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Fear that goes bump in the night

What is fear?

I wonder what makes some of us more fearful than others. We seem to be born with a certain propensity towards being fearful or not. And, of course, being 'brave' is easy when you're not really afraid of anything. Being brave is much, much harder when you're worried about most things but you go ahead and do them anyway.

Being fearless is different to being brave. Being fearless is an automatic reaction to rational danger. I've always been a fearless sort of person, but I'm not terribly brave. Being brave requires us to confront our own clawing, irrational creations. To confront our very selves.

Which is ironic, when you think about how many times you encourage your anxious child to be 'brave'. What a lot we ask of them!

I have a theory that non-sleeping children tend to be more anxious than their sleeper counterparts. I used to think that the not-sleeping bit made them a bit more tetchy in the daytime because they were overtired and irritable. But these days I think the opposite is true. I think they can't sleep because their overactive imaginations have conjured up all sorts of scary things that keep them up at night. That mean they don't want to be away from the safety net of a warm, loving cuddle.  I do believe that anxiety and insomnia are related as early as babyhood.

Isn't it rather odd that our own brains conjure up such nasty stuff as to make us afraid? Isn't that what these irrational fears are, after all? Our own brains playing tricks with our sense of safety. There's no monster under the bed, but try telling that to the insomniac preschool set. And sometimes, try telling that to their equally wide-awake mumma...


I rewound this post at the Fibro on 5.3.2011


Cubby houses I would like to move into

As children, MultipleMum and I spent days and days playing house in our father's shed.  I was always called Hannah, my very favourite name of all time when I was 9... I'm sure that one day my daughters will thank their lucky stars that I didn't have them at 9!

These fond memories were sparked by the darling cubby above belonging to Finn and Asha over at Leonie's place, Raglan Guld. Resting in a peaceful part of the garden, snazzed up with teal doors, so charming and unique. I would move in tomorrow if they would have me...

If the above is my ideal nest, this one is the McMansion next door. It's at Cutest Little Things and it is the Taj Mahal of cubbies... click on the link and have a wander around this amazing space. It's nicer and bigger than my house.

 Ohdeedoh features this one which is author Clare Crespo's daughter Ruby's playhouse. It's magic, isn't it? The sunflower garden just makes it extra special.

By Greg Hatton, featured on Designer in Disguise. Bit ho hum on the outside, but look at that stylin' styling inside. I want that desk for my new house over at Leonie's!

And just imagine if you had an inspired and talented mum like Judith Needham who could weave you a magical cubby from fresh willow? I mean, really, imagine that!

We've converted part of the garage into a cubby of sorts for our kids. It's not particularly inspirational, however, and now I feel inspired to do something about it!

 Do you have fond memories of a childhood cubby? Do your children have one?


♥ Loving Ello There

Shanon at **Happiness Is...** is one of the blogosphere's great Finder of Things and she put me onto Ello There.

I've been married for eight years but damn it, I'm still getting one!

Even though it's Sunday, this post is part of Anna's ♥Much Love♥ Mondays...


This Saturday I'm grateful for... verandahs

Here in Maxabellaland, Saturday is traditionally a sport, shop, sort the clothes, sweep the floors, strangle the Tsunamis (insert other 's' words here - no pun intended) kinda day. But on Maxabella loves... I thought it would be grounding to make Saturday my 'grateful' day.

This Saturday I'm grateful for...

1. The view from my verandah. I'm sitting here right now and above is the view from my laptop (don't you wish I was a better photographer!!). It's impossible to sit on my front verandah and not feel like life is good. (Of course, all I can really see is that the car still has the spare tyre on the back wheel after a month... but still... life is still good.)

2. Green tea. I'm 2 months sober off the diet cokes now and it's all thanks to green tea. I'm very pleased to have broken a 20 year habit so smoothly. Special thanks goes out to green tea with mint; you are comfort in a cup.

3. Comments. I swear I'm not sucking up. But there is something about reading an extension to my blog post that just makes my whole day. Food for thought and food for the soul. I love 'em and I'm grateful for them every single time.

So, what's making you smile today?


Things I learned this week including that everything has its place

I've had a great week. I'm not even sure why. Sitting on my front verandah having a laugh with a couple of friends on Wednesday morning was near perfect. Happy children exploring the rocks to the side of our house, happy mums enjoying a cuppa, happy chocolate chip cookies munching themselves (seemingly!), happy weather smiling at it all.  Yes, that's why I had such a great week.

Plus, I learned / was reminded of a fair bit of really important stuff. Mostly about the human character.

1. For all my talk last week of rarely wearing makeup, I frocked up for an awards dinner on Friday night and it was great fun (the frocking up, not the actual dinner, that was Dullsville). I learned that dressing up and looking your best is just as much fun as I remembered. Still wouldn't want to have to do it everyday, but everything has its place.

2. There's a fantastic search cheat sheet for Google out there. It really helps to refine your search terms and find what you need more quickly

3. The grass really isn't greener on the other side of the fence. I knew this, of course, but my Working Mother Guilt post really brought it home to me. And it reminded me that when I first went back to working life after having my first baby I felt guilty because I didn't feel guilty... is there no end!? The only solution is to stop focusing on the negative and start loving the beautiful positives. And always be grateful, grateful, grateful.

4. Sometimes what you're looking for is right in front of you all along. Gifts of Serendipity posted up favourite poem of mine from long ago, Max Ehrmann's Desiderata and I was reminded to slow down, reflect and appreciate.

