Sunday, July 27


It seems that the babies are back in season. Everyone I know seems to either have just had a baby, is pregnant with one, trying for one.......... The magical sense of babies is drifting in syncronicity.

But not with me. I´m not going to be one who harangues lyrically about the mirth of pregnancy. I´m not the one who will have looks of rapture of my face as I explain that being pregnant was the most important and magical time of my life. In fact, for me, pregnancy was something to be endured in order that my children can be brought into this world.

My pregnancies were textbook cases. If the textbook said that you may get swollen feet, I got it. If the textbook said that you may experience indegestion, it means that I spent nine months waiting for the pain to go away. When the textbook says that some woman may experience nausea the whole pregnancy, that was me. My pregnancy with Sweetheart had me getting swollen fingers like arthritis when I went into the heat. And of course this was over the hottest summer in 50 years. With Herzie my belly was so big that I was unable to drive for the last four months as my feet couldn´t reach the pedals (and we live in the country which meant that I was isolated until my husband came home each day). Through both I had such exhaustion that was unshakeable. I had baby brain where I couldn´t remember anything. I had hormonal deficiencies which had me crying when people talked to me. I had to wear maternity clothes at two months and I didn´t have any pregnancy bloom, I just looked fat. My bones ached. My body ached. I waited for the end.

Then once you get over the pregnancies, the birth comes. Both my babies refused to come out. With Sweetheart I was 3 days late and had to be induced homeopathically as my waters had broken. (six hours). Herzie was another story. At 10 days overdue I refused to leave the hospital until she was in my arms (not very politely. I just sat and said I´m not moving unless it was to the maternity ward). I was induced. First with an infusion. For 5 bloody hours. No contraction, just aching pains. The fabulous midwife tried everything; homeopathic drops, massages on every part of my body, crystals, klangschale (you know those Tibetan bowls) massage, chanting, clanging balls, baths. To no avail. Then a suppository. Then the second. For 2 days I was in hospital being induced. F. went to bed at 10pm on the second night but I said that I was going to keep walking until the baby was out. Finally a contraction at midnight. Then another. I asked a midwife (another one) if this was labour. Most probably not, she said. I lay down. After an hour I asked for F. to be woken. They were busy and asked me to go myself. But I couldn´t move. At 1:30 am he came and I screamed for an epidural. While waiting for an anaethesist I was told that I couldn´t have any pain relievers (no such things as gas and air in the hospitals) as I was in the last stage. At 2:30 am Herzie was born. 5kg. Two and a half hours labour from first contraction to coming out. She is our last baby.

But I must admit, it wasn´t all bad. It is magical when the baby starts to move for the first time. And how they move when they hear particular music or when they hear F. talking. And when they are in your arms, it makes it all worth while. Not that I haven´t forgotten (unlike the textbooks which say you will).

Tuesday, July 22

In the Olden Days

When I left Australia, GST had just been introduced. No-one really knew what the impact of it would be, just that it was going to be a whole lot of trouble and extra work. The Referendum which asked if we wanted to stay a Republic had been held. Hey Hey It´s Saturday completed it´s last episode. Desperate Housewives was only something our mothers` thought about. Petrol was 0.66c per litre and life was grand. Every young family was working to buy their own piece of bricks and mortar and obtain that Mortgage. There were no stories about people bribing landlords so they can get a dark, greasy, one bedroom flat for their family of 4, just to beat the other 60 people lining up for it. Australia was gearing up for the World´s Best Olympic Games and those stories of all the homeless people being shipped out of Sydney was only an Urban Myth. This was the age of Fair Work Relations. Unions had an impact in the work force and workers had rights. The Australia was the Lucky Country and everyone was jealous of us and wanted to be a part of our Golden Dream.

This is my Australia. Australia is the country where the cost of living is low. Australia is the country of multicultural living. Every type of food is available in the supermarkets. It is a land of sunshine. Outdoor living. Weekends were bush walking, or perhaps a market somewhere full of creative arts and crafts and homemade foods. Most people have a University Education or at least a good job somewhere. You can do what you want to do without being subjected to necessity. My brother is pursuing his dream of being a film maker. People had good supportive friend networks. People were generally happy. Life was a beach........

The longer I am away, the more rosy my view of Australia becomes. I´m like those people who tell you about their favorite place to visit, but when you do you find the parks have been dug over for high rise buildings and the favorite restaurants are now McDonalds. I´m like those old people who can´t see that life has changed. Those who always see the world as it was 20 years ago. I realised after I recently met someone who was in Australia over Christmas last year, who told me that the cost of living was double of what it is here that I no longer know what living in Australia is like. 4 years ago the cost of living was half of what it was here. My idea about life in Australia is different to reality. But it has always been a way for me to cope by remembering the Good Olde Land. So I will continue to live in my dream world and think of this glorious country called Australia. I´m sure that in 10 years or so, Australia will be so perfect that I won´t be able to picture any problems. No problems with the cost of housing. No problems with rising costs of inflation. No problems with the rising costs of education. No problems with the power in the workplace being handed over to the employer. No problems with a lack of water or natural disasters. Just a land of perfection.

