Archive | February, 2012

Coffee and morning neurosis

24 Feb

 

I don’t have much time to think in the morning. Getting the kids dressed and the eldest ready for school takes up most of my head space. I have time for random thoughts and worries about the day. This morning due to brain overload thanks to Australian politics my brain seemed to be running on safe mode. I got everything done but it seemed to take a little longer than usual. Particularly the seemingly easy task of making my morning coffee.

I have picked up my dad’s coffee drinking habit. We have one when we wake up, one mid-morning and our final cup mid-afternoon. We take it the same too – milk and sugar. It’s instant, but good instant. I don’t have the time or the bench space for something more elaborate.

This morning it took me an hour to make my coffee. This is normal but a little disturbing. One of the first things I do each morning is flick the kettle on. Then I usually hop in the shower and as I step out I yell out for my school-age son to jump in. I get dressed, open the door to the little kid’s room so they can start to wake up and then I boil the kettle again. Sometimes at this stage I will even go as far as to place my favourite red mug on the bench in readiness. But this morning the little kids tumbled out of their room and I was distracted by hugs and kissed.

I gave them their juice and then went to hurry my son along. I ironed his uniform and placed it on his bed. I grabbed his lunch box out of his bag to make his lunch and then I had to boil the kettle again.

I just kept forgetting to make it. I kept reboiling the kettle so the water was nice and hot. As I scrambled to make his lunch and get him dressed I stared longingly at my red mug.

I still haven’t made it. My son just left for school, the little kids are dressed and fed. I meant to make it before I sat down to write this but I forgot. Just give me a sec…

Okay, I have it now. My first coffee of the day. I use my daughter’s Dora the Explorer spoon because it measures out my coffee and sugar perfectly. I haven’t taken a sip yet. I will. It sad, isn’t it?

I just had a sip. Yum. Coffee really is my morning cuddle, aside from the numerous giggly squirmy ones the kids give me.

I’ve woken up on the right side of the bed this morning. Everything is delighting me, even my insane attempts to make coffee. My poor, over-used kettle. It’s just a little red Kambrook I picked up from Kmart. It’s coping pretty well…it has to to keep up with me, my crazy coffee, 2-minute-noodles and the many times I used boiled water to get dinner started to speed things up.

Here’s to my crappy cuppa. And here’s to yours.

La Dolce Vita – Jo Abi

Put your hands in the air if you hate cleaning

20 Feb

I hate cleaning…always have, always will. I don’t know how I turned out this way. My earliest childhood memories are of my mum cleaning. She had a schedule. There were certain days when she mopped, dusted, vacuumed, changed the sheets..she was always working, cooking or cleaning.

I love my mum but I don’t have any childhood memories of her reading to us or playing with us. She was much too busy, and keeping a house spotless with four children running around was a challenge I’m sure.

She is still a really good cleaner. Her house isn’t the most attractive house on the street but you can eat off her floor. Often when the kids and I stop by for lunch she is already vacuuming behind us as we walk out the door. She told me recently that she mops every time we have been over because the crumbs attract ants. When I have people over I sometimes don’t do the dishes until the next morning, saving all my energy for eating leftovers.

My sister has a cleaning day. She cleans ahead of the weekend because she often has visitors. Perhaps that’s my problem – I don’t have enough visitors and therefore not enough motivation to clean.

I do the basics…each day I do the cooking the dishes. I’m pretty good with the laundry and ironing but I’m not much of a duster or scrubber of places people don’t see. It doesn’t help that I live in a very old house which is full of dust – which means I should clean more often but makes my efforts seem fruitless.

My mum helped me find my lost keys on Saturday and since then she has been discussing my skirting boards. She was all ready to come over and do it herself but she shamed me enough to get me moving. She’s particularly horrified by the state of the skirting boards behind the children’s toy box in the lounge room and the skirting boards in the little kid’s bedroom. She’d like me to Windex the front windows (they are very big). She wants me to air the house out every day. Oh gosh, I should have found my keys myself.

I know she’s right. Someone has to clean. My husband leaves for work at 3am and gets home at 6pm so he barely has the energy to carry his dinner plate to the kitchen and collapse into bed. My kids are too little although my eldest boy has just started cleaning his room on the weekend for his allowance. He’s quite good at it but he’s pretty tired after he’s done.

I don’t work full time so I’m the only one left standing. That being said I am so busy….three kids, school, P&F, I work part-time and every weekend, my distance uni course, my aspirations to be a writer. I make sure I exercise most days and I spend a lot of time playing with my kids. Something’s gotta give. There has to be a way to fit in more cleaning.