5. Typedrawing is just about the most fascinating thing I've found in weeks. You create pictures with words. If you love typography - as I do - you will love this to pieces.*

6. Fabric bags are my new must have. Look what Piou Piou is up to ... such a fantastic way to store kids' stuff (or any stuff for that matter!)

7. An unexpected, thoughtful gift 'just because' is a wonderful thing indeed.

8. I learned that we really are just born either sunny-side up or down. Imagine a junior burger trying to figure out the motivations for a friend suddenly wanting to play with someone else. Some kids just shrug their shoulders and say 'he's got better toys' (this was Maxi-Taxi's response), other kids worry all day that there is 'something wrong with me' (this was his bestie's response). Are your kids sunny-side up or down?

9. You've got to have band-aids in your first aid kit. They are the world's great placebo treatment. If you run out, buy some more immediately lest you be caught short with a stubbed toe belonging to a child not your own requiring said placebo... and 'what do you mean you don't have a band-aid' ringing in your ears.

10. LOML is quite possibly the kindest, most supportive and handsomemost man in the world.**

How about you? Did you learn anything new this week?

* Thanks to the lovely Kellie at 74 Lime Lane for this and the Google cheat sheet tip!

** Of course I'm cheating here: of course I didn't really just learn that this week. I learned it about a half hour after I met him all those years ago...

Are you flogging? I'm flogging at Lori's... Oh, and while we're on the subject of linkys, don't forget to link up to the August Chronicles. I wanna see your fridge!


Ms Nosybella: A couple of random moral questions

Well good day to you! I've got a few pressing questions today. They are random things that I've been wondering about for a while now so I thought I'd just put them out there and see what you think. They go like this...

Moral dilemma 1: Is it rude to choose the middle public toilet in a row of 3?

My theory is that even though you may invariably end up sitting right next to someone simultaneously weeing in the cubicle next to you (harmony anyone?) this awkwardness is outweighed by the fact that most people won't choose the middle loo for fear of being rude so you end up in a 'less used' loo thereby potentially cutting down on the germ factor. Just a theory.

Do you use the middle cubicle?

And just because we're on the subject and I'm nosy:

Do you put toilet paper down on the seat before you sit down? Or do you just plonk yourself right down on there like I do?

Or do you hover and wee all over the seat for others? I'm just saying.

Moral dilemma 2: Is it wrong to use bribes to discipline your children?

I am a graduate of the 'if you don't do this, you can't do that' school of parenting to get the kids to do what I want them to do. If they have a playdate coming up on Saturday, I'm holding it over their head as early as Monday. If they don't eat their peas, they don't get their fruit. If they don't clean their room, they don't get a story. If they don't cuddle their mother 37 times and give her 108 kisses, the car door doesn't open. You get the idea.

Do you bribe your children?

Moral dilemma 3: Is using the dryer as a sherpa over the mountain of washing okay?

I want to be a good, environmentally-lovely citizen. But I just cannot break my dryer habit. If I rely soley on the line, I end up with a backlog of washing that extends from the laundry, through the house and into my brain. Is it okay to use the dryer if it saves just one woman from a nervous breakdown?

Do you use the dryer?

Moral dilemma 4: Is speeding always bad or just usually bad?

I'm not at all happy with speeding in suburban streets. Never. But put me on a freeway or even on a stretch of road without pedestrians or houses and I think it's reasonable to pick up the pace a little. Not a lot, just a little.

So, my final question is: Do you speed sometimes?

That's all for now. I'm fully expecting a lecture or two about the dryer and the speeding... and possibly those messy hovers might be a bit miffed. But what is life without discussion?

'til next time


The August Chronicles: What's on your fridge?

Edition 3 and I'm getting more and more into the Fridge Chronicles. Not enough to be 'styling' the fridge (although, I know me so well, it will come!) but enough to get excited when fridge time rolls around each month. Yes, that makes me a total loser, but I'm okay with that. This month I was thoughtful enough to remove the chocolate stains around the door handle that have featured in the past two editions.

LOML's 'mistress', Roger is finally getting married! The wedding is in October and already I'm having 'what will I wear' crisis moments. Needless to say, a wedding is a social calender highlight these days...

Maxi-Taxi is insisting that he joins Brightsparks, an actor /singer /dancer /waiter class on Fridays after school.  As much as I can't imagine my shy, retiring boy under the bright lights, I'm all for it.  The fact that the teacher looks like a 15 year old emo on the verge of a nervous breakdown is a little disconcerting, but Term 4 we're going for it.

My neighbour Susan is insisting that we go and see this play in September. She's in her 70s, Austrian and let me tell you, when Susan insists something will happen, it will happen. A review is forthcoming.

I've seen the '4P' parenting course advertised here and there. The counsellor at the school is conveniently running one in September and I'll be attending. Have you done one of these or any other parenting course? What did you think?

Terrible photo - sorry about that. But this little magnet has been on the fridge since Maxi-Taxi was about 3 months old. It says "It had seemed like such a good idea 12 months ago."

Imagine me leaping with joy when Maxi-Taxi informed me that he'd 'won' something at the sports carnival. Ah, another 'participation' certificate. Well done, my boy, well done.

This is LOML's list of his favourite 'mama made' Italiano meals. It's a work in progress.  A couple of weeks ago he suddenly started stressing that her recipes may one day be 'lost with her' and so began the list. Forget that she's only in her mid-sixties, fit as a fiddle and from a line of Italian peasant stock who believe dying in your mid-nineties is dying in your prime. This is too important to risk.  I insist on being present when he has 'the conversation' with her. 

So, what's on your fridge this month?

