Thursday, May 29
Particually in this case as the twins are almost 50. They live in separate houses. One is married. But their lives are constantly entwined. I find it amazing that they can still dress the same. I wonder if they telephone each other in the morning just to check what the other is wearing, or is it just the bond between them that they are often dressed in the same outfits? I find it so heartwarming that their bond continues to exist. It is definitley an OHHHHHHHH moment.
Wednesday, May 28
2. One of the first foods that Sweetheart started eating at about 6 months of age was chilli peppers. Hot and spicy in a salsa (don´t think I fed it to her as she just took it off my plate. But she recognised the jar and then constantly wanted it). One of her other favorite foods are olives.
3. Herzie has come into my bed every night of her life (I know. Joy. It doesn´t matter how many times I put her out she just comes back again). When she comes in, she snuggles up to me, puts her hand under the T-shirt I sleep in, and puts her hand between my breasts. And the funny thing is, that when she snuggles up to her sister or father, she goes looking for the breasts, and when she can´t find them, she turns over to look for me. Maybe this is what happens when you breastfeed for 2 years!!!!!!!!!!
Tuesday, May 27
Then a situation arose at work that I was no longer able to live with. I had to make a decision of what I would do. Would I find another job in another organisation where I would be undervalued and overworked? Would I go back and study and change careers? No. I decided that I would be hedonistic and travel the world. Fullfill one of my life dreams. I realised that I was already of an age where many people are married with children and a mortgage but I was following my green grass. It will definitely be better travelling the world. And it was (although let me write a little adjunct here. While travelling the world is great. I think the problem is when you stop. I have known many world travellers that stop at a certain age to find that they are starting on the employment, mortgage, children ladder to find that other people are starting out on adventures. With money, as they have worked for all their lives and their children are grown and mortgages are paid off (or were in the (g)olden days).
I travelled Europe, Asia, Africa. Not as much as I wanted to as I took it slow. I stayed a week here, a week there. I followed up on opportunities. I went on the train and just got off where I wanted to. I followed interesting people and learnt fabulous things from them (let me advise you, see Rome with an architect). And when I needed money, I was lucky enough to walk straight into work in England. 4 months work with enough money to travel for 6. But I fell in love very early on. Travelling seemed lonely when the one I love was so far away. I discovered my first grey hair in the Backpackers in Budapest. The wrinkles are growing. My tan is becoming one of those glow in the dark things from being in the sun all the time. Travel becomes cliched when all you do is see church after church and Australian backpacker vomitting on Absinthe again and again. I felt old. The average travellor was about 23. I left Australia when I was 28. Where was the green grass? I gave up travelling to be with my love (oh yeah, the baby in my belly from being careless didn´t help. But let me say in my defence, we had the marriage arranged before the baby).
So now I am living in domestic bliss. I had the dream pregnancy, only in the sense that I wasn´t required to work as I didn´t have a job I could go to´(I had such a horrible pregnancy that I wouldn´t have been able to work anyway, but that it another blog). I spent time at home reading, making art works, going for walks in the forest, cuddling my honey. Talking about what we wanted for our child. (I did go on a last holiday to Slovenia, but the constant indegestion and oedema meant that I was in constant pain and didn´t really see much). Lovely.
Then baby comes. A mother here gets money from the Government for 2 1/2 years if they stay at home. At the end of this we decided that we would take F.´s maternity leave and travel Australia for 6 months (unpaid). We came back and baby no.2 was made. This takes me up to now.
I´m in a unique position that I don´t have to work. My husband, who earns less than I would in Australia, seems to make enough for us to live simply here on one wage (don´t ask me how, as I used to do financial counselling and I can´t understand how people can afford to live here so well. But they do. I could also get into the fact that child care in our village in non existant requiring me to stay at home until a child goes to kindergarten, which for my children is nearly age four. I could also expand on the fact that school and kindergarten finish here at 11:30 each day (starting too bloody early) meaning that a working mother would have to have their own child care opportunities for their child as very few job opportunities are available for this time frame which I don´t have, resulting in me maybe having to learn how to adapt to one wage, but these are all supplementary to the story). We have to be careful. But we have enough to live happily. I love the time that I have with my girls. I love the fact that we have limited stress within the home. No rushing in the morning except to get Sweetheart to kindergarten. Then Herzie and I can have a bike ride, play, work in the garden and do things together. I´m available to take my girls to activities. I can have coffee with my friends on the pretense that it is important that children play together. But am I happy??????? NOOOOOOOOOOO.
One of my students now lives in England and visits me. She is doing exciting things in our field. She is so developed and respected and constantly learning new things (and earning lots of money). My other colleagues (friends) are also doing exciting things. Me. I am changing nappies and breaking up sibling fights. My mind is turning to mush. I want to have everything. I want a career. But with the stress free options that I have now. Like having a Nanny, yet still having personal contact with my children (I know, add another 20 hours to the day). I want all the green grass that exists in the world. I want everything......... But I know I can´t have it all (and just cry quietly on my own).
