Friday, July 31, 2009

Far Out Brussel Sprout

Last night was my first time to see Eskimo Joe playing their own show. I've seen them a few times at festivals, but this was their show and also at the Hordern, which is one of my preferred venues.

They were supported by Bob Evans, but we missed about half of his set because (among other things such as over-worked friends) I had my first belly dancing class in 4 years last night. That was fun, if somewhat depressing since I could barely manage a hip drop.

Nevertheless, we saw some of it, and thoroughly enjoyed it. There was something slightly bizarre about seeing Kevin Mitchell (who records solo as Bob Evans) supporting Eskimo Joe given the number of times I'm sure Eskimo Joe supported Jebediah (fronted by Mitchell). But his years of experience shone though, and the show was tight and the sound was good.

Eskimo Joe started their set with the first two songs off Inshalla, which sounded very fine - in fact better than the album. Well, except for a wee bit of feedback in Inshalla itself - at least we know the sound engineers were really there. They played a few oldies and came back to quite a few tracks off Inshalla. They are such a great live act, it does leave you wondering why they over-produce themselves so much.

As always, they were very nice. My great aunt would think they were lovely boys. Kav Temperley, like all other rock band front men, did his bit of banter with the audience:
Are you having a good night?

*audience cheers*

It's our job to make sure that when you leave tonight, you say "Far out, that was great. Eskimo Joe rocked the House"

*audience looks a little confused - did he just say "Far out"?*
Some guys behind us called out "Hooley Dooley!". He's so damn nice, he doesn't even swear in his audience participation. Nerida speculated the back-stage conversation went something like this:
You didn't really say "Far out"? There goes any cred we ever had...
To add to all of this, he was also mind-bogglingly pleased that we all showed up, and completely chuffed to be there.

They ended the main set with Black Fingernails, Red Wine, leaving us pondering what the encore would be - From the Sea? A cover? Something with Bob Evans?

All of the above, as it turns out. The cover was We Can Get Together (orginally by Icehouse), which didn't create quite the same level of confusion as Reckless did at The Butterfly Effect. I'm loving this current trend of playing a well-chosen cover at all gigs. I gather covers were quite the rage at Splendour last weekend. Long may it last.

If I was a good photographer like Toni, I'd have some lovely photos of the night, but I don't because I'm not. So you'll have to take my word for it that it was a fantastic night, and if you haven't discovered Eskimo Joe, go give them a listen (although Inshalla is probably not their best - start with Black Fingernails, Red Wine.)

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Kudos to good people

Just a quick post to say: Poisons Information Line - you guys rock!

I got out a tablet to take this morning and got distracted and forgot about it. When I came back after dropping the little ones off, I realised I had forgotten and went back to discover it missing. Couldn't find it anywhere and started to panic that one of the kids may have snatched it.

I rang Poisons Information, told them one of my kids may have swallowed a Telfast, and the lovely lady laughed and said that if they had, they may be a bit out of it for a while, but they'd be fine. I love these people.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Kidspeak snippets

Last night I cooked a slow roasted beef and make Yorkshire pudding. I've never done roast beef before because I've never liked it. But slow roasting is awesome, and the whole meal was great. Ben enjoyed it too. While eating the pudding:

"Did a shop make this and you just put it in the oven?"

I think that is about the highest praise one can get from a 6yr old.

Charlie spent his bed time begging for Ben to play "Six White Bloomers". This creates the best mental pictures - Six white bloomers, snow white bloomers, racing Santa Claus through the blazing sun.

And this evening Elissa erupted into hysterics, saying "scary, scary" over and over because a character in the TV show she was watching got a sausage wished onto her nose. She didn't calm down until the sausage was gone.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Keep your poverty out of my face

The Alice Springs council has hit upon a magnificent way to further racism without discomforting any of its white inhabitants (or realistically anyone who has sufficient means to look after themselves).

The ABC have reported that the council has put out a set of by-laws for public comment. They include such things as being able to remove and destroy the blankets of homeless people that are stashed away during the day by their owners. Currently, rangers are allowed to remove them from their hidey holes, but are obliged to return them to an Indigenous organisation. From the above-linked article:

The Mayor of Alice Springs, Damien Ryan, says the new by-laws are what the community wants.

"Begging is an issue that is not very acceptable in the fact that people prey on other people, they prey on the elderly, they prey on visitors, they prey on families," he said.

"I mean begging, or humbugging, is something that is not appreciated in the community.

"We don't have anyway to stamp that out, that's why this has been brought about."

Yes, please keep your filthy poverty out of my face. How dare you show up how much our society has failed you?

The Mayor has denied racism, but realistically, the fact that the retrieved blankets are currently returned to an "Indigenous organisation" belies that. Not to mention that whether it is racist or classist hardly matters, it is stomping on those most disadvantaged instead of facing up to the challenge of addressing that disadvantage.

Don't get me wrong, I have an inkling of the problems faced by a council trying to deal with endemic poverty in an indigenous population. There are no quick fixes, generations of disadvantage can't be wiped away with a grant or a new house. But I think I can fairly confidently say that kicking the poorest of your people in the teeth is unlikely to resolve any long standing social issues.

Monday, July 27, 2009


Maybe it's the fact that there is a whole month of winter left, or frustration with our stupid school system or maybe it's just me, but I've got a desperate urge for massive change.

