I'm trying to keep my business, my triplets, and my waistline under control. I excel at one of those, fail at another one of those, and one is a work in progress. Which is which is day dependant.

Friday, December 31, 2010

Beach

2010 was not a fabulous year for me.

It started out pretty okay, but then rapidly went downhill with DS losing it too often to count, DH losing his job, endless drama with my business, financially ending up in a huge whole, it was the one year anniversary of losing my Dad, and just a whole bunch of other yucky stuff happened. (Not the most mature expression, but hey, it works.) I won't say it was all miserable (because for a few months at the beginning it was kinda of alright) but it certainly won't go down in history as the best year that ever was. Seems like this is true for a number of friends as well - which leads me to believe that the planets were all off-kilter or some other such nonsense.

This year, though, this year is all about progress (as we've previously read.) And in the last couple of days, I've had two experiences which lead me to believe that progress needs to happen even more than I thought before. The first was a day spent in Mornington with my kids. The kids and I sat on the beach for the afternoon - and we were totally ill-prepared for that beach trip. Between us we only had 3 hats, a skerrick of sunscreen, only one towel, no clothes to change into, no food or drinks and no bathing suits either. As organised beach trips go it was a bit of a mess...but far and away one of the best beach days I've ever had. I sat there in my (entirely inappropriate for the beach) clothes, and saw my (entirely inappropriate for the beach) shoes fill with sand....and I loved every second of it. My kids were just ahead of me a ways, playing in the water (fully dressed. Nope, not kidding about that one). The sun was shining, the beach around me was full of happy holiday-makers, and just for those couple of glorious hours I had no worries, no stress, no guilt, and no...anything. I just lived entirely in that afternoon, hyper aware of how beautiful, fun, and immediately satisfying it all was. At one point I even folded my pants well above my knees and dove into the water to play with my three beautiful water babies. There was nothing to think about other than me, my kids, and that sunny, smiley summer day. The only real formed thought I had was, "THIS is why I need to succeed in 2011. So I can have more of these days of complete freedom." Freedom from the feelings, issues, emotions, and detritus of life which can sap away so much of our soul on a day-to-day basis. Just...free. I need to succeed so I can grant myself more days of freedom.

Tonight - NYE - some friends invited us down to the beach for a picnic of sorts. Literally the text said, "BYO fish and chips, blanket, drinks, word of the year, and whatever else you need to ring in 2011." How simple and yet how...ingenious. So me, my mom and kids (DH was working), and two other fabulous families went down to a local beach and just...lived for a while. This beach trip was (mostly) organised - there were enough hats, towels, food, blankets and so on for all of us (although yet again we forgot the bathers). I sat there in the dying sun, chatting to my friends, nibbling on yummy food, watching my kids get endless joy out of the water, the wet sand, the 'crunchy chips' (crunchy thanks to the sand coating them) and I just lived as fully as I could in those last hours of the year that was 2010. And again, I found myself thinking, "THIS is what life is meant to be about. THIS is why I need to succeed. I NEED this joy in my life, and moreover I WANT this joy and I even deserve this joy."

And so, while neither of these events were particularly earth shattering, both of them reminded me with startling clarity about WHY I'm doing what I'm doing, why 'progress' is the theme for 2011, and why now more than ever I need to learn to live my authentic life and carry on with my plans. Because chances are, tomorrow I'll forget the bathers yet again...but tomorrow I won't care, because I'll have learned to live with my occassionally forgetful nature, and probably even laugh at myself a little bit for it.

Bring on 2011.

Thursday, December 30, 2010

On Being Tall

For reasons I can't really work out, I've always had heaps and heaps of really short friends. Among my three current closest female friends, the tallest one is 5'3", which means I am at minimum a full 8 3/4 inches taller than my immediate circle of friends. The smallest, by the way, is just barely 5". I don't know why I always seem to attract tiny people into my life, but I do - I have an entire lifetime filled with small people around me. In part it's probably just because the general population has more short or average people in it than it does giant people. Until now, being the giant in the crowd has not really been much of an issue for me. Of course it does annoy me when friends talk about it, and I really kinda wish they made high heels in my size...but basically, until now it's been no big deal. For the record, if they DID make heels in my size, the chances of me wearing them are slim to none...but I'd still like the option, you know?

In any case I have recently noticed a very curious phenomenon. Since I've lost weight (and the smaller I get), I seem to have grown taller. RIDICULOUSLY taller. I am now really self-conscious of my height where previously I didn't pay much attention to it at all. It's like someone put a spotlight right on the top of my head and it's screamingly obvious just how much higher up I am than the rest of the world.

Here's the worst part of it all: I hate it. Before I would have said (and maybe even sometimes will still say) that I love being tall. I love that I can reach stuff on high shelves, that I can find people in a crowd, that I have stage presence, that I can get away with some fashion items which shorter people can't, that I never need a footstool, that having long limbs is just somehow totally awesome. Heck, when you ask DH why he loves me, chief among his reasons is "Because you're tall!" So it's not like being tall was or is some sort of terrible burden. But now...well... I don't know. I still like being tall, I have just found myself wishing that 'tall' was closer to 5'8" than 6". It's such a strange sensation to find myself feeling as though I need to sit, or stoop, or lean over, or just not stand at my full height in order to feel comfortable in a crowd. I'm sure losing weight has made me feel somehow 'lighter' and therefore less grounded - so not as frumpy and dumpy - so it stands to reason I am probably literally standing taller than I used to, but really, this is a side effect of weight loss which I am not happy about at all.

The realist in me knows I can't do anything about it, and that this is just a phase of my life which I am sure will blow over, and I should do myself a favour and just suck it up...but in the meantime, if you want to talk to me, I'll be sitting down.

Monday, December 27, 2010

Online Relationships

Remember a few weeks ago, I told you about my employee and her exploits in online dating/sex/chatting? Since then she's regaled me with tales of all her new adventures, and it has got me thinking about online relationships in general.

DH and I met online - but at a time when it wasn't as prevalent as it is today, and email was not as 24/7 accessible. So while we met online, it was only a day or so before we spoke on the phone and then went on dates. We didn't have the experience of 'dating' first online, it was very much just a way of making an initial connection. However, I've made loads and loads of online female friends (through various IVF/parenting/blogging forums) and so I know all about how intense it can all be. The amazing thing is how well you can get to know someone - or think you know them - without ever setting eyes on them. I'd venture to say that the closeness comes BECAUSE you cannot or have not set eyes on them. Not having to see that person face-to-face, not being part of their mundane daily life tasks, and being able to almost 'hide' behind computers and phones and facebook makes relationships that much more intense. In our own minds we build up a picture of that person (even if we know what they look like) and the relationship becomes pretty full-on before we even realise it has.

I have various online friends who know more about me on a very personal level than my family does, or my real life friends do. It's as though the social rules of 'things you don't share with friends' disappear altogether when it comes to an online relationship, even when that relationship is just a platonic one (as opposed to online relationships which grow into actual love relationships.) The interesting things is that I've been lucky enough to meet several of my online mates...and the relationship does not always work as well in real life. In many cases we met and then the relationship just fizzled out altogether, mostly because the public meeting was just all too awkward. Almost like that old saying, "You can't go back to just holding hands." In some cases we met and then quickly realised it worked better online, so while we might be in the same city there is never an expectation that we will spend any face time together. Then, of course, there are the cases where it works well in real life and online, and then it's all good and happy and we all walk into the proverbial sunset together.

Someone I spoke to recently said that they don't feel they really know someone until they have seen them face-to-face, looked into their eyes, and got a kinaesthetic feel for who that person is. I actually found that really strange, especially given the increasingly non-face-to-face world in which we currently live. Among my online friends, there are none who I would say I don't know well just because I have not actually seen them in real life. I'm just not convinced that the actual meeting part equates to how well you know someone. I don't think you suddenly know someone well just because you've seen them. It's an interesting idea, though - that for some people, touch is knowing a person's true self; where talking, texting, emailing, secret sharing and baring one's soul is not enough without the touch part.

Since most of you who read this, I've never met...tell me this: how well do you think know me? or how well do you know your other online friends? Can we ever really know someone without meeting them?

Sunday, December 26, 2010

The 2010 Birthday Cake Experience

Long-time readers of this blog will know that getting my own birthday cake is no easy task. It's the one day of the year that I don't make cake (or think about cake, or have anything at all to do with cake) and so I generally give DH the job of satisfying my birthday sweet tooth.

I have very few requirements for said cake...which is not traditional cake but ice cream cake (because I love ice cream, and actually don't really like traditional cake. Go figure.)

So. Michelle's Birthday Cake (tm) needs to be:
1. Not vanilla
2. Not Dairy Bell.
3. Not organised by me.
4. Have my name on it.
5. Be organised ahead of time so that my name can be put on it AND it will be a flavour I like.

That's it. Seems easy, right? You all know the original story and if you don't you can read it here. Last year was marginally better in so far as it did meet all the requirements - technically speaking - but the entire thing was about an inch high and therefore had a distinct air of pathetic about it. This year, my girlfriends were going to organise the cake (and therefore save DH yet more misery over this issue.)

Here is where the story digresses a bit.

My version:
A couple of weeks ago, I said to DH, "Did The Neighbour's Wife call you?" and he said, "No." So I assumed TNW had forgotten about it (which is no big deal, shit happens.) Some days later I said to DH, "Ok, so for my birthday all you need to do is organise the cake, and fix my chair." (A cane chair I love which needs repairing. I wanted the repair as my official birthday present.)

His version:
A couple of weeks ago, I said to DH, "Did The Neighbour's Wife call you?" and he said, "No." But apparently by then I had already told him that my friends were organising it. So when I then said, "Ok, so for my birthday all you need to do is organise the cake, and fix my chair," he thought I meant he had to do cake as well as THEM doing cake. (And he never questioned why I would need two of them in the first place.)