My solution and mind saver to this is to study. I have enrolled in a Masters Course at UNE. I love learning. I love sprouting information that I have gained. I study at night after the girls are in bed. I´m a much better student than I was the first time (less time spent in the Uni Bar I think). Yet these past few weeks I have discovered that while I love learning, I don´t like the testing and assignment aspect of it. (Yes I know. I just can´t be satisfied). But I still spend time dreaming about future careers I can have. Spend time dreaming about how F. can work part time and follow his dreams when I am working. The grass is always greener (as long I don´t let in the reality that chances are my degree will not enable me to work here).
Monday, May 26
This can be interesting in terms of variety, but can be difficult in terms of finding people who you relate to. When you look at typical averages such as age of marriage, level of education, country of origin, career opportunities, political stance, I find myself in the minority. My values are in direct conflict with the values of others. While I don´t claim that my values are of more importance or are better, my values are the way in which I choose to live. This can be difficult when people are in direct opposition to these values.
The reason why I mention this is, is that the daily struggle with my oldest daughter is the result of these differences in values. Her best friends come from a different value system. While I admit it was funny at the time when her friends said that they wanted to work in a supermarket when they are older, to which my Sweetheart said 'I`m not allowed to. I have to go to University', it also recognises the differences in how they are being brought up.
My daughter is not allowed to bring sweets to kindergarten or cake or anything which does not have much nutritional value (which is actually a kindergarten directive). Her friends take each day a treat here which is cake with a creamy, sugary filling, called a Milchschnitte. She is not allowed to take toys to kindergarten. They have enough. Her friends take a Barbie each day. She is supervised regularly and I take time regularly to play or read with her. She has a science box, a music box, and educational toys. Her friend´s mother buys a cd of bedtime stories as it was getting too much to read a story each night. Sweetheart is not allowed to watch TV often. Just when she is sick or it is raining. Her friends would spend at least 3-4 days a week watching TV all afternoon. S. Has Orthopeadic shoes designed for children. Her friends wear flip flops. I mean the list can keep on going............
Now guess which my Sweetheart wants to have instead of what she has? She constantly feels left out. Her friends say that she is not allowed to play with them as she doesn´t have the right clothes, right toys, right (insert as appropriate). Her friends are not allowed to visit (most probably as one mother works so much that she cannot reciprocate to supervise and I won´t let my 5 year old be supervised by her 10 year old daughter and the other mother and I don´t know what to say to each other when we are together). S.´s favorite game is McDonalds (which she only gets in school holidays). She plays this religiously (maybe because her friends go at least 4-5 times a week). She says that her life would be complete if I gave her chewing gum (in fact if she will give up sucking her finger if she will get a packet. The only thing she has agreed to).
Again, I would like to reinforce that I don´t presuppose that my values are better. We both want different outcomes for our children. I want to have a worldly, educated self sufficient child. One who can make choices for herself in this world. One who can have different experiences and has the resources to make this happen. Similar to my own experiences. Other parents have different expectations. Others may view my expectations as being unrealistic, setting my child up for failure. Why have a Uni education just to be a housewife (like how I turned out)? Other´s may not like this as it will mean that they will have to leave the village (just for point of reference, I don´t know many people who have left the village. My father left in 1969 and they still talk about him. Everyone stays. This is very positive in terms of family relationship. Australia has no concept of this. My family of about 70 people, for example, all live within 10 minutes drive of each other. Community living is a different notion from what I understand. But yet I can still see many positive supportive elements about it). It still doesn´t make my situation any easier.
I have questioned whether I should give in and let S. have what she wants so she fits in with her friends better? I asked a friend of mine who is my fount of wisdom. But she pointed out to me that when S. is older, we will both appreciate the fact that she has had boundaries in her life. I am actually creating more opportunities for her as she can choose to give it all away and work in a supermarket. Yet if she chooses to have a profession, she can have that as well. A child who has boundaries now means that when she is a teenager, we have established that she can´t do exactly as she wants, and hopefully not end up a teenager mother or something......
I think that I have become a snob by circumstances. I think if I was in Australia I wouldn´t think about things so much. The people I knew were all similar like me and we think similarly. It is the constrast that I have been exposed to that leads me to question every situation for my children and make more conscious decisions. My poor children end up being more restricted as a result. I think it is the contrast that creates this situation. Not just for my children but for me as well, which in return reflects on my children. My poor children, I´m sure people think. But then again, I think that my children would be poor without the experience and knowledge I give them. I´m not going to give in. I´m going to raise my children in how we (my husband and I) think is the best, even it means that we will end up being a bit isolated in our community (and thank God we know people with similar values as us. Just need to work out a way that S. Can make friends with their children). I remain as ever, the village freak: And proud of it.
Friday, May 23
The week after I was off to Tuscany with some cousins (I think another blogger called us Eurotrash, but this is the advantage of living in Europe. Miss out on Mint Slices but there are other advantages like travelling to European countries easily). Every night I was dreaming about F. Now let me tell you, he was not my first. I have had boyfriends (maybe too many). Some who I even thought of marrying, but circumstances got in the way. Never have I dreamt about someone who I didn´t even think was someone I would be attracted to. I used to dream about me talking to him. Cuddling him. We went for walks together. I imagined us with children (which was a shock because I had just started travelling and wanted experiences, not children). So when I returned, I thought that my cousin should take me over to introduce me to him. We shared a bottle of wine together and then I went off travelling again for 4 months. We kept in touch via dodgy e-mails.