I want a different job, or no job. I want a new car (despite knowing that there isn't a single car on the market which I want to buy at the moment). I want to change Ben's school. I want to re-decorate the house. I want to move somewhere completely different. I want to clear out all the stuff we don't need.

I suspect I'm looking for a magic bullet for myriad little problems. Just ordinary, boring family issues and dramas, but the everyday ups and downs are in a positive interference phase, on the downward peak. It will all go back to white noise soon enough, but it's a good thing I am the laziest person on earth*, because otherwise we might be driving a combi, living in a yurt in Far North Queensland with almost no possessions and growing blueberries by the time it does.

* I blogged it first, I win. :P to @mimbles and @FPoliteness

Sunday, July 26, 2009

This is a fun game

Mim flagged this game from Fillijonk at Shapely Prose (I'm a touch behind in my blog reading - AGAIN). Fillijonk asked people to describe their souls.

I played in Mim's comments, but since I got carried away and made up descriptions for my whole family, I thought I'd re-post it here.

I think my soul is a 3 course meal for 20, with only 6 guests.

Crash's is, without a doubt, a knight in shining armour and a silly hat.

Ben's soul is an invigilator. A very kind one.

Charlie's soul is a ball of orange fire.

Elissa's soul is clearly still very much under construction, but right now it is a Mogwai, who is occasionally fed after midnight.

Go read Mim's too, it's very cool. As are most of the ones in the comments on SP. My favourite was Trabb's Boy's boss who is, apparently, cherry jello filled with thumbtacks. I think I know that boss.

Back to school

As expected, I am ready for the school holidays to be over. It's a two step process, since Charlie goes back to pre-school tomorrow but Ben's teachers need a day to get their heads around the fact that they signed up to teach infants school, so he doesn't go back until Tuesday. It doesn't bother me much - it's Charlie I need to get back to pre-school.

I knew pre-school had been good for Charlie, but these holidays have really highlighted how much he needs that structured environment. By the first Tuesday of the holidays he was already starting to be unhappy, and take that out on the rest of us. We have had two weeks of shouting, stomping, throwing things and, consequently, time-outs. Tonight he was telling me he doesn't like the end of the day (a very standard complaint), and I told him that the end of the day made it much closer to time for pre-school. He was much, much calmer after that.

And so I start another round of "what am I going to do with him next year?". It would take a evolutionary change to make him ready to start school, but I really think he's going to need five days of structure. We can't get five days of pre-school (and we couldn't afford it anyway), family day care is not cutting it for Charlie, and so it looks like I am going to have to look at long day care.

Has anyone else had a similar experience with a kid who turned five in June/July and needed a more formal environment but wasn't ready for school at four and a half? Does a long day care/pre-school combo work well or cause confusion? I love the pre-school he goes to, and wouldn't like to have to abandon it completely, but it is 3 days max, and even then it isn't a good 3 days for us work-wise.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Dinner or the Beans - Update #2

Tonight Charlie chose the dinner and the beans.

He also ate the dinner and the beans. This probably means he ate the healthiest meal of the lot of them. And all this after eating two bananas for afternoon tea at about 4pm.

Apart from having to remember to buy a lot of beans, I'm seeing more up sides than down at this stage.

The experiment continues.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Is it so hard to design a decent park?

Yesterday I took the kids to Sydney Park. I'd love to be able to show you lovely photos of children frolicking, but I simply didn't have time to pull out the camera. So here is Scorpio Queen's excellent photo of the bike track

Photo credit: Scorpio Queen

Those are working traffic lights, and there was about 100 kids on all kinds of wheels using it yesterday. The boys had a fantastic time, and Ben very proudly told me that he had learned and obeyed all the road rules. Unfortunately, there is nothing else in this part of the park, and Elissa got bored of wandering around the grass and attempting to cause traffic jams on the bike track long before the boys got bored of riding.

Nevertheless, I convinced the boys to go to the new "All Abilities" playground. My first impression was that it was very cool. I really liked the huge slippery dips embedded in the hill. So we found another family we knew and sat down. Very, very briefly.

This photo is from the website I linked at the top. The fact that you can't see much basically sums up my first complaint. The visibility in this place is a nightmare. There are bumps and hills and children disappear in an instant. And see that really big hill with the slippery dips I liked? Behind that is a very tempting looking hill for sliding down - straight into an unfenced car park which then opens onto the Princes Highway. So not only can you not see your kids, there isn't even any chance that someone else will.

And then there is the "All Abilities" tag. I presume this refers to the kids, because while I am no expert on assessing accessibility, I am guessing that anyone with a mobility impairment would have the option of sitting on the grass opposite the playground. It is all narrow, windy paths with uneven surfaces. And then paths peter out to nothing, but kids can happily dart through the gardens to other places you can't see and can't easily reach - even on two good legs.

The boys loved it. If your kid can be relied on to stay in the designated area, it is a fantastic park. There is a raised sandpit with water to make it even more fun. There's a big range of things to do and places to explore. However, unless your idea of a fun trip to the park is always being within 8 feet of your child, I'd recommend you steer well clear of it with toddlers.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Out Damn Father!

A friend sent me a link (thanks!) to this article from a UK obstetrician, asking for my thoughts. I gave a few flippant responses, and a couple of more thoughtful ones, but it keeps bugging me, so I thought I'd pull it apart in some more depth.

You may have seen it, it was a London-based obstetrician expounding his belief that fathers should not be present at the birth of their babies.

