The Home Straight (and a bit of a RAWR at the end)

Okay, here’s a scary thought: in less than 7 weeks, we will be moving to our new house.

The one that currently has no floor or window coverings, no tiles, no kitchen, no laundry, no toilets and bathrooms, no appliances, no internal paint, no lights, no powerpoints, no garage door…


It’s full steam ahead here on our planet. It’s a little insane. Was supposed to take Arddun to a play date with Eli and his nan, the lovely Marg, this morning. Ended up half an hour late after an impromptu phone introduction to the new foreman, who will be taking the build to the home straight. And then after lunch, I got word that I needed to sign, scan and email designs and quotes back by this afternoon, so I ended up at Dave and Marg’s house to frantically do that. All while the kids sprawled on the rug to watch Tweety and Sylvester, while Marg worked on redirecting Atticus from chewing on her furniture like a beaver.

And you know what? Lately, that’s a pretty typical day for us.

Atticus and Arddun often get complimented on their ability to sit still and entertain themselves in relative good humour for extended periods of time. And it’s only because they’ve had so much practice. I try to schedule a fun activity or destination for them to look forward to, in between the trips to the new house and any number of tradies in Mitchell/Fyshwick/Hume. But then one afternoon, I turned the car into the kitchen place and Arddun started crying. And that’s when I knew we were ALL over it slightly.

I’ve been nagging myself now and then to put all this down in the blog, so I can look back on this busy time and remember what it’s been like. And it hasn’t been all House, House, House; there are still play dates, and ballet classes, and school, and birthday parties, and church, and cuddle time, and playground time, and baking time, and art-and-craft time, and all those big and little things that make up our days rearing very young children. But we do pack a lot of things in our day, because this new-house project adds about 30% more activity to our week, on average.

Because it’s not just the actual ordering of stuff, and the liaising with the builders. It’s the thinking. It’s the planning. It’s the researching. It’s the agonising. It’s changing your mind, and then dealing with the knock-on effects. It’s preparing a sensible work statement, and gathering quotes. It’s chasing people up. It’s running over the detail because you’ve learnt not to take anyone’s designs at face value. It’s looking at your budget, and seeing what you can get away with. It’s figuring out how to do it on the cheap (read: by yourself) when you can’t afford a one-stop-shop solution. It’s talking to the tradies, and then talking down their prices.

All that. All while jiggling my son to sleep in the Ergo. All while watching my daughter from the corner of my eye as she draws in the sand on the yet-to-be-concreted driveway.

I remember reading an article recently about women returning to work after “maternity leave” or after years “at home”. And how we – because this will include me – tend to leave out their at-home years from the official, printed chronology of their job history. As if it’s a slightly embarrassing, self-indulgent, self-sabotaging “career gap”.

How ridiculous. Ladies, let’s stop this.

Because “maternity leave” is not a holiday. And “stay-at-home mum” is mostly an oxymoron. Aside from the fact that most full-time mothers I know are out of the house doing stuff with their kids, the whole birthing-a-human-and-then-sustaining-it-for-life schtick IS WORK. And full-time care-giving is a real vocation. It might even be the one true career, in this age of chronic and systemic job-hopping.

It takes energy, forethought, deftness of mind, feet and hands. It hones negotiation smarts and wicked time management skills. It teaches patience, sharpens attention to detail, deepens pools of compassion, widens horizons. It distills character and priorities.

And then when you add other major projects in the mix – like selling and building houses, like nursing a sick child or relation, like organising school and church fetes and fundraisers – you have other skills and experience that are worth recording and talking about.

So don’t let anyone — least of all your inner I-am-fat voice — tell you that your time as a stay-at-home mum was a professional gap in your CV. You’ve just developed a whole new skillset on a very steep learning curve, most likely while still sleep-deprived. And if you’re breastfeeding, probably without much coffee either. You rock.

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Where we’re headed

I’m driving. Atticus has a full tummy, and is gurgling at the view zipping behind him in reverse. Arddun is strapped in the seat directly behind mine, her awareness of her whereabouts, the general geography of Canberra, the routes we take, the slightest departure from routine ever minutely recorded and questioned.

Ever growing, ever impressive, ever exhausting.

It’s 60kmh down Northbourne Avenue, plenty of time to discuss where we’re going.

“Where are we going now, Mummy?”

“We are going to the Singapore High Commission.”

She chews on that for a few seconds. It’s dinner time, and we are not at home. She notes the quick sinking of the sun, grows a little excited that we are deviating from the norm.

“We are going to see Grandma Singapore?” She turns to a toy companion immediately to give her the news. “We are going to see my Grandma!”

“Er… no, darlin’. We are going to the Singapore High Commission. It’s a different place.”

“Where is Grandma Singapore?”

“In heaven.”

“Are we going to her house?”



I pause. Do I tackle the bit about venues, or do I tackle the bit about the afterlife. Decisions.

“Because she doesn’t live in the Singapore High Commission. We are going there for dinner. There’s going to be lots of yummy food! Are we going to try new things tonight?”



“And then,” she continues, “We are going to Grandma Singapore’s house.”

So we are back to that.

“Will she have beds ready for us?”

“Er… no…”

“Does she have a house?”

“Probably. A very big one, I think.” (Will you please turn your hymnals with me to “I got a mansion just over the hilltop”.)

“She’ll have beds for us,” Arddun decides confidently.

“We are not going to her house.”


“Because it’s in heaven.”

“Where is heaven?”

“It’s outside this world.”

