Life is a BIG Adventure

My dad turned 70 last week. That’s a big deal. Seven decades, a world of travel, military service, one wife, four children, countless adventures. Sometimes, listening to my dad I realise that the world has both been transformed in countless ways and yet has stayed so much the same. He’s part of the baby-boomer generation, literally born into a world recovering from war. I wonder what pressures that must have put on a whole generation of children and what scars their parents must have been carrying with them.

Of course, life is one big adventure. We do our best to find our way with the map we’ve been given, often it’s a bit a tattered and has ‘here be dragons’ scrawled in the corner, and the guides we’ve found, also a bit tattered. For most of us, the vast majority, the adventure has it’s white sandy beaches and mosquito ridden swamps. For some of us it’s all swamp, sadly.

I hope when I look back on 70 years of adventure I can say it was pretty awesome, and I hope that I have achieved as much, and am as loved, as my dad.

Happy Birthday, Dad.

Autumn Has Arrived

I love April. March is a bit of a tease, flashing us with sweltering days and then blindsiding us with a burst of cold weather but April is all mild days, crisp as an apple off the tree, and cool nights touched with the scent of wood smoke. It’s the perfect weather for getting outside, gardening or making mudpies (or a little of both).

It’s not so conducive to actually sitting down and writing but hey, there’ll be time for that when May and June roll round and winter cranks into gear. At the moment I’m enjoying some time with the kids while school holidays are still on, tucking into what the Easter Bunny so kindly left us and doing a little polishing on the manuscript I’ll be talking about with a publisher at the writers conference next month.

Where ever you are in the world I hope the weather is being kind to you.

I’m Back

I have been missing in action for the first half of this month. B2 turned four (where did those years go?), we spent time visiting family and I tried to wrangle my character, Sam, through the minefield of relationships in his life – you know, just the usual like friends and family and his dead father’s secret second family. But all of this left little time for blogging.

On top of that, and pursuant to my last post, we’re still house hunting. This is becoming less fun, I can tell you. The anticipation and, to be honest, the potential to sticky beak through someone else’s house is fun but the feeling of, ‘no, not this one’, is less so. But then, how privileged are we that we’re in a position to be house hunting in the first place.

So, how’s your March been going? I’ve been amazed by how quickly the year has been flying by. What about you? And how are your New Year Resolutions faring?

 

Starting School

Today B1 started school. In Victoria we call in Prep and so now, instead of saying that I’m the mother of two pre-schoolers, I’m the mother of a prep and a pre-schooler.

When I was teaching, and bare in mind I was a high school teacher, I found parents somewhat strange – like exotic animals whose behaviour I didn’t really understand. To be fair I was in my early 20s and closer in age to their children then I was to them. I found their expectations (voiced or otherwise) overwhelming. Some of them were protective to the point of bubble wrapping their house, others wouldn’t have known where their children were five nights out of seven. Some of them were dumbfounded by the change in their children following the onset of puberty and were looking for answers – answers I had neither the training nor the life experience to give them.

Now my child has started school. I spent the first six months of his life wishing the time would pass quicker – please sleep, please feed less, please smile, please laugh – and now I don’t know where the time has gone. How did it pass so quickly?

And boy do I have some high standards for my son’s teachers 😉

If your little cherub has started school for the first time this year and you’re feeling a little lost (and maybe a little cheated by Father Time) then know you’re not alone. Like me, you might find it helps to remember what a big, exciting, adventure your child is beginning and that education is a gift and a privilege that not all children in the world are lucky enough to be given.

And it’s okay to cry…in private.

Good luck!

Put out your bats…

If you live in a cricketing country then you’ll probably have heard of the sad passing of Phil Hughes. Whether you follow the cricket or not, the loss of a young man in such a random way is heart wrenching, and the grief of people from all walks of life and across generations is a powerful example of our shared humanity.

Personally I don’t follow the cricket, the only thing more boring is golf and televised parliamentary sittings, and it would be wrong of me to pretend that I knew anything of Phil Hughes’ career. But I do know the impact he had on my husband, a man known for his reserve, who is a true cricket fan and an avid fan of Phil Hughes. A man who was truly shocked, stunned and saddened by Phil Hughes’ unexpected death.

