December 11, 2011

Francesca's First Year

Goodness gracious me, where on earth did the last year go?

Our little girl turned one last weekend; I can hardly believe it has been twelve months since that bout of indigestion that turned out to be labour. And two whole years since I tentatively asked John whether he'd be interested in mixing up a baby in a petri dish.

Thank God he said yes.

And so here we are. Our longed for baby girl is a proper person now, full of toothy babble, sticky-up hairdos and a throaty laugh that starts in her roly poly belly and crinkles her whole face in a big giggly smile that makes us all feel warm and smiley on the inside.

Here's a vignette of her life so far . . .

May 5, 2011

Time Out

Oh dear, I've been neglecting you little blog. I'm sorry. Do you want to hear my excuses little blog? Because here they come . . .

Life is getting in the way at the moment. I'm hellishly busy with the business, we're moving house in just over a week, Jack's just had nearly 3 weeks of holidays and and and . . . I'm forgetting something . . . what is it . . . oh yes, my half written novel has been optioned by Hugh Jackman's production company and they want me to write the rest of it on Richard Branson's island for a month!

Okay, that last bit isn't true (but oh how I wish it was!) No, the far less glamourous, yet arguably equally exciting truth is I am doing everything with one hand because I have a 5 month old baby who suddenly wants mummy, and only mummy, most of the time.

But she is gorgeous, with her throaty chuckle and her sticky-up hair and those endless rolls of thigh and neck.

So it's worth a little blog-neglect I think. For now. Because there's so much I need to tell you little blog. I promise not to put you in a drawer for 18 months with the half written novel. (It's getting a little cantankerous that novel. Keeps accusing me of not paying it enough attention. I think it might be seeing other authors. It could all end in tears. I've told it if it leaves then I'll want custody of the excerpts. Looks like we're going legal . . .)

Meanwhile, I've started packing, starting with the two most important household items . . .

See y'all real soon :)

March 29, 2011

What Was Your Cradle Music?

Recently, Apple celebrated the release of The Beatles catalogue on iTunes by filling the screen with a big picture of the lads from Liverpool.

Just seeing them pop up like that, so unexpectedly, led to a lump-in-throat moment.

I love them. I can't quite put my finger on why I feel so emotional about the Beatles, but there it is. Love me do? I do, I do! Cute Paul, Dreamy George, Edgy John, Funny Ringo. And the music? Sheer brilliance. I mean who else do you know could get a chart-topping hit out of the lyrics "I am the eggman, they are the eggmen, I am the walrus, goo goo g’joob"?

The only explanation I can think of for my deep, unconditional, completely irrational love of the Beatles, is that their songs were my cradle music.

My teenaged parents, having taken a tumble in the back of a car on summer holidays followed by a hastily arranged (but lovely and ironically reverent, with altar boys and everything) wedding, decided to name the resulting daughter, moi, after a song from the Beatles Rubber Soul album. It could have been much worse; Tom Jones released Delilah that same year. And how lucky for me to be born to teenagers in the 60s and not today, although Mi$helle has a nice look to it, non?

As a small child I spent hours on hot Saturday nights lying on the cool linoleum floor just inside my bedroom, peeking out through the door into the room where my parents and their friends (still only in their 20s I'm amazed to reflect on now) danced and sang the night away to an endless stream of EPs on the record player, my father swinging my mum around to Elvis and Johnny O'Keefe, Frankie Valli and Gene Pitney. A particular favourite of Dad's, Lovers Concerto by The Toys, became an anthem for my childhood. I still love it and it evokes memories of those Saturday nights gazing at my happy dancing parents when the frustrations of raising three children on a single wage in the 1970s melted away in a wash of moselle and paisley halternecks and doing the twist in a suburban Melbourne lounge room. The nights always ended in a loud and boozy singalong to Unchained Melody.

