Earlier this year, Fran posted an interview of 21 questions with her daughter Greta, who is the same age as Fizzy. I tried the interview on Fizz, but didn’t publish her answers at the time. Fran has just done an update exactly nine months on, so I thought we would do the same. And this time I’m sharing.

1. What is something mum always says to you?

March 2009:         You twinkle.

December 2009:  No crying.

2. What makes mum happy?

March 2009:         The dog

December 2009:  Doing something good – how about cleaning up my room?

3. What makes mum sad?

March 2009:         Patting you and I give you a big cuddle.

December 2009:  Being naughty.

4. How does your mum make you laugh?

March 2009:         With this music. I’ll show you how to do it.

December 2009:  Tickles!

5. What was your mum like as a child?

March 2009:         We can take you to school.

December 2009:  A trampoline.

6. How old is your mum?

March 2009:         29.

December 2009:  30.

7. How tall is your mum?

March 2009:         Big.

December 2009:  This tall! [Holds her hand to the top of my head.]

8. What is her favorite thing to do?

March 2009:         Twinkle star.

December 2009:  Cooking

.

9. What does your mum do when you’re not around?

March 2009:        You work on the puter. Give some milk to me while I play in my room with my toys.

December 2009:  I don’t know.

10. If your mum becomes famous, what will it be for?

March 2009:         Playing with my special cards.

December 2009:  Me.

11. What is your mum really good at?

March 2009:         Your bag.

December 2009:  Um um um um the computer. You know what to do.

12. What is your mum not very good at?

March 2009:         Doing hard work. [!!!!]

December 2009:  Um um um um you’re not very good at climbing up trees.

13. What does your mum do for her job?

March 2009:         Go to uni.

December 2009:  You meet people.

14. What is your mum’s favorite food?

March 2009:         Apple.

December 2009:  Carrots. I mean, curry.

15. What makes you proud of your mum?

March 2009:         Smiling.

December 2009:  Cleaning up things on the floor.

16. If your mum were a cartoon character, who would she be?

March 2009:         Cinderella.

December 2009:  A policeman.

17. What do you and your mum do together?

March 2009:         Read books.

December 2009:  Puzzles.

18. How are you and your mum the same?

March 2009:         We wear purple the same.

December 2009:  Our body.

19. How are you and your mum different?

March 2009:         Red.

December 2009:  Our hair. Cause your hair is very brown and I’ve got a little bit of red. But I’ve got light brown and you got dark brown, don’t you? Cause light brown’s a different colour, isn’t it? My hair’s looking really blonde. Cause Lucy gave her hair a different colour, and now it’s stuck. Her yellow hair is gone.

20. How do you know your mum loves you?

March 2009:         Cuddles and kisses.

December 2009:  Cause you do.

21. Where is your mum’s favorite place to go?

March 2009:         Work, or you like to go to yoga, or work, or uni.

December 2009:  San Francisco, America and Disneyland.

As it happened, I went to see the Dalai Lama the other day. He had a very calming influence and was also quite amusing. The audience was invited to submit questions before the presentation, some of which were read out to him after his main talk. Lots of the questions were stupid:

“What do you think about the Mayan Calendar ending in 2012?”

(Answer: “The what?”)

Some of them were just pretentious:

“If I go to Tibet, what can I do to advance the Tibetan political cause, while also gaining spiritual enlightenment?”

(He answered the first part of that question really well, but then said, “Spiritual enlightenment? Pah! Don’t worry about it. Just go, enjoy yourself.”

More pretentious:

“Where in myself can I find inner peace?”

(Answer: “Don’t worry about it. Just stop worrying. If you are worrying about something you can change, then don’t worry – take action. Use your effort to evade it. If you are worrying about something you can’t change, then don’t worry. Accept.”)

And rather unexpected:

“What can we do to help our young people’s self esteem?”

(Answer: Love, compassion and a good education).

 What was interesting about his response to the last question was how important he feels self confidence to be. In my (limited) experience, Christianity promotes humility, so I am used to thinking of religion and spirituality as synonymous with crushing guilt and self loathing (thou art a sinner, and I bet thou always taketh ten minute showers and never recycleth either). His Holiness the Dalai Lama believes that when we have low self esteem, we experience negative values, like anxiety, distrust, suspicion, hatred. Makes sense to me.