Join the linky as we chronicle the days of our lives like sands through the hourglass... Linky is open until the end of the month.


Do you know what you believe in?

I'm doing an AdSchool class on copywriting on Monday nights. As if I didn't have enough to do. My work has sent me along as a 'treat', so I figured this was something I couldn't say no to.  It's interesting enough. I enjoy studying and learning. The fact that I get home at about 10 o'clock on a school night is not so enjoyable. I'm dead on my feet.

Last night was different, though. We had a guest lecturer, Julian Short. He's a notable psychiatrist and the author of 'An Intelligent Life'.  He was a charismatic older gentleman and by that I mean that he was a gentle man. Softly spoken, gracious, commanding attention by the intelligence of his discussion alone.

Julian Short's expertise is on 'happiness' and he reminded us that people are shaped by their ethics and morals and these beliefs provide the scaffolding for the life that they go on to build. I nodded and wrote down 'ethics and morals' and then sucked on my pen while I contemplated exactly what that means. I wonder, I thought, if I've ever really, truly examined what my own ethics, morals and beliefs are. I'm sure that subconsiously I'm aware of my opinions and I'm certain that I live day to day by a particular code. But have I ever brought them to the surface in a conscious, present way? No, I have not.

I know that I believe in family and I'm opposed to war of any kind. I don't like littering or people who don't take care of the environment around them. I try not to judge others' choices but I will if they affect others in a negative way. I don't like pawn shops. I believe in 'something more' but my Catholic upbringing didn't really stick. I'm a feminist but I embrace gender differences. I can't stand bigots, racists, terrorists and most other ists. I like the bright side of the street.

But I need to know more.

So over the next few weeks I'm going to be pondering this topic and working out what my own structure is. I think it's important to know as I believe that examining my beliefs is fundamental to helping my children to structure their own. What will their scaffolding be?Publish Post

Are you certain of your own morals and ethics? What things do you really believe in?

PS - One thing I KNOW I believe in is... The Mighty Fridge Chronicles. I'll be posting the linky tomorrow so start snapping away at that fridge! If you're wondering what I'm on about, you can find last month's Chronicles here. See you in the morning!



Warning: Working Mother Guilt Ahead. Please Slow Down.

I often allude to my struggle with Working Mother Guilt (WMG). So much so that it's even got it's own 'tag' on my blog. I thought it might be time to explain myself a little.

I've been working since I was 13. I don't want to make it sound like my parents threw me down a salt mine the minute I was in high-school, but essentially my younger sister (she was 11 / 12!) and I had a gig at my mum's friend's cafe on Saturday morning. We worked hard all day for about $2.50 an hour (it was 1984, but still!). Very, very, very hard. Any job after that one seemed a very good job indeed.

I've worked in advertising / marketing for about 20 years now (ouch, that's hard to say!). I started my first advertising job a week after I finished high-school and I haven't really been out of the game since then. I worked throughout uni, in foreign countries, between backpacking jaunts, work, work, work.

So, to be honest, when it came time to have my babies, the thought of not "going back to work" never even entered my head. It wasn't something I thought about, I just planned that I'd take maternity leave and then return to work.  I don't think LOML and I ever had the conversation of "will I stay or will I go?" - we just sort of knew that I would "go".

But, beware the Working Mother Guilt. The older my children get, the more WMG is settling over me like a persistent rash. I'm so lucky that my work is flexible, for without flexibility in my days I fear WMG would have covered me up by now. It just means so much to me to create a childhood for my children that is as similar to my own as possible. But how to do that when I'm at work 4 days a week?

I'm home on Wednesdays and I flog it. I bake, I play, I clean, I nuture, I coach the soccer team, I do the odd canteen duty, reading in the classroom, whatever I can fit in. By the end of the day I can barely see straight I'm that tired.

I clean at nights and work from home once a fortnight to make more room for the extras so I can devote my weekends to the Tsunamis as much as possible. I wash my floors while I'm on a conference call. I do loads and loads of laundry between emails. I race over to the school running carnival, but slink back home to work after just 1 hour feeling like I'm missing out. I do the drop offs and pick ups and mingle with the other mums, but I can't come for coffee because I've got work to do.

The biggest guilt for me right now, though, is that I'm just not fitting in the 1 on 1 attention with each of my children that I feel they deserve. It's after 7 before Maxi-Taxi's reading each night and his eyes are falling out of his head with tiredness. How can he really learn this way? And where can I find the extra time he needs to practice his writing and build up his 'magic thumbs*'? And I'd love more time to do craft and art with Cappers and swing The Badoo on her little red swing more often. What will happen when they have reading and homework to do too?

I feel selfish for being at work. I feel like I'm putting myself before my children and it just doesn't feel right. It's not as if I'm even into a 'career' anymore, I couldn't care less about proving and advancing myself. I park my ego at the door. But I do still enjoy the work itself and being part of a working team. I'm also conscious that reality bites and in today's society we work, that's what we do. My children need to know that.

Is that enough?

Will I regret working when my babies are grown and leave home? Am I being selfish for trying to fit in a 'career' as well as being a mother? Is it too late to have the 'will you return to work after maternity leave' chat? And what would my response be?

I just don't know.

* Maxi-Taxi has hyper-mobility, particularly in his thumbs. Their 'comfortable' position for him is bent straight back off the hand (wince), which makes writing and other 'close work' very difficult for him.



♥ Loving chunkychooky

So, I'm over the recipes. I might go back to them a bit later... From now on, Sundays will be devoted to ♥Much Love♥ Mondays. I'm a day early with my post, but I'm sure Anna won't mind... do you mind, Anna?

