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Taking Stock

Like Pip, I’m taking a minute to stop, smell the roses and capture a little of this moment in time.

Reading: White Eskimo, the story of polar explorer and super-hottie Knud Rasmussen, who mapped and explored Greenland in the early 20th century. I love a good explorer tale – ( here I’ve written a list of some good Man Vs Wild books, and here a list of some women adventurers). Rasmussen is very cool, and also, SO PRETTY.

Come on! Imagine that face, speaking Greenlandic through a mouthful of whale blubber, and you have my dreams.

I’m also loving Edmund White’s ‘Inside a Pearl: My Years In Paris’ ; ‘Life Below Stairs: True Lives of Edwardian Servants’ and re-reading the Amanda Foreman biography of Georgiana, Duchess of Devonshire, one of my all-time favourite women of history.  The kids and I are reading Dahl’s Danny, The Champion Of The World.  (So lovely. One of his best.)

Eating: A lot of what we call ‘horses dinners’ – a sort of random snacking plate.  I don’t like to advertise on the social medias when Keith is away, but he’s been in China. I’m in the single mother zone and there are  and Wagon Wheels and Coke in the fridge. Nuff sed. He’s back now. Roast lamb appeared in celebration.

Watching: Things have been quite fraught around here, to be honest. My father-in-law is very sick, Keith is stressed and sad and busy. I was so buggered after he left last week  that I watched Sex and The City 2, just to see if the movie was as bad as I remembered, and it was, of course, WORSE, even, unbelievably, comically bad. Then, later, I found myself watching Sex and The City 1, just to see the progression of shame. So weirdly reminiscent of some pre financial-crisis, gone-forever time, I told my Wagon Wheel.

Also, I went down a delightful rabbit hole of Tate Studio vids on Youtube, and some Vogue 73 Questions (Sarah Jessica’s house is gorgeous, Iggy Azalea is a weird fembot). The kids and I have been enjoying watching Catalyst archives while we eat our horses dinners.

I watched Marley and Me with the girls – beware! Don’t try this before bedtime! The last twenty minutes are tragic. I didn’t see it coming (I’m sharp like that) and it took me forever to calm them down enough to go to bed.  FYI – when you have two daughters sobbing on either side of you, don’t say  ’It’s really OK! All dogs die! Everything dies!’ It does not help the situation.

Resting: my head on the electrical tape the holding my bath together while I dream about interior design projects of the future. (All in good time, grasshopper.)

Sharing: my bed with the children, who take it in turns to ‘be Daddy’ when Keith is away. This means they get to tuck up in the big bed, so important and special, at bedtime, and then I tell them ‘now, prepare to get cuddled in your sleep.’ Frankly, it’s a moot point, whose turn it is to be Daddy, because by the early hours, all three of them are in the bed. They press up so tight against me that I feel as though I am in some sort of old-timey prison cell where there is not quite enough room for us all to lie down together and at some signal we all must turn over at the same time. It’s terrible and lovely – they are so cuddly and warm, their strong little arms and legs so gorgeous – but it is also painful and hideous.

Also, wee.

Pondering: Whether the hat I bought is wrong. In the shop it read ‘boho’ and now it is reading ‘Amish’. Hats! You kill me, Hats.

Listening: Two Dope Queens. Yaaaaas! Also, the Carol soundtrack.

Trying: Not to touch anything on the backseat floor of my car. It has moved beyond disgusting to scientifically interesting.

Laughing: at the children. ‘What you thinking about T-Bone?’ ‘I was imagining what disgusting sandwiches I could feed the dog if we ever get one.’

Scrambling: Under last minute instructions: I need this note signed today. I need a superhero costume for the morning. I need to finish my speech before bed. I need my old soccer socks for tomorrow.

Honestly, this guy captures the tone so perfectly! God this made me laugh.

Writing: Not much. The Mumming has been intensive.

Planning: to get started on my embroidery project. I just need a hoop for the K Dog and I have everything else ready to go. I’m looking forward to some winter fun listening to podcasts about Donald Trump and doing embroidery with my boyfriend.  Once he gets home from his Talking From My Balls mens group on Thursdays, that is. Of course.