When Jack was in utero, John was having a love affair with Unchained Melody and played it loudly in the car on every single car trip for months towards the end of my pregnancy. Despite, at the time, wanting to take those lonely rivers and dam them, I had cause to be grateful to John because whenever Jack was unsettled in the car, we only had to release the lonely rivers to the sea and he would shut up and listen.

Jack has since moved on, latching on to certain songs from our own collections. And when Jack loves a song, we all get to hear it many, many times to the point where a previously favoured tune is at risk of having the same effect of nails dragged down a blackboard. We have had, on rotation ad nauseum, everything from Rock The Boat (Hues Corporation) and Big Girls Don't Cry (Frankie not Fergie) to Apple Bottom Jeans and Super Trouper. And of course there are the endless round of lullabies we still sing every night - Gordon Lightfoot and tunes from My Fair Lady from Daddy, Morning Town Ride and a year-round Christmas medley from Mummy.

"Eclectic" doesn't even do this kid's musical tastes justice.

But he saves his best moves for his one true idol, the gloved one, he of the indecipherable lyric, Mr Michael Jackson. We don't even have to go out to get our groove on in this household cos once MJ is on the turntable we spend the night in Frisco, in every kind of disco, bedazzled by a cornucopia of crotch grabbing and moon walking.

I blame it on the boogie.

And now it's Francesca's turn. She will get the same off-key but enthusiastically sung lullabies as her siblings and will no doubt be moon-crawling in a few months. We put Big Girls Don't Cry on in the car for a joke once when she cried and she shut up and listened so that is now our fallback song in the car when she's crying say, in the queue at the drive-in bottle shop or in the car park of the pub while I duck in and drop ten bucks in the pokies.

Most nights she kicks and sucks her fists happily in her bouncer while I'm cooking dinner, the iPod on shuffle, imbibing her musical heritage - Blondie and Bowie, Lily Allen and Lenny Kravitz, Nick Cave and Nina Simone, Madonna and Missy, Rod and Robbie and yes, John, Paul, George & Ringo.

So how about you? Do you have a song or a style of music that always resonates with you, from when you were a child right through to your adulthood? Is there a song that, whenever you hear it, takes you back to a feeling or a memory of safety, warmth, a sense that you've come 'home'? Do tell.

I'll leave you with the lads and a song for John and my children. I will.

Image courtesy of iTunes

March 15, 2011

Infertility For Beginners

Watching Nicole Kidman talk about her struggles with fertility on 60 Minutes a couple of weeks ago it occurred to me that the subject of fertility is one that transcends race, religion, wealth and Oscar nominations. It's the great leveller, something that women everywhere are confronting, the only difference being how each woman attempts to solve her infertility. (This is where wealth and Oscar nominations come in handy because the ultimate fertility solutions generally involve dollars. Lots and lots of dollars, but that's a whole other story!)

I've been following the fertility excursion of Emily-Jade O'Keeffe (EJ prefers 'excursions' to 'journeys' because they sound more like the fun rides up the back of the bus on school trips and less like something from Idol!). If you are struggling on your own fertility 'excursion', I strongly recommend you read this post by Emily. Apart from being written with her usual warm, witty and slightly irreverent style, Emily has written a form guide for how she intends to tackle this baby making business.

As a girl who lives her life by lists, I find this approach appealing and I'm REALLY REALLY glad she has decided to put a plan in place. I wish I had have done the same thing years ago instead of waiting until it was nearly too late.

You see, the thing about infertility is that it kind of creeps up on you. You start with the mindset that there is nothing wrong with you and that you'll fall pregnant easily. Because you're a woman with a uterus and a good grasp of how babies are conceived and people have been doing it for millennia and what could possibly go wrong? Right?

After trying for a few months, you start to wonder why it isn't happening and google 'conception' to find out if there are any little tips or tricks you could be trying. This is where it can get confusing. One website tells you to raise your hips up on a pillow for half an hour after having sex to let gravity help the little swimmers on their way, but another website warns against raising your hips too high because the sperm can 'pool' behind the cervix and not make their way in at all!

