29 Sep

New schools and other challenges

Bianca started a new school about a month ago. There were many reasons for this, none of which are interesting enough to talk about, so let’s not. It’s a big change, going from a school with around 250 students from prep to year six to one with almost that number just in her year level. I was worried about it, and started second guessing myself on day one after she complained there were too many kids in the playground, but she’s taken to it like an absolute star and is loving it so I guess it was the right decision after all.

When we told B, back in March, she was worried. “I won’t know anyone,” she said. “I won’t have any friends. What if I don’t ever make any friends?” It was bedtime, and she was fretting. “Look,” I said. “This problem is so far away from now. It’s almost five months away. You’ve got two weeks of school holidays coming up, all of next term, and then another holiday just as long again before you start at that school. You’re not even seven yet, by then you’ll be nearly seven and a half.

“Which is nearly eight!” she said, perking up and displaying the same rounding techniques her father uses on work reports.

“….Sure,” I agreed. “Anyway, it is silly to be worrying about that now. How about we take a pin, and we stick that worry up here on the wall? Then we know where it is and we don’t need to think about it until maybe the week before we start.”

She nodded. “How about we stick it way up on the ceiling instead?” So we did, and it never came up again. I almost mentioned it the night before she started but I have managed to learn something in the last seven-and-a-half-years-which-is-nearly-eight, and I kept my mouth shut. She fell asleep without a word. And all through the first week she bounced off the school bus full of news about new friends she’d made and could I set up some play dates?

(I honestly believe that was because over the holidays I sent her on some of those week-long day camps which run here. Mostly it was to give us a break from each other, but she got lots of practise meeting new kids and socialising with them so by the time school rolled around she was used to it. And now with a bigger pool of kids to choose from it’s easier to find kids who like the same things she does.)

So anyway. It’s a new start for me too, a chance to befriend the new mums, set up play dates, be involved. I always felt sort of on the outside at the old school; despite being in the parents’ association and a class parent and running the book club, somehow I was always on the outside of friendships and coffee dates. I am sure this is my fault, something I’m not very good at. Here I have a chance to start all that again.

Although, one of the mums from the old school recently told me I came across as relaxed, friendly, but not desperate, so that’s a relief. It’s always better when you can hide your desperation. But I’ll let you in on a secret: here we are all desperate to some degree.

23 Apr

this blog would not receive the purple ribbon for participating

I am at my first school sports day. Right now I am scribbling this with a sweaty hand in an exercise book. Let’s see if I actually transcribe this one, or if it languishes forever in here with all the other half-scribbled notes.

It is SO HOT! Thank goodness it’s only a half day, and the seats where we’re sitting are in the shade with electric fans. Earlier the grade twos did a 400m race… I do not know how they are still standing. I am sweaty just watching. B’s foundation class (= Prep, the one before grade one) only had to do a 60m race, along with a short sack race, a relay and a beanbag “shotput” toss. Bianca has done her best in each, with fairly limited success, but she is flushed and happy, and proud of her purple “competitor” ribbons.

(Which, by the way, I was always on the side of thinking giving everyone a prize at these things was silly, but when you’re dealing with five year olds who can’t cope when the snakes and ladders dice goes against them I think it is fine and wise to temper the disappointment. It’s not like they’re all getting a trophy, and everyone knows purple’s better than “yellow, white or brown” anyway.)

Oh hell no, they’ve just announced a parents’ relay race, do NOT look at me and WHY did I think wearing my bright pink runners to this was a good idea? Next time heeled flip flops all the way.

For all the sweat and the stickiness I feel blessed to be here, watching B run and join in. This is my job while we’re here, to be there supporting, to make her and even Dave feel like they can do the best they can. It’s important, and I like it, most of the time.

*

Now I am at Great World City, having a Mummy and Daughter afternoon. We had McDonalds for lunch, then a wander round the shops, and now we’re camping out in Starbucks to kill time before we go to see Home. It is cool and airconditioned and apart from a residual stickiness the discomfort of this morning is forgotten. Bianca is playing with a set of stickers I got her. “Close your eyes, Mummy! Now tell me what’s different about my picture now!” My coffee is average, but we are both having fun.

