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Archive for the ‘Reminiscing’ Category

Fullstop.

I have just spent the last two hours clicking around this blog, much like the hero of a zombie film wandering through the deserted city streets. For some reason, the abandoned cars that inevitably line the streets of those films always get to me.  They hint of stories untold.

Fortunately, however, this blog is full of stories that *have* been told and I thought I would share some of them now – as a way of  punctuating this blog once and for all.

Enjoy.

Life At A Funeral

The Silent Red Ninja

The NDM Guide to Making Piñatas

Fire

The Email (A Short Story)

The Cupboard Rarely Opened

The NDM Children’s Vomit Scale

Sorry, It’s School Policy

The Finger Of Blame

First Born

A Normal Person

Mother’s Day  – Episode Two

The Inflatable Brad Pitt

The Gallery of Domestic Godlessness

 

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Imagine being one of the Chilean miners still waiting to be rescued from the mine and getting a message from one of the guys who’d been already rescued saying  “Enjoy yourself down there while you can! Above ground is sooooo overrated and there’s nothing on TV tonight,  anyway.”

Well, that’s how a little how it felt when I was wrangling a wailing newborn and a shouty toddler at the supermarket and some random stranger would pat me on the arm and say “Enjoy the baby years, love. They go past in a flash!”

(It should be noted that generally, the kind of people who offered such advice, would have just spent their life savings on a Winnebago so they could enjoy their grandchildren at a healthy 400km+ distance. Whatevs.)

Still, here I am, actually standing on the other side of that long dark tunnel called “The Baby Years”. The moment Tiddles McGee turned three, it was like someone handed me a large martini and said “Enjoy yourself.” Well, it was more like “Enjoy yourself a little more than you have been enjoying yourself”. There’s still the early mornings and the washing and the cooking and the laundry and the dishes and the picking up of toys and the perpetually unsolved mystery of the odd socks – but everybody can wipe their own bums now and (mostly) sleep through the night, even if they often do so a mere 1cm from my face, holding onto my ears. (That’s my Tiddles McGee for you).

And now it feels like I was never in that ‘dark place’. That place where days lasted years and I thought I might never wear an item of clothing that wasn’t either stained with hindmilk or had an elastic waistband that came up to my armpits. That place where the idea of ever being able to walk across a room without a small child clinging to my leg seemed impossible and where three hours of unbroken sleep was the greatest gift I could ever be given and would make me weep openly with gratitude.

But it was also a place where gummy smiles were my bestest reward and my days were punctuated by unbridled laughter and the kind of joy that banging an empty plastic bottle on a table can give a little person. A place where small arms automatically reached out to me the minute I walked into view because, to my children, I shone brighter than the sun and they were only truly happy when they were safe in my arms.

So yes, random strangers at the supermarket, you were right. Those baby years really did pass by in a flash. And I do wish I had stopped and enjoyed them a little more — and not least because I can see a flashing sign coming up in the distance saying “WARNING: TEENAGE YEARS AHEAD”…

Oh, shit.

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Today, I have the great pleasure of giving away a copy (or two) of ‘Cocktails At Naptime‘, by Gillian Martin and Emma Kaufmann. Described as “a woefully inept guide to the early years of motherhood”, it also boasts itself as being the only parenting guide that doesn’t offer any actual advice.

To have a chance at winning a copy, please leave a comment below describing the most useless or annoying advice to a new parent that you’ve ever heard. The winner will be drawn randomly on Friday 22nd October at 2pm AEST (or thereabouts).

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Dear Readers,

I’ll admit that I had to check on dictionary.com whether this was Not Drowning, Mothering‘s ‘biannual’ or ‘biennial’ . Both sounded too close to ‘bi-anal’ for comfort, but you can’t argue with Mother English.

In any case, today marks two years since I opened a WordPress account and started writing. 446 posts, approximately 223,000 words and 7,121 comments later, I’m still here.

To help celebrate this momentous occasion, I invite you all to share your favourite Not Drowning, Mothering post in the comments below. A loose description using key words (i.e. ‘vomit’, ‘Hugh Jackman’ or ‘lactating asian babes’) would be suffice – I will provide the link.

I thank you all for your valued readership and remain, as always, your humble blogging servant,

The NDM

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Eight years ago, I turned up at a hospital in London to be induced, armed with whale song CDs, aromatherapy massage oils and my birth plan.