Making: A long-overdue photo book of our Tasmanian adventures (and thinking I should really include that story about the topless gardener, which still cracks me up.)
Appreciating- Keith getting home safely. All’s well with my world again. Although, even less room in the bed.

Respecting: As always, when Keith is away, single mothers. You are amazing!

 

 

How are you? What are you watching, reading, avoiding, marinating? I hope you and your beloveds are well and happy out there. x

Bad Buddhist

I haven’t been around here much. I’ve been too busy being disgusting. A mother cockroach scurried out of my linen cupboard last week and when I had a closer look, I  found some big brown balls. Heart in mouth,  I did a Google image search on ‘cockroach eggs’.

Nooo!

Each one of those little bastards can hold FIFTY EGGS.

I had to empty out the whole cupboard (yay! Fun times with laundry!) and in the end, I found about fifteen eggs. ERMERGERD SAH SAH GROSS. Dr Google said that I should bash the eggs with a hammer – if I threw them away, they’d just hatch in the bin. While emptying the cupboard the mother cockroach appeared and tried to make a run for it down the hall.

I chased her and squashed her under my boot and it was awful. Since having children I can’t kill living creatures. Even the ugly ones have mothers. But I did, I chased her, I murdered her and I wailed the whole time like a crazy lady. ‘OH I”M SORRY EWWWWW I”M SORRY’

Then I took all the little egg babies out to the front steps and killed them with a hammer.

I’m not finished. That afternoon, all five us of covered our heads with evil insect-killing lotion and  murdered a whole bunch of lice.

Unfollow me if you must after this. I understand. You probably thought I was a reasonable lady, not a serial killer. At the very least, a terrible Buddhist.

Hey! Come round for sleepovers!

Guys?

Guys?

Finite And Fleeting Moments

(Last Days Of Shanghai, 1949, Life Archives )

I love this useful bit of mental arithmetic, especially during the school holidays!

“In the course of each bedtimes bedlam, try to see into the future. The next time the clamour crescendos, but before the din dims, imagine your biological parenthood clock wound forward to the time they have grown and left home. Picture their formerly tousled bedrooms as neat, clean and empty. See the tidy backseat of the car, vacuumed and without crumbs or Cheerios. Playroom shelves neatly stacked with dusty toys. Laundry under control. Then wind the imaginary clock back from the future to now, and see those moments of mayhem for what they are, finite and fleeting moments. Never to be reproduced. Precious.”

Dr. Harley Rotbart

The Near Poo Episode

From the book I’m writing, here’s a chapter. It’s in draft stage, not tidied and completed.  There’s stuff I’m trying to explore that is deeper, more serious and intense, stuff about identity and pain and motherhood, but this is not it; rather, here we have a charming tale of the time I nearly pooed my pants at Aldi.

I feel nervous! But I’d love any feedback you guys have. Thanks. x

 

It’s sad, but years of growing humans who won’t let me sleep are taking their toll on my face. There are lines getting etched in there that I can no longer cover up, and the greys are taking over my head. When I let the roots of my wild brown hair grow out I look like an old witch. Add that to the permanent cranky-frown between my eyebrows and it’s probably just a matter of time until the local children are afraid to pass my driveway in case I run out to hit them with sticks.

Having kids has taught me my place in the evolutionary totem pole. Keith and I have replicated ourselves (and added a spare)and so our usefulness is over. What need now for a fresh face and perky young buttocks? What point trying to trap a mate? Move along now, Mother Nature is clearly telling us. The new generation is here, and your time in the sun has passed.

In lots of ways Keith and I are super happy to be settling into mid-life. I feel like I partied enough as a youngster, prolonging my adolescence well into my twenties, and even (cough, pathetic fist-bump!)my thirties. I’ve done my time interpretive dancing on bar-tops and throwing up into pot plants. I don’t long for more freedom, or miss nights on the town. Life on the couch with a cup of tea, a bag of nuts, Netflix and a kindly physicist to cuddle is as rich as I ever hope to be. I hope I can do this until the curtains come down.

