Musings: 2018 Spring Racing Carnival

I’m a lover of horseracing. I’m not a lover of attending in person the famed Melbourne Spring Racing Carnival as it’s about almost everything except horseracing. Entirely lacking ownership of a quality racehorse or an acquaintance that could schlepp me into a decent marquee, my preference is to spend quality time with the TV coverage, my online betting account and wine that costs about the same per bottle as you’d pay per glass at the races.

All without the whiff of Portaloo.

Every year brings new revelations. Here are my observations of Derby Day 2018:

Fake tan goals

Huzzah to the female attendees who seem to have finally nailed the art of the fake tan.

From that  moment in the 80s that we realised that slathering our skin in baby oil (or at best, SPF4 Reef Oil) and then subjecting it to the potent radiation of an Australian sun unconstrained by an ozone layer, we sought another solution.

Fake tans were a roguish line-up of smelly, streaky potions that loved nothing more than to immediately leach off skin onto light coloured fabrics. With distinctly Anglo-Saxon skin courtesy of ancestors transported to Australia by boat, most of the 80s and 90s were spent applying chemical concoctions in an effort to make my skin slightly less translucent.  I cannot conjure up the product name but the smell of it is something embedded in my memory at a molecular level.

After years of observing female racegoers that were only one green hairstyle away from Oompa Loompa, it seems that either technology or fake tan finesse is finally now producing something a little more natural.

Well done gals.

Tiny gloves

My glove-love is immutably dedicated to those made immortal by Audrey Hepburn in Breakfast at Tiffanys. Long, elegant, black gloves with the tiniest hint of shimmer.

I’m still angry at Madonna for the lace glove era.

I remain baffled at the concept of fingerless gloves for their undeniable failure to warm the most obviously vulnerable elements of the hand.

This year, glove puzzlement has gone next level. Tiny gloves. They are essentially just fingers, linked by the merest connecting fabric.

These.

For the uninitiated, these are called Half Palm Gloves and don’t you even be thinking about entering Fashions On The Field unless you are wearing them.

To me, they look like those pesky low cut socks that lack enough fabric to grip an ankle and are always disappearing below sneaker level.

They are also undoubtedly ineffective at keeping skinny wrists warm and simply MUST be an encumbrance in using an iphone.

Elle Macpherson

Elle is our original Aussie supermodel and it still baffles me that she didn’t get a gig in that George Michael film clip. She rocked a red bikini advertising a Tier Two Cola, survived the high cut swimmers era, holds the record for cover appearances on Sports Illustrated and became known as The Body, which of course is every living woman’s secret dream.

Aged 54, she rocked the races, with her trademark awesome hair and an outfit that was a secret nod to every one of us that knows about a mullet.

She refused paparazzi requests to remove her sunglasses which just made me feel better about every single time I’ve insisted on donning my aviators when I was involved in a pic that was destined for social media.

I’ve always maintained that while Elle Macpherson is not too old for long hair, I’m not too old for long hair (despite being misaligned to Ms Macpherson in any other element other than demographic)

#teamElle

Francesca Cumani

Francesca Cumani has serious racing pedigree. Her dad is an Italian thoroughbred racing trainer yet she has a voice resonant of the Best British Boarding Schools. She’s totally how I imagine Enid Blyton would speak.

She’s now a British-Italian horse racing expert who divides her time as a racing commentator between the United Kingdom and Australia. She’s racing royalty, and by my calculations it’s just bad luck and bad timing that she isn’t married to an actual British royal.

With a family apprenticeship that involved mucking out stables (read: a Dad version of slave labour) she’s risen from steaming stable straw to stylish industry insider.

She’s unafraid to parade a pale fabric in the mounting yard, striding confidently alongside snorting, sweating, shedding horseflesh.  She’s smart enough to give open toe shoes a swerve, knowing that an errant thoroughbred sidestep could take off a toenail or nuke a good pedicure.

On Derby Day she wore a neck-high top straight out of a Jane Austen novel with more layers than Streets Vienetta. On anyone else it would be 100% crusty spinster librarian.

On ‘Cesca it was pure fabulousness.

 

Three days till Melbourne Cup Day!

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Real Stepmothers Of 2018

This one needs to start with a confession.

