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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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

Purple Corn Fritters…

We have a little garden at our big wooden house.  Actually, that is not entirely true.  We have a BIG garden at our big wooden house.  We also have a fabulous bloke called Kek who, along with his wife (who we fondly call Madame Kek) and his eldest daughter, Euyi, spend lots of time making sure the garden looks spick and span.

At the back of the garden is the veggie patch.  We built the beds not long after we arrived here in Vientiane.  Three solid years of composting absolutely everything has produced some luscious soil.

G, along with his daughters Pigeon and Chilli  (Monkey is not so keen to get her hands dirty) spend lots of time, every weekend, weeding and finding snails and worms, turning the compost and planting things to grow and eat.

My job is to turn the fresh produce into something delicious.

Last weekend, Chilli toddled up the stairs and deposited a bucket full of these at my feet.

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Purple Corn. WTF!

They looked pretty weird and manky but the individual kernels were sweet and juicy.

I was rather proud of brunch that morning… colourful, healthy and it tasted FABULOUS.

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Miss Pip’s Spelt and Purple Corn Fritters served with lao avocado, tomato, chilli salsa and natural yoghurt.

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Have a fab day!

I still call Australia Home

‘Summer’ holidays continue. Three point five weeks down and five and a half to go. Week two and three were great. Why? Because I took my two eldest girls back to Australia for 10 days.

Australian Cake Making

IT WAS FABULOUS!

The decision to go back was last minute. I had decided not to return to Australia because I couldn’t face the thought of flying, on my own, with the three girls. I, realistically, figured that a holiday with a 19-month-old and two kids in tow might not be that much of a holiday at all. So we shelved the idea.

But I miss home, I really miss home. So G suggested I leave Chilli behind and take a short-break. Our nanny agreed to pick up the extra hours, G adjusted his work schedule slightly, I pushed my ‘mother guilt’ aside and we booked the flights to Brisbane.

Monkey and Pigeon are such seasoned travellers.  They handled the long flights and the transits off a break. They were also, for the most part, wonderful companions. We had a really nice time.

From the moment we landed, I felt like I was home – the colour of the sky, the sound of thick Australian accents, the trees, the Brisbane River… the ordered and predictable traffic, the supermarket, the sidewalks, the parks and public spaces, the winter fruit, the cool weather, the cinema, the underwear and clothing that fit me… so easy, so convenient – OH GOD, IT WAS GOOD TO BE BACK!

Image 3
Kangaroo hopping fun at the Gallery of Modern Art (GOMA)
Image 2
Silly Uncle Dave
Image 1
On the ‘fairy’, Brisbane River
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Free flying fox fun – Speers Point Park

Ultimately though, the best thing about going home, what made it so hard to leave, what makes my heart ache now as I sit in a cafe in uptown Vientiane and write, is the people I saw so briefly and have now, once again, farewelled… and the people I didn’t have time to see and have once again missed.

I have been living abroad for almost 8 years now but I still have a place I call home. My home is not a building. My home is the friends and family who I love and leave behind.

It was good to go home.

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Thanks for reading.  Have a fabulous day.

These are a few of my favourite things…

Stuff is just stuff. Things are just things.

I could give away (almost) all my stuff tomorrow and likely find a deeper happiness.

But that does not change the fact that a thing of beauty makes me smile. Like my eldest daughter, I have a strong visual compass. Like my middle child, I am a sentimental fool and will cherish an item because it reminds me of a person I love or a moment of great joy.

Last weekend we introduced Monkey and Pigeon to the the fabulous Julie Andrews and the pure unadulterated kitsch that is The Sound of Music. It is rainy season here in Laos and ‘These are a few of my Favourite Things’, has since been sung, repeatedly, during the many recent thunder storms.

So in celebration of Julie and Stuff and Love…here are a few of MY favourite things… (for this week anyway!)

THE HANDBAG

IMG_9378
Go Go Glomesh

I bought this vintage bag a few weeks ago at a market stall in Bangkok during a very special weekend with a fabulous yummy mummy friend of mine. I love everything about it. It sparkles. It is fringed. It is a little bit OTT and a big bit glam. Though it has not yet been out for a spin in public yet, I have been guilty of carefully taking it out of its tissue wrapping and wearing it around the house, just to catch a glimpse of it in the bathroom mirror… soon my pretty, soon!

