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Captain America is making it big in the box office taking the heroic mantel that traditionally passes from one male caped crusader to the next. But what of their female counterparts? Where is our beacon of girl power? After all girls can be superheroes too.

The message that heroes should not be subject to gender classification is one strongly endorsed by toy company Arklu, the creators of leading doll brand Lottie™. Joining forces with US non-profit organisation Brave Girls Alliance, Arklu is launching an exciting and innovative global competition inviting entrants aged 10 and under to design a superhero outfit for the Lottie™ doll.

One lucky Lottie™ fan will see their design come to life, with the winning superhero outfit being manufactured and made commercially available later this year. Empowering not only the notion of female superheroism but more importantly placing the ideas of a child into the mainstream marketplace to be taken seriously by the world in which they live; the ‘Design a Superhero Outfit Competition’ is unique. This marks the first time that a crowd-sourced design by a child will go into commercial production with the winner’s original artworked design, first name, age, city and country included on the back of the outfit packaging. The winner will also receive the entire range of Lottie dolls, accessories and outfits.

To a child, the subject of superpowers is something that amounts to a tangible dream within the limitless potential of youth. Flying, mindreading, invisibility, strength, immortality; the list is endless when you’re young. Anything is possible. So what better time to instil the attitude that our young girls are strong enough to stand on their own two feet (as is the ethos of Lottie™) and achieve anything they set their mind to (with obvious exceptions). Lucie Follett, Creative Director of Arklu, explains “Lottie™ dolls motto is ‘Be Bold, Be Brave, Be You’ and many of the Lottie™ dolls explore inspiring, empowering and adventurous themes, so this competition is a really fantastic way to build on these strong ‘pro girl’ values.”

Melissa Wardy of Brave Girls Alliance says: “The Brave Girls Alliance is proud to support Lottie doll and their campaign that champions girls’ desire to be heroes. The Superhero contest is a great way to bring girls’ voices forward and allows them to show the world their ideas on what a girl superhero should look like and what powers they should possess.”

Built around the jewellery and make-up free appearance and physique of a regular child, Lottie™ is the perfect canvas from which young girls can imagine their ideal superhero.  After all, a superhero that comes from a real place may actually become the kind of superhero that could really exist.

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Competition Details:

Parents and guardians are asked to download a colouring page template from the superhero contest app on the Lottie dolls Facebook page at http://woobox.com/cggtn7 so that kids can use this as a starting point for their design, as well as describing the superpower abilities that their design has.

Parents are then required to take a photo of their child’s design and upload it onto the superhero contest Facebook app and fill in a form to grant parental permission for their child’s entry to be considered for the competition. Full terms and conditions of the competition are to be found at: http://www.lottie.com/superhero-outfit-design-competition-terms-conditions/

The Facebook app is available in English, French, German, Dutch, Spanish, Portuguese and Norwegian.

The hashtag #girlsuperhero will be used on social media to promote the competition, and entries will be displayed on a dedicated Pinterest folder http://www.pinterest.com/lottiedolls/girl-superhero-outfit-design-competition/

Entries will be judged by a panel including at least one independent panelist member of the Brave Girls Alliance, and judged on their creativity and originality, fun and overall ‘kid-appeal’, as well as keeping true to the ‘pro girl’ values that underpin both the Lottie™ brand and the Brave Girls Alliance.

Closing date for entries is 7th May 2014 and the winner will be notified confidentially in May 2014, with the public announcement being made when the winning outfit goes on sale in October 2014 – just in time for the International Day of the Girl.

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Wednesdays are dance days in our household. This morning my increasingly-headstrong two year old selected her own outfit of pink ‘I love the 80s’ crop top (something I picked up at FOX in Israel) and lacy black leggings. My obsession with the 80s and SJP must be rubbing off on her.

Off we went some time later to keep our weekly dance date with Miss Alicia of Rhythm Factory (Clovelly, Eastern Suburbs branch). Half an hour of up-beat music, colourful wands, pom-poms, ribbons and a rainbow-coloured parachute and my twirling toddler was in heaven.

