In Which The Family Is Feral and Dr. Meat is a Busy, Angry Man.

Blog silence brought to you by man-flu, sore backs, towering laundry piles,  travelling husbands, wet beds, kid birthdays, power blackouts (especially hilarious when the fan on the composting toilet stops working!)  Slapped Cheek virus, head lice, worming tablets, caffeine, Nurofen Plus and Too Much Information.

Here are K and I dressed as the Ugly Stepsisters for Peanuts book-themed 8th birthday party. I am channeling ‘ugly’ much more than Keith is and I’m not thrilled about it. I have a monobrow and a square head, whereas Keith just looks like a ritzy party girl who’s probably wearing a lacy nylon g under his leopard skinnies, and a cheeky vajazzle under that.

Pudding’s newest imaginary friend is Dr Meat. He’s angry. He treats all her stuffed toys for ticks, but he doesn’t like Cauliflower, because of how often she says ‘poo poo’. I get it! Dr. Meat is a busy man. He can’t be dealing with Cauliflowers naughty word bullshit when Peanut Butter, Dodo, Puppy and Olivia Dog just keep getting infested, over and over. Plus Dodo keeps having sleepovers at his office which I’m sure is against some sort of Health Department regulation.

I’m not going to report Dr. Meat though. I’m too busy trying to keep the family one step above feral on the domestic scale.

(Just quietly, failing.)

Still!

Could be worse. I could be Robbie Williams wife in labour, frinstance.

How’s things with you guys? Every family is this gross, right?

Right?

Right?

ps – we just lost power on the water pump. No water.

No water!

What fun!

The Drama Of The Doorknob: Life With Toddler

This post was originally published in Practical Parenting Magazine, September 2014

(image source)

A friend once described mothering a pre-schooler to me as ‘being with your best friend, who is drunk all the time’. This is so apt. Two-year olds are up for anything, and they do odd stuff. Pudding, for instance, insists on wearing most outfits back to front. Out and about, she will suddenly shout ‘Backwards walking!’ at which point our movement forwards becomes 50% slower than normal.

She is so much fun. But no matter how even-tempered the child – and Pudding, child number three, is the most easy-going of my crew – this stage of development demands that they begin to assert their independence from the Mothership. Two-year olds will pick their moment to stand their ground in defiance of you, and you never know when that moment will come.

For my Pudding, that stand-off for power comes at bedtime, specifically at the moment we need to switch off her light. There she is, all wrapped up in her sleeping bag, teeth brushed, tummy full of milk. We’ve read Olivia and the bloody Wiggles book and we’ve done the Green Sheep, with all the voices. We’ve said goodnight to the siblings and we’ve made it to the bedroom, where the last step of the ritual is where Pudding switches off her own light before being tucked in to bed.

I hoist her aloft, back aching after a full day of chauffeuring and distributing biscuits and hauling laundry. ‘Now turn off your light,’ I tell Pudding, at which point she hovers her finger over the switch and looks at me with mischief in her eyes.

My heart sinks. Here we are. It’s Wounded Knee. It’s the Eureka Stockade. It’s Ned Kelly’s last stand.  I try cajoling, like a camp counsellor on happy pills. ‘Come on, yes! Let’s make it a good one. Switch it! It’s really fun to switch that button!’ She waves her finger to and fro, enjoying the game. I shift her weight on my hip and go stern. ‘No more games Pudding. It’s bedtime. Switch the light off right now.’

Pudding hovers her finger over the button, drunk on the power. She’s totally in charge here and she knows it. She’s heavy and I can feel my frustrated anger start to rise. Holy cow, I have been available all day for games and food and cuddles. Now it is BEDTIME.

‘Not switching!’ Pudding sings in delight. I am so tempted to reach out and turn off the light myself. ‘There!’ I will say. ‘That’s it! You took too long. Maybe you will be quicker tomorrow!’ But I’ve done that before, and Pudding is enraged by it, so mad that she then screams in her bed, creating an intense new bedtime drama to manage that will negate the whole half hour’s calming routine we have just been through.

No, there’s nothing for it but to wait out Pudding’s blaze of glory, this golden moment where she holds all the cards. I adjust her again on my hip, take a deep breath and say ‘You’re so funny, Pudding. Now show me how you can do that switch.’ ‘It’s a couple more minutes, and I’m crying on the inside, but she does eventually tire of the gag and switch the light off. Only then does she allow the last steps of tucking in and kissing and animal-arranging.

