Living Abroad

Me: “Bla bla….Excuse me but do you know if the buses are running?.

.bla….bla bla nice weather for ducks……

..how much is that?……..bla……bla…

watch out for that dog poo……bla….bla…bla.”

Any Random Stranger “Oh, what part of Australia are you from?”
Me: “New Zealand”
Random Stranger: “Oh Sorry! That’s a major insult to a Kiwi isn’t it?”
Me: “No, there’s worse things to say…”
Random Stranger: “Oh sorry – but same thing really”.
Me: “Really? Is England, Ireland, Scotland and Wales the same thing?

(Actually, are France and Britain the same thing? Because, I heard that the residents of France speak French and the residents of England speak English. They both have their own COMPLETELY different cultures and EVERYTHING!)

Random Stranger: “Yeah, but they are next to each other aren’t they?”
Me: “NO! From the two closest points (Auckland and Sydney) it’s a whopping 1,343 miles.”
Random Stranger: “Wow! That far away?!? But they look so close on the map?”
Me: “Does the Britain look SO close to Russia? – because that is the kind of distance we are talking about.”

Random Stranger: “New Zealand’s got more sheep than people hasn’t it?”
My internal thought: I’d rather be talking to a sheep right now.
(AND what is this preoccupation with sheep? Wales has more sheep than people too……do the Welsh get told that super interesting fact every time they met a NON-Welsh person.)

Random Stranger: “Why on earth would you leave such a beautiful country to live here anyway?”
My internal thought: After 20 years of the exact same line of questioning – I am starting to wonder.
What I really say….
” Yeah, well I’m not really that outdoorsy, I don’t follow sport, and I got the feeling all those sheep were planning a coup.”

Random Stranger: “But all that lovely warm weather – it always looks so sunny on Home & Away.”
My internal thought: !!!!!!!!

Random Stranger:” So were you pleased with the result then?”
My internal thought: WTF!…..Result for what? The Great British Bake off final? The X-Factor winner? Britain’s Got Talent?
Me: “Result?”
Random Stranger: “The All Blacks!”
Me: “Uh?….did they play then”
Random Stranger: “What? You’re a Kiwi and you don’t LIKE Rugby?!?”
My internal thought: I’m starting to like it slightly more than you.

Random Stranger: “Soon you’ll be telling me you’re from New Zealand and you don’t like eating fish!”
Me: “I don’t like eating fish”
Random Stranger: “So not EVEN Cod ? Have you tried Cod? That’s a non-fishy tasting fish.”
My internal thought: I’ll just stick to all those other ‘non-fishy tasting’ foods like chicken thanks.

Random Stranger: “So I guess you come from Auckland then?”
Me: “No, Taranaki.”
Random Stranger: “Where’s that?”
Me: “About a 4-5 hour drive from Auckland”
Random Stranger: “I thought New Zealand looked small on the map. Is it really that big?”
My internal thought: You’d be surprised in some crudely fashioned maps and globes like the kind you would see on children’s TV or in children’s books – the “Map God” leaves it out COMPLETELY.

Random Stranger: “So, do you know Peter Jackson then?”
“No, but I could introduce you to a rabid sheep if you like?”

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New Mummy

We see you coming a mile away with your squeaky clean buggy, matching change bag and smug smile. We smile in response but know your smile is gonna be wiped off your face and replaced with tears in just a few more weeks of torture – oh sorry I meant to write: sleep deprivation.

We know you’ve read in multiple glossy Mummy Magazines with some angelic new born nuzzling into his mother’s bosom on the cover, that it is vital to make time for YOU. We laugh because you talk about it, as though “Me Time” is actually a REAL thing. We sit screaming at our offspring at the Mums & Tots group, fresh from the all over baby wipe we had this morning and dream about a WHOLE 30 minutes to do whatever we want on our own. We know going to the supermarket alone is gonna feel like a holiday. So we allow you to hold onto this ridiculous notion for a few days longer. Because like in The Never-ending Story as long as someone believes it, the dream will be kept alive for other unsuspecting mums-to-be. Frankly, we all know the belief in “Me Time” is the ONLY thing that keeps most of us going after the fifth night of teething and the sparkle of new motherhood has tarnished.

We watch with interest has you breast feed your new born with pride and offer up the merits of breast feeding. We all know “Breast IS best” but some of us didn’t start, gave up or kept going and sometimes going for various reasons, but like all things in life, we will do what is right for us personally and will always support each other in our decisions to breast feed or not. We all know that for a seemingly natural activity it doesn’t always come naturally. We suspect you assume (like we did) your child will be immune from lots of scary sounding illnesses because of that magical elixir.

