little red jottings

when a little red pen wanders off the page

Tag: mothers and sons

A little bit more of this

I read an Enid Blyton story to Rabbit last night — a morally saturated tale about a girl who missed a trip to the seaside because she stopped to help a boy who fell off his bike while her friend ran on to get the bus and didn’t tell the teacher to wait, but it all worked out because the boy’s mother was both grateful and had a sports car so she took the girl and the boy to the beach anyway and they got there at the same time as the bus even though they had to stop and clean up the boy’s knee because sports car and morals and then the boy and the girl became friends and played happily together every week because they were both kind.

So, cheers for all that instruction, Enid, but it did lead to a conversation with Rabbit about kindness. First, he declared that he would definitely stop to help the boy and take him to his (the boy’s) house and if they didn’t have any bandaids there, he would bring the boy to our house and one of the adults would fix up his knee. And then he told me about how his friend was riding his bike and the front wheel hit a rock and the friend fell off and got a cut on his knee and Rabbit took him to the sick bay. “How did it work?” I asked. “Could he walk or did you have to help him?” “Oh, we held hands and walked together,” said Rabbit.

And it’s sappy, but I actually think that would be great, if everyone took the time to hold their friend’s hand and walk with them to the sick bay when they fall off their bike.

Slow on the uptake

So, I’m halfway through my week of holiday and I’m not fully there yet with the relaxing because work and kids and lists, but I’m more relaxed, which is progress. And the kids are cool.

But the most amazing thing happened last night, which is that I discovered that you can order and pay for pizza online and set a time for when you want to pick it up. So when you’ve spent an hour at the sports stadium watching the 11-year-olds play futsal and the 6 and 7-year-olds roll around on the floor being animals (I mean, not like badly behaved, but like beavers or hedgehogs or puppies or something) and it’s been a long, hot day and no-one is listening and there’s still bedtime to deal with, you can just swing in by the pizza shop and let the 6-year-old run into the shop and emerge a couple of minutes later carrying one box of pizza with the shop man in tow carrying the other one. And then you can sprint down to them and take the shop man’s box and apologise and it’s all cool because he’s a nice person and it’s a warm night and you haven’t had to stand in the shop for twenty minutes negotiating with the kids about toppings and bases and sauces and yes, the dairy-free one needs corn on it, but no, not quorn because that shit is weird and yes, he’s dairy-free but also he would like fifteen kinds of meat and yes, the other one can have dairy but he’s vegetarian but also very fond of seafood so calamari would be awesome and trying to read the menu and decipher the combo options and price everything up and then wait agonised while the kids whine about being hungry and where’s my pizza and I’m so BORED because you did all of that already without the waiting. In fact, so genius is this system that the order you gritted your teeth through a month ago is recorded on the website, so all you had to do was find your password, delete your pizza because are you kidding, why would I eat pizza when I could have homemade minestrone instead and exactly the way I like it because everyone else is eating pizza and find your credit card because you can never remember the little three-digit number thing from the back and calculate a pick-up time based on the duration of two soccer matches and getting two children in the car and driving back through town. Which, comparatively, felt really fucking simple.

And this is why, at the grand age of 41, I still believe in trying new things and being open to change and finding out stuff that I really should know already. Because some of us just take a bit longer, is all.

Putting things together

20170123_122043I’ve done boot camp, Christmas, Trump, summer holidays, the return to work, gardening, adventures with children, movies, books, terrific whiskey, and a sleepover for 11-year-olds. Yesterday it rained and I had a cold, so I lit the fire, made hot drinks and retreated to the sofa. I wouldn’t describe it as restful, exactly — the children were tired and scrappy and stuck indoors — but it was a necessary grinding to a halt, of sorts.

It’s often hard to know what will save a day, but in this case, it was minestrone. I don’t always like minestrone, but this was a light, summery number with enough savour and steamy heat to restore just enough wellbeing for me to get to bed.

20170123_122942Ian made it, so I don’t know the fine details of the recipe, but here’s what I think he got right. The vegetables were sliced at angles, thin enough to fit well on the spoon, but large enough to offer definite taste and something distinct in each mouthful. There weren’t too many carrots, giving a layer of sweetness but not overwhelming the fundamental earthiness of the dish. The cooking started with bacon and ended with strong, fresh chard from the garden. I had extra tomatoes in my bowl, and a scattering of feta. The pasta was rigatoni, thick and knubbly. There were broad beans from our garden. The zucchinis were young and flavourful, with firm, peppery skin. The stock was light and hot.