...and here's where we are now:
A couple of days before my birthday, DH runs into my work kitchen saying, "Quick, quick, I need a freezer! I need a freezer!" Apparently he had gone to get said cake but forgot his house keys (and it was a very hot day). So he stopped at my workplace to get the cake into a freezer before it died totally. Then he asked if I wouldn't mind bringing it home with me.

Really? You want me to ORGANISE anything about this cake? Yeah. NO.

Fast forward a couple of days, and DH went to pick up the cake from work (serves him right, sheesh.)

So in the end...

He got me:
- A totally generic cake from the cabinet. No personalisation. Not organised ahead of time. On the plus side, it was a flavour I like and it wasn't from Dairy Bell. Still, effort out of 10, maybe 5?

They got me:
- A gelati cake which was not personalised, but was organised in terms of being ordered ahead of time, specific flavours requested and then picked up and delivered so I had nothing at all to do with it. Effort out of 10, I'm going to say 10...because really, it's not their job at all. It's his job!

*sigh* Considering I start to prep DH about this several months in advance, he really has no excuse. And he *is* getting better at it all...so I'm thinking by the time I'm 50, he'll get it right. Baby steps, baby steps...except that of course by the time I'm 50 I'll probably be damn sick of ice cream cakes.

Sigh. He (and I) can't win.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

BIRTHDAY!

It's my birthday.

It's also Christmas Day.

What the hell are you doing reading this blog when you should be either sending me presents or unwrapping some of your own? (Although heaven knows why you deserve any, it's not like you gave birth to the man himself or anything.)

Go on. GO! Piss off and go hang out with some humans!

(please.)
(more blogging coming soon, I promise.)

Friday, December 24, 2010

Socially Awkward

I'm socially awkward.

Really.

To meet me in real life, you wouldn't think so. Fact is, I'm shy. I'm also nervous around new people, mostly because I think I'll say the wrong thing (and then I DO say the wrong thing, and I'm mortally wounded and will replay it over in my head a lot of times over the following days.) Being my height, and with my volume, people made a lot of wrong assumptions about me (see earlier blog about this.) With all that in mind, you can just imagine how worry-inducing it is to have to make friends with the Mums at my kids' new school.

The kids ex-art teacher is also a parent of a child at the kids' new school. (I'll give you a minute to work that relationship out. Okay, we good?) Last week she very nicely offered to invite a bunch of parents to a local park so that my kids could get to know some of their new classmates, and I could get to meet their Mums.

Cue panic.

Wednesday was that meeting ... which unfortunately I did not miss (even though I tried, with 2 flat tyres *and* loads of work to do). And you know what? I was socially awkward. I was shy. I said the wrong things (and I nearly choked on my own spit when one mother asked, "So? Do you do any work?"). The good news is, I survived and may have even made a new friend (just one. Which for me is wwwaaayyyy more than I expected to.) Driving home, I was feeling pretty pleased with my self...but still feeling very much that I was way the heck out of my comfort zone, that all this "make new friends" business was going to be harder than it should be, and that I'm not entirely sure how to answer comments like, "Oh, you make cake," without being all sarcastic and rude.

And then it occurred to me.

1. There is no legal obligation for me to be friends with any of these women, and

2. If I'm all the above-mentioned things, they're going to have to like me anyway. Because frankly, I'm not about to start changing now. They'll have to just love me for me, and if not, well... I can deal with that.

I'll just go sit myself down in a dark corner right now, shall I?

Thursday, December 23, 2010

I Trade In Happiness

I've recently been reading The E-Myth, which is a well-known book all about the things which go wrong in small businesses, and some suggestions for how to fix them.

One of the concepts in the book is that your business needs to be about a lot more than your product. I won't go into the whole thing here (frankly, it's like a million pages you can read yourself) but basically you need to decide on your core value (or purpose in life) and then build your business around your core value.

It didn't take me long to work out why I do what I do. It's not because I'm good at it (which as we all know is often a cause for internal debate.) It's not even because I want to make money (although let's face it, that would be nice.) It's really just because, at the core of it, I'm a people pleaser. I like making people happy. I like being a part of their family happiness, a part of life milestone events, a part of something which is bigger than me. It's no great surprised that I also equate food with love (as many people do) and so my offering of this cake, this little bit of sugary love imbued with my creative soul... it's a gift. A gift you pay me for, but still very much a gift.

It also explains why I almost self-destruct when a client is not happy with their product. It feels like rejection - not only of the product, but of me personally. That I tore away a small piece of myself to give to someone else - a complete stranger - and that they rejected it...well, you can just imagine how fabulously shitty that feels. We all want to be loved, don't we? And that, too, is a part of my business. I sell a bit of love, but also expect to get a bit of love in return - even if that love is just in the way of a verbal thanks, a nice email, a comment on the biz facebook page, or even just the look in their eyes when they accept my gift. So it's true that those clients who don't bother with any of those gestures (and they are few, but it does happen)...well, I feel a little pang of annoyance (or sadness?) that they did not receive the love in kind and return a bit of it.

I know, I know. It's emotional. But...you know, I think that just makes me a lot better at what I do. Sure, I could use pre-mixes, and sell Designs 1-10 with no variation...but none of that is about the love you get when you get a cake from me. And that love...THAT'S the elusive point of difference which all small businesses hope will edge them over the competition.

Cake. It's not just for Christmas.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Games Women Play

One of the best aspects of my new staff member is her refreshing honesty. A bit like me, she has no real filter over her brain-to-head commentary, and so she tells it like it is. In specific she tells it like it is about the men in her life - and so I get to hear it all; the good, the bad, the ugly. She's been divorced for about a year, and so her exploits with the opposite sex are often amusing, entertaining, and often eye opening. Eye opening not because she is up to no good (might be more interesting if she was....) but because I am amazed at the games women play in order to get and keep the attention of men.

Not only am I amazed at the games women play, I'm amazed at how universal these games seem to be. So she'll come out with something, and my first thought is, "Wait a sec. I'm pretty sure I'm guilty of that one, too!" Although for me most of the games were well before DH, they're still the same games.. So ...telling a guy that he is moving too fast for her, and then being bitterly disappointed when the guy respects her wishes and backs off. Or (and this is a recent one, the example is probably the same back in the day just minus the technology) purposely posting something on facebook which she knows will rouse the attention of the guy. Or admitting that it actually feels really good to get male attention of the kiss-and-cuddle variety even though the last thing she wants is an actual relationship. Or sending a text which is purposely worded to engender a response. Or hearing her phone 'bing' with a message and secretly wishing, "I hope it's him! I hope it's him!" before looking at it, and then being disappointed when it's not him. Or snooping through phone, email, or mail messages. Or...any of a number of things which are designed specifically to call to arms the man she is interested in, but will then surely result in a period of emotional upheaval for her. I love that she shares all of this with me, and I love knowing that all this stuff is basically normal crazy female behaviour.

Listening to her stories, I can't help but think about what funny creatures us women are. It's really no wonder that men don't understand us, because we womenfolk are wasting a shit load of time thinking, planning, thinking more, wondering, attaching meaning where there is none, and in general being emotional messes. While we're doing all of that, I think most men are just busy with the act of being. Not thinking, not planning, not wondering, not playing Where's Wally with the hidden message in texts, just... being. Frankly, after hearing all these stories of hers, I'm feeling kinda sorry for the menfolk. Who knew us women could be so ... conniving?

But then again, offering a woman to play strip poker in an online chat room where there is a) no camera, b) no cards, and c) no actual game play...well, you know. You guys just make it all so easy for us!

Monday, December 20, 2010

Word of the Year

I recently came across a concept which really speaks to me on a number of levels. As I've probably already made clear on this blog, the coming year is going to be one of great progress for me. I'm getting my business life under control (and setting it up for world domination), the children will be starting their new school adventures, DH will begin his new job and start to improve his fitness (his goal, not mine, despite 13 years of nagging him about it.) Physically I hope to continue all I've achieved this far and then take it to the next level in terms of fitness and letting go of at least some of that emotional eating crap I seem to carry around so well. It's going to be a great year for me, because I'm going to work pretty damn hard to ensure that it will be.

Part of my personal reflection and discovery in recent months has been about setting intent - which seems to be a pretty big buzz phrase around at the moment. It's found in places like 'The Secret" (which I've also blogged about recently), and other similar 'take control of your life' philosophies. Basically the idea is that unless you make clear what you're going to do with your life, you'll never really reach that goal. You set your intent and then go about making it happen rather than waffle around hoping good stuff will happen to you by chance.

I am not, by nature, particularly spiritual. I prefer to live in the world of tangible - quantifiable results, visible achievements, statistics of success and so on. In all honesty, that I would even be using a word like "intent" on this blog seems a wee bit uncomfortable to me. That being said, things have happened recently which have really tested me, and it's forced me to maybe, possibly, just a little bit, consider that there is more to life than the quantifiable, the tangible, the recordable. This brings me to the Word of the Year concept. The link can probably explain it better than I can - but here's a basic framework. Rather than develop a whole long list of fantasy things you would like to do - lose 10 kilos, run a mile every day, stop smoking, be nicer to your friends, whatever - you 'resolve' a word. (And it's no surprise that I think words are perhaps the most powerful force available to us.) You then live your life to your word of the year - so over the course of the year, you keep that word in the back of your mind and you use it as your motivator for your decisions and actions. Basically, you're setting your intent, and then living to that intent. The word is just the reminder of the intent.

This isn't an entirely new concept. Some people believe in affirmations, some believe in asking the universe to provide, some believe in prayer. We're all motivated by different things - and so I'm putting this out there as just another thing which I think might be useful, and you might think is useful as well. Don't worry, I plan on making my achievable NY resolutions too (eat more ice cream...etc) as blogged about in previous years. It's just that the me who is going to come into her own in 2011 also needs something on a different level than those resolutions. It really is time to grow up...just a little bit.