Sunday, July 20

Cultural Differences - Part 1

When I first came to Austria:

-Pumpkin and corn were for feeding the pigs with, not for eating (now can be brought in supermarkets).

-Potato can never be eaten with the skin on. It has to be peeled. Peelings are for the pigs (still the same).

-Vegetarian means taking out the meat in a meal. If you are in a restaurant, vegetarian options are frozen veges with a fried egg on top, or baked cambemert (frozen from the supermarket) (now a few more options, but not many more. This is a meat country).

-Instant coffee is only for putting in cakes. Thank god, as even the coffee machines on the station have freshly ground coffee in them.

-Tea means herbal. No Liptons here.

Friday, July 18

It´s hard to be sophisticated when toilet training

When I was younger, I always wanted to be part of the IN crowd. They seemed like they had so much fun and so many friends and always doing exciting things. I just wanted to be the same. Of course I wasn´t. Child of a migrant father, my head fulled with teenages angst and worries, never in the right place, wrong clothes, always saying the wrong things. I looked from afar, keeping busy in my books.

Then school was over. University was a time of `Finding Out Who I Was` (oh, is that what I call those years of alcohol usage and those blatant use of male anatonomy??????). I tried changing my clothes and myself. But for whom do I change? Do I change for the people I was living in college with? B&S afficiandos? Can I really `Beer Bong`like they do and drink until I vomit? Is this what I wanted to be? Do I want to be like the studious ones who have `Study Parties`and have sophisticated conversations? What about the intellectuals in the coffee shop? The cool groovers at the Uni bar? I wanted to be a part of it all. I felt like a chameleon. But give too much of yourself out and you end up with only pieces. It is always the constantly looking outwards and the desperation to belong. Scared of being on my own, alone. Not being true to myself or others.

Really, I think I was in training in becoming the perfect ex-patriate. Always being different to the people around you. Eat differently, dress differently, do things differently. Always the foreigner. But the longer I stay here, little bits adapt. I´m not Australian any more (was I ever?). But then I am not Austrian either. Being an ex-pat is the constant knowledge that you live on the outside.

Having children changes all of this. Fitting in is no longer a priority. Getting enough sleep is more important. Getting all the toys back into their places without yelling too much. Cleaning up vomit, wet spots on the floor, wiping faces, instigating the wisdom of Solomon. Making sure my children are happy, Making sure that when I leave the house I actually have clothes on, that they don´t have too many noticeable stains on them, no smears of face cream on my face (as who has time to look in the mirror), not too many grey hairs. I think it was picking up the poo that my daughter proudly made on the carpet (look Mummy, no nappy!!!!!!!!) that made me realise that it is hard to be sophistocated when toilet training. But then again, who wants to be. In my life I am truly happy. I worry about the important things (most of the time). I enjoy the small things. I know that I don´t fit in, but this no longer has such an impact in my life. I now just live.

Sunday, July 13

My Creative Need - Part 4 Knitting

I would love to say that I am a knitter, but in truth I am only a dabbler. I knit, but when you look closely (sometimes not even that close) you will see the miriad of errors. I started knitting about 5 years ago when Sweetheart was a baby. My cousins were all sporting babies with handmade garments, but alas my child was bereft. My mother has a jumper for my brother which she started and has not finished. He is now 30. My mother-in-law says she can only make socks. In men´s sizes. So I decided that I will learn to knit and do it for myself.

I brought a book which had the instructions at the bottom which you can look at while reading the pattern above. The first thing I knitted was an Intarsia pattern which I actually did well with only a few mistakes. I learnt, though, that when you change the suggested wool you can actually change the desired results. Mine I knitted in this lovely Alpaca wool (as here in Austria I am yet to find nice 100% wool other than this Alpaca wool which was on sale as no-one wanted to buy it. I brought up the whole stock in 4 different colours), but it was a bit thicker than the suggested wool which meant that we were unable to put it over anyone´s head. I keep it for memories. The next jumper I made for Sweetheart which actually turned out well, but she refused to wear it. From here came numerous hats, scarfs, and a couple of jumpers for me.

Knitting was wonderful as it gave me something to do while watching my children. They could play by themselves but needed 100% observation (my children are the types that try everything and find every form of danger). From knitting sourged my creative desires and fullfill these needs. Knitting was the panacea to the gaping hole that had been growing since I started travelling and wasn´t able to do much creatively. Knitting became my outlet. And my addiction.

