A Step by Step Guide to Shopping at Ikea

My daughter and I went to Ikea this week to buy her a desk. Although it wasn’t my first trip, it took a lot longer than I anticipated and when we left I felt like I’d run a marathon. We also bought considerably more than I had planned. In the excitement of the moment, it’s hard to imagine life without that extra bookshelf, those candles, 13 pot plants, memory foam pillow and other assorted household items. Upon reflection, I feel that an expedition to Ikea takes shoppers through these clear and distinct emotional/physical phases:

1. Energy & anticipation: You’re fresh, driving there dreaming of the possibilities awaiting you.

2. Wonder: Arriving and taking it all in. You’re in awe, with a distinct overwhelmed feeling, but in a good way.

3. Confidence: You’ve settled in and realised there’s a system here – you can do this 👊🏻

4. Vision & anticipation: You’re deep in the Ikea belly and are inspired thinking about how great your home can look.

5. Frustration: How big actually is this place? You should have worn more comfortable shoes, and been the to toilet upon arrival.

Ikea Map

6. Fatigue: Time to rest on a lounge/bed for a power nap.

7. Refreshment: Stop at the cafe and refuel with some Swedish meatballs and questionable coffee.

8. Excitement: The marketplace; shivers, they really do have EVERYTHING! You realise that to maintain an acceptable quality of life means stocking up on many of these items.

9. Fatigue: How big actually is this marketplace? Is there light at the end of the tunnel?

10: Confusion: Try and find your flat pack items in the huge aisles. Go on, I dare you to not ask for help.

11. Extreme fatigue: Pushing the heavy trolley through aisles and into the crowded checkouts. You wait so long you would have had time to assemble the desk you’re purchasing.

12. Rage: You’re nearly at the front and a guy ahead of you has an issue – he’s brought the wrong flat-pack item, has to go back and change it, causing great delay. What a moron.

13. Relief: It’s your turn, finally!

14. Shame: You, also, have picked the wrong flat-pack item. Have to go back and change it. What a moron.

15: Relief: It’s all in the car. You’ve only had to relocate 2 child seats, a picnic rug, soccer ball and a coles bag full of garbage.

16. Driving mode: Zone out, drive home and try to forget the ordeal.

17. Creativity: Explaining to your husband why you spent $800 instead of $100 and assuring him that every cent was an essential expenditure. Screen Shot 2017-10-29 at 8.27.34 PM

18. Contentment: Sit back with your glass of wine and watch your husband assemble purchased items. Assistance is neither asked for nor offered.

19. Bask in the glow of new furniture until it breaks in 12-36 months.

20. Continue to repeat process annually until death.

What Women Really Want in the Shower

What Women Want

Every woman would love time in the bathroom where she can enjoy a long, luxurious shower without interruption. Ideally, the water will stay the same temperature for the duration and provide a cocoon-like environment. A peach and walnut exfoliating body scrub, or similar, would be nice along with a fresh loofah. The door will not need to be locked as no one will come in, knock or call out through the door. The bathroom has become a vacuum for the duration of her tenure. She can stand under the hot flow of water for as long as it takes to belt out Heart’s ‘All I Want To Do Is Make Love To You’ into the shampoo bottle, followed by the rest of the album. The acoustics in the bathroom make her sound like Adele. A fresh, sharp razor is at hand and glides up her leg like a yacht cruising sleekly over calm Caribbean waters. Through the steam, her long legs appear smooth as silk and bear an uncanny resemblance to Miranda Kerr’s. When she finally exits the warm waterfall, a hot, fresh towel is ready to engulf her toned and lithe body. 

She emerges from the bathroom feeling refreshed and invigorated, even sensual.

 

What Women Would Settle For 

Ideally, when entering the shower, she doesn’t trip on a bath toy but as it’s been known to happen, she really needs to keep an eye out. There will be just enough shampoo and conditioner left to wash her hair, even if they need to be given a curt upside down ‘tap’. The water is hot until someone flushes the toilet but returns to its original temperature rapidly enough to avoid chills and/or burns. Her legs are a little spiky so she reaches for the razor. It’s not too old and only mildly blunt. She gets 3 small cuts which isn’t too bad. She sings the first verse of Beyonce’s ‘Crazy In Love’ before someone bangs on the door telling her to keep it down as they’d like to watch ‘Paw Patrol’ in peace and quiet. Humbled but not broken, she exits the shower cubicle and quickly wraps herself with a dry towel but not before getting a quick glimpse of her body in the mirror and vowing to renew her gym membership before summer.

She emerges from the bathroom feeling acceptably clean, sufficiently hairless and vaguely inadequate.

 

What Women Actually Get

Once the bathroom is finally free, she grabs her opportunity. It soon becomes clear that someone has had a very recent and productive toilet trip as the bathroom smells like a dead ferret. She lights a few matches and keeps a positive attitude. When she steps into the shower cubicle, there is a big pile of mouldy bath toys blocking the drain. She steps on the severed, mangled arm of a Mermaid Barbie and yelps in pain. She clears away the toys as she waits for the water to heat up, all the while in possession of two nipples that could cut through bathroom tiles. During this time, two children have banged on the door and yelled at her in muffled tones. The first child wants to know, urgently, how dolphins sneeze underwater and the second child informs her that he has finished drawing a picture of Darth Vader that is very lifelike and needs to be viewed immediately.

When the water is finally warm enough she sighs contentedly and reaches for the loofah to use as a microphone, ready to croon Ed Sheeran’s ‘Shape of You’. She notices suspicious short, wiry hairs sticking out of the loofah but endeavours to ignore them. Ten seconds into her performance someone bangs on the door and shouts ‘you suck’. Downtrodden, she continues her shower in silence. At this moment, someone elsewhere in the house turns a tap on, causing the shower to turn as frigid as the North Atlantic in January. She turns the hot up to compensate just as the other person turns their tap off and she’s scalded with moderately severe burns to her stomach, chest and neck.

Achieving the perfect shower – the struggle is real.