After a long period of resistance to every geographical flavour of the franchise, this year I succumbed to the Real Housewives of Beverly Hills. It’s easy to see how this happened. Take a solitary Saturday afternoon, a glass of wine, the reaching of my limit for the inexplicable obsession that I have for the trainwreck that is My 600lb Life and I’ve clicked ‘play’ on the RHOBH. From that moment I was entranced by all the things I don’t have – endless wealth, cough lozenge-sized diamonds, garage-sized shoe rooms and an entourage of household staff. Although I’ve managed to kick the habit, after being relentlessly worn down by these ladies’ ability to fight with each other for no reason, it’s left a fairly pleasant legacy in my new love of Rosé, having discovered that it has evolved somewhat from daggy 80s Mateus.

With the relentless mental search for my next blog topic keeping stepmother-life as front of mind as my love of carbs and cheese, the concepts melded into a question. If you created a gaggle of all the famous stepmothers in history, miked them up, fooffed up their hair and gave them some first world problems in an Real Housewives setting, how would they fare?

But firstly, let me introduce the participants:

  • Hansel and Gretel’s stepmother. This lady was up against it, married as she was to a widowed woodcutter. She’d be endlessly compared to a tragic dead mother, times were tough in the woodcutting economy and forest life was no picnic.  She decides that her stepchildren were superfluous mouths to feed and exerts a honeymoon-period hold over her new husband to persuade him to abandon the kiddos in the forest. The children run into another bad woman who wants to eat them, despite the fact her entire house is made of cake.
  • Cinderella’s stepmother. Again, inclined to rampantly favour her bio kids over her stepchild, this lady enslaves her stepdaughter to a relentless regime of domestic duties and dull outfits. Cinderella defies all odds to be the chosen one at a ball where a  handsome prince auditions new wives in something that is uncannily similar to today’s ‘The Bachelor’.  She misses a pumpkin-inflicted curfew, loses a shoe but still gains a prince.  The stepmother is left sans one housekeeper and still managing a gaggle of lazy and homely offspring.
  • The Queen in Snow White. This lady has some issues. She starts down the well-worn path of subjecting Snow White to all the household chores and, disturbingly, seeks daily advice from a talking mirror. Once the talking mirror lets on that Snow White is the new goddess of the household, she orders her huntsman (because we all have one of those on staff?) to take her out in the forest and kill her.
  • Such is Stepmother lore, it turns out that we have one lovable, kind stepmother for every three incarnations of pure evil. The last to join the cast of the real stepmothers of 2018 is The Sound of Music heroine, Maria Von Trapp from The Sound of Music. However unlikely we might regard the journey from the nunnery, to whiskers on kittens, to marriage into Austrian aristocracy, this is a lady we can totally cheer for. She not only has to take on the legacy of a dead wife, but a living breathing competitor for the affections of Captain Georg Von Trapp in the form of someone who is a dead-ringer for Grace Kelly. Still, she nails it.

Throw these chicks into a Real Housewives framework and here are some highlights of the first season.

  • Hansel and Gretel’s stepmother and Snow White’s stepmother form an early alliance. They were inseparable once they discovered their shared appreciation of the value of good men – those who will accept a command to dispose of innocent children deep in the forest.
  • Cinderella’s stepmother attributes Cinderella’s success, and her bio-daughters’ unrelenting spinsterhood, to the ability to fit into a very specific glass slipper. Her Real Housewife commentary relentlessly returns to shoe discussions, yet she’s not quite Adrienne Maloof enough in the RH franchise  to launch her own shoe line.  She  lobbies the producers to get Sarah-Jessica Parker to make a guest appearance on the show. She has the hang of online shopping and develops an unhealthy obsession for the purchase of Jimmy Choos in three sizes. The other gals stage an intervention in her lounge room amidst towers and towers of shoe boxes. Cinderella’s stepmother signs on for a guest role in Hoarders.
  • Maria Von Trapp schools Hansel and Gretel’s mother with two great reasons why she didn’t need to kick her stepkids out into the forest and subject them to the woman in a house built of carbs:
    • Yes, they are a couple of extra mouths to feed, but the savings inherent in recycling curtains into outfits will go a long way towards covering the food bill.
    • Finding a marketable skill (in her case the Von Trapp Singers) opens up countless opportunities to monetise your offspring. Maria alludes very subtly to the modern day version – Kris Jenner pimping Kim Kardashian’s early video work.
  • Snow White’s stepmama is initially buoyed by the successful launch of her new raw food restaurant, devilishly named ‘The Poisoned Apple’, with a quirkily ironic red-carpet appearance by Gwyneth Paltrow’s daughter and an organic Rosé-fountain.  Now single,  she struggles with Tinder due to trust issues engendered by the huntsman not doing his duty way back when.  She also suffers from Imposter Syndrome and feels she has betrayed the wicked stepmother sisterhood based on her inability to kill Snow White with any of a suffocating bodice, poisoned comb or tainted apple.