The first quote is this:
For many years, I haven't been able to speak openly about my views that the presence of a father in a delivery room is not only unnecessary but also hinders labour.
Anyone who starts out with such a sweeping generalisation has me on side from the get-go. I was not disappointed:

But, having been involved in childbirth for 50 years and having been in charge of 15,000 births, I feel it's time to state what I - and many midwives and obstetricians - privately consider the obvious: that there's little good to come, for either sex, from having a man at the birth of a child
I love a man who is "in charge", especially of someone else's labour and delivery. I also note that the "obvious" need for a ban on men at births exempts his good self.

He then goes into some physiological discussion:
First, a labouring woman needs to be protected against any stimulation of the thinking part of her brain, the neocortex, for labour to proceed with any ease. ... Yet, motivated by a desire to "share the experience'', the man asks questions and offers words of reassurance and advice. In doing so, he denies his partner the quiet mind she needs.
I'm in support of his first statement. There is no doubt that your brain is working in a really different way, especially at the pointy end of labour. But there is a whole lot of labour when that is just not true, and some chit chat is most helpful. Of course, your average obstetrician never sees that bit, so it is obviously an irrelevant part of labour.

It seems to me that even if it were true that all men "asked questions and offered words of reassurance", it hardly means they need to be banished. From my own experience, if Crash was doing those things, it had no impact on my neocortex - it was out to lunch and only came back for important things like the sound of a gas bottle running out. However, I am not the sum total of the global birthing experience, so it is completely plausible that this does cause problems for some women. So perhaps we could like, tell the fathers that talking to a labouring woman who has checked her neocortex at the door is counter-productive? They are keen to have it all over and done with just like everyone else. In fact, I reckon many would give a great sigh of relief that they didn't have to think of supportive things to say any more.

The second reason is that the father's release of the stress hormone adrenalin as he watches his partner labour causes her anxiety and prevents her relaxing.

It has been proven that it is physically impossible to be in a state of relaxation if there's an individual standing next to you who is tense and full of adrenalin.

With a man present, a woman cannot be as relaxed as she needs to be during labour. Hence, the process becomes more difficult.

I have been with many women as they struggled to give birth, with their partner at their side. Yet, the moment he leaves the room, the baby arrives.

OK, more plausible science mixed with sweeping generalisations. I'd like to see some actual data (rather than Super Obstetrician's assertion) that even a majority of fathers are "tense and full of adrenaline".

After birth, too, a woman needs a few moments with her baby, particularly between the time of birth and when she delivers the placenta.

In order to deliver the placenta easily, her levels of oxytocin - the hormone of love - need to peak.

This happens if she has a moment in which she can forget everything, save for her baby, and if she has time in which she can look into the baby's eyes, make contact with its skin and take in its smell, without distractions.

Often, when a baby is born, men cannot help but say something or try to touch the baby.

Their interference at this key moment is, more often than not, the main cause for a difficult delivery of the placenta, too.

WTF? "The hormone of love"? I don't doubt the need for women to be with their babies just after delivery, but I have very serious doubts that it is most often the fathers who interfere with that. It seems far more likely that it is medical staff. Actually, strike that, I do doubt the need for women to be their babies, I don't doubt their right to be with them.

After my first was born, I certainly forgot everything. Pretty much the baby included. I wasn't in any way overwhelmed with emotion for him. I was overwhelmed with a feeling of emptiness - in a good way. When he was born I thought he was dead. It was only looking at the slightly bored, business-as-usual manner of the midwife and obstetrician that convinced me he was ok. I don't remember any particularly strong emotion with that observation. I was a little scared, but it wasn't overwhelming. He did need to be taken to the nursery after I had a cuddle, because the suction wasn't working in the birth centre. I was going to say that I was glad that his father was there to go with him, but to tell the truth, I don't remember feeling that. What I remember was how good the cheese sandwich tasted and the utterly awesome feeling of swallowing without immediate heartburn. It was all about me. And the placenta found its way out, I only vaguely remember that too.

Again, I am not definitive, but if I had a completely different experience, I'm guessing I am also not unique. Not to mention the fact that I don't recall Crash interfering with my cuddling or feeding any of our children, it simply isn't true that all men do this. If someone pointed out to those who do that it is really uncool for reasons X, Y & Z (before the delivery), I'm sure even fewer would.
There are two other important questions I would like to see answered scientifically.
Fair call, I can't argue with such a request.

The first is: are we sure that all men can easily cope with the strong emotional reaction they have when they participate in the birth?

Over the years, I've seen something akin to post-natal depression in men present at birth.

In its mild form, men take to their bed in the week following the birth, complaining of everything from stomach ache or migraine to a 24-hour bug.

It's well known by those who study depression that, rather than admit a low mood, men often offer up a symptom as a reason why they've taken to their bed.

Right. Where do we start? Oh, the poor menz can't cope with the stress of ... someone else's delivery. I'll come back to that, because I think there may be some merit to the question. However, the evidence? That men "take to their bed in the week following the birth"? To quote myself in my inital response to this (edited for typos) - Clearly it's the birth itself that causes men to have a moment or two in the week following - 'cos it sure as hell couldn't be the stress of the actual baby, or the ups and downs of the mum's emotions in that week, or dealing with elder siblings if there are any or anything else at all that I can think of.

The final question I would like answered is what, if a man is present at birth, will be the effect on the sexual attraction he feels towards his wife?

