Wednesday, 28 May 2014

Girls weekends are a rare diamond of super awesomeness.

Enough said. 
Going away with your girlfriends is a treat.  Several days child free, lots of time to finish sentences, discuss important matters and (this is the best part) to only take care of yourself.

The only socks I picked up off the floor were my own.  That in itself, is a miraculous treat.

The only way a parent can properly switch off and achieve no sock picking up nirvana is by going away.  Far away.  Because you can't do it at home.  Even if we have an afternoon with not much on, I am needed to make a snack or break up an argument or negotiate screen time.  If I'm there, I'm completely essential for these things, of course if I remove myself, things rumble on quite nicely without me.

I'm not quite as necessary as we all think I am.  And I like it.

So having just spent a weekend away (far, like a plane ride away) I have returned refreshed, rejuvenated and needing just a little liver cleansing. Over the 3 days I noticed how much I love my mates, how they make me laugh, how they laugh with (at?) me, what we have in common that makes us friends, and differences in opinion and taste that prove we're all fabulous individuals.

Simply stunning scenery. 
Even though we do have a lot in common, it was fun discovering how differently we do certain things.  Not better or worse, just different.  Based on time available, our priorities, how distracted we are and so on...

The logistics of leaving.

Ranging from a 5 page manifesto printed and stuck to the fridge to a couple of lines on a weekly planner, this was an important part of the preparation.  You are leaving several children and a husband to fend for themselves for a period of time.  There is sport, there are parties, there are prearranged playdates and very likely spontaneous ones.

How you deal with this is up to you.  As the kids get older I feel that their ability to tell their father what they need to do next and to think about what they may need for it, means I don't have to be quite so hands on with the instructions.  Am I delusional?  Perhaps.

And we were away from lunchtime Friday to late Monday afternoon, so we had Monday's pre and post school to think about too.  As I write this on Monday morning, I know they are all safely at school but I have no idea if Josh's violin or Sarah's sax made it there with them this morning.

From where I sit, I don't care.

(The instruments did make it, by the way.  Issy's library bag did not).

How we packed

Packing is a function of time and weather forecasts.  If the place you're going to has very predictable weather and you have time, you can pack sensibly and cleverly, with an excellent selection of easy to care for clothes in tasteful neutrals, ready to be jazzed up with bright and funky jewellery and scarves.

Four girls, three days.  This is only 2/3 of the shoes we brought.
OR you can begin packing 1 hour before you need to leave for a place that should be warmer than Sydney but not that much warmer that could be experiencing the same freakishly summery weather we have, but may also get cool at night.  This is when the trouble starts.

Three pairs of ankle boots anyone?  How about 5 long sleeved tops, but just one measly t shirt for weather that ended up being over 25 degrees every day.

The last minute throw in of a couple of sundresses saved two of us from three days of uncomfortable overdressing.

We were never going to run out of scarves.  Or shoes.

What we forgot

There's always that "oh shit" moment when you realise you've left some completely essential item at home.  For me it's usually a toiletry and this time it was my talc (yes I'm a GRANNY).  But more distressing, I did not pack a bead of jewellery.  Not just me. Two of us completely forgot to put it in.  Any plans of jazzing up our sensible neutrals went out the window.  Luckily this disaster was quickly turned into a bonus as we shopped our little heads off for suitable adornments.

How we communicate with home

Each family had their own ways of communicating.  I liked to keep Mike up to date with my movements, sending quite a few photos of beaches and cocktails (and cocktails near beaches) by text.  He responded with the occasional text updates but no photos.  My compatriots were also senders and receivers of texts, with and without photos, although phone calls were also popular.

What was funny during the phone calls was as soon as a child came on the line, our voices changed, softened, went up at least half an octave.

"Darling!", we would gush. "Sweetie!", we cooed, "I love you soooo much and I miss you".

"You scored a goal/try/hoop?  A merit certificate? Girl/boy of the match? Awesome, you are soooo amazing".

"Yes I wish I could have seen it.  No I'm not coming back today.  Yes I do miss you, I do.  Very much.  Yes I'm having fun.  Of course I'll be back soon.  Yes I'll bring you a present".