As she reaches for the shampoo, she realises it’s virtually empty. She must turn it upside down and bang on it with the combined force a group of circus folk may use when attempting to nail in Big Top tent pegs during a hurricane. She manages to squeeze out an amount the size of a pea and makes do. With leg hairs at a length acceptable possibly only for Dian Fossey, she reaches for the razor. It’s blunt and rusty. When she’s done the first leg, it looks as though it’s been caressed by an inebriated Edwards Scissorhands and will probably require a tetanus shot.

At this point she notices the family cat sitting in the corner surveying her naked form with a sardonic expression, which is strangely unsettling. Before she has a chance to react there is another bang on the door, accompanied by muffled sobbing. After a few minutes of shouting ‘what…what?’ back and forth, she deciphers that one child has flicked the ear of the other child. This, of course, causing significant psychological trauma and subsequently resulting in a household civil war taking place outside the bathroom door. Forgetting to condition, she sighs, exits the shower and picks up her damp towel, which has fallen into a suspicious looking yellow puddle. She manages to gently cover her scalded body but not before getting a quick glimpse of herself in the mirror and vowing to renew her gym membership today

She emerges from the bathroom feeling nothing, as this is simply her daily shower experience, and continues her day in the ignorant bliss of a woman unaware she is parading one unshaven leg to the world.

 

Cheap Thrills – Frugal Fun for the School Holidays

I had an epiphany recently – you can make kids happy without spending a lot of money. This epiphany did happen to coincide with the payment of a large credit card bill, invoices from several tradesmen and the onset of the school holidays.

A few weeks ago we went out to dinner then to Disney on Ice. Total cost about $250. The following weekend we met my brother’s family at a McDonalds halfway between our houses – 30 minutes away. We spent a couple of hours there having dinner and letting the kids go hyperactive, dominating the recently renovated three level playground. Total cost about $40. I asked my kids which evening they enjoyed more. Although they loved Disney on Ice, they unequivocally said Maccas with their cousins. My suspicions were correct –  kids can have a great time without a big spend. I now have permission to give them a fun-filled school holiday on the cheap! Historically, paying for shows, cafes and play/trampoline type centres means I can relax while they’re amused and relatively confined. I’m essentially paying for a break from parenting them so I’m giving up that luxury for this money-saving scheme. The ‘cheap thrills’ strategy will involve having to spend more quality time with them, supervise more and be more active myself but I can suck that up for two weeks 😉

Behold some tightwad ideas for your school holidays:

1. Board games

My older kids are at an age where they can play games I enjoy too, like the Game of Life, Cluedo, Monopoly, family Trivial Pursuit etc. Miss 4 can be a problem as she loiters around whining and often asks to be ‘on my team’ which is painful but we push past it.

2. Home ‘Movies’

For my daughter’s 11th birthday recently I told her I’d take her to the movies but on the day there was nothing on we wanted to see. We decided to get some treats from Coles and hire a movie online for a movie night. We watched ‘Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them’ for much less than the cost of movie tickets and a box of $47 popcorn.

3. The Library

Get on board with free library activities. Check out the website for your local library to see what’s happening and take advantage of activities, such as craft, that you don’t have to pay for or even assist with. Or simply go and browse, borrow and then have mandatory reading time at home. My kids protest for the first ten minutes but after that are completely lost in their personal book world, which means I can get lost in my Netflix world 😉

4. The Beach

Our local dog beach has a big sand dune hill with bushes at the top. We’ve gone there many times with different friends. The kids run around like crazy, running up and down the hill and building cubbies in the bushes. We bring snacks and I relax on the beach while the kids and dog tire themselves out. Often I will get bored before they do but they beg to stay longer. Find your own beach happy place and enjoy some free fun.

5. DIY Treats

As a kid, we went to the Big Pineapple on a family holiday. At the cafe, they had amazing sundaes in tall glasses with ice cream, nuts, fruit salad, chocolate topping and whipped cream. My parents thought it was too expensive to buy all seven of us a sundae. On the way home, we went to the local grocery store, bought the ingredients and Mum made us sundaes at our holiday house. I remember them being incredible. I’m sure they were rubbish compared to the ones at the Big Pineapple but I was a naive child and enjoyed in ignorant bliss. My mother claimed then and still now that her sundaes were superior. Take inspiration from her and really commit to the illusion to get the kids on board. As George Costanza says “It’s not a lie if you believe it.”

The vision for your kids…
6. Park Crawls

There are some pretty cool parks out there these days. We love epic ones like Stuart Park and the Botanic Gardens but little local parks can be fun too. If you pack balls, scooters, frisbees and snacks, you can kill several hours at a park for $0. You may even get to lie on a picnic rug with your coffee and an audiobook if you’re lucky (I’m really into audiobooks at the moment – get the ‘Borrowbox’ app and borrow from the library.) You can listen and supervise, indulging them when they constantly call out ‘watch me Mum’ and then proceed to do something unremarkable like simply sliding down the slide. Everyone wins. BTW Check out the best parks in NSW here.

7. Playdates

Get some friends over. With the right combination, an extra kid or two can actually be easier.  Miss 4 has a friend who she plays with so nicely that it feels like they’re not even there. It’s reverse synergy: 1 + 1 = 0. This is the kind of maths I like! Of course, you may occasionally encounter them hanging skipping ropes in the shape of nooses in the backyard tree or rifling through your underwear drawer with their friends to find the perfect stretchy bra for catapulting oranges into the neighbour’s pool. But that’s the price you pay for an afternoon of free fun.

8. Silly Stuff

I saw Cadbury chocolate on sale the other day, so we played ‘the chocolate game’ for dessert. You remember the chocolate game, right? The block sits in the middle of the table with a knife and fork. You need a beanie, scarf and a die. Roll the die. If you get a 6, you put the clothes on and start cutting the chocolate. You can only eat 1 piece at a time and you keep eating until the next person gets a 6. The suspense, the chocolate and the mad rushing make it an epic experience for kids. Total bill – $2.50.

9. The McDonalds Cone

Ah, the frugal parent’s dream. Forget Cold Rock. The Maccas soft serve cone is where it’s at. If you play your cards right and keep your kids’ standards low, you may get away with this 60 cent treat until they’re 18.

Good luck and may your cash stay with you. 

 

 

A Parents Guide to Decluttering

Step 1: Work hard to clean out cupboards, toy room and declutter junk.