...and if you decide to try this, I'd love it if you would share your word with me. No requirement to do so, I just think it would be interesting to hear what 2011 has in store for all of you.

And for those who are curious, my 2011 word is PROGRESS.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

No, really!

Dear client,

A "apple flavoured cupcake" has another name, it's called a MUFFIN.

...and for the record (and since you asked), a cupcake with apple filing, that's called a PIE.

I don't bake either, sorry!

Love,

Disgruntled Baker

I Love You, Summertime

As chronicled many times in this blog, I love love love love love the Australian summer. I love that it's an actual season rather than just a slightly warmer mush of all the other ones (although Melbourne weather is famous for being temperamental that way...). I love that daylight savings means we can stay up really late and yet it doesn't feel late at all. I love that I get to sleep with a fan on, blowing cool air across my face and making that lovey zhuzh-zhuzh noise. I love not needing an excuse to eat icy poles for breakfast, not having to wear shoes, and feeling as though everything will be okay as long as the sun is shining. In short, I adore summertime...and summertime in Australia in particular has a certain glow to it. The air has a certain smell, the light has a particular colour. Everything about the Australian summer just radiates good intention.

We live quite close to a public pool, and I even love hearing the noise made by all the happy families, seeing all the cars parked in crazy ways just to try and snatch even a tiniest corner of shade. I even like the kinda gross things about summer - the smell of wet bathing suits, the crunch of that little bit of sand left in the bottom of the beach bag, the way you hair sticks to the sunscreen on your face, the necessary purchase of more sand shovels because we never seem to hang onto them from year to year. I grew up in Los Angeles, where summer was punctuated with long days at camp, and days so hot all you really wanted to do was dash from one air conditioned house to another. I even loved summer in LA...but not nearly as much as summer here in Australia. Summer here is just... remarkable in so many ways.

One of the best parts of this country is how seriously people take holiday and vacation time. Not seriously as in, "We'd best go and visit those 45 museums before they close," but serious as in, "You've gotta spend a few days at the beach, and eat fish and chips, and walk around in thongs even when your feet are already sunburned." There are so many Australian summer rituals which I just adore, and even more I adore that there is no such thing here as summer day camp. Of course, being a parent, there are times when I wish I could kick the kids out the door every morning and send them off to another day being someone else's problems to entertain...but I'm glad there is no American style summer camp because I love being able to grant my kids as many pyjama days as they want, let them eat at odd hours, and on a whim drive down to the water for a kick in the receding waves. I love that I can come home from work, grab a packet of sausages and some bread, and a cold watermelon...and spend the rest of my late afternoon and evening lounging by the pool.

Oh, Aussie summer, I just love you. Please stay for just a wee bit longer this time, won't you?

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Run or Fight

The funny thing about me is that most people find me intimidating. Let's face it, I'm physically bigger than most females (formerly this was true in width, but it's always been true in height.) Plus I have no internal volume control, so even my normal indoor speaking voice is pretty loud. Add that to someone who never seems to know when to shut up and you're left with a pretty formidable woman - at least on the outside.

The thing these people don't know is, I'm a total wuss and I prefer to run and hide rather than stay and fight. I just prefer a quiet life, and as a result will often roll over and play dead when confronted with any sort of nastiness. For as long as I can remember, people have volunteered me to take on leadership roles, present findings to a group, approach a colleague or boss, and basically be the front woman for whatever needed doing (positive or negative). Thing is, I HATE having to do any of those things, but I end up doing it because my belief in social justice outweighs my extreme discomfort at being the messenger. Nothing irks me more than people not taking action out of fear - and so I swallow my own fear and just front up when really I'd much rather be hiding down the back somewhere. Sadly, at my height, hiding down the back of anywhere is just about an impossibility.

I also tend to be the peacemaker, so I spend a fair amount of time smoothing down ruffled feathers, trying to keep everyone happy and in general trying the "Why can't we all just get along?" approach. People reading this who know me in real life will probably be shaking their heads and thinking, "Seriously? Michelle? You? You're always the one ready to open her mouth, make a fuss, demand answers!" Sorry, guys, but you're all very wrong on those fronts. I do it because I feel a moral obligation to, not because I really *want* to or am comfortable doing it.

At the moment there are several issues in my life which are really putting this part of my personality to the test. A couple of incidents where I truly feel as though I've done my utmost to do the right thing, but the other party does not see it that way. In at least two of these incidents, I've totally rolled over and adopted the feather smoothing stance, even when I felt I had nothing to apologise for. In both cases I even found myself apologising for things I've said which I STILL stand behind (and therefore should never have been apologising for them) but my desire to have a quiet, calm life has led me to just fall on my own sword. Another incident (which I cannot put any detail about here, sorry!) is one which is really frustrating me. I made several efforts to do the right thing and the other party ignored me. So I stepped it up a notch by asking nicely again, and then the other party decided to call in legal advice rather than try and deal with it in a much more gentle manner. So in this case, I have no choice at all but to stand up and fight...and knowing the other party as I do, I suspect it's going to get nasty. My best option is just to continue to behave in a moral, pleasant, and entirely reasonable way and hope that the law is indeed on my side as I believe it to be. I KNOW I'm right and I KNOW I have a (legal and ethical) leg to stand on...but inside? Inside I'm dying because I hate the very idea of confrontation, and I hate not having things resolved. I feel as though the world is tilting under me, and I can't stand it at all. I don't do well without a safety net (probably why I've never taken up tight rope walking.)

Interesting times ahead.

Monday, December 13, 2010

An Embarassment of Boredome

Over the last couple of weeks, DH and I have had to sit through a lot...and I mean A LOT.. of end of year presentations. Every activity the kids do (and 2 of them do 2, and 1 does one, and they all go to school...and wait, did I just create a verbal math equation?) has an end of year gig.

So I've sat through:

1 hour of Scouts
1 hour of Girl Guides
3.5 hours of dancing
3.5 hours of gymnastics
45 minutes of basketball
3 hours of school awards night

That, my friends, is a heck of a lot of time. Like an entire day's worth of ceremonies and awards and some awful orchestral pieces and spending my time watching all the parents around me texting and playing on their iPhones. (Although to be fair I was one of those parents. A girl's gotta do, right?) I am especially proud to brag that at most of those events, one if not more of my kids got honours given to them.

I'm excited and proud of them, but the real parent (TM) in me is really sitting there thinking, "I've got to put up with HOURS of this just for a piece of paper? Really?!" In the case of ballet, it was all those hours (and over 40 pieces of dance, OMG how many cartwheels can a person endure?) only to get a certificate with DD2's name spelled incorrectly. Honestly. And while I get that the idea is to showcase all the hard work the kids put in over the course of a year...I'd be much happier going to two shorter events twice a year than this one bloody long one which makes me want to slowly push a stick into my eye while I'm sitting there...just because focussing on the pain would be far more interesting.

I realise that my pain is exacerbated by having to do this x three kids and x so many activities..it's a 'side effect' of the triplet phenomenon I never planned for. I've now decided that DH and I are going to get our own certificates to honour our patience, commitment, and ability to withstand hours upon hours of physical and auditory pain.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Let's Talk About Sex

I have the world's most fabulous friend, who on this blog is known as 007.

Among other things, 007 keeps me in stitches with all her stories about dating in the modern day world (although we tend to call it "boy goss."). She's single, forty and fabulous...and rather inclined to pash the odd bloke at the pub or find a willing partner for the night. I'm not saying she does this a lot (oh you slut you!), but rather that when she wants or needs some, she can find some.

She recently met a new bloke. I won't say too much about him (although one doubts he reads this blog) but I will say that this new guy opened up a whole can of worms with 007 and I. My POV is that, as long as what you are looking for is a decent, loving relationship - you shouldn't be giving up the goods (so to speak) too early on. There should be a bit of wining and dining and other stuff before there is the other, other stuff. Now if all you're after is a quick shag and a decent pash, well, by all means go right ahead. But if what you want is a partner to go to weddings with, someone to fart in front of, and a willing chick-flick partner ... just hang onto the goods for a bit. Not months and months on end ... but maybe 3, 4 dates. And I mean DATES. As in going out in public, doing stuff together, maybe spending one night in with a movie, whatever. But clearly DATES as opposed to "hanging out with some mates."

I also see no point in sexting unless you got the real thing first - because then it's just teasing bullshit which keeps people from actually giving up the real deal. Much easier to hide behind a flurry of texts than it is to pony up with the goods...and the number of times I've had friends with 'relationships' which never get beyond a mobile phone is staggering.

I digress.

007 thinks I am, among other things, 1) a total dag, 2) a nerdy berger, and 3) supremely old fashioned. I'm not denying any of those tags (especially #3 but then you all knew that already.) In her view, there doesn't need to be dinner or drinks or really anything at all. If you want to, do it and that's that. She sees no need for any of the rest of it, even when it IS a relationship she's after and not just a wham-bam situation.

I think to me, the whole dinner/drinks/time together is more about the respect you're giving the other person, the interest you're taking in their lives, and the fun of the pursuit. She thinks you can have all of that without the actual dating bit, and that just hanging out together or with friends will give you all of that. Me, I'm not convinced - but then we did say that I'm old fashioned, didn't we?

To be fair, I have close to zero dating experience, and definitely none happening at the age she's currently at (because I have several years to go before I reach that age, and because I was a child bride). Maybe things are different now and I really am a stick in the mud. I just refuse to believe that most relationships (although maybe some do) start with the sex and without the dating.

...but then again, I'm also damn grateful I won't need to find that out anytime soon. Perhaps I'd better crawl back under my suburban married rock?

