The rest of my life

Friday – this week I am grateful for …

Whimsy, books and parity with the US dollar

This week I received a lovely parcel. It contained the following wonderful books; The Finkler Question (Howard Jacobson), Balzac and the Little Chinese Seamstress (Dai Sijie), Sir Vidia’s Shadow (Paul Theroux), and Room (Emma Donoghue). All of these books I have looked forward to reading. I have been searching for copies of Balzac and the Little Chinese Seamstress and Sir Vidia’s Shadow, in Australia for well over a year. Now maybe I wasn’t looking in the right places or maybe I was distracted, but parity with the Australian dollar and the search for music by Elizabeth Mitchell threw me into the giddy world of Amazon.

On a whim I searched for all the books from the list in my notebook. The notebook that goes everywhere I go. It is full of dreams, notes, little reminders. It has lists of books I want to read – to remind me to look for them. Two of the books in the parcel where on the list, but I couldn’t find them. So I searched Amazon for all the books on the list and I found them all. And they were cheap. A completely beautiful hardback of the Balzac for less than I would have paid for a paperback here. Also 2010 Man Booker Prize winner, The Finkler Question for $5.99. Ridiculously cheap.

So I am grateful for books and online shopping this week. I look forward to plowing my way through them. I finally feel like I have a little bit of time for reading. I feel too, that my maternity leave (seems ridiculous to call it that now that the baby is nearly a year old – maternity seems a lifetime ago) is slipping away. I need to start to think about re-entering real life. Working life. But it will never be the same. I am already starting to look for options, for ways out!

I am grateful that my books were so cheap. I am grateful for having found Elizabeth Mitchell and her music which my boy just loves. And I grateful for a few more afternoons after 2pm where I might be able to snatch a few precious moments to read and enjoy some books.

Friday – this week I am grateful for …


Sleep is for the weak

This post is about sleep. I need sleep. I need about eight hours solid. I prefer ten but I haven’t achieved that since my early twenties. I have been short on sleep for a really long time. It shows. This week we have made significance progress towards getting back to eight hours of sleep a night for me. This Friday I am grateful that Benedict is finally ‘sleeping through’ the night. This means I can get into bed and then not get out of it until the morning. The proper morning; not 3am or 4am or 5am but more like 7am.

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Friday – this week I am grateful for …

My gratitude is directed toward the few sources of soul soothing I have found in a difficult week with little sleep, lots of drama and not a lot of peace and quiet.

1. My mama friends (yes again!)

This week I have had so much love and support as well as practical help from my mama friends I can never really thank them enough.

2. Tizzie Hall

I never wanted to be on the sleep routine bus. Until I couldn’t take the night waking any more. We are in the early days but Save Our Sleep seems to be working. Fingers crossed I’ll be getting a regular eight hours soon. Bless you Tizzie with your calm advice – ‘never give in while your baby  is yelling at you’. I think I will have that made into a poster. We won’t be missing the 7pm sleep bus ever.

3. Coffee

Has saved me this week. That’s all.

4. Classic FM and the 100 countdown.

Some very aptly timed music that has provided a blissful few minutes interlude this week.

5. Meeting Robert.

Three years ago this week I met Robert. You can read about why I am grateful for him here – Three years and counting – open letter to my child about his father.

Three years and counting – open letter to my child about his father

Three years and counting

Dear Benedict,

Soon it will be the three year anniversary of the day I met your father. I started my new job on 5th November 2007. Remember remember the fifth of November, I thought, well if I don’t like the ACT Government, I can always blow it up.

I met your daddy for the first time on my second day of work. It was a Wednesday. The Tuesday was a public holiday – no one told me that. I started on Monday in an almost entirely empty office with most people, including your daddy, taking the Monday off. So after an exhausting and emotionally draining first day in my new job, I had a day off to recover. Then on Wednesday when everyone actually came to work, I spend the morning being introduced to people; whose names I immediately forgot. I was quite freaked out. I then rounded out the morning with an absolutely appalling sandwich for lunch because I didn’t know where to go.

In the afternoon I was sitting quietly at my new desk, reading a cheery card from your lovely Mamie who was a bit worried and had sent me a card and some lip balm (it’s windy in Canberra in the spring, she thought). Suddenly, there was a crashing sound close by. The sound of sheet metal being hit with something. I jumped out of my chair with surprise to see your daddy standing next to my empty filing cabinet. His foot had collided with the cabinet in his enthusiasm to cross the space between me and the rest of the office.