His talk touched briefly on issues of climate change and conservation, contained a great deal about the Chinese occupation of Tibet, and alighted on education, quantum physics, culture, love and compassion. He talked about how we all have something in common, that we are born from our mothers and raised by them with immense care, so we all have the capacity to feel love and compassion. This reminded me of the Quaker philosophy that there is ‘that of God’ in every one of us.

He told a story of a fellow Buddhist monk, who was imprisoned by the Chinese in 1959 following the Tibetan invasion, and not released until the 1980s. When they spoke after his release to India, the monk told the Dalai Lama that he had been in great danger while in prison.

“What kind of danger?” asked the Dalai Lama.

“I was in danger of losing my compassion for the Chinese,” replied the monk.

Overall, I think I was hoping for an epiphany which never came. I know this makes me very morally suspect, but it’s true. Basically, there was nothing said which was new information to me. This reflects well on the education that I have received, I guess, and the phenomenal access to information we have nowadays. I tried to think what it would have been like to attend such a talk in the 1960s, or a hundred years ago, or a thousand years ago. How would such an audience receive this talk? Would it be exotic and foreign to them? Or is it fair to say that throughout humanity, people have given thought to love, compassion, moral values, culture and the education of our children? Are the conclusions any one of us draws necessarily less valid than those of the Dalai Lama? Is a society any more or less capable of producing intelligent, thoughtful, compassionate citizens because of its religion, or lack thereof? I think not.

On the other hand, there are those bogans living next door, which may prove me wrong.

Review of the new international Kindle 2 from Amazon.

It was all I could do not to throw myself bodily at the courier when he came into my office on Friday morning. From his expression, I could tell it was me he was looking for, and I knew in that moment I would be spending the entire weekend in bed. With my new Kindle, that is.

I am guessing my readers fall mainly into two camps: the ones, like me, who have coveted a Kindle for many years, but didn’t realise they were available yet in Australia, and the ones who are still wondering what a Kindle is and would I get to the point already?

Let me fill you in. A Kindle is an electronic reading device developed by Amazon. It uses the 3G network to download electronic books from the Amazon catalogue in under a minute. There are no contracts, no monthly fees, no hunting for Wi-Fi spots. The first generation Kindles were available only in the United States, but Amazon has recently begun to offer the Kindle 2 internationally.

The first thing that struck me about the Kindle was the packaging. There was hardly any. Amazon has introduced “Frustration Free” packaging for most of their catalogue, so my new toy, and the protective leather case I ordered with it, came in plain and simple cardboard boxes. All I had to do was open them, without fussing with twist ties, plastic pouches and tamper proof seals. Other than a single A5 sheet of plastic, I was able to recycle everything.

The international Kindle ships with a simple USB plug, so the first thing to do was charge the device through my computer. Unfortunately you can’t use the Kindle while charging via computer – I believe a power adapter to charge through mains electricity would circumvent this – but the unit was fully charged within three hours. The Kindle 2 should give me up to a week of reading time, unlike earlier versions which lasted only four days.

The display is monochrome, but reads like paper. I was wary. Reading from a computer screen gives me eye strain, particularly after a long day at work, and bright light on a PC screen renders text illegible. To my relief, these problems are avoided by the Kindle, which uses a clever display involving particles of suspended ink. It is equally able to display text or pictures, though of course only in grayscale.

There is no back light, and the Kindle doesn’t get warm as you read. This shows just how little power is used by the device. There are buttons to take you to the next page and previous page, or back to the main menu, where you can store your catalogue in folders for easy retrieval.

The Kindle itself is the size of a paperback book – small and light. A protective cover is recommended, for safety as well as style. I chose the standard black leather model, which locks securely into the device and folds conveniently back on itself for easy reading. It’s actually easier to read in bed than cumbersome hardbacks.

Particularly exciting is the text-to-speech feature, which allows the device to read aloud to you when you are otherwise occupied, for example when driving or cooking. The device has an audio jack so you can hook up your headphones or your speaker system, or you can use the inbuilt speakers. You can choose a male or female voice and set the reading speed to your preferred level. Not every book allows this function to be activated, and to be perfectly honest, I felt a little as though Stephen Hawking was reading me a bedtime story, but it’s still pretty cool.