Definition of Popularity

Friday, December 10, 2010

School Reports are Bullshit

Today my kids got their term reports...reports which I always read with a healthy dose of scepticism and an even healthier dose of cynicism. School reports are totally bullshit, and there is nobody here to blame but the parents they are addressed to. Without fail, all of my kids' reports are filled with "DD1 is making pleasing progress," "DD2 is a pleasure to have in class," and "DS is very inquisitive and is achieving above the level expected," and so on and so forth.

It's all a load of crap. I say this because I find it difficult to believe 3 paragraphs waxing lyrical about how great my kid is, only to be faced with two enormous D's on the top of the page. Seriously? If my kid sucks this hard at this subject, why are you trying to sugar coat it? And really, if this is the END OF THE YEAR, why didn't you do something (or ask me to do something) about the fact that they suck at something like math? I'm kinda thinking math is essential for life skills...or maybe it's like those days when kids got shoved along until someone realised they were in 12th grade and still could not read.

I would love to say that this is all the teacher's fault - but being related to a teacher (my sister), and good friends with another one (The Neighbour's Wife), I know that school reports are designed to tell parents exactly what they want to hear, which is not necessarily the truth of the matter. My sister has often told me that 'nothing in a school report should be a surprise' - because if it is (either positive or negative), it implies your teacher isn't doing their job. I think parents of this day and age don't want to be bothered with the truth - it's far easier to hear that little Johnny is fine than it is to confront the fact that you're raising the devil's spawn. Diplomacy rather than truth seems to be the name of the school report game.

Of particular irritation to me is when teachers use cut-and-paste for their comments...which for us is obvious since we read three of these in a row, but probably works okay for most parents. *sigh* I would have thought they would figure this out by now, but clearly not. I realise that there are only so many ways to say, "Your child is totally fine and basically unremarkable to me," but it still irritates me. Ha - *I* should probably be the one to figure out that after all these years, it's not worth my irritation (clearly I too am slow on the uptake.)

What say you about parent reports? Useful tools, or just bullshit indicators?

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Roller Coaster

I had the most fantastic day at work today. My fondant mojo was totally happening (as was that of my assistant, which is a gold star day all around, let me tell you...). All our work was getting done in a timely fashion, the kitchen was not too humid or hot, and DH was in the office getting some of my admin done. All around, I found myself thinking, "emzee is in her happy place!" more than once today...and yes, I used third person when talking to myself. I'm good like that.

...and then I had a minor tiff/not really a tiff/kinda weird moment with a friend,

...and then DH tells me his job is now not starting until MARCH (but it IS starting),

...and then my kids tell me that their day (spent at their new school) varied on a one to ten scale from "ten and 8 quarters" to "eleven" to "four hundred and eighty six,"

...and then I watched a movie with the kids which made me feel just horrible. Who knew that a Miley Cyrus movie (for those who want to know, it was "Last Song") can make you bawl and bawl and bawl? It was about her and a total hottie but also about her Dad dying. Nice.

...and then I get an email from someone asking for a bunch of money which I know I need to spend, but trying to find that money is just overwhelming and discussions of money make me want to bury my head under a doona for ten thousand years,

...and then, and then, and then. What a bloody crazy rollercoaster day of extreme highs and extreme lows and everything in between.

Clearly, the only solution is ice cream.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Best Noodles Ever!

We all know how I live and die by the meal planner...that this crazy family plans their meals in advance THREE week blocks of time, that we try new recipes all the time, try to eat fish more than once a week, ensure we all have a very healthy and varied diet and in general act all holier-than-thou when it comes to family meal times. Frankly, we totally rock when it comes to meal times and both DH and I put a lot of time and effort into our end-of-day family time because it's important to us.

However, because I don't want all of you in blog land to think I'm perfect, and humility is probably a good thing...let me just say that for dinner tonight, the kids and I all had two-minute noodles. From a packet....which came with a whole bunch of unidentifiable sachets filled with god-knows-what, all of which are probably cancerous and most certainly contain banned substances in some countries in the world.

You know what? We are all still alive, the damn things were pretty tasty, and I think I might be forced to put these on the officially official menu once in a while.

But the best part about all this? My kids never ate anything like it until about a year ago, when they had lunch at one weekend The Neighbour's Wife's house. They came home and told me they had the BEST lunch ever, and that I had to call TNW *right away* in order to get the recipe. TNW is not known for her cooking (it's not bad, she just doesn't enjoy doing it very much) so it was a bit of a surprise that she would pull out some serious recipe action for a kids' weekend casual lunch. Being an obedient sort, I did as told and when I called her, she laughed so long and hard I nearly dropped the phone. Her magic recipe for "the best noodles ever" ... was cheap $1 per packet Asian brand 2 minute noodles. The method is simple too - buy at supermarket and follow instructions on packet. My kind of recipe!

Sometimes even us cooking types use short cuts...and the added bonus is my kids think I'm awesome for even letting these scary packets in my front door. Mum points AND friend points!

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

New Sport Required

This past Sunday we went to watch DD1's gymnastics display. And by "watch" I of course mean "endure."

In theory, it's a nice idea - getting to see your little darling bounce around while wearing a skin tight shiny leotard. (FYI, I hate those girls on sight. There was not a single moment of my life - even on the day I was born - when I looked decent in a leotard.)

In reality, it's 3 hours of my life which I will never get back.

The idea is to see your kid doing all the various bits of equipment which they've been practising all year. So there are different groups - and each group also has a dance set to music. So at each part, one group does a dance, and then 20 minutes or so go by in which you need to watch ALL THE OTHER groups on various bits of gym equipment. I should also mention that each kid does a routine on each piece of equipment, and most groups have 8-12 kids in them. Then there's a gap of time for piss-farting around, and then another dance by a different group, and then everyone moves around to other bits of equipment, and then it starts all over again ad infinitum.

There's also a big finale dance which all the groups do together, and then a very llloooonnnnggg award presentation. It's basically hell on earth, made even worse by the place it's held - an enormous open floor gymnastics mecca. The only seating is in the gods, on hard wooden bleachers (very wide steps actually). It's hotter than hell up there, your ass is killing you, and the only food on offer is whatever is in the vending machine. The families who have been there before come along to the event looking like they are either going camping or going to watch the Test cricket. They're shlepping eskies filled with food and drinks, blankets and pillows and squishy seat thingies, and games and books for the younger kids. I only WISH I was kidding about this. The newbies who have not experienced this yet come with...nothing. The rest of us watch them in silence as they spend the first half hour in rapture, the second half hour in hunger, the third half hour in ass pain, the fourth half hour sweating uncontrollably, and then fifth and ongoing half hours running back and forth to the vending machine, hoping against hope it will have suddenly filled with hot chips and Big Macs.

Trust me, by next year they will either have decided that gymnastics is a sport for masochists, or they'll BYO eskie and squishy seat thingie.

My problem, as we all know, is that (as previously mentioned here), the first law of motherhood is "Thou Shalt Suffer" and so this is now the fourth year I've endured this special kind of parental torture. My MIL, god bless her, bowed out early this year with a mystery sudden-onset illness...but sadly, I couldn't in all honesty make ALL FOUR OF US come down with the same thing so we had to suffer it all from beginning to end. DD1 has announced to all of us that she's going to do it next year, too...because she desperately wants the little gold trophy they get after 5 years attendance. The next one after that is a 10 year trophy, and frankly, if I have to go through ANOTHER 5 years of this crap, I'm going to make DD1 buy ME a trophy for surviving it all.

Motherhood. Sometimes it's a pain in the ass.

The Luxury of Time

Not sure if I have blogged about this before, but in addition to my own business I also work part-time in another female-owned small food-based business (say that ten times fast!). This originally started because she and I had kitchens in the same building, and about 18 months ago she was desperate for a helping hand and asked if I'd pitch in. I helped that day, and then every once in a while when she needed an extra pair of hands - it was a very casual affair. Eventually winter came (the quiet time for me) and she asked if I'd do a regular once-a-week gig for her. Then DH lot his job, and it became a regular two day a week gig.

She's a lovely person, and the product is great...and there is no way I'd get the money or the conditions she offers anywhere else. And yet, I hate every single second of that job. I'm grateful for it - VERY grateful as it happens - but I can't stand it, and I swear small pieces of my soul chip away with every passing moment. The night before I go there, I'm irritable and annoyed about it. While I'm there, it can often take a while before my attitude catches up with my stern internal reminder that we need the money so I had better shut up and get on with it. At 5pm on the day I'm finished there, I practically skip out the door.

Why do I hate it so much? Simple - every moment I'm spending on HER business, I'm not spending on MY business. Here's where it gets messy. My business does not pay me enough to support my family, so I have to go out and find other means of financial support. HOWEVER if I invested that same amount of time in my business, I'd finally be able to grow it enough to actually then take the salary I need in order to succeed. Instead of investing that time in my business, I'm investing it in someone else's business and this is killing me. Slowly killing me.

The real criminal here is TIME. If I had the luxury of time - and if I could just tell the mortgage company, "Hey, listen, give me about a year and then I'll be all good!" - then just imagine what a force I'd be. Since I don't HAVE that luxury of time, well... I'm spending 2 days a week in a kitchen which is not my own and wishing I didn't have to be there. It sucks, and yet it's paying my bills.

Sometimes being a grown up is just no fun AT ALL.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

I Got Nothin'

...to blog about. I even asked DH for some topics and all he had to say was, "I don't know! Pets? Trains? Books?" and then he sort of looked around helplessly as if to say, "What do I know from this blogging madness?"

Yeah, that's really helpful. I know I have some unfinished business of topics you all suggested which I have yet to get to (including a rather difficult marriage of mother in laws and men in bed together) but I just don't feel like tackling those topics tonight.