Today I'm loving gorgeous little baby rattles handmade by Cath at chunkychooky. Just look at that little face!

Happy Sunday!


(Better late than never?) Fabulous Friday Follow

Laura at 2 Giggle Boxes hosts a Fabulous Friday Follow and was kind enough to ask me to co-host. Of course, in my vague way, I completely forgot that I was supposed to be joining in and... well, did absolutely nothing on Fabulous Friday. To be honest, I'm surprised Laura asked me: does she not know about the abysmal failure that is my monthly Fridge Chronicles linky*?

So sorry, Laura. Thanks for featuring my blog this week and here is my belated co-hosting job. (Somehow, I don't think I'm going to be asked back to this gig!!)

The link is open until Tuesday and there are some really sweet blogs on Laura's list. Add your blog to the list and click on through and see if there is anyone here you'd like to get to know better!

* Don't get excited, I'm not holding up the white flag here. I will be opening the August Chronicles on Wednesday, 25th.

This Saturday I'm grateful for... letters

Here in Maxabellaland, Saturday is traditionally a sport, shop, sort the clothes, sweep the floors, strangle the Tsunamis (insert other 's' words here - no pun intended) kinda day. But on Maxabella loves... I thought it would be grounding to make Saturday my 'grateful' day.

This Saturday I'm grateful for...

1. Volunteers - when I think about all the time some people devote to making sure things run smoothly at my son's school, I am so thankful. Where would we be without these selfless people who never say 'someone else will do it'. 

2. Letters - I love email as much as the next person, but this week I received the loveliest, hand-decorated note in my letterbox and it made my day.

3. My recliner - it's old and ugly, but when the recliner handle-thingy broke this week and the footrest wouldn't go up, I realised how much I love my comfy old friend.

What's making you smile today?

[Image posted on weheartit]


Things I learned this week including that I need to own Country

Happy Friyay to you! Friday is my favourite day of the week. Yes, I still have to go to work (although I get to work Fridays from home every fortnight... heeeello clean floors!), but the anticipation of two whole days of whatever we like is enough to make me happy. Like any journey, sometimes the anticipation of the weekend is more exciting than the actual weekend, because in my daydreams there are no whingers, whiners, tantrumers or 'mum can I?'s. Just good old fashioned promise.

And speaking of anticipation... here's my wrap up of the week that was...

1. I need to own Jasper Conran’s new book Country . It just looks like a beautiful record of a country I love. The images are divine (see the one above), it's beautifully written, it's big.

2. There’s a villa in Northern Umbria called Villa Capanne and I really, really want to go there. I just know I would be very happy there.

3. MultipleMum taught me that, not surprisingly, there’s a site dedicated to Mary watching. I'd forgotten how super-stylish and proper Mary was until zooming through this site.

4. If you promise something and you don't do the promise, you break the love (so true, Maxi-Taxi!)

5. One of the best ‘treats’ for little people is plain potato chips. They have potato, salt and oil. That’s it.

6. How to reupholster a recliner in a step-by-step fashion that I think even I can follow. This is important because we have the world’s ugliest beige recliner that was LOML’s grandfather’s. Getting it professionally reupholstered would be a bit ridiculous as the chair is older than myself, but it’s just so comfy! Wish me luck.

7. My new favourite ‘activities for kidlettes’ site is Kiddley and I'm also very impressed with Planning with Kids.

8. Natalie Bassingthwaighte has called her first-born Harper Rain. Ho hum. I find this ‘unique names’ approach is all a bit samey-samey, really. Bit irritating, actually.

9. After a 40 year pattern of women waiting to give birth until after 30 (a pattern I contributed to), Australian women are beginning to have their babies in their 20s again. I think this is great news.

10. From Polkadotbug*, a step-by-step tutorial on how to make a reversible dress for little girls. How handy is this? You're out and about, they spill, you turn the dress over, they're good to go!

Did you learn anything special this week?

PS - You know you want a flogging... go on now... head on over to Lori's for FYBF.
PPS - Today I'm also linking up with New Friend Friday at Trendy Treehouse!

* Looks like an old blog as there are no updates this year... but the tutorial rocks so I'm sad she's closed up shop!


The make up of me

On Friday Carly at We Heart Life wrote an insightful post about why we wear makeup that really hit home for me. You see, I don't really wear it any more. Not when I leave the house, not to most social engagements, not even to work.

There was a time when I wouldn't be caught dead without make up on. From the minute I was allowed to wear mascara to school in Year 9, I would paint and shade my face into a enhanced, better-than-me mask. Going out, I would pile it on. For over 10 years I did a full face of make-up every single day. To hide my freckles, to make my eyes brighter, to puff my lips, to draw on eyebrows, to lift my cheeks. I was a razzle-dazzle beauty queen.

And felt unattractive, uninteresting, unworthy.

I went travelling in my late twenties and packed an overflowing bag of cosmetics into my backpack. Somewhere between Rome and Ravello, I ditched it. I was too busy feeling the sun on my beautiful, fresh, happy face to bother with my mask. I learned not to worry about the pimples and imperfections. I learned not to care about hiding the way I really looked and to just be proud and carefree to be me.

Over the years since then I have worn make up less and less. I still enjoy prettying up for a big night out and I actually love applying makeup and experimenting. For special occasions, it's magical stuff. But, in general, it's rare for me to worry about it.

I imagine some people judge me harshly for being barefaced in public. They may say that I'm unpolished, unprofessional, ungroomed. They may say that I am not a yummy mummy. They may say that I'm unattractive, uninteresting, unworthy.