In spite of its small size, the Kindle can hold up to 1500 books, eliminating the need for all those bookshelves we bibliophiles line our houses with. Your content is backed up online at amazon.com, so if you are a complete techno-klutz like myself and accidentally delete something you’re reading, you can retrieve it from your online catalogue. A big selling point for me was the environmentally friendly aspects. Instead of trees being cut down to print books which are then shipped half way across the world, the Kindle means I can have books delivered instantaneously, with minimal carbon footprint.

The current price is $US259.00 plus postage. With New York Times bestsellers available for $US9.99 and classics for a mere $US2.00, I calculate my pay-back period at around twelve months. Not every book is available via Kindle, but at this stage, more than a quarter of a million titles are, so it should be some time before I run out of things to read.

On the bus home from work, feeling bored, I got out my Kindle and surfed the Amazon catalogue to find something I was interested in. It was less than thirty seconds before I had a new book downloaded and was busy reading. Suddenly, I realised I was at my stop, so I quickly flicked the power switch and disembarked. To my delight, when I switched the Kindle back on later, it opened to the same page I had left off. This is going to save me so much time!

Before I committed to the Kindle, I gave some consideration to the alternatives. Friends suggested I try a netbook or an iPhone to read eBooks. By my standards, a netbook is too large, too power hungry, heats up in my hands, lacks the readability of the Kindle. It is also too expensive, given that I already own three computers which provide me with all the additional functionality a netbook might have offered over a Kindle. Most importantly, it operates via WiFi rather than 3G, so spontaneous book purchasing on public transport is not usually an option. An iPhone is also substantially more expensive, has a less readable display, is too small to hold comfortably, and requires a costly contract to access 3G.

For a moment, I felt a bit misty-eyed about the smell and feel of old books, the aromatic beauty of a first edition, the pleasure of a well-thumbed, autographed, underlined tome, read over and over. I soon realised that the Kindle allows me to prioritise my library, so that it’s only the really worthy editions that are physically stored on my shelves, so that I no longer have to rigidly observe the one in, one out rule that torments my book buying excursions. Devices like this one are the beginning of a new era. A better one.

It’s been a big year. I graduated uni, turned 30, took my family to Disneyland, started a new job I really love. I started sleeping through the night (mostly), I made more of an effort to catch up with my friends in real life, I went to yoga practice at least once a week, I went to some amazing concerts. I read all your blog posts. Every single one.

In short, I’ve been happy.

The tricky part is that my sense of humour is directly proportional to my perceived level of misery. Happy=not funny. I tried to think of ways to amuse you – both of you! – but my drafts were drivel. I tried to write serious posts instead, but who wants to listen to me gush about this great job I got, while everyone else is still getting retrenched or working their guts out past their retirement date?

I could have written about the Wettest Winter on Record, but what is there to say? It rained for four fucking months, which just happened to coincide exactly with the dates of the 125 day pedometer challenge I stupidly signed up for.

I could have written about my self-imposed, ten day Bikram yoga challenge. I came; I sweated; I resented; I went home and gorged on Easter chocolate; I didn’t lose a gram.

I could have written about how I started calorie counting for the first time in my life, using one of those email reminder programs. I had just finished uni, so I needed something to feel guilty about. I consistently exceeded my daily allowance by 400 calories for seven days in succession, whereupon I changed my email address so they could no longer find me and shame me.

I could have written about how Fizzy was convinced she could swim if she just willed it hard enough, so she had to be repeatedly plucked out of the swimming pool at my 30th birthday party, graciously hosted by my American sister. It was quite the deterrent to getting drunk, let me tell you. Funnily enough, her howling was mainly due to her fury at being fished out, rather than fear for her life.

I could have written about how I read the entire Twilight series in a fortnight, even though parts of it made me throw up a little in my mouth, and I was convinced I could write much better, if only I would actually just write something, instead of spending all my spare time fantasising about vampires and werewolves.

But none of that is terribly entertaining, and then it started to feel weird and shameful, writing about the tedious minutiae of my humdrum life by night, and then over-analysing people’s reactions by day, just in case they had secretly been reading my blog, connecting that my alias was in fact me and were judging me on what I had written, even as they chatted inanely about the appalling weather, and hasn’t it rained a lot lately?

Anyway, here I am, and I’ve just written what almost amounts to a post, albeit one of those whiny, introspective, apologetic ones, so ta very much for sticking around this far and I possibly might even write again some day. Although I can’t promise anything.

snapped by our budding 3.5-year-old amateur photographer.

snapped by our budding 3.5-year-old amateur photographer.