But getting older brings up a lot of fears for me about health. My chosen method of dealing with health problems is denial, and it’s getting harder. Middle age approaches loudly. I see it in the mirror with my creases and lines and I feel it in my creaky old bones. I can hear it coming: tea at 4pm, complaints about young people, a slight whiff of Eau D’Incontinence (say that one out long with a French accent; you’ll be glad you did.) For me, my fears centre around my back and its inorexable decline into crunchy rigidity, but every once in a while I am served a preview of what other joys might be in store as my body falls apart. I get one of those hints this week when I nearly shit my pants at the supermarket.

Normally, an Aldi shopping trip is a low-to-medium grade thrilling event for me. It’s pretty impossible to get out to the real shops with three small kids in tow, so Aldi, with it’s middle aisles of fantasy, is as good as it gets these days.

Depending on the state of the household budget, I sometimes have to put the invisible blinker on. This prevents me from looking left or right and keeps my mind solely on spaghetti bolognaise and blueberry porridge, but today, we’re in a great mood and grabbing our fun where we can. A trip to Town! What ho! How spiffing!

George is in the baby seat, Ted inside the trolley and Ivy wandering at my side. Everybody is in a delightful state of equilibrium, all the more precious for its rarity – all kids sufficiently fed and toileted to give us half an hours time free of the demands of the body. Even the baby! It’s wonderful.

We travel the aisles and I muse aloud.

‘Shall we make some little burgers, kids? This organic mince looks nice. Tacos?’

The baby gurgles, Ted mutters nonsense and Ivy chats to herself about Charlie and The Chocolate Factory. Everybody’s happy. I am too, except for a slight gassy pain in my tummy. I try to fart silently (one of the greatest blessings about having children is that there is always somebody to blame for bad smells, which gives parents incredible gastro-intestinal freedom). It helps a little, that release, and I turn my attention back to the shopping and pick up my pace a little.

I take us up the final aisle. Eggs, frozen blueberries, orange juice. I pause at the fish freezer. ‘What do you think about these prawns, Ivy? Are they from one of those anti-biotic Vietnam fish farms, or are they maybe OK?’

Ivy likes being consulted about these things, and she is thoughtful for a moment.

‘Great, I think Mummy,’ she says but I’m not listening. I’ve been suddenly hit with a desperate need to go to the toilet. Specifically, I need to poo. And even more specifically, to poo Right This Second.

I breathe through what appears to be some sort of bum labour pain, and when I can walk, push the trolley at speed towards the checkout. Party’s over. Time to get out of here.

‘Do you have a toilet?’ I ask an assistant as I pass by. He gazes at me with his dead eyes. ‘Across the road, behind the car park,‘ he says.

He may as well be suggesting Uzbekistan. I thank him through gritted teeth, make it to the checkout and start unloading my trolley.

There is an art to shopping at Aldi. Heavy things first. Fragile stuff last. Get it all up on the moving track and then start refining, adjusting and finessing, all before the checkout assistant actually starts ringing up your goods. When that begins, you move immediately to the position behind your trolley and as the products are flung at athletic speed you catch and arrange them, so the eggs are not smashed, the feta is not leaking on the gluten-free olive foccacia and you can create a flat platform on which to rest your Outdoor Room Daybed on the top (you have, of course, failed to block the temptations of the middle aisle.)In silent partnership, you work with the checkout assistant to beat some invisible and utterly pointless speed grocery record.

Today, I am incapable of managing any of these Aldi Athletics. Rather than thinking about the Tetris-style game, I am totally focused on not shitting myslef. It is actually that bad. A vision leaps to mind. A meerkat sticking it’s head out of the cave to look around.

‘Just get to the car’, I tell myself, breathing deeply. ‘You can shit yourself in the privacy of your own car.’

The pain and pressure in my belly is intense. Farting is no longer an option. I can easily blame a bad smell on the children, but the inevitable follow-through would leave physical evidence on my own pants, and it would be much harder to blame that on the baby.