Hello, he said, I’m Robert. After a few pleasantries he wandered off again to his little windowless glass box about 5 metres away. As they say that was the beginning of the end.

Shortly after this day, he asked me out for coffee to interrogate me about what I knew about industrial relations. I think I passed – I seemed to be able to answer his questions ok. I didn’t know at the time, but he had done his research (smart man your daddy). He knew who I was – while I was still quite in the dark about him! He seemed to like me. So I started giving him a hard time.

I cracked some jokes at his expense. He asked me out for drink after work. Soon I was seeing him everyday. I didn’t want there to be another single day when I didn’t see him.

My darling boy, your daddy is a wonderful, kind, witty and generous man. He knows a lot of things – like where everything is in the whole world, the names of all the Australian Prime Ministers in order to Federation. He knows lots about books and has read a huge number of them. He knows all about how government works. He can cook – really delicious food, and his lemon tart is enough to make you grow out of your egg allergy quick smart.

Most importantly Benedict, your daddy knows what really matters in life. Love, laughter, fun and joy. He is loving. He has loved you since you were just an idea and not yet a boy. He is the best daddy a boy could have. I weep with happiness at having met your daddy.

Your mama x

Secrets about make-up for smart girls that I learnt from Belinda


This is a very frivolous post. It is about a frivolous topic. Even smart girls need to know a few things about make-up. It isn’t that difficult, you just need a few tips from Belinda.

My mother cannot wear make-up. She is totally hopeless and in all of my life I have never seen her apply anything more than lipstick. I did not, therefore, start life with the advantage of a good guide on make-up.

My first experience of using make-up was as an eight year old child, when I applied it to an adult family friend. She was very kind about it but I know now that what I did to her was hideous. No eight year old should ever be allowed to use liquid eyeliner. As I got older, I was ‘too cool’ for make-up because smart girls didn’t wear it. Then one day I wanted to and I really didn’t know what to do.  I read about it in magazines, but I knew that I didn’t really know what I was doing. So I faked it. I wore concealer and lipstick and that was about it. Until I met Belinda.

Belinda was the coolest woman I had ever met. Not cool in a trendy way but actually cool. She was one of those women who knew the rules and what to do but could just ignore them.  She could wear tie-dye and blundstones and not give a shit. She was trained as a hairdresser. And as a make-up artist. When I met her, Belinda had just had her first baby, Nic. She was doing the odd hair cut at home to bring in the cash. She used to charge me $20 for a cut. We would sit around, play with Nic, drink tea and chat. The pivotal moment was when I asked her what the other three colours were for in my Revlon eye shadow pallet.

‘What do you mean?’ she asked. ‘Well’ I said, ‘I buy these four colour eye shadows, and I use up the lightest colour and the other colours just get wasted.’ By this time she had a pretty pained expression on her face but she knew me well enough to know I had absolutely NO clue what I was doing. Belinda taught me some stuff. She needed hardly any encouragement – she’d been observing my woeful handiwork. Here are the things she taught me that you need to know.

First, before you do anything at all in the eye make-up department decide what colours suit you, based on your skin tone, and how ‘bright’ you want the make-up to be. There is a good reason Stila sell more ‘Kitten’ eye shadow than anything else – a pale pink beige suits just about everyone.

Now the tips. These are the gold lessons from Belinda. These take you from applying one colour eye shadow across your whole eyelid and adding mascara to actually wearing eye make-up well.

1. Get the right tools – buy some decent brushes.

Three essential make-up brushes

If you look after them you’ll have them for a long long time. If you ask me, you need about three. One wide flat shaped brush for the base colour, a stubby short bristled one for accent and drawing lines and a medium rounded one for blending it all together.

2. Use your eye-liner pencils horizontally – don’t hold them like your are about to draw. Hold them horizontally to your face. Drag the coloured point across your lash line so the colour goes down into the lash line and doesn’t just sit above it.  This gives definition without any sharp lines.

3. When you apply mascara – hold the brush close to the eyelid and then wiggle it through the lashes. Apply on the underside and the top side. Use the point of the brush to define individual lashes or to separate them. Mascara lasts only a short time – so do throw it away after 6 months. It is a germ factory.

4. Why there is more than one colour in the palette. The other colours are for definition.

Start with the neutral base colour all over the eye socket using a big brush. A flat brush is great.