In a class peppered with tutu-wearing toddlers between 2-3 years, there is something for every stage of development as the youngest enjoy the sensory and social experience while the girls at the older end of the age spectrum respond enthusiastically to Miss Alicia’s smiling instruction.

Music is an important part of any person’s life, particularly for a child whose task it is to absorb the contents of the world around them. My younger brother is special needs and for him, music acted as his access code into the English language. There’s something about rhyming that sifts information into our brains more fluidly than in any other form and opens us up to learning in a way that’s fun and engaging.

To that end, I will continue encouraging my little dancing queen in any lyrical ventures she may wish to entertain… now, she and I have a date with the sofa, a bowl of popcorn and Girls Just Wanna Have Fun on DVD.

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There’s something about opting for writing as a profession in its inherent capability for free expression and unrestricted use of imagination. Anything is possible, and with next month’s ELLE magazine cover star being none other than Muppets diva, Miss Piggy, never has that statement been more apt.

One of the most iconic characters of fantastical reality, Miss Piggy dressed in bespoke Donna Karan covers the May collector’s edition issue of UK ELLE. It certainly sounds as though the editorial team had fun with their larger-than-life guest and it made me consider the realms of my own imagination and its place in my life.

Getting lost in the fictional worlds I create through the written word, first through the short stories I wrote in childhood and more recently through my self-published chic-lit Choo or Faux and scripterly work in progress. However, the issue I find is as I try to write the real world through my own eyes, the room for imagination shrinks. Words like “plausible”, “believable” and “accessible” fill my head and filter through to my fingers as they tap at the keys of my computer. I suppose I should change the focus and genre of my writing as surely imagination allows me the poetic licence to write the world I want to see, rather than the one I have to reflect?

After all, our imaginations give us chance for escape and temporary relief from the often stressful life we live in the real world. Suspending reality for just a moment to believe we are living in a world where puppets can be magazine cover stars and fairies really do live among the stems of grass at the bottom of the garden and our toys come to life when we’re not looking, is simply wonderful. It’s where childhood enters adulthood and the endless possibilities that existed in our formative years fade away in the face of grown up responsibility.

Thinking about a scene from one of my favourite films Knocked Up, Paul Rudd and Seth Rogen discuss children’s love of bubbles. Rudd’s character laments: “I wish I liked anything as much as my kids love bubbles.” But why can’t we? Why can’t we as grown-ups find pleasure in magic and fantasy and imagination? It’s why places like Disneyland are so profitable and stage shows that turn our animated icons into tangible characters attract the audiences that they do. There’s even a brand of chocolate that claims to have come direct from Willy Wonka’s chocolate factory. We’re desperate to find a way of merging the stuff of our imaginations with real life.

There’s a freedom that comes with the fantastical, as ELLE writer Annabel Brog references the scandalous fact that Miss Piggy stole the clothes from the shoot. Were the cover star a Jennifer Lawrence or Victoria Beckham, such an accusation would be liable for serious consequences but in this case it’s just fodder for the comedy of the whole experience. Within the spaces forged by our imaginations and of course, the legendary imagination of individuals like the late Jim Henson, the beauty is in the unbelievable, the implausible and things only accessible via our desire for the make believe. “Why be you when you could be moi?” is the cover line that accompanies the Muppet famous for her love of the spotlight and her froggie beau, Kermit. It is the ultimate question for this piece as we consider who we could be within the world of our imagination.

Perhaps Miss Piggy’s magazine cover will be the starting point for freeing my imagination as I free myself from the constraints of reality and plunge head-first into the limitless possibilities of what could be…

Click here to see Miss Piggy’s takeover at the ELLE cover shoot…
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I have to admit, while I LOVE being a mother, genuinely my daughter is the best thing since sliced bread (Hovis Best of Both to be precise, being that she’s an exact mix of me and her father); I do find there are times where I feel, powerless.

I was discussing with a friend recently the simultaneous gift and burden we mothers have as sole carer for our children. On the whole it is the fathers who do as their cavemen predecessors did and hunt and gather in the great wide world. True to form, my husband is a head-hunter, gathering opportunities for his fellow cavemen to fill their own roles as “provider”. Therefore, if at any point said caveman is called upon to break with tradition and look after the children, such a request is typically met with a roll of the eyes and an eventual concession to “babysit” one’s own offspring. There may also be a negotiation for reward in response for such valiance, i.e. tuning the TV to the sports channel the following evening.