I can remember when I came back. I had been away and had so many different experiences, but my first thoughts were seeing F. again. My lovely cousin arranged it, again. A week later F. invited me to go to the mountains with his friends. I think they must have known our possible feelings as we got the private bedroom (but let me tell you we were unprepared........ All our friends we were with were married. One friend went driving for half an hour on a Sunday to find condoms for us after F. asked him discretely, but this is Austria. Shops are closed. So we had to wait). We decided that we would try being a couple. A bit tricky, as a few weeks later I was off to England to work.
We spoke on the telephone and I would come back as often as possible. One time F. came to visit me and we went to Iceland (another blog opportunity as this was a most bizare place). We wrote e-mails. And our love grew. I would come back after working and before I went travelling again to stay with F. And our love grew more. We decided that we had met the right person.
How did I know he was the right one for me? F. is very stable to my compulsiveness. He gives me grounding. I have never stayed in the same place before but now I have found a reason to. He is the practicality to my whimsicle ideas (at the same time, I expand him to look at things from new directions). He is my normailty to my craziness. He inspires me to be more than I am. He inspires me to look at the world differently. He inspires me to be happy. He is my balance. We work as a team. We discuss things together. We work on things together to reach our joint dreams. I have never been in such a relationship. I know this is the one I am meant to be in.
Now, let me tell you. We planned our wedding (well other than booking the guy that does the wedding (what is their name) my mother organised our wedding. She invited friends, got the photographer, caterer, florist to get things done. My sister organised the car and her friend sang for us, thanks Jenny). Before we were married, we were actually together in the same country for 10 weeks (although together in our hearts for much longer). We have been together for 8 years now. Married for 6. And still very happy. This is my real love.
Thursday, May 22
-Ideas should be written down with attached photos for ideas and then given in triplicate, in every possible medium, to who will be making it to ensure it is how you imagined it (just saying 'you know, what we saw, those box things I fell in love with and felt so sad that I didn´t have my camera with' doesn´t give the full picture).
-Everything will cost a lot more than you imagined and take a lot longer. Plan for it so you don´t get disappointed like I did (But I thought our life would be starting now!!!!!!! What do you mean it may take another year!!!!!!)
-It is heartbreaking to be writing out such large checks. (Are you sure we need such an expensive heating sytem? Are you sure we can´t put in an open fireplace as they are so much cheaper. They are so romantic. Of yeah, I´ve forgotten how cold it gets here. Yes I would like to have floor heating too. Ok, let´s empty our bank accounts).
-And when you think you have saved more money than you will ever imagine having, it isn´t enough and you will have to sign away your life for more.
-E-bay can be a wonderful source of buying things cheaply. But there are things to learn (almost a blog in itself). Look at a ruler. Don´t spread your hands out to imagine how big something is as I can assure you that if you are like me, you will be wrong. The 20cm in my hand looked too small so I went for the 30cm shower head. While my husband assures me that it is really good value for the price, we unfortunately will need to spend much more now to reinforce the wall in order to hold it up.
-In the same e-bay thoughts, don´t put a bid on something which seems like a good bargain without looking at the fine print. I have been drooling over a stand alone bath (villeroy and boch actually). These were way out of our price range. But then I saw one similar and it only had 30 mins to go and it was only €260. A bargain. You can´t get a cheap bath here for that price. Quick, put in a bid. I´m sure we won´t get it anyway so I won´t tell F. What I have done........... Little did I know that our bath tub had no other bids on it (swim away Ingrid, Don´t dive in) due to the exorborant shipping costs. Almost as much as the expensive baths. (I haven´t always learnt the lesson, though, so take heed from the idiot who forgets to read small print in her excitement).
-Your husbands ideas of what is considered necessary tools for the building site will differ from yours. I admit, the mixer and the coffee machine are most probably a little less necessary than the drill which drills all the powerpoints. But it was on sale. And think of all the lovely coffees and cakes and icecream I can make you. And it is so important that I have it now so I can design the kitchen appropriately. How else will I get the colour right? (I´ve included the photo for you here so you can all agree with me...)
-Keep up the mantra 'It won´t last forever'. 'It will be so nice when it is finished' 'It is all worth it'. Sometimes you will believe it.
I crave the Aussie Bitch Session. You know the one where you walk into the cafe or slump onto the sofa at the exact angle that everyone knows what is coming. Where you start off with something like:
'I hate...... (my boss, my children, my husband, my life, The Prime Minister, certain policies, Margaret Thatcher, Coles for not having grapes, insert as you wish. I´m not a big obscenity user, but insert if also required).
'They are all (dickheads, assholes, ...................).
At this stage your friends start pushing over the chocolate cake. 'Here, you need this more than me.' 'Get off your fat ass you lazy lump, Ingrid needs the bottle opener (usually directed at partner innocently reading the sports in the corner, wishing he was in the shed).