Next wash a contrast colour along the crease of your eyelid. This is best done with a stubby bristled brush – if you use it damp it will give stronger definition. Define the arc of your eyelid. Rub it in along the crease to define that crease line – you can define the crease a lot. The stubby brush helps to draw the defined line. Then use the round brush with the base colour to then blend the lines together using tiny circles – otherwise you look like you have just drawn lines on your eyes. Good eye make-up is well blended.

Then line the rim of your eyelid – either with a dark colour for emphasis or with a lighter colour to open up your eye – good if you are knackered or have small eye lids. Use a small short bristled brush for this or an eye pencil held horizontally so the pencil colour is rubbed along your upper eye lid. You can also line the lower lid but for day to day I hardly ever bother. The trick Belinda taught me is to apply a lighter colour towards my lash line and a deeper colour in the crease – this makes your eye look larger. Nearly everyone does it the other way round.

5. Shape your eyebrows and then use a bit of pencil to define them. They frame your face.

6. If you’ve got no to time to do anything else, wear mascara and lip gloss.

(For me I would add also get some Nars The Multiple, Orgasm – YES that is really what it is called. You can use it as blush, on your eyes – actually any where. It is great if you’re looking a bit flat, haven’t got time to go all the way, and it still makes you look like you’ve made some effort.)

Finally for me the best thing I every did was buy a ‘Stila Smokey Eye Kit’.

Stila talking eye make-up

Stila talking eye make-up

This little gem is a make-up palette that speaks. It has a tiny chip in it that talks you through the application process.

It has a guide on the back to tell you which colour to put where and which brush to use. It is totally awesome. I use it when I am going out. You can use the techniques to apply any kind of colour or look (as they say).


That’s it. It isn’t that hard. You don’t need to know much to improve and if I can do it, anyone can.

Friday – this week I am grateful for …

Today is Friday again. Here are my top five for this week.


Finally ditching Telstra and setting up fancy answering machine.

I love a good answering machine. I used to have one in my flat in Elizabeth Bay that played Arrival of the Queen of Sheba when anyone phoned! I thought that was hilarious. I was 18.

Recently I have been less than impressed with the rising charges by our nation’s largest teleco and then I received yet another missive from ‘marketing’ telling me they were charging me more for exactly the same service and then offering me more stuff I don’t use for another huge amount per month. So I blew them off. I churned over to our internet provider who do not charge a flag fall – a charge for the privilege of accessing the network you already pay to access! I spoke to no-one, I just filled in their simple electronic form, they did everything and SMS’ed me when it was finalised – brilliant.

I then, finally, pressed the record button and recorded a personalised greeting from the four of us – anyone who would like to phone the baby; feel free to leave him a message if he’s busy.


Long Service Leave

The public service is a wonderful thing. It provides much needed support to the community, makes thing run and delivers what they call ‘public value’. I’ve been delivering public value for more than 7 years now.

After seven years of toil and suffering (believe me being a woman in the Roads and Traffic Authority of NSW had some suffering attached) the public service give you a little gift of paid leave called Long Service; an entitlement which is transferable and thus which travels around if you do, it followed me to Canberra. Long Service Leave is like a sabbatical but with better pay. The time I have accrued is just enough to cover me through to the Christmas week which is great. It means we won’t starve and I can be home a little bit longer with my gorgeous boy.



Last night was the first book club meeting. I tried hard to be nice and not say anything inflammatory – I only knew two of the thirteen people. As they say on Twitter #FAIL

I immediately set the cat among the pigeons by declaring my affections for what they were calling ‘the French book’ which turned out to be Atomised by Michel Houellebecq. They all, to a person hated it. I loved that book. In fact I have loved everything of his I have read – maybe blackness in literature is my thing, maybe I just love French existentialists. After that stunning opening, I also defending idle parenting and twitter. No fans for those either. I made some comments about the characterisation of This Is How and the author M.J Hyland’s style. They while we watched an incredibly pretentious interview with her, I looked her up on Twitter (further endearing me to them by whipping out my iphone.)

Long and the short, I am grateful for book club, because I remembered, thanks to them, that not everyone agrees with me. The notions I accept as reasonable, and some of my still firming parenting views, are a bit ‘radical’ it seems for some people. It is good to remember this for when I am forced to deal with classroom teachers and other members of the education establishment – and other parents who may be slightly put off by idle and free range parenting.


Cook Islands Holiday

It is also Benedict’s first birthday on the 27 December (lucky lucky boy). Robert and I have not been on holidays since 2008. I have in fact only been on holidays properly once in the past 10 years. We went for one week to Tasmania and it was lovely but we haven’t been anywhere for more than a few days since – and an awful lot has happened.