From an authors perspective, it’s interesting to observe human nature and behaviour at times like this and, when emotions are new and sharp, to notice feelings and thoughts that you might otherwise have ignored. It’s an education to see how shared grief (or shared joy, fear, anger etc.) is expressed both publicly and on a personal level.

From a persons perspective my heart goes out to Phil Hughes’ family and friends and also to Sean Abbott and his friends and family who are undoubtedly going through a difficult time.

What Makes a Family?

I enjoy writing children’s picture books. B1 in particular gives me any number of ideas for new stories and I can then share them with my own little ones.

Invariably though, if I write a story with a family, there’s a mum and a dad. This is probably because I grew up in a ‘traditional’ family. My parents have been married for over forty years, and when I say ‘parents’ a mean my mum and my dad.

But there are lots of different types of families. Families with two dads or two mums, families with single parents, families with grandparents as guardians. All sorts of different families providing children with happy, healthy, loving homes.

So, does that mean there should be more diversity in the families portrayed in children’s picture books? I think so but I’m curious what you think.

And to be honest, I’ve never written a story with same sex parents. I’m nervous about hijacking a story, which is aimed at entertaining children, with a statement aimed at parents. But that said, it would be nice if diverse families were represented more…

…and didn’t even make us blink.

Mums

Today is my mum’s birthday (happy birthday Mum!) and I suspect Mum has had a wide range of birthdays. This year she is celebrating in England with my dad (who is also her husband, so that’s handy) and her twin sister (hi Aunty Trudy), but she’s spent plenty of birthdays without Dad, who works away, and plenty of birthdays with her kids – which I suspect was not always the gift you’d think. After all, even on your birthday, children demand need attention and care. Not just love, which is fairly easy to dish out any day of the year, but they need to be clothed, fed, woken up (if they’re teenagers), sent to bed (if they’re little ones), bathed, played with, refereed. The list goes on. So while I’m sure she would love to have us all with her (especially now we’re adults and can more or less feed, dress and bathe ourselves) I’m also sure she’s enjoying having a day that really is all about her (and Aunty Trudy of course).

But the thing is, because my mum was the sort of mum who gave me (and my siblings) time and energy and attention and affection and love, every single day of the year, I really miss her. Today especially because I would love to give her a present and have a meal with her. It’s something I’m really looking forward to when she and Dad are finally in the same time zone as I am. Which makes me wonder, will I ever stop needing my mum? If I need her now, when I’m thirty and have children of my own, is there ever a time when I’ll have outgrown my mum’s hugs and chats and advice?

I hope not.

And I hope B1 and B2 never do either.

So happy birthday Mum. Have a wonderful day. You deserve it.

And Dad, I miss you as well.

 

 

A Hat For Every Day

My mum doesn’t have a hair on her head.

Not one strand.

Not one kink.

Not one curl.

But she does have a lot of hats.

She has hats with flowers and hats with feathers. Hats with brims and hats with bows.

Staw hats, lace hats, big hats and small hats.

Wooly hats, leather hats, cloth hats, sparkly hats.

She has hats for hot days and hats for cold days, hats for summer days and hats for winter days. Hats for normal days and hats for special days.

But she only has one hat for hospital days.

It’s soft and warm, it fits just right, and she wears to hospitals where she must sit, sit, sit.

She wears it and watches her medicine go drip, drip, drip.

Then there’s no hat days. They’re ginger tea days and sleepy days, cuddly days and snuggle on the couch days when I stroke Mum’s head and my tummy feels a little bit funny.

But mum says, when her hair grows back again, she’ll grow it all the way down her back. She’ll dye it blue and pink and green. She smooth it, spike it, spring it and spruce it. She’ll wear it up, she’ll wear it down, she’ll wear it half way in between. She’ll have ribbons, she’ll have bows, she’ll have tiaras and clips, bands and grips.

Mum says, when her hair grows back and she’s feeling good again, she’ll have a hair style for every occasion, a do for everyday.

She’ll have as many ways of doing her hair as she has hats, and we know all about that.

Yellow-Bellied Scaredy Cat – Ages 6 – 8

 

“Don’t move.”

Lewis froze.

“It’s huge! It’s the biggest spider I’ve ever seen!”

Lewis’s tummy tightened.