When men began standing at their partner's side in labour, I remember my mother's generation saying that the couple's intimate life would be ruined.

And, given that the key to eroticism is a degree of mystery, I'm left believing they had a point.

Really, honestly, I can't think of anything other than - what a dick. I mean seriously, if this is such an issue, we'd have a lot more only children. I think perhaps he should stop listening to his mother's generation and start listening to the one that has actually had fathers in the delivery room. Just a thought.

What annoys me the most about this ridiculous little piece, is that he raises some interesting issues and then distracts from them with spectacular fail.

We have reached a cultural opposite - it is virtually unthinkable for a father not to be present at a birth unless as a result of exceptional circumstances. Perhaps it is reasonable to ask the question whether this is always the best option. Some men may, in fact, be a hindrance to the process, especially if they really don't want to be there and genuinely can't cope. If his claims are backed up by evidence, then a "shut up and stay calm or leave" policy might be reasonable. There is validity to asking whether we should always condemn men for not being at a birth, and certainly for women in the habit of not putting their partners out in any way (still disturbingly common), it might go better for them if the father wasn't there. But all of this is mere speculation. It needs science to back it up and then a willingness for us to accept that our current practice might not always be best practice. Of course, it also requires a willingness for everyone to accept that best practice might differ from couple to couple. Then again, for once lesbian couples would have more rights than straight couples under this guy's regime.

I was a little surprised at how well Crash handled the deliveries. He's a guy with a bit of a knight in shining armour complex at the best of times, and I thought he would really struggle to handle seeing me in pain and not being able to do anything. I guess the ante-natal classes that warned him that this would be the case in a very specific way actually worked. But it is reasonable that some men may still not be able to cope. That the whole process could be too much for them. It is for some women. If that's true (again, I'm not prepared to take the word of Super Obstetrician), then everyone is probably better off is they aren't there, and they shouldn't be villified for it. Just like women who really don't cope with labour shouldn't be villified for choosing caesars.

I have read so many birth stories that are so different from mine, they are not even on a spectrum, they fill a whole scatter plot. The idea that there is a one-size-fits-all delivery is ridiculous. But since this post is based on one person's opinion, I'll finish with mine.

Despite the fact that I had a wonderful obstetrician who works in the birth centre and shares care with the midwives, I always felt that she was largely unnecessary at the birth itself. I went to her for the ante-natal care. The midwives gave me all the support and provided all the experience I needed. The father of my children, on the other hand, provided both figurative and literal support throughout the delivery - you know, from waters breaking to "ok, you can go now, I want to sleep". He literally held me up while I delivered two of them. I really couldn't have done it without him. Given the choice between father and obstetrician, I know who I'd choose.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

School holiday chaos

We have had some good days during these holidays, but others have been a bit of a struggle. Yesterday, we needed to be in the city for a late afternoon meeting. Since we needed to get a baby sitter for that anyway, we thought we may as well stay out and see Harry Potter. The only session we could get by the time we got to the cinema was 8:30pm, so it was destined to be a late night.

When your phone rings in a movie theatre, it is never a good thing. (It was on silent.) It is even less of a good thing when it is the babysitter, and the first thing you hear through the phone is a crying child. So I climbed over the 8 or 10 people between me and the aisle and went out to take the call. Elissa had croup, and it was bad enough to terrify her and Ginny. I talked Ginny through the medication and figured we'd make it to the end (we were in the cave with Harry and Dumbledore - there couldn't be much left). She rang again to tell me she couldn't find he medication, which fortunately for me and the other 8 or 10 people, took place in a noisy bit and I was able to sort it without leaving my seat.

And this point I would like to make a full & unreserved apology to all those people sitting in row F at the George St cinemas last night who got trompled on by a stressed out mother in one of the big action scenes. If I had had a choice in seating, I would not have chosen the dead centre of the row.

We decided a cab home was a better choice than a train, and got home to find Ginny bleary eyed sitting beside a calm toddler with an uncanny resemblance to Darth Vadar. We upped the medication ante to dexamethosone, and Crash stayed up with her for an hour and then put her down. It lasted about 30 minutes before she started up the stridor again. I stayed in her room to keep track of her, and by 2:20am she was really bad. I decided I really was going to have to take her to hospital, so I loaded her up and within about 3 mins she was quiet again. By the time I got to the hospital I decided they would stick the large "Loony Mum" sticker on her file if I took her in, so I took her home again. Apparently driving her around alleviates her croup quite well. As soon as she laid down again, it started again, but not as bad as it had been. She was finally sleeping quietly at 6:20am, at which time I went to bed. Ben got up about 5 minutes later...

Today has been an utter right-off. Elissa obviously couldn't go to daycare, I didn't drag my bones out of bed until midday (apart from a few tantrum diffusings) and Ben did not get to go the Powerhouse as promised. He has been the picture of misery all day.

She had better sleep tonight, Sydney Park has been promised for tomorrow....

Friday, July 17, 2009

The Dinner or the Beans - update

It's been almost a week since we began The Dinner or The Beans. So far Charlie has eaten baked beans every night for 6 nights. Tonight he ate them with pasta, which is actually a step up from BBQ sauce, which is what he normally has with pasta. He's also eaten beans with various vegetables and all sorts of stuff. Ben has mostly eaten the dinner, as has Elissa. We've only had one meltdown over dinner, compared with an average of every second night, so I'd say that's a win.

I need to keep an eye on Charlie's protein intake, but I don't think it's a big issue at the moment. So we'll play it into another week, and see how it continues to evolve.