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My response now, to this and other circumstances – a dirty nappy, mealtimes, brushing teeth – is a reminder that I did not procreate our offspring by myself. By that reasoning, my caveman is equally fair game for dirty nappy duty. However, the issue lies in the fact that while I am ‘at home’ caring for our child, enjoying days out at soft-play facilities, art and dance studios, friend’s houses and so on; my caveman is at his office working very hard to provide for our family.

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It’s a catch-22. Part of me wants us to be equally responsible for the day to day of raising OUR child, but the rational part of me knows it’s unfair to expect certain things from my husband when he is filling the role we have set out for him. He earns the money so I can stay home. He has to factor annual leave into our holiday decisions so I can stay home. He has to commute to the city every day so I can stay home. So is it fair for me to want him to get up with the toddler on the weekends, or miss out on weekend five-a-side so I can go on a rare outing with a friend, or make a meal when he gets home in the evening because I’m too tired?

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It’s this kind of situation that could lead to resentment building as two people try to acclimatise to life in a modern day cave. One that reminds women they should be having it all while playing to the notion of traditional archetypes. So, which is it? Perhaps that is down to us, learning and growing with each life experience as we gradually come to understand what we’re doing here, and figuring out how to get a modern mum and a caveman to speak the same language.

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Have I given away some of my power by being a stay-at-home-mum? Would I gain some of it back by getting a job? Does the power lie with whoever holds the financial security or am I in a more powerful position than I realise? Taking charge of the home, nurturing my family, supporting my caveman, organising our schedule, taking charge of the important decisions… this is my domain. It doesn’t mean I must stop fighting for my autonomy both inside and outside of the cave, after all, my caveman may have discovered fire but he’s not the only one who knows how to use it.

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I had a reality check this morning, as I scrolled through the latest posts via social media – the refuge of the modern day mother who pins every hope on her facebook wall and twitter feed of retaining a connection to the outside world and her life BC (Before Child). I discovered a piece by Bunmi Laditan, author of The Honest Toddler: A Child’s Guide to Parenting. Written for The Huffington Post, Laditan’s frank and candid narrative directly dispels the myth of the fairytale childhood we are all desperately trying to bestow upon our offspring.

Pressured by the parenting urban legends proffered by the likes of Pinterest, Tumblr and parenting blogs that all seem to be in league against the ordinary among us; we are forgetting what childhood meant to us and therefore what it could mean to our own children. I took my daughter to her weekly dance class this morning and while she embraced the various props and musical tunes, it was having the opportunity to run around, shrieking with her fellow tutu-wearing companion that meant the most to her.

You don’t need ‘pinspiration’ to raise your children, because it’s the simple things in life that hold the real magic. Playing with a ball. Raiding the kitchen cupboard and filling the utensils with toys. Getting that flying feeling on the swings. Playing with friends. A good tickle. A story or two before bed. A goodnight kiss.

The competitive nature of modern day parenting doesn’t allow us to rate these things on its list of “ways to keep your child entertained through the Easter holidays”. Or understand that its bulletin outlining the “7 signs that your child is gifted” may send some mothers into depression because their toddler doesn’t meet any of them. In pregnancy when asked what we’re hoping for, most will answer with “a healthy child”. After birth when asked the same question, the adjective changes to “happy”… that is until they attend their first mother and baby group where Baby Einstein, pre-school acceptances and baby yoga are the norm, and anything less is met with smug tuts laden with judgement as the competition is weeded out.