Finally, I’m free to hit that couch, where I can rest up for another busy day ahead with my tiny, drunk best friend.

White Couches, Repressed Rage and Precious Firstborn Syndrome

 

I’m feeling slightly frazzled and stressed this morning. I’ve got that sickish feeling that my stomach lining is eating itself, and I feel sad and sorry about all the irritable stomping about I did while trying to get the kids off to school. Fail, fail, fail.

A late night at the P and C with all three kids (Keith’s away, and I had to go talk about a thing) rolled into the crazy fun of playing Stagger Up And Down The Hallway in the wee hours dealing with wet beds and lost blankets and bad dreams. I woke up squashed in the middle of two littles poking each other and shouting ‘HE TOUCHED ME!!’

In my defense, I did  most of the shouting inside my own head. I’ve been thinking, in fact, that if Science just figured out how to tap into the energy that is the bottled and repressed rage of parents trying to get their kids to school in the morning, we’d be onto the greatest renewable resource in history.

The Tumblr ‘It’s Like They Know Us’ is the funniest thing on raising kids I’ve seen lately.

"You think I’M being unfair? You want to wear saturated primary colors? BE MY GUEST. But I will not stand by and let you disparage the muted principles your mother and I worked so hard to teach you.” 

“You think I’M being unfair? You want to wear saturated primary colors? BE MY GUEST. But I will not stand by and let you disparage the muted principles your mother and I worked so hard to teach you.”

 

image

“Life moves awful fast nowadays, but we always find time to cuddle awkwardly on the floor in a plain white room. It helps keep us connected”

 

"Brushing my toddler’s teeth is my favorite way to unwind. She never flops around like a deranged mackerel hell-bent on knocking herself unconscious on the nearest wall, counter, or tile floor. It’s our special time together."

“Brushing my toddler’s teeth is my favorite way to unwind. She never flops around like a deranged mackerel hell-bent on knocking herself unconscious on the nearest wall, counter, or tile floor. It’s our special time together.”

"And in this one, you were juuuust crowning."<br /><br /><br /><br /><br />
Submitted by Heather Fairfield

“And in this one, you were juuuust crowning.”

All images and captions from the hilarious Tumblr It’s Like They Know Us.  Also, this funny piece on Precious Firstborn Syndrome cracked me up, and touched, I’m ashamed to say, many a nerve. Guilty as charged! Definitely.

Keep on trucking, Mumz and Dadz. We’ll just figure this shit out as we roll along.

x

The Daily Life of Four Homeschooling Families

School girl in Maine, 1942, by Bernard Hoffman

Bored schoolgirl in Maine 1942, Bernard Hoffman for Life Magazine

 

Have you ever contemplated homeschooling? In the early morning, for instance, while searching for readers and shoes and hairbands, and trying to launch a stealth washcloth attack on the children, have you ever wondered what it might be like to opt out of the daily grind? How different would life look if you kept the kids at home and took a radical new approach to their education? Could it work? How would it work, exactly?

Recently, I tried to dig into these questions by interviewing four homeschooling parents for Mamabake. I asked them all the same bunch of questions, and although answers to some questions were similar (nobody, for instance, seemed too impressed with my queries about ‘socialisation’!) , daily life looked quite different for each family.

First, Lauren from Tasmania, mother of three and blogger at Owlet.

Do you follow a curriculum, or the practice of ‘unschooling’?

We are probably best defined as unschoolers. We understand that learning happens all the time, everywhere, and we make the most of it, providing lots of opportunities for learning. Most days it just feels like living.

What’s a typical day home-schooling look like at your place?

There are no typical days! Some days we go out to the shops or the beach, to gym or drama or our home school co-op or whatever activity we have planned. Some days we stay at home and there might be cooking, playing, drawing, maths workbooks (just for fun!), gardening, Minecraft, reading, watching movies or documentaries. We tend to follow a train of thought or a discussion and roll with it, finding fun and creative ways to explore it along the way.

What are your academic and education dreams for your kids?

I’d hope that they will find what they are passionate about and follow their own dreams, and I’m happy to support their choices.

