thoughts du jour

  • "Spend some time alone every day."- His Holiness the Dalai Lama

Wednesday, 27 May 2009

A memory magically interrupted- by Robert Leleux

I read this story a few months ago on the New York Times website and meant to post it on here but forget. Fortunately it's a timeless one, relevant now as it was then. It's a sad story, impeccably written and quite humorous, about the writer's grandmother who has Alzheimers. 

A Memory Magically Interrupted

“YOUR grandmother has Alzheimer’s, right?” the doctor asked me, scrawling notes into a floppy manila folder.

I hadn’t expected to discuss my grandmother’s Alzheimer’s with him. I was hoping to hear some explanation as to why, apart from her memory, my grandmother’s overall health seemed so mysteriously improved. Her lupus, for instance, had all but disappeared from her blood work.

“Yes, but ...” I began.

“Well, there is a theory,” he said, interrupting, “that people with Alzheimer’s heal themselves of their diseases. Because they forget they have them.”

I glanced across the room at my beautiful grandmother, smiling vaguely in her lipstick-pink trench coat. “But you don’t really believe that?” I asked.

The doctor shrugged with an implicit “Who knows?” which I found irritating because I hadn’t flown all the way from Manhattan to Nashville to discuss fanciful theories. I wanted solid answers about JoAnn’s health, and he’d thrown me with his talk of miracle cures.

But by that evening, after I’d driven my grandparents home, I realized that the real reason this doctor had startled me was that for the first time I’d heard someone confirm my experience of my grandmother’s disease. Alzheimer’s has, in a sense, healed my grandmother, and our family.

Despite my family role of bulldog journalist, responsible for sniffing out facts, I’ve always preferred fairy tales to literal truth. And I wonder if that isn’t a better way (in my family’s case, anyway) to approach Alzheimer’s, a malady that for us has had a decided fairy tale ring to it, one of those stories where a beautiful lady is cast under a wicked spell that makes her lose her whole life — only to get it back again, better than ever, by the closing paragraph.

Five years ago, when JoAnn’s Alzheimer’s was first diagnosed, I couldn’t imagine anything less fair. At the time, I composed a mental list of all the people I knew who could lose their minds without anybody noticing, scores of people whom I’d never heard say one original thing. While my grandmother, on the other hand, was the genius of the cocktail party, a brunette version of our fellow Texan Ann Richards, who always seemed poised with a staggering, stiletto quip.

As a young artist in New York, I’d spent years trying to find my voice. When I did, it was my grandmother’s. To this day, I’ve never liked anything I’ve created that didn’t somehow remind me of her. So the fact that my clumsy development and slow self-discovery was occurring just as her decline began felt like a tragic bargain. I was finding my voice just as she was losing hers.

The only certainty about Alzheimer’s is that it’s characterized by uncertainty: There is no definitive test, no definitive diagnosis. But in July several years ago, after undergoing a gruesome but unserious operation, my grandmother began to exhibit signs of the disease. It was as if her anesthesia never lifted.

I now believe she suffered a mini-stroke mid-operation — an event that frequently “ignites” incipient Alzheimer’s — but by the time I formed this suspicion, it was too late to test. So throughout that year, as my grandfather and I accompanied her to a legion of new doctors, each of whom mentioned the possibility of Alzheimer’s, my grandmother grew ever more foggy, sometimes hilariously so.

“The wonderful thing about Alzheimer’s,” she would say, unfurling her arm like Bette Davis, “is that you always live in the moment.”

Like many Southern women of her generation, my grandmother had been a stifled lady prone to fits of drape-drawn depression, medicated with Champagne and Streisand.

“Sad lives make funny people,” she told me when I was 16.

At the time, this remark had just sounded like one more zinger. But eventually I came to consider it the distillation of her philosophy. Humor was the way she had coped with every unpleasant thing in her life, from her long estrangement from my mother, her only child, to the onset of a crippling disease.

But while my grandmother was able to laugh at her decline, her husband couldn’t. He didn’t find anything funny about watching her forget their life together. I think all my grandfather ever wanted was to be left alone with his wife — a goal he’d finally accomplished after more than 40 years of marriage, when they retired from Houston to his family’s Tennessee home.

In this way my grandparents reminded me of the Reagans, one of those couples who are so gaga for each other that there is no room for the kids. It’s nobody’s fault. It’s just that perfect couples rarely have happy families. They have to have children, because they love each other too much not to make something of it. But then, the honeymoon never ends, and who brings their children on a honeymoon? It’s like they always say: two’s company, and three’s an angry kid like Patti Davis, desperate for attention, with a complex about being shoved outside the magic circle.

Except that in our case, Patti Davis was my mother — a Scarlett O’Hara for the silicon age, with a chest as big as her mouth and hair. Between these two genteel Southern ladies, our family became an Old West town: It just wasn’t big enough for both of them.