I’m sorry I’ve been silent. I went through a bit of a rough adjustment phase for a week or so, then got really busy with a project, and then we were back in Australia for the school holidays. You didn’t miss much, I wasn’t doing anything particularly interesting in that time. Which is half the problem, I think. Must change that; I’m in a new country, for chrissakes.

When we were at McDonalds I saw these ride-on thingies. The Crocodile Hunter? Um, what? How is this a thing? For what it’s worth in the time we were sitting there not one kid wanted to get in it, and I am not at all surprised.

20150421_123401

24 Feb

welcome to the year of the stupid

Gong xi fat cai! We had a four day long weekend to celebrate lunar new year (I can’t quite get the hang of whether it’s ok to call it Chinese new year here). Of course Dave will tell you every day is a weekend for me. Ha ha ha! He is such a funny man. Thank goat he’s gone back to work today.

Speaking of goats, I am worried this might really be the year of the stupid. Or the stupid goat. My birthdate makes me a metal pig, so you know this is possible. So this is what happened. On Friday night we decided to go down to Chinatown to see the lanterns and the general celebrations. Embrace the culture! See the dragons! Actually, we tried to do it the night before, but just as we were about to leave I realised I couldn’t find my train ticket. So we had to abort. That was the first stupid of the year. But we figured it didn’t really matter, because the celebrations go on for two weeks so we’d still get to see it all.

So anyway, Friday evening we dressed up again, Bianca in her cute little pink Chinese dress, and caught the train to Chinatown. It was busy, with lanterns everywhere, but there was nothing in particular going on. So, we checked on our phones to see where we needed to be. And that’s when the second stupid happened. You see, the celebrations do go on for two weeks… BEFORE lunar new year.

You could say we were in the right place, but the wrong time.

We were stupid tourists.

(But seriously, come on! Shouldn’t you have the party when the big holiday is happening? No? Okay, but shouldn’t you do it anyway for the stupid tourists like us? No? Well shut up.)
So instead I contented myself with taking photos of lanterns and funny signs.

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pretty

I could maybe actually shop here

I could maybe actually shop here

um... no thanks

um… no thanks

Then we sampled the local delicacies at McDonald’s. After that it got dark and all the lights went on and it was just beautiful.

20150220_192619

lights

 

two tigers and a goat

two tigers and a goat

And then we took the train back home.

I think Chinatown should have dragons every day.

17 Feb

Let me sum up

Oops, sorry for not writing. We got cable TV put in (a necessity here) and there is always something on. And I am not known for self control. I put Friends or HGTV on “in the background” but the next thing I know I’m lying on the bed out of lives in Candy Crush and constantly refreshing Facebook to see if anyone else is having fun.

True story.

So. I’m getting organised, settling in. Our apartment is starting to feel like home. That first week was rough though. All those boxes! I spent most of my time walking around in circles not knowing where to start and therefore not doing anything (except watching an awful lot of Property Brothers). I got profoundly grumpy at all our possessions. I had been relaxed in our serviced apartment, apart from missing a few things (a potato peeler? A hairdryer stronger than a budgie’s sneeze?), and not having a place for stuff. Well, now NONE of our stuff has a place, and I have to work that out and it is hard because it’s like doing one of those old sliding tile puzzles except you’re not even sure what the picture is supposed to be. There is stuff fucking EVERYWHERE. I just wanted to pick it all up and shove it down our garbage chute. Why do I have all this stuff? Why did I think it was all necessary? And then I go to get rid of something… and I can’t, so I try to find somewhere to put it, and I can’t do that either. Thus the walking in circles and getting dizzy, and oh look, Friends is back on.

Minimalism is looking pretty good right now.

That first weekend Dave did his manly thing and proclaimed that we would finish setting up the lounge. His idea was that we would have one room that was complete, with furniture and without boxes, so we could sit somewhere and relax and not feel like… well, like I was feeling. I hate to admit it but he was right. (I mean, I am trying damn hard not to look at all the toys all over it right now, but that’s just like back home so it’s presumably manageable.) Then he stacked the guest room full of the downstairs boxes, which gets them out of sight but sucks for you if you’re planning a visit. I suppose we could rearrange the outside ones into steps and put the bedding up on top, like a massive platform bed, or maybe a cave. At this very moment we have 27 boxes left, mostly labelled Toys and weighing about 2kg each, so I think there’s one item in each.

