So far so good

So we’re in Singapore! The flight over was fine. From a grownup perspective they fed us, watered us, and let us watch movies. From a Bianca’s perspective we had to sit still and watch TV for 7 hours. It wasn’t nearly as exciting as she thought it would be; we’d only been in the air about an hour and she started asking if we’d landed yet.

We landed at 9pm Singapore time, which was midnight in Melbourne. Bianca managed to hold out until an hour before that then crashed and would not wake up. I had to lug our two cabin bags with her as a sack of spuds over my shoulder until we were almost at immigration. Then of course seeing Daddy and getting to the apartment was way too exciting and it was after midnight before she fell back asleep – only to wake up bright and early at 4:30am. It’s now the afternoon and she’s crashed in a major way. I can’t even wake her for Little Mermaid on TV. I’m trying not to think what this might mean for tonight’s sleep…

Today is a lazy day. This morning Dave took us down for breakfast and then after he left for work I took B to the playground and kiddy pool. It’s humid, but not too hot. The place we’re staying is more like serviced apartments than a hotel and full of expats from all over the world either over for a few weeks on business or in the process of moving here. There are quite a few families. I’ve already chatted with one woman who’s moving from London; she has a little girl a few months younger than B and they loved playing together. I hope to see her again, she was lovely and it would be nice to know someone if we do move here.

Tomorrow we are going to the zoo. I expect to sweat a lot. Nice.

Parkinson’s law in action

This week has devolved into a bit of a stressfest. Packing and organising really shouldn’t have taken too long, but of course I’m doing my best procrastination to make it stretch out and fill the whole week. My hindbrain thinks it should be stressful so I’ll make it so, dammit!

There’s been a kerfuffle about B’s passport. I put the application in at the start of my holidays in what should have been plenty of time, but the photos (which we did take ourselves) weren’t right so I whisked B in to get proper ones done and dropped them off at the post office as instructed last Monday. Then the woman there must have sent them übersnailmail because they weren’t even delivered to the passport office until Thursday (wtf?) – too late for the normal process so I had to pay an extra $108 to get express service. And then late Friday, a guy called me from the Passport Office and said, “You know those photos you sent in? Well we lost them. Can you send us some more?”

Argh!!!!!

It was too late then to do anything, so first thing Monday morning I went into the city to drop off another set of photos. Tuesday I drove the birds out to the boarding place in Kinglake and then back into the city to get the (thankfully completed) passport – I was gone most of the day. Then today B and I took the bunny to his holiday place. In between I should still have been able to finish everything with ease but I’ve been watching TV and mucking around with unnecessary projects and eating everything in sight all to avoid the stress…. Which, if I’d just get on and do stuff, wouldn’t even be there, would it?

Oh well, at least I won’t have any trouble meeting our mileage needs this year. The lesson from all this is don’t wait until you need a passport to apply for one; even if you don’t think you’ve left it till the last minute there are plenty of ways it can still go wrong!

Now, where is my passport?

All the single parents, put your wine glasses up…

So, I’ve been single parenting for 10 days now and I have to say, it’s gone pretty well so far. So far, I have not had too many issues at all. I am so lucky that Dave’s trip coincided with my time off; it would be a completely different story if I was working and having to wrangle us both out the door at the right time.

Bedtimes have gone to shit though. I pretty much have lost the will to argue by then. I could really do with a Good Cop to run interference at bedtime. Before Dave left, he sat down with B and told her that while he was away she had to look after Mummy for him. “Okay Daddy,” Bianca said. Then we came back from the airport and I wouldn’t let her do — some ridiculous thing, I can’t even remember what it was that time — which of course, cue shouting and stamping. “Hey,” I said mildly. “Didn’t you tell Daddy you’d look after Mummy for him?”

Bianca looked at me and said matter-of-factly, “Daddy isn’t here.” Ooh.  So I do what I can and every night once she’s finally in bed I get back to my favourite decluttering project, the wine racks.

