today, I read this book.

And it will always make me remember that time and smile, even while the tears prick at the back of my eyes, as it reminds me of my son when he was first born, and those special hours and days together, when we were first falling in love.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Nostalgia Gone Wrong?

This morning my husband was looking through music clips on Youtube to play to the Sprocket while we waited for the caffeine to hit so we could stumble into the day.
- Hey - find Dragonstea, I said.
Let me note that this song has considerable meaning to my husband and I. 
In the long ago time when we were first getting to know each other we used to dance to this song in humid night clubs in the Solomon Islands.
We googled the song and the title turned out to mean "Under the Linden" tree in Romanian. 
My beloved's much-loved grandmother is Romanian so we went Ooooh. The rest of the lyrics didn't make a lot of sense, but we figured that was a translation flaw. 
When it came time to chose a wedding 'waltz', this is the song we chose, (although I can't say it much resembles a waltz, or that our dancing in any way resembled waltzing!) and it was one of the songs that I had on my playlist when both our kids were born. It was one of the 'fast' songs that I used to get me up and moving during contractions.
Anyway, being the obedient husband that he is, my beloved found the song and we played it.
The 'eurodance' in the credits should have given us the first hint that perhaps it wasn't what we thought it was.
We were expecting a fairly 'sweet' clip.
Um. No.
Think Camp. Think very, very Camp. Think Euro-Camp. Think white jeans and crotch-thrusting.
Within seconds of the clip starting we were furrowing our brows, seconds later we were giggling uncontrollably, much to the bemusement of the Sprocket, who liked the aeroplane and was already dancing away.
Our wedding (okay our life) was somewhat ramshackle and unorganised.
It makes sense this is the track to our bridal waltz.
Still love the song.
Still brings back all the best memories.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

The Winter of Our Disconnect

The Winter of Our Disconnect. How Three Totally Wired Teenagers (and a Mother Who Slept with Her iPhone)Pulled the Plug on Their Technology and Lived to Tell the Tale by Susan Maushart.

Some writers are just brilliant. 

And sometimes they come up with brilliant ideas as well. And sometimes they inflict these brilliant ideas on their family, to the benefit of all mankind. 
Maushart is one of those writers, this book describes one of those ideas, and I have added her family to my list of favourite-non-fiction-literary families (the Maushart’s are presently topping the list along with the Durrells of My Family and Other Animals and Maj and Callan in my all time favourite blog Pretty All True)
The Winter of Our Disconnect is Maushart’s account of herself and her 3 teenagers switching off all their electronic media for 6 months. (And their electricity for the initial 2 weeks so the remaining time felt better by comparison)
Funny, engaging and very, very pertinent this book made me re-think my own (media) addictions and re-examine my ideas about how I want to raise my kids. 
While I know it’s impossible to raise the Poppet and Sprocket on a deserted island with only the classics, Maushart’s discoveries on living in RL (real life) especially about face-to-face contact, family meals, sleep and reading, resonated long and loud.
One of the most interesting points was Maushart’s own media addictions and her ruminations about why she thought they were so strong and how she battled with them.
Can I really expect my kids to go outside and climb a tree if I’m too busy checking my email to come outside and climb it with them?
Or stand strong against the lure of the 'net when I’m guilty of cyber-stalking (come on, it hardly counts, I just wanted to check out if Kirstie Allsop’s husband is worthy of her… and it turns out he’s just her partner and they’re not married ‘cos he has issues. Which would be fine except it sounds like she’d quite like to be married so… now I’m a little sad…)
But I digress.
Basically, it would make me very happy if you would all go out and read the book.
And then talk about it with me.
Because it’s just so funny. And good. And yep. Necessary. Especially if you have kids, but even if you don’t.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010


