Wednesday, 30 January 2013

The Send Off

Today was the day - hooray! Eleanor is now at Howqua.

I was up at 5.15am making fricking chicken sandwiches, as requested. I sent a text yesterday, 'Brown bread or white? Chives or spring onions?', on my way home from a day of meetings - no reply. I rang and got a sulky 'brown and chives... please.' Yep - that  killed her.

Are you taking that nightie?
Yes, why?
There's no name on it. Hand it over and I'll sew one on. (Okay, there may have a few 'for god's sake's in there as well...)

Mum, the printers jammed.
What are you printing? You've had weeks!!!! Blah, blah, blah....
Don't worry about it then. (sulk)
Alright, I'll fix it!!!! (Voice raising.)

6.35am. Finally ready and about to leave.
Has that jumper got a name on it??
Yes.... (hesitates)...on the label.
Show me. (It has no label, no name, nothing. Small but forceful yell regarding lying, disorganisation, blah, blah, blah....)

I really hope you're going to make the most of this.
God!!!! Do you have to give me a lecture me on my last day?! (Screaming, fake crying, storm out the door to the car.)

Crap. I head to the car and slam the front door. Get to said car... no keys and everyone is here. Oops. We do have a hidden key - that we have nagged Elle for a year to put back as soon as she uses it - she hasn't and it's not there.

She will be on that bus if I have to carry all seven bags and her up there myself!!!

Eventually break a fly wire and squeeze Sass through a window. Get keys, in car, up to bus.

Elle bucks up as soon as she sees her friends. They finally get on the bus. Some mums are having an emotional moment.
Let it all out Mum, don't hold back! Elle yells over a crowd.
I am!! I reply, punching the air as promised.

We get back to the car to find it hooked up to a tow truck - we're in a clearway. Generously, the guy unhooks us. Thank Christ. I have a very busy day of meetings - tricky with no car.

I've had about five emails from school already to say they're fine (of course they are!) and I have written and posted Elle a second letter tonight. But I have to admit, there's a real calm over the house tonight and it's not all bad.

Monday, 28 January 2013

Good Grief

Jaz aged 8 in 2003

What a stupid expression. I use it myself, regularly, but really, there's nothing good about grief. Not that I've noticed anyway.

I wrote a book after Jaz died. More for my own therapy than anything else but I am wondering if I should do something with it. Like Angela's Ashes, it may need to wait until a few people have moved on - me included! - before it should see the light of day. (Frank McCourt called his best selling memoir that because he'd had to wait until his mother, Angela, passed away before it was published or 'the shame would have killed her'.)

Mine's call "14 Years, 23 Days", the extent of Jaz's life. Here's a snippet.

Grief weighs heavy on my chest, day and night, like someone’s lost luggage. I know this baggage is mine, but it’s so unfamiliar, so unrecognisable. I keep hoping I’ll wake from this nightmare and someone else will claim it.

Eleanor told me today that she is exactly 14 years and 23 days today. It made me cry. Losing George has somehow picked open that barely scabbed over but still weeping wound. Good grief? I don't think so.

Thursday, 24 January 2013

The Countdown

There are just five days before Eleanor heads off to boarding school in the country for a year. She does come home for school holidays and mid-term weekends so it's not like we won't see her.

Don't be fooled by those girlish good-looks, she is the devil reincarnated.
And no, that's not me pulling her hair, it's my sister-in-law braiding.

Some parents are quite nervous about it. I went to boarding school from Year 7 so I have no problem with it! She'll have a ball. They ski, ride horses, hike and camp - what's not to like about that? It's one of the reasons I chose Lauriston.

Geoff was very unsure to start with, having her away. But as she's just turned 14 and is soooooo 14 (mothers of teenage girls will know exactly what I'm talking about!) he now agrees that the timing is perfect. While there, they have no mobile phones, no access to Facebook, Snap Chat, Instagram or any other online sites that aren't directly applicable to their studies. How refreshing!!!

I also have high expectations that our house will be tidy.... and staying that way for more than an hour.

And how does she feel? Well on January 1st last year, when we were in Laos, she woke up and announced 'I go to Howqua next year!' But now it's getting close and they don't know who's in their house of 12 until they get there (what an excellent strategy!) she is becoming a bit nervous.