Which is true to some extent but NOT all of the particularly annoying ones such as the common cold, and various other infections. We’ll advise you rub Vapour Rub on the soles of your chesty child’s feet when they cough all night. We know there is absolutely no real science behind it and you may as well paint your entire body green and dance naked in the moonlight chanting the lyrics of All About That Bass whilst shaking your arse at the neighbour’s cat. But G.P’s still offer up cough mixture. So you KNOW the vapour rub does more, because it’s the WAY you rub it in and pop their little socks on and give them that loving smile that makes ALL the difference. And if nothing else, it makes us Mothers feel better about being able to actually DO something to help.

Grandmothers would say “It was a lot different in my day”. Yeah, but they also took Valium washed down with Martinis and rubbed gin on the gums of teething babies. They’d say their children slept through the night. ONLY because they were either too wasted to hear them cry or the babies were too drunk to bother!

We have a wealth of knowledge based on the reality of motherhood, but know only too well how infuriating it is to have every Tania, Diane and Mary offering up sage advice from weaning to learning to walk. You’ll make up your own mind about stuff and blaze your own trail, making mistakes along the way, but hey that’s how we learn. We’ll even humour your belief in a purely Fruitarianism lifestyle, your love of Co-Sleeping or any talk of Homeopathy results being better than placebo in a scientifically sound study. BUT start talking about your “Pseudo-Medical” reasons why you are opting out of immunising little Star-Burst and I would hope we’d ALL say you are putting all of our children’s lives at risk and to stop being a DICK.

So “Newbie” here is some advice from an “Old Hand” take or leave it, I know you will.
Don’t buy a parasol attachment for your buggy – it may look pretty, but that piece of useless crap will end up limp and twisted in the nearest bin, the first day you take your precious baby out on a sunny day.
If you chose to breast fed – Nipple Cream, Nipple Cream, Nipple Cream- Nuff said.
When the G.P asks you what you plan to use as a contraceptive. Just take it from me that baby of yours will be all the “Protection” you will need. You’ll be so tired you won’t have the energy to listen to your other half let alone do anything remotely romantic. Plus with the horror of childbirth still fresh in your mind you won’t be in a hurry to do it all again in another nine months time.

DON’T buy ANY kind of footwear for your baby from 0-6 months. You will spend so long trying to get the shoes on you’ll both end up crying and sweaty. If you do manage to put BOTH shoes on successfully. Eventually, whilst out you WILL lose one shoe and have to retrace your steps in the pouring rain, to hunt it down only to realise it must of come off on the bus and it has been used as a Hackie Sack for the last two hours by secondary school kids on the way home.

Cooking from scratch using only organic ingredients and steering clear of those ‘horrid baby jars’ is all well and good. But your wholesome cooking ethos will wear thin by the third baby – they’ll be slung a drive-through happy meal on your way from school to Ballet and then onto Swimming. In fact, make the most of all those baby classes you have signed up for a year in advance with your first – subsequent babies will be carted about like extra baggage. Any attempt of a routine will be in tatters and God forbid anyone encourages your child to crawl or walk. We all know how that ends up. Our babies will make all those vital landmark developments in their own time but to hurry them is just creating MORE work for the overworked.

Spy

There is this guy who has an office at the front of his house. Every morning as I am making my way back home from dropping Miss L off at school, this guy comes out of the door of his house and carrying his coffee, he unlocks the three locks on the office door and goes inside. I try to catch a glimpse inside as he goes through the door, but he goes in SO quickly I can’t see shit. Which makes my imagination run wild with possible scenarios of what this guy does in his convenient little office all day. 

My absolute favourite job title for him at the moment is: Terrorist Identifier. He sits there listening in on ‘targets’ that MI5 have given him. He has to trace calls, check texts, emails, even Facebook posts for any suspected terrorist activity. This unassuming guy is protecting us all from any terrorist threat. 

Whenever I see him, I try to do that thing when you really STARE at someone to make them realise you are staring at them, so they turn around to look at you. To be honest, if my hunch is to hold any water this guy’s Spy Training should have taught him that little gem in the very first class – but alas no, this fellow hasn’t clocked me standing across the road eyes locked, focused, burning, vision blurred as I try to get his attention just so I can give him a knowing little nod as a thank you for keeping all of us safe. 

For all I know he could be JUST some guy who sells model car parts on eBay. But I think I prefer my version of the truth.

                                                

Good Cop, Bad Cop.

My partner works nights, so most mornings. I am constantly telling the kids to be quiet. They are not even allowed to play Lego because it’s too noisy. But as soon as he wakes, he comes bounding down stairs like an all singing, all dancing children’s entertainer and all of a sudden it’s party-time.