I kind of winged it through maternity leave, intent on doing my own thing, but peppering our week with the odd communal activity meant to strengthen our mother-daughter bond (in spite of the fact that 90% of the time she was permanently bonded to my breast). The past two years have been a rollercoaster of doubt and assurance that I’m doing it right. It being parenting. Going round to someone’s house for a playdate and discovering a room dedicated just to art supplies for their toddler made me wince as I considered the three tubes of paint stashed away in a kitchen cupboard seeing the light of day maybe once every other month. Laditan references crafts and their place in the home as being neither here nor there:

“I don’t have a single memory of doing a craft with my parents. Crafts were something I did in preschool and primary school. The only “crafts” I recall were the ones my mother created in her spare time. The hum of her sewing machine would often lull me to sleep as she turned scrap cloth into hair accessories to sell and hemmed our clothes.”

It occurred to me I too share none of those ‘craft-at-home’ memories. What I remember is playing outside in the garden with my best friend. Having a dollies picnic in my bedroom. Turning my little brother into an assortment of sidekicks as the stairs became a mountain, the living room a cave and my bedroom base camp one. Like Laditan, there were two words one should never utter in my mother’s or grandmother’s presence: “I’m bored” was a sure-fire way to get your ass handed to you as a list of potential activities was reeled off in 90 seconds flat.

Laditan goes on to rubbish the modern day parent’s need to be the source of their child’s entertainment, while acknowledging the line between neglect and reality.

“Parents do not make childhood magical. Abuse and gross neglect can mar it, of course, but for the average child, the magic is something inherent to the age. …It is not our responsibility to manufacture contrived memories on a daily basis.”

Childhood should not be fuelled by unrealistic goals set by parents who are desperate to keep up with the Jones’. Childhood should be fuelled by imagination and love. The wonder of seeing the world through eyes that are witnessing the changing seasons, bubbles, the sea, a train for the very first time is magical in itself. We feel the need to turn life into a grand production of expensive holidays, lavish birthday parties, excessive gifts and a wardrobe eligible to appear between the pages of Vogue; the truth is, our children are unlikely to remember much of these trimmings. What they hopefully will remember is spending time with family, being made to feel special and being loved more than anything in the world.

So, parents, ease off yourselves. You’re doing a fabulous job. Don’t worry about what all the other kids are doing because all that does is take your attention away from your own little star. Look at them; they are a product of your love, your support and your presence; that is what makes them shine. Family time, a safe and loving home, the familiar. The more we drive ourselves crazy trying to put on the greatest performance ever for our children, the less they will appreciate what really matters in life.

Embrace the simple pleasures, the meals out, trips to the cinema, afternoons at the playground, picnics, patting the puppies at the pet shop, watching the coloured fish at the garden centre, walks in the woods, feeding the ducks and the 100 other things you don’t need a manufactured website to inform you of. Anything else is just a fairy dusted, chocolate sprinkled bonus.

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It’s not every day one has the opportunity to hear an esteemed philosopher speak, and at such an iconic venue as the Sydney Opera House. But that’s just what I did this past weekend, on the arm of a very generous friend, who had procured the tickets. In town to promote his new book, The News: A User’s Manual, Alain De Botton – who is to critics and the world alike what Marmite is to the world at large – captivated the some 2000-strong audience from the moment he stepped on stage.

His first point was to address the over-saturation of the news in this technology-laden day and age, saying the smart phone has brought news into the bedroom and thus replaced the need for conversation. I would imagine my readers will agree with this point, reading this as they most likely are on their iPhone/iPad/Android device. Referencing Granny and her solitary sheet of newspaper, from which one could garner the news in one sitting; De Botton raises the point that we are so overcome with “the news”, that the likelihood is it goes in one orifice and out another, in our race to keep up with it.

The self-proclaimed “pop” philosopher blames this overloading of information for modern day insomnia, asserting that all the unique thoughts we suppress throughout the day in order to fill our heads with “the news” come back to get their revenge at 3am.

It is not just our hunger for news but the way in which we need to consume it that De Botton debates. Showing us a picture of a melting glaciar, alongside a picture of Taylor Swift wearing very short shorts, De Botton makes a witty commentary on the line between appealing and important. What we want to see and what we need to see are apparently two very different things. It is finding the balance that we have yet to achieve. In a piece on The Philosopher’s Mail the two stories were juxtaposed into one in a commentary on this very subject.