One perfect day

I spend a lot of time whinging, so I thought I'd balance that up, and tell you about yesterday.

Ben was at a kids' art day on Wednesday and left his backpack there. It was in Darlington, and I thought rather than making a chore of collecting it yesterday morning, I would take Ben with me and we could visit the book shop in Newtown I rather love (Better Read Than Dead), and then go and buy him some sorely needed new shoes.

We got off to a great start with him deciding he would rather stay at home, but I dragged him out, whinging, anyway. After 5 minutes he was chatting away happily and the day really started. We collected his bag (from a much nicer person than had been there the day before) and headed up to Newtown. I performed the perfect reverse park. This bears mentioning, since I can't reverse park to save my life.

We went to the book shop and were slightly disappointed to discover that the book I wanted was out of print in hardback - looks like I am going to have to buy it from the US. Ben loved it, though - as he was browsing the picture books he asked "Why isn't everyone in here?". He picked one book to buy and we headed off for lunch.

He decided on pies, and then chatted with the woman in the pie shop in such a way that I felt it necessary to point out that his lovely nature is all his doing, I don't take credit for it.

We had a wander through Pentimento, a fun little shop with stunning books, jewellery, handbags, crockery and various other odds & sods. Ben was engaged and interested in everything. Back on the street, he was pointing out the mosaics in the foot path in Church St and the fig in the church yard.

We headed out to DFO to buy him some shoes, and we managed to find him 3 pairs of shoes for $45 at Rivers. He tried on about 7 or 8 pairs. He didn't whinge or resist or anything! I can't even manage that when buying shoes. It was just so damn satisfying.

Later on, our babysitter relieved us of our parenting duties for an evening and we went back to Newtown and spent the night at Zanzibar. We'd had a pretty good day work-wise, so we were celebrating that as well as having an evening to ourselves. Fantastic tapas and very fine cocktails made by very fine cocktail waiters. Possibly one too many of those very fine cocktails in fact. And a lovely, relaxed night chatting and enjoying each others' company.

One perfect day. There should be more of 'em.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Privilege wars

There was an interesting post regarding the interactions between racism and traditional body image issues on Shapely Prose the other day, which lead to a discussion which lead to a lot of argument. The first complaint was the that comment thread had been derailed, which was completely valid - I tend to forget about that aspect of many blogs' commenting policies since I love a good derail in my everyday life or in any conversation I am involved in. However, SP ain't my forum, so this is irrelevant.

However, the second aspect of the complaint I have a problem with, and I think it is why I get so annoyed about many of the discussions about white privilege.

A brief synopsis of the whole situation is that a post about one person's experience of internalising the racism that permeated her life diverged into a general conversation of the experience of racism and then white privilege. And then a few people started to talk about how white privilege might not be the universal that it tends to be promoted as, mostly by quoting the experiences of white people in places such as the Middle East and Japan. This was Kate Harding's interpretation of that chain:
A post about a woman of color experiencing racism throughout her life in the U.S. has now turned into a thread about white women trying to prove that they’ve been victims, too!
I feel more than slightly disingenuous here, because I don't deny KH's right to require that comments stay on topic, but she put the point so succinctly that I want to use it to illustrate why I have problems with the routine discussions of white privilege. I may well be misrepresenting her overall views on white privilege - I am speaking to these words, not her views.

Discussions about white privilege routinely speak about white experience as a universal - all white people live in a position of privilege. I rail against this, because my experience is that this is simply not true. And I am not saying this because I haven't benefitted from it. I live as a white person in a white country. However, I have seen enough of other countries to know that being white means diddly squat - or less - in many places. Another comment in that thread dismissed discussions of a different experience of white privilege in Japan as a unique anomaly.

Just because most people in North America have little experience of places where white is inferior, doesn't mean those places don't exist. To dismiss those cultures as irrelevent to the discussion is, well, arrogant. And this has nothing to do with me or any other white people. It seems incredibly disrespectful of the cultures who have no hint of white privilege.

As some commenters pointed out, to suggest that the Japanese beauty ideal of white skin has anything to do with Caucasians is ludicrous, and suggests that Caucasians just can't get their head around other people not thinking their default appearance is attractive.

Other comments mentioned that the only reason some places don't show any evidence of white privilege is historically based rage against white imperialism. Quite, but I'm not sure... well I'm not sure what that means. Actually, I do know what it means. The point of bringing this up is to say that the white experience is not the same in those countries as the experience of PoC in North America. Well, no, it isn't. But that fact is only relevant if I'm bringing up the issue to say "White people are oppressed too!", which I'm not.

The notion of white privilege seems to have been defined in North America and exported globally. I also find that when people go into more detail about white privilege, not all of it is even relevant in Australia. However, regularly when the universality is questioned, the questioner is accused of making it all about themselves and white people. It just isn't. Racism has many basic themes that are universal, however the targets are different all over the world, and the subtle ways that racism interacts with the rest of the culture differs dramatically, even between North America, the UK and Australia, nevermind primarily non-white cultures.

However, that discussion made me realise one of the gifts I was given being born white in a white country. I have been on the receiving end of a wee bit of racism (fairly nasty stuff, but extremely infrequent) from people from other countries, and it has never really bothered me. That discussion and my thinking on it made it clear to me that this is because I am very unlikely to internalise that treatment. I live where I am the default and acceptable in terms of race. If people want to question my ability based on race, that is their problem and not mine. It's really easy to know that in your heart when you didn't grow up having your race derided.

