Until death, or zombies do us part…

With wedding related emails filling up my inbox and a list full of “to-do-closer-to-the-date’ jobs that could take us to our first anniversary, the topic of matrimony seems to be frequenting my conversations beyond anything I’d previously expected. Unfortunately so to do the opinions and unimpressed expressions of every old dame, who’s inbuilt radar has spotted my engagement ring and the sticky fingered kid hanging off it. And with every questionable-twist of the too-old to-wax-lip, my matrimony related decision-making process, comes slightly un-done and I’m left asking myself; if the decisions I’m making about our wedding, which will ultimately be the bunting draped rocket that launches us into married life, are the right ones for us?

Of course, I’m not waxing on about choosing flowers, wine, dresses etc (which are of course stupidly important, but I’m sure with enough wine will be less so on the day). I’m talking about the decisions that dictate how much, and what kind of tradition we’ll be incorporating into our marriage. This I know, is the female fiasco that plagues every slightly inclined to call herself feminist thinking bride to ever question the merits of ‘something blue’. With the very foundations of what marriage is, being passed down in a sugar almond shell, it’s up to every woman to decide just what exactly she’ll take from the woman before her, and what she’ll pass down to those that will hit the aisle in her footsteps.

Don’t get me wrong, tradition (obviously) has never been our thing. Our three children will be present at our wedding and there certainly was no bending down on one knee (I can handle surprise babies, but I think a surprise proposal would have put me out cold). We talked about getting married, as a form of mutual decision, and I practically announced to my fiancée, when I decided it was time. We openly discussed ‘the ring’ and I designed it myself. My godfather is a “bridesman”, and our daughter will be our flower girl (or err.. she’ll thud down the aisle first, and take down anyone in her way).

Don’t get me wrong, old ladies aside, marriage in this country is obviously not what it used to be. My dad isn’t expected to split with five thousand a year, and my property doesn’t instantly fall into my fiancés lap the day we get hitched. No one is expected to trade cows for my hand, (although I’m sure they wouldn’t say no to a case of beer). However, whether you like it or not, with something as age old as marriage; tradition always manages to rear its white wearing, virginity flaunting head. From small things like something borrowed something blue. To bigger, scarier things; like being given away at the altar or throwing off your maiden name, like a bride’s nightie (see what I did there?). Marriage can be as steeped with tradition or as uniquely different as you want it to be.

I feel that at the end of the day, it’s about harnessing the beast and taming it into something we’re comfortable with, something we can call our own. If we were getting married so we could buy a house, start a family and choose a dog, I think it’d be different. I think we’d be more prepared to do things the way we’re told to; but that wouldn’t be for us. I don’t need a piece of paper to tell people it’s socially acceptable for me to go fourth, procreate, and co-own a fat Labrador, I’m quite happy living in Bull terrier sharing so called sin. That’s not what marriage is about to me. It’s about taking something traditional, something that our parents did, and turning it into something new and different. Something that suits us, and that I’ll be happy to pass down to my daughter, to tweak and rearrange and make her own. It’s a way of saying; I want to spend my life with this person, on our terms, not the terms our parent’s laid out, not the terms that anyone else believes dictates the roles individuals in couples should play. But on the terms we choose for ourselves and each other, demonstrated through whatever treading or trampling of tradition is necessary.

It’s about not feeling obligated to anyone else outside of our marriage, taking into account what your families think, but having the audacity and the respect for ourselves and each other to say ‘no, that’s how you did it, but it’s not for us.’

So this is where I’m at, somewhere between the red flowers or the white, and choosing whether I want to be “given away” like something ready for the op shop. Or declaring that I give myself, not as property, but to our marriage as an equal half. If I want to wear a flouncy white marshmallow dress I can, if I want to wear a sequined mini I can do that too, but no one can tell me otherwise.

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Focussing on the positives.

After dealing with, and blogging some negatives from our week, I feel I need to balance myself out a little with some of the lover-lier things from our days.