“OOOOOHHHHH!” she cries, as if that finally makes complete sense. And then,

“Are we in the world, Mummy?”


“Then where is Grandma’s house?”

“Out of this world.”

“Does she have a dog?”

I give a short bark of laughter. And then think about it in earnest. Dogs don’t have souls, but maybe that isn’t the way to tackle that question for now.

“Probably not,” I reply slowly. “Grandma doesn’t like dogs.”

“Oooohhh…” I imagine her nodding wisely. And then, confidentially,

“Heaven doesn’t have elephants.”

“It doesn’t?”

“No. It has squirrels.”


“Yes,” my sagacious four-year-old replies. “And cats. And some dogs. But not elephants.”

Atticus and Arddun in car

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About Death, Departing, and Disco

[Note: this written on 3 September, published today]

Today has been a strange sort of day.


I’ll start with the light and fluffy – an earworm. I woke up this morning with Take That’s version of Could It Be Magic in my head. Lord knows what I had been dreaming. It was so loud, so catchy, and so stubborn, I ended up downloading it. And then hummed it for the rest of the day.

(Never watched this MTV till now. Talk about throwback to the ’90s!)

I have never been a Take That fan and I’m not about to start… but I did bop around like I was 13 again and it might be helped in part by…


We signed the contract. They signed the contract. And then we exchanged today. We have sold our first home.

I got the call from the agent after pulling into the garage, and walked into the backdoor for the first time as a tenant. We are no longer this home’s owners, not really. We’ve been thrilled by how quickly the house sold, but the excitement and relief is also tinged with sadness. God willing, we leave this place in November as scheduled so we have three full months to work up to that goodbye. I will miss this place.


The Cuz has been dead for five years today. It feels like it should be such a milestone, so as usual I’m conflicted to the point where emotions are muted. The picture of 21-year-old us still sits on our sideboard. It faces the kitchen, in the heart of our home. When I’m feeding the kids, or preparing lunches and dinners, I see our faces. I still think about her often.

But I no longer think of her daily.

Such a brutal confession to myself and to you, reader. No one likes to admit the awful realities of beginning to not remember someone they love. I will never forget her, but I don’t always remember her. I still love her. I still miss her. I still want to tell her things. But my life is so completely different now to what it was when she parted this earth, so I don’t always imagine her understanding. I can’t always conjure a typical response.

It strikes me that the version I have and keep of her is 5 years old, and it slightly terrifies me that I’m growing older and therefore apart from her. Will I still be able to half-talk to her when I’m 40, and she’s 30? When I’m 50? When I’m 60? When will it start to feel like I’m a crone talking to a young woman, instead of girl talking to her first and closest friend? She stays the same. I have not. I am always changing, no matter how stubborn I claim to be. God sees to that.

Today, I thought about her gorgeous, shiny, white teeth. That brilliant smile. She had one canine that was turned 90 degrees, but her teeth were still straight and her smile, still dazzling. She had such razor-sharp wit, but enough girly goofiness to laugh at my jokes. She read, and read, and read. Heaven has a library for her.

I still have your knee-high boots. I haven’t worn them. I probably should one of these years, but I wouldn’t know what to match them with and they’re camel, and probably won’t match my skin tone (made all the more translucent by Canberra winters). You always had such fabulous skin.

I have a son, Celina. I have two children now. I cannot hear your reply.

I still remember the daydream we had for years and years, the one where we’d share a house and prepare to go on double-dates together. Perhaps we could share a mansion in heaven.

Say hello to my mum for me.

Categories: Motherhood & Me | Tags: , , , , | 1 Comment

Arddun in Wonderland

We’ve been reading Alice in Wonderland to Arddun lately – the unabridged version. She’s watched the Disney version about ten times and has a very short board book version of it. But it wasn’t until she kept asking me to read the Ladybird Classic version – broken into chapters – that I wondered about her appetite for the whole hog.

I ended up downloading Alice for the iPad. More ebook than app, it features the unabridged version of AiWL with some cute interactive bits now and again – falling cupcakes, Alice elongating like a telescope as she gets bigger before shrinking again, comfits bouncing off a Dodo’s back… A childhood classic imagined by Lewis Carroll, illuminated by John Tenniel and then brought to life through the wonders of technology.

I don’t know that Arddun pays attention to the whole thing. There are lots of talky bits and Alice herself tends to go off in tangents that a 4yo can hardly keep up or be bothered with. But by and large, Arddun understands what’s going on. And she really looks forward to doing the book together come bedtime.

So it was little wonder that when Book Week was around the corner and Arddun was to turn up in school as a book character, we did Alice.

Arddun as Alice in Wonderland, mid-waist shot

Arddun in Wonderland was born!



Alice through the looking glass

Alice through the looking glass

Lots and lots of rules about the dress-up, actually. They could only come as a book character, not a TV one. Please, no princesses or superheroes (read: no last-minute raiding of your child’s dress-up box). They had to bring their book along to school (so I had to run out and buy one because she wasn’t going to traipse into school with my iPad!)

After a quick rummage through existing stash and a dash to Top Bargain for that cheap and cheerful traffic-stopping yellow wig, our Alice was born. But just so there could be no mistaking who her book character was, we needed a storytelling prop.

Arddun as Alice with house

She brought the house down


Poor Mr Rabbit’s house


Back view of cottage

All in all, a rather fun non-uniform day.


We got to read the book in school – twice!


And everywhere that Alice went, that house was sure to go.

Arddun asleep as Alice in Wonderland

I was told she stayed in character the whole day, wig and all. Even during her surprise afternoon nap in school!

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