But I say, I am beautiful, fresh and happy in the naked skin I'm in.



It begins with a single incident

It begins with a single incident. We're out of rice. I forgot to buy rice. Why do I always have to remember to buy the rice?

Or the bread, or the milk, or the toilet paper, or the holidays, or the shoes, childcare, school fees, clothes, electricity bills, birthday presents, swimming lessons, LIFE.

Why do I always have to remember to buy the life?

[Image via weheartit]


The sun shines on The Badoo

The Badoo was a cranky baby. Really, really grumpy. She didn't smile until she was about ten weeks old and even then it was fleeting. Was it wind? No, no a genuine smile... but that was last week and we haven't seen another.

I mentioned this distinct lack of mirth to our Paediatrican, Dr Lilystone. Yes, he of the 'She's French' line from the breastfeeding post last week. This time he said to me, "Has she smiled at all?"

"Yes," I answered. "But not much."

"Hmmm... well, if she's come through with a genuine smile or two we can only conclude that it's not developmental."

"Okay," said I, primed for some scary medical explanation. "Then what could it be?"

"She's grumpy," he concluded. "Just plain old grumpy."


And she remained grumpy for about a year.

These days, people comment on how sunny she is. The Badoo, sunny. Who'd have thought?

They say she is smiley, happy, bright and full of beans. They say she's like a little ray of sunshine. The world smiles on that one, they say.

The Badoo. Really, who'd have thought?

If you're struggling with a cranky pants baby, know this: The sun comes out eventually and when it does it shines and shines and shines.

PS - if you find a moment, visit my witty, talented sister at Life In A Pink Fibro and if you like her blog as much as I do, vote for her in the kidspot 50 Top Bloggers awards by clicking on the button in her sidebar...


♥ Jotting it all down

I need to leave the sadness that has settled over me since writing the post last night (please read if you have a couple of minutes, it would mean a lot to me). A complete change of feeling is needed to get me back on track. I hope that's not disrespectful.

After the fun of sharing Word Verification moments last week, I noticed a pattern in the (witty, engaging, lovely, thank you) comments I received.

So many of us notice things, don't write them down and then quickly they are forgotten.

I'm a jotter. You will have noticed this from my Friday posts. I love to write down everything. Everything I learn, everything I think is funny, everything that's actually funny, everything that's odd. Everything.

It's a habit I picked up working in Advertising. When I was a little Junior Burger, I worked for one of Sydney's most creative agencies. I learned a thing or two from those Big Macs, believe me, and not just about dancing in the white stuff (it was the nineties, after all). The best thing I learned was 'jot it down'. All the Creatives do it. They carry wanky little Moleskins around and write down everything that takes their fancy.

I do the same. Only I carry a wanky little whatever-was-free-on-the-cover-of-InsideOut-magazine. It's amazing what a fun and interesting 'journal' results from all this jotting. In amongst the doodles and Shopping and To Do Lists is a record of the unique, the weird, the odd and the marvellous. I've been doing it so long that these days, I sort of feel naked without a pen.

Do you do it too? What sorts of things do you jot down?

This post is part of ♥ Much Love ♥ Monday

[Image via weheartit]


Can't bearing witness

Did you see Iraq's Deadly Legacy on Dateline on SBS tonight? It will not leave me.

The atrocities left behind after the war in Iraq are heartbreaking.  Babies born so deformed and forlorn that your soul tries to flee your body to go to them. They are reason alone for us to fear what war makes us all become.

The uranium left behind by tools of war caused this. Whatever was in Iraq that the US thought they needed to rid the world of could not be worse than this. They caused this. They took those children's real lives and gave them one full of pain and suffering. They etched the scars.

Oh children, please don't hate us.

LOML could not stand to watch, but I stayed, my face a waterfall of grief. To bear witness.

I saw your pain, sweet babies. I saw you.


Supper | Hearty chicken and barley soup

I'm running out of time to do stodgy winter warmers (hopefully I am, anyway - are you coming Spring? Well, are you?) Here's a delicious chicken and barley soup that won't fail to warm the cockles of your hearties. I simply adore barley and when I make this I usually add more than the recipe calls for (along with zucchini, of course... you could throw a couple of those in here too if you like).  This recipe was an award winner for a reader over at Australian Women's Weekly and you'll soon taste why.

Hearty chicken and barley soup

1 cup barley

1 tablespoon olive oil
2 medium onions, chopped
1 large leek, chopped
3 sticks celery, trimmed, chopped
1 large carrot, chopped
1 large parsnip, chopped
1 small sweet potato, chopped
2 medium  potatoes, chopped
1 medium swede, chopped (leave out if you can't get it, or substitute zucchini...)
8 cups salt-reduced chicken stock (like most things, it tastes better with the non-salt reduced version...)
4 cups water
4 chicken thigh fillets, chopped finely
½ cup coarsely chopped parsley

Place the barley in a large bowl. Cover with cold water, stand for 4 hours or overnight.

Heat oil in a large stockpot; cook onion, leek, celery and carrot, stirring, until softened. Add remaining vegetables, stock and water then bring to the boil. Add chicken and drained barley, simmer, loosely covered, about 1½ hours or until thickened.

Just before serving, season the soup with salt and pepper and stir in parsley.

Suitable to freeze.



This Saturday I'm grateful for... dreams

Here in Maxabellaland, Saturday is traditionally a sport, shop, sort the clothes, sweep the floors, strangle the Tsunamis (insert other 's' words here - no pun intended) kinda day. But on Maxabella loves... I thought it would be grounding to make Saturday my 'grateful' day.