YOU ARE MY FAVOURITE WORK OF ART

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In Love by Therdkiat Wangwatcharakul

I saw this beautiful painting at H Gallery in Bangkok in 2009 and fell in love with it. The painting evokes in me a sense of serenity and belonging. In 2011 we visited H again and coincidentally the Artist, Khun Therdkiat, was having another exhibition. His style had evolved quite a bit but I was still enthralled by his work. I commented, in passing, about the pigeon series and the painting that had captured my heart all those years ago. H rushed into the warehouse and 10 minutes later he and his assistant emerged with the very painting I was talking about. At 2.5 metres wide it had been difficult to find a buyer. The artist, on hearing our little love story, sold it to us for a substantial discount.

We checked the bloody thing in as oversized baggage and carried it, frame and all, back to Laos where it now lives.

It will one day be left to our Pigeon, for obvious reasons.

MOTHER’S LITTLE HELPER

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Self Medication

I heart my expresso machine. With children who think pre-dawn is an acceptable time to start the day, I NEED this mechanised medicine machine. Perfect with Lao local beans (remarkably good if you haven’t tried them). G and I take it in turns to crank out thick, black shot’s for eachother in the morning, a simple act of devotion and caring.

THE BEST CHAIR IN THE WORLD

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Bossy’s Chair

My grandfather died when I was 7 (or maybe 8). This was his chair. Bossy’s Chair. This was the chair he sat and smoked his pipe in. Watched the news in. Read the paper in. There was just room enough in this chair for me to wriggle my way onto his lap for hugs and tickles and silly stories…’Get away you scallywag!”

This chair used to be dark red vinyl (God bless the 70’s). Thirty years ago my Grandmother had it recovered in a more subtle shade. I’m not sure how I was lucky enough to end up with the chair but since it has been my possession it has travelled with me from house to house, state to state, and now country to country. It is battered and beaten and badly in need of repair. Soon it will be restored… in dark red (leather if possible). There is just enough room in this chair for my girls for snuggle up with their dad, or mum, or grandpa for tickles and cuddles and silly stories.

This is Bossy’s Chair.

THE PERFECT SHADE OF RED

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Perfect Pout

For years I have envied those women who could pull off daring, red lipstick without looking like they rented by the hour. I have never had any success with the scarlet shades, though my mother would likely say I spent much of the 80’s dressing like a streetwalker!

I stumbled across RoxyVintageStyle.com when I was in Bangkok recovering after my surgery. That girl OWNS her Ruby Red’s. Inspired, I made it my personal mission to find just just the right rouge. Shopping for cosmetics in Bangkok’s large department stores is a lot of fun. The sales assistants are all passionate about their product… and mostly men… dressed as women! Ever so helpful and as excited as I was by the task at hand, ‘the girls’ and I had a lovely time finding the perfect shade for me. Obviously, such a hue is not for the everyday but I can’t deny I do love my little red pout.

The winning shade, (for those who are interested)… Channel Rouge Allure no.104 Passion

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There you have it, five of my favourite fabulous things!

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It would make my day if you wanted to share your favourite stuff.

Thanks for reading. Stay Fabulous!

Homecoming Queen

I have to admit to having some strange and conflicting emotions as I packed my bags to return home on Friday.  I was nervous and a little reluctant.  That made me feel guilty, of course!

I was nervous because sometimes expectations can be out of touch with reality.  I knew the Princesses had missed me and we had been counting down the days during our nightly Skype calls.  They were really looking forward to my return but what if the reality of having mummy back was not all it was cracked up to be. After all, mummy makes them eat their vegetables, go to bed early and sleep in their own beds.

I was reluctant because, still recovering from surgery, I really am unable to lift and carry or run after the children in any real way. I can’t even drive a car just yet.  I worried that I would overdo things or become frustrated by my uselessness.

