Friday, August 31, 2007

Happy blogiversay to me!

I know that it's exactly one year (and one day) since I started this blog.

How do I know? How did I, who have trouble remembering birthdays and had to ask my own husband what his was only last month (much to the amusement of the Optus lady in the Indian call centre) remember this date?

Well, the one birthday I am very very good at remembering is my son's. Partly because he so helpfully starts planning his themed birthday parties and writing invitation lists three months before the day. And partly because childbirth is something that's pretty damned hard to forget.

What does this have to do with my blogiversary?

Well, the very first post I wrote was on my attempt at being Supermum, making 20 cupcakes for his class between work and bed the night before his birthday. The cakes were a bit crap. Hence the blog fodder.

Last night, I was up until midnight once again, making elaborately iced cupcakes (24 this time) to bring to his class this morning.


I was determined to improve on last year.

The Husband and I shopped for dinner and cupcake ingredients last night. He steered the shopping cart towards the packet-mix cakes.

'I can't use a packet mix for birthday cupcakes!' I snorted.
'Why don't you get one just in case?'

It went into the cart.

I was peering into the cupboard and pulling out ingredients for the cakes when my mum called. The dusty corner of my mind that was tempted to use the packet mix was swept clean as I answered the phone to hear her voice. Not that she was being picky.

'Use the packet mix!' she urged, as I told her (in disaparaging tones) about the Husband's suggestion. (It was 9pm)
'I CAN'T!' I said. 'The recipe I have here is yours - it's the one that your mother copied out for me, handwritten, last year and mailed to me in the post, specifically to use for F's birthday.'
'Oh, okay' she said. 'Use it then.'

It was handy having her on the line while I worked - though one hour later, when I put the cakes in the oven and pulled the phone from the crick between my neck and my shoulder, I realised that it hadn't been so good for my neck.

I have to admit that I fairly often call my mum for advice while I'm cooking (How long to put something in the oven? What are ounces again? How long do I boil that?)

She gave me tips on how to get the butter and sugar light and fluffy (it hurts!) and how to stop the cake mix from spreading over the patty pans. Then, when they came out of the oven, she helped me solve the dilemma of how they could possibly not be ready when the recipe said 10-15 minutes and they'd been in the oven for 25. (They just weren't. Deal with it.)

The elaborate part was the icing. Last year, I made a second round of cupcakes for F's spy party which I'd decorated with spy words like 'code' (yes, the picture on this website). This year, the theme was rock, so the cakes were 'AC DC' and 'ROCK'. Bands were limited to those with really short names that would fit on a cupcake.

I managed exactly 24. Two cakes had to be binned after I ruined them.

They looked garish (fluorescent yellow) and a bit messy and a bit runty. But they were finished, they had cool words on them, and they were slathered with enough sugar that the kids wouldn't taste the flaws.

'They look a bit pale' said the Husband, peering over his rice porridge and across the dining room table. 'And why have you used two patty pans on each one?'
'So the cakes don't spread.'
He screwed up his nose.
'Why didn't you use a cake tray?'
'Don't you give me advice! You've never baked a cake in your life! Mum told me to do that and she knows what she's doing.'

This morning, the Ex dropped by to pick me up on the way to school. I couldn't walk across the park with a tray of cupcakes. What if I tripped and dropped them all? As I climbed into the front seat, a small voice piped up.

'Mum, they look lovely. Even better than last year!'

Mission accomplished.


So, yes, a year ...

A lot has happened. I've gone from strung-out working Supermum back to work-from-home Mum with control of my own time. (Hooray!) I've gone overseas for the first time. I've walked across an international border. I've lived away from my son for seven weeks and missed him terribly. And, weirdly, my favourite thing to blog about for a while was a woman who made my parenting life hell, The Mother. I think it's called releasing tension!

And I've had a great time meeting people in the blogosphere ( and even in person), visiting their blogs, and not only reading good writing and really interesting and thought-provoking arguments, but having fascinating conversations with people. You all know who you are (see blogroll!)

But to very quickly mention a few - all of whom are brilliant writers as well as bloggers: ThirdCat, who I've had some of the best parenting conversations with (probably better than I have in the real world); Redcap, who I love for her dry wit and marvellous taste in books - as well as her wonderful African travel writing; Audrey, whose breathtaking honesty, brilliant brand of loud and proud feminism, and general chutzpah I wholeheartedly admire; and Lucy Tartan, whose blog was the first one I really stumbled upon and whose blend of intelligent (and often very funny) commentary and charming whimsy drew me into blogging.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Parenting on the run

How did I end up at the 7-11 at 9.30am today, buying two enormous packets of Doritos corn chips and salsa, lugging a bulky Mexican soccer bag? Sporting greasy, dishevelled hair, a sweaty tracksuit and a wild-eyed look.

Rewind to 8.58am.

Feeling pleased with myself for pulling into the bikesheds just in time this morning, despite a shaky start. A little puffed and a lot sticky from having jogged alongside F's brand new bike to school this morning. I never jog.


F looks at the boy in the English soccer shirt and the girl in a sari parking their scooters next to us. And wails.

'Oh NO. It's World Celebration Day! I'm supposed to have brought food.'
'And dressed up?'

We emerge from the bikesheds to be greeted by an excited rabble of (North American) Indian squaws, (Indian) Indian maidens, Aussie stockmen, satin Chinese shirts and vaguely ethnic-looking scarves. The whole school is dressed up, it seems.

F looks as if he's been punched. I feel as if I've been punched. I had no idea. How? How stupid am I?