The mental image of a 'sperm pool' doesn't help either (I'm thinking of all the little blokes cruising up to the wet bar and staying put for a few mucus mojitos instead of getting their tadpole arses up to the uterus and getting down to work. It's a business trip fellas, not a holiday junket!)

The thing is, it's all very well to try the diets, herbs, acupuncture, timed sex and all the other natural conception methods going around but if you are over 30 and it hasn't happened within 6 to 12 months, then get yourself on the medical highway pronto*. And if you're closer to 40, run don't walk to your nearest baby doctor because in the great ovulation lottery, the last supplementary ball is about to drop.

And that doesn't have to be IVF immediately (although at 41 I decided to bypass Fleet Street and go straight to Little Feet Street without passing GO or collecting $200!); your excursion might start with something as simple as an ovulation predictor kit, or a drug like Clomid to stimulate ovulation. Or perhaps your plumbing needs unblocking or a bit of uterine spring cleaning is the only thing standing between you and a sudden craving for anchovy milkshakes.

In fact there are a few treatments you can put on your fertility to-do list before you hit the big guns of artificial insemination and IVF.

The thing is, you need to start. If you want a baby and it's not happening, don't wait too long to do something about it. Just the very act of taking control and booking an appointment is empowering and exciting.

Sitting on the sidelines watching the growing bellies of pregnant friends (and, it seems, every second woman on the street!), genuinely wishing them well and outwardly smiling, but inwardly drowning in self-doubt and guilt-ridden envy and wondering why it isn't happening easily for you, is NOT the way you want to live your life. Taking positive action - any action - towards your goal is the best remedy. At least it was for me.

I love this quote by Mark Twain . . .
Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.
How very true.

Except in the case of pregnant pole dancing - I'm fairly confident I won't be disappointed in 20 years that I didn't explore that particular harbour :) But I'm so glad Christina Applegate did cos boy does this make me laugh. Enjoy . . . (and then go write that list!)

Prenatal Pole Dancing DVD from Christina Applegate

* Just want to reiterate that the opinions in this blog are just that - opinions. Based on my experience only. I'll let you know if anything I say is based on actual, yknow, medical fact.

February 27, 2011

Frankie Vicious

Oy! Nobody messes with Frankie Vicious of the Collaroy Punkettes

My daughter was born with a mohawk. I was just twirling it with my fingers while she was feeding the other night and it stayed up in these punky little spikes. Quick, call the hair police! 

Meanwhile, would it be too cruel to pierce her nose, colour her new spikes hot pink and buy her a pair of baby Doc Martins?

February 18, 2011

G'night John-Boy. G'night Franny-Beth.

So about an hour after we give our brand new daughter what we think is the timeless, classic, non-top-ten name of Francesca Elizabeth, my girlfriend Clare arrives at the hospital, armed with her droll English wit and announces Francesca's new nickname . . . hello Franny-Beth! Hyphenated though, just to make it a little bit fancy. Although even a fancy hyphen can't help it from sounding like the name of the Alabama State High homecoming queen.

Anyway, because I'd been lucky enough to have an unmedicated birth, I had my wits about me and was able to tell my pommy mate to stick the name Franny-Beth in her Mint Julep (or whatever they drink in the fine state of Alabama) and suck it up through a straw.

The thing is, when you choose a name for your newest pride and joy, you ignore any potential nicknames at your peril.

When the midwife asks you what you plan to call your child, you'd better be damn sure that you're comfortable with the fact that Rebecca might get called Beck, Richard will get Dick and Potato will be shortened to Spud.


And let's not forget the Australian propensity to lengthen short names with a 'ee' or an 'oh' on the end. John becomes Johnny or Johnno, Anne becomes Annie, Russell is Rusty or, in the case of Jack's little mate Ryan, well, he'll always be Rynee-Piney-Pineapple-Head to us.