“Here is my birth plan!” I said, handing a copy to the midwife on duty, as if I were Moses handing down the Ten Commandments.

The midwife smiled slightly and stuffed the plan away in my file without even looking at it. She probably already knew what I was yet to discover: the baby didn’t give a flying proverbial if I wanted to have drug-free birth on all fours like a cow. The baby had plans of his own and, it turned out, those plans mostly involved staying exactly where he was, thank you very much.

Indeed, twenty-eight agonising hours later – two hours of which were spent with the Oxytocin dial turned up to eleven – the baby had yet to make an appearance.

This is the point where the doctors revealed their own birth plan for me and my baby. A team of medical professionals began waving legal documents under my nose for me to sign while another team shaved my nether regions. Before I knew it I was being wheeled away from my birthing suite and all dreams of a drug-free cow birth, my aromatherapy oils unopened and my whale song CD cast aside. Turns out obstetric surgeons don’t like to listen to whale song while they operate. 

In the operating theatre, the failed epidural I’d been given during my labour was upgraded to a failed spinal block and the operating surgeon kindly requested that I stop moving my legs while he operated. This, in turn, forced my anaesthetist to upgrade her assessment of me from “Whinging Bitch With A Low Pain Threshold” to “Possible Medical Malpracdtice Suit” and she offered to put me under general anaesthetic whenever I gave the word.

Must… See…Baby...” I said, through the pain.

And then suddenly, there he was. My Mr Justice, held aloft and bathed in golden light. (My husband to this day denies that there was any golden light but he obviously wasn’t on the right drugs).

“Quick! Someone help me deliver the uterus,” I heard the surgeon say.

Doesn’t he mean the placenta? I thought vaguely to myself, as the pulling and tugging behind the curtain became so intense I became convinced the surgeon was pulling out my lower intestine like scarves out of a hat. Turns out that my uterus had gone ‘boggy’ – which is another way of saying it had started ‘haemorrhaging like a bastard’ – and needed to be  ‘massaged’, although, sadly, not with my aromatherapy massage oils.

Since I didn’t really want to see my uterus held aloft and bathed in golden light, I turned to the anaesthetist.

Put… Me… Under,” I hissed and then everything went black. Four hours later, I awoke, alone in the recovery area, seemingly intact.

“Where’s my baby?” I panicked and, with as much authority as a woman sporting compression stockings and a pubic mullet could muster, I demanded to be taken to him.

I needn’t have panicked. Back in the ward, my husband was in control of the situation. Braving the nervous giggles and strange looks of onlooking medical staff, he had taken his shirt off to give our baby the skin-to-skin contact I had taken such care to include in my birth plan.

At least someone paid attention to the fucking plan, I thought, somewhat despondently.

But listen. While the birth wasn’t what I had planned or wanted, the baby and I were both alive. And that, in my opinion, is what’s called a result.

And a lesson for me, too. The journey we’ve shared together as mother and son hasn’t always gone the way I planned or wanted – from controlled crying, to buying Wiggles albums, to fast food, to shoot-’em-up computer games. But as a parent, you can’t always stick to The Plan and there’s not much point beating yourself up when you don’t.

Today, my first born, with his shining eyes and his ready laugh – and who, incidentally, is still bathed in golden light – is turning eight years old.

Happy birthday, Mr Justice.

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The Pixie once developed a remarkable bond with a broken and rusty scooter I picked up from the hard rubbish and let her ride a short distance to see if it was worth buying her a new one of her own. A few months later, my husband found it down the side of the house and asked if he could use it to fashion a spare part for his motorbike (he’s a regular MacGyver, that one). The Pixie was outraged.

“Not Sparkly!!” she howled and proceeded to cry for half an hour. Yes, half an hour. Over a piece of scrap metal she’d only met for five minutes. And apparently given a name to.

So you can imagine we had to be very careful whenever we spoke in her presence about selling The Love Bus. In the end, we told her it had been “borrowed”. Which, when you think about it, is how the Love Bus’s new owner might like to think of our transaction if it ends up giving him half the trouble it gave us.

Anyway, I realised the other day that I hadn’t blogged about the Love Bus since January’s ‘Trouble‘ post – mostly because it had cast a long dark shadow on my very soul (and the front lawn). And, indeed, I realised that there are many things that I blog about and then never mention again.