We are going with Benedict to the Cook Islands for a week over Christmas. I am so excited I can hardly breathe.


White jacket and new jeans

I don’t wear a lot of white, the odd linen shirt when it is bloody hot and singlet top here and there. However, when I was pregnant my lovely friend Susan took me shopping in a boutique which stocks Mela Perdie. God how I love that woman’s clothes. I bought a white Chanel style jersey jacket. It is completely fabulous. It’s been sitting in my wardrobe for over twelve months. I haven’t really had to guts to wear much – actually never – it is too white, too nice – but I wore it last night with my new jeans and my ballet flats that Robert bought me. I felt like a million bucks.

Book review – The Idle Parent – Tom Hodgkinson

Why Laid-back Parents Raise Happier and Healthier Kids

Tom Hodgkinson, author of How to Be Idle and The Freedom Manifesto, is described by philosopher Alain de Botton as having written, “the most counter-intuitive but most helpful and consoling child-raising manual I’ve yet read”. Having purposefully avoided reading child raising manuals, with the exception of Baby Love, which was helpful to me in a practical sense, I loved the idea of a book that combined being horizontal with parenting.

I hate the idea of being so worried about Benedict that I can’t take him to the park, or let him walk to school or play with sticks or whatever else could hurt him, injure him or not be good for him. I am appalled at the idea that I will have to watch him assiduously.  I am also concerned about children who don’t know how to entertain themselves, who think that helping with the washing up is optional not expected, and that there shouldn’t be time for adults to be alone and not surrounded by children and their demands. I wanted alternatives to the parenting I frequently see around me, an alternative to the tyrannical infant ordering the lives of its parents.

My interest in The Idle Parent was sparked by the visit to Australia of Lenore Skenazy, author of Free Range Kids. What most struck me was the outrage of parents to her idea of take your kids to the park and leave them there all day. How completely outrageous! What an idea! Leave them alone!  How revolutionary! Skenazy’s visit sparked off another round of public commentary on raising children, modern life and parenting. So to Tom Hodgkinson and The Idle Parent.

Once I had my hands on the book, I happily read the manifesto. It contains sensible ideas, like rejecting the idea that parenting requires hard work, that parents should lie in bed as long as possible, and that time is more important than money. Great! Not working too hard, staying in bed and happily embracing time with the children.

The central thesis of The Idle Parent is that contemporary ideas of life and parenting are founded in the precept that children need to be moulded and improved. This notion is informed by the Elizabethan idea, Hodgkinson argues, that the child is waiting to be formed into an ‘ideal’ of perfection. Taken together with modern competition and the Protestant work ethic; the idea of perfect children is threatening to crush childhood by forcing parents into ‘improving’ their children with ‘organised team sport’, school, over-stimulation and over-engineered experiences which results in huge stress for all involved. These patterns of thought also confine children to a weak position where they cannot think for themselves, are overly dependent on adults and are only being prepared for their own time on the treadmill of the wage slave.

Hodgkinson’s ideas of The Idle Parent, reflect his own experience and are, in part, derived from his interpretation of the works of Rousseau and Locke, who argued in various texts for leaving children alone and to their own devices. In short in letting them be free. This does not, however, mean that the parents are doing all the work and the children are running wild, far from it. In Hodgkinson’s world of idle parenting, the parent is able to be idle because they have freed themselves, and their family, from the relentless treadmill of materialism and capitalism. Bring back child labour, he cries! By this he means, do not do everything for the child so that they are helpless. Do not make work sound like suffering but organise yourself so that children help and that chores are fun. Play music, take turns, create games out of things that have to be done. Give children responsibility.

While not a path open to us all, he exhorts us to spend more time at home, and less time at work; particularly when the children are little. This provides more time for sleep, meaning you will be less tired and likely to be irritated and cranky and also more time for you to be idle. This does imply a substantial amount of thrift and doing without, but along the way Hodgkinson provides money saving ideas, like not buying expensive battery operated toys, making things at home and living in the country. Like I said, options not always open to us all. Saving money by not buying things children don’t really need is however, something that most parents could easily do.

The key to idle parenting is to get rid of whingeing. All parents want this. In Hodgkinson’s world, the fastest way to achieve this is not to whinge yourself. If your child does not hear you complaining about washing up or chores or work, then they won’t complain either, he argues. Especially, little children who hear and absorb everything you DO much more than what you say. Do it lightly, play music, have fun. Don’t tell them what to do, ask them to join in. Better still, Hodgkinson says, is to teach them how to get their own juice, breakfast or whatever they need so you can stay in bed – a strategy he employs with some success by his own account.