So - forgive me this non-post and let me get back to you all tomorrow, when hopefully inspiration will have struck. If not, well, I might be forced to take more photos and post them (and not delete them.) Now there's a scary thought!

Maybe It Is The Hair

So last night I spent about 20 minutes in the bathroom attempting to take a photo of myself, for the purpose of a profile pic for here and on facebook. I look different enough to my current photo that I thought it was a good time to take one. I was even having a good hair day (even though it's grey and overgrown..) and thought it was worth a shot.

Well, about 50 shots later I realised why none of these pictures were appealing to me. I look different, yes...but I don't look like ME. What a strange sensation to be looking at photos of yourself and be thinking, "Who IS that? I don't have that angular of a face or that pointy of a chin...weird! Must be the angle, I'll try again." Then I tried again and again and I still did not like any of those pictures. It's like the me in my head needs to catch up with the me in the viewfinder.

And this, you know, could be the focus of an entire therapy session. Instead of delving into the emotional minefield of it all, I'm just going to blame it on the hair. Seems to work as a strategy for everyone else, right? ;)

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Sidelines

It was a kabillion degrees today. Seriously. This is Australia in the summertime and this means (for Melbourne in particular) that yesterday was a massive rain storm and today is the freakin' Sahara. (Great day for cake delivery, btw. Not.) Anyway, the kids and DH went to the local pool while I went to deliver a wedding cake, and the plan was to join them upon my return.

I didn't really want to go to the pool today.

I wanted to come home from my delivery, lay on my cool bed in my air-conditioned room and just have quiet time reading a good book and eating junk food. So I did exactly that, and I even had a plan for what I might say if the kids questioned my absence. About 5 minutes after I lay down, DH called to see where I was, and to say he'd paid for a family pool ticket so I could just walk in and not worry about queuing to get in.

Damn. He totally foiled my plan.

I did grant myself 15 minutes of quiet time and snacking (which I then regretted = massive stomache ache = spew up that which did not agree with me) and then headed for the pool. I decided en route that even though my bathers were waiting for me at the pool, I wasn't going to get in. I had a stomach ache, it was hot, I hate wet clothes, the pool is noisy - hell, any excuse you can think of, I had used as a reason not to get into the pool.

So I stood around in the glorious sunshine and watched my family play in the water, and my kids jump off the diving boards, and my husband laughing as the kids dunked him yet again, and I thought to myself: FUCK THIS. I am BURNING THE DAMN BOAT of the fat, lazy mother who does not want to go swimming and I am going to live in the moment with my kids. The excuses of not wanting to get wet, not feeling too great, and being too lazy to change were all still there...but the mind-set had changed. Why would I want to miss all the fun of this sunny summer day? Why would I want to spend it BORED and HOT on the sidelines, when I could be having fun and cooling down in the pool with my family?

The mind is a funny thing. Frankly, the mind is a big JERK sometimes.

So I went and changed into my bathers, and had 2 hours of splashing and laughing and in general acting many years below my chronological age and I loved every single second of it. I didn't even mind the wet clothes, or the damp hat, or the rough concrete on my feet, or wearing the bathers with not enough boob support. I just lived in those moments, and adored all of it.

We've come home, and the hungry three are showered and clean and smelling delicious enough to eat. Dinner is almost ready, and we'll eat together in tired happiness until their eyelids droop and they head for bed and I head for a hot shower. My only regrets about today are the 15 minutes I wasted in bed, and the half hour I wasted on the sidelines when I could have spent those minutes living a happier, healthier, far more authentically wonderful life.

You know, I could get used to this whole boat burning business.

Friday, December 3, 2010

It's Not The Hair

In the last couple of weeks, I've had to cancel two hair cut appointments due to either family scheduling muck-ups or major cake muck-ups. This now makes me something like 10 or so weeks since my last hair cut, which means I am rocking the salt-and-pepper look (hey thanks Mom for those genes..). Not only is my hair showing some serious grey hair action, it's also all out of shape and much longer than usual. Plus my ridiculously cool blue streaks faded weeks ago so now I am somewhat lion-ish in appearance with random blond bits.

It looks really bad.

And yet, in the last 2-3 weeks, I've had no less than SIX people tell me they love my new hairstyle, they want to know where I got it done, they want to tell me that it really suits me, and in general it's all been OMG you have the most awesome hair we have ever seen!

People, people, people! What you are noticing is NOT my hairstyle, it's that my ass has shrunk significantly, but you either a) are blind and can't work out what is different about me, so you think it must be the hair, or b) you're not sure how to be polite and say, "your fat ass is smaller than it used to be," so you're focussing on the hair in your version of trying to be complimentary without making possibly offensive reference to my formerly massive ass.

Either way, let me just assure you that it ISN'T about the hair (and if it IS, how shit did I look before, if you're all complimenting the 10-week-old look?!)

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Burn The Boats

I had a lengthy chat today with a business coach - I've mentioned him on this blog before, and I think as interesting tid-bits come to light I might continue to share them - all about burning the boats. Now apparently this expression is attributed to various cultures from the Spanish to the Ancient Greeks and beyond, but here's the basic premise: Make a decision, and then make it impossible for you to go back from where you have come.

In the case of our mythical explorers, the legend is they sail to the shores of their enemies, and on arrival the leader cries, "Burn the boats!" thus signalling that either they were going to win the battle or die trying. Really, it's all about signalling their intent, both to the enemy and to themselves. One of the issues we spoke about today was that I am not spending enough time burning the boats. I'm making decisions and then thinking and re-thinking and then going back a little ways and then giving up (just for a while) and then starting again (for a while.) At no stage am I burning the boats and just moving forward with things, and this reluctance to just commit to a course of action is doing me (and thus the biz) more harm than good. Without the willingness to move forward in a significant way, there is just NO way to move forward in the first place. This doesn't mean you act with haste, without thought or without research. It just means that once you have arrived at the decision (and recognising that you have arrived is in itself hard to do), you then MOVE FORWARD without looking back.

Thinking back over the course of my life, there were many times when I did not burn the boats. For whatever reason, burning them was too big a step, too scary a step, too much like hard work and far too much like getting rid of my safety net (which is exactly the point of it.) It's not hard to come up with examples...like all the times I lost weight but kept my fat clothes in the closet. Or left the phone numbers of people I hate in my mobile phone. Or stayed in a job for too many years because it was easier to stay than to go and question the status quo. Or said something like, "I'm not fussed, YOU decide," when really I was fussed. I'm sure all of this is sounding pretty familiar, isn't it? We are a world of wafflers.

So you can call it what you like - burn the boats, cut the cord, rip off the band-aid, cut loose, 'never look back' -but either way it all boils down to the same thing. Stop the bloody flapping around and GET GOING.

Which boats will you burn this week?

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Chappy Channukah

My most favourite of Jewish holidays, which involves eating chocolate and fried food and giving presents...is celebrated in song by this totally adorable group. Enjoy:

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Just Quietly...

If you call me up and say, "Hi, emzee, I need to order a cake for my son, only it has to have NO sugar in it at all," and I say, "I'm terribly sorry, but all of our cakes and icings have sugar in them," and then you say, "Can you suggest who I might go to who might do something like that?" and I say, "(insert 5 minutes worth of suggestions including calling up the Diabetes support group and asking them who they recommend)"...

and then you say, "Oh, it's not a medical or dietary condition, it's just that we don't feed our son any sugar at all, "

and then I say, "Okay - well, try the people I suggested, hopefully they can help,"

and then you say, "Well, how MUCH sugar do you use? Because maybe if it's not too much..."

I will officially lose all respect for you and what you are trying to do. If you're going to talk the talk, you need to walk the walk - because I have no idea at what point (one cup? two? two and a half?) sugar goes from "we don't feed him sugar at all," to "well, maybe, if it's not too much."

Yes, I'm sitting in judgement here on this poor guy and his kid. I see no problem with choosing to feed or not feed your kid something (even if it IS something close to my heart), but I do see a problem with being adamant and then bending the rules in the very same conversation.

No cake for you, sorry.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Threes

Around here we are no stranger to good things happening in threes...actually, we rather think that things work out better in sets of three than anything else. So it stands to reason that so far;

1) The kids schooling situation for next year is sorted out in the best way possible for all of us. The school we most wanted them to go to ponied up the money in order to make it at least vaguely possible for us to send them there. We took all 3 kids to visit and before we even left the grounds, two of them were "definitely in" and one was "gotta think about it." Turns out debater #3 was mostly just worried about the detail of how to find the bathrooms, what the homework rules were, and other things she was unsure about. She swapped to a "definitely in" once we told her she could swap back if she hated it, AND she realised that 7 of her ballet school friends are all current students there. Chance of her wanting to swap back: I'd say about 7 pairs of pointe shoes to none.

2) DH got offered a job today! Hooray! It won't start until mid-Jan, which suits us because it means I still get my delivery driver for the business during the crazy season, and the kids can spend some good happy summer days with both of us. I adore summer in Australia (except when it's stinking hot, then I just hate summer and Australia and life in general) and so it's a real joy to know that this summer I will spend it in relative calm as opposed to panic. We'll still struggle on the money side for a while, but heck - this is just about the best outcome ever. Here's looking forward to a calm, mostly stress-free, relaxed 2011 full of new opportunities.

3)??? Hasn't happened yet. Watch this space. If good things happen in threes, then something else wonderful should happen soon...and if not, well, I'm already happier than I've been in months and that's good enough for me.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Sunday Musings

Delivering cakes to the ends of the earth is far, far more fun when you fill the car with enthusiastic helpers (eg kids) and blast ABBA Gold on the way there.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Cars and Donkey Kong

The other night I watched this great documentary called "The King of Kong," which was basically all about these total nerdy burgers whose greatest feat in life is reaching world record breaking scores in classic 80's arcade games. Donkey Kong, Q*Bert and so on.