I tried the Sprocket on some new books last night. With great excitement I got out some of the ones I’ve had stored away for him for… well, since before he was born.
They were for my work.
Sort of.
I thought I’d see if he’d enjoy Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus, (Mo Willems) because, hey, it’s about a bus. And I find it hilarious. But I knew it was a long shot and I wasn’t surprised when he lost interest after a couple of pages. I’ll try again next year.
And then I tried We’re going on a Bear Hunt, but although he loved yanking on the tabs (We have the pop-up-version) the story didn’t grab him.
So we went back to his current favourites.
Where is the Green Sheep. Which has been in his top 5 for over a year. Which is very, very impressive. Full kudos to Mem Fox.
And the under sea one that makes noises. And the puppy one that makes noises. Babies in Art. The Sailor Dog (although I never get to finish this one, which always leaves me somehow unsatisfied.)
And of course… the mini-mover books.
These are tiny (or toddler sized) cardboard books that have a photo of one thing and its name on each size. There is a book of Aircraft, a book of Tractors, a book of Boats, a book of Cars and a book called Zoom. They came in a little box with a handle that my Sprocket likes to carry around.
We can read each book ten times in a row.
Which is odd, because each book only has about ten words and the Sprocket is convinced that each and every thing in these books is a  
TRRRRUCK! anyway.
-Container Ship
- Look darling, Tugboat
-No, this is called a helicopter.
-No, hel-i-cop-ter
(Repeat x10) 

I sometimes wonder if I’ll be a better children’s librarian now that I’ve had my own kids, and I’ve come to the conclusion, not really (although ask me in a few years and I might have changed my mind.)
I’ve always been around kids and I’ve always loved children’s books – but there is this one exception.
I don’t think I ever fully realized some boys complete devotion to and obsession about trucks and trains and things that go broom.
Oh, I had some idea but I failed to comprehend the mouth falling open, the adoration, the wonder, as the 200th truck that day roars past. As we look at the pictures again and again and again.
I live in a world full of trucks now. I understand.
Brooom Brooom Brooom!

A Watched Pot

My Beloved hands his phone to me as he leaves the house. He is going to get money to pay the lawnmower men and buy comfort food as he is all un-good about not hearing about whether or not he got into his course.
Pretty much as soon as he is out of the door his phone starts ringing.
I glare at it.
I am all distracted and less for answering his phone, however I am incapable of letting a phone ring in case it is something VERY VERY important.
I decide to look at the caller ID to check if I can be bothered. Gotta love how phones now tell you who is calling. I am not nostalgic for the old phones that do not have this function.
It is an 03 number.
And then there is a 5 number.
And that means that it is a number from country Victoria.
And that means that it is very likely from the Medical School.
And if they are ringing it is probably to tell my Beloved that he has been accepted. I decide that it is very likely that this is, indeed, a VERY VERY important call and I do not know why this was not my first thought when his phone started ringing.
-Beloved! Beloved! I bellow.
With the phone in one hand and the baby over my shoulder I run to the door and try to catch up with him. I am afraid the ringing will stop before I reach him, so I stop and answer the phone. Gulp.
And the young girl calling was all like is blah blah blah there and I have to say no, he just went out, he’ll be back soon though – can I take a message. The lawnmower men were very loud and I was walking out the door to see if he was still there but the space where his car should be was empty. And of course no, they will not leave a message.
So they say they will ring back and I ask if he can ring back because I am less for waiting (any more) for the phone to ring. And they say yes, and give me the number, which I of course ignore because it is now in the phone.
He is likely in. And… And.. And… Hysteria is all bubbly inside me. Wow. Yay. Yayness.
I am going to be (probably) Mrs. Doctor Dear just like Anne of Green Gables.
If my hair would turn red, life would be perfect.
There is always dye.
I walk outside. I walk inside. I need to tell someone or the top of my head will pop off with all the fizz. But there is no one to tell and we don’t know for sure yet and…
Why did he go out now!
Of course, if he had not gone out now, and if he had taken his phone, I am sure they would not have phoned, because a watched pot never boils.
I lose the phone. I re-find the phone.
I decide to walk down the street to meet him. I start walking, with Poppet over my shoulder and the phone clutched in my hand. 
It is very strange knowing that I will remember this walk in detail for the rest of my life. That the sky is grey and the weather muggy because there is a storm coming. That there are orange flowers and birds in the park and the Poppet is wearing a white and pink cotton sleeveless, legless onesie with pink ribbon on it.
I reach the end of the road and do not see the car coming and I am not good at waiting. 
I pace.
I see the car coming and my beloved stops and I see from his face that he does not realize why I am there, which I find amazing.
I thrust the phone at him.
-It was a 03 number. I’m fairly sure it was the uni. They wouldn’t leave a message.
And his face just changes.
-Get in
-No, no, I can’t. No baby seat. You can call from here.
-No credit.
So he takes the phone and drives back down the street and I think. O. By the time I get home we should know.
I have to take many big breaths and tell the Poppet all about what a momentous occasion it is.
As we reach home my beloved comes running towards us. But it isn’t written across his face whether he’s really in or not.
-So? Are you in? I yell.
He doesn’t reply. Then he starts doing giant moon leaps. And then pirouettes.
I take it he is in.
And soon he reaches me.
-I’m in.
And we start kissing in the street and Poppet is amazed.
This is the culmination of…
3 months of prep for an exam.
An 8 hour exam.
A Multiple-Mini-Interview.
A flight interstate for the interview.
A couple of months of jumping every time the phone rings.
Several thousand hours of waiting. And way over-analysing. And waiting.
Many bitten nails. 
And now we know.
And we have 7 weeks to move intestate.
And we will be students for four years.
Or my Beloved will be.
This has been his dream for years, and now he’s finally getting it.
And I am so so happy.