In a get-together fuelled by Margaritas these gals lock in another season and vote in Stepmama#5.

Leann Rimes.

 

 

The Deal With The Biological Bond

Having never had children, you will be unable to comprehend the apparently limitless love, that allegedly heart-expanding level of consciousness that a biological mother has for her child. It seems to be something more epic than James Cameron’s version of the Titanic, an indescribable thing espoused by generations of women oozing maternal contentment. It has spawned a million hashtags, not the least of which is the execrable #blessed.

I’ve had some of my most simply sublime moments watching Netflix with a sauv blanc and a snoozy cat  – yet these are apparently not on par with the emotion between mother and child.

This blissful bond is the payoff offered by Mother Nature for the ordeal that is represented by pregnancy and birth. The payoff NEEDS to be sublime. To be prepared to have your own child is to knowingly go into a scenario where you will have a blood–and-scuzz-covered infant extracted either:

  1. Through a gaping scalpel wound that will render you virtually immobile for several weeks and possibly unwilling to ever wear a bikini or contemplate a plank position at the gym, or
  2. In a manner which has been successfully negotiated for thousands of years but still seems frankly barbaric, and will likely involve stitches where stitches should never be.

Biological mothers prove themselves willing to go through this ordeal and many other unmentionable symptoms:

  • Daily projectile vomiting that you can’t comprehend without recalling that late-teen experimental phase fuelled by cheap wine coolers.
  • Helplessly observing bulging silvery stretch marks etch themselves permanently on a previously taut stomach.
  • The indignity of wearing elasticised everything.

Even celebs who appear genetically blessed with talent or gorgeousness suffer along with the mere mortals:

“I just started calling myself ‘Swamp Ass.’ Like, I have swamp ass right now. I had major swamp ass because I was wearing these Spanx to hold in my gut … It’s like the bayou up in that region” – Jessica Simpson

Although the connection between this and Spanx is brow-furrowing at best, it’s fair to say that no-one has ever celebrated a moist, swampy, inner bayou.

“When I got pregnant, I had so much testosterone in me that I grew a beard. I only cropped it last night. It’s actually true. I’m not telling a joke. I actually have a beard, but I’m proud of it. I call it Larry.” – Adele

As if we are not already obsessed about hair removal.

“When I was pregnant, I just wanted to get lots and lots of animals, for some reason. We talked about cats but David said absolutely not” – Victoria Beckham

I venture to say that Victoria would have been a more cheerful woman if she’d been successful in getting all the cats.

‘The pregnancy, I wouldn’t really wish that upon anyone. Anyone. It’s all worth it in the end, so I would definitely suffer through that, but pregnancy was not a good experience for me. At all.’ – Kim Kardashian.

About as real as you can get from a Kardashian.

The only one that appeared to breeze through it?

‘I sometimes forget I am pregnant’ – Kate Middleton, Duchess of Cambridge

Spoken by someone whose pregnant belly looks like nothing more than me after a reckless night of beer and bolognaise.

All this, and more, means that women who give birth totally deserve the hormonal payoff that appears to be generated as soon as they lay eyes on the squalling infant.

The reverse is also true. If you are unwilling to go through all of the above to generate your own child and merely acquire one as a result of dating a dad, you simply cannot expect to feel the biological bond that results from sharing a large chunk of DNA with another miniature person.

The only thing that you did to deserve having a child thrust into your life was to fail to declare offspring as a deal-breaker on your online dating profile.

So the fact that you have not created this small human through blood, sweat, tears and the sacrifice of your pelvic floor means you don’t earn the biological bond. The sooner you realise this the better.

What you need to know is that regardless of any investment in swamp-ass, you have the potential to regard with extreme fondness this youngster who shares some DNA with someone you are actually crazy about.

 

The First Sleepover: A Childless Stepmother’s Guide

That honeymoon period with a new love is a blissful time. You are likely rocking your best-ever body courtesy of the divorce diet and that phase of unfamiliarity that stops you scarfing carbs in plain view of your new partner.  Everything is new, nothing is niggly and you are only one step short of having Snow White’s best life, surrounded by helpful woodland creatures and indulging in tuneful duets with baby birds.

You may have even met your potential stepchildren, and if its early days, spent time indulging in an array of joyous kiddie activities, with only the tiniest shot of vodka to take the edge of the meeting-the-kid nerves.

The point at which it becomes a whole new ballgame, or in fact a whole new ballpark, is the first sleepover where the stepkiddies are involved. Here are some tips.