So anyway. In the world outside of boxes, it is hot. I am getting used to it, or at least accepting being sweaty a lot. I’m finding my way around. Let me tell you, public transport is AWESOME here. Cars are ridiculously expensive (think $120,000 for a new small hatchback, never mind the Mercs and Ferraries you see everywhere) so they make the trains and buses reliable and cheap, and the taxis are too. It can cost me about a dollar to take the train into town, and maybe six to come home with my shopping in a cab. A week’s worth of commuting for Dave costs less than one day’s train back home. This is the thing about Singapore; a lot of things are ridiculously expensive, and others are ridiculously cheap. It’s a subject that warrants its own entry or two.

I kind of love it here.

And I don’t miss work.

Okay, I better go do something before Bianca comes home. I feel like the temporary settling in period is over, and now it’s time to get on and enjoy living here fully. But I need to go do some laundry first.

03 Jan

On the cusp

I started writing this on Monday when the packers were busy transforming our home into echoey rooms full of bubblewrapped icebergs, but the words wouldn’t come. Now I am on the plane, and there is room for words. Gosh, I love business class! I’ve got my own little pod to live in. Next to me is Dave and over by the window Bianca is chilling like a seasoned traveller, lying back in her seat watching My Little Pony, dinner on a clothed table in front of her.

(We are travelling business class because this is an official corporate move. We can’t afford to do it ourselves, but I would love to be able to! I think that’s my definition of wealthy – being able to travel business class without going broke to do it.)

We had a very hard few days there. Do you know, I’ve been off work since mid November, allegedly getting everything organised? And I thought I was doing well, I really did. Even though the list of stuff to do never seemed to get shorter, and I spent many a late night watching TV and playing on my phone instead of, say, making the curtains I’ve had the fabric for for months. Sometimes I got stressed thinking about everything that needed to be done, but then I’d think, “nah, it’s okay, the deadline’s Friday 2nd, it has to be done by then so it WILL be done.” Well, hello mid-December Nicky, it’s not fricking magic, YOU STILL HAVE TO DO IT ALL!

We were on our way to Ballarat on Christmas Eve when we realised our deadline wasn’t Friday, it was Monday when the packers came. At that point everything needed to be sorted into what’s staying and what’s going, and then that into whether it was coming with us, or going air freight or by sea. And if that wasn’t enough, we’d be away until late on Friday night and we had a farewell BBQ on Saturday to attend… suffice to say, we had some extreme late nights last weekend…

There I was on Monday morning after maybe 4 hours sleep for the third night running, eyes hanging out of my head and feeling at a loose end but the preparation was done. There was still heaps to do–cleaning, organising, those fricking curtains–but I couldn’t really do it while the packers were working. So Tuesday it all kicked off again for cleaning, painting doors, tidying the outside, getting rid of all the crap that was still hanging around — no matter how much stuff we took out of the house there was always another fucking load. Of course I drastically overestimated how much I could achieve in a day so Thursday was an all-hands-on-deck affair, but at 6:30pm when we walked out of the house (with yet another car load of crap) the house looked okay and ready for showing: not as perfect as I’d wanted but I just didn’t care anymore. Went back to Dave’s parents house, and drank several bottles of wine with his Dad, and breathed a sigh. Everything is in the hands of other people now.

*

Now we’re on a plane and I’m allowed to just be happy and excited. Did I mention that business class rocks? It is giving me delusions of grandeur and definitely spoiling me for economy.

There’ll be yet another list of things to organise once we’re on the ground again, but right now I’m just really fucking excited about what happens next!

24 Nov

I have gas! And other news

Or non-news, Dave would say. Anyway, it’s been a bit of a crazy few weeks (more about that anon) so let’s catch up on where we are.