They're total losers, but they make good documentary fodder. If you can get your hands on it, I'd recommend seeing it. I was seriously glued to the screen - there's intrigue, drama, good guys, bad guys, whiffs of conspiracy theories and a whole lot of soda being drunk. There's even some romance if you consider the wife of the creepy guy, who is on screen for about 10 seconds and yet shows more boobs that you would see in your average porn flick.

But I digress. The thing I find compelling about these sorts of documentaries (and I've seen many) is the sheer dedication these people have to a single thing (or a single hobby.) I saw a similar doco a few months back, all about the NY Times crossword puzzle. I also saw one about these kids competing in the US National Spelling Bee, and what all these people have in common is dedication. The girl who currently works for me drives a VW Combi van (or 'bus' as she calls it.) She drives one, spends time with other enthusiasts, goes to dedicated car clubs events and expos, is part of an online forum with other 'bus' drivers, travels around Australia with other Combi owners, and even has a Combi tattoo. Heck, I could probably film a documentary of my own just about her and her friends.

It occurs to me that I have nothing to which I am so totally dedicated (unless you count Slurpees, and even then I don't even own a t-shirt so that does not qualify.) While I enjoy a whole lot of stuff, there is not one single solitary thing to which I can claim nearly as much a dedication as these people have. One one level, I admire them and on the other level, I think they are totally nuts, but then maybe that's just because I have not yet found my thing to obsess about so I'm secretly jealous.

Do you have a 'thing' and if so, what is it? (Although for some of you I can make a pretty good guess...)

Friday, November 26, 2010

Big Bullies

I've recently come to realise that the world is full of bullies, and that I am one of the nice guys of the world. My friends often joke about what a soft touch I am, how much of a rule follower I am, and how much I just always like to believe that people's intentions are pure and that being nice is most people's first reaction to things. I think The Neighbour's Wife said it best recently... I told her that I have the same philosophy as Anne Frank, who said, "Despite everything, I believe that people are really good at heart." To which TNW said, "Yeah, and look where that philosophy got HER."

All together now: ZING! She totally got me between the eyes on that one.

In any case there have been THREE massive bullies in my life lately, and I'm none too happy about any of them. At the moment all 3 are triumphing over me, who is over here trying to do the right thing, the nice thing, the moral thing and trying to believe that nice guys DON'T always finish last.

Bully #1 is the owner of the new property I want for the biz. He seems to think negotiation is where one party begs and one ignores.

Bully #2 is my current landlord, who seems to think a normal rent renewal process is a synonym for "give you no notice on a massive rent hike and then hope you never check the legality of what I'm doing, and threaten to evict you as well just for good measure."

Bully #3 is the principal of the kids school (and did I mention, as of 6 weeks from now, it's their former school?) who tried to tell me that moving my DS to another school is "no guarantee he'll make any friends" and that "he's totally fine now" and then tried to threaten me with the fact that as I did not tell her they were going when I was supposed to (last term), I'm liable for all of Term 1 fees. Kinda hard to tell someone something when you have no idea that something is happening or is even on the cards, but there you go.

The sad thing is, I'm still persisting in believing that ALL of these bullies will do the right thing, that all of them will see the error of their ways and all of them will realise that I am not going to be pushed around all that easily. It might be true that the outside of me is made of sugar, and the first few layers (okay, many layers) are decidedly marshmallow-esque, but at the very heart of it is one hell of a bitch who does NOT like being told what to do.

You have been warned.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Frighteningly Like Real Life


....only I don't sound robotic (although often the other person in the conversation does!)

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Freedom and Independence

To give my kids a taste of freedom and independence, I'm going to want to:

  • Discuss their choices in tattoos and piercings but not actually go with them to the place to have it done (too embarrass for both of us),
  • Allow them to go to Queensland on Schoolies Week with nothing but a suitcase full of towels, bathing suits and money,
  • Say "yes" to every request for money,
  • Say "yes" to every request to borrow the car,
  • Say "yes" to every request for concert tickets, or every request to attend a party even when I know that party might have kids/stuff I don't like there,
  • Give them a car as soon as they earn their licence,
  • Not tell them that the guy/girl they are dating are no-good pieces of shit who will just break their hearts,
  • Bite my tongue when I see them eating too many carbs/sugars/high fat food/whatever is clearly not at all good for them,
  • Allow them to make their own choices about going to university (or not), what to study (or not),
  • Allow them to wear whatever they like even when a street walker's clothes would be nun-like in comparison,
  • Let them control all their own money, starting from now,
  • Never teach them how to read maps of the non-GPS kind,
  • Leave them on their own to figure out most things even when I've already been there and done that and know the right answer,
  • Tell them to give up when it all gets too difficult, and all them t0 make their own choice to try again (and this applies to everything from bike riding to time management to making babies to making souffles),
  • Come home from school and neither DH nor I will be waiting for them, but get home and expect that they've already done their homework/showers/dinner cooking,
  • Look out for one another but stand on their own two feet,
...but I can't say that I'll ever do ANY of those things, even if I will want to. The best I can hope for is to fulfil that old cliché of giving them both roots and wings. The rest will just have to work itself out.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Did I do that?

I promise this is not me trying to be all shy and "oh you shouldn't have"...but when it comes right down to it, I'm not entirely convinced I am any good at this whole cake thing. Or this whole blogging thing, but that's not today's topic.

Today's topic is all about how I secretly think (or not so secretly, hello there Internet) that I suck at cake decorating. Not suck as in "feature on cake wrecks" suck, but suck in a"never going to be as totally freakishly awesome as Pink Cake Box, Confetti Cakes or Cake Lava," sort of way (go Google any one of those and prepare to have your eyes fall out of your head from sheer awesomeness). I attribute this suckage to two things. One, I am mostly self-taught when it comes to decorating, and so there are a lot of things I feel I don't know (although I do endeavour to engage in continuing education). Two, I am lazy as all get out, plus a dash of impatient thrown in for good measure. So while I *could* spend an entire day making sure each corner is *just so*, I tend to make it 'pretty darn good' and then get on with the next task. In part that's just who I am, and in part it's where I've deliberately placed myself in the market - many steps above home decorator and yet some steps below the "sell a kidney to afford it" decorator.

Many, many times a week I will finish a cake and see only the flaws. I might see it as "the client will be really happy with this" but I rarely see it and think I am totally happy with it. I am mostly left thinking I could have done more, done better, worked harder, been more particular, fixed that mistake, started over, done it a different way. I am my most demanding client, and this client is pretty much never satisfied (damn. Should've told her we're fully booked for all weekends into eternity.) Some of this relates back to my emotional self, because being far too attached emotionally to just about everything means it's very hard to be objective about things (even cake.) I look at the blogs of those companies I admire and think, "In my wildest dreams I could never produce something as perfect as that," or I think, "I'll never find a client willing to order something like that," or one of a thousand other negative thoughts which are doing nobody any good.

I just feel as though I lack the skills and the artistic vision to produce anything nearly as wonderful as the creations I see in magazines and books and online. Sometimes I even feel like I am just a big ol' faker - I do it well enough to keep the punters happy but not well enough to actually stand up amongst my peers.

This week, though... I had a moment of happiness and feeling like I am worth something as a decorator. Actually a couple of them, which are rare as hen's teeth and therefore very valuable to me. My employee's decorating skills are coming along pretty well - especially considering it's this lazy, impatient decorator doing the teaching - and this week she has had to replicate a number of my cakes. By replicate I just mean a client ordered something which the business has done before, so she had a photo to work from. She did the first one, and I thought it was pretty cute, and I said to her, "Hey, that's a really cute cake - fun colours and design!" ...and then a couple of minutes later I thought,"Wait a sec! That's a cake *I* designed!". Later in the week the same thing happened a few more times - with a couple more cakes and then some fondant sea creature cupcakes. Creations which came out of my head and made it into real life without the help, influence, or inspiration from anyone else. Creations which I looked at and thought they were fun, interesting, different, colourful and entirely happy-making for both me and the client.

Hmmm. Could it be I am finally beginning to appreciate myself, finally valuing my skills?

Sadly, I don't think so...because after each of those, my next immediate thought was, "Yeah, total fluke, that."

*sigh* I think I've got a ways to go on more than just the decorating front.

Monday, November 22, 2010

The 25 Year Old Me

If I could go back ten years to my 25 year old self, I would have so much to tell her! Firstly I should point out that until 5 weeks from now, it's really my 24 year old self - but my 24 year old self was going through IVF, still fairly newly-ish married, and pretty much all over the place. My 25 year old self was pregnant with triplets, still newly-ish married, and basically felt as though just about everything was falling into place. I'm going to talk to her because I think she is just that little bit more sure of her self than she was the year previous.

Dearest 25 year old self,

As I write this, you are now (almost) 35, and these things I know for certain:

1) Nothing is a certainty. You will spend a lot of time waiting for things to become easier, simpler, more stable so that you can make more considered, slower, more definite decisions. That day will not come, and you need to stop waiting for it. Take action even when the future is uncertain because the future will always be uncertain.

2) You will survive your children's babyhood, toddler-hood, and pre-teen years even when you have a day when it feels like you can't possibly survive it all. The teen years, well, that remains to be seen. However, you've made it thus far with a minimum of fuck ups, so chances are looking good.

3) Take your own advice. When people ask for your parenting advice, you always say: Listen to EVERYTHING and then pick and choose the things which you think are relevant, worthy, and might actually work. Totally ignore the rest of it but be polite about it. It's high time you lived by the words you dole out.

4) You will re-gain all the weight you will lose when the kids are toddlers, and then some. It will be HELL ON EARTH to think of how far you came, only to bugger it up again. Might I suggest you try and stop that freight train before it goes right past the station? Start as you mean to go on and then keep on going.

