October 30, 2013

Naming rights

There are some people who know what they will name their child before they even get pregnant (or even before they meet the person they have a child with). In high school, one of my friends had already chosen names for up to 10 children. The first would be Knife. At the time I thought this was wondrously creative - naming conventions be damned, and all that - but when it came time to choose a name for our own baby I was all together more conservative.

Having been convinced that I didn't want children, I'd never made a shortlist of baby names, and Mr Fantapants hadn't given it much thought either. Convinced from the start I was having a girl, I didn't bother with boy names at first, preferring instead to get to a shortlist by shooting down Mr F's more outlandish suggestions. (Tiger would brand our child a Richmond supporter in AFL-mad Melbourne; Cathol sounded like a brand of petrol; Spitfire was just plain ridiculous.) In the end, we were tossing up between Max (a great name but so popular in recent years - would he be one of five Maxes in his class?) and Digby (which I liked in theory but was concerned about a real live person having to live with). Given our indecision (even while I was in labour we still couldn't commit), it's surprising how easily we arrived at a girl's name.

In the opening minutes of our very first 'what will we name it?' (Mr F was very keen on the baby's sex being a surprise so 'it' was it for 9 months, something that filled me with maternal guilt whenever I referred to 'it'), Mr F suggested Marmalade for a girl. 'It's such a lovely word,' he said, plus we are both fans of Marmalade Atkins. I agreed in theory, but couldn't commit in practice.
'I like Phoebe,' I said. 'After Holden Caulfield's little sister.'
'I like it too,' said Mr F. 'Phoebe Marmalade has a good ring to it.'

That was it. For the next 8 months I regularly denounced Mr F's suggestions for boys' names (William Butler Yeats, Thelonious, Sherman -after the tank, natch, Wolfgang) but, whenever we discussed the possibility of having a girl, Phoebe Marmalade sounded pretty perfect. And it still does.

October 29, 2013

Finding Freia visits the Bookish Manicurist

Of all the cool things people have done in response to reading Finding Freia Lockhart, this is probably as cool as it can possibly get:
Yes? Yes!

Visit the Bookish Manicurist for more literary nail inspiration.

October 28, 2013

Back when music mattered

I woke up (well, logged on) to the news of Lou Reed's death, and, like many judging from the outpouring of grief and links to Youtube on Twitter, was reminded of listening to his music in my mid-teens. Just hearing the opening bars of 'Walk on the Wild Side' takes me instantly back to a summer holiday spent housesitting for a friend with extraordinarily trusting parents, do-da-do-do-da-da-doing along to 'Walk on the Wild Side' while dancing at a distance from the stereo lest the needle skipped.

Back then, music mattered to me even more than books did. Songs reached out as if they were written just for me. They could make me cry, cheer me up after another crappy shift at the supermarket, make me hopeful that tomorrow would be better. My folders and school diary were covered in scrawled lyrics that captured my mood from moment to moment. Morrissey featured heavily. He knew my pain.

These days I don't listen to that much music (well, not that much aimed at a post-preschool audience) and when I do I rarely feel an emotional reaction beyond 'that's quite nice' or 'that's just noise'. I guess I have a lot more going on in my life now than I did when I spent so many hours sitting alone in my bedroom with only my boombox for company, but it's more than that. I no longer turn to music to find comfort. I don't need to know that someone else out there feels exactly like I do, or need a catchy chorus to lift my mood, But for sad times I'll always have Morrissey.

October 25, 2013

In case of fire

I'm a sucker for those 'what the contents of your bag say about you' posts, but since my current 'handbag' is a nappy bag with my wallet and sunnies stowed in the back pocket I thought I'd move to the less mundane topic of what I'd save if my house was on fire.

Back when we had Big Orange Cat, Mr Fantapants and I had a recurring conversation about who I'd save first if there was a fire: BOC or Mr F? My answer never changed; I'd save BOC first because I could pick him up and run out of the house. That this was something that would be physically impossible for me to do with Mr F didn't stop him being slightly shirty about my choice. Flash forward to a catless house and the conversation is redundant - we'd both save Ms Marmalade first (that said, I can see Mr F attempting to hoik me over his shoulder in a fireman's carry at the same time; my physical limitations remain).