*

On the organisational front, I was disappointed at first with how I was doing. On Thursday, my first Bianca-free Day of Doing!(tm)  my friend Becky came over for morning tea, didn’t leave until 1pm, and after that the day was shot. Friday I barely moved, it was too hot and humid to get anything done. I was feeling pretty annoyed at myself. But! This week, I have been awesome! I have had Monday, Tuesday and Thursday to myself, and I have done all of these things:

  • decluttered and organised a couple of kitchen cupboards
  • cleared out the laundry (again) and got rid of things that shouldn’t be in there.
  • cleaned my oven
  • cleared the study again and actually found homes for things (like stationery) that have been sitting in boxes under my desk, on my desk, or in the middle of the room, for four years.
  • finished setting up my filing system. WITH LABELS. Oh the beauty, it hurts.
  • labelled the crap out of everything else in the study too
  • organised our wardrobes

The oven was a major project that’s been hanging over me for ages. When we first moved in I baked a cake with berries which leaked all over the bottom of it, and for the last four years that has been getting cremated several times a week. I can’t use oven cleaners because we have birds with little lungs, and getting the steamer thingy out always seemed like such a faff. But on Tuesday it was reasonably cool so I dragged it out and you know what? Setting it up is NOT a faff. It is easy and although it took a fair amount of elbow grease, after an hour the oven looks pretty damn amazing. It’s not perfect, there are still little black specks in places and the oven ceiling is a bit chunky but it is CLEAN and grease-free, and the wire shelves are silver again! I can even see through the little window now. And it doesn’t smell when I use it anymore. I am really proud of myself for this and I keep opening the oven and peeking in at its beauty.

Likewise the wardrobe has been bugging me for ages but I’ve never got around to it. Everything was squashed in and on mismatched hangers and generally a mess. So I pulled the sliding doors off, grouped like with like, rehung everything on the matching hangers I bought ages ago, worked out the best most sensible way to put everything back, sorted the old hangers into sets tied with cable ties, and put them in the car to be donated. Again, it sounds little but it’s something I’ve wanted to do for ages and OMG I cannot stop opening the doors to admire inside. So pretty! (Shame about the rest of the room.)

And then today, I had lunch with a girlfriend and then shopped for things for our holiday. So really I’ve had only three full Days of Doing!(tm) and I’ve got a LOT of the big things I wanted to do out of the way already. Go me!

*

So we’re doing pretty well, but that’s not to say I don’t miss Dave. I feel a bit aimless at the end of the day and I text him about ridiculous things just to read his words. By this time next week, we’ll be in Singapore with him, assuming B’s passport comes through, but that’s another story…

Six! And a half! Weeks! Off!

I am so excited, because as of last Friday I have six (and a half) weeks off from work. I’m done, baby, until Labour Day in March. Woo!

Have you ever thought how good it would be to just concentrate a wodge of time to getting a bunch of stuff done? Like, just put life on hold and take care of a bunch of projects and decluttering and enything else haning over your head? Wouldn’t that be great? Me too. I mean, I’m sure if I could just make a concerted effort on evenings and weekends instead of flopping in front of the TV, I could get EVERYTHING done. But either I don’t do it for long enough, or (more likely) I obsess about whatever project I’m doing so much that everything else falls apart. Hello, tax returns and paper clutter, I’m looking at you.

Balance, that’s what I’m lacking. I don’t have balance. Okay, I’m unbalanced, thank you Dave for the over-the-shoulder assistance, that really helps.

Of course, in my mind I’ve spent the time five or six times over, with everything I’m planning to do. Decluttering everything! Organising my whole house! Painting! DIY! Paperwork! Craft! Garden projects! not to mention all the yoga classes, lunches, and other stuff just for me. So exciting, so much to do! But there is absolutely no way to do it all and I will NOT set myself up for disappointment, so I am reining myself in with all my strength and trying to remember what is important, which is the bit about getting some balance and setting up habits and routines and become organised in that way. Get into the day to day swing of routines and yes, declutter and do projects because there will be wedges of time where I can, but most I want to work out how to get my home flowing smoothly so it doesn’t keep getting derailed by obsessions projects all the time.

Course, I’m not actually getting six full weeks to work on this. This weekend we’ve been on holidays in Bright so Dave could ride in a cycling event, then tomorrow he’s off to Singapore (!) for a month for work, and in a couple of weeks Bianca and I will be joining him too, so  it’s really more like 4 weeks. But I can’t complain about missing housework time to go on holidays, can I? Can I? No, it turns out, I cannot.