Back on the phone to our husbands, we'd revert to normal voice and the conversation immediately became intensely pragmatic.  Instructions were made, suggested locations for lost items given.  An appeal for vegetables to form part of at least one meal.  A suggestion of washing?

We texted, we received texts.  We sent photos and received them back.  Several of the Dads dined together with 8 children at the local club.  Brave souls.

One thing was for sure, if things back home were going pear shaped, we didn't want to know about it.

The fun

We were very much on the same wavelength in this regard.  We were all predisposed to enjoy ourselves and very conscious of how lucky we are to be away in such a beautiful place with awesome people.  So we were quite good at making every minute count, without being stress bunnies about it.

We wined and dined, pre booked a bit, winged it a bit.  Stopped for a mid afternoon cocktail because we could, had brunch at lunchtime because we fancied some eggs and enjoyed a long lunch that started at 2pm and ended well after the sun had set.

The Caprioska is my cocktail soul mate.  Sorry Mojito, it's not you, it's me. 
And back at our lovely accommodation we snacked on soft cheeses and crackers purchased at Woolies.  We had sparkling water and French Champagne.  Some token fruit, tea bags and milk.  That was all we needed.

Maybe I should have had the vegetable conversation with myself.

Now, settled back into reality, I prepare for a day at canteen and think about what to cook for dinner.  Weekends like this vanish in the blink of an eye.

Been away lately? Was it super awesome?

Monday, 26 May 2014

Bearsy and other beloved creatures

Oh Bearsy, you are so awesome.
Oh Bearsy.

You are an old mate.  You have been around a long time.  And I love you.

You have provided enormous comfort.  Both to your owner and to me, knowing that if he has Bearsy, he's ok.

All three of my kids have had a toy they've particularly attached to.  The official term is a 'transitional object'.  The idea of which, is that if that have this object (usually a soft toy or piece of fabric), they may just possibly be less hysterical when you leave them when they are small.  We've had varying degrees of success with this in our house, sometimes hysteria was unavoidable.

Sarah has ducks.  Two of them.  The first one came in one of the gorgeous gifts we received when she was born.  At about 6 months old when she could roll over, she always rolled to the duck and grabbed it.

Her first word was Guck.

The duck in peak condition.
I quickly noticed her attachment and sourced another and carefully washed and interchanged them.  So when we lost one (and we did eventually) we had still had one which was acceptable.  I then ransacked Australia and found the last remaining duck in a bargain bin in Penrith.  He was marked down to $12.  I would have paid $400.  But I just paid postage.  So she still has two.  One is barely recognisable and the other only slightly better.  They never leave the house.  They don't even leave her bedroom.

Bearsy came about a little later in Josh's life.  Back in the days of weekly playgroup (OMG playgroup- nasty flashback of tantrums, disputes over rosters and the toy cupboard never closing) some lovely soul organised a Teddy Bears picnic.  As we reversed from the driveway that fine morning I remembered each child had to bring a bear . I threw on the handbrake, dashed into the house and picked up a duck (obviously) and this bear who had been given to us when Josh was born, sitting lonely on a shelf in the kid's bedroom.  Josh was 16 months old and had never shown interest in a particular toy.  He liked walking around clutching a Thomas or a Percy engine but that was it.

At playgroup we formed a circle (oh what fun!) and everyone sat around with their bear (duck).  I have no idea what the point of this exercise was, maybe we were going to sing songs or tell stories (hold me).

Anyway, Sarah noticed Josh had a bear and she had a duck and almost everyone else had a bear.  She attempted to remove the bear from her brother and give him the duck.  Josh went off like a packet of crackers until we gave him the bear back.  Even at 16 months that lad was NO pushover.

Bearsy in better days.
And that was that.  He started off as Guggy (Josh's first word for cuddle) and morphed into Bearsy.

At one time the question "Where's Bearsy?" was the one I dreaded most of all.  Because he was ALWAYS in stupid places (eg. on the windowsill behind the curtain, stuffed under the couch, thrown into the washing basket, wedged down the side of the car).  I tried to buy another Bearsy, he is officially a Teddy & Friends Clinton or Clancy or something...  But I never found one.  He's still here and not looking too bad considering his life experience.