So it’s time to do a kind of ‘end of the (Australian) tax year inventory’ – an NDM ‘State Of The Union’, if you will.

For the record:

My hair hasn’t faded, despite multiple washes in anti-dandruff shampoo, and my beige skunk stripe is coming along nicely, thank you very much. Many of my friends have said they like the new colour on me but my husband has never – and will never – speak of it. It’s like my hair is dead to him. I suspect that in his heart of hearts, he just wants me to have long blonde hair – which might come as a huge surprise to anyone who actually knows me. I’m just not a ‘long blonde hair’ kind of girl…

My husband still has a beard and, quite possibly, will continue to have one until I have grown my hair long and blonde.

Thanks to Madame Zap’s enlightening comment on my post ‘My Husband Vs. The State Revenue Office‘, we received a refund cheque for $605 a couple of weeks ago. Interestingly enough they made the cheque out to my husband, even though it had been I (in my capacity as equal owner of the property in question) who had written all the correspondence and made all the phone calls to precipitate that cheque’s sweet arrival. Either they had read my post and been a’feared of my husband’s litigatious wrath, or they’re still stuck in the 1950s. I’ll let you be the judge.

After a very shaky start, Tiddles is now fully toilet trained. He still likes to ‘paint the town yellow’ from time to time but as far as I’m concerned, we’re out of nappies forever and I flip the BABY aisle in the supermarket the finger every time I pass it.

I put notes in my daughter’s lunchbox for the first two months of school before slowly and ever-so-gently weaning her off them – i.e. I forgot one day, she didn’t mention it and I never put another note in her lunchbox again.

Telstra didn’t fuck with me again after I wrote “A Telstra Of A Mess” but nor did anyone give me a free iPhone. With each passing day, I grow angrier and angrier that I am (seemingly) the only person on the planet without one. My lack of iPhone physically hurts me. I think this is what is called ‘A First World Problem’.

Finally, to update you on the opening paragraph of this post, ‘Sparkly’ is now officially ‘in storage’ and (unofficially) has been used to create (in my husband’s words) “a bracket to hold an electrical socket into which I can insert a standard ‘cigarette lighter’-type plug to connect my motorbike battery to a solar charger on the carport roof” which (in my words) “doesn’t actually work and was a waste of good scrap metal”. Oh, Sparkly!

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I mostly grew up in an Australian city widely acknowledged as the most isolated capital in the world and one that boasts the largest number of serial killers per capita. For the purposes of this blog, let us call this place “Perth”.

It’s been eighteen years since I last lived in Perth, but at heart, I am still a Perth Girl. Not necessarily through choice, mind you. It’s Facebook that does it to me.

Whenever I log onto that Hallowed Site, I am faced with an endless stream of “Friend Suggestions”, the vast majority of whom are from Perth and who share at least seven mutual friends with me – all from Perth, too, of course.

Yep, those six degrees of separation are reduced down to a cosy -2 degrees in Perth. Let’s put it this way: if you know two people from Perth, the chances are that they are either related or have slept with each other. Or if not, one of them is related to someone the other’s slept with. Or vice versa. But hopefully they are not related and sleeping with each other – although I’ve heard tell that happens quite a lot South Of The River.

Even when I lived my furthest away from Perth, I could not escape the place.

In my first full-time job in London, I took over from a (British) woman whose best friend was from Perth. Turns out that this best friend and I had both worked at Cinema City McDonalds at the same time and shared another friend who was last seen in London being thrown out of a gay nightclub for having sex with her boyfriend under a table (which isn’t behaviour specific to Perth but just made for a more interesting anecdote, don’t you think?).

Moreover, it was in London that I met a South-of-the-River Perth boy and ended up marrying him and having three children with him. (That’s my husband, in case you were wondering).

And then there’s this Perth story:

One afternoon, I was sitting around drinking beer in Covent Garden with my friend GT (a fellow Perth exile), and another friend (non-Perth) called Mr M.

“I have a friend who works around here,” I mentioned casually.

“So do I,” GT replied. I sensed a competition.

My friend is a graphic designer,” I said.

“So is my friend,” GT rejoined.

“Well, my friend’s name is Marc with a ‘c’!” I shouted.

“SO IS MINE!” GT shouted back.