Leave it for as long as possible

Have as many kid-free sleepovers as you like. This is something to be encouraged and practically mandatory in case the white-hot early days of a romance flames out, revealing a certain shallowness or long-term incompatibility amongst its smoking ashes. You want to know this before you share a sleepover with kiddies. If this is another relationship that will be rendered to the Nope File, you do not want to have been unnecessarily exposed to the wayward spitting involved in junior bedtime teeth brushing rituals or been anywhere remotely within the vicinity of an awkward bedwetting phase.

If you aren’t yet ready to commit to being friends on Facebook, give the stepkid sleepover the swerve.

Consider your attire

Sleepwear for the first blended sleepover requires some careful thought.

If you’ve made it through the worst of your singledom heartache, then you’ve likely buried every item of sleepwear that was the equivalent of comfort food during your periods of darkest despair. The polarfleece bathrobe that kept you alive while your bloodflow tried to warm the daggers of ice where your heart used to be. The forgiving snuggie that accommodated that period of time on the couch where you lived off Netflix and sauv blanc, helpfully providing oversized pockets for stashing snacks that were reassuring in their sky-high percentage of saturated fats. The tracksuit that sheltered you from the cold hell of sleeping alone, then conveniently doubled as daywear.

If you’ve carved out a #revengebody through a diet of clear spirits and tears during your being-single phase, you’ve likely revitalised your bedroom wardrobe by rocketing to the VIP list on Victoria’s Secret. You’ve purchased garments of immense fragility at a gigantic cost per gram of fabric which now make you look all shimmery and svelte.

These are not the outfits for the first sleepover where children are present. You do not want to greet a child in a hallway in something skimpy, since these nuggets of childhood experience are invariably the first to be conveyed in graphic detail to the biological mother. As fab as you might feel, all juiced up on early-days oxytocin, you do not want to make a teenage step-kid feel like they have woken up in the playboy mansion.

The desirable state is somewhere vaguely in between. Leave the French lace at home, but equally don’t try to rescusitate your despair-encrusted snuggie. Go for some respectable PJs with good coverage, skipping flannelette versions involving cartoon characters if you fear regressing into frumpsville.

Talk about the arrangements

As pedestrian as it may seem, it’s very wise to have a pretty frank discussion about the bedtime rituals that are about to unfold. Shared time between two households and a desire on the part of a split bio parent to appease a child can make for some fairly loose bedtime boundaries.

You want to know if there is a tendency towards night terrors that is going to cause you to wake suddenly to unearthly screams.  It’s worth knowing that there will be a full-blown tanty involved as toothbrushing time looms. You need to know if there is a well-established door-knocking protocol or if a kiddie could just bust into the bedroom without warning.

From personal experience, you absolutely need to know  that a six year old will shimmy into a pair of pull-ups and plant himself on your side of the bed, given that’s been the way this household has rolled since the split. You need to have a strategy in advance for that one.

Don’t be setting any breakfast precedents

During the first sleepover event, aim to be a background person. Now is not the time to indulge any long-repressed desire to be a Gwyneth-style earth mother. Regardless of your horror at the dietary damage being wrought on a miniature human, do NOT try to wrest the box of Coco-pops from their grasp and aim to explain the virtues of a green smoothie. If you are truly determined to create a nutritionally balanced haven in the wasteland of Disney-dad indulgence, it’s a game of stealth and subtlety and a long game at that. It’s not something that you should leap into immediately after the first overnighter.

Don’t try to demonstrate your extensive research into the realm of the mummy blogger and make buttermilk pancakes complete with human features in the form of blueberry eyes and a smeary raspberry coulis mouth. If it turns out well, you’ve created a precedent that you will needed to replicate, which will become immensely tedious. If it goes awry, you’ll have created something that invokes that particular child’s fear of clowns.

Don’t expect that the child has the first clue about the joy of a bircher muesli involving steel-cut oats that have meditatively bathed overnight in organic cloudy apple juice. That is like sharing a glass of fabulous prosecco with a cask-wine drinker – unmitigated wastage.

Be prepared to just roll with the brekky traditions that already exist.

Save your energy for the battle to ensure your side of the bed remains free of small humans that are yet to master full continence.

Surviving Kid Swimming Lessons: The Childless Stepmother’s Guide

If, as a formerly childless woman, you’ve survived the stepmother duties of school pickups, cake stalls and a work from home day that coincided with a stepkid riddled with spatter-vomit, now, and only now, are you adequately qualified to oversee stepchild swimming lessons.