So when Josh went to Bowral for the night last friday in preparation for his rugby game on Saturday (Under 9s rugby is so hard core you have to travel 2 hours just to play) he left Bearsy behind in the rush to leave.  And when I saw him discarded on the floor (his usual position), my heart sank.  But of course, Josh is 9 and a stoic, and he made not the slightest fuss when Mike told him.  Sure, he had a rapturous reunion with the old Bear the next day, but he went to sleep easily that night.

Oh Bearsy, you are loved, but not quite so necessary as you once were.  I know exactly how you feel mate.
The motley crew of transitionals.
Issy, by the way, has made her way through about 6 muslins. One was so decrepit it was renamed 'scrap of muzzy' before disintegrating.  She is currently shredding a green one which is in two pieces, soon to be three.  I would not like to leave this behind for a sleepover.  I doubt she would cope.  Seeing as her last three sleepover attempts have seen her returning to us at approximately 9pm, we still have a while to go before she is as cast iron as her brother.

Any 'transitional' objects at your house? Or should we call them most beloved friends?

Sarah's fourth birthday.  How cute are this pair? Sorry this has no relation to the post at all.  

Wednesday, 21 May 2014

Riding in cars with girls.

At least this is still a few years off. 
I've written about riding in cars with boys.  Now it's time for the girls.

I think this just shows that I do FAR too much driving.

It's come to my attention that I'm harbouring a mini teenager.  And no, it's not Sarah.  It's Issy.  The 6 year old with the towering attitude.

Because both my girls do gymnastics, and gymnastics is located a stupid distance away, we have some decent driving to do on Tuesdays and Thursdays.

On Thursday we car pool with two other families.  Every second week (roughly) at 5pm I drive up and collect Issy and two mates. Josh has to come along for the ride (he finds this tedious but sometimes I actually manage to extract information about his life during these drives, so it's worth it).

Lately Issy and her mates have become very into the latest tunes, and at home during play dates they will hole up in Issy's room listening to music and dancing.  Some of the music they like has appalling lyrics if you listen too closely.  So I don't.  It goes over their heads mostly, and as for the young men singing about some girl standing in his 'American Apparel underwear', well that just makes them laugh hysterically and tell each other how they'd NEVER just get about in their underwear if a boy was there.

Amen to that I say.

In a continuation of this music appreciation, Issy and her mates love nothing more on the trip home from gym than to convince me to wind the car windows down, turn the music up as loud as I can stand, and sing and scream their way home.

They call this...The Party Car.

Hapless fellow motorists, cyclists and pedestrians are waved at, shouted at and sung at.   Most people seem to like them, and get a laugh out of it.  No-one has been offended that I know of.

Poor Josh sinks so far down in his seat he nearly falls off it.  There is zero chance of seeing anyone he knows but he can't bear the outrageous lack of self consciousness that six year old girls have (and he doesn't).

Now I know that once they ARE teenagers they'd never carry on like this in a parent's car.  But they think they are SO COOL and awesome when they're belting out the words to their favourite song (Jess Mauboy is a favourite at the moment as is Sia).

And even though the noise is deafening and Josh is embarrassed and lots of people think we're mad or delinquents, I still let them do it.  Because soon they'll stop and just sit and be monosyllabic and roll their eyes.

And I'll miss those crazy 6 year old rock chicks.

Photo courtesy of Boins Cho Joo Young

Sunday, 18 May 2014

Stop asking me to join your club. Call me Groucho.

My very own interpretative sketch of the situation.

When out and about doing my shopping I am often asked by staff at the retail outlets I visit (almost always young and eager) if I want to join the rewards program, or club. Because right now, no matter what shop, there is always a rewards program or club. Always.

They offer me discounts.  Or vouchers if I spend a certain amount.  Or early access to special offers.  Or a free gift if I've bought enough from their store.

Question: If you've had to buy a ton of stuff to get the free thing is it really free? I'm looking at you Smiggle.

