14 December 2012

A loyalty scheme that rewards me for being me. It’s a supermarket’s bread and butter.

I just signed up for a supermarket rewards program. 

I hate rewards programs. I joined one in the past, but then I realised I needed 50,000 points to get a $29 blender and it would take me 45 years to accrue that many, by which time I would be 67 years old and could hopefully afford my own blender, not to mention the fact that the points would have expired after the first three years. So I cancelled my registration. I have even come to cherish the two seconds of freedom and wind blowing through my hair as I casually answer “no” when the checkout person asks if I have this or that card.  

29 September 2012

Turned 30. Still, it could be worse

I just turned 30. In the week leading up to my birthday I put a colour in my hair, got a facial, and started wearing suncream every day like the beauty magazines advise. All of a sudden my DIY moisturisers (aloe vera, olive oil) just didn’t seem to be doing the job, and my knees hurt when I went for a run. Not to mention when I played netball against girls half my age. The furrow in my brow has signed a long-term lease rather than holiday letting and I am officially ineligible to apply for those competitions aimed at “youth” pursuing artistic or community projects. 

But I can’t be 30! When I look in the mirror I still see the same face I had when I was at uni, the same one I had when I got married. That girl wasn’t 30. I haven’t even learnt how to correctly apply my own makeup, or change a car tyre. Isn’t that something 30 year olds should know?  

What’s more, I’m not convinced that 30 is the new 20. Rather, this milestone looms in my mind like a cliff over which I will tumble and keep on tumbling until I get old. I have visions of myself as a crazy old nanna with muscly Madonna arms, a wrinkly body and my current face, only the skin is all saggy skin so it doesn’t fit properly. On that note, perhaps my mind is already going. 

But that’s all in the future. Right now I have a gorgeous son and a wonderful husband, who also happens to be turning 30 with me. I am comforted by the fact that he finds this event just as irksome as I do. He is noticing marks on the backs of his hands, going to bed earlier, and comments on how regularly he finds himself tuning to Classic FM these days.  

When you’re little, I’m talking primary school little, you have no idea what 30 year olds actually do. Well, it appears they do pretty much the same stuff as 20 year olds, only with higher health insurance premiums. We haven’t got a mortgage, high flying careers, bulging bank accounts or even a will. But we do have a lot of fun. Too much fun for a bunch of 30 year olds, I think. It’s probably best we settled down and started acting our age.  Now where’s that walking stick...

19 June 2012

I can see clearly now the dishes are clean

I'm starting to think that a little bit of hot water and a little bit of suds does more than just get egg off a frypan. In fact, the waters of your kitchen sink can hold deeper truths than a Dalai Lama quote on facebook. As dirty dishes are immersed and sparkling clean ones are raised up, they reveal more than simply what you had for dinner. It's WHO had what for dinner, and HOW. A microcosm of life at this particular instant in time.

Take my sink for example. Your standard one-large-one-small-plus-drainage-area kitchen sink, in your standard early-1990s-light-peach-with-cream-lino colour palette. Each day it gets filled with small, brightly coloured plastic bowls, of which I clearly don't own enough because I am forever washing the same ones. Floating under those are several small, multi-coloured plastic spoons, some with rabbits on the handles and others with heat-sensing rubber technology. Into the murky broth goes the stick part of the Bamix, some Tupperware containers, and I like to finish it off with a nice cheese grater or potato masher.

If I'm feeling celebratory, I might chuck in some wine glasses (pun intended, of course I wouldn't actually chuck them), but that's a rare occasion. There is the odd tea or coffee pot, but even these don't get to feature as much as they probably would like. Let's not even mention the juicer, which has not made it near the water's edge ever since I ran out of time to contemplate drinking fruit and vegetables instead of eating them.

Yep, I currently live at the Mini Meals capital of the world. On any given day there will be various flavoured soups and stews making their way between the stages of stove top, blender, ice cube tray, freezer, tiny bowl, microwave, tiny spoon and tiny mouth that make up the kitchen circuit. Sometimes we add extra stages, called hands, hair, ears and floor, which I try to avoid but my little munchkin quite enjoys.

I can recall a time when my drainage rack displayed a vastly different lifestyle. There were fancy cocktail glasses and espresso cups, steak knives and sushi mats. And these probably sat there for several days on either side of the clean/dirty divide because who has time to hang out in the kitchen when you're working full time and socialising every other moment.

If I look hard enough I can also see into the future through my sink. I can see school lunch boxes, sports bottles and endless cereal bowls. I wonder how many Weetbixes my boy will do? I'm smiling right now just thinking about it.