I can feel beads of sweat on my forehead as I throw items into the trolley, willy-nilly. Should I just run? Abandon the shopping? This is tempting, but really, creates more problems for me in the long run. We need nappies. Snacks. Dishwashing liquid. Possibly, specialty adult undergarments for what may be an ongoing health issue. If I don’t pick up these things, the delicate balance of my small household will fall apart and all will be chaos. ‘You can shit in the car’, I remind myself, breathing through this yogic mantra like a Buddhist in intestinal crisis.(What would the Dalai Lama do?) “You can shit in the car. You can shit in the car.’

The baby is whimpering, Teddy is asking for an apple and the supermarket is busy and noisy. But all of these things have faded to a background hum behind the mantra pulsing in my ears.

Don’t. Poo. Your pants.

Don’t. Poo. Your pants.

I am transported to a daydream, a future reality, where I have, somehow, ended up with colitis, or irritable bowel syndrome, or Crohns disease. My bum, which has before always ticked along, barring the occasional codeine-constipation or gastro episode, really successfully.

I’ve never really had bum or gut problems before. I’ve never appreciated the smooth running of my downstairs lounge. Is this the start, I think in panic. Is it? Is that what’s going to start happening now? Sudden urgent bum crises? Am I going to have to pack adult nappies and spare pants for me too, as well as all the little bastards?

This future, she is grim.

But finally, at least, the shopping is all rung up. It’s a devastating mess in that trolley, but not in my trousers. I pay the lady, who must be wondering what kind of mental demons I am struggling with as I blink and sweat while I work the card machine. I drag the trolley awkwardly out to the car park,legs trotting spastically like a marathon runner in lactic overload.

‘Get in!’ I squeak at the children. Once we are all in the car, I release a glorious, cleansing fart. It’s probably the best fart of my life. I am fully prepared for terrible things to come once I have opened those sphincter gates, but – miracle of miracles! – there is no follow-on effect.

Sitting in this private box, having made it through what seemed with every passing second to be certain humiliation, I feel elated. I still need, desperately, to shit, but I am not going to do it in public. It’s a near-poo experience, I made it through, and both my dignity and my trousers are unsullied. ‘Let the records show that Mummy has avoided middle-aged humiliation for one more day,’ I announce to the children. ‘Let’s go home.’

I don’t always feel in control of my life and my direction as a Mum. I frequently question my decisions. I wish very much that I was better at different parts of the job, and some days all I can see are my failings. But, just like when my mother-in-law said to me that the key was to just keep the children alive until the end of the day, sometimes you have to celebrate the small wins of life.

My name is Rachael, I am a mother of small children, and today, I did not shit my pants in the supermarket.

 

Honest School Notes #9

God there’s heaps on my to-do list this week. Photo source

This post was first published in Practical Parenting Magazine, February 2016

 

Dear Office,

I’m sorry the children were late for school this morning. I am as surprised as you are, to tell you the truth, because I made a chart for the children to help with the school-run, and I thought that would fix the problem. Shockingly, this Morning Chart did not work.

We’ve been away for five weeks, as you know, Office.  I’m transitioning from Road Life, where everything is managed on the fly and clean undies are just some kind of fancy dream, to Real Life, where every day I have to bang out lunchboxes and spare clothes and signed paperwork for three small children.

I know I’m no rocket scientist, Office. But I’m ashamed to admit that the school run feels just a hair beyond my skill set. Yesterday morning, our first day back at term, was a shambles.  I couldn’t find the hats, which is fairly standard, but I also struggled to find shirts, trousers, shoes, socks, underpants, bags, water bottles and my will to live.

I finally packed all the school stuff, but then four-year-old Pudding started to cry. She had lost Elsa, the dead caterpillar she had been keeping in a Tupperware container, and she had set her heart upon showing Elsa for news at day-care.  We ransacked the bedrooms looking for the poor creature and finally found her in the laundry basket, under the school hats. (Double win!)  I strapped the girls in the car, and then realised that seven year old T-Bone had taken his shoes off and gone back to bed to read Zombie Bums From Uranus.

I took action, Office. After the drop-off, I picked up a powerful laparkan.com/buy-tadalafil/ wand of organisational magic (new texta) from the corner shop and created a Chart when I got home. I ignored the towering piles of road-trip unpacking and washing. The school run had so unsettled my holiday equilibrium that Chart took priority over all else. ‘The Happy, Chilled-Out, No-Stress Morning Checklist’ I titled it. My husband Keith raised one eyebrow at this. ‘The kids are already totally chilled out,’ he said. ‘You’re the only one that’s stressed.’

