Bah Humbuggery

I am not one to be filled with the spirit of Christmas (unless it comes in a bottle). If I hear a song using the lyric ‘Merry’ and punctuated with bells in November I will become physically violent…

Batman

The Season to be Jolly has always been bittersweet for me. I am profoundly sympathetic to those who struggle at this time of year and have struggled myself. It can be overwhelming, lonely and honestly, sometimes it all feels very false. Not to mention the drive to SPEND, SPEND, SPEND!

Living in South East Asia for the last few years, I have been lucky enough to avoid the worst excesses of Christmas and, as a general rule, our Christmases were low key with minimal disruption to our lives, celebrating friendship and kinship. However, this year we returned to Australia.  For the children it is their first Yuletide in the West. Christmas on Steroids, tinsel and lights and, seemingly, months and months of build up to the big day!

The first indication that things were going to be different this year came a couple of months ago. As I was tucking our 6 year old into bed she took my hand, squeezed it tightly, gazed deeply into my eyes with her enormous baby blues and asked earnestly, “Mummy, do you think this year we could possibly have a slightly larger Christmas tree?

I couldn’t see what was wrong with the forty-centimeter tall, 300-baht job I reluctantly purchased eight years ago, my wink and a nod to Christmas. But she was so very, very sweet and so very, very sincere.

“I will look into it, sweety!” I replied.

I was fucked and she knew it.

I locked my shiny humbug in a cage under the bed and told her to keep it down this year (though she is still being nurtured after hours with wine and cheese) bought a 6-foot-tree and decided, for the children, to have a Merry Fucking Christmas.

I fought through the cobwebs under the house and ripped open the box labeled ‘Xmas Shit’ (I better do something about that now that my children can read). As I unpacked that dusty old box something fabulous happened. I remembered what Christmas was like for me when I was a kid. I remembered the excitement, the anticipation, the rare and treasured time together as a family. Leaving a carrot for Rudolph and glass of rum out for Santa (the old pisspot), watching my Grandma as she bustled about in the kitchen, making presents for Mum and Dad, the table on Christmas Day… bright, festive fun!

I decided it was time to make some happy Christmas memories for my girls… and for me.

So we have begun. Just in case I forget later, these are a few of my favourite things from Christmas this year.

THE CHRISTMAS STAR

As mentioned, we acquired a new tree this year. It was actually really fun adorning it with the surprising number of special decorations we seem to have acquired over the years, many made by the girls.  However, when it was finished, the children agreed that the daggy old plastic star was neither big enough or beautiful enough to crown such a lovely tree.  So we got crafty!  A cardboard box, a toilet roll, every piece of gold or silver frippery we could find in the busy box, a little imagination, a lot of glitter, a lot of glue and VIOLA…. 

Christmas Star
Isn’t she fabulous?
Christmas Tree
A Perfect Crown 

THE MEMORIES

So many memories were carefully unpacked from the Christmas Box this year. I am incredibly lucky to have travelled so widely and to have met so many fabulous people from all over the world.  As Christmas orphans our families shared some fun times together and some special traditions from other countries.  These adorable christmas ‘Pontipines’… as Chilli calls them… were a gift from one of my dear girlfriends from Lao.  Miss ya face fabulous lady!

Christmas Babushka Dolls
Xmas Cute

THE SNOW

For the last couple of months our house has felt  like The Gaza Strip and I have felt like a UN Peacekeeper trying to minimise the carnage as my two eldest have fought and scrapped and hated and hit.  It has been heartbreaking to watch and G and I have struggled to find a way to improve things.  On Monday, suddenly, a ceasefire!

It was the first day of the school holidays and the girls decided that Christmas wasn’t Christmas without snow.  They spent the day singing and sharing and laughing and making.

Mummy, come look what we made… together…

Christmas Snowflake Wall
The Snowflake Wall… If there can’t be Peace on Earth at least there is some in our home.

THE MOVIE

They say families make their own traditions and despite not being particularly Christmassy G and I do have ours.

Every year, on Christmas Eve, after the children are in bed and while we wait for Santa to come, a single malt, some chocolate and this fabulous movie. One Christmas tradition I look forward to introducing my daughters to when they are much, much, much older!

Bad Santa Movie
Shit happens when you party naked… just sayin’

 

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Thanks for reading.  I hope your Holidays are filled with Peace, Love and Fabulous.

Miss Pip

 

 

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The Best Worst Present

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A gift selected with thought and love.

There is a milestone moment in the life of a parent when your child realises that the act of giving a gift can be (almost) as rewarding as receiving one. For my eldest daughter, Monkey, that happened last month and I was the lucky recipient. The gift she thoughtfully chose, sourced, bought, wrapped and tentatively gave me on the birthday morning brought tears to my eyes.