Do you feel that the ‘socialising’ of the classroom is something that you need to work into your homeschooling system?  How do you manage it?

The way we see it, normal social environments can involve people of all different ages working or playing together, so socialising can happen when we visit the shops or chat to the neighbours… Having said that, there are so many opportunities for us to spend time with our friends during the week that we have to set aside occasional home days or it all gets a bit much!

When the kids are always at home, do you ever feel like you need a break? How do you get down-time?

Like any family, there are times when you feel like you need a little space. I’m super lucky to have supportive family and friends who will help me with down-time if I need it. My husband has a supportive, family friendly workplace and he manages to be flexible enough to spend time with us when it is needed. I’m finding that as they get older, I’m able to find more space in my days where they are happy to do their own thing while I take a little time out for myself or my work.

Do you think your kids will ever spend time in a traditional school environment, or do you plan to continue home-schooling through high school?

We plan to keep providing a nurturing, nourishing environment for them to explore their passions. That involves finding them mentors and spaces to encourage what they need to do. If that involves an educational institution at any stage, then we fully support them attending.

Next, meet Renee from South Australia, Mum to two boys, ages 5 and 8. Her 8 year old has been diagnosed with Aspergers Syndrome.

Do you follow a curriculum, or the practice of ‘unschooling’? 

We actually do a bit of both – generally “eclectic homeschooling” as a label.  I do my own curriculum though.

What’s a typical day home-schooling look like at your place? 

My kids wake up first and generally occupy themselves with TV until I wake up and have coffee. They’ll sometimes do crafts, or Lego, as well.  Depending on the day we either have an outing, or, if it’s a holiday somewhere, we do something for that. I also have downloaded some themed fun worksheets for math and literacy to fill in the day.  They’ll mostly direct themselves for the other parts of the day – my 8 year old is writing a book (along the same lines as Andy Griffith’s Treehouse books) and my 5 year old is teaching himself to read. :)

What are your academic and education dreams for your kids?

I want them to keep the joy of learning, like their dad and I do. We’re all about information, and love to learn about things in as much detail as we can stand, and then we find something else fascinating. We often watch documentaries all together at night. Bit of a geek thing in this house. ;)

Do you feel that the ‘socialising’ of the classroom is something that you need to work into your homeschooling system?  How do you manage it?

Sometimes it is hard as I’m an introvert by nature, and it’s easy to get stuck into a rut, because I’m comfortable at home. That said, we have a lot of the same things kids in school have, we just do it with other homeschoolers, and in more manageable groups. As well as Scouts, and other activities, we have a strong Autism community connection with a Lego social skills group, a siblings group, as well as a Dance and Drama group we’re checking out next week.  There’s socialisation across ages, social status and gender and my kids can hold their own in public, which is what socialising is all about, in my opinion.

 

When the kids are always at home, do you ever feel like you need a break? How do you get down-time? 

 

Oh yes I do. My husband is here too, ALL the time J (which actually makes it a bit easier to take time.) I have workshops and a support group I attend quite often with our Autism support community, and I try to go and have coffee with local friends as well.  So even though they’re all with me, it’s not always being stuck at home with them.

 

Do you think your kids will ever spend time in a traditional school environment, or do you plan to continue home-schooling through high school? 

 

My youngest might – he has never been, but has no interest. If a time comes that he does, I have no problem with it. It just suits us as a family right now to keep him home though. My oldest will likely stay home, as he’s already so advanced in some ways, they wouldn’t’ be able to cater to him in the future.  I plan on looking into Open Access at that point, as I believe there are allowances made for gifted and ASD kids.

 

Next, meet Terri from New Zealand . She has four children ages 6, 4, 2 and 9 months. (And a husband, she adds!)

Do you follow a curriculum, or the practice of ‘unschooling’? 
I prefer the term ‘interest-led learning’. I don’t buy curriculum as it’s too restrictive and a bit boring for us.
What’s a typical day home-schooling look like at your place?
I like a tidy house, so there are things I have to do before I’m 100% free to sit down with the kids. Some days they spend all day doing worksheets, reading, workbooks, and on others they play outside all day. Every day has a hands-on activity: sewing, cooking, science experiments, etc. The amazing thing is what the younger siblings are picking up. My 2.5 yr old can count, knows her colours, simple maths, how to bake etc.. All through second hand learning!
What are your academic and education dreams for your kids?
I hope that they never lose their passion for learning and that they are able to earn a living doing what they love. That’s it.
Do you feel that the ‘socialising’ of the classroom is something that you need to work into your homeschooling system?  How do you manage it?
I feel that socialisation of the classroom is one of the things I wanted to keep my children away from. However, interaction with other people is very important. Socialisation happens every day when they are at their activities, at the supermarket or the library, but I’ve had to work really hard to find friends for my kids, however, as we have only lived in Nelson for 2 years.

