A Very Special Mother’s Day

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Sunday was Mother’s Day in Australia.  Apart from the children’s birthdays, Mother’s Day is one of my favourite celebrations, easily beating Father’s Day (too much work for me), my birthday and even Christmas as a day that I cherish.  This year Mother’s Day fell on the weekend following my weekend of jubilee when Rich had taken the children camping so my expectations for being pampered were low (one week later Rich is still recovering) which didn’t matter in the slightest as I was still on a high from last weekend’s delicious 36 hour “me-athon”.

On Thursday of last week I went to a funeral. It was a double first for me – the first time I have been to a funeral in Australia and the first time I have been to the funeral of a child. The five year old son of a friend lost his lifelong battle with a degenerative disease that has kept him incapacitated for four of his five short years. The nature of his disease is such that children affected by it have a life expectancy of only about 30 months, rarely living to see their third birthday.  It is a testament to the enormous faith of his parents and the extraordinary care that they took of their son that the brave little guy defied all medical expectations and lived, pain and medication free for twice as long as he was expected to at the time of his diagnosis.

I wept silently as my friend stood up in front of a packed church of around four hundred people and told the story of her son’s life; a beautiful and seemingly perfectly healthy baby until, at age nine months, his parents started to wonder why he wasn’t achieving the same milestones as his peers, or as their other children had done.  It was many tests and a few months later, shortly after his first birthday, when their whole world came crashing down and doctors delivered the agonising news that their beautiful boy was terminally ill and would only see one more birthday, two at the outside.  My friend’s very moving speech was delivered without a crack in her voice against a backdrop of the most beautiful photographs of all the amazing adventures that they had managed to cram into their son’s all too short life. She bravely talked of all the things they used to do together and what she would miss most about him – holding him into her chest and feeling his soft warm breath on her neck.  The whole congregation was in tears by this point.

Mother’s Day this year fell only four days after this funeral and after calling in to see my friend, delivering a big hug and some home-made bread for her family to share that day to show that we were thinking of them, I was even more determined than usual to enjoy this special day with my happy, healthy, vibrant children, appreciating their home made cards, pictures, poems and gifts from the school Mother’s Day stall.

Every year as part of the school’s fundraising efforts the year six students host a stall which the children from the other years can purchase a gift for their mums for one gold coin (one or two dollars). As is the nature of these events, the stock for the stall comes from donations from school mums and we are encouraged to clean our out bathroom cabinets and kitchen cupboards and donate unopened bottles of lotions and potions, chocolates or scented candles etc.  Of course there is a risk the children will spy something familiar that you have donated and buy it back for you knowing you would like it as you already have one!

20140419_090602 After breakfast in bed lovingly prepared – a fried egg face served with so much ketchup it looked like it had a punch in the nose – it was time to open my gifts; grapefruit shower gel from Ben and pomegranate soap from Matthew (the boys know I like to be clean).  From Katie I received a very useful necklace, home-made from coloured paperclips serving both a decorative and a practical purpose and a bottle of canary yellow nail polish (“There wasn’t any pink, Mummy,” said Katie by way of explanation). From Zach I received some rose-scented hand-cream and a t-shirt congratulating me on successfully completing the New York marathon in 2011 (I’m sure I would have remembered such an accomplishment but apparently I am to wear the t-shirt with pride even though the event is lost from my memory).  They were all beautiful gifts and I loved helping the children tear back the greaseproof paper whilst anticipating what might be inside.

With my fluorescent yellow toes, smelling like a fruit basket and wearing my handy necklace and NY marathon t-shirt, it was time to venture out.  Katie and Zach were suffering the effects of two late nights and were in desperate need of a nap so Rich willingly agreed to stay home and supervise the siesta whilst I spent the rest of the morning with Ben and Matt; I suggested a bike ride and Rich gave them some money so they could take their sweet-smelling mum out to lunch.  They knew I had cycled over the bridge the previous weekend during my time of jubilee and were keen to see if they could rise to the challenge.  Cycling over the bridge is easy and spectacular so I knew that wouldn’t present a problem if they could manage to push their bikes up the steep path that gets them to the top; the challenge would be cycling from our house to the bridge – it’s about 6 kms of unforgiving hills. But the boys were keen to try and we had plenty of time – Rich didn’t seem in any hurry for us to return as he settled the little ones in bed with a couple of chapters of The Faraway Tree and settled himself down in his hammock with the Sunday paper.