I have noticed that some cleaning feels like cardio…vigorous vacuuming, polishing the furniture – cleaning does give my arms a good work out. So should I replace my work out time with cleaning? If I cleaned every day I don’t think I’d get it all done.

The kitchen gets most of my attention because I love to cook. I clean the fridges, pantry and benches a lot while I wait for things to cook. I do love my books Spotless and Speed Clean by Shannon Lush and when I read them I am inspired. She suggests I come up with a schedule. One day a week I should clean the whole house and then one room each day gets a thorough cleaning, skirting board and all. Really, who has the time?

I had a weekly cleaner once but I used to clean before she arrived and two hours after she’d left the house was getting dirty again. It’s really down to me and a new, daily ritual. Is there such a thing as a self-cleaning house?

If and when we do end up in our dream house the only instruction I will have in regards to design is that everything is designed to minimise mess. I don’t want any damp, I want easy to clean surfaces only, absolutely no carpet and everything treated once a year for mould, bugs and vermin.

This morning I dropped my boys off at school and then got busy in the little kid’s bedroom. I have treated the mould, wiped off the mould treatment, wiped down the windows and window sill, the skirting board, pulled off their sheets for cleaning and opened the window. This blog is my break while I drink coffee and then I have to vacuum, put new sheets on the beds, wipe the mould treatment again so it doesn’t smell and ignore the wardrobe which needs to be cleaned out. After I do all that it’s time for lunch and then my little girl will have a nap in her newly cleaned room. Then I have to log on and start my uni distance course (what was I thinking?) and pay some bills as well as hang out the washing and do some ironing. Then pick the boys up, come home, cook dinner, take the washing down, clean up after dinner, pack lunches…hang on, I haven’t exercised and I’ve forgotten to check the mail.

I’ve also forgotten my afternoon coffee (I must have this) and according to this schedule my little girl’s nappy hasn’t been changed since this morning and we haven’t done Philip’s homework. And my best selling novel still hasn’t been written.

Redo…

La Dolce Vita – Jo Abi

Dummies and bad advice

19 Feb

 

I am so sick of ‘experts’ telling mums what they should be doing. Fair enough if it’s a matter of life and death, but “A spat over dummies” in today’s Sunday Telegraph is making me a little cross.

I gave my first child a dummy, after being advised by a midwife that it would help him attach to my breast. He was having trouble. He eventually got the hang of it and probably would have without the dummy but if felt good to give him something that would sooth him. When he was two-and-a-half I told him the dummy fairy was coming to take them for new babies and he said goodbye to them without too much trouble.

After having my first baby a lot of ‘advice’ was discussed talking about how dummies are damaging so I didn’t give one to my second son. He is now a dedicated thumb-sucker. I didn’t give one to my third child either. She too is a thumb sucker. I also blame an incident at my local Target store where I saw a five-year-old girl in a school uniform with a dummy attached to her collar, sucking away. I now realise this is very rare and shouldn’t cause the massive anxiety over dummies that it caused in me.

I am angry with myself for listening to the advice against dummies and for the ‘Target incident’ making it worse. I should have trusted my instincts. I wanted to give them dummies but felt pressured not to. I think babies with dummies are so cute. I don’t think they are damaging. They can cause restlessness at night but that was a price I was willing to pay to have children who were happy and who didn’t suck their thumbs.

Babies love being comforted by parents, teddy bears and dummies and I’m a big fan of doing whatever works for you and your baby. When ‘experts’ give advice on such things I often wonder why they can’t just say, ‘Do what feels right for you and your baby’. This is what I keep telling my sister who has just had her first. Whatever makes you happy and your baby happy and isn’t a health hazard – go for it. Stuff the mummy-guilt.

The list of ‘For’ and ‘Against’ points in the article is pretty funny because it basically makes dummy-using parents sound lazy. Do you want to keep your baby quiet, keep them asleep, stretch out time between feeds and stop thumb sucking? Then shove that dummy in. And then if you’re stupid enough to give your baby a dummy you will be punished by a child who has trouble feeding, can develop an overbite, can have speech problems and will wake all night.