Firstly, appreciating greatness

This week has been pretty full-up, and despite the fact that all day yesterday I thought I’d lost a day; it’s only Wednesday. I was having a particularly stressful day. Putting together some uni work and trying to reason with a two year old that physics just wouldn’t appreciate her jumping on a trampoline with a cup of milk in hand (and neither would I).  Then I got a message from a friend asking for some help with a bake sale. Firstly, I love baking so yippee! And secondly the proceeds of said baked goods are to go to a charity organisation her partner works for in PNG that’s aim is to discourage violence against women. We’re winning all round here. Baked goods and human rights, I’m totally in. But this really got me appreciating the efforts of this girl. Firstly, she’s a Mumma, a time restricted, busy women who dedicates her days to caring for her children as it is. But regardless of her hectic schedule she’s still taking time out for others, volunteering her efforts to help support and encourage the support of others. It doesn’t get much cooler than that.

Secondly; a kindness and some cupcakes

Back to the battle of the uni work load, in which I realise it’s Monday and I haven’t finished Friday’s lecture material, and Monday’s work has already come through. Enter the panic stage, in which I continuously sigh, pull my hair back and occasionally although not intentionally resemble Munch’s ‘Scream’. However shortly after entering this phase, a friend showed up with a batch of home-baked cup cakes for my babies. Not only were they amazing, but they made for some ridiculously happy foxes. To top it off, upon leaving she produced an armful of delicious “study-food” goods to get me through the text-book filled nights this week. A small act to her, maybe. But it put me back on top for the week and got me feeling pretty blessed to be surrounded by such wonderful people.

Thirdly; some lovely mail

Enter my barely-standing completely not-waterproof mailbox. In the last week, I’ve received two pretty fantastic pieces. Firstly a postcard from a friend who has recently migrated to Cape York (the very pointy looking tip of Australia). This postcard made my day. It featured two little smiling local kids on the front, and a big long chat on the back about her bare-footed, bush living, ant eating journey thus far. It sounded amazing and it was just like talking to her in person. I got a little bit jealous of her plans to travel through the Savannah and around the Gulf to the Northern Territory, and was ridiculously happy to hear she’s enjoying her new found love of living off the land. Secondly came the delivery of my favourite magazine, addressed to the “Bohemian housewives club member” and sent to me from my very best friend, as a birthday present. Needless to say, I’m becoming very fond of our ready-for-the-heritage-list mail box. With the promise of a long-winded letter from another lovely friend on the way, I think I’d better go buy some stamps (who am I kidding, I have a draw full, just in case). It really is an art worth rekindling.

And lastly; the times they are a changin’

This week I walked outside and within a few minutes I was sneezing. Who is this weirdo? But really, I am that inhaler sucking, nerd whose skin cells rise up in warning at the sound  a barking dog. The jasmine vine I planted when we moved in just a year ago is in flower. Everywhere. It smells amazing and its little buds of pink and white are making me stupid happy. All the flowers we planted over a year ago are coming into bloom. I’m ridiculously happy that my usually more so, brightly lacquered red thumb is slightly green after all. It’s even getting warm enough to play outside. Today we sat in th sun away from the computer for a while. I completed my readings for the day and had a cup of tea  while baby fox kicked about with his bum in the air, cooing away. We will be doing it again tomorrow.

Hashtag mummy bullies.

Today something sparked my outrage. And it was attached to the humble “hash tag”. This anger has been stirring around in me for a little while, but it tipped over as I was flicking through my usual feed of Mummy Blogs. While checking out a new post, I stumbled across a picture that featured a baby with its bum in the air and a mother pointing to his cloth nappy. I thought to myself; that’s great for that mum, she’s obviously found something that works for her and she’s happy to share it with the world (or 243 “followers”- feeling cult like? Read on). However I noticed she ‘hashtagged’ (am I saying it right?) about a dozen different things, the last of which was #disposablediaperssuck. Ok, that’s how this blogger feels. With my anger level at “slightly irritated” I continued on. But again, a few posts down there was another photo of a breastfeeding mother, (I love breastfeeding and enjoy seeing it everywhere, but I also like seeing a baby being fed-period). But this hash tag flared that fiery, bandana sporting you can’t tell me what to do demon, my children know means trouble. It read #formulasucks.

