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Archive for the ‘Family’ Category

Respect your elders. -Mary Schmich

 

1979 

She sat very quiet. Some might say as quiet as a mouse, although really she was more of a chameleon. Merging with the beige couch, her little knees together, back straight, eyes looking, but absolutely no speaking. 

When it was time for dinner she was beckoned to join the adults at the table. In front of her the grandmother placed a fine bone-china bowl brimming with hot soup. It was thin with golden coloured slicks of fat and a twig of limp dill floating on top. She was afraid to eat the dill because she didn’t like the look of it. So she took her spoon and carefully maneuvered her way around the bowl, pushing the herb to one side and doing her best to avoid the lump of soft carrot that lay on the bottom. She would have liked to have a piece of the hard rye bread that sat in the silver bread basket, winking darkly at her from between a crisply folded cloth napkin. But not one person offered it and she would never reach for it, nor ask. So thoughts of sopping soup up with chunks of brown bread remained just that, mere thoughts in this child’s mind. 

After dinner she returned to the couch, knees together, back straight, eyes looking, but absolutely no speaking. The grandmother placed in front of her a rectangular box that she knew was filled with neat rows of black domino tiles. The grandfather smiled briefly and then returned to his adult conversation assured that his granddaughter was now well entertained. But dominos were not much fun to play with by your self. She touched the top of the box and slid the lid back and forth on the tiny wooden grooves. Then she wondered to herself if the dominos ever felt as though they were living in a coffin.

 

2009

She sat very quiet. Some might say as quiet as a mouse, although really she was more of a chameleon. Merging behind the beige couch, suppressing the giggle that bubbled up into her throat as she spied on her grandfather, walking backwards and forwards, ever so near and yet still ruminating loudly on where-oh-where could she possibly be? Finally, bursting with impatience, she leapt- arms wide open to surprise the old man who never failed to clutch at his heart as though the shock would be the very end of them all. 

He took her by the hand to the table where the grandmother had placed a hot bowl of penne to cool ready for her, white and floating in butter, just the way she liked it. The grandfather got her a soft bread roll and the grandmother gave her a glass of cool lemonade before they sat to their own meal of pasta drenched in red sauce and smothered in hard flakes of stinky cheese. 

After dinner they sat together for hours, slurping on orange segments and spitting lupini skins. They taught her the old village card game of cups and clubs, smiling at the grandfather’s obvious attempts of cheating by storing aces in his top pocket, purposely visible so that his granddaughter would be delighted at catching him out every single time. At the end of the game he played a trick that she adored, pulling a shiny gold coin from her ear. She smiled and laughed out aloud with the joy of it all- throwing  herself into his arms for a long hug which ended with two little kisses on his bristly cheek. Then he popped the shiny gold coin in her hand and kissed the top of her head in a quiet blessing of praise for the precious gift he had been given.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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NewFamousChipsOn the weekend we took a day trip down to Phillip Island. Along the way we stopped for some road-munchies at the local supermarket. I had a bit of a tummy upset so I grabbed some licorice (need I say anymore??!!??).

In the car I snapped open the bag and popped a black stick into dear hubby’s mouth as he drove. He snaffled it quickly and opened up for another. I had an instant flash back to the time of our early dating.

 Back then, as Uni students, we couldn’t afford too much so we’d drive to the closest Red Roo[s]ter and buy a large box of hot chips for around two dollars. We’d then go for a drive and- romantically- I’d hand feed him the greasy-sticks-of-potato-yum. We’d usually end up at Elwood beach to have a cuddle and lick the salt of my fingers- as we watched the moon drift over Port Phillip Bay. 

Those were joyful moments of blossoming infatuation. The biggest issue we faced was the weekly scrambling to find a freebie pass into our fave nightclub-so we could avoid the ten buck entry fee. We weren’t worried about cholesterol, or high blood pressure, or diabetes.

Nearly two decades on- I’m now feeding my husband licorice sticks.

“We’re getting old.” I said. He laughed.

But it’s true. We have swapped dancing at clubs till the wee hours of the morn for tango-ing stray children back to bed after bad dreams.

We have swapped long night time drives to hear the ocean caress the shore for short drives to cart children from basketball- to ballet- to birthday parties- to band practices.

We have swapped holding hands and whispering sweet nothings for messaging each other on Face Book. 