Step 2: Decide it’s time to say goodbye to enormous stuffed reindeer toy that child has not looked at in 4 months and has forgotten exists.

Step 3: Sneak toy reindeer, along with other undesired items, to the car and stuff in car boot.

Step 4: Drive around with bag in boot for 4-6 weeks.

Step 5: Realise you kind of need to use your boot so decide to actually drive to the salvos and deposit the bag.

Step 6: Small child, who is unable to locate shoes right in front of them on a daily basis, somehow spots tip of reindeer antler through opaque garbage bag as you grab it out and has meltdown of gigantuous proportions, sobbing violently over loss of toy and related perceived child abuse.

Step 7: Feel more than a twinge of guilt about your kids devastation and apparent ruined childhood but stay strong and dump reindeer anyway.

Step 8: Come home, admire uncluttered home, congratulate yourself for standing your ground back there and kick back like a boss.

Step 9: Collect the equivalent of 10 stuffed reindeers of junk each time your kid has a birthday and live in a state of perpetual filth and clutter.

Step 10: Repeat all steps for 20 years and realise this is parenthood 👌🏼

 

The Top 10 ‘Mum Fantasies’

Before having kids, you may have found yourself dreaming about:

OR

OR

OR

But after kids everything changes and fantasies become a lot more straightforward. Here is my Top 10 list of ‘Mum’ fantasies:

  1. Magic Shoes

25% of parenting seems to be desperately pleading with kids to put shoes on. Then another 25% is losing it at them because either they haven’t done it or they’ve taken off their shoes from the last time and you need to repeat the process. Only a parent will understand this but I dream of a world where I never have to nag a child to put shoes on again: Shoes will magically appear on feet when appropriate and come off when appropriate. 

  1.  Convenient Toilet Trips

In the real world, regardless of whether a kid has peed like a racehorse minutes earlier, they will still need to go again at a very inconvenient moment. e.g. right in the middle of their swimming lesson or in the murky depths of Ikea. In our fantasy world, it’s a different story – a child will only need to go to the toilet when you are close to a clean and accessible bathroom. Hooray!

  1. A Relaxing Hospital Stay

You may dream about having a very minor surgery or illness that requires hospitalisation for several days. The ailment will not be painful but will nevertheless still require a delightful morphine drip, which you control. You are not expected to do anything other than rest, watch TV and eat food that is delivered to your bedside for 3-4 days. Oh, and flower & chocolate deliveries will be forthcoming each day, also brought to your bedside.

  1. Uncontested Bedtime

Imagine telling your kids to go to bed…and they actually listen and obey cheerfully. No complaints, no requests for water and no monsters in cupboards. They hit the deck like a tranquilised elephant and don’t wake up for 10 hours. Our dog will meekly walk into his kennel when I say, just once, “Go to bed.” The fantasy is that one evening the kids will be as obedient as the canine. 

  1. Eating Hot Meals

In reality, as soon as hot food is on the plate, a child will scream out to have their bottom wiped, a band-aid administered or to be rescued from the headlock of your other child. It doesn’t matter how many minutes are in a day, the 5 minutes that you want to eat your hot meal will invariably be the exact time a child needs you desperately. In this fantasy, all hot meals are eaten whilst hot and ice cream is eaten before it’s melted. 

  1. Uninterrupted Bathroom Bliss

It would be nice to go to the loo or have a bath or shower without someone banging on the door:

a) wanting to come in

b) asking a question or telling you something in a loud but muffled tone

c) asking you to resolve a sibling dispute

d) asking if they can watch you on the toilet (this happens)

7. Grocery Shopping ALONE

Mothers get excited when they get to grocery shop alone. And even though this isn’t a desirable activity in and of itself, when done alone after enduring it with small sidekicks, pathetically, it becomes very enjoyable. This is where motherhood takes you: to Coles, alone, on a Tuesday night at 8pm, where you kick your heels in glee and dance the trolley down the aisle, rejoicing in the solitude.

8. The Never Ending Wine Bottle

Having a bottle of your favorite wine that never, ever runs out so you can do this:

9. Free Babysitting

This is a serious fantasy of mine. We don’t have any parents living nearby so it doesn’t happen often and we usually have to pay a babysitter. I dream of, I yearn for, I covet the free babysitting that a lot of friends with nearby relations seem to have. I am also counting down the years until my eldest child can babysit her siblings.

10. An Uninterrupted Nights Sleep

The pinnacle; the ultimate fantasy: You lay your head down on the pillow at night and close your eyes. You sleep a full 8-9 hours, drowsy and tangled in the sheets and wake up of your own accord, well after the sun has appeared. There are no wet beds, no vomiting children and no bad dreams. Nothing could top this fantasy for any mother, anywhere, ever.

 

There. That’s my list and I imagine I am not alone. Feel free to add your own and we can daydream together…

 

Soccer Mums – the Good, the Bad and the In-Between

Last year I watched the film ‘Bad Moms’. It’s pretty hilarious: a formerly ‘perfect mom’ can’t cope anymore, has a breakdown and decides she will just be a ‘bad mom’ from now on. Check out how she loses it:

bad-moms

I’ve never aimed for perfection when it comes to motherly duties. Don’t get me wrong: I love my kids, they’re awesome and I want the best for them with the stuff that really matters. I just don’t have the time or energy to do everything or do it perfectly. If I was so inclined, I’d have to shape up in these areas:

  • School: I’m the one who forgets to read the newsletter and never knows what’s happening, handing in money frantically at the last minute and harassing the office ladies for information I should already have.
  • P & C: I can’t seem to make it to the meetings despite good intentions. I either forget or the lure of the TV and chilled chardonnay are too enticing after a tiring day.
  • School parades: I can’t sew and I’m not crafty; buttons aren’t replaced in our house, they are simply mourned. The easter hat parade is my worst nightmare, followed closely by bookweek. An experienced mother of 5 told me a year or so ago “I’m done making costumes for book week. I told my kids they can only wear whatever they can find in the dress up box.” That woman is my hero.
  • School assembly: I don’t often go unless I know something is happening involving my own kid. I’d much rather enjoy the relative tranquility at home as it coincides with Miss 4’s rest time. And other times I actually have housework to do. Last week I asked “Kids, I’ve got a pretty busy day today. Do you mind if I don’t come to assembly?” Miss 10 said, incredulously, “Of course we don’t. There’s no point us all being bored!” Champion!
  • Sport: My kids do tennis, soccer, dancing, acrobatics and swimming. I’m not omnipresent so something has to give. Plus there are school sports carnivals, where I’ll make an appearance but then I need to move on for my own sanity and for my 4-year-old shadow. I just can’t put up with 6 hours of whining about boredom and hunger. I’ve learned that as long as I leave spending money, the kids are fine.
  • Chores: They’ve all got 2 arms and 2 legs so I don’t make their beds, unpack their school bags or pick up after them. The big kids get their own breakfast and put their own laundry away as well as unloading the dishwasher each morning. Even Miss 4 has a few jobs she has to do.
  • Food: Fruit first then if they want biscuits or muffins and the occasional donut, that’s fine. You won’t find organic bran muffins here. Home baking usually includes choc chips but never kale.

Despite my low boredom threshold at many kids events, my apparent inability to get a permission slip in on time, my lack of artistic talent and truly believing that school parades are designed primarily to torture parents, I’m not a monster; I love goofing around with the kids, playing games, having movie nights, buying too many gifts, reading to them and telling them they’re awesome every day.

So I admit it: I’m no Carol Brady. These women do exist, I know some and wish them all the best; no idea how they do it! Even though I’m not the ‘perfect mom’, I’m hoping I don’t deserve the title of ‘Bad Mom’ either. Am I allowed to claim a spot somewhere in the middle?

If so, I’m OK with that.

A School Holiday Tale Of Triumph Over Tragedy

The school holidays…what can I say? It seems I end up here, typing at my computer four times a year, either having a whinge about how hideous it can be or giving you survival tips. Facebook reminded me this morning that on this day in 2016, I posted this on my personal page:

Oh my word, I am so ready for the holidays to be over. I am at the point of pulling my hair out as I plead with my son ‘Don’t annoy your sisters. And don’t touch your sisters. And don’t touch the AIR AROUND your sisters!’. They are banished outside and I will now go and scream into a pillow until 9am Thursday.”

Usually at this point I am a broken shell of a woman, simply trying to survive each day. This time I don’t feel the same and I know why. I am now working 3 days a week so a mixture of babysitters, my parents and my mother in law have done the heavy lifting. I salute them. My kids haven’t had the chance to drive me crazy and I’m cherishing the time I have with them. We’ve enjoyed board games, playdates, trips to the movies, trips to Jamberoo Action Park utilising our season passes and general merriment.

Today that merriment was born from the most unlikely of circumstances. Let me share with you the tale of our Wednesday, 25th January. The backstory first – I haven’t been sleeping well lately. It’s been hideously hot and our bedroom is not air conditioned. Our fan has only 2 settings – the wind power of an F5 twister, or nothing. Last night I thought I’d give myself a sleeping pill and try and catch up on some Zs. It worked well, too well. I didn’t open my eyes until 8.44am, which is nearly unheard of for me. I relaxed and stretched for some time and generally basked in the glow that comes from having had 10 hours of deep & uninterrupted drug induced slumber. George, having also slept in, came in from the shower and informed me that our cleaner had come to the door at 8.30am. Apparently, Miss 10 had opened the door and informed her that Mummy was asleep and Daddy was in the shower. The cleaner took this as a green light to vacate our property and move on to another job, not to return until next week. Darn! When you have a cat, dog and 3 children whose hygiene habits are similar to that of a pack of wild baboons, the thought of the cleaner missing a week is cause for panic.

I gathered my thoughts and called a family meeting with the kids. “I have good news and bad news” I told them. “The bad news is that your sister sent the cleaner away and she now can’t come back until next week. This means we will be cleaning the house ourselves.”

I was greeted with similar levels of outbursts and protesting to what has taken place in Washington DC in the past week. “Wait!” I said. “The good news is that I’ve saved $50. We’ll spend it on ourselves, doing something fun that we wouldn’t have otherwise done today.” Considering this rate of pay, even divided 3 ways, was several times the rate of their weekly pocket money, I had their attention. I made a list:

  • General tidying
  • Vacuuming
  • Mopping
  • Dusting
  • Cleaning toilets
  • Cleaning showers
  • Cleaning glass stacker doors

I told them if anyone complained and didn’t help, I would be dropping them at Dad’s office while the rest of us went out and enjoyed the spoils. Impressively, my older kids really stepped up. Whilst no doubt imagining treats and exciting outings, they scrubbed, dusted, mopped and cleaned until their little faces were red. They actually argued over who would get the privilege of cleaning the toilet. I reminded them, quite majestically as I felt like King Solomon solving a royal conundrum, that we have two toilets and there was two of them, “do the maths, kids”. They were each allocated their own dedicated toilet to scrub and clean, which they did proudly. Miss 4 required a bit more cajoling but she did her part too, picking up the hair she’d cut from her Little Mermaid doll yesterday which was strewn around the house like fairy dust, among other tasks.

Keep scrubbing
Keep scrubbing

It took us one & half hours until the house sparkled. By this stage, I was covered in sweat but felt strangely satisfied. We discussed our options and the kids agreed that they’d like a trip to Flip Out and then lunch at McDonalds. We had a great day together and felt bonded by the experience and satisfied by our achievements and subsequent compensation.

But is this story just an amusing tale of triumph and reward over unspeakable tragedy? Well yes, there’s certainly that. But I have also learned:

  • The less I see my kids, the more I appreciate them. It’s hard to go to work when I know they are off school but the upside is that they haven’t driven me demented yet. This is unprecedented for this point of the holidays.
  • Do not underestimate young, unspoiled hands that have not yet experienced hard labour. Look deeper and see the potential.
  • Kids will appreciate something more if they have to work for it. As a natural ‘fun parent’ it is in my nature to want to give them stuff for no reason. I must try and resist this urge, for their own benefit. And for the sake of a glistening kitchen floor I could now eat off.