Here she goes…

Firstly let me say, I love breast feeding and even more so, I love that parents put whatever the hell they can around their child’s nether regions to prevent the spread of poop. BUT here’s my problem; with 15% of mothers in this country diagnosed with postnatal depression, and many more slipping through un treated, who the hell does any other mother think they are to shame them and tell them that what they do sucks? Especially one, running a successful blog in a position to influence.

It’s simply putting pressure on an already vulnerable group within society, whilst the “all natural parent” strokes their own organic growing ego and places themself on a pedestal of perfect parenting. This is a big thing. Both on-line and in the greater community. From “breast is best” to “disposable diapers suck” to “immunisations and autism” to “hey, here’s an el natural cure for tooth ache fashioned from sticks and stones- 30 bucks please”.

I feel it really says something terrible about our generation of parenting, when “mummy bullying” is an actual thing. What hope do we give our children in a school yard if they’re taught to point out another kid because his rice wheels aren’t gluten free?

Could we all just stop and examine that disposable wearing, bottle fed, immunised child? Firstly she is fed and nourished. Her mother may have struggled endlessly with breastfeeding or she may have immediately decided it wasn’t for her. Her choice. She is clothed; her nappy may not have been hand woven from organic fibres but it keeps her clean and infection free. Way to go, mum. And lastly her parents made a conscious, scary but educated decision to give her the life-long gift, which is protection against polio. This kid’s mother- the nerve of her, seriously, how dare she. Come on guys, really?

Her Rusk sticks may have been home cooked, or they may be store bought. Either way, it sure as heck isn’t anyone’s place to shame a mother over how she cares for her child. Bullying is bullying regardless of a hash tag stuck in front.

forever young, mum.

Today I got the look. Gasp. Oh no, she didn’t!

There’s a high chance, if you’re reading this, you know the one I’m talking about. Are you a young mum, reading fragments of this as you fluster about with four other tasks and banana shmooshed in your hair?  Do you sometimes leave the house in the shirt you slept in the night before? Did you not even get to sleep? If you answered yes to any of the above, then chances are you’re all too familiar with the look I’m talking about.

You’ll also know that ‘the look’ takes many forms. It’s the older mother in the park scrutinizing your decision to ride the seesaw. It’s the man behind the counter at the greengrocer, rolling his eyes as you search for change, one hand latched onto a little finger that’s determined to run for freedom.  Or it’s the older lady in the waiting room shaking her head when your toddler accidently tips their drink; she pays no attention to the married women whose daughter has thrown herself on the floor. The look comes from many faces, and they all suck.

The look-er – let’s call them, doesn’t see the good. In fact they see very little. They see what they’ve already decided to see, and it’s shaped by years of narrow mindedness.   They see your kid fall off the swing, but they don’t see you standing right behind her, ready to pick her up and wipe away the dirt. They see that you forgot to put his socks on, but not that you kissed every one of his little toes after his bath.

This isn’t my first time at the rodeo – I’ve gotten the look before, many times in fact, and eventually it gets wearing. I’ve noticed myself changing my mannerisms in public, or putting extra time into mine and my kids appearance in order to give off the “I vacuum under my couch and there’s a spare change of clothes in my nappy bag and a rain coat at all times” look. I sometimes feel as though when my kid swears at school it’s automatically conceived that it’s because I’m young and have tattoos, therefore I must swear in front of my kids.

What it took me a long time to realise is that there is actually a lot to learn from the look-er. First and fore mostly; I’ve learnt to never be that person. To never judge someone on a preconceived idea (i.e. young parent equals irresponsible parent) or purely on the basis of what someone else has said. And secondly; I’ve learnt that you could pull organic home-knitted, outfit matching baby mittens out of your butt; but you’ll never please everyone. It’s a bit cliché, but as long as I know that I did everything I could to make our day run smoothly; that little tantrum in the car park or the mismatched socks at the doctors isn’t going to faze me.

Sometimes, after a particularly stanky look I think; “would that person be judging me this way if I’d taken a different path and decided not to have my children young?” No, they probably wouldn’t even notice me; this is when I realise that I’m truly blessed to have put the wind up an old lady’s skirt for the day. Yes I may be out in public with my hair un brushed, and I can promise you nothing will be ironed, but I have three butt kicking children that will never consider looking at someone side-ways for being a little different. And on the plus, I can still chase after them rolling downhill, without my pelvic floor falling out (at least for a few more years-knock wood).

