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Societal niceties aren't exactly instinctual

Walking to school yesterday we bumped into two girls from Cappers' class, Clipclop*and Lucy**.

"Hi Clipclop!" Cappers exclaimed excitedly. While they squealed and did some complicated happy dance followed by an even more complicated hand thingy involving singing about coconuts and punching each other on the arm, I waited.

"Um, HIIIIII Lucy," said pointedly, nudging Cappers and trying not to make eye-contact with Lucy's mum.

Nothing from the Cappers.

"Well hello there Luuuu-oo-oo-cy," I said, all sunshine and light and adding a little chuckle and an arm punch for Lucy as the situation was getting seriously awkward.

Nothing from the Cappers.

"Cappers, a word," I said dragging her away from her new-best-friend Clipclop.

"What?" she said rudely. "Whaddido?"
"Firstly, don't speak to your darling mother in that tone of whine and secondly, why didn't you say hello to Lucy?"

"I didn't want to."

"It's not polite to say hello to one person and not to the other."

"But I like Clipclop, I don't like Lucy."

Oh Cappers, I thought. Oh you.

"It's a nice thing to do, Cappers," I explained. "Even if you don't like someone, it doesn't hurt you to be kind and say hello and wish them a good day."

"It does hurt, actually. If I say hi she'll think I like her and if she thinks I like her she might want to talk to me and then I'll have to listen and that would hurt."

Oh Cappers. Oh you.

"Listening doesn't actually physically hurt anyone, by the way, but more to the point, I would like you to be kind to Lucy and say hello when we go back over there. It's the right thing to do. No one likes to be the one left out."

"If she wasn't so awful, she wouldn't be left out."

Thinking, kid's got a point, I said "Cappers, there's no time for me to compose a stern lecture on a.) being a mean girl and b.) being a smart arse, so let's just go over there and say hi to Lucy and get our day off to the right kind of start, okay?"

She stomped back over. "Hi Lucy," she mumbled. "I hope you have a really nice day today but don't talk to me, okay?"

Oh Cappers.

Societal niceties aren't exactly instinctual, are they? 
Do you also struggle sometimes with your child's logic in these situations?

* Not her real name. I hope that was obvious.
** Also not her real name. Not as obvious this time.


At what point do we become responsible?

A friend is staying with her husband even though he beats her daily and sometimes twice daily. He goes out every night and sleeps with other people. He creepily smells the lady next door's underpants on their communal washing line.


My friend has serious internal battles that mean her self-esteem is appalling low and she tells me she stays because she is afraid to be alone. As if being on her own is even worse than what her bastard husband dishes out. I know there is more to it than that. The pain is so deep into her eyes that I can see right through to her childhood. I want to have courage, but I dare not ask.

Whatever else we raise our children to grow up to be, independent and self-sufficient are very high on my list of must-haves. For them to find contentment when alone. To believe in themselves and know that they have a rightful place in this world that is no better and never, not ever, worse than anyone else's place. To be strong in their convictions and certain of the strength of their courage within. To know that they matter.

How can my friend sit at my coffee table and tell me the things she tells me and I tell her to leave, leave, leave and I show her my spare bed and I tell her that she can stay here forever if that's what it takes and she thanks me for my kindness and then she picks up her handbag and she goes back to that man? It doesn't make sense. It never makes sense.

She has three children.

At what point do we become responsible?

[Image found here.]


Oooh, look at the pretty picture!

Look, over there!

Distraction is a wonderful thing when all you want to say is 'make it stop, make it stop!'.

Anyway, Christie has very conveniently posted up my "Mum in the Hotseat" contribution over on Childhood 101 today. Do come over and read about the best mistake I ever made.

[This is Stephanie and Erin from Oh So Lovely Vintage]


The censored post

I put a post up here this afternoon and took it down again within the blink of an eye. Seriously, it was here for about 90 seconds and then it was whipped back into my draft pile. That Pile of Whoa - as in whoa nelly, don't say that!