Which meant that my grandfather, Alfred, adoring JoAnn as he did, not only stopped speaking to his daughter, he even stopped speaking about her, at least with me. Until the day when we were finally forced to accept the fact of JoAnn’s Alzheimer’s and its awful progression.

The more JoAnn forgot, the more often Alfred asked me to visit. And at the end of one of these Tennessee weekends, as my grandfather wound his Buick through the dark hills on the way to the airport, he suddenly blurted, “Sonny, I think it’s time your mother came home for a visit.”

I was too surprised to say anything. Then he repeated, “I think it’s time your mother came home.”

“I’ll make it happen,” I mumbled.

“Good,” he said, tapping the wheel. “It’s time.”

Of course, I had no idea how I would make it happen. Fortunately, my mother — who, for many years, had been no stranger to a Bloody Mary — was newly sober, and I took advantage of that narrow window of Alcoholics Anonymous time before making amends becomes a crashing bore. All that summer, I begged her long distance. I swore that if she would only visit her parents one more time, everything would be different. Finally I played my ace: I asked her to visit them in Tennessee for my birthday in September.

“Damn it,” she screeched. “So now if I don’t go, I’ll be ruining your birthday? Fine. I’ll do it. But prepare yourself for disaster.”

“There won’t be any disaster,” I said.

“Oh, really? Give me one good reason why things will be different this time.”

“Alzheimer’s,” I answered.

For my grandfather and me, having to witness JoAnn’s Alzheimer’s had been agonizing — like watching “The Miracle Worker” backward. Every day seemed accompanied by a new limitation. But for my grandmother, the disease had seemed liberating. For the first time in all the years I’d known her, she seemed truly happy.

Imagine: to be freed from your memory, to have every awful thing that ever happened to you wiped away — and not just your past, but your worries about the future, too. Because with no sense of time or memory, past and future cease to exist, along with all sense of loss and regret. Not to mention grudges and hurt feelings, arguments and embarrassments.

And that’s the fantasy, isn’t it? To have your record cleared. To be able not to merely forget, but to expunge your unhappy childhood, or unrequited love, or rocky marriage from your memory. To start over again.

There had always been an element of existential fury to my grandmother’s barbed wit, concerning her lost time and missed chances. But as her Alzheimer’s advanced, she forgot to be angry. And she seemed healthier, too: her pace quickened, her complexion brightened, her hair thickened. And with my help and her husband’s credit card, even her wardrobe improved. Her transformation was magical and unmistakable.

It was certainly unmistakable to my mother on that bracing September day when my grandparents and I picked her up at the Nashville airport. “Look, JoAnn,” Alfred said, “it’s Jessica.”

“Isn’t that funny,” said JoAnn, before embracing my mother. “That’s my daughter’s name, too.”

My mother forced a smile and shot me a wary look that abruptly softened once we got to the Buick and my grandmother reached for her hand. “Tell me all about yourself, darling,” she said. “I want to know everything about you.”

All through my birthday dinner that evening, JoAnn positively doted on her daughter — beaming sweetly and patting her hand. This behavior unsettled my mother, who afterward made a theatrical production of rooting through the closet in her bedroom.

“What are you doing?” I asked.

“Looking for space pods,” she said. “Who are those people, Robert? And what have they done with my mother? I keep thinking I must be in a blackout. That I must be drunk in a ditch somewhere, and when I wake up I’ll have the hangover of a lifetime. Because believe me, if that nice old lady had been my mother, I’d never have left home.”

DURING the following week, the starchy blue autumn skies remained clear, and so did the irony. Now that my grandmother had, in a way, disappeared, she was fully present to my mother for perhaps the first time in their relationship. Now that she was all but unreachable, she was finally available. Each evening, as JoAnn scooted close at dinner, my mother found the nearness less nerve-racking.

On the last day, as we were leaving for the airport, my grandfather kissed us goodbye. Soft black cows strode serenely on the hillside. Suddenly JoAnn grabbed onto the lapels of my mother’s jacket, as if she were about to shake her.

My mother looked rattled, but then JoAnn said: “Thank you for coming, Jessica. I want you to know how much it means to me. I want you to know that I know we’ve never been close. And I know that’s been mostly my fault. I’m not sure how much time I’ve got. But more than anything, I want to have a shot at spending it with you. It’s so important. I mean, after all, Jessica, we’re sisters.”

I groaned, then looked over to see my tough mother crying.

“Close enough, Mama,” she said.

Robert Leleux, who lives in New York, is the author of “The Memoirs of a Beautiful Boy” (St. Martin’s Press).

Soundtrack of my life

*After conversation with Twitter peeps I have had to amend my list somewhat to include a bunch of songs I forgot all about until we started chatting about it!*

You can tell a lot about a person by the music they listen to, and the songs that define periods of their life. From as early as I can remember I have a soundtrack for my life, that starts around the time I was 5 and is, of course, still growing. It consists, so far, of around 20 songs of different genres, from heavy metal and jazz, to hip-hop and funk, with a bit of clubby music on the side.