20140511_123044Matt and Ben have been cycling to and from school pretty much every day since we arrived in Australia so they are fairly fit and handle their bikes well but I didn’t expect them to be able to manage all the hills between home and the bridge and was ready for us to spend a significant amount of time pushing bikes up hills and freewheeling down.  I must say how proud I was of them when they both managed to cycle all the way there over the bridge and back (twice) and then all the way home again, pausing only to treat me to chicken and chips for lunch in Kirribilli as I tried to spy Nicole Kidman out having a Mother’s Day lunch with her brood (although realistically I didn’t expect that she would be sitting on a plastic chair outside Chargrilled Charlie’s waiting for her number to be called so she could enjoy the Mother’s Day special!).

After a fine feast with two very handsome companions we cycled home. Upon arrival the boys were exhilarated but exhausted; they felt (rightly) exceedingly proud of themselves but had little enthusiasm for any more physical activity and were secretly hoping for a quiet afternoon of computer games. Katie and Zach were freshly roused from their siesta and had other ideas so the next planned activity for Mother’s Day was a trip to the skate park.

I had been secretly hoping that perhaps besides my lovely lotions, yellow nail polish, paper clip necklace and NY marathon t-shirt, there might have been an appointment card for a facial or a massage that was scheduled for the afternoon whilst the rest of the family stayed and home and beavered away in the kitchen making roast beef and Yorkshire puddings. But alas, it was a trip to the skate park for me followed by a home cooked supper of beans on toast.

But the only thing that really mattered to me was that I had all my babies with me all day and I could cuddle each of them in turn and feel their warm breath on my neck.

 

 

 

 

 

Published Authors

I am just a tad excited today. In case you missed my email or my Facebook update and are not on a subscriber to the Sydney Morning Herald, click on the link below, you might recognise the writer and some of the protagonists.
http://www.essentialkids.com.au/family-life/kids-parties/party-preparation/why-i-banned-presents-at-my-kids-birthday-parties-20140512-38590.html

I thought it was a fairly innocuous article but, according to the comments section, it has certainly polarised opinion. As always I welcome all feedback, positive and negative but I think the allegation of “child abuse” by one reader in Melbourne is a bit of a stretch! See what you think.

My heartfelt thanks to everyone who has been following this blog for the last three years, since the Madventure began, and I look forward to continuing to entertain you with our misfortunes.

With love and sunshine

Lois Lane

 

 

 

While the Cat’s Away

Once or twice a year Rich joins a group of hardy dads from school who pack up the kids and the car with enough camping gear to invade a small African country and head to Myall Lakes for the weekend.  Myall Lakes is about a four hour drive north of Sydney and is one of Australia’s most picturesque national parks. It positively teems with wildlife.  The campsite they visit has a lake on one side and the ocean on the other.  It is quite the rural idyll and is the perfect location to fish, swim, kayak, body board, dune-surf, bird and dolphin watch or just hang out with friends, toasting marshmallows on the campfire.

Every year, Rich and the kids ask me to go with them and every year I politely refuse.  Firstly, the idea started as a chance for dads and kids to have a “bonding” experience without the mums nagging and getting in the way so it wouldn’t seem right for me to intrude on their valuable bonding time. Secondly, there is no plumbing at Myall Lakes – no showers, no flushing loos, not even a tap for drinking water or tooth brushing.  Thirdly, every time they go they see snakes. Fourthly, and here is the real reason – look at the alternative.  Rich and the kids are gone for the weekend so that leaves me, yes, me, just me in the house, in Sydney alone for a whole 48 hours. When these camping weekends come around I can hardly contain my excitement and I must confess I spend the whole of the previous week doing a little sun dance to try and ensure a monsoon doesn’t interfere with my plans.