Sometimes it's free to join, sometimes it's not.

Sometimes you get more benefits from joining the free one and the ones you have to pay for wouldn't even offer you a tissue if you sneezed.

Mostly I hold strong, and tell the eager person (who may or may not be on a bonus system for signing people up) that I don't really shop there that often.  Sometimes this is even true.

In any case, once you give in and hand over your details, you'll soon find more regular unwanted emails clogging up your inbox.  And you'll forget your card the every time you're at the shop so you'll never accumulate any points or stars or whatevers.

So I now just say no thanks.  To everyone.  Even the most eager, bonus induced keen bean, who is begging me to become a loyal member at the chemist near my Mum's house in Brisbane that I visit once a year.

Look, I'm not saying I haven't benefited from Loyalty programs.  Occasionally the reward scheme for frequent patronage of a certain shop does pay off and you reap the rewards.

I've had free shoes from Shoes and Sox.  A free Hoyts movie ticket.  And most underwhelming of all, a slap band from Smiggle. (Incidentally that slap band was the cause of more arguments between my children than any other item I've ever brought home.  No idea why.  It went in the bin.)

And I do like a Witchery voucher and the old faithful CR spend and save.

Other times I've said yes and really wondered why I bothered because no rewards have been forthcoming.

And I've lost track of the amount of times I've said no.  Bakers Delight, Adairs, Rebel Sport, Kikki K (although I think I said yes in the end), every chemist I walk in to.  And the list goes on.

I just can't be dealing with the increased email traffic, the questionable rewards, the continuous looking for the right card and the confusion in general.

EVERY retailer in the world is doing it.  Who's idea was the loyalty program anyway?  Frequent Flyers?

Enough.  Stop it.  Now.

This is the end of the blog post.  Unless you want to keep reading and hear a story.

It's a story of the time when I was the eager incentivised 18 year old staff member, encouraged by a major retailer to get unsuspecting people into debt.  Just to earn $5.

Back in the day, I worked for Myer.  I worked in the department that issued and took payment for Myercards and Laybys.

At the time (1989-1991) Myer used to offer people a credit facility called a 90 day plan.  They could purchase an item of decent value ($50-$300), and take it home, paying only a third of the price as deposit and then pay two equal instalments to clear the debt.  Way more popular than the lay-by due to instant gratification.

I think this credit facility's real name is Hire Purchase and I also think Myer had to scrap it after a while as too many people took out 50 of them at different stores and made off with the goods.  But I could be wrong.

It seemed a fairly sensible system and many a cash strapped youngster managed to pay off their new stereo or fancy jeans and jacket.  They had be 18 and pass a credit test first.

Now we uni students working in the department were incentivised to convince these small, new-to-debt fledglings to get a Myercard instead.  Which had the potential to be a lot more profitable for Myer (ongoing interest) and with a limit of at least $500 and high interest rates, a lot more troublesome for the user if they were a bit clueless.

Nonetheless for a $5 gift voucher every time I converted someone, and no care whatsoever for the future of the customers I was serving mean I often scored $30 a week above my pay.  In 1989 when I was barely 18, that was a LOT.

I feel terrible about it now.  But at the time it NEVER occurred to me the far reaching implications of what I was doing.  I, like the eager sellers of loyalty plans at every store I enter, are only doing what their boss has told them to do.

The difference being, these days I just end up with more crap in my inbox and another loyalty card in my wallet, but those I convinced to get a credit card, potentially ended up with a terrible credit rating and a large debt.

Shame on me yes?

Thursday, 15 May 2014

My annual (or less often) visit to the theatre and what happened there.

I went to the theatre.  A matinee of course.   I go sleepy byes at night time theatre.

I have never been a major lover of plays.  My simple and unsophisticated heart yearns for ultra daggy musicals with Cats being my all time favourite and Les Mis a close second.

But plays...all that talking.  No singing or dancing to amuse my teeny weeny attention span.  Not so much.

Especially since a terrible experience a few years ago when Mike and I decided to make an effort and accepted an invitation to a dinner and performance of A Long Day's Journey Into Night.