Sorry for the radio silence, but I’ve just been having so much fun. I’m back now. But I want to go and live in the US.

I dread shopping for jeans. I’m sure the women of the world will agree with me that there is nothing worse. (Except war, famine, disease, climate change and those little stickers they put on fruit). One of the things that makes shopping for jeans so terrible is that I am usually doing it because I’ve gained just that little bit of extra weight that means I can no longer delude myself into the size 8 skinny black jeans hanging forlornly in my closet. Well, I could, but only if I want people to post coins into the back of my pants for the whole day.

It’s no kind of a task to tackle during a weekday lunchbreak. You need time to compare and contrast, to try the wares of three different stores before going back to the one you first thought of. There’s also a very good chance you’ll need a stiff alcoholic drink afterwards, so it had better be a weekend. Of course, this means three things:

1) the demonspawn is not at childcare and must accompany me on my mission;

2) the shopping centre is packed to double its capacity with stir-crazy parents and their small fry, wondering where else to go on a weekend; and

3) I have no choice but to wear the abovementioned skinny jeans since all my work clothes are in the wash.

I walk into the shopping centre, demonspawn doing that thing she does where she pretends to be all angelic to lull everyone into a false sense of security. A man’s eyes trail over me as I enter. Perhaps I’ve still got it after all. ‘That reminds me,’ he says to his mate, ‘let’s go to Muffin Break before we leave.’ Perhaps not.

For a moment, I’m dazzled by the fluorescent lighting and the cacophonous roar of bogan children going wild, but then I’ve synchronised my watch and it’s all on. I need to navigate our way to one of those shops that specialises in jeans. I deftly manoeuvre Fizzy through the crowds, whisking her past stuffed Iggle Piggles and tempting displays of hideous and fragile little knick knacks which retailers cunningly place at child height. They must be aware that no one would ever pay for that crap unless their kid unwittingly broke it.

Our journey takes us to the escalator, where a scary bogan woman is intent on flattening Fizzy with her trolley. I yank Fizz out of the way just in time for the woman to charge ahead of us on to the escalator and then stop abruptly in the exact centre, so that we have no hope of passing her on either side. The journey to the top is only marginally quicker than my career progression, and by the time we disembark, Fizzy has already started singing her favourite tune. You mothers out there know the one. The Wiggles have never managed to knock this number one off the children’s charts. It goes something like this:

‘I’m boooooored

Can we goooo now?

I’m so tiiiiired.

Carry meeeee.’

Feeling the familiar surge in blood pressure, I take a couple of breaths and go to my happy place for a moment, but Brad Pitt has no sooner taken his shirt off than we have arrived at the Jeans Outlet and I am disrupted from my reverie. It’s like walking into a nightclub. The volume of the music violates several local council by-laws and everyone inside is fourteen years old and has a ridiculous haircut.

Somewhere over the last 20 years, shopping for jeans has become unnecessarily complicated. When I was a teenager, all you had to do was save your burger-flipping money for a few weeks, buy a pair of Levi 501s and you were in like Flynn. These days the jargon requires a degree in fashion to decipher. Do I want low rise / mid rise / high rise / straight leg / skinny leg / boot leg / wide leg / button fly / zip fly / blue / indigo / black / grey? I finally settle on a double shot tall skinny latte before I remember that I am buying jeans, not coffee. Now, what size should I try? Shopping with junior in tow, I have only one chance to get this right. There won’t be time to nip out and grab another size off the rack. Plus if I aim too low (or do I mean too high?) and get a size too small, the resulting demoralisation could take years of therapy to reverse. My current jeans are a size 8, but I suspect they were from the school of flattery. I grab a size 11 pair of mid rise, straight leg, stretch, zip fly indigo jeans and my daughter and hustle into the unisex change rooms. Finding an empty cubicle, we dart inside.

‘Just sit on the ledge there for one second,’ I say to Fizzy optimistically. She has the look of a baby tiger. Very cute, but you know at any minute, things could go seriously wrong.

I whip off my jeans and begin unhooking the trial ones from their Fort Knox style hanger. Why didn’t I remember to do this before I took my own pants off? And why does jeans-shopping day have to be the same day as bad-undies day? And honestly, could some marketing guru out there not realise that some flattering lighting and a skinny mirror in the change rooms would probably triple their profits? Apparently not.