In fact, every time the bloody thing goes off in our lounge room, it still does!!

It was this….

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and to fill it, this…

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Apparently, the idea came to her during our stay in the serviced apartment in Brisbane. You see, growing up in Asia, our kids have never really been exposed to commercial TV. At the temporary accommodation we had cable, in English. Yay and funness! I freely admit that I used the television as somewhat of a ‘babysitter’ in those first few hectic weeks here in Australia. I also admit that I was not entirely immune to the charms of the 40-odd-channels, indulging in quite a lot of food and lifestyle porn!

It was probably during one of mummies ‘house’ shows that Monkey saw an advertisement for the above objet d’art.

According to the website – Air Wick Freshmatic Automatic Spray has been carefully created to ensure continuous fragrancing that will keep the air fresh and lovely for you and your family and ensure a brighter, happier home.’

Not only that, it comes in several unique fragrances, including ‘Frangapani’, a scent that would surely remind mummy of out home in Lao (The Frangapani is the National flower of Lao)

What’s more, it is available at your local supermarket!

Monkey, accompanied me grocery shopping, secretly located the aisle and item and later dragged Daddy on a special mission to buy mummy a present that would make our new home smell like Lao.

Honestly, it was most beautiful, thoughtful gesture and, despite that fact the our home has started to smell like a cheap brothel, every time I hear the psst of the fragrance dispenser my heart swells!

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POST SCRIPT:

Monkey quietly approached me a week or so after my birthday, ‘Mumma’, she said, ‘It is OK if you turn the machine off sometimes.’
‘Why would I want to do that?’
She leaned in close, looking me straight in the eyes. ‘Because we both know it doesn’t smell very nice, does it? I don’t think the TV was right!’

I love you my beautiful, smart, baby girl. You are FABULOUS!

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Happy belated 7th Birthday

 

Mad World

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Photo taken at Falling back to Earth (GOMA, Brisbane)

A couple of weekends ago, whilst driving to Bunnings (an Australian hardware superstore) on an emergency plumbing  mission, my iPod randomly started playing, Mad World* and I found myself on the side of the road gulping through heaving tears of overwhelmed exhaustion.

Enough!

The outburst, obviously necessary, lasted a short while and I soon pulled myself together enough to finish my journey and mission.  We now have a working washing machine, not to mention transformers for all our ‘asian plugs’, a high pressure hose, paint, glue and a compost bin for the back yard…my personal version of retail therapy!

Yes, finally, we have moved from our temporary accommodation into a place to call our own, at least for a little while.   Despite our best efforts and a close call, we didn’t find a home to buy. Then our ‘stuff’ arrived from Lao prompting the need for a quick decision so, for now, we are shacking up in a cheap and cheerful rental house with lots of bedrooms, creaky pipes and sloping floors and a possum living in the ceiling (though some nights I think perhaps it is an elephant or family of hippos hosting an all night rave up there).  

As it happens the place has a lovely energy about it, despite being old and full of ‘personality’.  We are on a quiet street with lots of lovely neighbours.  The kids now have scooters (even little Chilli) and spend hours cruising up and down the footpaths, to the park, shops, school… with me traipsing along behind carrying all the bags/ hats/ groceries… I am calling it ‘exercise’ rather than slavery!

It is five months since we found out our family was moving back to Australia.  Since then I have spent every waking moment, ‘in transition’, managing the practicalities as well as trying my best to guide my daughters through the emotional upheaval.  It has been tough and often very lonely. I have wondered more than once if this was the right thing to do (not that we really had a choice in the matter).

Well, I am done with all that now.  This is our new life. It is a very different life to the one we knew in Lao (Footpaths for goodness sake) but it is still interesting and privileged and full of opportunities for adventure.

It is time for me to get back to living… dreaming, growing and finding my fabulous!

I am going to start today with something completely frivolous and self indulgent… a long overdue visit to the hairdresser!

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Thanks for reading. Happy Fabulous.

Mad World by Tears for Fears

I’m a Barbie Girl

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Every one precious, every one special, every single one coming with us to Australia!

In the days BC (Before Children) I recall proclaiming loudly that, should I choose to have children, should the universe grant me a daughter, she would NEVER wear pink, she would be raised with gender neutral toys and under no circumstances whatsoever would she be allowed to play with Barbies.

My girlfriends cheered  and we raised our unshaven armpits in solidarity!

When Monkey was born she was duly dressed in an adorable, non-gender specific onesie and brought home to her brightly decorated, non-gender specific nursery.