Normally burdened and oppressed at this point, I am unexpectedly victorious. I wish that the remainder of your school holidays may also be filled with peace, achievement, jubilation…and plenty of Spray n’ Wipe.

Bad Medicine; 21 Steps To Get Your Kid To Take Their Antibiotic

You've misled us, Mary. Thanks for nothing.
You’ve misled us, Mary. Thanks for nothing.

The scenario: your child is ill and needs antibiotics. It is particularly critical to get them better as you are hosting Christmas lunch at your home in 4 days and have a heavily pregnant relative attending. The stakes are high. The kid knows it. When Mary Poppins sang her classic line “Just a spoonful of sugar makes the medicine go down”, she hadn’t met my children. If she has given you false hope and, like me, you’re having trouble getting your kid to take their medicine please follow these clear steps.

Disclaimer: I did not say ‘easy’ steps, I said ‘clear’ steps. Good luck.

But before we start I have a gift for your eyes:

The original 'Bad Medicine'
The original ‘Bad Medicine’. You’re welcome.
Step 1

Tell your child it’s time to take their medicine. After they protest loudly, complaining that it tastes like sand, bribe them with the promise of lollies, chips, ice blocks or lemonade if they take it happily.

Step 2

When they reject your bribery offer, you will start to lose patience as you look at the clock and realise you need to leave for work soon. Tell them they MUST take the medicine and you can do it the easy way or the hard way. When they look at you blankly, explain that the easy way is for them to take it voluntarily and then get a treat. The hard way is for you to chase them, catch them and hold them down whilst trying to squirt the syringe full of medicine down their throat, knowing that they will then spit 90% of it up on your clean outfit.

Step 3

The child runs away and hides, screaming. You chase them, grab them and carry them (lovingly) to the couch in an attempt to hold them down with 1 hand whilst holding a dripping syringe style medicine dispenser in the other hand. Child screams and develops octopus limbs and the strength of a lion. Their open screaming mouth moves like a clown’s head at a carnival but with the accelerated rotation speed of a ceiling fan.

Step 4

You feel like an abusive parent and are filled with shame and let go of the child. They run away and hide under a bush in the backyard, sobbing and curled up in the fetal position.

Step 5

You resist the urge to drink wine at 8am as you realise your syringe is still completely full of medicine

Step 6

Take a deep breath. Collect your thoughts. You think you can still talk the child into taking the medicine voluntarily.

Step 7

Approach the delinquent child carefully, like you would a wild deer, so you don’t scare them away. They see you coming and start screaming again. Check the neighbours aren’t watching. You feel a new wave of shame wash over you. Child runs away again and hides under the trampoline.

Step 8

Admit this isn’t working. Reassess and change strategy. Lightbulb moment occurs in your head.

Step 9

Prepare 3 milo drinks. Squirt contents of syringe into cup 1. Call out to runaway child and tell them “It’s OK, you don’t have to have the medicine. I’ve changed my mind.” Child cautiously comes out of hiding, then seeing you look sincere and given they are unable to locate medicine, skips into the house triumphantly.

Step 10

Call out “Who wants a yummy milo?! Milo for everyone, sit up at the breakfast bar”. Ignore the guilt that is pressing on your conscience. When your child asks suspiciously “is there medicine in my milo?” it is prudent necessary to lie. Appropriate responses include: “No, of course not! Drink up! It’s a competition! Whoever finished their milo IN FULL gets a lolly!!!”

Step 11

As the child still looks a bit suspicious, make a joke about butts or someone farting so they will laugh and forget all else and start drinking.

Step 12

When child complains about the lumps in the milo, rummage through at least 5 kitchen drawers to locate sieve and strain the drink. Start the process over again.

Step 13

When child complains they don’t really want the milo, invent link between health benefits and victory. E.G. “This milo is so healthy! It’s full of vitamins and minerals! You must drink the WHOLE THING to win the game”

Step 14

As child continues to drink for the sake of the ‘game’, despite not enjoying it, whilst other children continue to whisper and snicker, ignore the nagging feeling that you’ve produced a child who isn’t very bright.

Step 15

Softly threaten chattering older children with iPad ban for the next 3 YEARS if they don’t keep silent.

Step 16

Push down the feelings of guilt that continue to wash over you.

Step 17

When child spills the drink on the bench, try your best not to lose it. Carefully scrape drink back into cup despite legitimate hygiene concerns due to the questionable level of cleanliness of benchtop and stand by them chanting “Skull, skull, skull!!!”

Step 18

Child finishes drink. Hip hip freakin’ hooray! Before falling into an exhausted heap, distribute sugary reward and hope to goodness the child ingested at least 50% of the required dose of medicine.

Step 19

12 hours later: drink heavily and repeat process.

Step 20

Lie in bed at night and hope that you gave the medicine-spiked drink to the right child.

Step 21

Wake up to a new day. Start again and hope that your child really isn’t that bright so you don’t have to come up new strategy. Repeat all steps. Then sob into coffee.

5 Signs You Need A Holiday

screen-shot-2016-12-18-at-11-47-15-amThe end of the year is nearly here, hallelujah! The kids have finished school, most workplaces are about to shut down and the Christmas mayhem is nearly at its climax. As I see the end in sight, I feel like a desperately thirsty person crawling through the desert who has nearly reached the oasis. I really feel like I need a holiday. Here are some signs I have hit the wall, do any of them sound familiar?

1. Parenting Fails

My son came to me for a hug the other night. I embraced him tightly, like the loving and devoted parent that I am. I said, sincerely, “Mate, I’m so proud of you for a great year. How does it feel to finish year 1?”

He looked at me incredulously and said, “Don’t you mean year 2?”.

Wow. I can’t remember what year my kid is in. You know you really need a break when this happens.

2. Forgetting Stuff

My life is losing stuff. Sunglasses, reading glasses, keys, wallet. The joke of the office is that I leave, then come back 30 seconds later EVERY time as I’ve forgotten something. It never fails. As I left on Friday they called out “we’ll be seeing you again in a sec.”

“Not this time guys!” I replied confidently and skipped out. I was wrong. Back in I walked with my tail between my legs to grab my swipe pass, welcomed by their applause. This is my life. It’s been getting worse and I know people have noticed because a group of friends gave me this the other night as a Christmas gift. 