What I also love about music is the same thing many people love about clothes and fashion, that you can change it to suit the mood you're in. I have music to suit the massive range of emotions I can go through (sometimes in one day). My hubby can often tell what sort of mood I'm in by the music I'm listening to. Watch out if I'm listening to Tool, Korn, Marilyn Manson, Butterfly Affect or anything heavy like that. But if you hear Gotye, Lily Allen, or Basement Jaxx playing you're usually ok to approach me (although treat Lily Allen music with caution, because I could be venting my distaste for authority and/or men).

The major songs in my life soundtrack include:
Learnalilgivinandlovin- Gotye (my life song)
New York, New York- Frank Sinatra (tap, jazz, and ballet dancing in high school)
The way you look Tonight- Frank Sinatra (my preferred-yet not given-wedding song)
Shiny Disco Balls- (?) (fun days working at Crown)
November Rain- Guns n Roses
My teenage angst could be summed up in two songs: You don't know me (Reel Big Fish) and Fly Away (Lenny Kravitz) along with the whole Marilyn Manson's Coma album.
UFO- Sneaky Sound System (one of my best friend's wedding nights and the best night out in a long time, even if it was in the Go of Bendiness. Lots of drinking and dancing involved)
Touch Me- Rui De Silva (when I met my husband working at Crown Casino)
Water Runs Dry- Boyz II Men (my first "real" boyfriend and my song)
Forbidden Apple- Paul Van Dyke (night of pure bliss)

What songs would your life soundtrack consist of? Are there any songs in particular that really stand out and return you suddenly to that part of your life that you love to remember (or rather forget)?

Tuesday, 26 May 2009

Advice: the good, the bad, the ugly.

My last post got me thinking about advice. The good, the bad, the ugly. And the downright ridiculous. I've had some crummy advice in my lifetime. The one that stands out was the beginning of my VCE, year 11, when our teacher told us NOT to pick subjects just because we liked them, but to pick them because they're useful. You know. Like maths, english, and science. The smart subjects. The higher scoring subjects. It still makes me angry to this day that I was so naive as to listen to that god-awful advice. Don't pick a subject just because I like it? What great advice! I mean, I don't need to actually do WELL in the subject do I? Oh no, just passing it will be fine. And guess what? It will all be worth it ten years down the track when I find myself in a sticky situation and think "Gee I'm glad I stuck out general maths, or I'd never know how to change a tyre/manage money/stick to a budget." So what happened? I picked maths, because, you know, everyone needs to know how to count right? That's why calculators weren't invented. And then what happened? I FAILED. F.A.I.L.E.D.

But there has been many pieces of advice that I've taken hold of and kept with me throughout my life. Valuable pieces that have helped me through a plethora of circumstances and situations. 

1. Never rely on anyone but yourself (credit given to my mum)
This is a useful piece of advice for work, home, or anywhere really. If you never rely on anyone else, you'll never be disappointed, disillusioned, or dependent. While it's nice to have a partner do things for you, or work mates help you out, once you come to rely on them you lose control over your life because you're handing it over to someone else. This also counts for never relying on parents, spouses, friends, family, or children. The only person in the whole world that you KNOW you can rely on WITHOUT FAIL is yourself.

2. There's no such thing as "can't" (mum again)
If you want something bad enough, you'll get it, no matter what. If you don't get it, you don't want it bad enough.

3. Nothing in life worth having comes easy (some movie, but it really struck a chord)
The things that are really worth having in life are the ones you need to work hard for, and sometimes fight for.

4. If you don't make time to do the things you love, how can you be the best mother you can be? (Catherine Deveny)
This is so true. Too often lately have I been feeling guilty for wanting to forfeit my motherly duties for some peace and quiet, a good book, and some quality writing time. And for some reason I am overcome with guilt every time this thought pops into my head. But getting advice like this from someone who is successful at home and in a career is heartening.

There are other bits and pieces of advice I've lived by throughout the years, but these are the ones that have really hit home with me, and will probably stick through the rest of my life.

What are the most valuable pieces of advice you've ever received?

Monday, 25 May 2009

Children and travel

When my boys are older, say, 10 and 7, I'd really like to take them out of school for either a few months or a year and take them traveling. Where to and what doing I don't know yet, but I believe that traveling and being exposed to different cultures and experiences will teach them something they'd never be able to learn through books.