One of my favourite quotes at the moment is from Benjamin Law; and I think it applies perfectly to the look-er; “A sage and omnipotent being, known as ‘the internet’, once said something incredibly wise under a picture of a cat dressed like a gangster driving a pimp mobile. Haters gonna hate. And the truth is, there’s nothing you can do about it.”

a birthday story

Today is Friday, the day before my little boy’s 6th birthday. Six years ago, I was already in the labor. Earlier this evening, when he went to bed we started assembling (or rather my fiancé assembled, I handed the occasional screw driver) a 12ft trampoline in our yard. It’s now 11.30. We’re finished, and I’m asking myself in the dark and the wind; has it gotten any easier? In short yes, hell yes, immeasurably (even if at times it doesn’t feel it). For a start, it wasn’t me, single headedly building the trampoline (phew; it would almost certainly be a cage of bouncing death if I did build it, also he’d be 12 by the time it was done).
About a week ago I was sorting through some old things at my parents and found a book of letters I wrote to him just before, and after he was born. I was excited to read them, and then put them away for him, but after I reread what I’d penned nearly seven years ago, I felt ill.

I’d forgotten so much of what our lives were like when he was born that I wish I’d just stuck with the story I’d pieced together in my mind from clouded memories and photographs. I threw the book away after I read it and knew I’d done the right thing. Reading through the letters I didn’t see a together, determined young mother, I saw a terrified and alone teenager trying to keep it all together. This is not something he needs to see.
When he wakes up in the morning, it’s probably because he’s ridiculously excited to be spoilt on his birthday or because his little sister is scampering about making sounds for him to play with her. Or maybe even both. He’ll walk into the kitchen and see presents and spot his new,  trampoline that his devoted step father built for him in the dead of night. We’ll take him to his soccer final and out for a celebratory breakfast afterwards where he’ll eat cake for breakfast; just because he can. He does not need to read about where he came from, or have to remember where he’s been. It’s unimportant. What’s important is that he’s a ridiculously happy, smart and loved little kid who just so happens to come from a “blended” family.
I hate this term “blended family” it’s given to families that included children from previous relationships and it sounds like we’ve all been thrown together and beaten until we’ve mixed and are ready for the oven (don’t get me wrong, if we were, we’d make a flipping delicious cake). But it’s not the case and it’s a stupid term that divides families unnecessarily into categories. A family is a family regardless of whose womb you sprouted in or whose sack you happened to escape. A family is what defines who you are and where you’re going regardless of lineage.

We recently listened on giggling as he spoke to one of his friends; “My step dad is the best dad in the world, don’t you wish your dad was a cool step dad like mine?” we looked at each other and giggled; saying that he clearly didn’t understand the difference between having a step dad and having a “real’ dad. But I think he did. He’s a child and he calls it as he sees it; he sees himself as having the best “real” father figure in the world, and it couldn’t matter less to him if he’s a “dad” or a “Step dad” because in his little mind there’s no difference.

Macramé Madness!

In the style of my academic career, when the going gets tough; I make or bake. I throw my hands up in the air and put my craft face on, and then I put my hands on my face in a Munch-esque style and panic. On the last day, I get two out of 24 hours of sleep, and throw my assessment across the finish line, collapsing in a heap behind my computer and declaring loudly, “Well, I’ll never do that again” until of course the next assessment is due.

So today I’m making lemon syrups cakes, they’ll be flipping delicious, because every ounce of effort I should be putting into my sociology paper is going in to these sweet little babies; brace yourselves, they’ll even look delicious. Last week, in the lead up to session starting I crocheted an entire blanket. Totally worth it. On the very last day I actually did the crucial thing and set up a makeshift study in our spare room. Between the two us, we’ve been at uni a total of ten and a half years and built up at least two rooms worth of books, robots, Rubik’s cubes and white boards; you’d think we’d have a proper study.