When the kids are always at home, do you ever feel like you need a break? How do you get down-time? 
I sometimes get overwhelmed with the enormity of my responsibilities and exhausted from the lack of quiet, and when this happens I tell my husband I’m having the next Saturday morning off and I go op shopping. And this time is really about me being able to be alone with my thoughts and not have to talk to anyone. Or if a day has really turned to shit I safety proof the living room, shut everyone in there and have a 10 minute shower and that’s enough to stop me having a meltdown.
Do you think your kids will ever spend time in a traditional school environment, or do you plan to continue home-schooling through high school? 
My children may spend some time in a traditional school. This will happen if they wish it (after all this is their education, not mine) or if they wish to pursue a specific topic that we can’t assist with – graphic design for example. But I would first seek out tutors or courses to try to avoid High School.

Finally, meet Lusi, who has been homeschooling for six years. Her five kids are aged 12, 11, 9, 5 and 3, and one has Autism.

Do you follow a curriculum, or the practice of ‘unschooling’?

We have an eclectic style. We have a mix of structure and rhythm along with a Charlotte Mason approach in some subjects with a real hand-on-learning-through-every-day-life aspect too!

 What’s a typical day home-schooling look like at your place?

We have breakfast then all the kids have chores to help Team Austin function well. When the kids are ready to sit down at the learning room table, they take turns to choose a scripture to read, and then it’s on to maths, spelling and handwriting. We use a variety of approaches to these to meet the Board of Studies requirements. We take a morning tea break usually outside then take a turn each day to learn interesting things about world history, geography, Australian history, science, food tech, art and pdhpe. I try to make the learning as informative and interesting as possible. We use a lot of oral narration. Our kids love hands on learning too. Recently we learnt about the artist Jackson Pollock and we’d also been learning about medieval weaponry at the same time! So we combined the two to make a catapult to throw paint, Pollock style, at a sheet we’d set up outside. It was loads of messy fun! Often I’ll read to the kids over our lunch break or sometimes they’ll sit and chat together on the porch. After lunch we tackle things like touch typing, LOTE (our 12 year old is teaching herself French at the moment), and perhaps some work we haven’t gotten through. In the afternoon the kids play in their lego room, outside with our neighbours or go to activities outside our home.

What are your academic and education dreams for your kids?

Our dreams and hopes for our kids are the same I’m sure as everyone else! We hope to instill a real love of learning in our kids. We want our children to be healthy, satisfied individuals who contribute to their community and work to the best of their abilities in all areas of their lives. We hope they are people of wonderful character and integrity.

Do you feel that the ‘socialising’ of the classroom is something that you need to work into your homeschooling system? How do you manage it?

Ah the dreaded ‘S’ word! Socialisation is all about how a child or adult for that matter, relates to other people of ALL ages and stages in life! Our kids are present with us in everyday situations, learning a range of social skills. As well as each other, our children play sports, have play dates, and get together with the local homeschool community every week.

When the kids are always at home, do you ever feel like you need a break? How do you get down-time?

My hubby and I are very supportive of our own needs to refresh ourselves. We each play sports, go out for a weekend brekky on our own or go and hang out with friends while the other holds down the fort. Once a year, my mother’s group go away for the weekend (sans kids or partners !) to regroup. It’s invaluable. I also run a small online business (Finds on Fitzroy) selling retro and vintage goods so that’s also a nice change of pace compared to homeschooling.

Do you think your kids will ever spend time in a traditional school environment, or do you plan to continue home-schooling through high school?

We often ask our children if they’d like to go to school again but they are all still choosing to stay and really love it. We are not anti-school at all. It may end up being a path we walk down again in the future. Right now though we have peace that this is the right decision for our family in this season.