My husband, of course, has a different idea. He thinks children thrive best with stability, routine, and predictability. Which is great. If you want to raise boring people with no life experience and no personality. See, when I was 8 my parents packed up and went to Alice Springs for 6 weeks, while they renovated the old house they used to live in. For 6 weeks I left my life in Melbourne to go to school in Alice Springs. I made new friends, had new experiences, and witnessed first hand what it was like to live among and go to school with indigenous Australians. It was the first time I came across non-white people (not including Maoris). We lived in a run down house (until it was fixed up) on mattresses, surrounded by red backs (NOT exaggerating). On the way up and on the way back we camped in caravan parks, but without tents. Oh no, tents were a luxury. We had one of those fold out beds, and our sleeping bags, right under the stars. I remember staying overnight....somewhere in the outback, with cattle trains full of cattle mooing and smelling all night, while dingos walked around the perimeter of the caravan park type place we were staying in. My dad called it "millions star hotel". You know. 'Cause of the million stars. On the way home from Alice Springs (we had a car and a trailer) we stopped at Ayers Rock, and I got to climb it, at 8 years of age. It was amazing and scary as hell. All I remember was getting about 3/4 of the way up and crying because it was so windy and I was scared I was going to fall off, and this old man in front of me from California (I remember hearing him talk about it) saying to me "You hang in there!"


Looking back now, I learned so much from that trip. Sure, I missed my friends. I didn't want to go in the first place because of my friends. But once I was there I made new ones, and I very quickly got used to my new life. Children adapt so much easier to change than adults do.

Women who inspire

It's imperative these days to have a woman, women, (or men) to look up to and who inspire you to be better people. I see people who get undeserved media attention (like the "Fat wog, skinny wog" chick who should be, pardon the pun, SHOT) and think to myself "If these are the type of people that get noticed, what hope do we normal, ambitious, hard-working people have?" So It's time to put the limelight back on those who DESERVE our respect, not just those who have become well known for idiot comments and idiot stunts.

My inspirational women are Catherine Deveny and Mia Freedman. I'm a huge fan of honesty and being blunt, which is where my love of Catherine Deveny stems from. She's so frank and brutally honest, verbalising what most of the population are too scared to. And she's great at giving advice. I'm currently reading one of her books (can't remember which one, will tell you when I do) of which parts of it resonate so deeply with the way I feel about a lot of things: parenting, life, family, relationships. Of course, she's hilarious too, which adds to her appeal. Last month I was involved with the Williamstown Literary Festival, and Catherine gave a talk about creativity and procrastination, with regards to writing. At the end of the session I asked her how she got rid of the guilt of sometimes choosing to write over spending time with her children, and she answered with this:
"If writing is a big part of who you are and what you love, you need to make time to do this so that you can be a better mother. Because if you don't make time to do what you love, how can you possibly be the best mother you can be?"

I'm a fan of Mia Freedman because she's ambitious and has had a successful career, as well as a family at a (relatively) young age. In a way I feel (like many of you, I'm sure) that I can relate to her, and I think that's what makes her so popular among young women, and mothers. I also love that she's funny, and so observant about everyday things, and I love that she's intelligent, and can tackle the controversial topics on her blog, as well as the mundane. As an ex fashion magazine editor, she also has a sense of social responsibility with regards to body image, and is involved in the National Body Image Advisory Group.

I guess ultimately, the qualities I admire in these women are the ones that I aspire to myself: success in family, success in career, strong, intelligent, funny, and honest.

What about you? Who do you admire and why?

Tuesday, 19 May 2009

Today's feel-good story: the banker who saves ducklings

I was watching ABC midday news when they had this story as the final feel-good story of the morning. It made me cry, much like that Sound of Music video in the train station...

Banker Rescues Darling Ducklings
May 18, 2009 5:38 PM

Joel Armstrong is no duck connoisseur. The 43-year-old banker and father of two learned everything he knows about ducks through Google. But this Saturday, none of that mattered as he helped rescue a new family of ducklings.

For the past 35 days, Armstrong watched as a mother duck nested on a ledge outside his office window…two blocks from the Spokane River in Washington state. On Saturday morning, Armstrong arrived in town for the annual Lilac Festival parade. Seeing the newly hatched ducklings nervously pacing back and forth on the ledge, he knew they were stuck. Their mother stood waiting below, but the jump off the ledge was too far for the ducklings.

Armstrong hasn’t played baseball since grade school, but he stepped up to the plate ready to help. Standing below the ledge, he caught each duckling as they leapt into his waiting hands below. By the time it was over, a crowd had gathered for the parade. To the sound of cheers and applause, the mother duck led her ducklings to water.

Banker rescues darling ducklings

Monday, 11 May 2009

Food for thought: Prawn, spinach and basil risotto

It's the first time I've ever cooked risotto, because I always thought risotto was one of those things you had to get right or it was awful. And it worked, thank goodness. It was delicious, so I'm sharing it with you all.

Time: 15 mins prep, 25 mins cooking
400g raw, shelled prawns
3 Tbsp finely chopped spring onions
125g finely shredded baby spinach leaves
30g finely chopped fresh basil leaves
330g arborio rice
500ml chicken stock
30g grated parmesan cheese (optional)
60g butter
2 Tbsp olive oil

Put aside 6-8 prawns and roughly chop the rest of them. Put chicken stock and 175ml of water to saucepan and bring to boil. Reduce heat and add the whole prawns for 2-3 minutes, or until bright pink, then remove and put aside.