This is true. The kids are oblivious as the clock creeps ever forward to nine am, and so is Keith. He’s just as likely to try and squeeze in a quick piano lesson as check teeth-cleaning status.  I’m the one with mayonnaise in my hair and an eye-twitch.

I attacked Chart with zeal. Clean teeth! I wrote. Make Bed! Find Hat! Put Lunch in Bag! I added cheery exclamation points to all these tasks in order to add a sense of zany fun to the whole sordid exercise. And then I pinned all my hopes and dreams to the bloody thing. This morning: chaos as ever, with the added addition of my screeching ‘Check your chart! Check your chart!’ as the children wandered about, free as sparrows, happy and unencumbered by responsibility of any kind.

I have a creeping suspicion that a Chart has never, ever been shown to actually work in the history of modern parenting, Office. Surely it cannot be so? Hopeless optimism maintained through all contrary reality is my primary parenting tool, Office. If I lose that, who am I?

Apologies again, Office. I’ll keep trying.

Yours sincerely,

Rachael Mogan McIntosh.

Honest School Notes #1

Honest School Notes #2

Honest School Notes #3

 Honest School Notes #4

Honest School Notes #5

Honest School Notes #6

Honest School Notes #7

Honest School Notes #8

Tribal Instincts

Published this week in Sunday Life Magazine, a look at modern parent subcultures. Missing here: the Mad Religious, the Drug-Addled, the Silly-Voiced, the Odd Smelling and many other tribes I couldn’t fit into a tidy little box.

THE BOBO TRIBE

Originally a French term, Bobo is a conflation of the term “bourgeois bohemians” and it describes a rising demographic found mostly in our inner cities. Often combining the high-tech with the natural, Bobos love gadgetry and artisanal products. For instance, they might use a wireless wristband to bio-hack their metabolic health while riding their vintage bicycle. Fashion is “normcore”, or intentionally understated. Bobos are defined largely by food: veg is organic, grains are bad, nuts are activated, juice is green and coffee is cold-drip. Their diet may be raw vegan, paleo or 5:2. Don’t worry, you will find out which within the first few minutes of conversation.

Superpowers: Fermentation, free-boobing, beardiness, acro-yoga, ironic tattoos and superb gastro-intestinal health.

Armour: Kefir water, chemical-free sunscreen, gluten-free DSLR camera, chia seed mini-muffins in bento box.

Sample statement: ”Bugger, CrossFit ran so late I forgot to feed my kombucha mother. Can anybody give me a dink back to Tamarama?”

THE NO-NONSENSE TRIBE

Breathtakingly capable, these parents sign readers, attend committees, and return school forms on time and free of mystery stains. Even the car of the No-Nonsense Parent is clean, which goes beyond the capability of 85 per cent of parents with small children. They separate their whites and darks. Both the women and the men are impressively groomed, hairless as Sphinx cats, and often highly sporty.

Handbags and satchels contain items for every occasion (wet wipes, tweezers, night-vision goggles, etc.) Spag bol is cooked in large batches to keep the busy work week humming smoothly. They are actual, proper grown-ups – and the P&C Federation would crumble without them.

Superpowers: Fundraising skill, death stares, ability to raise a single (beautifully arched) eyebrow,excellent information retention, household-management systems.

Armour: Premium-grade iPhone scheduling app, clothes iron, insomnia, low-level anxiety disorder, complete inability to say no, buttocks like two puppies fighting under a blanket, the pale eyeballs of the terrifyingly healthy.

Your best opening line: ”I am not worthy.”

THE HOT-MESS TRIBE

Hot-Mess Parents often sport a fashion look best described as “shagged through a hedge backwards”. They arrive late, dishevelled and confused. School bags contain unsigned forms and rogue “crunch and sip” elements. Children and/or parents may have head lice.

Tears and coffee mingle on yesterday’s trousers as Hot-Mess Parents race to soccer training, only to realise they have packed the Irish dancing bag.