Personally, you may have nothing but fond memories of swimming lessons. A weekday morning where you toddled off to school with your bathers already on under your school clothes. An escape from the smugness of your peers  that, unlike your numerically inept self, were good with unforgiving fractions.  School swimming day held no fear other than the vague risk that, having headed to school all pool-ready, you’d forgotten spare undies and would have to go invisibly but possibly mortifyingly commando for the remainder of the day. There were no major hurdles to cross, success being represented by simple achievements like picking up a rubber ring off the tiled floor of the shallow end, or a doggy paddle for 20 metres, none of which really represent serious life skills.

Modern day parents, paralysed by the knowledge that they’ve borne spawn in an island nation, and even more terrifying, ensconced themselves in middle class suburbs riddled with loosely patrolled  backyard pools, are deeply invested in ensuring their kiddies can swim. If you are a participant in a blended family, at some point, despite your best efforts, you will find yourself responsible for a child in a municipal pool. Here are some pointers;

The environment

If you receive any early heads-up that you might need to do Saturday morning pool duties, then you MUST give Friday night happy hour a big-ol swerve.

What you must not, ever, never, ever do? Take a hangover to the pool. Why?

Your hungover self requires a careful protocol of nurturing in order to achieve full restoration. You will not achieve this at your local pool.

Cast your mind back to a recent hangover and consider how you would react to the following:

  • A warm, moist environment where the air is oppressive with chemicals. Your over-worked liver is in a hard-fought battle with last night’s unlimited vino. This key organ has endured a night totally parched, in desperate search of hydration, and now all you’ve done is venture out into an overheated environment where a local government entity intensely averse to claims of hypothermia wants to keep every kid toasty. Consider how you’ll feel when you get those hungover nausea sweats and you are stuck in a place devoid of any fresh air.
  • A scene of screams. Kids who are normally gratifying low-key, once immersed in water, will let loose with a special kind of wailing unmatched by the most bereft of Greek widows. Recreational pools are almost always high-roofed, which just allows the kiddie-cries to echo without restriction.
  • A fair portion of the other mothers at the pool will be fully decked out in the latest Lululemon activewear, having engineered that special kind of timetable wizardry that allows them to complete a session of yin yoga and still arrive at for pool duties in an earthy state of zen. Whether real or not, you are going to feel like these fitness queens are throwing all kind of judgey stares if you are in the pool café trying to tame your hangover with an egg and bacon sandwich with double fake cheese and a side of fat chips.

The change room conundrum

This my friends, is an unexpected nightmare.

If you are the step parent of a boy, there are no good choices. No one wants to subject any boy over about five years old into the female change rooms and next level awkwardness. Nor are you going to feel great about letting him wander unsupervised amongst the unseen, unvetted occupants of the male change rooms. The time it takes for a pre-teen boy to shower and apply hair product will be equivalent in your mind to the time it takes for him to be sneakily drugged and ushered out the back door into a life of child sex slavery. Before you know if you are shouting the kids name from the entrance door like an unhinged banshee.

Better to skip the change rooms, throw him into one of those undignified full-body towelling ponchos and create a dribbling chlorinated trail back to your car, despite the fact that chemical dampness will forever taint your beloved leather seats.

Level of attention required

Biological parents are apparently unimpressed by the qualifications of pool lifeguards when it comes to preventing their children from near or actual drowning. Although the teen by the pool is certificate-level qualified, definitely a better swimmer than you and heavily insured, it is apparently taboo to relinquish all control and while away your kiddo-supervisory time on Instagram. You won’t be able to use this dead-ass time to catch up on work emails, your backlog of cat-videos or finding a fab outfit on ASOS.

You will be expected to summon the sustained attention of a special-forces sniper with laser-sharp focus on the kiddie in question. You do not want to be wandering back from the pool canteen, chowing down on a fried dimmy at that moment your step-kiddo has been dragged from the pool after inhaling a more-than-recommended dose of chlorinated water.

This is a tough gig.  Be prepared.

 

 

 

 

Why I just can’t hate Fortnite

We were always going to have to move on from Pokemon Go. But so many pleasant memories! Those heady days when we hatched a Snorlax, enjoyed a moment of sheer exhilaration after a victory in a gym battle and that time I hi-fived myself in that unlikely scenario where, trying to keep the momentum whilst on a girls weekend, I snagged one of the more iconic Pokemon and received that ultimate kid affirmation in reply:

Me: I caught a Pikachu

Dan: Sick

Pokemon Go is as good as dead now, despite the plaintive notifications that implore me to return with promises of new creatures and the ability to trade with friends.  It has been hard to let go of of how cool my persona looks in Lycra pants, rocking a real-life  unattainable thigh gap and looking svelte next to my lumpy walking buddy Snorlax.