13 May 2012

Nasty nostalgia and the new life crisis

It can strike at any time.  When you’re driving in your car.  Or, for me, more often around 8.30 at night when I’m elbow deep in washing up water, while the microwave dings to announce that my frozen peas are ready and the washing machine fill cycle gurgles away in the background.  Nostalgia.  A wistful desire to return to a former time or place.  In my case, to the time before my gorgeous baby boy came along and altered not only my physical state, but my emotional, financial and social states as well. 
I’ve heard plenty of parents say that becoming a mother or father has changed them for the better.  It has helped them to realise that they are not the most important person in the world, or at least not anymore.  It makes them less selfish, more patient, more generous; which are all lovely attributes in a human being.  And all this from simply spending less time thinking about their own wellbeing, and more time looking after their child’s.  
Well, you might as well stone me right now, because I’m here to say that motherhood seems to have had the reverse effect on me!  I’m calling it my ‘new life crisis’.  We’ve had the mid life crisis and even the quarter life crisis, only this one isn’t brought on by reaching a certain age, but rather by grafting another life onto your own. 
Now that I have another human being to look after every hour of every day in every way, I have wrestled with my own life-changing thoughts.  Only problem is, instead of realising how selfish I was, I have been stung by nostalgia about how good my life used to be.  
Before you call the men in coats to lock me away, let me explain.  Having a child has made me realise that I have had the last 10 years of my life to myself.  I could do as I pleased, go where I pleased, when I pleased.  And now I belong to someone else.  Ok, not exactly an Einstein discovery, but a revelation nonetheless.  Having a baby has certainly made me re-evaluate my priorities, but instead of erasing my self-centredness, it has made me crave more of my own aspirations and desires than ever before.  
In this textbook case of new life crisis, I then get overcome by a feeling that I have wasted that time I had before.  Not realising the brevity of that stage of my life, did I fritter away weeks and years not really doing anything?  Not pursuing dreams that now seem so clear in my mind but so out of reach?  I could have been living it up like there was no tomorrow, taking extreme adventure holidays, working single-mindedly towards goals of career nirvana and world peace.
But here’s where nostalgia plays nasty tricks.  It distorts the past and fogs up reality to line up with your current mood.  And while doing the washing up late at night the mood usually isn’t too bright.  The reality is, in my twenties I DID do as I pleased.  I DID go on amazing adventures with amazing people.  I DID work hard to pursue dreams that I had at the time, even though they might not have led me to where I thought I’d be today.
As it turns out, the cure for new-life crisis is actually the same as the cause.  A new life has been started.  Both for my son and for me.  The self-prescribed treatment involves tackling this new direction as best I can with the tools I have at the moment, knowing all along that I might look back in another 10 years and wonder what on earth I was doing!  Life isn’t like Seinfeld, and there aren’t going to be any re-runs, so I’d better pay attention the first time around and leave the nostalgia in the past where it belongs.

31 March 2012

Blessings can come in the strangest packages

This week some strange things happened in our house. Not in a ghost-in-the-attic, Round The Twist kind of way. Each event was not even particularly remarkable on its own, but coming as they did, one after another, they eventually made me sit up and take notice.
It began when my office phoned to let me know about some extra work I might be interested in. After hours, they said. Possibly able to be done from my home computer, they said. As much or as little as I could fit in around my day-to-day mothering duties. I was thrilled and accepted right away. Not exactly mind-blowing, but still enough to make me a wee bit excited for the extra money I would be contributing to our single income family.
On Monday evening an informal jam session had been arranged with one of the singers from our church band. Just a casual practice at our place to go over a song that needed work. Our guest arrived and let herself in, walking into the kitchen carrying a container full of freshly made minestrone, still warm off the stove. She hadn’t been invited for dinner. She had already eaten and so had we. It was simply an offer of food from one family to another because they had plenty to spare. The soup smelt amazing, and Tim and I were grateful for the gesture (who wouldn’t be!), and promptly froze it for another day.
Then one day in the afternoon mail, a cheque arrived for some freelance marketing work I had done back in February. It wasn’t a huge sum of money, nor was it out of the ordinary, since, like most people, I expect to be paid for work I have done. But I welcomed it with open arms and rejoiced again some more.
The next day, I was walking at the beach when my phone rang. It was another freelance marketing job for the same employer. It was an urgent project which required a 24 hour turnaround. Thankfully I had no appointments the following day so I was able to commit my time to it with no interruptions, except an 8½ month old baby, don’t get me started…
By now I was beginning to take notice of the favour which seemed to be following me around. It wasn’t usually like this.
A few days later, Tim phoned me from the doctor’s surgery, having gone to have some stitches removed from a wart which had been cut out. We expected to have quite a bill to pay, since the initial surgery and the biopsy of the wart hadn’t yet been accounted for. Tim was over the moon. It had all been bulk billed! Who knows if that’s usual practice, but we smiled down the phone lines at each other anyway.
Later that night the penny dropped that these blessings weren’t simply random events, but had actually come at a particular time when we really needed them. Last week I had been doing our banking online, looking at the funds not-available in our account. I had two phone bills which were due that day, but not enough money to pay them. Had we suddenly, or rather over several months, become what tabloid news refers to as ‘battlers’? Urgh! Right there, at my computer, all I could do was pray to God for help. We clearly needed some.
Now I don’t know whether to be more pleased by the string of events, or by the fact that God heard my prayers and intervened through situations I had not even considered worthy of a second thought.