Put 2 tbsp of the butter and oil into frying pan, on med-high heat. Add spring onions and sautee until soft. Add rice and sautee until opaque. Reduce to medium heat and add 180ml of stock to rice and stir until most of stock absorbed. Add chopped prawns and stir. Continue adding stock in 180ml batches, adding more every time it has absorbed, until only small amount of stock left, and rice is al dente. Stir continually. This will take around 20 minutes. Add final tbsp of stock along with spinach, basil, remaining butter, salt to taste, and parmesan. Stir then serve immediately, garnishing with prawns that were set aside.


Quick and Easy Meal: Veggie stir fry with rice vermicelli noodles

One night I had NO idea what to have for dinner, and I thought we had no food in the house. No meat or fresh veg anyway. What we did have, however, were frozen veggies in the freezer, and vermicelli noodles in the pantry. Mixing this with soy sauce and oyster sauce made the fastest, tastiest, and surprisingly healthy meal that I couldn't have done better if I'd planned it.

Time: 10 minutes (from start to eating)
1 Packet frozen veg (asian is good, but any are fine)
1 packet rice vermicelli noodles (of hokkien noodles)
soy sauce
oyster sauce
sweet chilli sauce (optional if you have it, for more flavour)

Cook noodles in boiling water until tender
While noodles are cooking, add small amount of oil to wok and throw in as many (or few) frozen veg as you want
Add enough oyster and soy sauce to coat veggies with flavour
Drain noodles once cooked, then throw into wok
Stir all together for couple of minutes, then serve!

Friday, 8 May 2009

My European Escapades- New Years in Amsterdam

I've got to a point in my life where I'm restless from not doing anything. It's the first time ever that I've not been working or studying. I need some adventure. And since it's not physically possible right now, then I am going to relive my adventures in Europe, where I spent two years on a working-holiday visa. I will begin with my experience of New Years Eve in Amsterdam, which was actually the very end of my journey, but is one of the most colourful and memorable nights of my life.

New Years Eve in Amsterdam. Who knew how chaotic, crazy and surprisingly dangerous the usually mellow, unruffled city would be. The cobbled streets were now packed with thousands of people from all walks of life, gathering for the countdown in Dam Square. We needed eyes in the back and sides of our heads. My bag was clutched protectively in my hands for fear of it going walkabout. Shane looked frazzled as he felt many dismembered hands patting him down in search for a wallet, coins, or anything of value. There were so many people it was impossible to tell if it was the old lady in front or the backpackers next to us that were feeling us up. My cold came in handy as I shoved snotty, germ filled tissues in all of our pockets to deter or punish the would-be thieves.

I took my hat off- it was surprisingly warm for mid-winter. As we walked a group of boys tried to yank the hat from my hand. I held on for dear life, which sent me reeling head-first into a nearby pole. My eyes watered as the lump emerged on my forehead, but we kept walking, leaving the boys laughing raucously behind us.

Suddenly the crowd in front of us parted. We had to be quick to dodge the fireworks the gypsy children dropped. Were we to lose an eye or ear tonight? Hisses, bangs and squeals were heard all around the city from the hundreds of fireworks constantly being let off. Pedestrians were in an endless battle with trams, cars and bike riders for walking space. People walked furtively past us, muttering under their breath: “Cocaine? Heroin? Ecstasy?” Junkies followed us begging for money. Shane walked with his eyes to the ground, but I couldn’t keep from staring at the assortment of people around us. This was a place where ravers, families, stoners, tourists, sex workers, bikies, drunks, gypsies, punks, backpackers and locals could all party together without fear of persecution.

Dam Square was more crowded than the surrounding streets and canals. We found a spot in the middle and clung to each other for fear of being lost in the sea of people. Midnight came, along with the countdown. I prepared myself to hum Auld Lang Syne but was met with an unfamiliar Dutch song. I craned my neck skywards, waiting for the spectacular display of fireworks. Nothing, just the incessant squeals and bangs of fireworks in the crowd. More raucous singing and laughter, and then the crowd slowly dispersed. Shane and I allowed ourselves to be pushed along until we found ourselves by our bus, the rest of our group waiting.

I could tell Shane was disappointed, but I found it hard to be. It had been nothing like I had expected or was used to. But I guess if it were, I would have been let down. Who wants to be on the other side of the world and experience the same thing? Pick-pockets, druggies, near-deafness and a swollen forehead. It was all part of an unforgettable New Years Eve in Amsterdam.

Thursday, 7 May 2009

My revolt against ironing

Yep, it's a slow news day today.
I don't iron. Ever. Does this make me a bad mother? I've never needed to iron. I don't have a job that requires me to wear pressed clothes (although I hope to in the near future). My children don't go to school yet, and my husband is capable of ironing his own shirts. I figure, if I get the washing in and folded straight away, the creases fall out on their own. And it works.