So I am happy to look at what being white has brought me, but I still can't quite cope with the standard, North American definition of white privilege.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Inside-out school scarf

Ben now has his first Mum-made knitted item. I have finished the inside-out scarf I started a few weeks ago.

That strange colour choice is the school colours. I figured he'd get more wear out of it as a school scarf than anything else. The stripes are made by knitting with both colours at the same time on circular needles, dropping every second stitch into the middle of the fabric by knitting below.

It still needs blocking to make sure the edges stay well tucked under, but it shouldn't change the way it looks.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Dinner strategies

I have a new strategy with dinner. I was getting mightily sick of either the kids whinging about dinner, or eating only kid-friendly food. Cos you know, I'm the only person on earth who has ever had this problem, everyone else's kids eat everything from stews to stir fries, and beef to brussells sprouts.

Anyhoo, I made red curry over the weekend which we ate last night. It had a wee bit of chili in it, but my red curry is pretty mild. Still, I figured if the kids ever had a reason to complain, this was it. So I offered curry or baked beans. I got one taker for the curry, Charlie & Elissa had baked beans (although Elissa might well have eaten the curry). Tonight I made tacos, and as I was making the mince, I added a little more cayenne pepper and thought - taco mince or baked beans. All 3 elected baked bean soft tacos tonight. But I like it. And they still got cheese, tomato, cucumber & lettuce with it.

So we have a new policy - the Dinner or the Beans. If nothing else, they may get so sick of baked beans they might actually try something new. And I can cook pretty much whatever I like.

How long do you give it? It can't possibly work, it's too easy. But I shall cling to hope for as long as it lasts.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Meta post - Facebook strangeness

My blog posts here get thrown up on Facebook as well. In all the time this has been happening, they have never made a ripple. Now suddenly, this week, there is a flurry of comments and discussion. Weirdness. Perhaps if people start to comment then it is more likely to turn up in other people's feeds? I don't tend to pay much attention to the machinations of FB, perhaps this is obvious. Still, odd.

The Butterfly Effect

My sister very kindly indulged me and came to see The Butterfly Effect with me last night. I first saw them at the Big Day in 2004

Image credit: The Butterfly Effect

I didn't know who they were, but they blew me away, and I bought their album. Then I saw them again at BDO 2009.

I've missed the few other occasions that have arisen to see them on their own, so I jumped on this one.

Calling All Cars and Dead Letter Circus were the supports. We missed the beginning of Calling All Cars, but caught the current single, Not Like Anybody and rather enjoyed them.

Dead Letter Circus had technical problems, I think. The vocals were... kinda missing. At least the bottom end was. It looked like we were listening to him through other people's mics. This did them a disservice, their recorded sound is fantastic. Despite the sound being less than ideal, they were a great act. Their appearance alone was amusing enough - a serious, Michael Stipe-ish lead singer, an old school 80's metal long haired drummer (shirtless of course), a scruffy looking bass player sporting a less-than-flattering headband and an ill-fitting T-shirt and finally a college-boy guitarist in a nice button up shirt and bouffant. The bass player's antics on stage were hilarious. I'd be interested to see them again when I could hear the vocals.

The Butterfly Effect came on stage to the strains of Money for Nothing, and then Clint started to sing and I fell in love a little more -
with both the band and Clint. They were awesome. They had an amazing display of art behind them, some photos, some abstract imagery. I would have been fascinated if I'd been able to look anywhere other than Clint for more than a few moments. He has that indefinable stage presence - not to mention a serious talent to start off slow, build passionately, with perhaps a quiet, intimate interlude and then finish off with spectacular intensity. Again, and again.


They did a cover of Reckless by Australian Crawl, which confused some elements of the very diverse crowd, but it was one of those truly fantastic covers. The first verse was true to the original, but the chorus and much of the rest of the song was sped up (an improvement, frankly), except for that divine little guitar solo which was played with genuine respect.

I could do without the fake encore, but it was brief, and they came back for only two songs. It was a heap of fun being on the edge of what passed for the mosh, although it was fairly sedate. As mentioned, it was a wonderfully mixed crowd. However, to the woman in the very high stilettos and the Glomesh bag: No matter how much you might want to impress your date for the night, I really don't recommend those shoes for a dance floor concert.

It is no surprise that The Butterfly Effect rates regularly amongst people's fav live acts.

Milestone marking again

Warning: This post contains graphic descriptions of wee & poo.

The morning was trundling along, swimming was done with, trains were being played with, and then Elissa mentioned she had a poo. "Big poo." No kidding. The nappy had failed in its most basic of duties, and Elissa was covered in poo from the waist down, including her shoes.

I transported her upstairs (don't ask how I did this, but I'm fairly sure the hold I was using was legal) and quickly determined that a shower was the only option. Unfortunately, she decided she wasn't showering alone, so I had to join her. I cleaned up the bulk of the mess first, working on the theory that if I was having a shower, I might as well be actually clean after it.

After cleanliness was restored, I sat her on the mat on the floor wrapped in a towel and thought I'd make a bid for a quick sit on the potty. She chose to take me up on the offer, and up the ante by having a wee. I would have been completely and utterly over the moon about this, had she actually been sitting properly on the potty. Not so much. So now she was covered in wee from the waist down, and so was one half of my bathroom. I did try to talk it up, but she mostly looked bemused. I guess watching me work out how to clean the mess up was far more interesting.