I've received 7 emails about that post. Man, that RSS has a lot to answer for! I hardly ever get emails from readers. Seriously, if it wasn't for the reply function on Disqus that so many lovely bloggers use, there would be tumbleweeds tumbling weedily through

So, I'm writing this post to tell you why I took down that other post.

The other post (much like this post) was a post was about blogging. Right now, as you may have spotted around the Aussie blogiverse, there are debates raging about blogging and corporates and sponsorship and all that razzamatazz and I have strong opinions about it all. But I censored myself today.

I did it once before, when I called out the pretty-slash-pretty-useless girl at work and then felt bad about suggesting she was getting ahead based on her looks alone. I censored myself that day because I didn't really know that girl's full story and she didn't deserve me to make assumptions about her. I censored myself today for much the same reason.

Truth is, there is a lot I want to say but probably never will. Sometimes people deserve better than my truth. They deserve their own.

Have you ever censored a post before?


52 weeks of grateful: nurture

The number one reason that I love my recent 'life change' is that I get to spend more time with my crazy little Tsunamis.

I am not suggesting for a minute that they were in any way neglected whilst I was working hard in the grey world. Not at all. I believe that the more loving, sharing close relationships our children can form in their young lives, the better. Spending time with grown-ups other than family builds their independence and opens up their world.

But I'm very glad it's more me doing the world-opening these days.

It's not all sunshine and roses, quite the opposite actually. Like every mum who has ever mummed (and that is to say all mumming mums), the relentlessness of the school pick up and drop off routine coupled with the ceaseless whinge factor is enough to make me want to run back to greyland. Not quite.

But, this week I'm grateful for...

245. The everyday - being the constant in my children's Everyday is important and satisfying.

246. Nurturing - taking the time to get to know them better and helping them explore the people they are and the people they want to be. I talk more about this over at Village Voices this week.

247. Day's end - going completely off on a tangent, but after a loooong day both taking care of the children aaaaand putting in a day's work, I have never looked forward to Day's End quite so much. (Except maybe when Maxi was a newborn, but then Day's End never came... not for months.)

What's your favourite moment from this week?

Join us over at Village Voices and link up your own gratefuls.
Link opens 11am Sydney time each Friday.

It's a beautiful way to be.

[Image by Charles Gullung]

Things they didn't tell you about parenting

You might be seeing a little bit about a certain book here and there in the blogisphere. It happens when 32 bloggers are brought together into a sensational ebook for a sensational cause. All proceeds from the sale of this book go to Project 18, a charity established by Cate Bolt, an amazing Australian mum and humanitarian, to help 12 orphaned Indonesian girls (and many others) get an education and the chance of a confident, hopeful life.

Cate shows us all that we can make a difference if we really, really want to. If we trust in the kindness of others and we are prepared to work very hard indeed. It is an honour to contribute to this book and in a very small way contribute to Cate's work. I thank my sister Al  for including me, but mostly for coming up with this brilliant idea and caring enough to actually bring it to life as an ebook.

The book itself is absolutely wonderful. Every emotion you can think of is expressed somewhere in its pages and it is the most honest and heartfelt book about being a parent that I have ever read. My 'Smack!' post is in there... yes, my cranky pants method of parenting has gone global. Mixed emotions about that one, I can tell you!

Please visit the Things they didn't tell you about parenting website and buy this lovely little missive for only $4.95. Yep, just under a fiver. It's a true delight and I promise it will make you feel better about pretty much all of your parenting fails!

What do you wish you'd been told about parenting?
Add the link to the post on your blog that you would submit to this book!

Oh and I had a wonderful time last night. I don't know what I was worried about... but then, that's generally the case, isn't it? Why we worry about the things we worry about is just another a mystery to worry about!

[Image by Emma Hardy via Momfilter]


Old friends and the harshest critic

Nothing makes me more uncomfortable than visiting with a bunch of old friends. I'd rather deliver a speech to a room full of 1000 tomorrow than rock up to dinner with a cast of 10 tonight, eight years since I've seen many of them.

It's not that I don't like them. Indeed, I like them very much.

It's just the weight thing. And the hair thing. And the wrinkles and weight thing.