They know how to respond. 'Yeah, know what you mean'. Yeah Dickheads. We should just march them off a short plank and bury them in the Ocean. You know what is better than one dead Lawyer? No lawyers (I know there is a joke about this somewhere, but can´t remember it so use your imagination to elaborate).'
Give about 10 minutes to get it all off our chest.... Nothing logical said or anything which may make sense to an outsider. Sometimes we may say things that are downright nasty. But we all understand the purpose behind it. We don´t even have to agree with it. It is just off the cuff thoughts and feelings of a moment which twirl around us.
Giggle, giggle. 'Remember when we all rolled down the hill at Parliament House until the security guards caught us? Yeahhhhhhh. Over.
I was a social worker (well before I became a full time mother). I truly believe the positive value of a Bitch Session. I think this is the basis behind group therapy and counselling (and blogs); the idea of getting feelings and thoughts out before they putrify and smother us. It is cathargic. It´s why friends are so important. A bottle of wine helps. This blog is my Bitch Session. Written, Said, Over.
Wednesday, May 21
A friend, someone who I really like as a friend, someone whose opinions matters to me, telephoned to say that I haven´t been nice in my posts. I apologise. And I apologise in advance for anyone I may offend in future. I don´t mean to be nasty. I want to be nice. Deep down I want to be liked by everyone. I want to live in a perfect world. And sometimes I may be mean unintentionally, most probably more than I think (and sometimes intentionally too, but usually then I am in a bad mood or have PMS).
In my poor, weak defence, I would like to say that my intention with this blog was to get my stories down. These stories are part fictional, part truth, part personal history, part imagination, part original, part stolen from others, part what I believe, part lies. These are just my stories. It might be something which has affected me for a long time (like my mother-in-law´s opinion about my cleaning skills) or it might be a fleeting glance which brings around a story idea (like a rather largish woman wearing a bikini). Usually it is something small, such a discussion (argument) with my husband about what our garden should look like. As I said, this is my world. When I write I´m not thinking about what exists outside my world.
I´m sorry about the cliche´s I have created. I must admit, not all women in Austria are big (in fact, in my village, people are on average more slender than in other towns I have lived in. I am (or was) among the larger of the women of my generation). Most people in Austria do not wear bikinis all summer. Most people here do not vacuum outside their houses (or I assume they don´t but I have seen two who do). People here have gardens I like and there are many of their gardens I would like to have. There are a number of different restaurants in Austria. In fact, I ate at a mexican restaurant last week. My daughter doesn´t frustrate me most of the time, just sometime. My girls are not the wildest in the neighbourhood. They also wear jeans a lot too. There are many things I like about Austrian and in all truth, I could not have the life I have here in Australia. And I like my life. But as part of my fictional perogative I have overextend ideas and thoughts. I expand into areas which are totally fiction. I write things that aren´t true. Or may be true. I use examples generally, not specifically (unless it is stated specifically). All used to help try and get across an idea, thought, feeling, observation. These ideas have become my stories (also it would haven´t the same fictional effect if I spoke of the truth all the time). But please don´t take it personally. I didn´t intend it that way.
At the same time, please don´t use these stories to evaluate who I am. I admit, I am complex. My mind runs at 100 miles an hour. I am an analyser. I have to assess every situation. My way of assessing things is to compare it to what I know (or what seems concrete). I know that this may come across in the wrong way. I know that people think that I am putting down Austria when I constantly compare it to Australia, or that I don´t want to be here, or I don´t like things here. Trust me, if I was still living in Canberra, I would be substituting Canberra for Austria. And I like Canberra too. Some of my best friends are there. It is only my way or sorting out this world I live in. I know that people may think that I seem negative all the time or I only say negative things when I make comparisions. That is not my intention. Most of the time I think positively (not always. But who does). I can´t write all the stories in my head. So please don´t use what I have written here to determine who you think I may be.
I also can´t guarantee that what I write will not offend. So please, if you read my stories, keep in mind that I am writing primarily for myself. Not for anyone else. I´m sorting out my own thoughts. I´m sorry if it sounds like I am being mean. Sometimes I don´t objectively think about what I write, the effect on other people, the fact that I may have blatantly put down a whole culture. I can put my foot in my mouth so easily and often do. Sometimes some topics are very meaningful for me and maybe things will come across negatively. Feeling isolated in a new country due to language barriers and some of the experiences I have had have left some negative thought process in me. But that doesn´t mean that I am a negative person. It also doesn´t mean that I intentionally want to hurt people with what I write. It is my feelings I am expressing and I´m sorry if it is at the expense of others. So if something is not clear about my intention, send me a message and I will most probably say something like, I´m trying to express me feelings of isolation here, then tell me if I succeeded. Maybe my writing isn´t clear. Or my intentions aren´t clear. I´m always available to discuss things further.
Sunday, May 18
-going to the toilet uninterrupted.
-being able to have a bath by myself without the hundred questions of why can´t they join me.
-no little one in bed with me pulling out my arm so she can lie on it, guaranteeing neckache for me in the morning.
-sleeping in (why is it that children can go to bed so late but will know automatically if it is a weekend where they must wake before 6am or a weekday where you have to pull them out of bed?)
-no-one to ask me what is for dinner.
-no-one to complain about the dinner.
