Tuesday, 31 December 2013

T'is the season to be jolly {jolly mean to one's spouse}

Over Christmas, I have had a twelve day break from blogging and today I come back to the keyboard full of fervour after the festive season and ready to recount a little incident that took place in the week leading up to Christmas Day. Unusually, the muddle-headed one this time was Giuseppe and not myself, and so I am taking full advantage of the situation and writing a poem to commemorate the fact that I am not the only nincompoop in this household. I have used the word 'spouse' here with poetic licence - we are not married (nor are we ever likely to be if he ever reads this ode to his inanity!)

I have come up with several dozen new year's resolutions, but after reading this you may agree with me that none could be as important as resolving to remember to put out the rubbish bin before going to bed on Bin Night ...

T'was the Week before Christmas 
(or Account of a Visit from the Garbo)

T'was the week before Christmas and all through the house,
Not a creature was stirring, not even my spouse.

Then all of a sudden, I heard the roar of a truck.
I woke up with a start and to myself muttered "f**k!"

For that racket reminded me of a terrible thing -
My dear Other Half had not put out the bin!

I kicked him awake and he sat bolt upright,
and he said "What's going on, why'd you give me a fright?!"

Then he too heard the clatter of bins down the street,
and low and behold he sprang to his feet.

He raced right through the house and out the back door,
on a mission, you see, to do yesterday's chore.

But alas, as I peeked from my curtain, aghast,
I saw that the truck had already gone past.

And there stood Giuseppe on the side of the street,
a moment too late, looking properly deplete.

"We're doomed now", I thought, "the bin's full and it stinks.
Now what the heck will the neighbours all think?!"

Then just at that moment the garbo reversed down the street,
and slammed on the brakes beside Giuseppe's bare feet.

"What's up, mate?" he said. "You forget ya bin day?
Don't worry, I've got it, it'll all be okay".

And so from my window I breathed a big sigh,
As the truck lifted the bin up into the sky.

Giuseppe gazed on, still three quarters asleep,
and he looked so horrific, I almost did weep:

His hair it was wild; he looked a bit like a bird,
He stood there in his jocks, looking downright absurd.

The garbo waved him goodbye with a big cheery smile,
For a scene quite like this he'd not seen in a while.

And I'm sure that he muttered, as he drove out of sight,
"I really don't think that poor bugger's too bright".

I wish you all a peaceful and prosperous New Year. May you find the courage to put as much of your true self into all that you write and all that you create in this new year. That is my greatest wish for myself next year as a blogger. 

And as such, as 2013 draws to a close, I would like to leave you, not with my words, but with those of the late, indisputably great, T.S Eliot;

"For last year's words belong to last year's language
And next year's words await another voice".

Thursday, 19 December 2013

Feliz Navidad!

My favourite thing about Christmas (besides Advent Calendars!) has always been the music.

a charlie brown christmas special charles schulz sparky peanuts
                                                                    image credit

Every year when Christmas comes around, I feel a little guilty for not getting into the Christmas spirit as much as I should. I've never hosted a Christmas party, I'm hopeless at sending Christmas cards (I bought a beautiful set about two months ago and lost them somewhere in my jungle of household junk), I haven't baked anything Christmassy since I grew up and left home and I most definitely have not done any Christmas craft since I made an angel out of a toilet roll back in primary school.

This year, money's even tighter than usually, meaning that my Christmas present budget has had to be compressed. I've managed to get everyone gifts that I'm sure they'll really enjoy but beyond that, spending money on lights and decorations would be, under the circumstances, a bit of a silly splurge.

What I love about Christmas music is that it transcends boundaries of socio-economic status, race, age and gender. No matter how much money you have or what your cultural background is, if you're an eighty year old man or a five year old little girl, you can sing along to the songs of Christmas. I don't know of anything else that can unite people in quite the same way that music can. The joyful songs of Christmas uplift the spirit and give us a sense of communal and personal hope that no commercial present could ever give.

What's your favourite Christmas song? It's hard for me to pick a favourite, but since the first time I heard it, I've always loved Feliz Navidad. I think because I my interest in languages and other cultures, the bilingual lyrics intrigued me, the words themselves seemed simple and sincere and the tune was cheerful  - one of those songs that makes everyone who hears it start bopping around the room.

So if you know me in real life, please forgive me for not being organised enough this year to send any Christmas cards, and if you know me through the blogging community, please forgive me for not sharing any wonderful Christmas recipes or crafts. This year, instead, I want to share with you a version of Feliz Navidad that I found just this morning;  a version that transcends, simply and sincerely, boundaries of gender, age, race and socio-economic status.

Turn it up nice and loud, jump out of your chair and take five minutes out of your day to bop around your living room (or wherever else you may be!).

I wish you a very, very Merry Christmas. From the bottom of my heart.

Wednesday, 18 December 2013

Three Bears Beach - a spontaneous 'date'

One day last week, muddle-headed daddy had a half day off work and spontaneously, while Ben was at school, we decided to go on a little 'date' (with the baby). It was the first time we'd done something like this since she was born, nine months ago. We drove out to Three Bears Beach (near Yallingup, Western Australia), which is known affectionately as "Bears" to the surfers who make the journey off the beaten track to surf the waves there. I've heard say that many surfers will actually buy a four wheel drive just so they can get to this beach. 