This Saturday I'm grateful for...
1. Slow cookers - food goes in, life goes on, meal comes out.
2. Dreams - sustaining, nuturing, uplifting, motivating, stretching, cultivating, affirming, believing.
3. A good vegie peeler - getting your first vegie peeler that actually works is a life-changing moment.
What's making you happy today?


Things I learned this week including that you can write on bunting!

1. The letterbox is exciting again! Have you heard of postcrossing? You sign up and mail out a postcard and then you get one back from a random person somewhere in the world. Thanks to the lovely Shannon at Happiness Is, my first postcard is soon to be sent to a lass in Finland... I wonder where my return card will come from?

2. A serger is a specialty sewing machine that makes the same type of finished edge that you see in store-bought clothing. It uses 3-4 threads at one time. (Thanks Chris at Pick Up Some Creativity!)

3. Charlie Sheen is the highest paid TV actor working today. $1.25 million per each episode of that awful Three and a Half Men. Mind boggling. In what other industry could you earn big bucks when you're not even remotely talented in your chosen profession?

4. I've mentioned before that I can't stand adult style clothes on little kids. This week I learned that I may be the only one who feels this way. Apparently more and more labels are designing "cool" fash for the preschool set.  The idea of children being 'on-trend fashionistas' makes my upper lip curl.

5. I can cry and cry over a little girl I've never met. Thinking about the life of little Keisha has had me in tears this week. I respect and admire the way the community she lived in has come forth with an outpouring of grief at her disappearance. The release of 200 balloons to guide her home pulls at my heart. But where were they all when she was living in apparently appalling conditions at home with her apparently drugged up family? Where were they then?

6. You can get blackboard fabric. How much fun is that? See the great image above that I nicked from Modern June's etsy page? The possibilities are endless.

7. Neither a borrower nor a lender be.

8. More than any other generation before or potentially after them (Gen Y seem to have learned from the choices of Gen X), Gen X women are more likely to remain childless.  The Anti-Mullerian Hormone test can safely estimate the number of viable eggs a woman still has. I learned this from a colleague who is desperate to conceive at the age of 42 after 'putting off' having children with the partner she has been with since she was 27 in order to 'focus on my career'. Sigh.

9. Holding your wee in can cause long-term health problems. I wish I could tell you that I learned this one from a colleague, but rather I have been researching it because I have a really bizarre tendency to 'hold on' rather than just get up and go to the loo. So engrossed, or just so lazy? Either way, I've got to stop holding on!

10. Bloggers are quite possibly the most friendly, supportive and non-judgemental group of people in the world. After my breastfeeding share, I received the most amazing comments and emails and I really feel that you have all helped me find peace and be able to close the book on this part of my life. Thank you.

Did you also learn anything special this week? And while you're thinking about that, do you feel the need for a flogging? Head over to Lori's blog and flog your own!


Ms Nosybella: What's your favourite...

I was going to do a 'what makes your blood boil' Nosybella,  but I think there's just been enough negativity floating around bloggerspace for the time being. So, instead, today I'm interested in favourites. I know, I know, favourites change all the time. I'm into something one week and right out of it the next. But what's your favourite-for-now (my favourites in brackets)...

Past time? (Gardening / Dreaming)

Television show? (Modern Family)

Book? (At My French Table)

Food? (Currently Indian - Butter Chicken and Plain Naan) (Not home made) (Have never tackled Indian food - have you?)

Colour? (Teal right now, but ask me in a minute...)

Exercise? (Riding my brand new shiny bike... whooooosh... that was me rocketing down the hill outside my house... yipppppeeeeee!)

Drink? (supercold Savignon Blanc in front of the fire)

Blog? (Kootoyoo)

Recipe? (Rosemary Olive Bread)

What are your favourites right now?


Loving Hair clips

Hairclips. Lovely little hairclips. They are the odd socks of the accessory world. I spend ages trying to find pairs of clips (or any clip!). It's got to the point where I do a bulk clip shop every now and then just to keep Cappers and The Badoo suitably decorated.  Do you like these little Pac Man ghosts? As a child of the eighties, I couldn't go past them.

The above gorgeous little item is at Shortcake Scraps.

And this one at Sweet and Sassy (there's that bird thing again!)

A couple of sweeties from ThELaUgHyGiRaFfY

And if you get tired of clips, you can always lose yourself in the hairbow section

These are from Sweet and Chic Bowtique (loving the bows, not so loving the daggy store name...) What a good little model!

What are you loving right now?


The Bundchen Booby debate

The  unexpected Women Supporting Women Trilogy (Friendship, Fark off* and Frenemies) last week really took it out of me. It's hard for me to sustain thoughtful and deep. I'm much better at frivolous and shallow. However, there is a sad matter that I briefly mentioned on Friday and has stayed sad all over the weekend. It's Gisele Bundchen and the booby debate.

I'm sad because I don't understand why breastfeeding is such a loaded topic. It's such a personal, personal thing, yet as a society we judge, we criticise, we gloat, we complain and we sneer. I'm not going to go further into what I think of Gisele Bundchen and her thoughtless remarks (she is, after all, recovering from being runover by a Bugaboo) but I am going to tell you about my own experience with breastfeeding. I feel the need to share.

I struggled with breastfeeding. Struggled and struggled. I did everything I possibly could for every one of my three children, but it's never felt enough.