-no wiping of bottoms or nappy changes.
-things will stay where I put them. In the same respect, no need to pick things up 20 times in a row before it stays away.
-time to do something for myself.
-I can read more than 2 pages in a book at one time.
-I can write all my friends an e-mail without feeling guilty about the time on the computer.
-I can make something from clay without having to think of how to make it before the nap time ends.
-I can go shopping without the continual, relentness 'Can I have that?' 'Can I have that?'
-I can feel sad and lonely that my family is away from me.
-I can feel desolate that my babies aren´t with me.
-I can feel like something is missing.
-I can wish that my babies come back.
(Actually I have 3 assignments due in so my time is taken. The days will just fly by..........)
Since then things have changed. I spent about 3 years travelling, keeping up to date with my friends via dodgy internet cafes (if I was lucky). I had an e-mail address (the same as I have now). I knew how to book air fares on-line and look at the Lonely Planet web site. I didn´t know how to chat or do anything tricky, but then I didn´t need to. I was living my experiences. My trusty film camera which didn´t have any zoom recorded all my images. I recorded my travels in a sketch book which I used as a journal. I telephoned my family. Sometimes, like when I was living in England, I used a telephone card where it was quite complex having to first telephone a number and then give them the code on the card (although in one flat we had to get a new telephone as it wasn´t a push button phone).
Finally I settled down and lived permanently in a house. Pregnant and tired all the time, I wanted to sleep and read books, not look at the computer. This was good, as we only had internet access on weekends as the internet here was expensive. My treat was to spend about an hour on Sundays writing to all my friends in Australia. I continued this after the girls were born. F. Would watch the girls for an hour while I wrote my e-mails (often to friends even less technically aware than I am). For 8 years I lived in blissful ignorace of the technical world which had developed.
It was late last year that I decided that I needed to do more with my life than get caught up in small village politics. I went looking for an on-line course and enrolled in a Masters course at UNE. All on-line. We needed to upgrade our internet access and discovered that we could get Broadband cheaper than we were paying for our 2 weekend hours. Internet whenever we wanted it. In a moment of serendipity, I then met the first Australian who lives near me. He invited me to look at his Facebook site. Facebook. Introduction to an activity that has lead to me neglecting my children. I discovered my past. I spent time writing lovely letters to old friends. It was through one friend that I discovered the world of Etsy. Again, another time consumer. Again the same friend introduced me to the world of Blogging (I looked up her blog on her facebook site). From one site you are lead to another, to another, to another. Lovely stories, words of inspiration, ideas and tips, people who I will never meet who seem like old friends. I have happily spent the whole of this rainy day reading on-line while my girls played by themselves. I realised that I could start a blog to record all the thoughts and stories which are going around in my mind.
While I managed to start my own Blog, it has lead me to realise that technology has left me behind. While I finally upgraded to a digital camera this year, I don´t really know how to upload pictures or how to change them so they fit in the blog properly (I also haven´t worked out how to develop the photos as I haven´t taken the time to read the 623 page manual which I have to download anyway and for some reason my computer freezes every time I do it). How do people add pictures from the past before digital? I tried taking a photo, but it didn´t work. I no longer have a scanner as my husband says that they are outdated and he will do something at work with his photocopier. But where do I put the little stick that he gave me? What is this stick? Where is the CD Rom? Or the floppy disk that my computer still has a drive for? Where do I find the time to learn all of this as I now have to find the time to keep up with all my new friends, write my own thoughts down, spend time with my family, clean the house, cook dinner, go to work, work in the garden...... AUUUUUGGGGGGGHHHHHHH get me off this wheel of propensity. Let me live in my little world. Don´t make improvements too fast. Let me adapt to these new things before they change again. Give me another 8 years or so.
Saturday, May 17
Now I live in our own house with a big back yard. Now I live in the country. A garden is compulsory in post war Austria. A garden must consist of neat boarders, with lots of flowers and a space for a vegetable patch. A garden must be worked at compulsively. A garden is considered hard work. This is not my dream garden.
I want a garden with smells. I want the smells of lavender, roses, lemons, rosemary, mint. I want a garden that I can taste. I want my girls to be able to wonder and smell and eat what they touch. I want a garden where herbs are intertwined with roses. I want curves and rambling. I want butterflies and bees. I want wild flowers growing in the lawn. I want zuccinis growing in this corner, and pumpkins in that. I want a garden to enjoy, not to spend all my time working on. I want rows and rows of lavender plants. I want Tuscany and Provence. I want art. I want sculptures. I want my 2 metre Ned Kelly mail box. Now I just need to make it happen.
My husband thinks I am being unrealistic. He is from the school of hard work and conservatism (just don´t tell him that). He doesn´t believe me when I say that I will make him a garden he won´t need to mow. He thinks that creating a mini-Provence with rows of lavender will be more work than I think. He thinks that my garden ideas are messy and unorganised (well maybe but that is what I like). He is traditional and belives that herbs should belong in a herb garden. With a little snail shape. Like everyone else has....... 'isn´t it so pretty' You can´t make a garden by just planting things and seeing what happens. Everything has to be planned and thought through. Make a plan I can see. You can´t just let the vines grow out everywhere. How else am I going to mow around it? We need a lawn. We need square things. We need definitive garden spaces. We now have separate areas where we each can have our own garden ideas.