I always have a knitting project on the go. Knitting now has been relegated to a night time activity as my life is fuller now than 5 years ago and I have other things to do during the day. Nightime (when not studying) means sitting and watching a DVD, a bottle of wine (a good Hardys at the moment) and a packet of chips. Things start out OK, but as my sobriety slips, so do my knitting standards. I have never been able to knit things with a complicated patterns, such as a lace, as my attention is constantly distracted with small children. My project for the past year are blankets for the girls I saw in a magazine. A patchwork of small squares with little hearts in the middle. Easy to knit. Standard pattern. Just don´t look closely as there is a multitude of mistakes (like my typing I guess). Advice for careless knitters like myself: knit in chunky wool as it is harder to see the mistakes.

Saturday, July 12

A warning to all Feminists

I had it all planned out before they were born. My girls (as I was sure that they would be girls) would be dressed in non-sexist colours. There would be no gender differentiation. They would be encouraged to explore all aspects of themselves, including the masculine tendencies to have no fear, be muddy and dirty, and realise that a girl can do everything a boy do can if they want to. I brought all the feminist story books such as Princess Smartypants and The Paperbag Princess. They will have tractors and trucks as well as toys such as dolls to encourage role playing. I did not buy any Barbies which suscribe to unattainable notions of beauty for women. My girls would be brought up to value education and learning, books, the beauty of nature and life, creativity, honesty and sensitivity. They would aim to be independent and not rely on another person unless they wanted to. They would be brought up to be able to have choices in life. There was no way it could fail with all this planning, could it??????????

As you can see, some things are out of your hands. If it doesn´t have pink or glitter on it, is not a skirt or a dress, my girls refuse to wear it. It held out until kindergarten for Sweetheart that I could influence her choices in a sense, but the power of peer pressure lost out. So quick does the second fall. My little Herzie was lost from the moment she could put her own opinion across. Glitter. Pink. Barbie (oh yes, guess what every girl receives as a present in this village). They play Princesses and Wicked Witches. They play Fairies who are so beautiful and need to be rescued by Princes. Sweetheart insists that she has to be the Princess as she has the most pink dresses and a Princess has to be the prettiest. They play Weddings as everyone has to get married and have lots of babies and stay at home until they work in a supermarket (and unfortunately Sweethearts favorite game is McDonalds. Guess what else she is deprived of?) Herzie is an expert in putting on lipstick (age 2). The dress-up-princess-dresses are so glamorous they must be worn shopping, to visit friends in, birthday parties. Where did I go wrong? I think my mistake is thinking that children can be brought up with the strongest influence being within the home. Maybe some day they will realise the values I have instilled, but in the meantime, I live with my two Princesses, who I love to pieces.

How do I know I am loved?

It is the little things that count. It is F. filling the coffee machine so I save time in the morning in the morning. It is getting up earlier so he can make something I wanted within his busy schedule (and for someone who gets up at 4:30 am, this is a lot). It is someone who will listen to me cry and whinge, even if he doesn´t know why. It is someone who gets upset when I am upset as he only wants to see the best from me. It is someone who will lisetn to what I say, even though he doesn´t agree, but will try and see it from my perspective. It is someone who when I say I don´t want to go out with his friends as I don´t understand what are they are saying and it is easier to stay at home, will say that he can go out anytime and being with me is more important to him to stay at home and cuddle me. It is someone who comes to every pregnancy appointment with me as it is his child too and he wants to be there to support me in every way. It is someone who supports me in what I think is important. If I want to study, he helps me find the money and looks after the children when I have assignments and exams. It is someone who will watch chilck flicks with me as being on the couch cuddling is more important. It is someone who will try to learn to appreciate my crafts, even if it is not what he is used to. It is someone who says he loves me each night as we go to sleep together. He doesn´t know why. He just knows it is love.

My Creative Need - Part 3 Felting

I know I said end July, but I can´t wait. I am so excited. I have been felting. On a rainy day when the girls were at their grandmothers I gave it another go. I felted with a mixed medium of carded wool, spun wool, and material from an old dress which I would only have dreams of fitting into. It was an old shot taffeta dress I brought once from Balmain markets (way before having children). I don´t think my photo does justice to the work itself. I then had dreams of maybe being a textile artist and opening my own studio and selling my art at exorbinant prices which will allow me to live in splendid wealth and only having to do what I wanted (I know, overactive imagination). Maybe not, but a new hobby.

I have started doing the next felted piece. I had an old handbag with a basket at the bottom and a delicate blue fabulous design with shapes and flowers. I started felting, learning along the way that wool doesn´t felt to artificial material very well (so had to sew this onto to the felted frame). I have this vintage lace dress (the one I used to wear with Docs to my accounting lectures which lead me to realise that I will not fit into the 3 peice suit culture). I dyed it a purplish colour a few years ago. I will sacrifice this for my art. I love this concept of recycling all my favorite outfits with love after having worn them with joy for so long. There is also the pleasure of having a medium which is cost effective and doesn´t require huge outlays. My artwork is something I would admire if someone else had made it, but I live with the satisfaction of knowing I had made it myself (it doesn´t happen very often).