Thanks so much to  Lauren, Renee, Terri and Lusi for giving us a glimpse into your homeschooling worlds. It’s always so fascinating to explore how other people manage family life - and there is always more that unites us as parents than divides us, despite the many different choices we make in the detail.

Happy schooling makes for happy kids, wherever that classroom might be. And on that note, I wish you all an inspiring and educational week ahead, full of cool facts, light-bulb moments and the joy of learning something new. 

 

Swinging Bubes and Full Frontal Flashes: The Many Ways Kids Can ShameTheir Mothers In The Supermarket

7-11 says to leave your kids in the car while you go shopping. Vintage 1966 Ad

Leave the youngsters in the car! Vintage ad from Pinterest

Recently my homies at Mamabake asked their Facebook group how their kids had embarrassed them in the supermarket. Some of the answers had me snorting like a buffalo.

Here’s a selection:

“Just last week, my 3.5 year old pulled down my pants AND undies to my knees, while I was talking to a friend. I was holding two takeaway coffees, one on top of the other, so when my pants were around my knees, and my unkept vag and bum was out for half of Tuggeranong to see, I dropped them on his head, while trying to pull them up. He wasn’t burned, luckily.”

“I grabbed some feminine hygiene packets and miss 4yo said at the top of her lungs “are you getting your bandaids for your undies mum?”

“When I was pregnant with my second recently, my 3 year old told an older lady at the checkout that babies come out your bum hole…”

“My 3 yr old daughter yelled out at top of her voice mummies got a big fat gyna !”

“My 3yo gave me a big hug around my waist, buried his head in my crotch and loudly declared, “I can smell your vagina”. Awkward!”

“Pointed to a dude with an eyepatch and called him Captain Feathersword.”

“Grabbed a box of tampons ând at the top of her voice asked if i needed some of these to go up my bottom.”

I wrote about shopping with young T-Bone once.

Recently, searching the aisles for some random item, I spotted a young shelf-packer. ‘Excuse me, ‘I said, rolling up to him with T-Bone in the toddler seat. ‘Do you know where…?’  Shelf-Boy looked up, and in that moment, T-Bone reached out and pulled my top down to my waist, exposing a full expanse of once-white bra. Time slowed.

I grappled with T-Bone, simultaneously proud and horrified that he seemed to have developed the grip of a professional walnut-cracker. The moment was interminable.  ‘Never mind,’ I eventually choked out and drove on, knockers out and waving in the wind, to the muted strains of Michael Buble. It’s true that Keith and I like to call the Canadian crooner ‘Swinging Bubes’, but on that occasion T-Bone really took things a step too far.

And my big girl Peanut (eight this weekend! Eight!) had some epic moments in her toddler-hood. Apart from that one time she lifted my top and shared with the butcher ‘Look! Very fat!’, there was one meltdown that I handled staggeringly badly.

One memorable day, Peanut– aged two – threw the worst tantrum she’d ever had. It went for forty full minutes. In between shrieking fits, she did quiet moaning exercises, gathering energy for the next attack. I tried desperately to ignore it all, and as it wound down into small hiccoughing gulps, attempted some positive psychology.  ‘Peanut, you’ve done a good job controlling yourself for the last few minutes. If you can keep up this happy behavior you can have a balloon from the lady at the door.’ On the way home, with my Stern Voice on, I said ‘Peanut, that was very, very naughty, what you did at the shops. What was going on there?’ Peanut was happy to talk though what she learned. ‘I did cry and cry and cry, ‘ she said thoughtfully. ‘And then Mummy did give me a balloon.’

You can’t win. I comfort myself with the sure knowledge that I will taste my sweet revenge when they are teenagers, as I dance along to Starship in the frozen food section.

Check out the full Mamabake thread here.

Sex Tips From History: Hair-Sniffing and Cat-Nipping in 1936

It’s Wednesday!  Time for some historical saucytime.

Let’s travel back to 1936 today, to peruse an advice manual called ‘How To Make Love’ by Pietro Ramirez Sr. What a name. Can’t you just imagine that name being whispered in your ear by a swarthy lover with hair smelling of pipe smoke, checking that nobody is nearby as he talks about himself in the third person…

Oh my.

Mr. Raminez!

Senior!