After a shaky, emotional, difficult eight weeks, I finally got Maxi-Taxi feeding and happy and maintained breastfeeding until just after 12 months (thank you ABA!). My milk supply was never great and we needed a nipple shield to begin with, so feeding, especially in the early months, took forever. I dedicated myself completely to getting the feeding going. I kept a feeding journal (I'm that kinda gal) and some days that child was on the boob for up to 14 hours a day. Really. But we got the milk going and everything was calm and lovely after those first weeks. I even picked up the night feeds again at eight months when I went back to work in an effort to keep the breastfeeding going for as long as we could (WMG? Yes, a little!)

Cappers went straight on and was breastfed until almost six months when she self-weaned. Bit mortifying, but a bit of a relief, really. She hadn't been thriving on the boob as my milk supply was dodgy and I just couldn't devote the same amount of time to my second born as I could to my first born. Reality bites. By six months, we were both really over it and she was close to eating 'real food' anyway. Putting her onto bottled milk at that stage just felt right. Consequently, I didn't contact the ABA about her self-weaning because as much as I had valued their support in the past, I just didn't feel like a big lecture. We both moved on to bottles without a hitch.

Then along came The Badoo. She was a sluggish, enormous newborn She had been breech and 'stuck' so she didn't move much in utero and was consequently... er... fat. And hungry. And The Badoo. On first presentation of the breast, a little hand leapt out of the wrap and slapped the boob away. I couldn't believe my eyes and nor could the midwife. We both burst out laughing.

I stopped laughing very quickly because The Badoo wouldn't go near the boob at all. She would get her mouth to the nipple and... nothing. Her sucking reflex sucked. She just never caught on and consequently breastfeeding just wasn't an option. She preferred having a bottle poured down her throat.

I didn't take the news lightly. For over eight weeks I expressed milk. Remember that low milk supply? It would take me over an hour to pump 150mls. I would get up for the night feeds, attempt to get her on the breast, feed her a bottle and then sit there with my electric pump for hours, pump, pump, pump. To this day, when I hear the suck and wheeze of an electric breastpump, I feel cold and lonely and tired and defeated.

The Badoo had a few other 'breechy' birth issues and at eight weeks we were due to go back to her Paediatrician for a check-up. Dr Lilystone is an ancient, kindly, old-school kind of doctor and.. get this... he bulk-bills. A specialist who bulk-bills? Immediately you can tell that he's one of the good guys.

I poured it all out to him. How sad I was at this failure to provide basic nourishment to my child. How I had managed with her siblings and I felt I was really letting her down. How I worried that she wouldn't be as clever, as beautiful, as happy because she would be formula-fed. How she just wasn't interested, even though I had been trying and trying and trying. His response was simply, "Maybe she's French".

"I beg your pardon?" I said, thinking did he not hear me?; thinking maybe it's time he retired.

"Well, only a really small minority of French women breastfeed," he explained. "And the French seem to be doing okay."

The relief I felt was instantaneous. He's right, I thought. The Badoo will be okay, breast or none. It's not the end of the world. I'll just make an extra effort to ensure I feed her right for the other 17 some years that I'm in charge of the food.  French, yes. Maybe she's French.

As parents, we will make millions of choices on behalf of our children. Many of these choices are carefully planned and executed. Many of them are not. Still others are choices we thought we could carefully plan, but found out that we had to improvise and adapt and change the way we felt as we went along.

Breastfeeding was like that for me. I'm a huge believer in it, huge. But I'm even more of a believer in letting the parent decide how they will feed their child. Most of all, I believe that the choice they would like to make is often not possible. Let's not judge such a personal matter lest we stir up a whole tangle of emotion. Please.

* Not being coy, really. It's just that Mum reads my blog and she might be a tad upset if I said the word fuck. Oh fuck, I said fuck. Sorry Mum.

[Image by Nicole Canto chosen to represent freedom of choice]


Strange moments in word verification

I've been jotting down some of my finer 'word verification' (WV) moments as I pop about commenting on my favourite blogs. Strange past time, I know, but you'd be amazed just how... er... psychic the WV tool is.

Hear me out.

It all started a month or so ago when I commented on my sister's blog. She was writing something about the skirt in her younger-self photo being too short. I wrote a standard reply about "nothing is too short when you're 24" and hit send. But when it came to the WV, the word I had to type was 'crach'. So I ended up writing a PS to amend my comment to 'at least nothing is too short when you're 24 unless you can see your crach'.

You see where I'm going with this?
Other highlights have been:
Emma at Frog Goose Bear posted a Wordless Wednesday shot involving a dining room table and a spilled bowl of cereal. Cereal everywhere. WV response: mesymes
And Brenda at Mira Narnie posted a lovely idea for kids using coloured water to investigate cause and effect. WM response: kydfarn
My favourite, though, was when Fat Mum Slim posted about being at your most beautiful at 31. I  posted my comment, something about being happy to work on the 'beauty on the inside' bit and not so worried about the 'beauty on the outside' bit and then looked down at my WV: lyerar
You see? Word verification is either psychic or a psychotherapist. Either way, hours of enjoyment is ours for the taking!

[Image: my 'lil sis Coo at 24 years. Isn't she pretty!]


Celebrate | Scrummy sausage rolls

I always do my 'Easy Sunday' post in advance (which helps to keep Sundays nice and easy!) I hope you don't mind. This Sunday you will find me on a picnic rug having afternoon tea at one of my favourite Sydney spots, overlooking Middle Harbour. Here in Maxabellaland, we love, love, love a picnic, but we find afternoon or morning tea picnics easier while The Badoo still needs a lunchtime sleep (hopefully for the term of her natural life). I may or may not be making these delicious sausage rolls to take along - mainly because they are quite substantial and I begin Phase 139 of my 20 Year Diet today. Rest assured, even if I don't make them for today, I will wish that I had made them. For whenever they come out, the party goes 'yay!'