22 January 2012

A baby changes everything, including your clothes

What do salad dressing and baby spew have in common? They are both liquids. They are both related to the act of eating. They both also have a scientifically unproven talent for projecting themselves onto white silk shorts.
In my previous life as one half of a double-income-no-kids partnership, I freely purchased items of clothing as they appealed to me. The restrictions I placed on such items were few and flexible. Fit, budget and style factor were at the top of my list.
As if having a child hasn’t changed my life in enough ways already, I now realise that my clothes buying habits will also have to be altered. Last month’s shopping trip in Melbourne was the first one since the birth of my son, so naturally I was keen to try on anything that accentuated my waistline. Elastic-topped maternity jeans be gone! Since I had been living in stretchy yoga pants and any t-shirt old enough to be able to stretch over my baby belly, some high waisted white silk shorts presented themselves as the perfect candidate.
Looking back now, it must have been because my husband was looking after our son on said shopping trip, that I forgot that I am currently spending most of my days feeding, changing and bathing a spewy, dribbly, pooey infant. So I bought the shorts.
The first time I wore these magnificent, sumptuous shorts I was also hosting a BBQ at my house. I made all kinds of wonderful salads. And dressed them. With olive oil and soy sauce. And my shorts got in the way.
It could happen to anyone, I hear you laugh, if they are stupid enough to wear WHITE SILK shorts at a BBQ. But hey, the occasions to wear such precious items are significantly fewer these days. So, yes, I was wearing the white silk shorts.
Next stop: dry cleaners. A week or so later, having paid for my shorts to be fresh and white again, I lovingly brought them home and set them in the wardrobe, still in their plastic bag. The very next day I received a surprise phone call from my best friend, saying she’s flying up from Sydney for the day and wants to meet me for lunch.
It was perfect shorts-wearing weather, around 28° and sunny, and I donned my special shorts for only the second time as my son lay playing happily on his mat. Looking smashing, keys in hand, I scooped him up off the floor and onto my hip. As I headed for the door, his mouth opened and a cascade of vomit spilled over his lip and all over the two of us. Unobstructed by his denim overalls or my top, like a tiny white water rapid the vomit tumbled down all the way to my shorts.
I was so naive. Blinded and selfish even. Now I have one who cares nought for fine clothes and special occasions, but makes me smile more than those things ever could. Glamour is nothing. Practicality is everything.
If only the care label had read, “Do not wear in the company of small children”.

4 January 2012

Crossing Over

I’ve crossed over. Not in the creepy John Edwards TV show psychic sense, but in the child-becoming-adult sense. I know, I know. Didn’t I pass puberty about 15 years ago? But it seems there was one last bastion of childhood still remaining. Now I am even an adult when it comes to Christmas.

My first Christmas with my son officially marks the end of me as one of the children on Christmas Day, having gifts and food lovingly showered upon me by my parents and grandparents, with not much needed from me in return. I always gave presents too, of course, but I belonged to the youngest generation, the one at the end of the line. Now I am a parent, and my son has taken my place, in fact the place of all my siblings, in receiving the fun, joy and deliciousness that we have prepared for him.

This year we hosted Christmas at our house, which further cemented the transition of my husband and I from beneficiary to benefactor. We had a huge shopping list, we decorated the table, we organised the drinks esky, we even cooked the meat. The MEAT! Talk about responsibility. It was wonderful! Perfectly crackled pork with juicy flesh and sweet apricot stuffing… Oh, yes, and the feeling of our new found responsibility was awesome too.

We give and receive presents every year like normal people; choosing, wrapping, stacking them under the tree. But this year was different. The only presents that mattered were the ones marked “to Seth”, which outnumbered all other relatives at a ratio of about 5 to 1. It didn’t matter what the present was, we all leaned forward eagerly awaiting the look of wonder and fascination to cross his face when he ripped into the paper to find what lay inside. Then he would hit it (his current exploration technique), and we would all laugh and feel happy and declare it to be the best Christmas ever!

As a kid you are completely oblivious to the machinations behind putting on a such big celebration. The planning, budgeting, shopping and cooking. But I’ve just realised that that’s what makes it special. How many times have we said that giving is better than receiving? Well, I think giving the event, the production of Christmas, is even more rewarding than giving actual gifts. A gift will be opened and admired, and you will be thanked. You will probably even receive one in return.

On the other hand, the experience of a beautiful day will be shared and remembered, and there is no need to repay you in kind because it’s impossible to do. Just a face full of smiles, and you will happily do it again and again because you can. And because adults get to do whatever they want.