I was guilty. Despite the surgery and being an invalid for most of my two weeks away, I LOVED my time to myself.  I am very extroverted and usually get quite bored and lonely after a couple of days on my own but this time I had revelled in my isolation.  For the last few days, at least, I had spoilt myself rotten.  A pedicure one day. A facial the next. A massage.  I even took myself to the cinema to see Iron Man 3… in 3D.  A little shopping. Reading. Catching up on TV…. and here is  the kicker, eight (or more) uninterrupted hours of blissful slumber every night for 10 days (I don’t count the  days I was in hospital  – though there is also something very special about that morphine induced haze).

I arrived at Vientiane airport just after lunch, cleared immigration and organised some assistance to heave my excess baggage (I did mention the shopping didn’t I) onto a trolley.  I could see my mother waiting just beyond the automatic doors. We waved and I turned away to search the carousel for my suitcase. I heard mum call my name again, turned to peek through the doors and this time I saw my baby girl.

My heart skipped a beat. I had to catch my breath and blink back unexpected tears.

Suddenly, everything was taking too long and the ten metres between me and my precious daughter seemed like an ocean.  I practically bounced out of baggage collection, I was so excited to see her.

For a moment when she saw me Chilli was confused, then recognition, a smile and a squeal.  She held out her arms.  I couldn’t help myself.  Despite the medical advice, I took hold of my baby.  She laid her head on my shoulder and I hugged her tight….

Welcome Home
Photos courtesy of Grandma

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When I picked up Pigeon from school she rushed into my open arms:

“How many days were you away, mama?”

“Fourteen, baby.”

“Well, I will hug you for 14 days until I let you go.”

“Works for me Pigeon”, her arms wrapped tightly around my neck.

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Monkey was a little more pragmatic.

“Can I see your scar!”

Then all afternoon, gentle kisses, tender moments, reassuring hugs or a quick squeeze of the hand…” just making sure you’re OK mum” … just making sure you’re still here.

Way to make a girl feel special!

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I was unexpectedly taken aback when daddy got home too, found a lump in my throat when I first saw him.

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So now I am home.  I am frustrated by the short-term physical limitations but they are liberating too.  It is a rare joy to just sit and be while the chaos whirls around me. When the skies darkened and the rains fell on Saturday morning, the girls danced and I sat and soaked up my family…

Rain Dance
Singing in the rain

It won’t be long before things are back to normal and I am back to being a full-time, full-on parent but for now it is nice relinquishing some responsibility, being the passenger rather than the driver (literally).

I feel great and it is good to be home.

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Thanks for reading.  Stay Fabulous!

A Mother’s Love (part three)

My fabulous family of five.
My fabulous family of five.

Something fabulous happened to me a couple of weeks ago, a profound and permanent shift in my self perception.

I BECAME a mother-of-three daughters.

Yes… I am fully aware that Chilli was born 17 months ago.  I have loved her and her crooked little smile since the day she was born.  But that doesn’t change the fact that until two weeks ago, deep in my heart, at the core of my being, in my marrow, I didn’t really integrate her existence into what I defined as ‘my family’.

After she was born I felt like I was leading a double life.  I had a baby to care for.  She was mine and I loved her.  For the first six months she and I slept together in the nursery. I will treasure forever the memory of that time, her nestled in the crook of my arm all squishy and precious, nursing her in the twilight.  She was my tiny, pink treasure, my secret love affair.

In the morning, I would get up and take care of my family, G and my two smart, intuitive, magnificent daughters.  If I was lucky, ‘the baby’ would sleep until ‘the big girls’ had left for school so that I didn’t have to try and juggle the two… they were the good days.

Afternoons and evenings, weekends, holidays… those things were a little more difficult to handle.  Somehow I was expected to integrate the two elements of my life into a cohesive whole.  After a while, things got messy and the affair started to sour. The baby got in the way of my family time,  The family got in the way of my time with the baby.  There was absolutely no possibility of any ‘me’ time.

I resented everyone.

I yelled too much.

I cried alone.

When the baby was about 8 months old, I travelled, with the girls, to Australia for what I fondly call the shit fucked disaster misery tour.   With the benefit of hindsight, perhaps flying home for three weeks without G was a bit of a stupid idea, especially when I was already wrestling with the darkness. Add a little family drama and an unexpected illness, the trip was an emotional marathon – long, lonely and relentless.