I suspect it’s slightly immoral and highly deplorable to hope “Fun-Time” Daddy’s made up stories end up with a flimsy plot, cliche Fairy-Princess characterisation or ropey dialog. But annoyingly, he’s playing to an appreciative audience and even if he makes the HUGE mistake of speaking in the scary witch’s voice when he’s playing the part of the knight (the OBVIOUS hero of the story – Sooooo predictable!) he’ll be giggled at and corrected like a playful puppy.

Do THESE little people know WHO gave them the gift of life?!?! I’ve got the stretch marks, National Geographic style boobs and bladder weakness to prove it. Have I mentioned, I nearly DIED whilst delivering my youngest child? The doctors had eight minutes to cut him out of me before I bled to death. I have the shaky, panicked please-God-don’t-let-her-die-I’ve-not-even-paid-off-my-student-loans-yet-emergency-C-section-scar that looks like my stomach is suffering a stroke whilst smiling. My surgeon came to see me a few DAYS later – DAYS…..because I NEARLY DIED. To TELL me I NEARLY DIED – TWICE. And these kids look at me like an ogre who snuffs out those dancing flames of fun with her reminders like tidy your toys, get dressed, have a bath, no TV, stop drinking the bath water your brother may have peed in it! Apparently, that’s a good thing and lots of celebs drink pee. But I think it has to be your own urine and not someone else’s.

Daddy doesn’t DO routine so when I point at my watch and say no biscuits it’s tea time. Daddy looks shocked and says “Sorry kids, Mummy says we can’t have biscuits.” No! If novelty Daddy wants to be a responsible co-parent then it shouldn’t be just Mummy who goes round barking orders and raining on parades, it needs to be Daddy enforcing the routine too. But instead he whirls in like a mini-tornado getting the kids wired right before bed so that I end up screaming at them mid pillow-fight. I am left with the task of trying to get my red faced, sweaty, wide-eyed one year old to come down off his adrenaline fuelled high, so he can settle enough to sleep. During, his bed-time bottle, he tries to wriggle free from me, so he can race back for more excitement with Daddy. It makes me value the times my partner works late just for a well executed routine from start to finish.

During many of these high action play-times and despite my constant warning that “It will ONLY end in tears”. I am secretly pleased when the injured party comes crying to ME. Only mummy can kiss bumped heads or scraped knees better. Daddy gets sidelined entirely and any attempt to console is met with further screaming and protest of “I want my MUMMY!” Only Mummy can sing that out of tune rendition of Row Row Row Your Boat, only Mummy can soothe and shush the baby to sleep so easily, only Mummy knows the precise temperature to the nearest fraction of a Celsius for bedtime milk.

I am not a particularly house proud person, I am OK with a bit of untidiness and a little dust is a great reminder…not only of how rubbish you are at housework but also you can write To Do Lists in it and NOT do those either. But sometimes, I want to stop being the one who has to watch the time and remind everyone what needs to be done next. I want to throw caution to the wind and stay and play in my P.J’s.

But it’s not as simple as all that, nor does Daddy have it so easy. Daddy works HARD to provide for his family and he also works hard to provide fun memories for his children too. There are way too many Daddy’s who just aren’t a part of their children’s lives for some deeply tragic and some stupidly pathetic reasons.
I am aware that we are extremely lucky to even have a Daddy let alone one who’s just SO terrific. As much as I sound like I’m complaining it’s purely for entertainment for us mums who know the trivial annoyances that Daddy’s can bring to our carefully devised routines.

If you have a truly terrific Daddy let him know today.

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The Perfect Family

The Perfect Family

Everywhere I’ve ever gone before there always seemed to be the ‘Perfects” the Perfect Student, the Perfect Brownie, the Perfect Netball Player, there has even been a Perfect Couple. NOW, there seems to be a “Perfect Family”. The kind of family that normally shows up at THE worse possible moment JUST to make your family look worse than it really is.

They all look like they have stepped out of some amazing family edition of Vogue Magazine. She is fresh-faced even on a couple of hours sleep BUT don’t forget the baby is perfect too so he sleeps a whole 12 hours each and every night.
Mrs Perfect’s hair is curtesy of the “Amazing Angelo” down at that trendy salon that looks as though you’d need to buy an annual membership just to get through the doors. She wears ALOT of white, which stays as clean and crisp as the day she bought it.

She not only bakes for the School fetes but she’s also on the PTA, whilst running a successful children’s clothes business. You secretly hope she employes seven year old sweat shop workers. Not because you have anything against seven year olds but so her face can be plastered all over the news with the indignant quote:

“PTA MEMBER CHARGED FOR INHUMANE WORKING CONDITIONS IN MUMBAI!”

But unfortunately, you know her over priced fashions are all made in the idilic Cotswolds by recovering substance abuse users being given a helping hand by her company’s charitable work to get back into honest employment or something equally as annoying.