I came across this 1930′s manual in Maria Popova’s always-good Brain Pickings, where Popova outlines Ramirez’s specific pashing instructions. Nudge your untended into a corner of the couch, he says, making sure she is wedged in by the arm of the sofa. And then ‘tell her she is beautiful. Then take a deep sniff of the perfume in her hair and comment on it. Tell her that the odor is like “heady wine.” Tell her that her hair smells like a garden of roses. Tell her anything, but be sure to tell her something complimentary. This done, it is only a natural thing for you to desire to sink your nose deeper into her hair so that you can get the full benefit of its bouquet.’

Be gentle, Ramirez warns. Use, in fact, ’the same gentleness as would a cat lifting her precious kittens.’ Then, with ‘a series of little nips,’ nuzzle until you feel ‘a strange stiffening of her shoulders under your arm.’

It’s dated, hilariously so at times, Popova says, but the gift of hindsight means that ‘we come to see the natural arc of ideas as they pass from scandalous propositions to cultural givens to outdated norms, and in the process we remember that even the ideas that rile our greatest political convictions today will one day become fossils of progress in a more evolved culture.’

It still contains gems that ring true to marriage today, as ever.

Understanding your lover is something that is required of you if your love affair is to continue to marriage. Realize that no one is perfect and that each of us is likely to err. If the faults irritate you, remember, try to remember the things about your lover that have made him so lovable to you. Balance of the bad with the good. See the big things only and let the little things go hang. Or else, if you discover some shortcomings in your lover that disturb you, think back on your own shortcomings and realize that, the things about him that are annoying to you are just as bad as the things about you that are annoying to him.

Read the full review of How To Make Love at Brain Pickings here. Also from 1936, Popova’s review of the book ‘The Art Of Kissing’, which details “the spiritual kiss,” “the nip kiss,” “the pain kiss,” “the surprise kiss,” “the eyelash kiss,” and “the French soul kiss.

As always, (imagine I am dropping my voice half an octave and holding eye contact just a few seconds too long here) happy Hump Day, and all the best with your climax.
xRach

Sex Tips From History: Masters and Johnson

Sex Tips From History: Sexual Positions, for Medievalists or Modern Multi-Taskers.

Sex Tips From 1972: The Hairy Joy Of Hairy Sex

Sex Tips to Avoid (doughnuts, forks.) 

Great Stuff to Watch, Read and Listen To This Week

Meet the Mutzes: 1943

February 1943. “Moreno Valley, Colfax County, New Mexico. Dinnertime on George Mutz’s ranch.” from the Shorpy Historical Archive. 

What’s the haps this week, comrades? Full speed term-time around here. One kindy boy who is fully exhausted and ready for his school year to be over, and one seven year old with a birthday in ONLY SIX MORE DAYS, MUM!! Children obsessed with poo and genitals. Keith fighting a cold. I really, really  need to book a leg wax. Banana bread for afternoon tea.

Business as usual!

Some good stuff to check out this week if you’re looking for diversion:

Listen: Mekong Delta Sunrise by Australian hip-hop collective Astronomy Class., which samples Cambodian pop music fro the 50′s and 60′s. (Check out a bit here too.)

Read: Operating Instructions By Anne Lamott – a lovely present for an expecting Mum, and a charming, funny read about a grumpy ex-alcoholic single mother who finds herself surprised and delighted by her newborn’s first year.

Watch: Monkey Grip, available on iView. (Non- Aussie readers might need a workaround to view this one.) This superb ode to hairy armpits, bralessness and 70′s bohemianism, all set to a Chrissie Amphlett soundtrack, is is adapted from the book by Helen Garner.  Watch the film, and then watch this excellent making-of documentary, which features the wonderful Ms Garner as well many of the real-life people the book’s characters were based on.   They tell of being arty inner-city young adults, post-Pill and pre-Aids, grappling with feminism and open relationships and community parenting.

Happy Monday folks! Take off your bra, why don’t you. Relax-ay-voo.

x

Mental Health Week: My Story

A long, long time ago, when I was a sprightly 24 year old fresh out of unimaversity, holding fierce Opinions about Things and dressed in op-shop grunge, I had an encounter with the deck of a speedboat that broke my (already fused and bolted like a bionic lady) spine.

A year or so followed, mostly spent in bed, and then a year or so running a cafe with my mum and my sister. Throughout it all my boyfriend and I broke up – slowly, the worst way.