I only have three children and statistically that doesn’t prove much to ‘experts’ but they say plenty to me. My first child had a dummy. He fed really well, never sucked his thumb and was a frequent feeder. He did wake up at night when he lost his dummy but I eventually let him lose it and sooth himself and he only used the dummy to go to sleep initially. My second son with no dummy was a restless sleeper at first and eventually found his thumb which at four years of age he is yet to give up. He is unnaturally attached to his teddy bear (very stinky by the way but he cries when I put it in the washing machine) and I would do anything to get him to stop sucking his thumb. My third child, my little girl, is also a dummy-less thumb sucker.

My sister did the same as me. We had children at a similar time and only gave dummies to our first. She didn’t give one to her second child, a little girl, and she developed a habit of sucking her middle fingers whilst clutching a blanket to get to sleep and her third who was also not given a dummy ended up sucking on a muslin wrap for comfort.

Every time my dad sees my kids sucking their thumbs he gently slaps their hands away from their mouths, telling them they are too big to be sucking their thumbs. Short of tying their hands behind their backs I’m not sure what to do. The thumb fairy can’t come and take their thumbs away. I’m left to hope and pray that they stop the habit before they begin school.

My experience out of the six children I have observed in our family is that they are going to suck on something so it may as well be a dummy. But somechildren are perfectly okay not sucking on anything but once again, it’s what works for you and your baby. You can use a dummy but you don’t have to use it for years. You can use nothing but be ready to stop them from sucking on something else. And you can relax. Have you ever seen a sixteen-year-old with a dummy or sucking their thumb? They will stop eventually. And you can be sure if one of these methods of soothing causes a massive, horrible overbite as we are being warned, there will be plenty of dentists willing to help for hundreds and hundreds of dollars. Win, win.

La Dolce Vita – Jo Abi

What Whitney means to me

18 Feb

I worked a lot over Christmas. I am a TV and radio traffic reporter in my other life and over Christmas I was doing traffic for WS FM. For some reason Whitney Houston’s brilliant hit single “I Wanna Dance With Somebody” came on two days in a row and my fellow traffic reporter Susannah was laughing at me because each time it came on I would turn the volume up. I love this song so much. To me this song is about the desire for love, romance and the intoxicating experience of dancing with someone special. I used to be a DJ at parties too and always made sure I played this song. It’s one of a handful of songs that makes me feel happy in an instant.

I was at a hospital visiting my sister and newborn nephew when I found out Whitney Houston had died. I was so shocked and saddened, but not surprised. As a former radio announcer it always disturbed me how insecure some celebrities turned out to be upon meeting them. I was never lucky enough to interview Whitney but I knew enough as we all did to know her life wasn’t a fairytale.

Listening to all the reports and media surrounding her death it sounds like her life was more of a nightmare, with glimpses of happiness when she was performing or when she was with her daughter. She should have had it all. She should have been happy. She should have been happy, confident, in control, substance-abuse free and free of all the people who contributed to her very muddled and complicated life. I watched her Oprah interview. I didn’t believe her. I felt sad watching it. I didn’t believe her marriage wasn’t as abusive as it seemed. I didn’t believe she had it all figured out as she tried to make it seem. It felt like she wasn’t in the good place she was describing but that she wished she was. The Oprah interview seemed like she was talking about the Whitney she wanted to be.

She should have been aging but beautiful. She should still be able to sing well.  She should be performing, spending time with her family and friends and her beautiful daughter. She should be a fading star who was happy to be fading because she was so proud of her achievements and enjoying being a mother. We would all still be enjoying her music and feeling happy knowing she was somewhere out there still singing and performing and living her life.

Tragedy and scandal might be excellent PR for some stars but it’s those who seem to stay away from such coverage that I admire the most. I wish she had found her way. She had such a loving family. I wish she had the gift peace and happiness as a state of being instead of it being fleeting. I think the happiest and most successful women – celebrity or not – are strong. They can turn away from men who are bad from them, manage their lives, health and money well and with confidence and intelligence. They look after themselves. They run their lives like a business and the business is peace and happiness. They don’t listen to the negativity and they don’t let negative people affect them. If I take anything from this tragedy and the many others that have ended in a wasted life I teach my daughter that she is the only one who can steer her ship and it is her right and responsibility to get rid of any and all negativity from her life. She is in control of her life and her health. They key to happiness is really about being in control.