Assuming that my loved ones were safe, here's what else I'd grab, in order of preciousness:
  • us as cats - for my 24th birthday, Mr F drew a portrait of us as cats. He is a handsome ginger and I have a spectacular snow leopard-esque tail. I am still flattered that he gave me such a beautiful tail.
  • Barbara Hanrahan print - I've loved Barbara Hanrahan's art and her writing since high school, so this is one of those I-never-thought-I'd-actually-own-one items. It was purchased on a whim while I was working at an art on paper fair, but I'm so glad I spent a month's pay on it because it makes me happy every time I look at it.
  • charm bracelet - originally my mum's when she was a teenager, she passed this bracelet down to me when I was 16. Among the charms are a champagne bucket on ice, a handsome bear, a skull and a statue of Aphrodite, given to me by Mr F to mark our first trip to London. Destined to be a family heirloom.
  • first edition Wombles - my love of the Wombles extended so far as to give myself Bungo as an unofficial middle name when I was 10. Another heirloom for Ms M.

Yep, that's all I need.

October 24, 2013

Things that freak me out

[Hat tip to Fat Mum Slim for topic inspiration.]
  1. Gastropods - snails, slugs and any other invertebrates that sploodge along on their slimy tums. (Sadly this extends to earthworms who I know are benign and really very useful but still make me reel in fright if I accidentally come across one while digging in the vegie patch.) My molluscophobia dates back to fifth grade, when I trod on a slug in the dark on my way to a midnight fridge raid at a friend's house. I can still feel it squooshing between my toes...
  2. Medical procedures on TV - I don't care whether it's real surgery or Grey's Anatomy, I do not want to see anyone's insides.
  3. People who can dislocate their joints at will - please don't.
  4. The sucky-thing they use at the dentist - I always feel as though it's going to attach itself to my tongue, like an out-of-control vacuum cleaner...or a Dr Who special effect.
  5. Going fast - I'm not a fan of autobahns, high-speed freeways, bungyjumps or rollercoasters. I know some people get a thrill from it. They are kerazy.
  6. Wobbly teeth - seeing young friends wobbling their loose teeth with their tongues or - horror of horrors, trying to extract them with their fingers, string or other home-dentistry instruments - makes my stomach churn.
  7. Driving - I don't drive so people are surprised when they learn that I got my license at 19, on my first attempt. Even as a learner I was a nervous driver; now, it gives me panic attacks.
  8. People who don't like animals - I understand being a dog person or a cat person or even a reptile person, but if you tell me you don't-like-animals-fullstop I will back away slowly and then run as fast as I can.

October 23, 2013

What she read: Great Aussie YA

One of the (many) great things about Ms Marmalade starting to sleep through the night at 8 months is that I was finally awake enough to be able to read more than two pages of a book before falling asleep. Sometimes I even manage whole chapters!

Over the past few months I've been catching up on my to-read list, starting with some somewhat recent Aussie releases. As I've disclaimed many times before, book reviews are an artform at which I suck, but here are some books I really loved and an attempt to explain why. (Btw, books are listed in the order I read them, not by how much I liked them; links are to Goodreads.)

Wildlife by Fiona Wood - great characters; duel narration; straight-talk about love, sex and the murkiness between them.

Girl Defective by Simmone Howell - gritty, funny and real; breathtaking turns of phrase; a love interest I could fall for.

New Guinea Moon by Kate Constable - transported me to PNG on the cusp of Independence; beautiful, thoughtful writing.

Only Ever Always by Penni Russon - parallel worlds; duel narration; still a bit spooked.

October 22, 2013


Until now, I've made a conscious effort not to blog about baby stuff because, frankly, there are a lot of talented people out there who are all over this parenting thing and I don't want to bore readers who can't relate to the baby maelstrom (i.e. most of the people who read my books). But if I'm going to write a post every day for the next few weeks I'll have to break that rule, especially today.

A year ago today, at 8.28pm, after a 36-hour labour, Ms Marmalade was born and our lives changed irrevocably. Some of the changes I expected - lack of sleep, overflowing laundry baskets, days when I didn't make it out of my PJs - but others were a complete surprise to me.