What would you do with a chunk of free time like this?

Posted in .

what I learned in 2013

2013 was a strange year.

I said it was going to be the year of paring down. And it kind of was; I managed some of that. Mostly I cut myself some slack and decided it was better to just quietly get along with doing stuff instead of stressing out that I wasn’t taking photos and writing really interesting blog posts about it. Sucks for you if you wanted to read along, but it was a relief for me. And probably just as well, because really what I did was mostly under-the-surface internal thinking and navel-gazing that is interesting when it’s your own navel but not so much when it’s someone else’s.

weirdest. feeling. ever.

Sheldon is interested in everyone’s navel. Do not try this at home.

In 2013, I discovered that I can still enjoy work, and be really bloody good at it. All it takes is finding the right role. I was so, so lucky this year to fall back into my niche. And from there I could finally see the full impact being in the wrong job had in 2012. Depression, aimlessness, no confidence in myself – it impacted so much, and I didn’t even realise it at the time. I feel like a completely different person now!

I discovered I really could live with people living in my space for an extended period (read: 7 months) and enjoy it. Well, most of it.

But I also realised I’m too easy going because I use being overly generous as a way to get people to like me.

Which is silly, because this year I realised I have friends. Actual girlfriends, who like me anyway, and who want to spend time with me.

And I can think of things to say when we’re together.

And Op Shopping (thrifting for you US types) is great fun!

But I will probably NEVER do any of the projects I think I will on all those rough treasures I bring home. One giant box of photo frames is enough, so step away NOW.

I discovered that kids only get better with age, and that annoying pink frilly princess LOOK AT ME LOOK AT ME stage IS annoying but it is also awesome and amazing as you see their brains grow. For all the shouting and foot stamping (on both sides) I much prefer being the Mama of an almost-four-year-old than a toddler.

(Not least because they can work out that saying “yes Mama,” will melt the heart of the angriest mummy and therefore use it All. The. Time. I don’t care how sincere she is, it sounds adorable. So now I am Mama and she has pretty much whatever she wants.)

Around mid year Dave’s work threw up the very real possibility that we will need to relocate sometime soon, maybe just to Sydney but possibly to Singapore. I have a million different reactions to this news, but the two main ones are Argh! This house is so disorganised! Got to get it ready in case we need to sell! and Argh! I LIKE this house, I don’t want to leave it, I should organise and redecorate so we can enjoy it properly! Either way I need to organise and decorate this house, so I’m going to take a few weeks off soon and do just that.

This past year I’ve felt like I’m coming out of a fog, or maybe climbing up a hill through some clouds, and I can finally stand up and see around me and really take in the view. 2014 is looking pretty good from here.

How long?

April 15th? APRIL FIFTEENTH? That’s when I last wrote in here? Sheesh.

Could have sworn it wasn’t so long. Maybe it’s just because every time something happens I think, ahh, must do a blog post about that. It’s a shame WordPress haven’t got a plug in that goes straight from my brain to the blog because man, you’ve missed out.

Anyway. I am still alive (sort of, a nasty bout of gastro is kicking my butt) and it is now the month of Nicolamas, which means my thoughts are turning all deep and resolutiony. And once I’ve finished taking the porcelain bus for yet another spin I’ll tell you about them.

Posted in .

an unexpected project

A new development this past week is that we’re about to gain boarders! Dave’s step-niece lives up in Queensland with her dad (his sister’s ex). Now she’s turned 18 and finished school she wants to move back down here to be with us, but the catch is she also wants to bring her boyfriend as well, and there’s no room for them both at Cath’s house, even if she was willing to have the boyfriend living there, which she’s not, for perfectly valid reasons.