In the end, the entire episode, including mopping the bathroom floor, and every other surface she had walked over before I spotted the catastrophic nappy failure, took about an hour. There have been more glorious milestones.

PS Next post will be about The Butterfly Effect, and should involve no poo whatsoever.

Friday, July 10, 2009

The end of the term

It's been a long term, everyone's nerves are frazzled, the kids are exhausted and so are their parents. I know that in two weeks I'll be hanging for them to go back to school. But right now, I am very glad that the term is over. Two weeks of no requirement for uniforms, home readers, homework or remembering library books. (To be honest, Ben has been almost exclusively responsible for his library books, I probably only provided reminders twice all term.)

Cheers to everyone that needs this holiday. Best wishes for the lurgi to be kept at bay and some fine weather for throwing the kids out into the park for a few hours.

Thursday, July 09, 2009

Us & Them

I'm sure all Aussies have enjoyed the stories coming from the HMAS Success about a delightful competition between the sailors to score the most points in a harmless little game of "bonk the bimbo". It followed the familiar format of higher points for harder targets. Can't imagine why there's been such a kerfuffle really...

The interesting thing to me has been the average reaction of people I've chatted to about this. The pretty standard response has been along the lines of "Yeah, well, this is what happens when you get a bunch of men, barely out of school, together. This is classic school-boy mentality."

It's fair to say there is a bit of a theme of this sort of behaviour in arenas where men go directly from school to a massively male-dominated world - football, cricket, single sex colleges and no doubt plenty of others. Observations of this trend tend to be followed with comments about not being required to grow up.

So I'm wondering, why is the objectification of women standard schoolboy mentality? I don't pretend to have the comprehensive answer to this, but I suspect it has something to do with the way teenagers go through the process of differentiating themselves from their family, and eventually, hopefully, from everyone else as well. You start by identifying with your peers and adopting something of a group mentality. Since most of the time kids are in gender groups at this stage, it tends to involve pretty stereotypical views of the opposite sex. Boys see girls as prizes to be won, girls see themselves as clearly superior to boys (despite defining themselves through the eyes of those same boys - I didn't say their views were logical or consistent).

These simplistic views are broken down as we all start to identify with our selves, rather than our groups, by virtue of gaining more experience and learning about other people as individuals. How broken down they get is highly variable. However, I firmly believe that to break them down effectively, you need to interact with people of the opposite gender - and not just in courtship.

I think this is at the heart of why I don't like single sex schools. It is very easy to maintain the "Us and Them" mentality when you never have to interact with "Them" except in very prescribed roles. It's much easier for the boys to grow up seeing women as objects to be won and lost, and for girls to grow up believing that boys aren't really capable of anything better than that anyway. Or of cooking, child-rearing, cleaning or managing a bank account.

Don't get me wrong, if there is no required interaction in a co-ed school, it probably has no benefit in this regard. And people who go to single sex schools who have other interactions with "Them" can and do develop appropriate, complex views of both genders. It just seems to me that the more we separate the genders, the easier it is to justify the binary, to maintain the "Us and Them".

I have a number of issues with single sex schools, this is just one that only crystallised recently. By far my biggest issue with single sex schools is that as it stands, my kids will have to go to one. Unless they all manage to get into the local selective school, which I also have a problem with.

My current options are:
Single sex public high school
Co-ed elective high school (with the massive assumption that my kids get in)
Private (Catholic, I think) co-ed high school

My current strategy is to hope that in the next 5 years someone decides to merge the single sex public schools into a co-ed. Seems the most productive option.

One thing has become abundantly clear to me over the years of debating schooling options with other people - I rate social outcomes WAY higher than academic ones. At least for high schools. Primary school is a very different matter.

This is because if my kids come out of school with dodgy grades, they can make up for it later, if they come out arseholes, it's a lot harder to recover...

Wednesday, July 08, 2009

Tuesday, July 07, 2009

Amnesty Butterflies

Amnesty International are running a campaign for awareness and justice for the "Comfort Women" forced into sexual slavery by the Japanese military during WWII.

These women were held prisoner and raped for years on end, and when they were finally released, they were told never to speak out or they and their families would be murdered. Few of these women survive today, but those that do tell stories of shame and terror. Send a butterfly to K.Rudd and show your support for these women in asking world leaders to demand justice for them.
Click on the butterfly to create your own

Sunday, July 05, 2009

Party, party, party

Today was the mega 4th birthday party. We were down 2 children (probably due to illness considering the amount of it going around), but it was a fine showing nonetheless.

I dreaded this one, 15 kids with an average age of 4 for 3 hours, I had no idea how I would cope. It turned out, what I did was drank tea and watched them go round and round on the slippery dip.

Nicely lining up and taking turns.

Even the little slippery dip was in demand.

To all of the parents at Charlie's party, let me say you have delightful children and they may come again any time. And also, you, yourselves, are truly wonderful people who helped all day and made the party a success.

Much food was eaten. Elissa was rather fond of the jelly, if a touch lazy.

Charlie had some serious chocolate eating to do.

The cake finally made its appearance, complete with sparklers. Charlie had been very impressed with the sparkler he was presented with at Pancakes last night, so I added some for the entrance.

We didn't end up with a very flattering photo of the cake - mostly because I am slack and didn't ice it carefully enough to the bottom (since I couldn't really see it from above), but anyway, here is the echidna, with its little flower patch to hold the candles.