Mr Perfect has a dazzling smile, plays tennis, likes showering Mrs P with gifts and is a “Hands on Dad”. MOST of the other mums wished he was “Hands On” with them – but Mr Perfect is actually Perfect and therefore this thought would be furtherest from his mind. The older Perfect Children each play an instrument, are accomplished athletes and A* students. The youngest Perfect child – let’s call him Pee, wouldn’t know what a screaming-tantrum-in-the-supermarket was if it came up and slapped him one with a packet of Hob Nobs. He has NEVER had a Foreign object stuck up his nose, or inexplicably licked the floor, or head butted his cousin in the groin.

Pee may be 18 months but he can speak intelligibly, whereas my 18 month old utters “Bubble” for EVERY SINGLE THING. Well actually sounds more like “Buhbuh” because his “Wah Wah” (dummy/pacifier) is in his mouth 24-7. Now you may make the very correct assumption that it’s BECAUSE of his “Wah Wah” that he is monosyllabic. But God forbid, we REMOVE the “Wah Wah” because the clue is in the name – which HE named! He cries the entire time it’s out of his mouth. So I say let the kid have his “Wah Wah” what harm can it do – really? So he’ll talk when he’s good and ready and if not…… Then I won’t get any back chat when he’s a teenager. Yeah, I’m sure, he’ll still spit the dummy, but it’ll be in the literal sense and I’ll be plenty used to it by then.

Do you know me? Probably not, but my stories represent the common or mundane aspects of humanity told from a different angle. If you recognise yourself in my writing, for legal reasons – I assure you it’s only coincidental. I am not currently sitting in a parked car outside your house frantically writing down observations……Did you just come peer out the window? I’m not sitting in the silver BMW. I would be in the rusty Fiesta BUT I’m not there at all.
Oh you’ve forgotten to put your bins out….. Sooo not there.

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The Musings of a Once Disturbed Mind.

November 2012

I stood at the top of a multi-storey car park and thought if I jump now, I will be released from all of this. I was seven weeks pregnant and on my way to a crisis meeting with the local mental health team. I had a daughter and partner waiting for me at home. I had a job, friends and family who loved me and no ‘real’ reason to want to dive head first into the abyss.

Except after years of battling intermittent depression and feeling as though I had been through the worse and come out unscathed. I fell pregnant and the combination of hormones and extreme morning sickness made me unrecognisable to many and more so to myself. Because I was witness to the desperation that would slink into my mind like a predator. I kept so much of the details within. Because to utter these thoughts out loud seemed to be almost conjuring them. Giving them power. Giving them a voice. They were so despairing, that I couldn’t bear to hear them ring in my ears, whilst they screamed in my mind.

I could go into the physical details of my difficult pregnancy marred with various ailments and the subsequent traumatic birth of my son. But many women endure much worse and still manage to remain positive. I had both anti-natal and post-natal depression with both my children and the main reason, I choose not to add to my family is that I can’t guarantee I would have enough strength to survive the mental torture that comes with pregnancy for me.

A time that should be celebrated, cherished and remembered fondly. I look back and can’t believe I wanted to kill myself. I think it’s irresponsible as a mother to erase herself from her children’s lives never mind even consider murdering one yet to be born in the process. But I did more than consider, I made plans. I would watch the minutes tick by and congratulate myself on making it past an hour without acting on my urges. My two year old daughter would attempt to console me as I sobbed uncontrollably and all I wanted was to close my eyes and make it all disappear. I truly believed that the world would be better off without me.

After giving birth to my son, I breast fed him because as with my daughter I felt it was the right thing to do. I’ve heard breast feeding mothers talk about the buzz of “feel-good” hormones whilst breast feeding. But for me it was like a black mist drifting from the back of my brain suffocating every pure thought and filling my heart and soul with the macabre depressed thoughts of a disturbed mind. For an example, I was afraid that I may intentionally drown my 8 day old baby in his first bath. I am ashamed to admit I had unwanted thoughts interjecting every precious moment with my brand new baby. But that is what depression does to people and the stigma attached to it makes it even more difficult to gather the courage to speak about it.

I know, I use humour ALOT. But I also used to use drugs and alcohol ALOT as a way to self-medicate (NOT whilst pregnant BTW). So because I’m a Mummy who is thankfully fully recovered and mentally stronger and better than I’ve ever been, comedy is my vice.

And because Mental Health issues and the stigma around it has been featured in the media recently. I thought I’d do my bit and write about it.

So don’t suffer in silence reach out – there are kind people who are willing to help more than you realise. And from someone who’s teetered on the edge of an action that can’t be changed – I thank my lucky stars that I chose to live.

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