As I chew on this memory-evoking licorice I realize that ‘transitioned’ is probably a more apt description- than ‘swapped’. When did we morph from the free spirited pair into the “eat this it’s good for your bowels” couple?

 

I panic….Could this be the beginnings of a mid-life-crisis?

Then hubby looks at me, I know what he is thinking.

Next weekend we are getting us some red rooster chips.

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Happy Father’s Day

P6190278Happy Father’s Day Brunz.

The kids and I are lucky to have you in our lives.

 

Even if you do eat all the cheezels 🙂

xo

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Last night our son left our loungeroom- upset with something his Dad had told him to do and stormed to his bedroom. He slammed his door so hard that the house rattled and a blast of his hormones assaulted us in the jetstream.

Dad, not one for warnings, took his DS console, which son had left on the couch, and hid it. 

Dad then hollered out- “and that’s the last you’ll see of your DS for a while young man!” to which we heard a low growl emit from said bedroom.

For a nano-second (and having watched too many eps of True Blood) it crossed my mind that our son had turned werewolf on us. But no- of course it was just the forces of impending teen-age-hood and the hormones involved. Hormones which will evolve my son from happy-go-lucky-boy into hairy-intense-man. 

 They didn’t call it puberty-blues for nothing you know.

Within fifteen minutes good natured son had returned and we received a hug and a kiss goodnight.

In the morning our son sat with me while he was eating his tub of breakky yoghurt . He stopped mid-mouthful and looked at me.

“Mum…” he said “I’ve really learnt something from last night…”

I felt a surge of pride bubble up inside.

“What’s that son?” I said

“If I ever have another tantrum I should take my DS with me.”

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Behind the Hall of Preserving Harmony is the largest courtyard of the Forbidden city.

As some of our group, sweaty but determined, headed up the grand marble staircase I was distracted by a gathering of folk who seemed intent on trying to fan themselves while catching two wild children.

These kids were slippery indeed.

They sped up and slowed down to taunt the grownups who had now drooped- either exhausted from the chase or from the heat or quite possibly both. As I got a little closer I realized that the pair of terrors were dressed identically and were obviously twins. I’ve read that triplets and quadruplets were considered bad omens in Ancient China, but in a nation of family life governed by a one child policy I suddenly realized that a multiple birth would now be a different kind of omen.

Attention turned in our direction as the group watching the twins, act out all kinds of naughtiness, spotted my daughter. With her long dark-blonde hair and fair skin she had been treated as somewhat of a celebrity in Beijing. Every where we went people asked if they could take her photograph, posing with her and intrigued by her ability to speak rudimentary phrases of Mandarin- thanks to three years of weekly Chinese lessons at school. The Mother of the twins smiled broadly and waved her camera at us pointing at my daughter and then in the direction of her girls. Miss 8- who had begun to enjoy the Miley Cyrus treatment struck a pose and waited patiently as the Mother called her girls over.

The twins however weren’t all that interested in obeying.

They ran around their Mother, black plaits whipping the stodgy air and cackling at their own defiance. Everyone looked a little embarrassed and our guide looked away muttering  “spoilt princesses”.  The Mother- maintaining a composed face grabbed at the little boy standing next to her and pushed him into frame. He obliged instantly and beamed into the lens.  I asked if this was her son mistakenly now assuming that the twins were actually a trio, but got told no he was “just a cousin”. The girls did eventually saunter over and pose, curious perhaps as to how attention had so suddenly shifted away from them.

Miss 8 is now in our lounge room adding the final touches to her suitcase for her next big adventure- tomorrows grade three camp to Mt Eliza. Her big brother is giving her all kinds of advice like:

Don’t be scared of the flying  fox- it’s a blast.

And…

Just eat everything they give you or you don’t get any dessert.

And…

Watch out for the snakes and tigers (chortle, chortle).

She’s listening intently and throwing him a playful punch when she knows he is teasing her. He suddenly gets all serious and says “You know I’m going to miss you?” she gives him a quick hug and throws in another punch just to place the sentimentality firmly back where it belongs. “Muuuuuuum” he screeches “she punched me…”

My instant reaction is to think of the heavenly quiet that will transcend our home over the next three days. Ahhhhh no sibling rivalry! But then I flashback to those  twins, and China, and the One Child Policy.