20170123_122034The Rabbit was home sick today, so I had another quiet day. He made a Lego lawnmower — my role was to find the pieces and offer moral support. We succeeded, but only just. I left my work phone on, which was a mistake.

20170123_121854I reheated some of the minestrone for lunch, something I would avoid with a less robust pasta. Still, it needed a bit of tarting up for a new day, so I sliced in a couple of dusky Nigella tomatoes, a few shredded leaves of chard, some leaves of purple basil from the glasshouse. Feta again, of course.

The sun came out after that. We went to the gardens, kicked a ball, flew a kite. The Rabbit rescued his toy bandicoot from the animal rescue boat. We put ourselves together, not perfectly, but from what we had.

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Shameless bragging

20160622_184603Exciting times here — the Cat’s team won a local spelling bee! I gotta say, for an editor mama, that is a peak pride moment.








20160622_180831And the Rabbit made a sign, an exercise that involved a lot of writing and hammering and fixing. It says, “There is a cat here and her name is Stelllla! Stop! Wait. There are more words.”

Indeed there are. Long may there be words.


Slow day

The Rabbit is home with a sore tummy, and I am trying to slow down. I’m pretty shit at it, to be honest. I started the day by writing a mega list of all the things I wanted to get done, then I cleaned the bathroom, made the beds, looked at some work stuff, got dressed, let the chooks out, made morning tea, and finally, finally sat down with my boy.

“I want to draw a picture with you,” he said.

“I have this big list — wouldn’t it be fun to look at it together and work out what we’re going to do next?” I said.

“I want you to put ‘draw a picture with Rabbit’ on your list,” he said.

“Okay, I get it now,” I said.

20160616_111948We decided to draw a rabbit, and he had a wee freeze about being able to draw, which is such a sad thing, children suddenly being unsure of their abilities. We talked about being able to try things and rub them out, and about how I like kids to start drawings because I have ways I’m used to doing things and it’s always interesting to see how a child would draw something before they get stuck on copying an adult’s picture. He liked the rubber idea, and once I’d put the ears in, he was off, with only a few worries about how to do eyes and whether rabbits have whiskers.

20160616_113213I like so much about this picture. I like the fur and the heart. I like the brown tail and the detailed caption Rabbit dictated to me. I like the note to the Rabbit-on-the-picture. And I like the dedication, for which I had to close my eyes because it was a surprise. Most of all, I like the time it took, the concentration and the conversations it generated. I like the reminder about what matters.

Thanks, Rabbit.


Update: While I was making lunch, Rabbit was very busy. Then he brought me this. A rainbow rabbit! Exactly what I needed.

Orlando, Orlando

In my 20s, I came out as bisexual. I didn’t come out very far — and possibly not very accurately given that my mother decided based on my explanation that most of us are probably a bit that way inclined, or maybe she’s right — but it was a milestone in a long journey of worry and confusion and fear. It was also a milestone that opened up some space for joy and community and understanding. And dancing. Always, there was space for dancing.

I’ve been in a relationship with a man since then, so it all feels a bit academic or something now, something I don’t really have the lived experience to claim. It’s easier in this world to play the straight card, to fit in and keep quiet. Quiet when activist, feminist friends edge towards transphobia, quiet when conservative relatives, colleagues, random strangers make bad jokes, quiet when my interests are assumed to be political and not also personal.

Well, it doesn’t feel academic this week. It feels like I’ve been quiet too often and for too long. I look at this beautiful next generation we’re raising and I cry for the ones for whom we needed to change the world and whom we have failed. I don’t want them to have to seek out safe spaces; I want the whole world to be safe for them, to celebrate who they are and who they love.  I’d thought we were getting there. But this week, this terrible, gut-wrenching week, it feels like nothing has changed at all.

Keeping warm

Yeah, so I might spend all winter writing about heating sources.

When we get up in the morning, the house is not particularly warm. We put a fan heater on in the kitchen and start a coffee pot going on the stove. Ian puts away the dishes and I make school lunches. We coax the boys out of bed and go through a great deal of unnecessary rigmarole to extract breakfast orders from them. Somewhere in there, we eat our own breakfasts and have showers and make beds and clear the table and let the chooks out.