Here are some photos I snapped on my phone as we were driving along ...

Yallingup means "place of love" in the Wardandi Aboriginal dialect ... pretty fitting for a place for a date :)

Do you have a favourite beach? Do you ever just like to go for a drive for the sake of it? What places have you gone to on 'dates' with babies?

My Little Drummer BoysTwinkle In The Eye

Saturday, 14 December 2013

Sunshine and Serendipity

So it's time to link up with Lizzi for the very last Ten Things of Thankful session of 2013. Let's do it!

1. I do hate to rub it in, seeing us almost all the regular participants in TToT that I know of other than myself and Michelle over in Singapore live in the northern hemisphere, but top of my list this weekend is the sunshine. After a long, wet and windy winter, I am so grateful for the weather we have been having here, even if there is an enormous heat wave on the way. Ben and I had our first dips in the ocean this week. We counted down from five together then raced into the water.

Afterwards Ben practised his long jump on the sand ...

I felt so refreshed and revived afterwards. It takes a lot to beat that feeling.

2. We also found a starfish down by the beach. When I look at it, it makes me think of someone spreading out their arms in joy. I find that when I concentrate on having a peaceful frame of mind, I find beauty in nature wherever I turn.

3. Giuseppe went off to do some grocery shopping this week, as he often does. We'd run out of both dish washing detergent and washing powder a couple of days before and I reminded him about half a dozen times before he left that those were the two most important items to remember. He remembered to buy them alright, but he forgot to actually put the shopping bag with them inside into the shopping trolley afterwards. He didn't realise until he'd got home and unpacked everything. This is not the first time this year he's done this (sometimes I think he likes to invite drama into our lives!) But I am thankful that when I called the supermarket they said "We were waiting for you to call - we've got the bag here waiting for you to pick up when you're ready". When he went back to get it he bought me some chocolate too, so I can't even complain that it was a waste of petrol :)

4. G also had a half day off work this week and we went on a bit of a spontaneous "date" (with the baby), four wheel driving off the beaten track about half an hour from where we live. It was so wonderful to be so close to nature. I'm going to post the photos I took on Wednesday, but here is a little sneak peak ...

5. Speaking of four wheel driving, I'm also thankful for the "shake up" I had during the process (no wonder they say it can induce labour!). For a good hour or so, it jiggled my wobbly bits up and down and although it made me realise I had more wobbly bits than I'd realised, it kind of felt like exercising without having to do the exercise. Perhaps I should do this more often?

6. I was rummaging around in the shed looking for something when I found an old suitcase. I unzipped it and found it was full of summer clothes I'd forgotten about that I stored away more than a year ago when I was pregnant. I haven't worn any of them for two years and revisiting them was like all my Christmases coming at once.

7. This week, a post I wrote, When the Man You Married Marries Someone Else,was featured over at mamapedia. I had no idea or really any expectations about how it would be received, but was so happy and humbled to see that it really struck a chord with quite a few women who wrote that it gave them hope for their own situations. It feels really good to know that I could offer hope to other women through sharing my experience.

8. I'm thankful that Ben passed his level 8 swimming test. When I think that last year he had to do level 4 three times before passing onto the next level, I realise just how far he's come.

9. I'm thankful that my friend Justine just so happened to be in the right place at the right time when I needed her. Ben missed the bus home from school on the one afternoon a week that I work. The lady in the school office tried to call home, but we'd taken the home phone off the hook and Giuseppe had put his mobile on silent so that he and the baby could have an uninterrupted nap. The office lady then rang me at work, but the students were just coming in for their lesson and I'm pretty sure my boss would have been slightly more than furious if I'd had to abandon ship to go and pick Ben up from school. The other alternative would have been for him to wait at the school for another two hours until I'd finished work, but the office staff go home almost immediately after school and that would mean he would be by himself, so that was obviously out of the question. For about ten seconds, I was absolutely at a loss with what to do, then the office lady said "Hang on, someone called Justine has just come in and said she knows you and she can drop Ben home. Do you give her permission?" Serendipitously, my friend Justine had to pop into the school office after school (the first time she'd been in in months, she told me later), so my problem was instantly fixed.

10. I'm thankful for all the sights and sounds of summer that arrive alongside the warm weather. They say that when the last of the flowers on the peppermint trees disappear that summer is really here and here to stay and this week I noticed that had happened.

The cicadas have also started their singing each day and yesterday I found a goanna in my backyard. Nothing says it's summer in Australia like finding a goanna in your backyard.

Friendly goanna ...

No-so-friendly goanna ...

(this one's a bit blurry cos I jumped out of my skin when he stuck out his tongue!)

And because in a week from now all the magnificent hibiscus flowers that I keep finding all over the place in yellows, pinks, reds and oranges may have dried up in the heatwave, I made sure I took a moment to be especially grateful for the spectacular pink ones that are still in all their spendor in our front garden.