The new thing is Fortnite. Every parent is scared that this game is going to turn their kiddo into someone who appears on Bowling For Columbine II but my fairly limited research suggests that if you are anything like me I’m not sure you’ll be able to hate it. Here’s why:

It’s bloodless

Despite the fact that if you are playing the Battle Royale version, you need to kill 99 other people to be successful, you are going to see less blood than a 1990s episode of ER. Actually none. Despite wielding weapons that seem to be fairly semi-automatic, your strafing of opponents is totally PG. No one loses an arm after concentrated linear sniper fire across a bicep. No-one bleeds out from a femoral artery after a knife fight. No one gets a Sopranos-style double tap to the forehead.

If you are shot in Fortnite, you drop to your hands and knees and grow weary. You crawl around a fair bit. You look like someone who needs to get home to a warm house and a Milo. This is uncannily like something that could happen after a night out and one too many sauv blancs.

It starts with a partybus

Although Fornite starts with you and your 99 opponents boarding something called a battle bus, which sounds grim and terribly Con-Air, in reality you are with 99 other gaudily dressed, like-minded folk ready to take on the mean streets of a well-documented geographical area. Pretty much the gamer equivalent of a hen’s night bus.

Unlike a nightclub bus, you can eject yourself at will, and with the aid of a glider, drift dreamily away, completely solo, to your desired destination instead of being propelled unwillingly to a screeching girl line-up of tequila shots.

There are random dance moves

Inexplicably, amongst the elimination of 99 opponents, there’s a button that allows you to step away from the continual carnage, collection of weapons and relentless construction. You can free your mind from the trials of everyday fortnite-ness and just bust out some dance moves.

Everything about this is appealing. If I could just step out of my back-to-back meeting nightmares and throw down a flossing move I think life could become inestimably easier. I think that reverting to a positively Neanderthal ‘Best Mates’ move would make me one step closer to embracing Pete Evans and becoming Paleo.

If you don’t feel like personally hitting the dance floor you can throw out a boogie-bomb which preoccupies your opponent in their own dance-floor crazy while you skip away from their bullets.

Instead, I’m stuck in a real world where chancy dance moves are about as acceptable as belting out an unsolicited show-tune.

It’s perfect for the commitment-phobe

I struggle with long novels, six month term deposits and exhausting Lord of the Rings epics. On the other hand, I’ve got a totally co-dependent relationship with Netflix given that corporation’s ability to indulge my instant gratification gene via the staccato delivery of short episodes.

Fortnight battles are about the same commitment as an episode of Sex and The City. They are short and there is always the opportunity of just one more….

The added bonus

Just when you think that you can’t go one more second without reclaiming the big screen TV from the sweaty-handed gamer in your house, just know that you can totally take back the telly.

Inexplicably, a child deprived of access to Fortnite will, without much complaint, revert to another digital option to just sit and watch strangers play Fortnite. If you think that this sounds crazy, just take a moment to observe the fondness that you reserve for Anastasia and Faye on Gogglebox.

 

I’m sure there is a deadly amount of kiddo spare time being devoted to Fornite that that could otherwise have been dedicated to bathroom-based chores and teenage hygiene, but it would appear that Fortnite isn’t the worst way they could be spending their time. In the 80s I spent three hours or 9 x Fortnite instalments obtaining a regrettable perm that was still unsuccessful in triggering any interest from my year eight crush.

We all have our rites of passage.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Camping. Another stepfamily adventure

Recently I chalked up another chapter in the #dontrecognisemylife story of my new blended family.

Camping.

Before every person that knows me rejects this as an elaborate and completely preposterous fabrication dreamed up to plug a rather large void between blog posts, let me clarify that it was GLAMPING. A spacious tent, erected by those who actually possess the required expertise. Quality manchester. Soft furnishings. Carefully curated decorative touches. Hot water bottles snugly encased in something hand-knitted. Sufficient power to support hair appliances, multi-device charging, bedside lamps and HEATING!

It’s taken a long time for creative entrepreneurs to carve out a niche variation on standard canvas-based hospitality that is sufficiently evolved to tempt me back into camping life. My last foray into this world was three decades ago, where I joined like-minded 18 year old friends, newly emancipated from our parents by virtue of freshly-issued drivers licences and ready to spend supermarket-checkout-wages on a cheap campsite. The concept of a share-economy was decades away from becoming a thing, but we were all well aware of the outrageous value represented by a flagon of Para Port when divided between a gaggle of inexperienced drinkers. Fueled by abundant, cheap fortified spirits and Midnight Oil albums on repeat, memories were made.