Hodgkinson is a huge fan of children roaming in packs. If the children are to leave you alone to be idle, they must be engaged in something else, or with someone else. He describes his ideal as a party in a field. Adults drinking in a marquee at one end and flocks of children cavorting at the other end. Everyone enjoying themselves. No nagging, hovering, and no whingeing about being bored.

If I have to take issue with the Idle Parent, it is with the relentless middle class assumptions that underlie what is an otherwise enjoyable approach to dealing with the conflicts thrown up by parenting. Working through the book, I found that as Hodgkinson shifted from explaining his ideas to describing how to implement them he was describing a world that was not within the reach of most people, certainly not most people outside the comfortable environment of the southern counties of England. The ideas in The Idle Parent become more difficult to implement, and less practical for all but a few. He argues for a rejection of materialism and the capitalist impulse to acquisition. He also thinks it is a good idea to live in the country, keep animals and home school your children. His reasons for this are all based on a sort of anti-puritan movement which would see children made resilient and robust by discovering things themselves – he waxes lyrically for several pages about activities that strike fear into people – let children outside of the gaze of adults play with matches, build cubbies, climb trees, keep pets. Drag your children out of the house away from television and the internet. End all organised activities, don’t trap them in the car and let children explore and be free. Down with School is the title of one chapter.

Hodgkinson tempers these ideas with practical advice on things like saying no. He quotes Rousseau who writes; “Let your ‘No’ once uttered, be a wall of brass against which the child may exhaust his strength some five or six times, but in the end he will try no more to overthrow it.” Hodgkinson also suggests having only a few important rules so you need say no less often.

Taking the best of Hodgkinson’s concepts, to embrace, really embrace, being an idle parent there are a few ideas to let go of first. You need to be there, you need to not care what anyone thinks, you need to ignore reports from school, reject television or at least limit it to as few hours as possible. All sound advice but best started when the children are babies and not after as Hodgkinson acknowledges.

Putting aside some of the impracticalities of Hodgkinson’s implementation of his ideas, the Idle Parent advocates children fitting in. Parents doing what they want to do and children following them – in most existing families this would be an adjustment. I will start today. I will also say no and mean it when the time comes. I will try to let go of my fear of the sleep-over and embrace children roaming through my backyard because while they are doing that, I can be inside drinking tea and reading a book. - Australia's #1 online bookstore

Friday; things I’m grateful for

I shameless stole this idea from Naomi who writes beautifully here Under the Yardarm. She stole it from someone else and so it goes around and around.

I have been wondering about blogging and have become more than a little intimidated by all the bloggers I’ve been reading. Lots of them write for a living. I have been writing while Benedict sleeps. I have also been thinking I need to diversify the topics I am writing about, lest the blog become; baby, blah blah blah, baby, blah blah, cute thing baby did, blah blah zzzzzzz.

With this in mind I am creating a new category entitled ‘The rest of my life’ to make sure I write about the other aspects of my life. Herewith, the first entry as a trial for a weekly event Friday; things I’m grateful for.


This week I am grateful for Robert. He has many fine qualities but the one that stands out this week is his steadfastness. He stands sure. He never wavers. Even when all the chips are down, being ground into the dirt by someone else’s heel, he’s able to find a tiny glimmer of light, a speck of sunlight to smile about.


Spring. It has cheered me up no end to wear my thongs, to plant some seeds, to be outside while the birds sing (even if I have ranted about the fucking wattle birds, koels calling at night and those damn miners; it is still nice to live in a place with lots of birds.) The flowering annuals and my peony rose which gave me two flowers this year, bring such joy.



My boobs. Sounds odd to be grateful for something that I’ve had for a long long time however bear with me. I am glad to have weaned Benedict. It was painful and emotional and I did not in the slightest enjoy it. Now it is complete and my body is returning to me, I am glad of my bosom and the how it makes me feel – not so mothery any more but womanly nonetheless.


Date night! Our newly formed round robin of baby sitting and date nights has yet to really hit its straps but when it does I can imagine the great excitement of knowing that there is a planned event waiting. In supporting our friends too, we are all contributing to keeping each other sane and to enjoying our children’s babyhood just that little bit more – by leaving them at home with someone else.


My beautiful mama friends. Without them this year would have been impossible misery.

And a plug for my writerly friend Theresa who’s award-winning short story is recognised in this new publication Award Winning Australian Writing 2010