I’m not the only one who has been crying in the car listening to “I Will Always Love You”. I have watched “The Bodyguard” movie three times this week. I haven’t listened to “I Wanna Dance With Somebody” yet. It won’t make me happy anymore. It will make me determined though to make the decisions that are best for me and my family, regardless of anything and anyone who tries to affect this. RIP Whitney. RIP and I wish it had been different for you and I hope your daughter learns from the lessons of your death.  There are so many rumours…she was broke, she had throat cancer, she couldn’t sing anymore, she was abusing medication. I hope she can free herself of all of this. Whitney Houston was a beautiful, talented woman with a daughter and she died too soon. These are the only truths that matter. The rest is now history.

La Dolce Vita – Jo Abi

Lost keys!

18 Feb

I had the perfect start to my day today. I woke up early and exercised. I bathed the kids (because I was too tired to do it last night) and my eldest had a shower. We were all dressed and clean and ate a healthy breakfast together. I cleaned the house. It looked beautiful. I packed my work bag and was getting ready to drop the kids off at my sister’s house for the afternoon when I remembered that my little girl had been playing with my car keys the night before. I grabbed my handbag and tipped everything onto the floor – not there. I looked in her little bike where she had been playing – not there. I looked in her Dora backpack – not there. My vision went blurry. I knew they were lost. My morning – in mere seconds – had turned to shit.

It’s not her fault they are lost. Since we’ve had toddlers in our lives my sister and I have lost three sets of keys, her brand new mobile and other countless items like school hats and toys. Most items turn up eventually. This morning I had about fifteen minutes to search and then I had to call my sister to pick us all up so I could get to work. I am at work now writing down a list of places to look when I get home. I have previously found my keys in the pantry, the washing machine, the bin, the fridge, in the kids bags, under the lounge and once I found them next to the toilet (I like to think they never made it into the actual bowl).

My sister bought us key-tracking devices once. They attach to our keys and when we lose them we clap and they beep – keys found! These key-tracking devices were not designed for Italians. Every time I spoke or the kids played they beeped. “Dinner’s ready”…beep, “Go back to bed”…beep, “Stop kicking your brother”…beep, “Why don’t you ever help me put the kids to bed”…beep, “I’m not in the mood tonight”…beep.

My sister lasted a day with hers before she smashed it and put it in the bin. I put mine in my glove box with plans to throw it away too. It beeped at me for a month before I actually threw it away. I told the kids we had to speak quietly in the car in the morning so the alarm didn’t go off. By the time we got to school drop-off it had beeped at us several times. Quiet communication is as foreign to me as having one bite of cake and leaving the rest for later.

My sister once found my keys in a draw in her office after I’d walked home with the kids. Her phone never turned up and I looked for weeks. It must have gone into the bin or the toilet. My husband’s Gucci watch never turned up – bin or toilet. I found a set of keys once when I moved house…but I really need to find my keys today!

I don’t have a spare. The spare is long gone…a victim of my desire for five minute of peace and quiet while the kids played. And she was so cute last night. I’d taken them off her a couple of times but she kept going to my handbag. She put on my sunglasses, got my car keys, put her back pack on her back, hopped on her pink ride-on toy and said, “Bye Mum, shopping.”

If I had asked her for my keys last night she would have remembered and gotten them for me but she’s two-and-a-half so by this morning she has no idea where she left them. I tried to stay calm. I was breathing hard trying to control my anger (at myself) and I was talking to myself. My four-year-old son started saying, “Oh my God, where are they”, mimicking me. It would have been cute had I not felt so stressed. I yelled once at Caterina when asking her where they were. She started crying, my son hugged her and said, “Say sorry Mum”. When we got to my sister’s house my son told her that his room was such a mess. And that’s the other thing. Not only do I not have my keys, not only did I scare my kids with my panic, but I also have to go home to a trashed house. I emptied everything and still no keys.

I texted my husband saying, “Don’t freak out when u get home. We haven’t been robbed. I lost my keys. Still looking.”

So tonight after a six hour shift at work I get to go home, get the kids ready for bed and instead of cleaning the kitchen and collapsing in exhaustion I will be on my hands and knees all night cleaning and looking for my keys at the same time. If I find them I will CELEBRATE – by collapsing in exhaustion. If I don’t find them…perish the thought – my husband will probably find me in the morning asleep, with my face planted into the carpet, my hand still under the lounge when I’d been searching when sleep claimed me at 4am.

Who is the saint I pray to for lost items…Saint Michael or Saint Anthony? I’ll pray to both. Unless they come down and help me search, I’m not sure my prayers will actually work.