And now we have glamping.

Just as I learned in the 80s the limitations of an inexperienced liver at the hands of an unconstrained flow of cheap booze, I’ve now learned that communing with nature protected by only a thin veneer of canvas can continue to be a source  of life-lessons. Throw an energetic twelve year old stepchild into your tent and there’s an unexpected layer of nuance in the learnings. Here are a few of those lessons.

I am unsuited to confined spaces

I have a fairly lengthy list of life-skill limitations. These have compounded as I’ve matured. It began with a lack of control of my intestinal contents on fairground spinny rides and the inevitability of fairy floss attaching to my hair. Early career limitations involved an inability to speak to superiors without blushing, becoming unpredictably inarticulate or spraying them with incidental spittle.  For all the investment and earnest advice from Australia’s finest hardware stores I’ve remained inept at the most basic of DIY home-maintenance tasks. There were lessons gleaned from an emergency room visit and eight weeks in plaster  after I fell on the basketball court, not at the hands of a hard-tackling opponent, but by inexplicably falling while running down the sidelines without the ball or another human within twenty metres. The purchase of a wooden-based bed with merciless corners six years ago has still not trained me in the agility to avoid, on average, a bi-weekly new shin bruise.

Spending time in a tent, however,  has reaffirmed that in a confined space I operate with all the finesse of a graceless yak.

My first act, crushing a wineglass stem into forlorn shards with an errant ugg boot was something anyone could have done. I’m convinced glass breakage is something that the glamping purveyors fully expect and routinely budget for.

Something a little more advanced on the scale of camping carnage was my careless hand gesture that emptied a flower vase of water into the central powerboard and shut down the entire tent’s electricals.

You need low-fi games

I can’t explain how many different ways I tried to contingency-plan my way through the lack of wi-fi in a tent. Step-parenthood is similar to parenthood in that it teaches you the sheer horror that can result from a bored tween who is severed from their technology.

I did explain that tents don’t have wi-fi. That the people around you are rarely likely to offer up hackable private wi-fi. That even the combined efforts of our family mobile data usage plans would wither under the weight of what is required for a pre-teen to compete in whatever it is that they do in a bout of Fortnite. And also, there was no TV.

Having managed all expectations, we employed the best of low-data-usage apps to navigate those literally dark hours between sunset and a reasonable bedtime.

Strangely enough, entertainment can still ensue from traditional games like charades, even if the charade topic is now delivered by a $0.99 app rather than a cheeky little box of cards.

My skill level at such games is still entry-level. I was halfway to the answer –  knowing that the back end of the answer was ‘shark’. I regarded closely the stepchild vigorously pointing to a white chrysanthemum (now laying parched in its jar after all the water was drained in the powerboard spillage incident).

He was subtly trying to convey that the full answer was the Great White.

I responded confidently with that slightly less ubiquitous, yet equally fearsome creature of the sea – the Flower Shark.

Catering works differently

If you were embarking on a lengthy glamping stay, you’d either need a fairly limitless eating-out budget or some serious planning around camping-compatible meals.

For the sake of one night, I felt disinclined to invest in keeping Esky ice up to anything more perishable than a bottle of Rose. Given our proximity to Melbourne winter, I was also naturally averse to committing time in an outdoor BBQ and camp kitchen to conjure up dinner. Instead I determined that all meals would be outsourced. Whilst husband and stepchild huddled over an iPhone, trying to watch a soccer league final that I’d failed to factor into the entertainment contingency planning, I was relegated to hunter/gatherer status when it came to the evening meal.

My life skills failed me when it came to home delivery in the context of a specific camp site. I valiantly pushed past my menu app’s failure to recognise my current location and apply very persistent efforts to deliver me pizza from my regular local outlet some 150km away. I pondered whether the caravan park would enforce the rigorous algorithms I was used to in my CBD carparking world and fail to deal with letting another vehicle in with our access pin without our vehicle with that same access pin having exited and leaving us trapped with the delivery guy, huddled collectively around shared pizza on campsite 180 until daybreak.

So I stood, nonchalantly leaning against the caravan park reception veranda pillar, clad in camping-appropriate  hoodie and inside-tent Uggs, awaiting the pizza delivery guy. I was  on the verge of holding up an airport style sign saying ‘La Porchetta’ lest I be mistaken for a shoddily clad lady of the night trawling for camper rough trade.