The niece’s situation in Queensland is just getting worse and worse so last week she emailed Dave and asked if he “had any ideas” what they could do for accommodation. Long story short (and possibly in a second post because I’m having a lot of oh fuck oh fuck what have I DONE? thoughts about it) we agreed that they could stay with us for up to 3 months so they could get themselves sorted. The caveats were:

  • They have to be trying to sort themselves out, whether with jobs or getting into Uni/TAFE, not just hanging out at our house.
  • They have to contribute something to the household. Dave wants money towards food, but if that’s tough for them then I’d be more than happy with a bit of a hand with the housework. HOWEVER, her father used to treat her like Cinderella so I don’t want to risk doing that.
  • They will be boarders, not guests. So we won’t be pampering them and conversely won’t expect them to hang out with us in the evenings. We won’t be parenting them either, so if they want to be moody teenagers they can do it in their room.
  • My mum wants to come stay around mother’s day so they have to wait until after then.
  • Now that Cath knows they’re coming, she’s happy to take them for meals and sleepovers, plus another good friend has offered a spare room occasionally.

We’re lucky that our house basically has three living areas, plus their room, so we should be able to coexist without getting on each other’s nerves too much. The tricky bit is their room, which is our spare room or more accurately, MY DUMPING GROUND. When mum comes to stay I can generally excavate enough space in the middle for her to stay a week or so, but these kids, they’re going to be here for three months. It needs to be their haven, not a before shot from Hoarders.

The night after we said they could stay I was up at three in the morning worrying about this. I have been trying to organise and declutter in there with mixed success, but now suddenly I need to step it up a notch and not just get rid of the stuff that should go, but find new homes for everything else.  And I don’t HAVE homes for everything else, that’s why it’s in the wardrobe and the dresser holds my craft and stationery stash and Bianca’s too big and out of season clothes and you know? That feels perfectly okay and normal until suddenly we grow two extra people who want to put their own clothes in there…

I am trying to feel energised about this, not stressed. I’ve gone through B’s clothes and my stashes, and though they’re still in the dresser they’re now in a state that I’d be happy putting them in plastic bins in the shed.  Now I’ve got to go through the wardrobe and with a stern eye get rid of stuff we don’t need instead of keeping things just in case. It’s pretty exciting to think I could manage to get rid of that stuff. It could be clear in there! I could let go of all that guff!

Yay, I’ve managed to talk myself into being excited. What a great impetus to get it sorted out! It’s not the project I wanted to be working on, but at least with a deadline I might even get somewhere this time…

(Gonna post this quickly before I go back to thinking oh fuck what have I DONE?)

 

an Easter tip for parents of toddlers

Here’s something I learned today: you can make your toddler’s chocolate egg hunt last longer by offering to hold their basket and recycling them into different hiding places. Continue until they are exhausted, or learn to count. Hours of enjoyment for all.

(Not that Miss Eagle Eye over here needs any practise; on Good Friday we were at Grandma’s house when Bianca came wandering out of Grandma’s bedroom clutching a chocolate egg. I asked her where she got it, and she said, “It was hiding! In Grandma’s wardrobe, in a box!” If it had been locked in a filing cabinet in a disused lavatory with a sign saying “Beware of the leopard”, she still would have found it.)

Anyway, happy Easter! I hope the bunny brings you many individual, present-at-the-same-time, eggs.

PS. I hit the magic number in the car just as we got home Friday evening. Yay me! Then we got new tyres Saturday morning and the reading was officially recorded with still a day and a half to go. Woohoo!

spinning my wheels

I have been doing a lot of driving the last ten days. Not to anywhere in particular; our main car is on a lease and we need to do 15,000km a year, which ends on 31st March. Last Monday I realised we had a flat 1,000km to do in 13 days, or about 77 km per day which isn’t SO bad except that on days when I work the car barely does 6km to the station and back. Hence, the driving.

It struck me yesterday lunchtime, as I drove from home to Lilydale to Monbulk to Belgrave to Olinda to back home again (95km) while Bianca napped in the back, that it was fairly ludicrous. Here I was, I hadn’t done enough mileage in my car, I hadn’t NEEDED my car that much, so I was basically driving around in circles  in order to get the numbers up. Oh, for a car treadmill I could have stuck it on and left it for awhile…

“So Nicky,” you might say, “why the HELL are you doing it?” As I said, it’s leased and the tier it’s on requires a minimum mileage of 15,000km a year (does anyone else think it’s weird we still call it mileage when we measure it in kilometres?), or we will get hit with a higher level of fringe benefits tax. It has to do with the cost of the car being proportional to the amount of usage it gets, as maintenance and petrol are factored in, so apparantly if we don’t USE it enough it won’t cost as much to run and we’ll somehow be ahead and the tax office can’t have that now can it?