My friends know me well.
My friends know me well.

3. Forgetting Really Important Stuff

We took 2 cars to church the other day as I was on morning tea duty which meant I’d have to stay later. George wanted to go home with the kids but our eldest wanted to stay longer to play with her friends and asked if she could come home with me instead – no problem. After clean up, I drove home. I walked in the door and was greeted by my loving family. Or rather, most of them. George looked at me and asked where our eldest daughter was.

Oh. My. Goodness. I had forgotten her. I called a friend hoping he was still there, which he was. I said sheepishly “I’ve forgotten something, can you have a look for me?”

“Sure, what is it?” he replied cheerfully

“Uh, my child,” I said.

George rushed off to pick her up. She was playing, gloriously happy, with friends and hadn’t even realised I’d left. She found it hilarious. “You’re not going to let me forget this are you?” I asked. “Nope!” she replied with a twinkle in her eye. 

4. Losing It

I’ve been unwell for the past week and in some pain. Combine that with busy days and not enough sleep and the she-beast rears her ugly head. I have lost it several times at unwitting family members who have committed only the slightest transgression. For example:

  • We are about to walk out the door for school and I realise someone hasn’t: put their shoes on, done their sunscreen, packed their lunchbox = ‘losing it’ style rant.
  • I am driving and someone has parked across 2 spaces or can’t use a roundabout or just generally drives like a moron = ‘losing it’ style rant.
  • I go to the freezer and someone has eaten the last of the ice cream = ‘losing it’ style rant.

The following video is basically me at the moment if provoked (sorry about the quality but you get the idea):

My usual pattern is to explode then feel immediate remorse and spread sincere apologies like fairy dust. But it’s not a great way to live. 

5. Uncontrollable Laughter

This can be a sign you’re really losing the plot. I recently watched this video:

I have literally never laughed so hard in my life. My whole body convulsed like I was having a fit. I snorted. I cried. More accurately, I wept a river. My son ran into the room to see what was wrong with Mummy. I watched it again immediately and got the same reaction.

Later that day I was at the osteopath lying on the table. He is a serious man and had his hands under my lower back making some adjustments. Not really the best time to be giggling. But I thought about the video…Oh no, it was happening again. I literally couldn’t control myself. I started to shake with laughter. Tears started to roll down the sides of my cheeks. He looked at me like I was crazy, which was not out of the question. “I’m sorry, I’m sorry,” I began. And I lay there thinking “Don’t think about it, don’t think about it…”. Do you think I could not think about it? Nope. It all started again and continued as my personal battle throughout my the entire appointment. I paid the bill and left feeling completely embarrassed knowing he thought I was either a nutcase or just weirdly kinky. When I watch this video now, I do find it pretty funny but I think my initial response was evidence of a woman near breaking point.

I think I have proved my case: I need a holiday. Do you?

Night Terrors: Just when you thought it was safe to put your feet up…

What do you think the best song intro of all time is…? Surely Metallica’s ‘Enter Sandman’ has to be up there. It’s a song about exploring the fear of going to sleep for what lies beyond. I’ve included the YouTube clip here so you can listen to this musical masterpiece as you read this post. You’re welcome.

When I was a kid I remember lying in bed pretending a witch was coming up the hall. I’d get right down under the covers and hide, completely still and quiet, until the witch was gone. Technically I wasn’t scared, just pretending to be. But some kids have things that freak them out, monsters under their bed and what not. As an adult, the things that freak me out at night have changed. Picture this: House is tidy and quiet; Kids have been put to bed; You’ve poured your glass of wine or tea; You have a bowl of ice cream that is just melted enough to be soft and delicious but hard enough to avoid using a straw; You sit down and turn on the TV and put your feet up. Guaranteed, within 2 minutes, a night time monster will come out to get you…

Let’s take a look at the top 5 night terrors that now haunt my evenings:

1. The Camel

kids-water

Regardless of how much fluid children drink throughout the day, you can guarantee that as soon as they are put to bed, they will need more. In fact, their dehydration appears to be equivalent to that of a camel at a trough, storing fluids in preparation for a lengthy journey across the Kalahari. And be warned that water consumed 10 seconds before lights out has no bearing on the fluid needed after lights out. Even 1 drop of water can be enough to calm the camel, so long as it involves you getting up.

2. The Scheduled Poo

Although the toilet is there all day and children have unfettered access to it, their bowels will only start working 3 minutes after they have been tucked into bed. I can pretty much guarantee every night that my youngest child will be up for this reason within 5 minutes of being put to bed. It’s quite uncanny, I’m not sure how she does it. But you can bet she will. And if there is not some parental involvement you can bet it will end up with an incident that will rival the clogged toilet scene in ‘Along Came Polly’ (google it, it’s pretty funny). I am not sure if this is actually a ‘scheduled poo’ or if it could possibly be a ‘defiant poo’, one that is determined to be noticed and will not appear until after dark. Either way, you’ll be getting up.

3. The Haunting Footsteps

Have you ever been sitting down with a book, or watching your favorite TV show and all you hear are the pitter patter of little feet up and down the hall? But when you finally get up to check it out, nobody seems to be out of bed? But then you sit back down and there they are again. You get up to check…again, nothing. Like a ghost, the footsteps come and go. On some nights it appears that nothing is actually happening but it’s enough to disturb your tranquility. Other times, something is happening and you only find out the next morning when you find the carnage of squeezed toothpaste or that your blush brush that has been used to create art with your moisturiser. 

4. The Agonising Pain

My youngest daughter called me in last night and flipped me the bird. I soon realised she wasn’t meaning to be rude, she was just showing me her sore middle finger by alienating it from it’s friends and sticking it out in front of my face, tall and proud. It was a wound that she felt warranted the emotional response and immediate medical attention as that of a gangrenous limb but was, in reality, a minute graze. Of course, it hadn’t bothered her all day until lights out. With any pain after this time, band aids must be administered to enable sleep. It is the same with all other ailments, they are exacerbated after lights out. Heads hurt, tummies ache, feet itch, eyes all of a sudden have sand in them…the list goes on. You will never have a child so sick or in torturous pain until you tuck them in and turn out their lights out.