5) You won't be stuck in a dead end admin job forever. I promise. What you will move to, though, will be much, much more demanding (physically, emotionally, financially) and yet much, much more rewarding. I won't tell you what it is, though, because the surprise of achieving it was one of the best moments of your life.

6) You will lose friends, some of whom you will be very sorry to lose and others which you will be glad to see the back of.

7) You will gain many, many new friends - a vast majority of which you will never meet in real life, but that won't seem as strange as it does now.

8) You will live to 35 and well beyond, even though when you were 5,10,15,20, 25 you could not even imagine yourself being 30. 30 isn't nearly as old as you think it is - but nor is it the time at which your adult life begins. You're almost 35 and yet you still adore Slurpees and tickles and peanut butter sandwiches. I don't think you'll ever fully grow up, and that's what I love about us.

9) There will be times in your life when you think, "I can't take this anymore!" and "I've had enough!" and "Why ME?" and you will cry, and cry, and cry rivers and rivers of tears. All I can say is - remember that you are blessed, and remember that losing your shit altogether occasionally is a very human thing to do. You really DON'T have to cope well all the time.

And lastly,

10) Call your Dad more often. More than that - in that first week of August of 2009, when he tells you he will call you on Wednesday afternoon and then forgets to call, YOU SHOULD CALL HIM. Because while I don't know what he or you might have said, I know you will regret missing that call for the rest of your life.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

We Have All Met Her

I realise this is not going to be the witty post you are all waiting for...seriously? Mother in laws and gay men? You amaze me. In any case I recently saw this and adored every robotic-sounding moment of it, because we've ALL met one of these women, haven't we??

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Only 10 Days Left

Dear most patient readers of mine,

There are 10 days left of NaBloPoMo, and frankly, I'm running out of ideas here! Mostly stuff just kind of rolls off the top of my head - but being as grumpy as I am at the moment, good blogging ideas are a bit thin on the ground at the moment. It will make me even more grumpy if I have to give up NaBloPoMo for reasons of lack of interesting content (I mean, I could just write, "This space intentionally left blank." for 10 days, but that's not doing anybody any favours, is it?)

So. There are 10 days left, excluding this non-post I only need to come up with 9 ideas for topics. Your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to write me a blogging prompt. Not a topic per se, but a one line (or one phase) string which I can use as the start of a blog topic.

The ones which will not be used:

If I was on a desert island...
If I could invite anyone to dinner...
My 3 favourite books are...

Or anything else boring and hackneyed. To make this more challenging (for me), I'll even accept a list of words which you want to see appear in a blog post. So, go ahead and write a list (5-10 words or less) of words which you think I won't be able to make fit together in the context of a blog post. The challenge for me is to make them not only fit, but make sense.

Go on, help a girl out here! Only 10 days to go and no way will I give up now.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Privacy

When I started this blog, I thought I had a need for an audience - because let's face it, I'm not sure I could keep writing if nobody ever knew I was doing it. Obviously, I'm an attention whore. So when I started, I emailed the address to a bunch of people and said, "hey! check out what I'm doing with my spare time!" Not surprisingly, this method of advertising worked and so I kept on writing, and writing, and writing.

These days, I've got an audience which is not limited to close friends or family members - the blogosphere has filled my readership with all sorts of fabulous and interesting people. Some of them I've had the good pleasure of actually meeting in real life, and some I hope to meet someday soon (Danielle, I'm looking at you.) Of late, though, I have begun to question if the open door policy was such a good one.

Admittedly, my blog being public serves many good purposes. It keeps my far-away family in touch with my daily goings on, it allows me to express in print things I have difficulty saying out loud, and in general it provides me with a good vehicle for voicing all sorts of things which are on my mind. On the other hand, it has upset and offended people (even though there is a very clear disclaimer.) Sometimes I get friends calling and saying, "I can't believe you blogged about that before you even told me!" Or even my Mum will call and say, "Your blog sounds upset. What's wrong? Why didn't you call me?" Blogging in that respect has definitely opened me up to a hot mess of drama and emotions - and sometimes I've then totally caved in when the person has called me on it, and other times I've stood my ground.

I've found myself pondering on this notion of privacy - of when being a public writer outweighs (or does not outweigh) the potential downsides of being a public writer. I do actually have a second blog, which is an entirely private one - not visible to anyone at all. I managed 6 posts before I stopped altogether (and the last one was well over a year ago.) So for me, the audience is motivation to keep on going, and the reason why I am so honest here. Somehow telling it like it is to people who willingly listen is the whole crux of why I do what I do.

These days, though, I'm wondering how wise that is. My thoughts on this actually stem from another blog I read, in which the author's work mates have used the information in her blog in a less-than-savoury way. She, too, is contemplating a private blog, but wonders if that means that the help she provides to all her lurkers and non-workmate readers will somehow be lost altogether. I've been lucky in that nothing like this has ever happened to me... (maybe that's because I have no actual workmates? Ahh, the benefit of working in a micro business!)

In any case, it has me thinking. Do you have a private blog, or a public ones? What are your reasons for keeping one or the other?

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Hope, And The Loss Thereof

I make no secret about the fact that DH and I are in the mega financial hole, and that he's been out of work since July.

Because clearly, I'm all about over-sharing on my blog.

In the past few months this situation has been really wearing me down. I'm doing my best to hang in there, but the reality of it is I can feel hope slowly slipping away. Funnily enough I recently re-read Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows (in anticipation of the movie) and the description of the Dementor's Kiss is kind of what I feel like these days. It's as though I can just feel all the happy, good, hopeful, 'we'll get through this' positive stuff ebbing away and leaving me with a very dark heart.

This isn't to say that I'm not still cheerful (and yesterday's post summed that up nicely, I think. ) It doesn't mean I am spending every minute sitting in a corner feeling sorry for myself. It's more that I am at the point where I can't really see a positive outcome for us right now, and frankly I'm damn sick of pretending that I CAN see one. In short, it would seem that hope has left the building.

A friend of mine living in a similar situation told me that this feeling is normal...that eventually I'll just get past this bleak moment and hope will float right back in again. She's someone who has been living with this for 3 YEARS so I'm sure she knows what she's talking about, but... I'm not sure I can really make it that long. At what point along this crappy road do you make the big decisions? To sell the house, to ask for help, to get a third job, to put the kids at the local school and stop all their activities? At what point do you give in to the reality of the situation? Or do you just hope it will all be okay and fix up the mess (eg debt) later? We have taken a lot of action to allow us to keep surviving, but as I stare at that woeful bank balance, I know it's not nearly enough. So what now? Is it time to take the next step, even if that next step would mean choosing to give up my home?

Without hope, how does one even make decisions in the first place? It seems the energy to do so has also left me.

emzee is not in a good - or even cheerful - place right now.

Bugger. I hate it when that happens.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Cheerful

Last night I was feeling exceptionally grumpy. The sort of grumpy which settles in at the pit of your stomach and nags at your psyche, the sort of grumpy which makes you want to bury your head right into a bag of peanut M n' M's. I ended up sorting this grumpy out by spending some time with girlfriends of mine - just eating chocolate (Israeli chocolate embedded with pop rocks. WTF?) - and sitting around having a chat.

In the course of the chat (which was really me just having a pity party), the Neighbour's Wife mentioned something about a cheerful person. I happen to think *I* am a cheerful person..but apparently she didn't agree. To be fair she said NONE of us in the room were cheerful people...which made me wonder what exactly a cheerful person is.

Is it someone who is always sunny and happy, even in a crisis? Is it someone who pretends to be sunny and happy? It is someone who is always smiling? Someone who pretends like nothing is wrong even when the world is falling down around their ears? Someone who always has a good thing to say? Someone who never complains? Someone who never lets life just get them down?
Have you ever heard that expression - if you are smiling while all around you is chaos, perhaps you have not fully understood the seriousness of the situation? (Or you are choosing to ignore it) Is THAT a cheerful person?

I think I've decided that on the whole, I'm a cheerful person. Most of the time, anyway, my outlook is pretty sunny and I like to believe that better things will come, that bad situations are not forever, and that people are basically honest and good. I think TNW believes that cheerful people are of the 'never complain' variety...of the Dory school of "just keep smiling, just keep smiling," lifestyle. Urgh. How bloody boring to be so cheerful all the time! I think I prefer my definition, AND I prefer that my friends know they can count on me for a laugh and a smile, but occasionally I acknowledge that life goes pear shaped sometimes. Seems all the more normal somehow.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Humans Are Dumb

Have you ever noticed that sometimes you can anticipate a negative outcome to something, and yet you do it anyway? It's like you just can't help yourself - even when you're pretty sure nothing good will come of your actions, you still go ahead on that course of action.

This recently happened to me with a 3 tiered cake... but the end result was a really positive one.

I designed a 3 tier cake which was stupidly ambitious. I knew just from my drawing that keeping it supported and upright would be a challenge, but I kept going with it anyway. I enlisted the help of DH, who looked at it and thought it would be difficult, but not impossible. Hmmm. DH is an engineer and can generally be relied upon for these sorts of things, so if he doubted it, well, I should have stopped right then and there. I kept going with it anyway. I don't have a picture o f it to show you(which sucks, what was I thinking?? Or not thinking, as it happens.) Have you ever seen one of those barbie doll cakes where the dress is cake? It's kinda like a fat cone shape? So I baked three of those, and the idea was to tier them UPSIDE DOWN. So the skinney part of the cone is at the bottom, and the fat part of the cone is at the top. Similar in shape to a flower pot. So like three cones on top of one another in a straight line, held together by a central pillar

Are you still with me? I know, even you can tell this is a bad idea, can't you?