Rich is now coach of Ben’s football team (and yet they are still doing surprisingly well) so due to the boys’ commitment and dedication to the team mine was only a 36-hour break this time.  Rich and Ben didn’t want to miss a Saturday morning footie game so they didn’t leave on Friday night as usual but this time they left at 7am on Saturday. No matter, that still left 36 delicious hours of me time!

At last my precious Saturday morning arrived. It was raining and although the car was loaded ready to go, there was a chance the football match might be cancelled. There was a chance if the football match was cancelled that Rich would think it was too wet to drive 250kms for one night’s camping. Rich was on sitting in the driver’s seat checking the weather forecast, rethinking the sanity of his decision and wondering about calling the whole thing off when fate intervened….the car wouldn’t start.  The tension in the car was palpable as he turned the key in the ignition and the starter-motor failed to do its thing. I had all fingers and toes crossed and was lamenting letting our NRMA (Australian RAC) membership lapse in an attempt to save money. I was getting ready to try and push four tonnes of immovable steel up the hill in my pyjamas, such was my desire the have a weekend to myself.  But on the third go the engine miraculously roared into life just as the weather report came up showing white fluffy clouds and a partial sun over Myall Lakes.   My relief was two-fold – the children would have been so disappointed if, after all their packing and preparations their trip was cancelled, and oh, how disappointed I would have been to have the beautiful kid free 36 hours that stretched before me cruelly snatched away.   As I watched them reverse out of the drive and tear off up the road, I smiled a little secret smile to myself, Cinderella, you shall go to the ball!

I raced back into the house and did a mad half an hour tidy up.  In my mind I am a very tidy person but in reality this is not so.  I have a magnet on my fridge given to me by a dear friend when Zach was born.  Its message is the anthem of my life: “tidying up whilst the kids are at home is like shovelling snow whilst it’s still snowing”.  I was tidying up just for me so that when I returned home after my first day of jubilee I would be coming home to an clean and tidy house – just the way I had left it with nobody coming in to scatter Lego, throw wet towels on the bed, drop dirty pants on the floor, leave all the lights on or spill Ribena on a cream carpet. Bliss!

After my mad tidying fest I was suddenly overwhelmed with indecision, how best to spend these precious hours of freedom. I had a couple of things planned and several things in mind but it was 9 o’clock already and two hours of my precious thirty six had already been used up on cleaning! I decided to waste no more time and hop on my trusty bike and head for a day in the city.

I cycled past the opticians and remembered I had been in danger of losing my sunglasses for the last six months as they had a screw lose (feel free to insert your own joke here) and I had never found the time to go in and get them fixed. Here I was right outside the door with no other commitments on my time and the sunglasses precariously balanced on my nose.  I went in and got them fixed. A long overdue item ticked off my “to do” list.   Earlier that week I had misplaced my regular glasses for a few days and had had to resort to an old pair.  Each of the children had in turn burst into fits of laughter when they had seen me in them, saying, “Mummy you look like Nana in those glasses!” Now in fairness my mum still cuts quite a dash but she is 73 so I didn’t take this as much of a complement and decided to make hay whilst I was at the optician and take advantage of their two for one offer. New glasses, tick and it’s still only 10 o’clock.  By now the sky was blue and cloudless and the temperature was climbing up to the day’s predicted maximum of twenty five degrees, it was a perfect day for a ride into the city.