I've had people try to teach me to iron. In a moment of pure, unadulterated ambition I asked my hubby to teach me, which he did. But, I just don't need to iron. It's not as though I've never ironed. I can do it if I have to, like, if I have a job interview to go to. But it takes a bloody long time. One morning, pre-children, when my hubby was living in the city with a house full of mates, I tried to help him out when he was running late for work, by ironing his shirt while he was in the shower. Being the only ironing board and iron in the house, a small line soon formed behind me, until one of his mates insisted he finish the job for me, because I was just too slow. True story.

I've had a woman who is not my mother try to teach me, and try to convince me that I should be ironing my children's clothes. But when I was busy studying, working part-time, and being a mother I thought that my spare time could be put to much better use playing with my children. I mean, at the end of the day, they're not going to give a shit whether I've ironed their clothes or not. They're going to be rapt we had a fun day together and that I was able to play with them.

Yes, I admit, sometimes, if I have felt a bit lazy and the clean washing has been in a pile in the back room for a few days, I do send my son to childcare in a creased shirt. But why does this matter? Sometimes I send him to childcare with a dirty face. Sometimes I send him to childcare with messy hair. I ask again: why does this matter? I'm not a bad mum. We play, and do fun things, I look after him when he's sick. Who cares about a few creases in his clothes, and smudges on his face?

I know that eventually, when my children start school, I will then need to succumb to ironing their clothes. But that's not for at least another two years yet, and in the meantime, I'd rather spend that half a day playing with them, than ironing. I'm sure my children will thank me for it later.

Tuesday, 5 May 2009

The Logies sucked, and the media should deal with it

The media has been having a field day, chastising the public about their awful, bitchy, mean comments over Twitter during the Logies. A couple of celebrity blogs, and a few news websites decided to mention all the nasty things that were being said as the Logies was broadcast. The words "bitching" and "cruel" and "mean" were thrown around a lot.

Do you know what I have to say about that? Deal with it. The public are fickle, and of course are going to voice their opinion if they think something is lame. Hell, if we didn't voice our opinions, tv probably wouldn't have changed in the last 20-odd years! And the thing is this: what on earth would we do with social media if we couldn't talk about things that were happening in real time? That's what HAPPENS when you give the masses a voice!

While there were very specific comments about Gretel Killeen being an awful host, with some cringe-worthy moments, I do need to ask this: does the host write their own script? If not, we should probably lay off bagging Gretel and call for the person who wrote the script to be fired. And if she did write her own, then I'm sorry, but she deserves the bagging. We don't watch the Logies to see lame bits of acting (what was with that whole pretending to be shot and heaven bit? Do they think the audience is made up of children who like watching lame pantomimes with bad acting? )

These TV personalities do have feelings, yes we are well aware of this fact. But the television industry is NOT a nice one. The people can be awful, arrogant, demanding little pricks who think they should be treated like royalty. They snipe and bitch at one another about one another. The media is quick to criticize celebs when they put on an ounce of weight, or lose it, or have surgery done, or whatever. But god forbid the little people have a voice.

Good on Wil Anderson telling it like it was during the broadcast! I found his tweets much more entertaining than the show. My highlights of the Logies were Rove, Hughesy, Wil Anderson and Annie Lennox- REAL entertainment. I think the media should lay off paying out Wil Anderson for his brutally honest tweets. Insincerity is getting old and tired. We want honesty. We want the truth. We are not little children who need to be protected from the big, bad world. If something sucks, we will say so, and appreciate the honesty of everyone else who does the same.

Sunday, 3 May 2009

When breast isn't best

There is a story in today's Sunday Life mag from The Sunday Age about a woman, Rebecca Huntley, and her harrowing experience with breastfeeding, and it got me thinking. There aren't a lot of things I get riled up about, but this is most definitely one of them.

There is already soooo much pressure to deal with when you're a new mother. The whole concept is scary, nerve-wrecking, and daunting, without then adding to it the pressure of having to breastfeed. You see, women already know that breastfeeding is best. We know that it's cheaper, better for them blah blah blah. But having it shoved down your throat during your pregnancy and the first few weeks of your new life doesn't help ease the stress and pressure- it makes it worse.

I truly feel for those women that have tried to breastfeed and it has been too painful for them, because believe me, I know exactly how painful breastfeeding can be, and if it weren't for the fact that my mum is a midwife and so I had help at home every day until I got it right, there's a good chance I may not have breastfeed either of my two children. At best, it was painful, at worst it was a bloody nightmare and some times it took all my self control not to throw either baby away from me when my nipples were red raw. I know, that sounds horrible. BUt unless you've been there I suggest you do not judge. It took me a good 2-3 weeks before breastfeeding was established with my first child, and a week or so for my second.

And what about these claims that formula can lead to lower IQs, allergies, and are sometimes even linked to SIDS? Well let me tell you something, WHO and ABA, and every other organisation that that tries to shove breastfeeding down women's throats. I was never breastfed, because I am adopted. And guess how many allergies I have? NONE. And guess what I just did last week? Graduated from an Arts degree with DISTINCTIONS. I'm not slow, or stupid, or always sick, and I certainly wasn't a victim to cot death. I know plenty of people my age that weren't breastfed and we are all fine, and that's saying something considering formula is better developed now than it was 26 years ago.