But we have clashed so much these last couple of weeks, her sleeping in until at least 12 every day, not helping around the house, reading her books, etc, etc that she's even telling everyone that as the other mothers are shedding a tear as the bus pulls away on Wednesday morning, I'll be punching the air and high fiving everyone! We'll see.

Tuesday, 22 January 2013


There's something weird happening on my comments. Maybe it's a gremlin....

Can I ask a favour? If you're reading this on email, FB or Twitter, can you please click though to the actual site - and see if you can comment? Even just a 'hi' will do.

I uploaded Disqus over a year ago to try and fix this - which should be the easiest option to log into via FB or Twitter or with an email address.

Sorry, I realise this is a big ask, but if you have a moment, I would very much appreciate it...


Friday, 18 January 2013

Creche vs Nanny?

Creche kids

As a mother who works (I'm unusually on topic today!) all my kids went to creche from between 3 and 4 months old. (I've posted before about my shamefully short maternity leave stints.)

When it comes to childcare, there's no single, ideal solution. It was a topic often discussed at the office with mums - current, pending and contemplating.

A nanny gives you the freedom to run out the door in the morning and just leave the kids and the chaos. Out of home care means you need to have gotten those kids dressed, fed, bags packed, house tidy (if you're anything like me), yourself looking respectable and all in the car - often by 7.30am. And of course, during certain phases, add a breast feed in to that mix!

If the nanny is sick, you need to make other arrangements. If the carer at creche is sick it's not your problem, they'll make other arrangements.

Nanny's can pick up where you left off. Creche is a whole different environment. And for me, that was part of my decision. I actually didn't want someone in my house with my kids doing my 'mothering'. That's about me, not a judgement on anyone else's choice.

The other key consideration is cost. It's hard to go past the value of creche - which includes snacks, hot lunch and music and movement classes. You did pay extra for computer gym. At our creche they even had a visiting hairdresser and you paid about $6 for a trim! A nanny is not only more expensive by the hour but all your home bills go up as well. Again, for many, the flexibility is worth it.

A nanny will also do chores, good ones will do laundry and some even cook. Some will do grocery shopping, take the kids to appointments and swimming classes - really take the pressure off - so I can see the appeal.

When George and Jaz were small, we also raided the creche for babysitters, which proved to have another huge advantage - we knew what was going on with the staff and owners. Not just in a gossipy sense (although that's always interesting!) but to find out how the kids and staff are being treated and getting on when you're not there. We had an incident with baby Jaz when I'd asked them not to carry her around all day (she was irresistibly adorable, but not helpful when I got home and needed to cook dinner). When I arrived to collect her and George, another carer asked me to clarify the instructions - Jaz had had a miserable day and knowing us well, the carer didn't think I could possibly have meant not to pick her up at all. She was right! Could a nanny have also misinterpreted that and I'd never have known?

At drop off, like the others when they were there, Sass was welcomed daily with enthusiasm, "Goooood morning Saskia! What would you like to do today?" I often wished that was I was greeted like that at work - but my response may have been that I'd like to go home now thank you.

Given the age gap between the kids, Sass started creche when George started high school. 'Do you miss creche?' I asked George. 'Those were the good ol' days...' he replied with more than a hint of longing.

Even this week as we drove past creche, Elle reminisced wistfully about the fun and freedom of her days at creche. And of course the afternoon nap.

I know creche isn't for everyone. I was blatantly criticised by some of my non-working friends. But it worked for us.

But what do you think? Please do post a comment - it's very quite on the comment front..... :(

(PS - Yes Sass is in a Christening gown - it was a family heirloom that we popped on her while it fitted and took some snaps. Unlike the other three, she's wasn't baptised. Another post perhaps....)

Monday, 14 January 2013

Five more things about George

George at 14 - nice faux hawk

1. When George moved to Glenallen School it was a huge shift. It was for Jaz too but George was now 14 and moving from a local school where he'd just finished year 8. He absolutely embraced the change from regular school to a school with extremely special kids - which for the uninitiated, can be extremely confronting. So much so, that in his first year there, he was awarded the Courage Award.

2. He did like nice clothes despite pretty much being a jeans, T-shirt and sneaker kind of guy. But here's a pair of very snappy loafers he got last Christmas. He was very happy with them.

3.  George was six weeks younger than my friend's daughter Daisy. But being a girl she did always seem more mature. 'Daisy,' George would lament, 'you're such an adult!'