It wasn’t all bad.  Monkey and Pigeon reminded me again and again what extraordinary, resilient, fabulous girls they are.  We made a good team.  The baby started to crawl. We spent lots of time in Australia’s wonderful public parks.  I saw old friends.  I made some decisions that would change my life, including meeting a lady who would help me change my perspective (big ups to you Sue Lester).

One of the first things I talked about with Sue was my conflicted feelings about the baby.  I love the baby.  I never wanted the baby.  I resent having a baby.  I love the baby… round and round in ever decreasing circles of pointless negativity.

She asked me to do a very simple thing.

“Start using her name, Pip.”

BAM!

(…and the tears roll down my face, again!)

“Anchali, I love you.”

So Chilli became a person. She became her own person. Chilli REALLY liked that. Chilli the unique, wicked, funny, happy, little person. Chilli started walk and talk, express opinions… loudly!  Chilli, the little sister, started terrorising her siblings.

Yet, despite all that, and my love for her, she was not a part of ‘my family’.  Crazy, I know, but true.  It was like I had two images – cute baby/ happy family -and I just couldn’t photoshop them together.

Locating my children in the playground, or at a party, I counted like this – one, two… tick! one… tick!

When asked, “How many children do you have?”

Well, I have two daughters… and then there is this toddler that lives in our house. She is really adorable and I love her to pieces.  I gave birth to her. So I guess that means in total, altogether, if you really get down to it, um… three… “I have three children!”

Did it have to be so hard?  Was it going to be like this forever? I worried. What was wrong with me?  My youngest child was over a year old.  I still had to consciously add her the tally when I counted my kids.

Patience… not my greatest strength… I waited!

…and then, two weeks ago…

Lao and Thailand were celebrating Bpii Mai, the biggest holiday of the year. G had taken some time off.  Our family (including my mother, who had just arrived from Australia) packed up the super- sexy, Kia Carnival for a road trip across the Mekong into Thailand.

The Isaan region is home to some of the best Som Tum, Gai Yang and Kaw Niaw (Papaya Salad, Fried Chicken and Sticky Rice) in the world so it would have been remiss not to stop at what was hailed as the best Gai Yang shop in Isaan.  We had been driving for almost 4 hours.  Everyone was hungry and grumpy and needing to go to the toilet. I parked the car, shut off the engine, started unloading the kids… one… two… three!

I did a mental double take.  It must have been a mistake, I was tired after all and mentally drained.  I had just spent several hours driving my LHD car in RHD Thailand.  No reason to get too exited.

We negotiated our way through the car park and I wrangled the girls safely inside the restaurant… Monkey, one… Chilli, two… where is three? Daddy rushed her to the toilet, no worries. Three! I did it again.

Seated,  I looked around the table. Pigeon was discussing the relative merits of ‘busy’ water vs normal water with her dad (busy = fizzy). Monkey was organising her place at the table; plate goes here, cup here, fried chicken here, napkins here.  Chilli was sitting on her grandmother’s lap stuffing her face with fistfuls of sticky rice.  Everyone was laughing and eating.  This was my family. These three magnificent little girls were my daughters.  I choked back tears of gratitude.

That afternoon we set up camp… in a nice hotel… with a pool… in the middle of the red light district… in Khon Kaen… and our family hung out for the duration of the 4 day celebrations.  Over and over again I kept including Chilli in my mental family stocktake.  It was effortless.

My mum’s room was down the hall from ours.  My heart could have burst as I watched my three girls, hand-in-hand, Chilli in the middle, toddling down the hall to check on YayYay before breakfast.

My three girls!

Easy as that.

Finally, after all this time, a mother-of-three.

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This was a lovely week for goods news.  Two different friends are expanding their brood and expecting their second child. Congratulations! Enjoy the ride. It will all fall into place and when it does it will be FABULOUS!

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Thanks for reading. I would love to hear from you. Comment, like, share, follow, or do nothing.  You were here.  You’re fabulous!

Just in case you are interested:

A Mother’s Love (part one)

A Mother’s Love (part two)