Years ago I was your gal-about-town in full make-up and pretty hair every single day. These days I rarely worry about my appearance - I dress for speed, not style. The hair is mostly pulled back in my 'signature' (ha!) pony tail and the make up is non-existent. I don't know what people think of me on a day to day basis anymore. Most of the time I'm a moving target anyway, so if people are commenting, I'm gone before I can overhear.

I think the thing about dinner with old friends is my own sense of inadequacy. I feel happier now that I don't go to all that endless trouble all the time, but I still feel a little bit like I've "let myself go" and that hurts. The fact that my dear old friends will feel obligated to offer some kind of compliment about how I look hurts even more. "Oh, you look great," they will say. "Your hair is so gorgeous" they will gush. And I know that compared to ten years ago, this is simply not true.

I just can't handle a false compliment, no matter how well-intended it is. It's hearing "You've lost weight!" every single time I go out. No, actually, I haven't. But because I'm fat, that's an easy compliment to butter me up with. I get it. You're fat ergo you must be trying to lose weight so an affirmation will be appreciated. Instead, every time someone says that to me it reminds me that I need to lose weight but I haven't.

I will be doing it myself, of course. A "love your dress!" will escape, followed by a "you look so great!". We can't help ourselves, it's part of being friendly. We say nice things to others and we really mean it at the time, but the weight of their own expectations will cloud the way they hear us.

"Just accept the compliment with thanks," my mother said to me years ago. I want to, but I just don't believe it. It's awfully hard being a realist sometimes... and isolating... and somewhat anti-social! I know I judge myself far harsher than anyone would ever dream of doing. Being kinder to myself might help me accept compliments with much more grace and courtesy than I currently do

So tonight, I am uncomfortable and dragging my feet a little. But once we're past that awkward compliment stage, I will be so lost in my old friends' company that I will forget all about criticising myself all over again. And that's true friendship, at the end of the day.

Can you take a compliment?
Do you judge yourself harshly now compared to 'then'?

[Image by Natalie Haywood]


Loving: Mr Printables

Sometimes I find a sight that makes my heart skip a beat.

Sometimes it's a site.

Do yourself a huge favour and check out Mr Printables. I cannot get enough. That's their "Say hello to the Cone Girls" up there. Adorbs, right?

And if you think this post is a little bit short... it is! Now that I'm (cough) a writer for other people... I find less time to be a writer for me. Nothing amazeballs, so don't get too excited. But exciting for me. I actually am beyond proud of myself for managing to segue out of grey old corporate life and into vibrant writing /editing life so smoothly. "I lucky" (a little quote from my nephew there, who used to grab hold of his three dummies at night and prop them up alongside himself and say "I lucky"... just gorgeous. We use the expression often).

So that's me.

And that's Mr Printables.

Do you ever actually print any of the free printables online? 
(I confess, not often... but still I pin and pin.)


The reality of imaginary TV friends

I can't stop the feeling that I know many of the people on reality TV. This is quite different from my other feeling that movies stars would want to be my best friend if they met me. Rather, every year when the new batch of dancing, singing masterenovators is announced, I think, "I'm sure I know that guy from somewhere". There is usually one per show, sometimes two. On The Renovators, it was Jason. That big lug, I knew him from somewhere.

In the case of The Voice I'm quite certain I was besties at one time or another with at least 5 of them. Darren, Glen, Glenn, Diana and Matt. They are not even my favourite contestant (hello Karise), but they are all so familiar to me in that 'can't quite put my finger on it' kind of way... I just know them.

I've never met any of these people before in my life, of course. It's just that when they beam into my living room and we learn so much about them, they spark memories of other people from distant times and take their place. Something about them is comforting. That guy reminds me of that other guy, so that guy becomes the guy that I know.

I defy anyone to suggest that they didn't know Marion or Julie from somewhere the minute they stepped onto the Masterchef screen. They are both just that 'every woman' kind of gal who everyone knows in some form or another. It's like they were born to be the world's best friend.