I cycled over Sydney Harbour Bridge, stopping to marvel at the view of Kirribilli, Circular Quay and the Opera House, a view that I will never tire of. The Carnival ship “Victory” was in port and usually I feel a pang of nostalgia when I see cruise ships but no need today, I am as free as I was then.  I cycled round the Quay, through the Botanical Gardens and Hyde Park and up to the main shopping hub on George Street. I had a voucher to spend in Gap which my lovely friend Ceri had given me for my birthday back in September which was in danger of expiring if I didn’t spend it soon. I even managed to buy something remotely stylish to wear to dinner that night.  With two new pairs of glasses and a new shirt in my bag I was clearly on a retail role so I decided it was time I got over the fact that I had once purchased a pair of walking sandals and lost them before I managed to get back to the car; it was time to buy another pair, ideally holding on to them this time at least until I got home.  I headed for the camping shop next to Kathmandon’t and handed over another $120 to replace the sandals I had previously paid $120 for never actually owned.

All that shopping can leave a girl hungry and thirsty. I walked over Pyrmont Bridge to Darling Harbour and found an outdoor table overlooking the water at a café/bar blasting out loud rock music.  Black Sabbath were being “Paranoid”, AC/DC were on the “Highway to Hell” and, according to Deep Purple there would be “Smoke on the Water”.  It was like the mother ship of a misspent youth calling me home.  I spent a most pleasant two hours with a couple of cold Buds, a plate of nachos and the Sydney Morning Herald.  My keen and intense server, “Jeremay” was being far too attentive and hovering asking who else would be joining me, what else I wanted and removing the second place setting at my table, only to reset it again ten minutes later.   In the end I had to explain to him that I was in a Zen-like state of bliss, sitting here alone with my beer and my newspaper with nobody expecting me to be anywhere anytime soon and would he please just kindly leave me alone to enjoy the peace (of Motorhead and Metallica!).

I had plans to meet fellow Camping Widows for dinner back in Mosman at seven at my lovely friend Deb’s house so at four o’clock I decided to cycle home. I was home by five, whizzed up a quick chocolate cake to take to dinner (I did miss Matthew for a few fleeting minutes as this point as he is now in charge of all things cake at our house), ran a huge bubble bath, poured myself a glass of New Zealand’s finest Sauvignon Blanc and soaked in the tub, with an episode of The West Wing playing on my laptop. Boy do I know how to live. I soaked for a blissful forty five minutes and never once did anyone barge in announcing they needed a poo!

The Camping Widows all got together for dinner at our friend Deb’s house and over lovely prawns, ravioli, chocolate cake and lots more Prosecco and Sauvignon Blanc we put the world to rights. Nobody seemed to have been rendered tearful or speechless by the absence of their husbands and children and we talked ten to the dozen all night, exchanging tales of how we had spent our first day alone and planning what exciting things we could do on the second.

Despite consuming in one night the number of alcohol units I usually consume in a month, I woke up at 6am on Sunday morning and felt more bright eyed and bushy-tailed than I have in a long time.  The sun was already streaming in through the windows and I literally threw off the duvet and leapt out of bed, ready to make the most of my last 12 hours as a single gal.  Gym, breakfast with friends, a massage, a visit to the Australian Museum of Contemporary Art and afternoon tea overlooking the harbour rounded off a perfect weekend.

I was just trying to squeeze in one more bath, glass of wine and episode of The West Wing when I heard the door slam and heavy footsteps charging across the hall and up the stairs and plaintiff cries of “Muuuuuuuum, Matthew just kicked me, Muuuuuum, what’s for tea? Muuuuuuum have you washed my football socks?” At that moment, my peace was shattered, my coach turned back into a pumpkin and my weekend of jubilee was at an end.  Prince Charming came in a few minutes later looking exhausted, bringing with him not a glass slipper but a car full filthy kids smelling of wood smoke and scratching their mosquito bites until they bled, five sleeping bags full of sand, a soggy tent, a bag full of dirty plates and a pile of laundry of roughly the same proportions as Ayers Rock. Funny, I don’t remember that part of the Cinderella story.

Of course I was pleased to see them all and hear about all their camping adventures but I can’t pretend for a moment that I hadn’t had a very enjoyable and relaxing weekend without them and, before settling any disputes about who kicked who first, spooning lamb casserole onto plates or seeking out clean football socks, I took a deep breath and stole a quick look at the calendar to see when the next dads only camping trip might be scheduled.