Yes it was, a long, long, long journey.  Four hours after it started, we stumbled out into the near midnight darkness and wondered at the time we'd lost and would never get back.  Yes we know the actors were excellent and the storyline was heart rending, but four hours? Really?

Since then, the only time I've stepped into a theatre is for the 13 Story Treehouse, Charlie and Lola and several of Sarah's dance performances.  None of these were over 1.5 hours.

I'd booked to go to this performance with a couple of mates way back in October 2013, so we'd all completely forgotten until Tuesday when the girl who'd organised it, (my top notch friend C) reminded us.  I ditched any plans I had for Wednesday, geared myself up for a long afternoon, and then thought to double check how long I was in for the play went for.

Imagine my joy when I discovered that this performance was only an hour. 60 minutes. 11am-12 midday.  A real play, just really short.  A perfect match for my attention span.

After experiencing unprecedented fullness in the car park across the road we realised we were dealing with a sellout.  And after experiencing some very strange parking antics by our fellow play attendees we realised we (in this case, comparatively only) were spring chickens!

We were at least 20 years younger than the AVERAGE age of our companions.  Seating took forever, and there were many rearrangements of seating as theatregoers who didn't bring their glasses were redirected to the right spots.

As we waited for the performance to start, my compadres and I discussed what our nana hairstyle would be? The bouffant? The groovy coloured pixie style? The curl and set? Then we started on fashion but had only begun on jackets vs cardigans before the lights went down and we had to stop.

Myra Hess- one clever and determined lady. 
FYI the play was about a lady called Myra Hess who was a famous pianist during WW2. She was behind the organisation of 6.5 years of musical concerts in the London's National Gallery, which went on throughout the war despite many, many risks, struggles and setbacks.  She was completely amazing.  The monologue parts were interspersed with a very talented pianist, playing pieces that were popular during the concerts.  He was totally awesome.

The performance was excellent, and starred Patricia Routledge (Hyacinth Bucket from Keeping up Appearances).  She's getting on a bit herself and sat down for the performance and even got to read from a book (although she looked like she was remembering an awful lot).  I reckon anyone would need a book.   I'd have no chance of remembering nearly 60 minutes worth of monologue.

Although I'm quite good at five minute shouty made up monologues at the kids.

It was an excellent role for someone who is 85, and Patricia Routledge was sensational.  It made me think of my Mum and how unfair life can be.  Mrs Routledge (all credit to her) can hold the stage on her own for an hour and be so articulate and polished and my Mum can't even walk anymore because her body has let her down.

It just made me feel a bit wistful, y'know?

As the play went on, the unmistakable scent of talcum powder, lavender and a faint undertone of naphthalene wafted gently around us.

At least one of my friends had a wee nap mid way through.  And we heard the unmistakable snorfle sound of an elderly gentleman who's drifted off and woken himself up with his first snore.

I'd turned my phone to mute but not turned it off, not realising how quiet a theatre gets during a play (I'm used to kids movies where your phone could ring forever and you'd never hear it).  The vibrate was still on so I had to sit on it to shut it up.  I was treated to a few disgusted sniffs and at least one disapproving 'humph'.  I so deserved it.

When it was over we escaped quickly, but not quickly enough to get caught up in some very strange departure shenanigans in the car park.

I know I've posted not that long ago about how I think I'm becoming a Granny, but this experience has proved it.  I had such a nice time, got my kulcha on and was back at my kitchen bench laptop position by 1pm with a cup of tea.

Myra Hess is famous for her arrangement of Bach's Jesu, Joy of Man's Desiring. I think it was originally made for an orchestra but Ms Hess did a version just for piano.  It's song I've always loved when I've heard it but never knew the composer or name of it until about 10 minutes ago.

You will know it too, and it may even lift your heart to hear it on this day.  Here is the link to a very talented girl playing it.

PS.  I know it's been a long time since my last post.  And while I live in hope of continuing regularly, I have discovered in 2014 that life is a bloody tricky thing and blog posting can sometimes fall by the wayside.  Please bear with me, and forgive me because I'm very unreliable.

Photo courtesy of Libby Foster (nee Hess) via The National Gallery website.