According to De Botton, the news bearer too must be pretty and appealing in order for us, the consumer, to be receptive to hearing “the news”. We are less likely to listen to the big bearded bloke than we are to the smiling busty blonde. That’s potentially an over-exaggeration and slight dig at the intelligence of most people, but you get my point. As much as we may try not to judge the cover, many of us fall prey to the pretty packaging and long supple legs a la Swift and co. Or as De Botton states, the “sugarcoating” that dusts every modern news cycle.

There are, according to De Botton, only 43 news stories ever circulating the globe, give or take a few. Essentially, the same stories are redressed and rejuvenated to trick us into believing we are reading several different stories that in fact originate with the same, lone archetype. Because, that is in fact what these stories are. Archetypes. Models upon which to base narrative. A story about Prince William carrying his newborn son in a car-seat, is the same story as Taylor Swift food shopping, is the same story as Jesus himself being born in a barn. It is all about the extraordinary few doing ordinary things. Same script, different cast.

On the subject of celebrity, De Botton is of the opinion that it is not celebrity culture that is the issue but rather the types of celebrities the “news factory” is churning out. Were the news to deliver us good celebrity role models as opposed to the pro-twerking canon that is Miley Cyrus and her ilk; perhaps the serious journalists would feel less offended by having to compete with them for column inches.

From celebrity to mortality and the human fear of our own demise, De Botton parallels the disaster stories that litter the news to the skulls which used to adorn households centuries ago as amounting to the same important symbol. Memento Mori’s - as they are called – are reminders to us not of our fear about death but of the importance of life and making the most of the one we have. The skeletal artefacts of centuries past have the same impact on us as reading about the recent Malaysian Airlines disaster or a fatal car crash; they remind us of how fleeting and fallible human life is and that we must attempt to savour every day as though it were our last.

The media is made up of so many elements but to successfully navigate it, first we must understand each component and it’s aim. Bias in the media trying to waive our political and sociological affections, social media encouraging individual thought yet ultimately forcing us to nurture the machine that is “the news” as we regurgitate (or retweet) the information fed to us by the BBC and CNN and Fox etcetera, and the ability of the news to skew the human life cycle by making us simultaneously fearful of being blown apart in some freak disaster and yet hopeful that we’ll live forever once the scientists complete their research on magic immortality pills. Once we have grasped these elements and the role they play within “the news”, the better equipped we are to make the news work for us, rather than keeping us trapped in a bubble of over-informed terror and confusion.

De Botton brings us back to reality with a much-needed bump, as he tells us what we fundamentally know; that what is reported in the news is by and large, is the “exception”. Having travelled to Uganda where, he says, there are lots of murders that are rarely reported compared to Australia which he asserts as being known to be a relatively safe site of the world and report numerous murders between the sheets of its broadsheets and tabloids; the point is, when something appears in the newspaper it is because it is out of the ordinary.

Ultimately, that’s what people want to hear about or else it wouldn’t be “news” to begin with. We live between a need to see the extraordinary few being ordinary and extraordinary occurrences to flavour our mostly ordinary lives. The exception is what people aspire to because there are only a few who will achieve it. Reading the weekend supplements that fill the Saturday and Sunday papers, De Botton speaks of his envy for those extraordinary individuals profiled between the pages. But, he says, it is not their accomplishments of founding multibillion dollar companies, or their glamorous wives or even their full heads of hair (spoken by a true baldy!); no, it is the virtues they possess that afforded them these achievements to begin with. Courage, determination, self-belief; that is what he envies. However, rather than drown in envy, he asserts the need to act progressively with the feeling and use it to understand who we should be and who we are meant to become.

The news, he says, blithely generates and sustains these feelings of envy, as well as our consumption of Kim Kardashian, Miley Cyrus et al and our obsessive fear that is wrapped up in the stories of modern day disaster. If we are to learn anything by our relationship with “the news” it is this, put down your smart phone, close your laptop and turn to the actual people in your life and talk to them. Because at the end of the day, the news they have to tell you is just as important.

 

 

 

 

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On a rare rainy day in Sydney, I treated my mini fashionista to a day of sparkly creativity at The Messy Spot. Run by a fellow Mum who was looking for an artistic outlet for her own children, the Maroubra-based venue is unique in its aim to provide an open art workshop for children aged 2-10.