                "Just living is not enough ... one must have sunshine, freedom and a little flower".
                                                                                                           Hans Christian Andersen

Ten Things of Thankful

Wishing you all a peaceful and relaxing Christmas, filled with family, fun and far too much food. xxxxxxxx

Friday, 13 December 2013

Why I love Advent Calendars

I'm joining in again today with JanineKate, StephanieKristi and Lizzi for the Finish the Sentence Friday blog hop, where the prompt this time is "My favourite Christmas tradition is ..."

My favourite Christmas tradition is, and has always been, counting down the days till Christmas with an Advent Calendar.

(My older sisters and I posing with our Advent Calendars in 1986. I'd write 'a rosebud between two thorns', but then they might not give me any Christmas presents this year). 

Each time my mum was pregnant, she embroidered an Advent Calendar for the baby she was expecting. Not only was it a creative outlet for her, but it also helped to pass the months that can seem to drag so slowly when you're waiting for the newest member of the family to arrive. When each new family member finally did make an appearance, all she needed to do was embroider the name she had chosen into the space she'd left at the top (these were the days, of course, before it was possible to find out the sex of your child prior to the birth).

Every year, on the last day of November, she would hang our Advent Calendars on the wall of the family room. Each contained twenty-four eagerly anticipated sweets, which she tied on with string using (for what seemed to my little fingers) untieable knots, to ensure we couldn't easily sneak a sweet off before the exact day it was supposed to be consumed.

Also on the family room wall hung a portrait of Father Christmas (that's what we grew up calling Santa in Australia), which my grandmother had hand painted (there he is, just above my oldest sister's head). He had eyes that seemed to follow me no matter where I was in the room. When I did something that featured somewhere on the naughty spectrum, my mother would always say "You'd better be careful, Father Christmas is watching you, you know". If I was particularly naughty, I would have to forego the corresponding sweet on the Calendar for that day. Underneath Father Christmas' gaze, I made sure I never spoke with food in my mouth, never interrupted and was almost always nice to my next-in-line sister. As a result of behaving angelically, I always got several wonderful presents in my Christmas stocking on Christmas morning.

For twenty-four days of the year, that guy with his sack full of gifts and his huge white beard watched over me, and I believed in him completely, devotedly and whole-hearted three hundred and sixty-five days of the year every year until I was nine years old. Yep, you read that right. I still believed in him when I was nine. He had a kind of God-like significance in my young life - like he was some sort of omnipresent spiritual being. I knew not everybody believed in him, but I knew not everybody believed in God either. I was a loyal devotee. I was one of the faithful ones who kept believing when almost everyone else at school had stopped. Advent and that hugely anticipated lead-up to Christmas morning punctuated each year of my little life. I don't think I've ever really felt as excited about anything ever again since I found out that Father Christmas wasn't real.

It was my dad who told me. I was dancing around the family room as my mum tied the sweets onto my Advent Calendar wondering out loud about what gifts FC would bring me that year. When dad first said those words, I didn't believe him. They seemed sacrilegious. They went against everything I'd been taught to believe.

"What about the snowy footprints on the dining room floor?" I asked him.

"Your mother does that with icing sugar and the sole of one of my boots".

My mum kept tying sweets onto the Advent Calender but said nothing.

"What about the letter he writes me every year?" I asked again.

"Your mother does that too", he replied.

"But how can she, that's not her handwriting!" I protested.

"She uses her left hand to make it look shaky like an old man's handwriting", he said apologetically.

When I realised he wasn't joking, I burst into tears. I was so distraught that even my next-in-line sister took pity on me and came and hugged me.

My dad was sympathetic, but philosophical about the whole thing: it was high time, in his opinion, that I stopped believing in such "consumer-contrived nonsense".

But I've always had the sense that my mother was a little bit sad herself that day. Not so much because the magic of Christmas had been ruined for her little girl, but for a reason far more important: she had just lost, eternally, her annual twenty-four-day foolproof behaviour management strategy.

Needless to say, my son has an Advent Calendar.

Janine's Confessions of A Mommyaholic

So when did you stop believing in Father Christmas? Do your kids have an Advent Calendar? And do you have any other foolproof behaviour management strategies to send my way?? 

Wednesday, 11 December 2013

Sculptures by the Sea

The first time I took Giuseppe to the beach in Australia, back in 2011, happened to coincide with the annual fortnight-long art exhibition that is organised at Cottesloe Beach called Sculpture by the Sea. Each year, artists from around the world submit their sculptures, which are displayed across the beach for all to enjoy, and at the conclusion of the outdoor exhibition, a winning artist is chosen.

Every time I think of this event, I remember the look on Giuseppe's face when we first arrived at the beach that day. I hadn't realised that the exhibition was on, so he wasn't expecting to be greeted by a beach full of sculptures.

"Do all your beaches look like this?" he asked with his mouth open in astonishment (he soon learnt to shut it though to keep out the flies!)

Here are some of the photos we took that day ...

Have you got a favourite? Can you guess which one won?

My Little Drummer BoysTwinkle In The Eye