So it is with Francesca. We are happy with Frankie, Cesca (pronounced Chess-ka), Chessie, Honeypie, Cutiepie, Lil Cesca-Luna and, lately as she stacks on the thigh rolls, Butterball. However, whilst we're not keen on Fran or Franny (no offence to any Frans or Frannys out there), we accept that some people might call her those names and are prepared to correct them. Politely.

You also need to be prepared to tell anyone who asks why you chose the name and what it means. Because, like the questions "When are you due?" and "Do you know the sex?", you will be asked to explain the name you chose. If my Grandma, Father Paul from St Rose or the ladies who work in the presbytery ask, Francesca was named after St Francis of Assisi. To everyone else, we just liked the name. Or rather, I liked the name and John agreed (No seriously, I really did want to take his suggestions on board but I just couldn't imagine calling out "Marjorie!" or "Petula!" in the playground)*. I especially liked the Italian-ness of it.

Because to tell you the truth, ever since I watched A Room With A View at 17 (remember when Helena Bonham-Carter wore matching shoes and had a hairstyle instead of a birds nest on her head?) and then traveled to Florence myself at 19, I have been a bit of an Italophile. Apart from the man who flashed me in Rome and the other man who rubbed his crotch against me on a bus in Florence, I love Italy and everything in it.

I also love Italian names and when some friends of ours recently named their daughter Lucia, it reminded me how much I loved that name and also the name Francesca. So we looked it up and we liked the meaning "free woman" because even though she is growing up in this incredible millennium and this incredible country and can vote and show off her ankles and even visit the Long Room at the MCG**, we also hope that she will be free-spirited, free-thinking and free-speaking.

We also hope she remains a free woman as in 'stays out of jail'. Just saying.

Then, while I was pregnant, I heard a woman call to her daughter in the foyer of a cinema "Chess-ka!" and that sealed it. It sounded sweet and I did not foresee any future playground-shouting hesitation.

However saying the name is one thing; writing it is quite another. We have saddled the poor little pet with a rather long name and a lifetime of trying to fit Francesca Elizabeth Barraclough into the little boxes on Medicare forms and name tags at networking functions. I'll teach her to write small.

Of course, once we'd chosen the name it was essential to keep it to ourselves for as long as possible in order to avoid what I like to call the Raised Eyebrow Effect. When we discovered we were having a girl, we bandied around a few names, as you do, one of which was Chloe. I've always loved the name and still do. But when we mentioned it as a possibility at a family gathering, an older relative crinkled her nose and gave a little shake of the head, and two of the younger women, both in their twenties, gave each other a 'look'.

"What? What's wrong with Chloe?!" I asked, looking from one to the other in bewilderment.

They laughed nervously and said "Oh nothing," (meaning 'something') "It's just that we know a girl called Chloe and she's a bit of a skank."

Great. Just great.

In fact, no matter what name you mention, someone will always know a person with that name who is a skank/tosser/loser/stole-my-lunch-in-year-six/stank-like-fish/etc. For the record we decided against Chloe as a name, NOT because of a skanky acquaintance of our relatives, but because it has become very popular recently and we wanted something a bit different. Having said that, I have come across two more recently named Francescas so she could be 'Francesca B' in school after all, sandwiched between Francesca A and Francesca C.

In fact, like Mary of the 50s, Lisa of the 60s, Jennifer of the 70s and Jessica of the 80s, Francesca could be the nom de jour for the Teens (or whatever we're calling the next decade).

Indeed, my own name had a top ten ranking through the 60s and 70s, thanks to Paul McCartney and the Beatles. I was named by my 19 year old father whose frame of reference covered saints names and song titles. If I'd had a more reverent father I might have been Mary-Margaret or Bernadette. On the other hand, Tom Jones released Delilah in 1968 too. My my my!