Danny tried not to giggle. He reached out with a long blade of grass and…

“Get it off, get it off, get it OFF!” Lewis screamed, clawing at his face.

Danny howled with laughter.

“You’re a Yellow-Bellied Scaredy Cat,” he gasped.

“That’s not fair!”

“Yes it is. You were so scared you couldn’t move. Yellow-Bellied Scaredy Cat! Yellow-Bellied Scaredy Cat!”

Lewis stormed off towards the house.

 

When Danny skipped into the kitchen a few minutes later, Lewis was sitting at the table with a spoon in his mouth. He pushed a bowl of ice-cream towards his brother.

“Yes!” Danny said, seizing a spoon.

Danny scraped his bowl clean. Underneath the ice-cream there was something small, and black and…leg-like.

Lewis sniggered.

Danny peered into the bowl. His stomach flip-flopped and his tongue stuck to the roof of his mouth. There were a few more little legs, and antenna and…a wing. His chair toppled over as he stood up.

“Mum? Muuuuum,” he yelled.

 “You’re a Yellow-Bellied Scaredy Cat!” Lewis sang out as Danny raced upstairs.

 

“It was only marker,” Lewis muttered.

“I didn’t even do anything,” Danny added.

Thud!

Danny and Lewis flopped onto their beds. Mum left for work with a jangle of keys, her car growling into the distance. Their sister Jenny was babysitting and the murmur of the TV floated up through their floor. Rain began to lash the window…

Crackle-bz.

The lights went out. The house was very dark and very quiet except…

“Did you hear that?” asked Danny.

“Don’t try and trick me,” sniffed Lewis.

“I’m not. Listen…”

Scrape scrape scrape.

What is it?” Danny asked, climbing onto Lewis’s bed.

“I don’t know,” Lewis said, pulling Mr. Ted onto his lap.

Bdup bdup bdup…crash!

“It’s getting louder!”

“It’s coming closer!”

Lewhiss…Daaaaneee…Where arrrre you?

Quick,” Lewis said, pulling his doona over their heads.

They huddled together and held their breaths.

Creeeeak.

Stomp.

Stomp.

Stomp.

Something gripped the edge of the doona. They shivered and then…

“AAAAAAAAAAAAA!”

“You’re both Yellow-Bellied Scaredy Cats!” Jenny yelled, flinging the doona onto the floor.

Lewis’s heart danced in his chest. Danny’s tummy was filled with butterflies.

But it was only Jenny.

Bubbles of laughter floated up inside them.

“It’s time for dinner, I ordered pizza,” she said, ruffling their hair.

Lewis leapt off his bed, “Last one down stairs is a Pink-Toed Slow Coach,” he yelled as he bolted through the door.

“That’s not fair!” Danny cried, racing after him.

 

 

Bed Bugs – age 3+

“Night.”

 

“G’night.”

 

“Sleep tight.”

 

“Boys, it’s time to turn out the light.”

 

Click

 

“Don’t let the bedbugs bite!

 

“Bedbugs?”

 

“Tiny things with gnashing teeth, hairs that tickle and feet that prickle and…”

 

“Slippers!”

 

“Slippers?”

 

“Dancing slippers. They dace a jig. All night long they dance a jig. Under the doona, across the sheets, over the pillow and…”

 

“The music’s played by the Bogey Man!”

 

“The Bogey Man?”

 

“The Bogey Man and his skeleton band. His voice makes the windows rattle, his eyes make people tremble, his breath smells like dirty socks and…”

 

“He’s not real!”

 

“Are you sure? Maybe he lurks in the dark, maybe his teeth are as sharp as a shark’s, maybe his fingers are long and cold and…”

 

“Can you hear that?”

 

“Something on the stairs?”

 

“Can you hear that?”

 

“Something at the door?”

 

“Can you hear that?”

 

“Something coming in…”

 

“Hide!”

 

“Boys! It’s time to sleep. Now, goodnight!”

 

“Is there really a Bogey Man? Playing music with his skeleton band?”

 

“No, not really. Anyway, the Bogey Man is really small and can’t play any instruments at all.”

 

“Night.”

 

“G’night.”

 

“Sleep tight.”

 

“Good. Night.”

 

“Don’t let the bedbugs bite.”