5. The Important Communication

Many times I have been called in after lights to be told something incredibly important. It usually goes something like this…

Child (calling out): Mum, come in, I need to tell you something

Me: I’ve just sat down. Is it important?

Child: Yes, yes it’s really important!!! Come in now!

Me, wearily: OK, coming…

Child: Can we go to Flip Out for my next birthday party? (in 9 months)

OR: Does a boy bird have a penis?…Where is it??

OR: I wish I had pink eyebrows. I really want pink eyebrows.

As you can see, it was lucky I rushed in for those little nuggets. What I’d really like to say is:

If only it were this easy
If only it were this easy

So as you tuck those little munchkins in and then come out to the comfort of your child-free lounge, just don’t jinx yourself and celebrate too early or get too comfy. Heed Metallica’s warnings and watch TV with one ear open, gripping your cushion tight til the Sandman he comes.

Let Me Entertain You

Remember Robbie Williams belting out ‘Let me entertain you’? Well, I feel that is what my kids think is going through my mind each and every day. They get up out of bed and look to me to either amuse them, or let them be amused on a device.

I recall ranting to my kids a while back ‘when I was a girl, we didn’t have screens. We had one tv that we watched on weekends and the rest of the time we had to go outside and PLAY.’ My son, about 6, looked horrified and simply said ‘that’s awful!’ My children seem to have lost the ability to amuse themselves. I think they expect me to be an event co-ordinator, party planner and court jester. All the screens kids have access to these days seem to have detracted from their ability to sit down and focus on other activities for any length of time.

In the last school holidays this reality really hit home. We had been on various outings and one particular morning we’d spent time with some friends. Driving home, my 10 year old daughter asked ‘what are we doing this afternoon?’. ‘Nothing!’ I exclaimed. ‘You can play quietly at home and amuse yourselves!’ as I muttered ‘unbelievable’ under my breath.

I realised that they expected to be led through life from one exciting activity to another. And evidently I was responsible for providing all this. My kids aren’t great at just playing. They will only play with something like lego or toys if I force them to (and then they do enjoy it). But it’s always with the idea that after they’ve served their time, like a prison sentence, they’ll be eligible for parole with rewards of screen time that will come like the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. They feel that by playing outside, reading a book or drawing etc they are doing me a favour and need to be rewarded by getting copious amounts of time on a device.

I should add though that the only times they are excellent at doing something creative alone are: a) When I have asked them to do a job. At that point, they are completely engrossed in writing the next great Australian novel or drawing a masterpiece and much too busy to be disturbed, thank you very much

Or

b) When they are busy doing something naughty (like ‘painting’ with my lipsticks) or extremely messy that will involve a lot of clean up participation on my part. Eg. moving all the cushions, bedding and mattresses in the entire house to make the world’s greatest cubby in the lounge. They will spend an hour creating it, play in it for 2 minutes then abandon it hastily like burglar who has just pulled a bank job.

I grew up with 4 brothers. We didn’t have a lot of money, so we had simple toys and games but a huge backyard. We had a TV but weren’t allowed to watch it much, only on special occasions, like for Disneyland on the weekend (anyone remember this? It was the highlight of my week).

The rest of the time we were expected to amuse ourselves. I read a lot as a kid and we regularly got banished to the yard. Here I am playing dress ups, old school style. But whenever I try and force my kids to spend time in the yard, all of a sudden they have the bladder control of Octomom and bladder capacity of a thimble. Every 5 minutes one of them will need to come in to use the toilet. Then

Move over Betty, there's a new mean mum in town.
Move over Betty Draper, you’ve been usurped

the fighting will erupt. Or they will wait on the deck looking mournfully bored at the back door like the dog in a thunderstorm. Anything other than peaceful playing in the yard without my involvement. To put this torture into perspective, we have a trampoline, a swing-set, slippery slide, a huge Japanese Maple climbing tree and a cubby house, not to mention a dog AND a cat. But it’s evidently SO boring out there. They make me feel like the worst mum on earth by forcing them to play in such conditions.

Fellow parents, am I the only one who is struggling with this? Do your kids expect you to provide entertainment for them? If screens aren’t an option are they bored constantly? I oscillate between wanting to see them spend a whole day without a screen on wholesome, creative activities ON THEIR OWN (aka without me) and feeling guilty for not spending 3 hours playing My Little Ponies on the floor (somebody please get me a chardonnay, stat!). How did we get here?! They get restricted screen time and are encouraged to read and do other things. As a child I didn’t expect my mum to entertain me. There were regular times she’d spend with us reading to us or some other activity but by and large my siblings and I were in charge of entertaining ourselves. 

This is my future
This is my future

What is the correct balance of screen time, amusing-yourself time and mother/kid intense activity time? How can I get my kids to expand the talent of amusing themselves? After some reflection, my thoughts are that, like a muscle, this talent needs to be exercised, possibly even against their wills, kinda like my glutes. And I think I will start to use the phrase ‘when I was a kid…’ more frequently. They will probably get so sick of it they’ll run from me and inject themselves into any other activity. That…and forced manual labour if they need an ‘activity’ provided to them on a silver platter. My mother tells me this was always a winner: Bored? Need something to do? Wash the windows please. Or *insert other boring yet simple chore here*.

By roger, I may have solved it people! And if not, at least I’ll have a cracking clean house 😉

Winter Woes

No Barbados hair!

There is a lot I love about winter – the cool dry air, how my hair behaves itself with the lack of humidity and I enjoy a winter wardrobe as my ideal outfit is a long sleeved t-shirt, jeans and a pair of converse. I recently had a checkup at the dermatologist and as he looked over my body with his magnifying glasses on he said ‘you really were born for the northern hemisphere, weren’t you’.