Monday, November 22, 2010

The Sun Egg and Goldie Beatle

The Sun Egg – Elsa Beskow 

Floris Books, First published Sweden 1932 as Solagget (with two dots I don’t know how to do over the ‘a’.)
This book is a recent discovery for me although it was first published in 1932. (I feel very behind the times.) 
My Aunt and Uncle sent my daughter, the Poppet, this book when she was born and although I never read it as a child, it’s the kind of book that you read and think ‘aaaw’, and wish that you had. 
The story is whimsical and the illustrations enchanting and as soon as the Poppet is old enough (and probably before) I will read it to her. Hopefully again, and again and again.

A large orange egg has fallen into the wood. “It’s an egg!” decides the elf. Soon she and her friends find out what it really is; but not before the sun egg is lost and the elf begins one of the best adventures she ever had.’

I know that the Poppet and the Sprocket will love knowing what the ‘sun egg’ really is, and enjoy imagining flying on the bird like the little elf. 
The illustrations bear some similarity to Cicely Mary Barker’s flower fairies but are executed with more verve and humour. (Not that I’m knocking the flower fairies, who get big nostalgia ticks in my book) Think an adventure of Thumbelina.
I think one of the reasons that I so love The Sun Egg is that it reminds me of the stories that my great grandfather used to tell. His stories were always about ‘the goldie beatle’ who would come and shrink you, and whoever was with you, down until you were tiny, tiny, tiny, as small as a beatle and then you would get on the goldie beatle’s back and head off for an amazing adventure.
I miss those stories.
I doubt I’ll be able to re-tell them as well as Great Grandad could, but hey, I’ll try.