Within days of her arrival, doting Grandparents, friends and Uncles started sending care packages containing beautiful, highly gender specific clothes and toys. I spent my weekends sorting laundry into whites, darks and pinks!  (…though it was my lovely housekeeper in Bangkok who actually washed, dried, ironed and organised our lights, darks and ‘the pink wash’… sigh!)

As fate would have it, Monkey was a girls, girly, girls girl.  By 18 months she was choosing her own clothes.  She refused to where ANYTHING BUT PINK until she was almost 4 years old.

She was probably around 2 years old when my best friend came to visit us for a holiday.  Her eldest daughter, almost five, brought with her a Barbie doll, a singing Barbie doll, a singing barbie doll in a pink sparkly dress with long golden hair… Monkey was enthralled!

I was horrified.

It is possible that I heaped a rather heavy dose of ‘WTF’ on my girlfriend.

Several months later, just in time for Christmas, a parcel arrived for Monkey from my girlfriend.  Inside was a Barbie doll, a singing Barbie doll, a singing barbie doll in a pink sparkly dress with long golden hair… AND A DVD…Barbie and the Diamond Castle! 

Well played my friend, well played.  I give up.

To this day, G and I still sing, I feel connected, to the girls as part of their bedtime ritual and can I just say, we  rock the harmonies!

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Thanks for reading, have a fabulous day!

Never a dull moment…

We are moving back to Australia.  A reshuffle within the company has resulted in a rather sudden change of roles.  G has taken a position in the head office in Brisbane.  I am proud of him.

Brisbane is my home town.  We had always anticipated that, one day, when the time seemed right we would move back there.  I call it ‘home’… as much as anywhere.  Perhaps the move is a little sooner than I had anticipated but it is a chance to lay down roots and a chance for the girls to ‘call Australia home’ (at least for a little while… nothing needs to be forever… right?)

I am in the midst of yet another international uplift… what a fucking treat!

All our worldly goods must be inventoried – keep, sell, repair, gift, throw that shit away!

On the other side of the world, mostly using the magical power of the interweb, a new life must be created  – shelter, schools, transport, medical.  I have been stunned at the amount of paperwork required for…everything!  This chick has been in South East Asia for too long.

The news of the impending move has been hard on the girls.  Monkey is old enough to realise that we are leaving her friends, her community, the only home she has ever known.  She is sad, angry and confused.  Pigeon is trying to find the positives, she is so resilient.  Chilli is well Chilli is about to leave her precious Bau, our nanny, who has been a constant since Chilli was 8-weeks-old.  Chilli is not going to like that.  Bau is not going to like that.  I AM NOT GOING TO LIKE THAT.  There have been, and will continue to be, tears all round!

I have found a wonderful home for our beloved cats.

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Sanchez and Schlarper are 13-years-old.  They came here from Austalia with us and they love it here. We decided the stress of moving them back to Australia  (7 months, two quarantine stays and two different countries) was too much. They are getting lots of extra cuddles and some rather fancy treats as I enjoy my last month with them before saying goodbye. It is impossible to explain how difficult the decision to leave them behind has been.  They were our first children. When we adopted them, we made a commitment. This feels like a betrayal, even if I know it is for the best.

It is a little over a month until we actually leave.  A strange, emotional, exhausting and lonely time ahead.  But with change comes adventure and opportunity.  Who knows? Fabulous could be closer than I think!

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Two months since I have been here,
Two months, too much to say,
44 is coming but the fabulous seems far away!

Thanks for reading and I am sorry I have been away so long.

I think this might be for the best…

To whom it may concern,

Please accept this, my resignation, from the position of mother-of-three. I know that you were hoping I would apply for tenure but after much consideration I have realised that I am unsuited for the role. It would be remiss of me to continue.

Let me start by saying, in case there is any confusion, that according to the role description I have been given, there are three young children in my care. Are we clear on that point? Three little life forms all relying on me to keep them safe, fed, healthy and stimulated. Three little people who look to me for guidance, support, love. Three VERY DIFFERENT personalities who all NEED me, ALL THE TIME.

The fact is that I should never have taken on the role in the first place. I will admit to having been quite the advocate for having a child. A CHILD. Single. I was actually rather good at the making and baking part.

What I failed to do, this is entirely my fault, was read the safety instructions and follow the precautions which were clearly indicated, though in rather fine print I must say, at the back of the document.

The fact that I failed in my duty of care a third time should really be grounds for instant dismissal. I am obviously completely incompetent.

That not withstanding, I would like to list a number of other reasons why I am unsuitable for this job in the hope that you will accept, with haste, this request for clemency.