Be careful, however, about throwing out any red herrings. We thought it would be hilarious to text everyone after the birth and tell them that, after careful consideration, we'd named the baby Francesca Elizabeth***, favouring it narrowly over Apple Daphne. There were some who thought Apple Daphne was a beautiful name and what a shame we didn't go with it. Hmmm . . . 

So to all you pregnant ladies out there, take heed! Firstly, choose your baby's name wisely. Secondly, do yourself a favour and keep the name to yourself until after the birth. Be cowardly clever like us and spring it on your loved ones via text message. Nobody EVER knows a skank/tosser/loser by that name once the baby's been born. Trust me.

* John dipped into the baby name book for daily inspiration and these were among some of his suggestions. I suspect he was joking but you never know with a man who still reveres Gordon Lightfoot. (If you're reading darling, LOVE YOU!)

** The Long Room is the famous dining room in the Members Pavillion at the Melbourne Cricket Ground, oozing with leathery tradition and a clubby atmosphere. Ladies were allowed to cross its hallowed threshold in 1984 (no, not 1884, 1984, if you can believe it!) and whilst Francesca will be free to enter, she will not be free to wear 'tank tops, non-tailored pants or yachting weatherproofs'. (Which is a shame because that's what I like to wear to the cricket, don't you? Especially with my midriff exposed. Another no-no in the Long Room I'm afraid).

*** We gave Francesca the middle name of Elizabeth after my beautiful friend whose wise words made Francesca a reality instead of just an unattainable dream.

Image courtesy of

January 25, 2011

Nursery Makeover

Now I know this is a question that has been on the tips of your lips for weeks now, and quite possibly keeping you up at night . . .

Did we get the baby's room ready on time?

Sorta, kinda, yeah. It was mostly done by the time she came. I just added a few little touches here and there after she arrived. Ahem. Let's put it this way, there were sheets on her bed.

Remember how it looked? Like a cross between a tip and . . . well . . . a tip.

Part of the problem is that where we live, we don't have much storage. Because we'd dismantled the queen size bed in this former-spare-bedroom, the sudden appearance of all that clear floorspace was extremely appealing and acted like a magnet for a whole lot of stuff. You know, empty boxes, spare light fixtures, a toolbox, my fit ball, rope. Stuff.

About three weeks before the birth, John cleared it out, finding new homes for some of the stuff and ditching the rest.

Then I moved in and, with the zeal of a nesting pregnant woman combined with the misguided enthusiasm of a DIY Home Beautiful reader, I began creating The Nursery.

This was incredibly exciting for me because, despite having three step-kids and a little boy, I had never had the opportunity to create a Nursery.

The step-kids were 14, 11 and 8 when we set up home together for the first time and were unreasonably resistant to my ideas for nautical wall motifs and princess patterned curtains. Then when we had Jack, we didn't have a dedicated baby room at the house we were living in so he got shunted from one room to another, depending on which kids were staying with us at the time. Many times his cot was wheeled into the dining room for the night where he slumbered blissfully among the melted candles, empty wine bottles and the lingering scent of lamb korma wafting across his tiny nostrils. It is no wonder his idea of a great night out is going to The Rupee Room for a curry and naan before heading home to watch Masterchef.

Apart from all that, I was not just getting to decorate a baby's room, but a GIRL's baby room. I could see a lot of pink in my future. The question was, could I bear it? I like pink, don't get me wrong, but I didn't want to drown in the stuff. Especially not the frilly, lacy variety.

Looking around for inspiration, I went straight to the style guru Heather Armstrong at her website Dooce. Before Heather had Marlo in 2009, she wrote a post about putting the nursery together. The result was truly stunning and there was no way I was going to be able to create such a beautiful, stylish result. However I recalled one idea that I particularly liked. Here 'tis:

Two things I liked about this. The flowers crawling up the wall was a gorgeous touch, and from a practical point of view, utilising a chest of drawers for a change table was a great space saver. I promptly nicked the ideas. Thanks Heather!