Then there was the opening of the loot, and Charlie scored some pretty cool loot.

As soon as the formalities were over, they all disappeared back outside, and kept sliding while the sun set.
It was a good day. Charlie had a ball and nearly all of his best friends were there. Thanks to all who helped (with a special mention to Nerida for supplying scones and lemon cupcakes, Mum for extra kid wrangling and Ginny for balloon inflation).

Saturday, July 04, 2009

Happy Birthday Charlie

The US is preparing for a festival of fireworks, but 4th July in our family is all about Charlie. Today he turned 4. He asked if he could go to a restaurant for dinner - "the one near the Opera House." This is Pancakes at the Rocks, not Bennelong. However, it was still a monumental effort, because it required a train trip and a ferry ride (the latter just for amusement, not transport). I would have dismissed it entirely, but he asked nicely, and I just can't resist Charlie when he asks nicely. Good thing it doesn't happen often.

So now he's 4. He's his own man, needs his space and makes his own decisions. That last point is rather critical just at the moment. We aren't so much parenting him as managing him. If he feels that someone else has made a decision for him, he screams "NO!" and refuses to co-operate, even if he actually agrees with the decision.

On the other hand, he's endlessly amusing, incredibly cuddly and just so...strange. He's also slowly making that transition to independence - mostly dressing himself and so on, but still occasionally feeling the need to babied.

I'm looking forward to this year. 3 is not a great year, the whinge turns on and doesn't seem to have an off-switch. 4 is all about getting more control over yourself, and I suspect the Charlie we will see by the end of this year will be a very different kid. I'm pretty sure I adore the person he wants to be, but just doesn't have the self control to make it happen.

Happy Birthday Charlie Bear, we love you to bits and can't wait to see who you'll be this year.

Friday, July 03, 2009

More old news

I have been listening to Hack episodes from 3 weeks ago, and so just heard about the woman and her boyfriend who have been charged with procuring a miscarriage (and supporting a person who is ....). WTF?

In case anyone was wondering why abortion needs to be legalised, as opposed to its current, "illegal but you can make a defense" status, this is it.

Essentially, for reasons undisclosed (and irrelevant, really), the woman in question used a drug to induce her own abortion. She used a drug routinely used in abortion all over the world. However, Queensland law only allows for surgical abortion, any termination using medication is on shaky legal grounds. Caroline De Costa, a Queensland obstetrician has been campaigning on this point for some time, and hasn't managed to raise any formal response from politicians or the state's Attorney General.

I can't help thinking that the Powers That Be think that De Costa has been nitpicking - that the law is fine. Yes, it might only specify surgery, but no-one would suggest it didn't cover medical abortion. Only some bright spark in Cairns has suggested it. I think this because I never assume malice when stupidity will do.

So if you are wondering why the law needs to be changed from what seems to have been working for so long, consider this couple who are the first to be charged with this offense in 50 years. If you keep a law that allows you to shoot Scotsmen with a bow and arrow between 6pm and 6am, one day, someone will shoot one.

Thursday, July 02, 2009

Charlie's hat

Charlie's hat was finished today - it took me a couple of days to get around to making the pom pom that was demanded.

The pattern is an Australian one, much to my surprise, and you can find it here. I added hat elastic to keep the band's tension (if I make it again, I will use smaller needles for the band, at least for that kind of wool) and after this shot was taken, I also stitched the band permanently up to stop it falling down over his eyes.

Since this is already a post about Charlie, I'll share this quote (with apologies to those who have already seen this on Twitter)

Charlie: You know that fire at Grandma's house? ... Did you get killed in that?

Me: Do I look like I got killed?

Charlie: Yes.

Methinks I failed somewhere. :)

Actually, I speculate that he doesn't know that killed = dead. Killed is what happens to people in Star Wars. Dead is something that happens to him if he gets hit by a train.

Wednesday, July 01, 2009

Love my friends award

Wow, I got an award from Mim at Mim's Muddle!

The Love My Friends Award is given to those bloggers who aspire, inspire and share the most beautiful of human attributes: art, wisdom and friendship. Deliver this award to eight bloggers who must choose eight more.
This is such a lovely award I feel I have received it fraudulently, but I enjoyed all those 3am D&Ms too. :)

Susie at Squeezy's Pink Bits, who's been a friend for ages, and shares her South Korean life, as well as her travels.

Wildly Parenthetical for sharing her wisdom (both bloggily and Twitterly) in an enlightening and and non-confrontational way that I don't even have to argue with before I agree with her.

Meng Woo at Novice journey in life drawing/ painting for sharing her art with the world.

Mick at The Natural Philosopher, he doesn't blog much, but he's been a mate for a long, long time, and he's the kind of Christian that reminds me that I can't bag them all.

Mary Anne, whose Ongoing, Erratic Diary I found through Shapely Prose. She's been sharing her writing on the Net since well before there was a Web, and I've loved hearing about her life as a mother.

MPJ of both Two Women Blogging and A Room of Mama's Own, whose stories of her experiences with her son's autism and her husband's addiction have educated and amazed me.

Jay, also at Two Women Blogging, because I can relate to so much of what she writes, despite her living an entirely different life to mine.

Aaannnndddd Ape at GBU Media, for years of sending me cool stuff from the webs, thereby saving me having to look.

I'll try to get notes to everyone shortly.