I love working in the garden. There is something uplifting watching something grow. To eat something that I planted. To know that I made it happen. I must admit that I don´t have a green thumb or any green part in my body. But I seem to be lucky as things tend to grow (if not, just add more seeds). One of the advantages of living in Austria is that it rains enough to compensate for my lack of watering or looking after the plants. I can pretend that I am a gardener without really having to do too much work or having much knowledge about how to grow things properly. Of course my mother-in-law is horrified. 'That´s not how you do things!!!!' No. But that is the way that I do things.
Now the sun is coming out, I love sitting in the garden and dreaming about what I will do. I will build a rose thing over the gate. You know, those round things, and cover it with roses. The ones that climb. And over there I´m going to get that bushy plant with the white pom pom flowers. And next to the drive way I want one of those popcorn looking trees. And at the bottom of the garden I want a fence of those smelly, climbing flowers that will cover it and waft that sensual duft towards me. And I want my lavender rows to curve round and round like a snail (see I have a snail in my garden too). I want a space where I can just sit and enjoy it all. Maybe here under the apple blossoms. And then maybe behind I will make a vegetable garden. With raised beds and order. This is where my husband can help me.
Friday, May 16
When Sweetheart was a baby, I spent time poring over the internet for different ways of bringing up bi-lingual children. This was also influenced by an acqaintance from England. Her husband couldn´t speak English which meant that at home they only spoke German. Although her daughter understood English, she didn´t want to speak it. We decided to approach the One Parent / One Language approach, with the dominant language at home being English. We decided that the girls would be speaking German the minute they stepped outside the door so having as much English as possible within the home would be of most benefit. So out came the Bananas In Pyjamas and Sesame Street DVD´s (although the favorite is Angelina Ballerina. Herzie´s favorite chant is 'I want it, Ballerina'). Shelves were stocked with all the favorites like Cat in the Hat, Blinky Bill, Where the Wild Things Are, Wombat Stew, Edwina The Emu....... Other people look at me funny when I speak in English to my children instead of German and others treat me like a Foreigner, but it is something we persist.
We must have done something right as Sweetheart and Herzie both had no problem differentiating between the two languages. After about 4 months of speaking single words, both in German and English mixed, they started identifying me as the English Speaker and my husband as the German one; they would only speak to me in English. Sweetheart would sit at the table, aged 2, and translate everything for my husband and I. With Herzie, it seemed that all of a sudden she identified us by language. Overnight she started only saying English words to me and German to F. It actually simplifies things at home. When they speak in German, we know they are addressing F. (really useful when they constantly speak German when asking to change nappies, help go to the toilet, fill water bottles, brush teeth, get dressed, etc. Although sometimes he hears me when I tell them to say it in German).
Being the primary English speaker, it means that the girls are learning my English - the words, idioms and slang that I use. I noticed this when my mother came to visit me and she asked Sweetheart if she wanted to do a ´wee´. I have always said ´widdle´as this is what my friends and I used to say. They didn´t know what my mother was saying. They learn a few extra words from the books that we read, but generally, dialogue comes from me. Of course this is a benefit with the lack of rude and crude words and silly things children pick up in the playground, which she is quite capable in saying in German (yet doesn´t translate to English).
When Sweetheart went to kindergarten she felt that she was different to the other children as she could speak English and the other´s couldn´t. She said that she didn´t want to be different. I arranged to do English play sessions in the kindergarten which resulted in her being proud of her ability. Now children come up to her asking her to translate things in English (and teachers don´t even try as they are scared that they will be corrected by a 5 year old).
The main difficulty being the English Identified Parent (as well as the primary carer being the Stay At Home Mother) is that Sweetheart will come home from kindergarten having learnt songs in German and not feel comfortable singing them to me. She will try and translate it for me which usually doesn´t work. She waits until her father comes home to sing to him. She was also uncomfortable singing to me at the Mothers Day Party at kindergarten and just mouthed the words. The uncomfortableness comes from me being so strongly identified as the English speaker that she is unable to speak German with me. I´m not sure how it will be when she is at school and needs help with her homework. Or whether I will be able to help her. The next stage will be trying to teach my children to read and write in English as this is not covered until they are in Highschool.
I´m amazed at how having two children means that the first now teaches the second. Sweetheart is now just as instrumental in Herzie learning English as I am. It is fasciniating to see in which circumstances they speak to each other in English and when they speak German together. Often it has to do with the other people around, but also can be identified by what they identify with their father and which with me, for example, the trampline is primarily a German domain as their father plays mainly plays with them here. Uno is English. It is interesting to see how their speech sounds change depending on what language thery are speaking. When they are speaking German, and I ask them to say Thursday, they will say 'Dursday' as German speakers cannot say TH very well. When speaking English they have no problems with this.
I´m so proud that my girls want to learn about their second culture and want to be Australian just as much as Austrian. I´m proud that they only want to sleep with their koala bears, can identify the major Australian animals and can say to others, 'We are Australian and Austrian'. In both English and German.