So, when the boys have made their way to the kitchen — bleary-eyed, soft-skinned, looking for cuddles — they fight over the heater. They both want to sit right in front of it, which means that they are completely in the way as Ian and I do all that other stuff above, and they want equal shares of any radiating warmth. It’s not a big heater, so there’s a lot of disagreement about where the midline is and who’s been there the longest and whether small or young or big people have more need for heat. NONE OF WHICH MAKES BREAKFAST HAPPEN FASTER. The other day, we ended up drawing a line on the floor with a toy snake, and still they argued.

Our next strategy was to put the heater under the table and tell them that it would warm the room and they could sit in their chairs and eat breakfast like, well, adults, I suppose. You can probably guess how that went.


Telling it like it is

It’s 8.30pm and we’re eating dinner. This is not some sophisticated European thing. This is a long day with too much frazzle, a fishing trip that consisted almost entirely of line disentanglement, the end of a long weekend, dwindling parental energy, the rigours of the supermarket, the complications of catering for one child with allergies, one who has decided he is now a vegetarian who eats seafood and mince, and two parents who want a simple French tart every now and then, and also it’s the sort of late you get when you start behind time and everything goes just enough wrong to really collapse the schedule. Probably, in sum, it’s bad parenting, or maybe it’s just the way life rolls sometimes.

So, here we are, eating our mince, pea, apple and olive pie and our leek, tomato, olive, goats’ cheese tart, relaxed and comfortable with each other at last, some of us playing Uno, some of us with our noses in a book. Ian is trying to convince the Rabbit that it’s time to go to bed, that there will be only a little bit of story time tonight, that a bath is not going to happen. I’ve chipped in a bit but — truth be told — I’m nearing the bottom third of a wine glass and I’m reading essays by Helen Garner and I still have to cook a lasagne tonight before I can go to bed, so now the conversation is swirling in the space around my head, but nothing’s going in my ears.

Until we get to this bit.

Rabbit: “Do you know what I’m doing?”

Ian: “Um …”

Me: “Procrastinating?”

Rabbit: “What I’m doing is I’m not listening to you.”

Another birthday!

20160527_121520The short version: 41 is just as good as 40, but with waaaaaay less angst.

The long version: Dad came over for dinner the night before my birthday, and there was much furtive scurrying in bedrooms and sneaking back and forth for pens and scissors and such from the boys.

The birthday was a school day, so we had a joyful breakfast with presents and homemade cards, then the usual ratty scramble to get everyone out the door. The Cat gave me vouchers for 15 sleep-ins, and Ian gave me an electric blanket. I don’t know if it’s age or personality, but both presents filled me with joy, and I intend to make full use of them.*

20160525_114453I went to the gym after that and my trainer had a hellish circuit ready for me, which was both exhausting and the best kind of birthday present.

I walked through the Gardens to meet my sister for lunch, and it was a cracker day. Clear and sunny, with gold still on the trees and some warmth in the air. Sisterly lunches are basically the best thing ever.

Dinner was cheap eats at the Khmer place at the bottom of our hill, then a brisk walk up the steps to home.

Sun, air, bird song, solitude, company, light, smiles. It made for a pretty good day.


* I put the blanket on in the evening, and it was superb. I cashed in a voucher the next morning and got a bit of extra sleep, then was woken with a small Rabbit face peering at me.

“Hey, baby fruitbat,” I said, “would you like to give me a kiss, then go and get some breakfast?” “No,” said the Rabbit, “what I would like is to get into a warm bed with a mama and have a proper cuddle with her.” Hard to refuse, that.

















Mysterious happenings

20160507_152131_resizedI came outside the other day and found the Rabbit tying the watering can onto himself. He said he was sorting out a system so he could take the watering can to the tap and fill it. It was a pretty complex arrangement, but he seemed happy so I left him to it.

A bit later, he wasn’t wearing the watering can any more, but he was going back and forth from the kitchen sink with a cup of water. I threw him a towel and left him to it again.

Later still, I came out and found him looking very pleased with himself. The kitchen floor was dry, and he had something to show me. “What have you been doing, kid?” I asked. “I planted a broad bean,” he said. “I made a hole in the vege patch and put the bean in it and watered it.”

20160507_152246_resizedHe took me by the hand and showed me. Nice stuff, wee one.

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