We arrived bright and early at 10am to find a cluster of mums and kids already deep into painting paradise. Donning oversized tees as The Messy Spot proprietor gave us the lowdown on prices, paints and products, my mini fashionista and her gal pal were set up at a bright red table complete with paintbrushes, their chosen easel of wooden star and pots of coloured glitter at the ready to add that finishing sparkle.

From finger-painting to foam, the children were treated to homemade foam created from water, fairy liquid, food dye and a whiz of the hand-whisk. In two big tubs assigned to two tables at the back of the studio the children were left to explore the foamy concoction with the various utensils on offer.

Completing the creative trio was a session with a malleable material that felt like a stickier playdough. With cookie cutters, cupcake cases, plastic cutlery and more, my mini fashionista got to grips with the speckled substance before returning to her painted star to add a dash of glitter.

The only venue to allow kids the freedom to paint, draw, decorate and get good and messy, experiencing new textures and skill building at their own pace; The Messy Spot is the ideal rainy day venue or any day to indulge your aspiring artist in a morning of colourful fun. And the best bit, someone else does the cleaning up!

http://www.themessyspot.com.au/

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In sad news Gwyneth Paltrow and Chris Martin have announced the end of their 11 year marriage, in eco-friendly terminology, stating a ‘conscious uncoupling’ via Paltrow’s site Goop. It’s an interesting spin to put on the ‘D’ word and it certainly points to an amicable division of one of Hollywood’s favourite pairings.

It takes a lot to make a relationship work, as you move from the first flush of new romance to getting excited about an early night so you can… sleep. So what makes some relationships sustainable and others disposable?

It takes love, friendship, trust, understanding, compromise, patience and a million other things to give a relationship that magical seal of Happy Ever After. But seeing the magic through the typical arguments over money, in-laws, weight gain and kids often means a relationship can go from hand-holding and kisses at the start of the red carpet but a fractured mess once you reach the end.

The A List appears to have it easier than us regular folk, and to some extent they do, what with their multimillions, multiple homes and million-dollar looks. However, long periods apart, proximity to other beautiful people and onscreen chemistry have a lot to answer for. It’s therefore hardly surprising that so many celebrity couplings consciously and otherwise revoke their dual status.

Thinking about the way this movie star and her musician ended their marriage as something involving an active decision sets them apart from their famous cohorts. Rather than the seemingly flippant dating mentality of many a celeb, moving from one co-star to the next, the Coldplay frontman and his movie star missus have shown what it means to love the one you’re with for longer than most relationship’s fifteen minute of fame. So, rather than the shrug of inevitability that greets most Hollywood break-ups, I for one am saddened by the Paltrow-Martin uncoupling but I respect it as a conscious decision.

peppa and georgeBefore I had children I thought I would like to have five, and my husband and I would live in a beautiful big house in California and be surrounded by all our children and their children and Rob Lowe would walk in and… then I realised my life is not an episode of Brothers & Sisters. (As much as I might wish it were.)

Our daughter turned two at the beginning of this year and it got me to thinking about brothers and sisters. Everyone around me seems to have embraced two as the magic number, as everywhere from the playground to my Facebook feed; people are toting their second child either strapped to their chests or in the arms of child number one.

I would absolutely love to have another child and give my daughter a sibling, but the reality of what that means keeps holding me back. It means the return of sleepless nights, it means my boobs will gravitate a few inches more towards the floor, it means even less chance of having regular sex, and it means my daughter won’t have me all to herself anymore. This last point is probably the most worrying for me. I adore my little girl more than I thought it possible to love another person. The idea of not being able to devote all my attention, time and energy to her, scares me.

I know in the long run she’ll be fine, we’ll be fine, she’ll still have my love and attention etc etc. But the idea of actively choosing to add another child to our family is one that both excites and terrifies me. Aside from the emotional pressures, there’s also the issue of money, free time… I mean I just started my toddler at Kindy, I have two days a week to myself for the first time in two years – am I really about to give that up! I must be crazy!