Thursday, May 15
I have been experimenting with pottery for the last year. I´m not very good at it but I love the feel of clay in my hands. I like manipulating it to make things. I don´t have many things to show as I give lots of things away when people say they like something. (Note: photography is not my forté, so please excuse the photos).
I have been experimenting with jewellry. This is a necklace I made for Louise. I have been making beads and buttons as well.
This is my cake plate with a little bowl (again the red). In the bowl are felt balls I have been making from some lovely alpaca wool I brought at the Salamanda Markets in Hobart. Here is also my collection of dust and Australian bush. The plates belong to a set I have made for my new kitchen. I have bowls as well. My new kitchen will be terracotta, red glaze on a snail pattern pottery, wood, white and glass (or at least so I have planned).
I have so many plans on what I want to make from clay. The next on the list are name tags for the children of friend to put on their doors as christmas presents (I have to start early when making it myself). I´m also making presents for friends when I come to Australia later this year (way later).
But this week (when I am on my own; I´m giving Nano felting a go)
Tuesday, May 13
When I moved in we assessed our situation. We have an old house which has evolved over 300 years. Each generation changed rooms or added things in to suit them. During the war it housed 5 separate families. Walls were made with straw, rocks, mud or other things which were available. The walls and floors are not lineal or flat. In fact, furniture needs to have bits of wood added to it or legs cut to fit them in the room. We realised that if we plan on living here with our family we would need to rebuild or renovate. So when we brought our gadgets, we brought cheaper brands as we told ourselves we would buy better ones when our house is finished (little did we know that it would be nearly 10 years before we move into our new house). The €11 iron. €10 hairdryer. €5 kettle. €1 plates. Ikea is a God.
My first kitchen was a small room with a sink in it. There was no space for a stove so we brought a double hotplate with a little baking oven underneath. This lasted three years. In this time I cooked numerous meals. I must admit that it was a bit tricky as you could only use one hotplate at a time when using the oven and being vegetarian and my husband a meat eater, I usually have to cook two different meals at a time. It involved complex logistics. Yet it was an adventure. This was just our waiting time. ( I even cooked a buffet for 30 people on this little oven). When this oven died, we brought another which only lasted one year as we brought an even cheaper brand (surely we will be in our new house soon). But with our second child, we couldn´t fit more than three chairs in our small room and it necessitated finding another solution for our kitchen. This brought more space so when the second oven went to it´s grave, we upgraded to a stand alone cooker. After about a year the oven temperatures started to decrease. We decided that where we live now could always be used as a flat, so we brought a second stand alone cooker, a bit more expensive this time. This continues to live (although we had to drill a hole in the side and stick in a screwdriver to keep the door shut). But we realised, that if we had brought a good quality oven in the first place, we would have actually saved money.
You might think that an €11 iron lasting nearly 8 years is a good investment but my mother - in law has had the same iron for over 40 years. A good quality one. The mixer as well. These were all wedding presents. Are things designed to breakdown quicker now these days? Are we exhausted by so many choices that we just simply buy? I´m sure, though, that most people are similar to me, being a stay at home mother our income is limited. We look for what we can afford at the time rather than saving for best quality. We have entered the disposable age. Not only that, but we can´t survive without the electric toothbrushes, breadmakers, electric kettles, microwaves......... Why not, they don´t cost so much. Save? NOOOOOO I WANT IT NOW.
As a result, we will end up spending more on goods than we think. Over time our expenses will exceed what we would have spent on good quality items in the first place. Our environment will be overrun by the glut of low quality products which has been thrown out and replaced. I for one will not end up running this race. I´m going back to old ways of thinking. I´m going back to the simple life. I´m going to cut out the excess and only buy what I need. I´m going to save and buy quality (which will save me money in the long term). I´m not going to be a victim of False Economy (although we did buy another electric iron as the coal iron my husband brought into me was a bit too inefficient).
Sunday, May 11
It didn´t help that my father was Austrian. When I worked in a restaurant, people used to comment that I had the cutest accent; ' oh yes, my father comes from Austria'. I was sent to school with black bread and poppy seed cakes. Others had white and chocolate. I was the Wog before people knew what a Wog was. I was different. I didn´t fit in. Other children weren't allowed to visit me. I was an alien. Foreign. Suspect. People didn´t understand in those days. Maybe this inspired me. Discover where I belong.
But now I live in Austria and I have discovered that I am not Austrian. I don´t understand them. I don´t understand their jokes. They aren´t funny. I don´t like the food. The country is too small. The beer tastes funny. There is no Tooheys Old. Why is everyone so conservative and why do they have so many traditions? Oh, they go back hundreds of years? But I come from Australia, we reinvent everything, we do things differently. In Australia you can get food from every Nationality, not just this Austrian thing you call food I don´t like. In Australia, people laugh at my jokes. In Australia you drive 2 hours to get to work, not to drive out of the country. What, you don´t understand what I say? I´m sorry, but I am Australian.