They are, frankly, all over the place like a madwoman’s poo-poo. By week eight of the school term, the percentage of parents who have shifted tribes from All-Business to Hot-Mess is high.

Superpowers: Pulling it together at the last minute, lightness of spirit, excellent blood pressure and incredible scrispering (scream-whispering) talent.

Armour: Three pens (none work).

Sample statement: ”Hat parade? What hat parade?”

Read the whole thing, if you’re interested , at Daily Life. 

In today’s news, Keith and I are off to a wedding up the coast. Sans kids, even (thank you, Mum and Dad.x)

Road trip! Road trip!! Road trip!!!!!!!

Happy weekend to you all.

x

The Heartbreak Of Being Human

This week I have been listening to the BBC World Service Daily Commute podcasts in my safe and comfortable house, as I wonder whether I have enough bread for sandwiches and where I put the hairbrush. I’ve cried as I have listened to the stories of the many tens of thousands of refugees streaming into Germany and Austria, and the efficient Germanic machine that swung into place to feed and process and transport them all.

photo source)

Hundreds of  Germans waited to greet refugees at the train station, eager to show them a rousing welcome, and to volunteer to help with the incredible logistical task of managing this great tide of people.  It was so incredible moving to read and hear about.

The shared  anguish felt by so many  when that photo of drowned toddler Aylan was everywhere, inescapable, somehow set off this groundswell of compassion. It was a choir that drowned out the fearful and racist shouting that sometimes claims all the air, a choir so large that it  forced the political machinery to act. There was an incredible sense of shift, of the essential goodness of humanity taking centre stage for once. For once, the best of us, rather than the worst.

I felt wretched as Tony Abbott finally conceded that he would increase the Australian intake of Syrian refugees, but only by tinkering with the numbers, and not by opening our doors to more.

Today, I am so pleased to hear that Immigration Minister Peter Dutton has announced that we will take an extra 12, 000 Syrian refugees on top of our normal asylum-seeker intake. Hooray, government! In this moment, we are part of a compassionate response. Thank god.

I feel compelled to record the happiness I  feel in this moment, because it will be fleeting. Our home-land response to aylum-seekers remains despicable, and the deeper problems of wealth disparity and the great shifting movements of displaced people are  defining the 21st century. It’s hard to know where this will lead next. There seems little hope of an effective political solution. We’re extending our military commitment in Syria, along with many other countries. So the wars continue , and the refugees will keep coming.

At least, this week, the voice of compassion shouted louder than the voice of fear.

A Bookshelf post on trying to understand terrorism.  (I feel like I need to go back and read The Looming Towers again.)

This short film, so moving:

And this poem, ’Home’, by Warsan Shire 

 ”no one leaves home unless

home is the mouth of a shark
you only run for the border
when you see the whole city running as well

your neighbors running faster than you
breath bloody in their throats
the boy you went to school with
who kissed you dizzy behind the old tin factory
is holding a gun bigger than his body
you only leave home
when home won’t let you stay.

no one leaves home unless home chases you
fire under feet
hot blood in your belly
it’s not something you ever thought of doing
until the blade burnt threats into
your neck
and even then you carried the anthem under
your breath
only tearing up your passport in an airport toilets
sobbing as each mouthful of paper
made it clear that you wouldn’t be going back.

you have to understand,
that no one puts their children in a boat
unless the water is safer than the land
no one burns their palms
under trains
beneath carriages
no one spends days and nights in the stomach of a truck
feeding on newspaper unless the miles travelled
means something more than journey.
no one crawls under fences
no one wants to be beaten
pitied

no one chooses refugee camps
or strip searches where your
body is left aching
or prison,
because prison is safer
than a city of fire
and one prison guard
in the night
is better than a truckload
of men who look like your father
no one could take it
no one could stomach it
no one skin would be tough enough

the
go home blacks
refugees
dirty immigrants
asylum seekers
sucking our country dry
niggers with their hands out
they smell strange
savage
messed up their country and now they want
to mess ours up
how do the words
the dirty looks
roll off your backs
maybe because the blow is softer
than a limb torn off

or the words are more tender
than fourteen men between
your legs
or the insults are easier
to swallow
than rubble
than bone
than your child body
in pieces.
i want to go home,
but home is the mouth of a shark
home is the barrel of the gun
and no one would leave home
unless home chased you to the shore
unless home told you
to quicken your legs
leave your clothes behind
crawl through the desert
wade through the oceans
drown
save
be hunger
beg
forget pride
your survival is more important

no one leaves home until home is a sweaty voice in your ear
saying-
leave,
run away from me now
i dont know what i’ve become
but i know that anywhere
is safer than here”

We are warm and safe in our beds by accident of birth. Sheer,  dumb, incredible luck. May we never forget that.