As I continued my walk that hot, hot day I found it increasingly difficult to align modern day China’s family policy with that of the world of the Dynasty Emperors. In front of me lay Palaces- one more sumptuous than the last, erected to house the abundance of Empresses and Concubines whose sole purpose was to seed as many descendants as possible. These walls would have contained a bounty of brothers and sisters. Spoilt and plump and plotting. But now mostly families with only one child walk through the courtyards to sightsee the old ways.

And of course there are those families lucky enough to have twins.

 

Three days of peace and quiet will be lovely.

But to be honest I’m also looking forward to hearing my kids argue with each other again on Friday afternoon….

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This afternoon we trolled through the garage (otherwise known as the repository for everything other than the car) looking for a case suitable for Miss 8’s impending camp.

Her first camp.

I finally found the one I was looking for, a snazzy-surfy one that her big brother had used on his first camp. I was elated. Phew! I never thought I would find it in all that junk. “But Mum…” Miss 8 said incredulously “it’s a boy’s suitcase.” I looked at it.

Yes.

She’s right it is a boy’s suitcase.

When her big brother went to camp he didn’t mind taking the old red sheet that had the rip in the centre and the Frankenstein stitches. He didn’t even mind that he had a non matching pillowcase. But now I have a whole new ball game on my hands. Don’t get me wrong she’s pulled out her old jumpers and jeans…but I’ve been firmly instructed that the pyjamas must match (tick) and may I please have new volleys (tick-and fine with me- I don’t want her taking her good runners anyway) and was it possible if I had a girls suitcase- please Mum pretty please?

Boy oh boy girls are different.

Part of me can’t justify buying another case, and another part of me wants to get the coolest-grooviest-girly-case I can find.

I remember the day my Mum told me we were going shopping for my primary school camp. I was elated. We were going to the biggest Kmart in town (the one in Burwood) and I felt like the luckiest kid on the planet- I was getting new stuff! Driving along my dreamy thoughts of new sleeping bags and fluffy socks abruptly screeched to a halt as we detoured to the… doctor’s surgery. There waiting for me was a big-fat-juicy tetanus shot.

Tonight I’ve taken a picture of the snazzy-surfy-suitcase.

Tomorrow it’s going on e-bay.

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According to my weeping daughter, who had flung herself across her bed, two girls, (count them fingers sticking up at me) two girls in her jazz ballet class got a grade higher than she did in her dance exam.

I make her sit up. We wipe the trail of snot off her pillowcase and closely examine her new trophy.

“Wow.” I said.

“I think that’s real gold.” big brother said.

“Is that my dinner in the oven?” Dad said.

 

Back last year my daughter did not have such high expectations. I had chosen this new dance studio because I didn’t like the one she had been previously enrolled in (errr the owner brings in giant dog-unleashed- to watch wee-little children dance and then says- “oh but it’s a friendly dog’…). She sat the first exam with the new studio and we were all pleasantly surprised when she received a top grade. It was very exciting. But little did I know what enormous pressure this would put on her small rounded pink shoulders the following year.

 

Her disappointment is palpable.

 

We tell her she’s great/gorgeous/talented/marvelous all to no avail. Tears keep streaming. I remind her that just because someone did better than her doesn’t mean her result isn’t fantastic. Commended does after all sound pretty impressive to me and it’s much higher than fail or pass or credit. I ask her to tell me how everyone else did and her story wafts around, facts are blurry. Clearly her perceptions are more important than reality.

I hold her close and ask her if I can facebook how proud I am. She brightens instantly. She’s social networking savvy at eight. She knows grandma and aunts and uncles and cousins will see my comment and go to her (very restricted) page and leave lov-er-ley messages for her. I show her what I write. I tell everyone how proud I am.

 

Later I creep into her room and watch her sleeping for awhile.

The mother-part-of-me wants to tell her not to be so hard on herself.

But the preparing-my-kids-for-real-life-part-of-me is proud of her for a reason other than how well she actually did in the exam.

 

 I’m proud of her for wanting more.

Sure aiming high will land us with disappointments and many reasons to blow our noses into countless tissues over the years. But it also means we don’t settle for mediocrity.

 

Last week during some random conversation I asked my daughter (who is only in grade three) if she wanted to be the Gold House Captain when she gets into grade six? She immediately answered “no.”  I was very disappointed as she attends the same school as I did and we are all mad for our Gold House. She looked at my crestfallen face and said “I don’t want to be the house captain mummy- because I want to be the school captain.”

 Stay tuned for an update in three years.

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