Surprise #1 - sometimes there is NOTHING you can do to soothe a crying baby
You can sing, shush, swaddle and sway all you like but there are days (and nights and mornings and afternoons) when she's just going to wail like a banshee till she's exhausted. On these days noise-cancelling headphones come in handy.

Surprise #2 - babies are not grateful
They don't care that you've only had 3 hours sleep, that this is the fourth poonami nappy you've changed this morning, that breastfeeding while you have mastitis is agony. They do not say thank you or blow you kisses or even smile (unless they happen to fart at the same time). In fact, for the first month they can't even make eye contact, so they appear to be looking straight through you. This can be disheartening.

Surprise #3 - it IS possible to need a nappy change Every. Single. Hour.
Poo, it happens. A lot. Which leads us to...

Surprise #4 - baby poo doesn't stink
Not until they start eating solids, anyway.

Surprise #5 - some babies don't like to sleep
'Wow, she really fights it, doesn't she?' The sleep school nurse sounded admiring of Ms M's ongoing refusal to close her eyes after an hour of rocking, patting and shushing. I felt a bit better that the experts were having no more success getting her to sleep than I was. Ms M is now a champion night sleeper but it took 8 months and two visits to sleep school to get her there.

Surprise #6 - you will never be on time again
No matter how carefully I plan our outings, we are late. Whether there's a nappy blowout just as we're leaving the house, or we get to the bus stop and realise we've forgotten Ms M's water bottle/blanky/emergency snacks, or she decides that today is the day she's going to have a two-hour nap when I've timed our departure around the assumption that she'll be up within an hour like she is every day when we have nothing planned, there is always something that will guarantee we don't make it anywhere on time.

Surprise #7 - getting there is half the fun
For Ms M, the journey is definitely as important as the destination. A walk to the bus stop involves multiple stops to greet dogs, watch big kids ride their bikes, examine any flowers at pram level, watch baby magpies being taught to dig for worms by their mums. Everything is new to her, and most of it is fascinating. Unfortunately this only adds to Surprise #6.

Surprise #8 - you will not only sing, you'll like it
I come from a tone deaf family. I mouthed the words when we had to sing in Music class. I was not a joiner-in in singalongs. So I really didn't expect that I would not only find myself singing The Wheels on the Bus at our local library's Rhyme Time, but that I'd enjoy belting it out and doing the actions, too. The best bit  is that Ms M doesn't realise yet how out of tune I am - as long as I hokey pokey with enthusiasm she's happy.

Surprise #9 - it gets better all the time
I know I'm saying this on a sentimental day and that we haven't reached the terrible twos yet, but right now every day brings new skills, new words and new things to smile about.

From this
to this
to this, in just 12 months!

October 21, 2013

Spare time, what's that?

I had a little operation last month. It went well and I feel fine now, thankyouforasking, but the one thing the surgeons told me I Absolutely Really Truly Cannot Do while I'm recuperating is lift anything heavier than 4 kilos. Not-so-little-anymore Ms Marmalade weighs 10 kilos (closer to 11 after a big meal), which has put the kibosh on me getting her in and out of her cot, into her highchair or onto the change table, so for the next month or so we have a nanny coming every day to look after Ms M. Mr Fantapants and Supernanny tag team in the morning and afternoon so that all of Ms M's lifting needs are met. Supernanny spends the day singing and dancing and lifting Ms M and I do my work-work and other baby-related chores like cooking and laundry.

Aside from the fact that I am very sad not to be able to take care of Ms M myself, it really is a very good arrangement. Except that it's left me with something I haven't had for the past year: spare time. And since I've spent the last year longing for a little window in each day that was not spent being a big Mack truck or a little teapot or doing the hokey pokey or trying to make pureed vegetables 'fun', I really feel that I must make the most of it.

I considered doing my own little Nanowrimo but I fear that would be setting myself up for failure, so instead I'm going to commit to writing a post on this blog every day until Supernanny unfurls her parrot-head umbrella and flies into the distance. Or every weekday, at least. Yes.