I was in a lot of pain, a lot of the time, and even though there were wonderful moments, like when my sister Sam poured a 4 kilo bucket of beetroot on her head during the lunch rush, or when, at noon, the three of us would turn on the little TV and imitate Kerry Anne Kennerly’s Midday Show dance-walking entrance, they were not, overall, happy days.

Sam and I lived in a little house on the corner of a highway. We didn’t answer the phone, and sometimes we hid when people knocked on the door. I threw up in the shower every morning, and I felt like I would never have a normal life. Sam was such a good friend and help to me, but she was struggling with her own demons too.

I was pretty fucking depressed.

Twenty years on, I feel incredibly lucky. In lots of ways I’m living the fairy tale ending I never expected – here I am; three kids, busy life. No wheelchair. No more surgery. A level of pain that I can manage to mostly ignore.

My depression was grinding and awful, but I am lucky enough that I have never had to grapple with it since. I’ve been lucky. According to the Black Dog Institute, one in five Australians experience a mental health issue every year. I’ve worked as a trauma counsellor, face to face, and I’ve worked as a volunteer for Lifeline too. I’m had many, many conversations with people who felt that their mental illness was preventing them from living their best life. And in my personal life, I don’t think I have any friends who have not had some experience of anxiety or depression.

This week is Mental Health Week, and the ABC here in Australia has done an incredible job of programming across radio and television to extend the conversation  about mental health. The show ‘Changing Minds‘, filmed inside the locked ward of Liverpool Hospitals Mental Health Unit, is a fantastic watch. I cried every ten minutes, both at the bravery and struggle of the patients, and the kindness of the doctors. On the radio, All in The Mind has been exploring schizophrenia and Richard Fidler has been interviewing guests about their stories of mental illness all week.

As the wonderful Dr Cross from Liverpool Hospital put it (I’m paraphrasing him): ‘Mental illness cuts across class, race, age and gender. It can affect any one of us.’

Let’s look after each other. Let’s value kindness and compassion. Let’s keep bringing the conversation out of the darkness.

Lifeline – call, 247,  to talk to a trained counsellor on 13 11 14

Black Dog Institute: Check out their website for many wonderful resources.

 

The Evil Parental Shape-Shift That Occurs Between 7.28 and 7.32 pm

7.28pm: nurturing Gaia mother of milky goodness:

Here my precious darlings, books are finished, have your milk, you’ve had a wee, teeth are cleaned, let me tuck you in, may fairies sing you to your dreams, I love you more than the moon loves the etc etc.

7.32pm: Hellwitch:

Child – Mummy, Daddy, my hair hurts

Mother – Oh dear god, what the what the WHAT, no, no, no, back to bed we are not doing this tonight no excuses this is ADULT TIME NOW, out! out! (head spins in circles, eyes glow green, etc).

Three Great Interviews To Listen To While You Fold The Laundry Or Groom Your Pubis.

1. This interview by Richard Fidler with investigative journalist Kate McClymont is a cracker. McClymont recently wrote the book ‘He Who Must Be Obeid’, the story of the rise and crashing fall of Eddie Obeid, disgraced Australian politician and powerbroker.  It is a very Sydney story of corruption and power, full of ‘and then what happened?!?!’ moments, and MyClymont tells it fabulously well.  Obeid asked her to dinner once, trying, McClymont says, to bring her into his fold and convince her to stop writing damaging newspaper articles.  ’Great!’ she replied. ‘I’ll be sure to bring my food taster!’

2. This Hilary Clinton interview from the BBC Woman’s Hour , where Clinton talks about her role shaping US foreign policy, led me to this this 2003 interview from the archives, where she discusses Bill’s infidelity and her own political ambitions. What an interesting person she is.

3. I’ve talked before about how much I love Lena Dunham.

Lena Dunham's new collection of personal essays about her relationships, friendships and obsessive-compulsive disorder has received rave reviews.

Here,  Terri Gross from the long-running NPR culture podcast Fresh Air talks to her about her new essay collection ‘Not That Kind Of Girl.’  Terri Gross often makes me laugh. She is earnest and endearingly awkward, no matter who she’s talking to. Dunham is thoughtful and candid.  It’s a fun listen. Happy laundry folding/washing up/amateur taxidermy session!