The kitchen is in – just about. They started putting it in on the Wednesday, you’ll remember, and I was hoping that it would all be done by the Friday. And it was, except for the tiling. It turns out the tiler comes later and is organised separately, which explains the designer’s comment that some people wait for the kitchen to be in to choose the tiles. At the time I kind of thought those people were nuts leaving such a big decision to be rushed and risk their tiles not being in stock but I didn’t say anything, So it turns out I didn’t have to stress out so much about the tiles because I had as long as I damn well pleased to get them sorted. And I would have known this if I’d just asked, or even better, finished reading the letter explaining the process instead of wandering off halfway through. Remember at school when you were doing those boring English Comprehension exercises and wondering whenever the hell you’d need that? Right now, is when.

Anyway, the floor guys came in the following Tuesday, then the tiler started on the Wednesday and then due to a comedy of errors and clashing schedules, he finally came back last Friday to finish the grouting. And lo the tiles look great, and now the floors are in I can say with confidence that the original tiles I chose would have been a MASSIVE mistake. So that makes me happier.

The guy still needs to install the kickboards now the floors are in, but otherwise it’s done and it’s beautiful, and I can now spend my spare time deciding the best place for every single item. Because obviously I never get to shift them round again later!

I am not someone with either the inclination or the ability to do a big reveal post with everything nicely staged, and while I’d love to rabbit on about the design changes and how much better it is, I’m probably not going to get round to it unless someone says they’re interested, so here’s a quick look at what we were working with in all its peachy beige melamine glory. It was fine, before my parrot Sheldon ate most of the insides of the cupboards, but it was tired.

Before

Sorry for the blurriness, but you probably don’t want to look too closely at this anyway. We’d already pulled up the orangey cork tiles at this point and it looks 100% better, so try to mentally add those back in. (I actually liked the cork tiles.)

And here’s the new gorgeousness. Doesn’t it look so much better with the oven moved? So much more space!

kitchenafter

*

My new cooktop has a massive wok burner in the middle. I was so excited about this: finally, I’ll be able to get my wok hot enough to do proper stirfries! And it does get very very hot, but the two things I’ve tried cooking on it (steaks on Saturday, and a stirfry tonight) I’ve managed to undercook the meat significantly. I mean, we like our steaks medium rare so they only need a couple of minutes each side, but these were practically blue. How did I manage to do that when I’m basically cooking on the surface of the sun?

I am monumentally embarrassed by this because I am a reasonable cook and don’t do this sort of thing. Luckily I was only cooking for Dave both times. At least with the steaks my excuse is that he normally does them, and I do not want that to change, so maybe I am just avoiding accidentally displaying competence.

*

In the meantime, Bianca is now four and a half years old and already tying knots around me with conversations. I love it. She’s always been a thinker, and the way she explains things to me, the gestures and expressions she uses, are priceless. The other night the three of us were at a restaurant which specialised in roast chickens, and in the open kitchen we could see a half dozen or so roasting on a spit. Bianca did not seem happy about this. She eats chicken but mostly as nuggets or skewers or kievs, so maybe it was the chickenness of the carcasses that upset her. Anyway she looked at them for a bit, and at me stuffing my half-chicken in my face, and then said, “I don’t think we should eat chickens like this anymore. Because if we eat all the chickens, where will we get any eggs?” All with the hands held upwards, and a puzzled look on her face.

Ah, B, if only you’d been there to explain this idea to the guys doing all the cod fishing in the North Sea. I said I didn’t think we could eat that many chickens and anyway these were probably the boy chickens who didn’t lay eggs. But she said, “but boy chickens are roosters! We need roosters too!”

But we’re still going to eat chook.

 

The absolute best one happened back when we were on holidays. We were at a restaurant at Disneyland, me and B and Dave and my mum, and I was laughing and Bianca said, “Mummy, you laugh like an evil person.”

 

BWAHAHAHA! Oh yes, look, she’s right! I told a girlfriend it was the best compliment ever, and Bianca of the flapping ears heard and asked me what is a compliment? So I explained it was when you said something nice about someone to make them feel good, like Bianca, you have beautiful hair, and she thought about that for a second and nodded, and then she said. “That wasn’t a compliment.”

 

Pwned.

18 Oct

Better together

My man is back! My man is back! Woo to the hoo, he’s back!