This is why when a season draws to a close (or when my besties get eliminated), I get a little bit sad. It's like farewelling a friend at the airport gate, knowing you'll probably never see them again. I miss them. Where do these cheeky reality TV friends go after the show? Back to real reality, that's where.

A real reality that sadly doesn't include being friends with me.

Do you make friends with reality TV peoples?

[Image via weheartit, please let me know if it is yours.]


Giveaway winner and some clutter busting tips

Comment number 33 was the lucky number to win The Crafty Kid giveaway.

Come on down, Tas from Little Boozle!

Have a lovely Saturday evening, everyone. I'm making a roast for dinner and eating that roast is what I'm doing tonight.

Today I found some brilliant ways to beat that horrible Clutter Monster to the curb. I posted my top 16 tips over on Village Voices in my new segment "Collected". "Collected" is kind of a revamped "Things I learned this week" and I am in love!

What's your number one way to beat clutter?

What are you having for dinner tonight?


52 weeks of grateful: Why

I've been trying to clarify why I do the grateful thing. Why am I grateful? Once upon a time over 100 bloggers would link up on the Grateful linky each week and numbers have dwindled and dwindled. I wondered why that was and I got myself all tangled up about it and then wrote a rather heartfelt post about it what grateful means on Kidspot this week. It helped me get it out.

And after that I felt much better.

Living gratefully wakes me up and reminds me that I choose to be happy. It makes me notice things I might otherwise take for granted. Being a part of the Grateful linky each week grounds me and opens my heart.

So, this week I'm grateful for...

242. Reminders - sometimes I forget what I started out to do. I lose my way a little bit. It's nice to be reminded.

243. Why - asking it, wondering it, answering it, pondering it. Why is a very good word indeed.

244. Love notes - Every day since Mother's Day Cappers has made me a little note telling me how much she loves me. She writes them for her dad as well, but she still gets her Ds and Bs mixed up so the cards say "I love you mum and bab". Bab loves them hugely.

What's your favourite moment from this week?

Join us over at Kidspot and link up your own gratefuls.
Link opens 11am Sydney time each Friday.

It's a beautiful way to be.

[Image found on weheartit. Please let me know if it is yours]


Rolling out the princess party invitations

No rest for the wicked around here (no surprise then that I've been awake for years and years and years). They never tell you when family planning that the really important age gap is actually the distance between each child's birthday in a calendar year.

Around here, Maxi and The Badoo are just one month apart on the calendar year. I honestly thought my problems were going to be the mere 17 months age difference between Maxi and Cappers, but no. One month between birthdays is my real gap pain point.

With siblings, you either want to run them out on the same day each year (as my friends have done... many jokes, people, many jokes) or you want a gap of at least 2 months between each child. This enables ample time to party plan for each birthday, build suspense for the big day and find a place to put each child's new toys away.

Due to our lack of family planning foresight, we've no time to spare around here. I've rolled myself up out of the hay and pumped out 12 princess castles in the dead of night ready to distribute (if that even makes sense... I am tired).

I am dead pleased with them.

What's the calendar gap between your kids? Do you find it adequate?

Have you entered The Crafty Kid giveaway? Closes TODAY at 5pm!

{Castle image from Forwalls wall decal}


Things I can (probably) make

Let's go fly a kite sundress

After the success of my calico bags (oh, who am I kidding, the one I made for Cappers has already fallen apart), I feel buoyed to try something else on the sewing machine. Something achievable but fab enough to be worth the effort.

The Crafties Kid and Minx have heaps of ideas, but I've also rounded up a few online sewing tutorials over the years which I thought I'd share. Do any of these inspire you to get your sewing on?

(Making a big one for me, of course)

Fark, just adding these images to this post has got me in a bit of a cold sweat. I'm probably better off sticking to this one for now....

What should I tackle first?


Pinky: A love story

From the moment The Badoo met her Pinky, it was love at first sight. She was barely 3 months old when we first wrapped her in the cotton stripey blanket (from Ikea - we are all class here). I'm a big one for enormous wrap materials for newborns - forget those flimsy 100cm ones, you need the kind that wraps and wraps and keeps on wrapping. Pinky was always the wrap that calmed her the most.