Scrummy sausage rolls

1kg chicken mince (can substitute pork or beef for a different flavour)

2 cups fresh breadcrumbs (made from day-old bread, I generally use wholemeal)
1 cup finely grated carrot
1 cup finely grated zucchini
1 chicken stock cube, finely crumbled
1 egg, lightly whisked
2 tbs finely chopped fresh sage
2 tbs finely chopped parsley
Salt & freshly ground black pepper
Puff pastry sheets (I just use the packet stuff... of course)
1 egg, lightly whisked, extra
1 tbs sesame seeds

1. Preheat oven to 220°C. Line a baking tray with non-stick baking paper.

2 Combine the mince, breadcrumbs, carrot, zuchinni, egg, stock cube, parsley and sage in a bowl. Season with salt and pepper.
Cut sheet of puff pastry into two halves. Spoon length of mince along one half about 2/3rds down. Roll to enclose and form a log. Cut it crossways into 4 smaller rolls. Place rolls on the lined tray. Repeat with remaining mince mixture and pastry until no more mince is left. Brush the top of each sausage roll with the extra egg and sprinkle evenly with sesame seeds.

Bake in preheated oven for 20-25 minutes or until the pastry is puffed and golden and the mince is cooked though. Serve immediately (with tomato sauce!)

Note: this recipe is in party quantities and makes about 30 sausage rolls... but I will not judge.

[Image: this batch was made for Maxi-Taxi's Monster Party; recipe my own]


This Saturday I'm grateful for... rainshine

Here in Maxabellaland, Saturday is traditionally a sport, shop, sort the clothes, sweep the floors, strangle the Tsunamis (insert other 's' words here - no pun intended) kinda day. But on Maxabella loves... I thought it would be grounding to make Saturday my 'grateful' day.

This Saturday, I'm grateful for...

1. Rain. It's rained and rained and rained and rained around here lately. Which, ho hum, is good for the dam levels and the farmers and the trees and all that. I love it though, because it cleans things up nicely so that when the sun breaks through, everything sparkles.

2. Birthdays! I had the best birthday yesterday. Brand new bike = West Side Story at the Lyric Theatre with the handsome LOML = Bourke Street Bakery cookbook = fun crazy desk thanks to my awesome workmates = Tsunami sleepover at the Nonnis = happiness.

3. Honesty. Doesn't matter if I don't like or agree with what you have to say. I respect and admire you for saying it.

[Image by Metin Demiralay]


Things I learned this week including how much I love a wedding (budget)

1. Winter is the perfect time for a swim. Going with my kids don't melt theme, on the first day of August we allowed them to strip off to their undies and wade into the (it has to be said) rather icy waters at Greenwell Point on Sunday. Swinging from the mangroves, wading knee deep to catch tiny crabs, the Tsunamis and their cousin were embracing their kidhood with a relish that made my heart sing.

2. A simple car game makes the journey go-'round. We played '500 points if you spot a yellow car' and the Tsunamis were quiet and happy for at least 50kms. Hardly any fights (luckily none of them can count past about 25 so we pretty much had the floor).

3. And frankly, there just aren't enough yellow cars on the road these days. Whatever happened to colour*, folks?

4. The fabulous Dawn over at Beat Until Fluffy taught me how to make Sweet Potato Cookies. I'm yet to bake them, but any treat incorporating hidden vegetables is a treat indeed.

5. Modern Family is my new best show. It never fails to crack me up. Now, I'm a bit nervous at how much I can relate to these crazy characters, but they're entertaining just the same.

6. Models should not speak. Ever. No good can come of it. Gisele Bundchen's ode to 'it's called labor not holiday' was so irritatingly smug I just want to throw her in her Prada nappy bag and run over her with a Bugaboo Pram. And be warned: she has a new blog.

7. People are so kind and forgiving. We took an extra day on Monday so we could stay with Gran and Pops a bit longer down the coast. I let the school know, I let the daycare know... I forgot to let the after-school care people know and I also forgot about The Slowest Boy in the World who Annabelle collects from after-school care on Mondays. A frantic call from TSBITW's mum at 5pm and the sudden realisation that TSBITW was still at after-school care as dark descended, had me worried that the support chain might be compromised. I needn't have worried, they saw the funny side. How I love them.

8. I love weddings. Now, hear me out. It's not about the big frocks, it's about the big budgets. I don't care what the bride wears, but I do care what stationery she chose and I'm more interested in how she did the tables than her hair (or the groom, for that matter). Check out Snippet and Ink for lashings of creativity.

9. "If you take too long in deciding what to do with your life, you'll find you've done it." -George Bernard Shaw

10. Charlie and Lola are quite possibly the best role models for brothers and sisters everywhere. We adore them in Maxabellaland.

Did you learn anything exciting this week? Was it a good one?

PS - Happy birthday to me, happy birthday to me, I look like a monkey and I'm mum to another three.

* Says she of the dark grey Ford Terror.

[Image from Snippet & Ink]


Off with the birdies...

I love decorating with a birdy motif. I don't know why. It just sort of grew organically with the purchase of some gorgeous bird cards for Cappers' bedroom a few years ago. Suddenly there were birds flying all over the house.

If I told you that this was just some of my birds, would you be worried for me?

I love them all. They feel happy. They make me smile.

Are you a 'collector' of something? Did it just 'happen' like my birdies or did you deliberately set out to gather a certain type of thing?