[I'm often bemused by the posts I read on PF blogs saying Leases Are Bad And You Will Be Ripped Off. We ran the figures before we took the lease and in our situation (low km) and our car (a Volkswagon Passat) and Dave's tax bracket (high) it costs us less. Maybe it's different in the US because they don't do novated leases. In our situation, the lease comes out of Dave's pre-tax salary and covers all running costs for the car. At the end of five years we'll have a residual payment of about $12,000 to make, but the car should still be worth about $20,000 then. Meanwhile, the cash we got from selling our previous car gets to sit in our offset account and be an emergency fund. So it's a good thing for us.]

Where was I? Oh yes, driving the long way home and hand delivering Bianca’s birthday invitations. Last Wednesday I visited my girlfriend in Kinglake (55km each way) and told her about it. She was amazed. “I do twelve hundred kilometres a week!” she said. I was amazed too. First I thought: I can’t imagine driving that much; then: her car is an old clunker, how often does she fill up and how much does it cost? Then of course the last thought, Damn it, next time I’m just lending the car to Krissy and letting her catch it up.

3 days, 220km to go..

Posted in .

International Women’s Day

(from Facebook)

I’m embarrassed to admit that I didn’t want to have a daughter. Inasmuch as I wanted to be a parent at all (the jury is still out on that one), I wanted a boy. Partly because early on Dave and I settled on a boy’s name, partly because I wanted to have a little Dave and definitely not a little me. When he talks about his childhood it is happy, whereas I was a weird and lonely little kid with warring parents. It’s irrational, but I wanted to avoid that. Also on the avoidance list were fairies and pink and Shirley Temple and look at me! Look at me! I’m a princess! Listen buddy, I’m the princess round here, got it? And later on, with the teenage years. We’d lived on the border of Essex, I’d watched the local highschool girls, I’d seen the skimpy clothes and the manipulative ways, and I had no respect for them.

Look, I said it was irrational. Bear with me, I get better.

So, I wanted a boy. I even bought a book on choosing the sex of your baby that purported to have an 84% success rate (and blamed the rest on people not following instructions properly) and followed the instructions to the letter. And then I got pregnant, and I was convinced it was a boy (because how could it be otherwise?) and we always spoke and planned for a boy, all the way up to the 20-week scan. The sonographer asked if we wanted to know the sex and I said sure, although obviously it was a foregone conclusion.

And it was a girl.

At the time, all I said was, “okay, so it’s Bianca not Benjamin.” But on the way home I started crying. I sobbed for a full two hours; I felt like I’d let Dave down because he really wanted a boy. (He was shocked I felt like that.) And I cried and cried, until I had to pull myself together to go to the osteopath.

On the way, I started thinking, of all the awesome women I know. My friend with the PhD doing genetic research into diabetes. My awesome osteopath friend who is living her dreams. The one who went back after having her babies to train to become midwife. The creative ones, the activist, the one that’s head of planning at the local council. And I realised I was doing them all a disservice with my thoughts.

And this is what I’m ashamed about. I’m ashamed that I gave in to bad stereotypes when I have so many strong amazing women around me proving they are not true. Hell, even me: I have a degree in physics, I work in IT. I’m non-traditional. My mother brought me up to think I could do anything I wanted; it never occurred to me that I couldn’t be good at maths and science and “boy” stuff like that. (Okay, I was rubbish at woodwork and sheetmetal.) And these days, I work in IT, there are very few women in roles like mine and often I am the only woman in meetings. And it never occurs to me that it’s strange. So what the fuck was I thinking about back then?

So I’m ashamed that I ever thought that way. And I’m sure as hell bringing Bianca up to think she can do anything. And these days I’m glad I have a girl because we get to have the best of both worlds. Pirates and dinosaurs but also mermaids and princesses. And she does look pretty good in pink but prefers purple when she can get it.

The possibilities for her are endless. And that is what we are celebrating today.

(from Facebook)