Boys in tents

My last learning, which is not news to anyone who cohabitates closely with near-teen boys, is their prolific ability to transform pizza and Pepsi into toxic gaseous fumes that can easily engulf an unaccustomed stepmother. Having been blessed with a house with adequate ventilation and only populated by a child on an every-other-weekend basis, I was not accustomed to such concentrated fumes.

Having now been indoctrinated, I feel compelled to defend every methane-emitting bovine accused of being at the heart of global warming and advise them that they should lawyer up and start singing like a canary about their human teenage toxin-emitting accomplices.

Glamping. Just another source of (overly fragrant) blended family experiences.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Mother’s Day Survival Tips for the Childless Stepmother

If your ovaries have never fired up, not even when Ryan Gosling was looking to spawn offspring, then Mother’s Day means nothing other than a day to avoid eating out and being financially slaughtered by a sentimentally festive mark-up.

For the first year or two of being a step-parent, given your complete lack of parenting awareness, you won’t register anything on Mother’s Day other than the already-well-ingrained desire to honour your own mother.

After a while though, the cumulative effort you’ve invested in cooking, cleaning, driving your step-child to a million things, finding band-aids in emergencies and dealing with relentless laundry may trigger a prickle of annoyance at not receiving any skerrick of recognition on Mother’s Day.  It’s possible that you may feel a teensy bit overlooked (notwithstanding your immense gratitude at not having been through that whole childbirth process).

Here are some of the insights into Mother’s Day from actual Mamas to help you understand what you are really missing out on (or not).

The Breakfast

If you wanted cold toast, undrinkable coffee and eggs more rubbery than politician campaign promises, there is no need to yearn for a Mother’s day breakfast, you might simply take the Monday 6am on a domestic airline.

Every biological mother knows that, good intentions aside, the domestic ineptitude of a small child knows no bounds and that the chaos wrought in the kitchen on Mother’s Day is no way compensated by the delivery of a lukewarm meal to your bedside. Someone will undoubtedly fail to turn off the gas underneath the frypan after use, rendering egg-remnants into industrial grade concrete which can never be removed. You can only hope they didn’t use your Le Creuset.

The lack of fine motor skills renders most youngsters unable to control a two litre bottle of OJ, leaving a sticky lake on the kitchen bench.

The void of observational skill or general interest in your wellbeing on the part of a child means they won’t realise you gave up all caffeinated drinks five years ago and will result in your being served up dodgy Earl Grey tea from bags encrusted with pantry-crud and long past any reasonable expiry date.

The gifts

Mother’s Day gifts are a domestic version of the office Kris Kringle, in that they seem to be gifts chosen by someone who does not really know you.

When the children are at an age where they can only source their gifts from the school mother’s day stall, the haul is going to be constrained to cheap $2 gifts that have arrived in container-loads from mainland China.  But then, who doesn’t want:

  • A fridge-magnet-enabled shopping list so that you can be reminded of your overwhelming domestic responsibilities every time you do some hopeful foraging for wine or cheese
  • A miniature sewing kit which is just like every version that comes free in any reputable hotel room. Given busy women are likely to have a tendency to deal with fallen hems with double sided sticky tape or the application of a snappy little staple, they already know that life is too short to actually do mending.
  • A torch for your handbag
  • Tea-towels as substantial as filo pastry
  • Lavender sachets to place in your sock drawer to ensure your feet smell like Nana.

No Day off from being a mother

Notwithstanding the potential for breakfast in bed, there is no get-out-of-jail-free card for women on Mother’s Day.  Mothers know they are still going to be surrounded by humans and pets that need to be fed. If you are a working woman, Sunday remains one of the few days where there is a chance to make inroads into laundry or ironing.

Notwithstanding the event, Baby Mamas gain no relief from the Sunday night ritual of trying to find school clothes for the next day and dealing with Friday’s forgotten lunchbox remnants.

So, even though you might feel the stirrings of annoyance at doing a lot of the work of being a mother without all the Mother’s day glory, be reassured that you are not necessarily missing out on anything.

Survival tips

If, as a Stepmother with no kids of your own, you are feeling vaguely slighted by lack of recognition on Mother’s Day, here are some tips:

  1. By definition, the stepchildren are likely to be at their mother’s house, so pour yourself a glass of wine, rejoice in the absence of any school week prep and watch all the reality TV shows without having to share the remote.
  2. Eat whatever you want for breakfast, in bed, without the risk of stray egg yolk on your Egyptian cotton.