So my point is this. When it comes to deciding whether or not to breastfeed the only person who should make that decision is the woman. Persisting for weeks to do something that is obviously making both mother and baby miserable is just not worth the hassle. A mother knows whether she can do it or not, and it's not fair to make her feel guilty if she decides not to, for whatever reason. It is no one else's business whether she breastfeeds or not. It doesn't make her a bad mother if she decides not to breastfeed.

How was your experience with breastfeeding?

Saturday, 2 May 2009

Not all sunshine and lollipops

I am not the best mum or the best housewife. I know this. And nor should I be. I mean really, how many of you out there stay on top of the housework, prepare healthy, nutritious meals for your family, play stimulating games with your children, and have a life?

Sometimes, I admit it, I am bloody miserable. My days consist of conversing with a 3 year old, and doing house work. I'm sorry, but how is this supposed to keep even the simplest of people happy? I will often see a whole nine hours of conversation that revolves around asking Lachlan what he wants for breakfast, telling him not to do something once...Twice...Three times, and after that I am definitely not the lady when I start yelling at him. Asking him once...Twice...Three times to DO something, and then yelling at him agAIN when he doesn't listen. Sometimes the most stimulation I will get in a day is reading him The Very Hungry Caterpillar when I get to use my brain power to count how many pieces of fruit the poor caterpillar gets to eat.

It's no wonder so many SAHMs are turning to Twitter and blogging to keep some sanity. It's often the only respite we have to an otherwise monotonous, repetitive, utterly boring, unstimulating day.

Prior to this blog I wouldn't have verbalised this, thinking "what will people think of me?" Thinking people would judge me and think I am an awful mother for saying this. Especially those that don't have children. And I don't blame them, because if I didn't have children I would probably think the same thing. Hell, there's part of me that thinks that anyway, the part that is being controlled by society, that thinks mothers should love being mothers and want to dedicate their entire lives raising their children lovingly with no thought for their own needs and desires.

I am most definitely NOT like this. I want to be able to do my own things as well. I am a complex person who needs a variety of things to keep me happy. My boys are just ONE of the MANY things that keep me happy. Included in this long list of things are my friends and family, books and any type of reading, writing and blogging, taking photos, and getting out and seeing the world.

But after discovering the delightful blog I mentioned in my last post, Crabmommy, I realised I am NOT the only one out there who doesn't think parenting is all sunshine and lollipops. It's bloody hard work. Sometimes it's boring work. Sometimes I feel mean and selfish when I think this. But I don't care what others think anymore, and I know there are others out there that feel the same way I do.

Don't get me wrong. I love my boys with all my heart and body and soul. I would do anything for them, and I wouldn't change anything for the world. BUt sometimes I just want to bitch about how unstimulating my life can be. And that's not a crime, and it doesn't mean I'm a bad parent. And if you feel the same way, I empathise.

Friday, 1 May 2009

A little taste of motherhood reality

Thank you Crabmommy, for verbalising all those things I think, and feel bad for thinking, about being a mother. I am so relieved to have come across your blog that I feel maybe I can be a little more honest in my own now. And thank you to Bugmum for pointing me in Crabmommy's direction.

Trouble getting your children to eat veggies? Try making your own spag bol sauce.

If you have problems shoving veggies into your children like so many mothers do, I have the perfect remedy for this. As far as I am aware, most children like spag bol, as long as they don't know there are veggies in it. So what should you do? Instead of using shop spaghetti sauce, just make your own!

1 zuchinni
1 carrot
1 red capsicum
can of chopped tomatoes OR 6 or 7 fresh tomatoes
salt and pepper

I haven't given amounts because you need to use what you and your children like. If you all like these flavours, then add heaps, otherwise just a little if not. Of course, it's the onion, garlic, and herbs that give it the flavour, so don't be too skimpy or it'll taste too bland.

Easy! Add it all to a food processor and blend until smooth.

This does make the whole spag bol slightly more watery, but you can either just tip it out once you're nearly finished cooking, or just leave it, as it has all the flavours.

I'd love some feedback, if you managed to get your children to eat it or not!

Stuck for ideas for dinner? Stock your cupboard with these basics and you'll never be short of ideas.

One of the questions that haunts me every day of my life, except Fridays, aside from "what should I wear today?" is "what's for dinner?" Sometimes my husband will ask me that at 9am, when I've just logged on to Skype, and my hubby is at work, at his computer, and hungry from not eating breakfast.

Trying to keep meals interesting and easy is a pretty damn difficult task if you're not Jamie Oliver, and don't have a garden full of fresh veggies to choose from. And trying not to cook the same thing all the time is quite difficult too, as it requires having your fridges and cupboards stocked with a plethora of different food stuffs to cater for all occasions- something we might all agree isn't really financially viable.