So today I’ll also finish the little cat I’m sewing for my friend Nikki’s new baby girl, Alice. They’re coming to stay for the weekend while the daddy’s are away on a buck’s night. I’m getting ready for some lovely company, delicious food, group breastfeeding and a healthy dose of Sex and the City.

Until than I think I might try Macramé, I recently inherited a few beautiful hanging pots from my Nanna and Mother in Law, I’m promised it’s super easy, anyone tried? Or maybe I’ll go all Bernard Black and fashion a coat out of my study notes? Or call my Ma? Or watch Black Books?! Or maybe I’ll write anther blog? Two in one day? Flip-balls, something important must be due next week…

 

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Can’t be too hard/time consuming, right?

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Told you, awesome.

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A makeshift Nerd Nest

Having it both ways.

Stopped in traffic recently I noticed a bumper sticker that read “Can’t eat coal, can’t drink gas” which got me thinking; “what the hell does that person think a car actually is”? Clearly, in their world a motor vehicle is some sort of magic-mobile that glides over highways on the scent of bunnies and free flying bluebirds alone. Worst of all, the car wasn’t a car; it was a Kombi. Yes, sucking petrol faster than my grandmother sucks sherry, and spewing exhaust from under the trademark peace sign badge. I will never understand how a vehicle such as, is associated with the tree loving hippie; you can practically watch trees choke to death and die as it drives passed, yeah,  peace man.

  What particularly sparked my recent rage towards the dreadlocked, tree huggy type was a yoga class. Before you get to wondering, who is this nature hating, carbon witch? You should know that I actually don’t hate the world; I just study it. I started earth and environmental science in my second year of uni, out of a genuine interest in environmental resources, sustainability and physics. This led me to studying the surprisingly super interesting field of mining geology; which is where the yogi bears come in. During the class, which I thought I was being pretty adventurous in taking (well, I learnt from that mistake..) I was casually engaging in minor chit chat, when I was asked about my studies. But the conversation ended abruptly; as no sooner did the word “mining” come out of my mouth, did the entire room darken, and the queen yogi’s aura went from purple to a coal dripping shade of black. The “Save the Planet” plastered walls started caving in and I spent the rest of the lesson saluting the sun in solidarity.

 I was enraged for a number of reasons; firstly, because that class was supposed to be my 20 bucks worth of weekly Zen, but mostly because if they had of bothered listening to the rest of my sentence, instead of voicing their highly fashionable opinions on coal seam gas and “windmill power”, they might have heard the words “sustainability”, “conservation” and “eco management”. Then we all could have been sipping our organic tea in harmony. But ignorance is obviously bliss because they continued their routine in the comfort of their electrically lit sub-leased room, in front of a gigantic gas heater. SILLY HIPPIES. I bet you thought a happy cuddly bear farted to produce that gas?! Yeah, I’m talking to you, old guy in the back; we all know the bears aren’t the only ones loosing gas during those classes… 

Now I understand that people get passionate about their causes and that’s great; we all have a vegan friend, you know, the one everyone knows is vegan because they never shut up about it, and I’m totally accepting of that, power to you! But when you start telling me how offensive my carnivorous ways are, or that my moisturiser was tested on bunnies with really, really sore eyes, you wanna hope your tampon is fashioned out of organic, unbleached seaweed.

My point is, you can’t have it both ways; you can’t claim carbonless superiority over me because my solar panels aren’t organic if your eggs aren’t free range.  Being environmentally conscious and responsible is more important today than it ever has been, but it’s also trendier than ever; you can’t jump on a parenting blog without having hand woven cloth nappies, amber necklaces or quinoa sold to you in bulk at a 300% price hike; and we’re back in the yoga class, paying 20 bucks an hour to be lectured by a bunch of kombi driving methane emitters.

 Well I won’t be in it! I’m keeping my twenty dollars this week aura lady and putting it towards something else! It might be organic, it might not be. Either way, it’s not your business if I forgot my “green bags”, they are an extra dollar each at the checkout and I buy allot of groceries so you’ll just have to hope I remember them next week! Until then, I hope the rise in petrol costs don’t stop you driving your shaggin’ wagon. Maybe you should ask my vegan friend about her Prius?