Moody Bitches

An emotional moment, maybe regretted in the morning.
Woodstock, 1969, photo via Buzzfeed

You know, I have realised that whenever I have a PMT meltdown it is housework-related. I’ve written about it before.

Last week I had a terrible bout of ladymadness. Two long days of anxiety and quiet rage culminated in two long nights of insomnia, nightmares and a bout of midnight weeping – over the housework. The housework. Specifically, the way it stretched out before me like a lifetime curse.

Last week, we had two kid birthdays with all the parties, special dinners and present-managing that comes with them.  Also, one child home sick. So one of those intense family weeks. All went fine. Parties and presents and dinners: all excellent. Sick child: recovered.

Of course, a week like that means other balls get dropped a little. But last week I was also full of hormones, and the chaos seemed impossible, unmanageable. I felt like I was failing at everything. I couldn’t walk properly because I hiked up a cliff on the weekend, trying to emfitten myself, so there I was, limping around, tripping over the washing, swallowing the tears, baking the cakes.  All I could see were fails, everywhere.

Today I found this book called Moody Bitches at the library. It celebrates the tide of our moods thus:

Women’s hormones are constantly in flux. They ebb and flow over a month-long cycle and they wax and wane throughout decades of fertility, vacillating with particular volatility during adolescence and perimenopause, the spring and autumn of the reproductive years.

Our hormonal variations allow us to be empathetic and intuitive – to our environment, to our children’s needs, and to our partners intentions. Women’s emotionality is normal. It is a sign of health, not disease, and it is our single biggest asset.

Granted, it may have been hard for Keith to see my 2am  tears about the laundry as an asset, as I finally whimpered myself to sleep (a tale that is humiliating to recount.) ‘You know,’ he said very carefully at one point, ‘I know this feels very real, but it’s just your hormones.’

Yes.

And no.

The problem with that argument  is that when the eostrogen courses through your veins, you are irrationally emotional, but the issue is actually real. The catastrophe of it is manufactured, but the essence of it is real.

I do feel like fucking Cinderella.

I do spend all day getting the house in order only to have all my work trashed in five minutes.

I do see mundane chores filling the rest of my days.

I do find it incredibly hard to prioritise and manage my  back pain well when the everyday physicality of running a homestead leaves me sore and exhausted.

In the cold light of morning, that’s not such a big deal, of course, and every life is full of hard graft or one kind or another.

Saturday morning, eyeballs dry,  head aching, humiliation levels high; I slunk out of the house wearing a big hat. I avoided eye contact with humans and I went and saw Mission Impossible. Robotic Tom suited my mood. I ate chocolate bullets and slouched grumpily, and by Sunday night, I was recalibrated into my normal state. Thank Christ.

I am so grateful that the PMT beast only descends on me every few months. It would be so miserable if that happened every cycle. It’s goddamn exhausting feeling all those feelings. Dear readers, if you’re about to surf the crimson tide and your hormones are holding you hostage,  you have my sympathy. I know how you feel. (Half depressed, half-murderous.) Hang in there, moody bitches.

It’s an ASSET!

Wonderful Things To Watch With The Kids

We really are entering the electric blanket, couch-potato, glad-I-had-three-children-to-use-as-hot-water-bottles season. At the minute, the kids and I are all deeply in love with Horrible Histories. So goddamn funny. Here’s a sample of Historical Masterchef:

Or a soft-rock Viking track:

Honestly, it is so good. Here are a few more great clips to enjoy with the kids. Get under a blanket, cuddle up! Get the kids to work the controls! They are better at it anyway.