Finally, I free the jeans from the clasp and start shimmying into them. Halfway up my thighs, I come to a sudden halt. I breathe in as hard as I can, but for some reason it doesn’t help my thighs much. Come on! These are a size 11. There is just no way that I am going up four dress sizes in a single shopping mission. I am determined to get these babies on. Thinking slinky thoughts, I ease the jeans a little higher, and a little higher. Channelling my pranayama deep breathing practice, I draw up the zip and carefully, carefully fasten the button. It’s time to open my eyes and face the mirror.

It could be worse. I don’t think my legs have ever looked so skinny. However…

My crotch is not just smiling, it’s beaming. For some reason, the word camel floats around in my mind. I wonder if I could somehow draw up the spare tyre of flesh from my waistband and use it to stuff my bra.

It’s not about how they look, it’s about how you feel in them, I tell myself. So I take a couple of steps. But my knees won’t bend.

‘What’s wrong, Mummy?’ Fizzy asks.

‘I’m just going to put my own jeans back on,’ I mutter. Except it comes out as, ‘Grhhhrgrnnnh.’

Alarmed, she darts out under the door of the cubicle. ‘I’ll just wait out here,’ she says.

Quickly, before I fall unconscious from oxygen deprivation, I release the button of the jeans and slip them down my legs. My body ripples back to its usual layout.

Just then, the door flies open. Fizzy has leant against it and it opens inwards.

There I am, standing in my bad undies, opposing mirrors multiplying my cellulite to infinity, in a unisex change room filled with fourteen-year-old models.

Now I really wish I’d had time to wax.

I’m grumpy today. When we went to get into bed at 10pm last night, we discovered that Ruby, locked in the house in our absence, had weed on our bed. Not just a little bit. Oh no. She had produced a puddle, no, a lake, no, an OCEAN of dog wee. As it’s the middle of winter, we had both our doonas, a thermal blanket, sheets and an underlay on the bed. She managed to wee through ALL of it. Naturally, the other set of sheets is still on the line from two weeks ago, waiting for the remote possibility that they might, one day, be dry enough to use again (will this rain ever, ever stop?), so we couldn’t re-make the bed. But in any case, I thought it best that we air the mattress, since I love my bed more than life itself.

So it was that we went out to the loungeroom and slept on the couches. Bobby Mowang had a sleeping bag; I had two cot blankets, an old grey woollen army blanket of my Gran’s from circa WWII and a soft acrylic blanket that had been so thoroughly chewed by moths that it had become lace. The couches are not super comfortable, and the living room curtains do not block out the light, so we took melatonin to make us sleepy. It still took a looong time to doze off.

The bleating began at midnight exactly. ‘Mum and Dad! Mum and Dad!’ I rolled over, trying to ignore it. Maybe if she didn’t get a response, she’d go back to sleep. ‘Mum and Dad! Mum and Dad! MUM AND DAD!!!!’ This went on for half an hour. Finally, I gave in. I went in, comforted Fizzy, gave her some milk to drink, relocated her teddy, reassured her that there were absolutely NO MONSTERS in our house, explained that we were sleeping in the living room in case she needed us, and went back to bed. I mean, to couch. It took a concerted effort to get back to sleep again. At long last, I felt myself drifting off.

‘MUM AND DAD! MUM AND DAD!’ I sat bolt upright in bed, gasping for air, traumatised into wakefulness by the red-headed, demon spawn, semi-literate child.

Three times, we had to get up to her. But that doesn’t account for all the instances of her timing her yells for that exact moment where I began to drift into sleep. I now have a Pavlovian response to getting sleepy. Just as I begin to succumb, my heart starts clanging, my blood pressure elevates and my mouth feels dry, certain that any minute there is going to be screaming.

When the alarm finally went off at 6.30am, I pressed snooze five times before I could drag my unwilling self from the couch. You would think that Fizzy would have been apologetic and grateful this morning. But no. Oh no. She attempted to throw her porridge across the room (prevented only by a lightning reflex catch on Bobby’s part), howled like a banshee, objected to everything I put in her lunchbox and generally reverted to the way she was for her first three years of existence: a miserable, whiny mess. Bobby reacted by stamping around, shouting at her and slamming doors. Ruby freaked out at all the yelling and kept trying to hide under my legs.

I just wanted everybody to leave me alone, except if they were bringing me coffee, in which case they could just put it down there, thanks, and back out of the room slowly, no sudden movements.

Did I mention that my final exams are on Monday and Wednesday?

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