The cakes got baked, and iced, and stacked with SHED LOADS of internal structural support. Like about 50 million skewers and boards and stuff. I knew this was a bad idea but I just was compelled to keep going. I knew it at the drawing stage, at the 'buy some dowelling and screw it to the cake board" stage, at the baking stage, the icing stage, and the final decorating stage. At EVERY STEP OF THE WAY I knew this was a bad idea and yet I kept going, and going, and going.

I finished the cake and I hated it. It just looked like crap. The idea was sound but the execution was miserable. I was under pressure, though, and had already spent many hours on it so I didn't want to start again. When I left work on Friday night, it had developed a slight lean to it, a la Pisa. I shored it up with some strategically placed icing and left for the night. That damn cake stayed in my brain all Friday night - I even told my in laws that I was 90% sure Pisa was going to fall right over. DH happened to return to my kitchen late Friday night and came back to report that it was standing upright, but "at a rakish angle."

Hmmm. Not generally the sort of thing you want a cake to be doing.

Saturday morning I went to check on it and the entire thing had EXPLODED. The top tier fell off totally, smashing into the second tier, and while the bottom tier was intact, it was at somewhat more than a rakish angle. The middle tier was sort of intact on one side, and smashed to bits on the other (it got in the way when the top tier tried to make an escape). Literally this cake looked like someone had punched right through the middle of it. The bench was littered with cake and icing. I am SO sorry I didn't take a photo of it...but I think the desire to just scoop the whole lot into the bin was far too strong.

On Saturdays I sub-let my work kitchen, so I spent about an hour or so collecting up EVERY SINGLE PIECE of cake decorating equipment I thought I might need (plus icing, and skewers, and measured out cake recipe ingredients) so I could take it all home with me since my work kitchen was unavailable. Suffice to say all that stuff filled up the entire boot of my car AND the back seat.

I cancelled all my Saturday plans, had a friend take my girls for the day (thank god for good friends) and set to work. AGAIN.

I spent all day Saturday and a large part of Saturday night re-baking it, re-filling it, re-icing it, and re-decorating it.

The crazy thing is that I'm actually not upset about this at all. I didn't even shed a tear (although I did shed a tier. Ba-doom-boom-boom. Okay, better joke, right?) I seriously was not even annoyed for one single solitary second about this cake disaster - and it should be said, it's THE FIRST TIME this has ever happened to me. Normally this would send me over the emotional edge. Hundreds of cakes and this is the first time one of them was an epic fail, and I could care less. Mostly because a) I expected this would happen and it was only my idiocy which made me continue working on a doomed cake design, b) the damn thing was seriously ugly and I knew in my heart of baker hearts it should have been re-done anyway.

But it still makes me wonder what it is about the human psyche which makes us continue doing things which we know can only end badly. It's like we are compelled to continue along the path once we've begun heading that way. Has this ever happened to you?

Monday, November 15, 2010

Away With The Fairies

In recent months, one of my worst personality traits seems to be getting worse. Yes, this over-achiever, Capricornian control freak spends most of her time away with the fairies. This is of course very odd, since generally I consider myself very well organised, ordered, on top of things, in control and very 'on the ball' about life in general. I have more than one diary, I always answer phone calls, I (try to) answer emails, I pay my bills on time and I have no problem making appointments and keeping them. I'm even usually on time to places and most of my
'to do' lists get completed. Therefore, I consider myself a very put together sort of person. Here's the thing, though... I'm often pretty clueless. What this means in my everyday life is - I never remember anyone's name, can meet someone ten times and forget each time that I've met them, I can totally not realise when something really obvious happens, and often when people talk I am hearing them but not listening at all. I literally wander around with my head in the clouds (not hard when you're as tall as I am. Ba-doom-boom-boom. Okay, not my best joke.)

It's not at all unusual for me to have a conversation with a friend and they'll say, "You know, remember, Debbie, you've met her before?" and I'll shake my head because I haven't the foggiest clue who Debbie is (never mind that I saw her this morning.) Or a friend will ring me about something and I will listen intently but then give up and say, "Can you please send me an email or a text about that? Because I'm hearing you, but I'm not really listening and I will forget what you said the minute I hang up." (Which I will.) It's like I just can't process all the information in my head. Poor DH will often talk to me (and talk, and talk... it's one of his more amusing habits), and halfway through I'll look at him and realise I have not heard a single word he said. So sheepishly I say, "Wait, can you start again? Because I totally wasn't listening." So he'll sigh and then launch into the story again and I will have to actively force myself to pay attention and be in the moment.

I have no idea why this is. Far as I know I don't smoke, drink, suck on bongs or do anything else which might have killed a whole swag of brain cells along the way. I'm pretty sure the issue is just that I am often thinking ahead to the next hour, day, week, month...and so it's quite hard for me to stay focussed on the here and now. Plus I tend to make fairly snap judgements about whether I think people, or stories, or experiences are of any value to me - and so I just sort of stop listening or paying attention when I decide something is not worth my time (I've been known to be wrong about that, but there you go.)

This whole airy-fairy habit of mine is something I sort of thought was my own private craziness. I really thought that on the outside I seemed like a totally put together kind of person. Until of course I spoke to The Neighbour's Wife (who can always be counted on for honesty, I adore that about her) and I jokingly said, "Yeah, you know me, totally clueless and away with the fairies," and she said, "Yes, totally! Sometimes I wonder how you deal with all those clients!"

Damn. Outed again as imperfect.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Wuv, Twoo Wuv

Today I told DH that I was running out of blog topics, and I asked him for a suggestion or two on what I should blog about. I wondered, did he have any thing he would like to hear my opinion on? (A ridiculous question, because I am nothing if not vocal about my opinions.) He stood there with a confused expression on his face - sort of along the lines of, "Is this the same type of question as 'do I look fat in this?' because then we know I won't win no matter what I say."

Anyway he was useless on the blog topics front...and this brings me to today's topic, marriage.

I've mentioned several times before that I had no intention of getting married. But then here I am and almost 14 years later, we seem to be making a pretty good effort at it. Among my friends I only know one divorced couple, so it would seem that for the moment we are all bucking the 45% divorce rate trend. Not that you asked, but here are the reasons why I think my marriage works so well:

1. We can talk about things like farts and the interesting-shaped shits we take, and pop one another's pimples. Sounds ridiculous, I know...but DH and I are so comfortable together, there is almost no topic which is off limits (other than money, but then that's a whole 'nother story.) I don't have any need to pretend I am something I am not and that in itself is a gift. With DH I can just be me - smelly farts and all.

2. He still makes me laugh. If all the fun had gone out of it, I'd have hit the road a long time ago.

3. We have the same core values and we worked that out BEFORE we got married. We talked about the big stuff - religion, kids, family, etc - before we got married. I just don't understand couples who get married without talking about things like if they want to have kids or not.

4. He loves me unconditionally, but isn't shy to say when he thinks I could be doing a better job of something. So by this I mean, he loves my ass if it's fat or thin, but if I point blank ask, "Do you think this looks good on me?" he will answer, "I think it could be more flattering than it currently is." He won't seek to hurt or offend (and will often go to great lengths not to), but he WILL tell the truth even when he knows it's not what I want to hear. (And it's not unheard of for me to say, "Geez! Can't you just say, 'looks great, honey!" and he says, "No, because you know I would be lying.")

5. I try to not let there be hidden messages. He does not have ESP. So - if I'm upset about something, and I'm not getting the feedback or care or whatever it is I want, I literally say, "I need you to just hug me and buy me a Slurpee, I don't want to actually discuss this," or I might say, "I need you to talk more about this and help me find a solution." Let's face it, boys can be bloody thick sometimes, and you've got to give them a roadmap. They can't give you what you want if you don't make it clear that you want it in the first place.

6. We talk and touch A LOT. I've already discussed being married to velcro man, but it has done a lot for our marriage and our general happiness levels. I know without fail that every time I come home, he will be there with a huge hug for me. I also know that if I come home and say, "I am Madame Grumpy Pants right now and if you dare hug me, I will shoot your balls off," he respects it. (Although he's not happy about it, Velcro Man needs his fix and I usually relent.) We also talk on the phone several times a day - and when either of us are at jobs or meetings where talking is not possible, we still try to text just to say hi. Yes, we're mushy like that (or like my employee says, "shmoopy like that.")

7. We try to remember that we were a couple before we had kids. So we sometimes go out for a meal together, or play hooky from work and enjoy an afternoon delight, or have conversations which do not revolve around the small people in our lives. I love and adore my children, but they are not the centre of the universe. DH and I had a lot in common well before the kids came on the scene, and it helps if we remember that more often than not. It's far too easy to get caught up in the kids and forget about the grown-ups.

8. We have interests outside one another and outside of our household and we make time for those things. Seems a bit odd to say that one of my best marriage experiences is spending time outside of it, but there you go. Just like we were a couple before we had kids, we were individuals before we had each other. Losing yourself totally in your partnership isn't doing either of you an favours.

9. We try to resolve the little things before they transform into big things. Note I said we TRY. We don't always succeed and there are times when one or another of us is mightily pissed off (usually me.) We both just acknowledge that sometimes, shit happens. Neither of us have any expectation that all of our married life will be wine and roses - and how terribly boring if it was!

and lastly,

10. Plain and simple, we like one another. If DH and I were not married (for whatever cosmic reason), I'd still adore him for who he is. I truly just like the person he is, and I consider him my best friend. The rest of it is just a bonus.

I should say (before you all think I've gone Little Miss Marriage Sunshine on you) that there are times when I want to kick him from here to kingdom come because he is seriously pissing me off. And there are times when he finds me very frustrating (god knows why, I'm totally perfect. Duh.) But because of all of the above points (and some other ones, too), we make it work....and even when he doesn't know what blog topic to give me, he gives me one anyway.

Thanks babe. Love ya.