4. Being five and half years younger than George, Elle was often quite a disruption. "Eleanor you ruined our family!' he'd often yell at her. I did point out that that was not very nice.

5. Lunch at friends - and because George was the oldest of all the kids and a bit of a fave of our hosts, they allowed him to spray paint his initials on the inside of their shed door! He was so thrilled. It's still there. Thanks Brenda xxx.

Wednesday, 9 January 2013

Breathtakingly Simple Sorbet

There was some discussion at Christmas that the money my parents spent on piano lessons proved not to be a great investment. Nor the ballet or tennis lessons for that matter. However, they did concede that the cooking school in London was well worthwhile - for their own pleasure if nothing else.

So here is how I learnt to make sorbet - it's so simple and so yum and you can make just about any flavour you can think off. I made raspberry and mint.

In a food processor (and I have to confess, I have a ripper, a big MagiMix) chuck a handful of washed mint - whizz for a bit. I started with this because I don't like big chunks so I made it quite fine. Then add some caster sugar and lemon or lime juice, frozen raspberries and whizz some more. Then I added 4 egg whites one at a time and whizzed like crazy, which is what gives it is bulk and texture. And that's pretty much it. Have a little taste - add a bit more sugar or lemon to adjust sweetness if you need - otherwise pop it into a plastic container and throw back in the freezer for a couple of hours and it's good to go!

Instead of raspberries, you could use any fruit - bananas, other berries, fresh peaches, etc - just pop them into the freezer for a couple of hours before you start, it just helps to move the process along if it's really cold. You could also use a bottle of wine or champagne - again, just get it a bit slushy in the freezer first.

Oh and if you don't like the seeds in raspberries, whizz them up first, allow to defrost a bit and then sieve.

I served ours with lemon shortbread which I confess, I bought at Coles!


Monday, 7 January 2013

Happy New Year!

For many today (or yesterday depending on when I get this out!) will have been your first day back in the office. Another reason I'm loving working at home - although best I start focusing more of the kind of work that pays, as opposed to trying to get this house sorted!

It's been a busy break - Christmas day, roast pork and the excitement of Santa, turkey dinner on Boxing Day because my brother couldn't make it for the actual day and then Geoff's birthday on the 27th. We headed home from South Australia on the 30th for a night of rest before heading up to Ruffy to a friend's farm for New Year - and what a party! We kicked on until 2am - including Sass - which was loads of fun until about 5.30am the next morning when the sun hit the tent we'd pitched in their garden. Within about 30 minutes, it must have been 40 degrees. Geoff had bailed at about 30 degrees but at six, I dragged my sleeping bag and pillow out of the tent and into the shade of a hedge for a little more shut-eye. Sass appeared shortly there after and I suggested she check on her sister and her friend Charlotte, who were both in 'onsies' (those silly in all one sleeping outfits usually reserved for the under two's as anyone older is in grave danger of a huge wedgie), in sleeping bags, under a 'mink' (ie 100% polyester and very heavy and hot) blanket in a tent reaching sauna-esque temperatures - just to see that hadn't expired and perhaps, at least drag the blanket off them.

Back in town, the 'gathering of gear' for the year away at boarding school for Eleanor began. Like many women I know, I quite enjoy a shop, but after two days of buying hiking gear, underwear, a sleeping bag liner (that's what we needed on NYE to absorb the sweat!!), toiletries, linen, trail shoes, water bottles, a compass, blah blah blah.... even I had had enough! Now I need to sew name tags on about 8,000 items and she'll be ready to go. She and my adopted daughter Frankie have sewn on quite a few but Frankie's gone back to Sydney and Eleanor is doing Surf Life Saving Cadets down the coast, so it'll be up to me. My gorgeous friend Penny B has offered to help - bless!

And interjected into this period of 'relaxation' was Elle's 14th and Sass's 7th birthdays. Geoff bought Sass a laptop - yes - that's right, a full fledged, Windows 7 laptop. She was straight onto eBay - ahhhhh!!

And we've also had time to have a go at dipping the girls' nails in vodka and then pressing newsprint onto them - it really does work! It'd be better with foreign language print - but we only had The Age. You need to press quite hard and then add a clear top coat. Check them out.



The Moroccan Bath

The girls and I have come up to Dubai for a few days to escape the Melbourne winter. It's in the 40s so we've thawed out - quickly. ...