I’ll let you know when I find them, if I find them. (No! Confidence Jo!) I’ll let you know WHEN I find them, probably some place obvious and silly like in a shoe or in the fruit bowl. And when I find them I will buy a hook and hang them on the side of my fridge like my sister has been suggesting for the past three years. In positive new I did find my missing earring this morning and the spare DS charger I’ve been looking for. And 5 cents.

La Dolce Vita – Jo Abi

Hot cross heaven

17 Feb

Today I ate my first hot cross bun of the season. I was trying to wait until at least March but I was tired and emotional when I was shopping last night so they ended up in my trolley. I like to put them straight in the freezer to keep them fresh, then I microwave them as needed. They are warm and taste like they are just taken out of the oven. And the butter melts..that is key.

Hot cross buns are amazing plain and toasted and they make the house smell like a holiday. But I do have a terrible secret to share. I’m ashamed of this fact. I’ve fought it and fought it…I eat fruit free hot cross buns only.

I know, I’m like a child, but I’ve never been a big fan of fruit breads and fruit cake. It’s only as an adult that I’ve started trying them. But when it comes to hot cross buns I can only eat the fruit free ones. They have all the taste and none of the fruit and peel. When I was little I used to pick all the fruit out until a pile of sultanas was left on my plate. As a result it took me ages to eat a hot cross bun which wasn’t ideal when we were rushing around getting ready for school. When I first moved in with my husband I did the same. I loved eating hot cross buns (they weren’t doing fruit free yet) and raisin toast but I would always pull all the fruit out and my husband found it very unappealing. I decided to only eat fruit breads in secret. There’s no need for him to see me doing that.

Food is such a memory trigger for me and hot cross buns remind me of our house in Annangrove and when our family would come over for Easter lunch. My mum would spend days cooking and would get up at 5am to do lunch. It was amazing and elaborate. There was bread with whole eggs in it and as always, lasagne which was part of any traditional Italian feast. We don’t do lasagne anymore…too many food allergies and food preferences. Now we cook pasta, gluten-free pasta and two different sauces. There are different spoons for serving…lasagne was easier.

I remember my mum cutting into portions with a metal spatula. My Dad would get the biggest piece – almost a quarter of the tray – and the rest would be spread out amongst the family. Sometimes she did two trays. I loved sneaking into the kitchen and eating the crispy bits that were stuck to the pan. And leftovers. Nothing has ever tasted as good as reheated lasagne.

I loved and still love Easter eggs too, but there are so many different varieties now. You can find Easter eggs in every flavour. Easter for me is still a plain, hollow Easter egg. I loved the first bite or sometimes I would smash it with my hand before unwrapping it. Either way I liked to be left with a pile of small pieces and crumbs of chocolate.

I used to get this amazing Easter egg pack from relatives – it had a hollow egg and was surrounded with chocolate with soft, yummy fillings. They don’t make it anymore. Now it’s all about Ben 10, Dora and every other novelty toy for kids. Some Easter eggs come with toys like torches and drink cups. The kids love them and sometimes even forget to eat their chocolate. Lucky for me. Oh, and the Parramatta Eels Easter Eggs that are an important part of our family too.

The countdown to Easter is on and now that it is almost March I feel like I can truly begin to look forward to it. I tried not to look at the Easter eggs and hot cross buns at my grocery store on New Year’s Day. The lead up to Easter is all about March and April for me.

I haven’t mentioned religion in this blog. Religion is a personal thing but there are movies I watch out for at Easter time and plenty of conversations with our children to explain what we feel is the true meaning of Christmas. It’s not all about the Easter bunny in our house and I love that too.

La Dolce Vita – Jo Abi

My kids are sexy and they know it

16 Feb

My kids are sexy and they know it. They also have passion in their pants and they ain’t afraid to show it. They tell me that a diva is a female version of a hustler and they have the moves like Jagger. They are 8, 7 and 6 so I’m not sure how I feel about them singing along to Top 40 songs like this. And these songs have swear words. It’s funny and cute when the sing and dance along to these songs at home but when my son decided to sing a song out of our car window at the top of his lungs I expected DOCS to knock on my door that night.

Song lyrics have always pushed the envelope. When the Beatles and Elvis first came on the scene parents were banning their kids from listening to them, thus ensuring their popularity. So do I take a stand or teach them about the right time and place for such expressions of musical appreciation?

It is incredibly funny when my two-year-old nephew recognises his favourite Beyonce song and comes running into the lounge room to dance and clap along to it. We are not a Wiggles and Hi 5 household. Perhaps we should be.

La Dolce Vita – Jo Abi

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