Since coming to Austria, I think I have become the Über Australian. The Australian flag flies outside every Australian day. I have the Australian flag and Bundy Rum stickers on my car. I bake lammingtons and pavlova. And I actually eat them. My children can recite every Bananas In Pyjamas episode. We all have Blood stones,Driza Bones and Akubras. I have didgeridoos and boomerangs. Original Aboriginal art. Priscilla and Muriel. We only drink Hardys (which is cheaper than in Australia). My father has made me a stained glass window with the ocean so I can look at it every day. On the other one is a flowering gum. Kitchen tiles I made myself with Australian native flora and forna. On my list of things to do is make a Ned Kelly letter box as per the instructions in the Better Homes and Gardens (which I subscribe to). I even have a Eucalyptus tree in the backyard (which has to be in a pot to be brought inside so as to survive the winter). There is a Kangaroo in Austria.
It is my mother´s fault (but then it always is isn´t it). I´m sure that she had a pathological problem with cleaning. Cleaning the house was a regular punishment for us when we were children. Cleaning was our associated Saturday program. It is the activity that caused the most conflict within our house while growing up. I just don´t see the point. Why dust something when the next day it looks exactly the same? Why not buy more plates and then you only need to wash up every 3 days (I´m the sort of person the dishwasher was designed for)? Why buy clothes which need ironing when other clothes are just as nice and more practical? I can see through the window OK without having to wash it every month. Since having children, even trying to keep things pristine and tidy is even more of an impossibility. My children walk 2 steps behind me when I do housework, undoing everything I have done. When children want to help, why is it that things then take three times so long? I have long lists of things I would much rather be doing.
Sit outside and look at the flowers
Play a game with my girls
Cuddle my husband and have a glass of wine
Go for a walk or bike ride with my family and look at nature
Lie in a hammock and read a good book
Lie in the bathtub with some nice blues music and lovely smells
Be creative with the feel of clay in my hands
Watch a nice film
Meet with friends
Dream about ideas
Catch up with old friends........
Saturday, May 10
Friday, May 9
I don´t understand this fascination my girls have with clothes. I don´t know where it comes from. I have a practical wardrobe. My clothes now consist of jeans and t-shirts that don´t show the dirt and are easy to wash. I have a jacket for winter, one for spring. I have a dress to go out with. Shoes for working and shoes to go out with. My girls have outfits. Each piece matches. They have matching accessories. They won´t leave the house unless it all matches (this include my 2 year old telling me that her stockings are the wrong colour. But then one of her first words was 'glitter'). When they are not dressing themselves in outfits they play dress up and smother themselves with necklaces, bangles, makeup, fairy and princess dresses.
I know what you are thinking, that it is my own fault for buying it for them in the first place. But I didn´t. These are all gifts from my mother. Another who has little fascination in clothes. Maybe it is a cross generational thing. Maybe it floats in the air and they inhaled it from someone else. Maybe it was a special treat from Santa Claus that he slipped in the parcels. All I know, is that as long as it is pink and glitters, my girls will love it.
The irony of all this is that my girls are the wildest in the neighbourhood. They are at the top of trees with the bigger boys. They can out wrestle everyone they know by jumping on top of them. They are queens of mud pies. If there is dirt, they will find it. They are naturally drawn to anything dangerous and naughty. They have no fear and try anything. All the while dressed in their matching outfits - all pink and glittery.
I actually didn´t ever think that I would be a mother, but when I was pregnant, I would have lyrical dreams about how my daughter (always a daughter. For some reason I could never imagine having a son) and I would make discoveries in the garden and explore delights such as the butterflies flying around around, the beautiful flowers, I would show her the worms hidden in the dirt. We would snuggle together reading books that she would love, like I love books. She would come and smother me with kisses saying 'I love you mummy, you are my snuggy bunny'. We would put the music on and dance around being silly. My little girl would see me as the fountain of wisdom and advice. I would even handle the nappies and the constant demands of a helpless child with a smile as this was my unconditional love. I wouldn´t have any thoughts about the lack of privacy and the constant demands made by a child. I wouldn´t even think about the lack of self that I would develop. I was enveloped in a cloud of loveliness. The best love affair you could imagine.
The reality was something else. I have become something that I do not like. I find myself being disciplinistic and authoritarian. I tried the negotiation. 'Honey, lets sit down and see what is happening. I understand that you are upset about this, but you need to go to sleep. Let me sit by your bed and sing you lullabies until you fall to sleep'. 'No I want to stay up and drink wine too. You are so unfair. I don´t want you to be my Mummy. Go away. You make me cross.' I tried constant and fair discipline. I count to 3 in my sleep. My daughter knows her bedroom intimately. But in her bedroom she is a princess. She makes a castle. She is scorned by the evil witch. The evil witch must be punished......... I´m very sad to say that it ends in both of us screaming at each other. I feel angry and frustrated most of the time. My dreams have been shattered. No-one tells you about the realities of being a parent. No-one tells you that there will be times that you don´t like your children. or that you get so frustrated you want to shake them so hard but instead just yell and send them to their room. No-one tells you that you may reach a point whereby you look forward to the time when they are not around and you can sit with a class of wine and be quiet.
But just when you think that you know the status quo, a little one will come and snuggle into me, putting her arms around my neck. Not saying anything. But then she doesn´t have to. I´m her mummy and my baby has come back.