Easton LaChapelle is an inspiring seventeen year old robotic engineer. I love this kid.

Pandas on a slippery dip. Because pandas on a slippery dip.

Cool stuff – a tour of the International Space Station:

For specifics, a little tutorial on how to wash your hair in space:

And just because it’s glorious: astronaut Chris Hadfield sings Space oddity. In space.

Finally if,  like me, you have a Harry Potter fan in your house, they might like this clip of Daniel Radcliffe rapping. It is SO impressive!

Happy wintering. Stay warm out there.

The Quality Of Mercy.

(image via news.com.au)

Like so many of you, I am incredibly saddened today by the deaths of Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran.

I’ve felt very torn about it in recent weeks.

Luckily, I’ve not seen the memes and comments that I know have been circulating – people angry, baying for blood, supporting the execution.I am lucky not to have such commentary pop up in my orbit, although I know those voices are noisy.

Rather, I’ve been initially confused and latterly moved by the outpouring of sympathy I saw for Myuran and Andrew.

These two men willingly organised and participated in illegal activity in a country that clearly warned of the death penalty. The drugs they smuggled had the potential to ruin many lives, even to kill. Stories of the boys as younger men painted pictures of them that set off all my red flags: Andrew was a ‘bully’ at school. Myuran studied mixed martial arts and was said to have an ‘explosive’ temper.

I couldn’t understand the sympathy. I couldn’t get on board. Even though I would  never have publicly voiced support for their execution – anybody’s execution – I also didn’t publicly support my many, many friends who voiced their sympathy either. I just stayed out of the debate.

I talked to my mum, who is so compassionate, and who stood for mercy. I tried to understand her position but I could not get past the fact that they went willingly. They were the architects of their own destiny.  They chose the behavior that ended in the predicted result. They were…bad boys. I felt uncomfortable with how we all seemed to be enforcing our values, our laws upon another sovereign nation. I quietly wrestled with my feelings.

Today, I am so sad.

I see things differently.

They were clearly such lost boys, Andrew and Myuran. Stories of both their early lives are similar in tales of aimlessness,  drugs and oblivion-seeking,  an inability to fit easily into the world around them. They were unformed and troubled.  They were, in fact, like many of us at that age. In neurological terms, the frontal cortex is not fully developed until about age 25, and the last of the higher functions to develop are critical – a sense of maturity in judgement; insight; a sense of consequences.

Who among us didn’t so stupid stuff at twenty three? Make awful decisions? Just get away with stuff by the skin of our teeth?

The behavior of Andrew and Myuran in jail demonstrates a maturity and responsibility that were there, latent, yet to show themselves at the time of their arrest. Yes, they did huge social damage in their early lives. But in the ten years since, they showed themselves capable of good judgement, of remorse, and of responsibility and insight. In fact, as their adult personalities emerged, Andrew was a empathetic and kind spiritual leader to others in the jail, and Myuran was an astonishingly accomplished artist.

‘Success is cumulative,’ said Myurna to his cousin Dharminie Mani (via news.com.au) ‘No one wakes up successful. It takes hard work behind the scenes where no one else can see. It starts when you set yourself goals, you make sure you do something small everyday.’

Their deaths achieve nothing (other than some diplomatic difficulty yet to play out.) But their lives were, over the last ten years, achieving much, even in jail. How much more could they have offered as mentors, pastors, artists and cautionary tales, had they not been killed yesterday?

I feel heartsick for their families, and I am glad to be Australian today, where the overwhelming voices of our politicians and public speakers confirms that we are not cruel. We believe in redemption. We have compassion for the fact that people can make mistakes, and we believe that they can change. We are willing to operate within the grey area. We do not kill.

With all respect for the sovereignty of Indonesa, and the irrefutable fact that these two boys broke its laws and should be subject to their legal system, the death penalty is barbaric and utterly pointless. Joko Widodo had the opportunity to demonstrate compassion and vision this week, and he chose, instead, to kill.

“A nation’s greatness is measured by how it treats its weakest members.” ~ Mahatma Ghandi

Vale, Andrew and Myuran. May your deaths be a catalyst for change to this brutal system.