'I'll go home and get you an outfit' I say. 'And some food. I'll get your poncho, shall I?'
'Yes! And mum, can you make burritos?'

I feel my whole day slipping away.
'When are you eating?'


I ask the teacher. They are eating 'whenver'. Which means that burritos or any kind of hot food is - thank god! - not a good idea.

Parents cluster at the door of the classroom with cameras and wide smiles. A mother I like stands nearby, a friend, with a wooden elephant and a tupperware container. Her son is dressed in clothes he brought back from a recent holiday in Thailand. It's the same mother who gave F's hair a squirt with pink hairspray when I forgot about Crazy Hair Day a few weeks ago.

She can't help me now though.

'Can we come to the hall?' asks a parent.
'I don't see why not' says the teacher.
'The hall? What are they doing in the hall?' I panic, sensing this whole occassion I didn't know about grow bigger and more signmificant by the minute.
'Parading their costumes.'
'In ten minutes.'

The teacher looks pointedly at F, in his school uniform.

I rave under my breath on the 20 minute walk home. How could I have not known? I am stupid. How could F not have remembered? It must be his Asperger's. Why didn't the teacher tell me yesterday when I was in class listening to kids read? Because she thought I was a good parent, or at least a comptetent parent, and would know already. There must have been a notice.


At home, I turn F's room inside out looking for the poncho that The Husband brought back from Mexico. It is nowhere. But I am reminded that F's room is a pigsty.

I call the Husband, after searching the shed and the hall cupboards. He knows where it is. What's more, he remembers seeing the notice about World Celebration Day in F's bag on a day that he picked him up from school and his father came to collect him soon after. IT'S NOT MY FAULT! I never DID get a notice! I am unreasonably overjoyed, though it doesn't help F, of course.

I find the poncho, the capacious straw hat I bought on the beach in Melaque, the jaguar necklace that The Husband brought F from the southern Mexican jungles, and a pair of maracas we bought in a market in Guadalajara. I put them all, with his Mexico soccer t-shirt, in the soccer bag I carried all my gatherings from my travels in and lugged all over the US.


I check for my purse and bowl out the front door.


And that's how I end up at the 7-11 buying enormous bags of chips as if my life depended on it.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Back on the dancefloor

Well, just a little bit, anyway.

As Redcap points out in her comment, it has been Quite a Long Time since I last posted, so I thought maybe I should let people know that I am still alive and relatively well.

I think getting out of the habit of posting is a little like getting out of the habit of going out dancing. After a while, you wonder if you actually remember how. And whether you could ever do it in the first place, or if you just looked really stupid and nobody was mean enough to point it out. (Though that last point probably relates more to dancing than blogging.)

I've decided to take the plunge (or a toe in the water) anyway, though I can't say that I am in the frame to be particularly edifying or amusing.

The honest truth is that in the last week I have been experiencing a bit of mania. I've had depression before, and it feels like that, but I'm pretty sure I'm not depressed. I'm happy with my life. I think I just have a temporary chemical imbalance. It's like I can feel myself outside of my body, and I'm not really sure that what my body is doing and (mostly) what my mouth is saying is quite right. But I do it anyway ...

And little things devastate me at the moment. I've had two sleepless nights over a designer moving my words around on the publication I edit. And had a couple of ill-advised, now regretted passionate rants on the topic (to my manager and the poor designer in question).

My perfectionist streak is going haywire.


I found out from another parent at Auskick on Saturday that F had been upset that I didn't turn up to listen to his class read on Friday. (I usually do it, but hadn't told him I would and the week before when I turned up the class was missing - in the library, as it turned out - and I had to turn back and go home. So I didn't think he would NECESSARILY expect me.) I was gutted. I felt like the worst mother in the world. Worse (and this is where the chemical imbalance and saying what I know is the wrong thing even as I say it kicks in), I told him that.

An hour or so after I'd first discussed it with him, I bought us cinnamon donuts at Donut King, sat down in the white plastic food court above Dick Smith's and Reader's Feast and pitched a heartfelt apology. Which was fine, I think. Then I shook my head and said, with real feeling and a heavy sigh, 'I'm a terrible mother'. Which was not fine.
'You're not!' he said, with real concern. 'You're a GREAT mother! Look! You bought me a donut AND a milkshake.' (Which did NOT make a great mother, incidentally.)
'Thank you' I said. 'I'm sorry.'
'Don't ever say that again.' He looked a bit distressed.
'You're being like me' he said, after a minute had passed and his donut was gone.
'You're being too hard on yourself. Just like you told me I was doing at footy.'
'Thank you. You're right. I am lucky to have a son like you.'

And I am. I'm also lucky I gave him such excellent advice earlier in the day, at Auskick. It coming right back at me like that, at that moment, is the best (and most literal) example of good karma I've ever experienced.


Some of this may be because I have accepted a trio of quite high profile public speaking events in the next fortnight and I am terrified. I suffer from terrible stage fright, and though I do generally manage to pull it off, there is always the fear that I will forget my words or my voice will shake. And I haven't done anything in front of an audience for some years, and on radio (where no one can see you, so safer) for six months or so. I'm a facilitator at these events, not the person people have come to hear, but still ...

I am trying to tell myself I am not worried and that I will be fine. Maybe all that nervous energy is just being displaced to the rest of my life.

Hmmm. You may see from this jumbled string of thoughts why I haven't been blogging so much. Ah well. Maybe I'll be a tad more graceful next time around.