I found another fabulous reference site at KidSpot - again some absolutely gorgeous nurseries (most beyond my spatial, technical and financial capabilities) but if you're after some ideas, there are some stunners to drool over (although some of them aren't exactly models of conformity when it comes to SIDS guidelines so ignore all those cot bumpers!)

Anyhoo, with a limited budget and a bit of homespun creative input, here is Francesca's Nursery.

We inherited some lovely furniture from friends - in the right colours!
These pretty Baboushka dolls are from Just 4 Kidz
We bought this Stokke cot when Jack was born and it has lasted beautifully
Jemima Puddleduck & Peter Rabbit keep those naughty Russian girls in check!

Francesca's parents and siblings keeping watch over her as she sleeps. Frames from Ikea.
I made the four canvases by painting them and applying paper birds, butterflies, hearts and dragonflies 

I cut individual blooms from a silk hydrangea (from Flower Power) & stuck them to the wall with pliable adhesive to create the climbing flower feature
So there you have it. Pretty and not too pink. I'm going to enjoy it while it lasts because I'm sure in approximately twelve years the walls will be plastered with the 2023 equivalent of Justin Bieber and the stars of High School Musical XIV!

January 21, 2011

Twenty Eleven

Now listen here 2011, stop right there. You've galloped ahead to January 21 and I haven't even formed a resolution, let alone started breaking one!

First things first, I didn't like the way you started the year with the news that both my uncle and my mother-in-law have cancer. However you have the opportunity to redeem yourself by ensuring that their treatments are successful and they make a full recovery. And don't be stingy with the pain relief!

Apart from that, I have great expectations of you. I was particularly impressed with the way 2010 fulfilled my resolution to conceive and give birth to a healthy baby girl. Surely you won't have any trouble delivering the million dollars I need by the end of the year. (And don't think you can compete with 2010 by bringing me another baby, conceived naturally, of course, after years of trying and a gazillion dollars on IVF! That will cause a bit of a problem between you, me and your mate Murphy. Give one to Emily Jade O'Keefe instead. Pretty please.)

Y'know, as we creep ahead to 2015, I see that we're really no closer to the whole flying car, hover board and talking house thing promised in Back To The Future II. But, like Marty McFly, clothes that shrink or expand to fit the wearer is something I definitely think you should be working on. There are some women (no one in particular) who've just had babies that would love to fit into their size 10 jeans by winter. Just saying.

So anyway, I've decided not to form any resolutions but to simply demand a few things of you. Here are the things I would like this year:
  • The continuing health of all my family and friends
  • Five extra hours in every day
  • A fast rebuild and recovery for all the flood victims and no argy-bargy with their insurance!
  • A sensational year in business with our fabulous new biz partners
  • A lovely firm C cup, even when I've finished breastfeeding
  • For Jack to have ten and a bit happy months in Year 2 and for Francesca to realise the value of a 3 hour daytime sleep
  • The gift of hindsight BEFORE I make stupid decisions (the lavender gypsy top with the white a-line skirt was always gonna make me look like a fat cupcake!)
  • A wife (preferably with her own Le Creuset set, a collection of Manolos and a size 8 foot)
  • And don't forget that million dollars (I know it sounds like a lot but have you seen the price of real estate on the northern beaches lately??)
  • Oh yes, and world peace.
And the 'no thanks' list . . .
  • Bubble-bursters, naysayers and meanies, especially those in the guise of 'friends'
  • Bad wine and coffee. If I can only have one glass/cup of something, it's got to be a mighty fine drop.
Actually, that's a pretty short list but says it all really. Everything else is either covered in the first list or can be dealt with.

So how about you? What's on your list of things you want or would like to achieve this year?

P.S. Sending love and warm huggles to Emily Jade who is having an unwanted tenant evicted from her uterus today. Here's to 'more room at the inn' :)

PPS. A big hello to new visitors who've found your way here from Emily Everywhere (which, by the way, is a wonderful, funny and engaging blog written by a Brissy goddess). Lovely to meet you!
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