And we both furiously started digging around our wallets only to pull out matching business cards for the same ruddy person. Who also happened to hail from Perth.

Our friend Mr M was a little frightened.

“What the fuck just happened there?” he said.

“You, my friend, have just witnessed a Genuine Perth Moment,” I replied, tucking the business card back in my wallet. After all, I’d need it for the next time I talked to somebody from Perth.

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You know that page-turning series about the trials and tribulations of teenage love? The one that’s not particularly well written, where the main character is whiny, self-centred and not very likeable, and yet you still can’t put the damn thing down?

No, not Twilight, people! I’m talking highschool diaries. My highschool diaries. 

Last weekend, I discovered a whole box of them in the shed, marked clearly in my handwriting (“[NDM]’s highschool & uni diaries”) with my husband’s scrawl adding: “+ Rollerblades!”. I should hasten to add the rollerblades were his – as was the exclamation mark – for I do not share his enthusiasm for rollerblading. Oh no, not I. 

I randomly picked one up from the box and read the first page:

January 1st 1987

My resolutions for 1987 are: 

1. I will do well in my HSC

2. I will have at least two lovers (of over three weeks duration) by December 31st

3. I will no longer be a fool

4. I will keep my room CLEAN

Riveting stuff, right? Before I knew it, I had finished off the whole book and was scrambling around to find the next in the series so I could find out what the hell happened at the Year 12 River Rock and whether or not I got that “fab” skirt off lay-by.

And then finally, three diaries and three hours later, I emerged from 1987, shaken and shocked. And not just because every second sentence seemed to be “I’m shocked!”, for example:

Dad just gave me $80.
I’m shocked and appalled.
I’m also rich.

Also:

[Name omitted] told me in Maths he owned ABBA’s “Arrival” but he couldn’t find it. I was shocked. I mean, sure we all have one album we want to avoid – but the fact was HE WAS LOOKING FOR IT.

There were many reasons I was shaken and shocked. For one thing, it’s a hard thing to read the innermost thoughts of your 16 year old self and all the drinking, snogging, pining and whining that went on. Especially when you then realise that your children are way closer to that age than you are. Three words: Shit. A. Brick. 

For another thing, how come I won the English prize and couldn’t spell the word “weird” properly? It’s just not right. 

But the thing that shocked me most was this: in Diary #3, I read all about this guy who said he’d “liked” me for over a year (in the way that only high school kids “like” each other), who pursued me rather rigorously, who I snogged at a few parties and agonised (over the course of many, many, many pages) whether or not I wanted to be his girlfriend and who was finally deemed to be  “way too nice” and dumped unceremoniously. 

It was an age-old story (especially when it came to me and “nice boys”) but here’s the rub: I could not remember him. Not his name, not his face. NOTHING. Even when I looked him up in the Year Book, there was nothing about his photo that triggered a single memory. As they say in the classics: Not a sausage. 

Of course, I remember the sleazes and the cads of that year. I remember the boy who I oscillated violently between “I love him soooooo much” and “HE’S A SHIT-FACED FUCK-BRAIN”, sometimes within the same entry (Yes, I was as inconsistent as a Type One Vomit, even then). I remembered stealing a bin from one boy’s house, spray painting it gold and leaving it on the lawn of another boy’s house along with the note “I AM GOLD, I AM WILD. I’M YOUR BIN’S LONG LOST CHILD”. I even remember sending one of the school prefects a postcard that “wisely advised” him to “FUCK LIKE A BEAST!” – although, admittedly, I can’t quite remember my reasons for doing so. 

But I didn’t remember this boy. Not at all. And it really bothered me. 

You see, when I got married, my husband was adamant we shouldn’t have the wedding video-taped. He said that we would remember the things worth remembering. And at the time, I thought he was right. 

But now, reading this diary which documented (in excruciating detail) events that happened 23 years ago, I wondered. This boy seemed worth remembering, even just a little bit. Simply because he seemed like a nice person, totally undeserving of being buffeted about by “Cyclone NDM”.

Of course the bitterest pill of all to swallow was reading it all with the knowledge that Cyclone NDM was to rage on for at least another decade before finally becoming the sweet, wafting breeze it is today. (I just read that bit out to my husband who shouted “Ha!” and then muttered darkly under his breath about women with ‘strong personalities’. I’m shocked.)

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