So, I've created a list of basics that every cupboard and fridge should have, that will help keep meals interesting, without having to buy a fresh bunch of herbs, only to use a few sprigs, and have to throw the rest out.

The first thing you want to do is establish yourself a hearty spice rack (or cupboard, in my case). Of course, the base of every meal are the spices you use. You could have the same 3 veggies and the same meat every day, but using combinations of different herbs is what keeps the flavours different. So here are my essentials:
- Oregano
- Basil
- Cumin
- Tumeric
- Curry powder
- Paprika
- Garam Masala
- Chives
- Cinnamon
- Nutmeg

I haven't included rosemary in this because I believe if you need rosemary, you really should use bunches that can be easily removed from the dish, because let's face it- while the flavour of rosemary is devine, no one really likes chewing on those little stick- like leaves, and rosemary bunches can be kept for ages, as it really doesn't matter if they dry out.

There are other basics every pantry should have that can help cater for many different types of meals. They can be kept for ages and ages and ages, and called upon whenever you need them. You don't have to feel bad that they sit in the cupboard unused, because these are things that no matter how long you've had them for, you WILL eventually use them. These are:
- Pasta
- Spaghetti or fetuccinni
- Noodles- either Maggi, or those Mi Goreng ones
- Brown or Basmati rice
- Chick peas (cans are easier)
- Cans of borlotti beans, butter beans, lentils (green and yellow)
- Bag of red lentils
- Cans of chopped tomatoes
- recipe bases such as Continentals chow mein, thai green curry, beef goulash, curried sausage, french onion soup, etc.
- Sauces such as soy, fish, tomato, worcestershire, red wine vinegar, balsamic vinegar, olive oil, sweet chilli
- Pesto

And of course, there are some basic vegetables that you everyone should have:
- Onions
- Garlic
- Potatoes
- Pumpkin
- Spinach
- Sweet potatoes
- Carrots
- Zuchinni
- A packet of frozen veggies in the freezer for emergencies

All other veggies can be seasonal, or whatever you feel like eating at the time. Curries and asian dishes can use whatever you have in your fridge, really.

We all have those shopping days when we see a veggie we don't normally eat on special, or are feeling rather creative, and think "hmm, I might be able to do something great with those asparagus/egg plant/brocollini. We also have those days when you feel like making something specific, and the recpie calls for a few sprigs of...say...spring onions. But what to do with that half a leftover bunch sitting in the fridge now?

The answer? Chuck it all in a pasta or stir fry dish. The great thing about pastas and stir fries is that if you have all the right sauces and spices (and if you follow my basics list then you should have) you can chuck all those wilting veggies in a pasta or stir fry dish and it will taste divine. Either blend it all up with a can of tomatoes and make a delicious bolognese sauce, or slice it and dice it, and chuck it in a wok with some soy, fish sauce, and a squeeze of lime juice. It's healthy, and you don't have to feel bad about wasting vegetables.

I have somehow developed this knack of being able to look in the fridge and make a meal out of what's available, or what needs to be used. And I attribute this skill to a well stocked pantry and spice rack. They are all basics that can be used, or can sit there for years, and still be ok.

If you're stuck with what to cook, have a fridge full of stuff, but don't know what to do with it, let me know and I'll give you some ideas!

Quick and Easy Meal: Pumpkin and Red Lentil Soup

Ok, so it may not be as quick as my previous QnE meal, but it's still pretty quick, and scrummy with some delicious crunchy bread or garlic bread. It's also perfect winter weather food, as bugmum, and many other mums have mentioned. Yes, Winter is here already, though I'm not as upset about it as some, because it gives me the chance to drink copious amounts of hot chocolate, and eat lots of comfort foods.

The difference between making your own soup, and using soup from the packet, is that you know exactly what has gone in it. You don't have to feel bad about the unknown amounts of salt your 3yo is ingesting, or what other flavour enhancers may be lurking in the depths.

So here's what you need for the perfect pumpkin and red lentil soup:

Time: 30 mins (10 prep 20 cooking)
Serves: Prob serves 4 adults, with leftovers for lunch the next day.

1kg Butternut Pumpkin, peeled, seeded, and cut into small pieces
1 onion finely chopped
2 cloves garlic crushed
1 tsp finely grated fresh ginger
2 tsp curry powder
175g red lentils, rinsed
1 cube massel vege stock cube
1.25 liters water
Low fat, natural yogurt

Once everything is chopped, peeled, and measured (because I find preparing all the ingredients BEFORE starting to cook decreases the chance of a stuff-up), cook onions on med heat in a large saucepan for 5 mins, or until soft. Add garlic, ginger, and curry powder and stir for 1 minute or until aromatic.

Add pumpkin, lentils, stock cube, and water and bring to boil, then simmer half-covered until pumpkins are soft (around 15-20 mins). Allow to cool for a bit, then put in blender in 2-3 batches and blend until smooth. Put back on heat until hot, then serve with dollop of yogurt, some warm crunchy bread, and a glass of yummy red.

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