Plus, I have the child who won’t eat like a normal person. What if the next one is the same and I spend the next four years painting my walls with pureed sweet potato? We haven’t potty trained yet. Will I ever escape from nappy-changing hell? Parenting is a whole minefield of experiences we hope will turn our children into well-adjusted people while we try not to lose our sanity in the process.

I think as a parent I put a heap of pressure on myself to get it right. On days when I’m exhausted and Peppa Pig stands in as temporary childcare relief I beat myself up over terrible parenting. If a day’s food intake consists of a banana and piece of toast, I think I’ve failed. And if I oversleep the morning of her Kindy Purim party and she turns up with crazy, unbrushed hair, I feel like the worst mother in the world. Perhaps though, I am losing sight of what’s really important, because at the end of the day if I really was the worst mother in the world, then I wouldn’t really care…

So, a brother or sister may be on the cards in the near future, but for now, I’ll just enjoy sleeping through the night, semi-perky breasts, semi-regular sex and giving all my love to my little princess.

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Living in Australia was always a thing I wanted to do. I just couldn’t ever bring myself to do it and any time I met an Australian I would quiz them on the likelihood that I’d see a spider. These people were usually men, example, the ad men I made cocktails with at the bar in Harvey Nics who reveled in identifying all the eight legged species living in Oz, not to mention the crocs, snakes, sharks and other assorted nasties; and my colleague at Christie’s who took great pleasure in telling me he rode through a ginormous web one morning cycling through the park and how that’s common in Sydney. Aaaaarrrrrggggghhhhhh!!!

My phobia is not a laughing matter and yet everyone I meet thinks it hilarious to bait me on the topic. Like, my former best friend. When we were about 10, in the days when Encarta was as it good as it got, we were upstairs in her brother’s room and for some reason they thought it might be fun to search for the biggest, most deadliest spider they could find. The American Wolf Spider. I mean, FUCK! Not content with stopping there, my so-called friend, zoomed in, enlarged the bloody thing, printed it out and stuffed it into my coat pocket for me to find later. Needless to say, we’re no longer friends.

I managed to get to the age of 28 before my husband, who was itching to fly away from England and start a new life somewhere else, encouraged me to join him and our daughter in Sydney. In the months leading up to our departure, my standard response to anyone who asked if I was excited was: “The minute I see a spider, I’m on the next plane back to England.” I’m not kidding.

I love my husband more than anything but the guy is too nice for his own good. He won’t just kill a spider once I’ve alerted him to it. No, while I cower twenty feet away (preferably in the nearest cafe), he attempts to dispose of it as humanely as possible. (I totally should’ve married a pest control guy). Anyway, when we were living in Kilburn – urban jungle that it is – I walked into our room one night, I hadn’t even turned on the light and I could see it. It was HUGE.  I yell for Mr Peace to All Creatures and watch as he slowly advances on this monster, which sensing his lack of commitment to actually evicting it, seizes the opportunity and runs under the bed. The only creature to be evicted from our bedroom that night, was me. I slept on the sofa, quaking in terror.

So what the F am I going to do if we have that problem here, in the land of deadly creatures? The other problem is he works long hours, so the other night when a house spider actually did start to scale my ceiling I called my neighbour in to do what I was too terrified to do. She’s my new hero!

Currently we’re dealing with another issue. Cockroaches. Or as my Grandpa used to say, to avoid saying the actual word, Cockaleeki Soup! They’re taking over my kitchen. I spent half an hour discussing the various bug-killing products on offer at the local supermarket with this old guy who was looking for an odourless option. There are bombs, surface sprays, outdoor sprays, baits… the choices are endless. Problem is, when you have a toddler running around if you get all spray-happy, you run the risk of inadvertently poisoning your own child.

So what the F am I meant to do?

Okay, so I know I have to suck it up and man up and all that jazz, or option b, I ditch the husband and run off with the guy from ZAP… or I suppose I could just get said ZAP man in to exterminate the cockaleeki curse from my house. Hmmm…. ZAP Man – bug-slaying superhero extraordinaire… please g-d! He’s coming today…

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