When she was old enough to talk, I think 'Mumma' was her first word (oh, okay, it was Dadda.You know, whatevs kid) and 'pinky' was her second. To this day we have no idea why Pinky is called Pinky - all those stripes and not a single one is pink. But I can tell you that all blankets are 'pinkies' in The Badoo's world.

We don't let her take 'him' to daycare, but a swift reunion always takes place when she returns home. For all that, she is not 'attached' to Pinky in the way that I have seen other children attach to toys and blankies. If Pinky isn't available because he is being washed or due to some catastrophe such as Daddy (oh, okay, it was me) leaving him at Nonna's place and refusing point blank to go back for him, a 'substitute pinky' may temporarily be used. And she will call it 'Substitute Pinky'.

My other children have never had this sort of attachment. Cappers went through a stage where Carla (the showgirl dolly) was a constant companion, but it was (fortunately) fleeting. Maxi has always attached to whatever is the latest and greatest this week (lately, Pokemon and god help me, he is so boring, reeling off evolve after evolve).

I find it interesting that The Badoo was also my only child to become obsessed with the bottle and dummy (still! help!) and I wonder if there is a particular character trait that finds comfort in such things. It's a lovely thing for a child to have a Pinky in this world and in so many ways I find Pinky comforting too.

Does / did your child have a 'lovie'?


It's random giveaway time: The Crafty Kid

I'm in the middle of a big de-clutter at my place. Every now and then I just go nuts and have a Big Clear Out, getting rid of anything that's been annoying me for the past six months or so. Bin it, Vinnies it, Recycle it or Pass it On. That's my four areas and sadly the 'Bin it / Recycle it' boxes are always the biggest. The tat that kids accumulate is unbelievable. Where does it come from and how does it get in my house? A question for the ages...

The reason I'm telling you this is that during my Big Clear Out I discovered that I had two copies of the marvellously inspirational The Crafty Kid by Kelly Doust. I do that from time to time... covet something so much that I buy it twice. What to do?

Why give one away to you, of course!

Look, you can even make an apron!

Giveaway is open to anyone, anywhere.

All you've gotta do to be in the draw is leave me a comment below telling us all about the last creative thing you did with your kids. Doesn't have to be crafty (this book will help you enormously if you're challenged in the crafty department). Can be anything creative whatsoever.

Entries close on Friday, 18 May.
Winner drawn using that random number generator thingy and announced here on Saturday, 19 May.

Happy mother's day to mothers everywhere... and to anyone that cares for children 365 days of the year.

What creative thing have you done with your kidlets lately?

PS - Make sure I can easily find your email to let you know when you win!

Happy Mumma's Day (off) to you!

Best job in the whole wide world... today.

Hope you are being squeezed and adored, wherever you are. 



Farm party free printables

We had such a fabulous time at Max's Farm Party. Putting all the elements together was fussy, but worth the effort.

I've uploaded the Powerpoint docs I created with all of the farm party elements. You can edit them in Powerpoint to personalise to your own child and their guests. To work with these, you'll need the following (free) fonts installed:

Note that the correct fonts will not show up in the Google docs area, but they will when you download the file and view it in Powerpoint.

Farm party printables

To see how the invitations work, click here. I have changed the actual seed packet since I did Max's (only 'cos I really didn't like the other one but ran out of time to redo them at the time!)

Farm party printables

Farm party printables

Farm party printables
Click here to see how we made all the food.

Farm party printables
These labels fit a half-dozen egg carton. They make the perfect 'take to school for the birthday kid' sweet - click here to see how we made the 'eggs'.

Farm party printables
These fit a standard 500ml water bottle.

Farm party printables
You can make these double or single-sided depending on your food table set up.

Farm party printables
We used these on the calico thank you bags and filled them with jelly beans.

These notes were also attached to the thank you bags, but you could also put them inside.

Have fun putting together your own farm party and let me know if you have any problems. I'm at maxabella at gmail dot com and I am always happy to talk kids' parties!