I like to be organised.
I like to be in control.
I like to be punctual.
I like clean.
I am rational.
I like to finish something I start, be it a task, cup of coffee or even a thought.
I like sleep. (Seriously, I really, really like sleep)

Given the above, I hope you see why I cannot possibly continue in this role. There is really very little job satisfaction!

If you are still not convinced, please let me make one final point. I wanted to do this job well. I really wanted to nail it. With every fiber of my being I wanted to be the best mother I could possibly be. But I just don’t have the capacity or the resources to give ALL THREE CHILDREN the time, support, sensitivity and understanding they need.

The only thing I have enough of is love.

The only thing I seem to be good at is shouting.

Thank you for your time. I wait anxiously for your response.

Regards and apologies
Miss Pip

Ch-Ch Ch-Ch Changes

I like change. It keeps life interesting. But this month things are moving way too fast for me. Have you ever watched a pirated DVD where the sound and image have not quite synced? (of course you haven’t, pirated movies are illegal) I AM LIVING IN THAT MOVIE. My mind is about 3 seconds behind my physical reality… it just can’t process the changes quickly enough. Needless to say, where possible I am avoiding social interactions. I just come off like a total retard.

Firstly. My big princesses returned to school. Relief. Pride. A touch of sadness.

It is no secret (read this… or this… or this) that I find found the Summer Holidays challenging. I returned from drop off on their first day back, collapsed on the bed a cried. I had made it to the end. No-one was dead or seriously injured. Threads of my sanity remained intact. Despite my fears and doubts and moments of being the most ‘yellingest, horrible, most mean mummy in the world’, mostly it was good… dare I say fun… dare I say rewarding.

Seeing them return to a familiar environment made me realise how much they had grown over the break. They are rare and caring little people. Mostly, I am proud of my daughters.

Then, a few days later there was this change…

Why are there three people in this picture?
Three. Three? THREE!

My baby, my littlest heart, started part-time in the toddlers program at the school. MY BABY! She looked so small with her skirt length around her ankles and her backpack dwarfing her frame. She looked so big with her hair in pigtails, grinning from ear to ear as she showed off her uniform.

‘Mine! Mine! Mine!’, she exclaimed loudly… and repeatedly. ‘Same, same sista! MINE!’

But, of course, She didn’t let me off lightly. The were tears. Tears of indignation. Tears of anger, confusion, pleading, fear.

Week three and now there are sniffles. ‘No cry, no cry, no cry!’, she repeats to herself as she buries her head in my neck at drop off. ‘No cry. no cry, no cry!’, I repeat to myself as I walk back to the car each morning.

There was also this…

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…the much anticipated loss of her first baby tooth.

What an exciting milestone for this 6-year-old. Though I can hardly understand how it happened. It seems to me that only a few weeks ago we celebrated the arrival of the very same tooth.

Heartbreakingly, said tooth was washed down the drain by the overeager 6-year-old, who was trying to make it shiny for the tooth fairy. A handwritten note of apology slipped under the pillow seemed to placate the forgiving and generous tooth fairy. However, I was absolutely devastated, still am.

There have been changes on the domestic front too. Despite the myriad ongoing niggling maintainance issues, ‘The Big Wooden House’ has become home to our little family here in Laos, so after some consideration, we decided to renew our lease.

With the realisation that we would be staying here for a while longer my inner ‘Martha Stewart’ has been unleashed on our home. I have been in a frenzy. Each room has been examined with a forensic zeal. Clean, reorganise, reposition, keep, sell, gift, toss. New furniture and new beginnings. Exhausting but rewarding toil…and necessary as our family grows and changes.

There have been bittersweet partings with the no-longer-necessary equipment of babyhood. Another reminder that my baby ain’t such a baby anymore.

As a result of all this activity, Chilli has moved out of the nursery and she and her big sisters now sleep in one room. New beds are on order and soon even the cot will be a memory. They love sharing a bedroom, though each has a place for their own favourite treasures.

A place to call their own
A place to call their own.

Our bedroom has also been under scrutiny. We have a new bed, finally. A bed big enough to accommodate me, G and at least one.. two…or even three extra guests without relegating me to the couch.

But what of the former nursery?

This is what it looks like now…

A place to call my own

In an act of sefishness, or perhaps self preservation, I have claimed it. It is MY room. I am filling it with MY favourite treasures. This will be my nest. What am I nurturing in here? The part of me that has been neglected. The me that is longing to be inspired. The part of me that is fabulous!

To start, I am going to sit for a moment and catch up with my body.
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Thank you for reading. Stay Fabulous!