We went out to dinner tonight, I may have had a little bit of wine (two thirds of a bottle to be precish), and we had such a good night. Giggling like schoolkids, doubling one another’s entendre, laughing so hard… it’s the closes we’ve been to the old us in a long time. Whether it was the lovely Margaret River sangiovese, or we’re child free until tomorrow, or that we’re both just so glad he’s back — I don’t care. I don’t want to dissect it. It just felt good.

(And the wine was awesome, and the food divine.)

You know what? From when B was a little baby, I thought about leaving. Running away, leaving them, sumetimes even hurting myself in the baddest of times. Motherhood did not cone naturally to me; I felt trapped and I wanted out. Then I got diagnosed and some antidepressants and it was better, but I still harboured resentment: of what I’d given up, of what we’d lost, whatever… my default reaction, whenever we had an argument was to think about leaving, to think about the out. The intimacy’s gone, we’re gone. We never snuggle on the couch together of an evening, or even talk anymore unless it’s about B or whose day was harder. I’m just a nanny and a housekeeper, I come somewhere down the bottom of the list after the bike and the bird and the friends and the kid. Why are we still together?

But somewhere in the last year, it’s changed. I’ve realised we’re better together. We still have fun. We might not be on the same couch at night but we’re still heckling TV. And we only talk about the birds and Bianca so much because they’re so damn funny. There’s been extra pressure these past few years but it’s coming to an end. B’s no longer a baby, she’s a girl. She’s going to school next year! And nights like tonight prove that we’re still here, we just maybe need to work on it a bit. It’s more than just settling with one another because the alternative is too hard. He’s my man, I’m his girl. We’re a couple, a unit. A family. It’s where we’re meant to be.

And now, a new chapter of life is about to start. We’ve got some really big fun adventures coming up. Everything’s going to change, and I’m glad we’re doing it together.

22 Sep

Reboot

For July and most of August, we were on holiday. We had a couple of days in Singapore (not “the real Singapore” as Bianca calls where we were last time, just Sentosa Island), then almost two weeks in the north of England for the start of the Tour de France and to visit family. Next to Holland, where I have relatives and where mum was conveniently also visiting, then we left Bianca with them for a week while we joined an amazing cycling/gourmet tour following the last week of the Tour de France. (The cycling was for Dave, his 40th birthday wish to ride up crazy mountains, but the gourmet was for both of us.) Then mum and B met us in Paris and we had a couple of days at Disneyland Paris before another week at a friend’s place in Switzerland, then finally in London for the last ten days.

Whew!

The holiday was everything we hoped it would be, and a revelation. I spent lots of time thinking about how I want my life to be. Like cooking, I want to cook delicious, healthy, foody meals. And retain a sense of adventure. When we were staying places with beautiful gardens, I wanted to learn to make one too. And in Holland I revelled in my family there (they are, seriously, awesome people) and wanted to stay there always.

Now “normality” is back, arms outspread, trying to engulf me in a bear hug of habits. I have to work to retain that feeling of anything is possible. Try to remember what it was like to drive through Yorkshire or stand on a mountain or wander through a little village in Bordeaux and think, I could live here for a year, easily…

One of the big changes I want to make is this blog. It needs to be. I have been blogging in one form or another since 2001; hard to believe isn’t it? My life grew, changed, and this was one of the things lost when I became a mother. This is not anyone’s fault but my own. None of it is. I made the new rules and left all the fun stuff behind. It is time to change that!

I made a mistake trying to give the blog a theme. Blogs need themes now, right? You’re either décor, DIY, diet, fashion, finances, self improvement. Well I’m sorry but I am all of those things. I can’t narrow it down. I don’t want to pigeonhole myself. I want to write about me, my life. Isn’t that the bet theme to have? So there it is. You won’t find a more authoritative source on the interwebs anyway.

I did think about a new name, a new start. Not My Mother was for when I was supposed to be concentrating on self improvement. But really it seems as god as anything else. Maybe it’s really “not my mother” — as in, my identity is not as someone’s mum. Okay, that’s a bit of a stretch. But I’m not going to do the online equivalent of my teenage self, abandoning my old neglected diary and starting a whole fresh new one for a new start.

In summary: spring is here, Europe is awesome, and I am back.

14 Feb

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.

12 Feb

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?