Sunday, November 21, 2010


Definition of NOSTALGIA
: the state of being homesick
: a wistful or excessively sentimental sometimes abnormal yearning for return to or of some past period or irrecoverable condition
Merriam Webster Dictionary

I think I was born nostalgic. I am convinced I popped out of the womb, looked around, gummed my bottom lip and thought, well, this is nice, lights, people, action, but the big swish, now those were the days.
When I was seven my family moved from Melbourne, Australia to Aberdeen, Scotland. I carefully placed blue plastic beads from my favorite necklace in random corners of the house we were leaving for future generations to marvel over, flew to Scotland, and spent the 9 months sniffling over how much I missed Australia.
Aberdeen was just too grey, too cold and had too many daffodils! We returned to Australia at the end of the year and obviously I spend the rest of my childhood mourning the golden age in Scotland… the castles we visited, the seals in the river Don, doting grandparents with endless supplies of sweets, the hedgehog in the garden that I used to carry around in my skirt, the oh-so-yummy-trifle that came with school dinner, sitting in bed with granny, all cosy under the quilts, and reading the Narnia books and Snow White, the snow and of course… all those beautiful daffodils!
Even I can’t manage much nostalgia for my teen years, although I do miss the passion that misery engenders, I just don’t want the misery back to engender it. And my last year of school when I used to train and bus it down to the most beautiful beach in the world every second weekend and… well, okay, those were the days….

Or some of them.
Now with my own kids, I wonder what they will be nostalgic about (if they are the kind of people who suffer from nostalgia, some people, I hear, do not). 
The world of their childhood is so very different from my own. My little boy pretends everything is a mobile phone and will walk around with a book, or a saucepan, or a plastic plate to his ear busily talking into it. In the morning he will carry my laptop over to me in bed so that I will show him youtubes. His favorites are the John Butler Trio’s ‘Revolution’, a 9 year old girl playing Fur Elise, and a rather unsettling song about excavators. 
I suspect he has already been in the car more often than I had before I was 20. My family didn’t get a car until I was 9 and even then if something was within an hours walk, we walked it, and if there was a tram or train in the remote vicinity we trammed or trained it. I was 20 and having my third driving lesson before I noticed the existence of break lights. (Yes, it amazes me I’m allowed on the roads as well…) I wouldn’t be surprised if at 20 odd months he’s worked them out.
But… but… I want my kids to share the things I loved. I want them to touch stone and know that it’s stood witness to 900 years of turmoil. I want them to know lazy summer days lying outside and studying ants, climbing trees and getting stuck, rubbing rose petals to their cheeks and pretending to be fairy-tale characters. Mostly, I want them to love the books I love…
I want to share with them MiddleEarth and Avonlea, Narnia and the jungle of the Mowgli Books, Tortall and Toadhall, Hogwarts and Howl's Moving Castle. And not the movie versions.
And some of these books my mum read as a child as well. And some of these books my granny read as a child as well, and some of these books I’m betting my great granny read as a child.
And sometimes it just scares me that the age of computers is going to cram them out. I have noticed that my own attention span has decreased – how could it fail to affect this new generation who grow up with the constant barrage of film clips and sound bites and cleverly concealed ads.
But surely, surely not. Um. Surely?

Thursday, November 11, 2010

A long, long time ago..

A long, long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away, I was a librarian.

A children's librarian.

I spent a lot of time singing nursery rhymes, putting my right leg in (and shaking it all about) and reading spectacular kids books. Now I have my own kids and I'm still spending a lot of my time singing nursery rhymes, putting my right leg in (and shaking it all about) and reading spectacular kids books. Also some spectacular) and less spectacular- life-changing (and less life changing) books for adults (often about kids).

With 2 kids under 2 I shouldn't really have time to read as much as I do, but hey, that's what breastfeeding is all about. Ooops, sorry, I can't do the dishes. Have to feed the baby (and finish the book) O - the washing? - sorry love, I have to feed the baby. Oh, sweetie, I'm so sorry I can't help with that, but I have to feed the baby. I'd offer to swap truly... but well... you lack the relevant functions. Gotta love it.

Of course, it was easier when there was just the one babe. Then I could finish reading a novel in a morning sleep-feed and another in an afternoon sleep-feed. Now the feedings are abbreviated while I prevent the toddler from biting the dog, up-ending the compost, or 'posting' his book into the gap above the dishwasher.

So I still get my fix of nursery rhymes, lullabies and kids books, but I really miss talking 'book'.

Here goes.