My wardrobe guidelines
My wardrobe guidelines

If my skin could talk it would beg to be kidnapped and kept in a basement. Winter is OK but summer can be troublesome. Although I love the balmy air and enjoy things like outdoor entertaining after dark and dusk walks on the beach, the hot sun is the enemy of those with skin prone to cancerous sun spots. But if I cover up I’m too hot so it sux either way. In a sense, winter is my oasis. But right now I’m a bit over it. Here are the things I am not enjoying right now:

1. Shower Shivers

Screen Shot 2016-08-08 at 4.44.14 PM
The trauma I feel when getting out of the shower

Winter showers are beautiful with our new instantaneous hot water system. I can stay in that shower for way too long and half my body is red and baked by the end. The cat watches me the whole time and enjoys the show. But getting out of the shower in winter is horrific. Nipples that can cut glass or possibly get you out of a speeding ticket, cold air assaulting every surface of your body and forget your towel once and you’ll be sorry as you do a nudie run up the hall covered in goose bumps. 

2. Toilet Seat Iceblock Trauma

I regret nothing.
I regret nothing.

Having both an insatiable thirst and a bladder the size of a thimble, I have to get up most nights to pee. Sitting on the toilet seat is like sitting on a block of ice, very unpleasant at 2am. I recently bought these toilet seat covers on eBay and it’s solved the problem. They go on at night and come off in the morning and are machine washable, I’m pretty happy with this decision and wonder why I’ve waited 38 years to implement this system. It’s extremely tacky and something you may expect to see at Kath Day-Knight’s place but I owe it to my rear end to commit as a proud long term user of this item.

3. Wardrobe Wars

I have a 3-year-old child who wishes she was a princess or possibly believes she already is one. It’s all about frills, tiaras, sparkles and dress ups. Every day we have had disagreements over her wardrobes choices due to the cold weather. She will emerge from her room triumphantly in a beautiful summer dress or a matching pretty singlet/undie combo or even a pair of swimmers. I looked at her outfit this morning, which was a short, glittery skirt and t-shirt with sewn in wings and told her it wasn’t going to cut it on this cold day and that she’d have to put pants on. She burst into tears and sobbed ‘but I just want to look beautiful’. We compromised with a jumper and tights. When summer comes, I will not have this problem anymore. I recall being on holidays in Queensland one year and seeing a woman shopping in Woolies in a bikini, pushing her trolley down the aisles. Add some frills and a tiara and this would my daughter’s idea of Xanadu. I genuinely cannot wait for warm weather, if only to have a peace with my little gal.

4. Life is an Open door

Please don't make me use my nose
Please don’t make me use my nose

In winter, open doors are a problem. We have stacker glass doors at the back of our house. The kids are in and out of the house and forget to close the door, turning the house into an igloo. In summer the doors can be left open all day and everyone’s happy. But during winter with the heaters on I am constantly telling the kids to ‘SHUT THE DOOR’. Cedric sits at the back door all day looking longingly inside, wishing and hoping to gain entry. At some point, he will decide to take matters into his own hands paws and opens the door with his nose. He then slinks in looking very guilty and flops. Either too lazy or too incompetent to close the door behind him, icy air will penetrate the house. 

5. Heaters, Here and There

I'm hot just looking at this.
I’m hot just looking at this guy.

Most old homes around here are not made to deal with any serious cold weather and heating solutions are patchy at best. At my house we have a gas heater in the lounge, a reverse cycle air conditioning unit on the wall and various oil heaters in bedrooms. At times some are on, some are off and there are cold rooms and warm rooms. This leads to a market for products such as the ‘Snuggie’. I don’t own one but wouldn’t knock one back. And everyday my kids fight over who gets the prime spot in front of the gas heater. Sometimes violence ensues as a result. Between the two pets and three kids, someone is always unhappy at their proximity to the heater. I’m sick of the fighting! Maybe a snuggie for everyone would solve the problem?

6. Birthday Blitz Attacks

I am not sure what was in the water in the ‘Springs’ of years gone by but I seem to know an extraordinary number of people with winter birthdays. It feels like at least half my extended family is born in winter. Which means birthday after birthday. Whilst birthdays are enjoyable, it can be difficult for a disorganised person to keep on top of presents. I buy a gift along with card and wrapping and then before I know it another birthday is upon me and I’m on the back foot again. It’s like being in the surf and getting dumped, sticking your head up to gasp for air and being dumped again. Repeat, all winter (I really need to shop in advance, maybe I can’t blame this one on Winter??).

7. Garden Graveyard

My garden in winter
My garden in winter

We bought our house from an elderly couple fond of gardening. They spent a lot of time in the yard and had beautiful established gardens, a lot of which have been trashed by our brown thumbs and lack of time. Even though it’s far from it’s former glory, in spring it all blooms beautifully with flowers sprouting up all over the place. But in winter, it looks like a creepy graveyard. Our Japanese maple tree, along with many others, loses its leaves and has creepy eery branches that look like they belong in a horror movie. Not that attractive.

I think the only thing left to do is beg: Winter, what we have is a love that is skin deep only. I have no lasting commitment to you. I am a fair weather friend and I’m done with you now. Please send spring to brighten our lives as soon as humanly possible, many thanks. And now I must go to purchase a ‘Snuggie’ online and sit in front of the heater until it is delivered.

Good evening.

 

Pearls of Wedding Wisdom

Today George and I have been married for 13 years. Happy Anniversary to us! I love weddings and my own was magical – I look back with fond memories. Last weekend I attended my cousin’s wedding in Noosa. Creative, fashionable and classy, the wedding reflected the impeccable taste my cousin is known for. I’ve never seen so many flowers and candles. As far as the eye could see there was beauty and elegance. After a river cruise flowing with champagne, we dined into the evening at a gorgeous waterfront restaurant as the sun set over the Noosa river.

Recalling the weekend wedding plus my own nuptials, I have some reflections to share with you:

1. It’s normal to be nervous. I was super jittery the morning of my wedding and couldn’t eat a thing, an extraordinary phenomenon for me as I can always eat. But that morning my stomach was in butterflies. I wasn’t nervous about entering into holy matrimony with George. I was petrified I would fall over walking down the aisle. I had been to a wedding previously where the maid of honour took a header walking into the reception. She actually fell right over like a bowling pin, banging her head on the wall. Embarrassing and potentially life-threatening. She came out of the coma just as the bride and groom returned from their honeymoon and I believe she can now feed herself with a spoon. Just kidding – she had a lump on the noggin and a bruised ego but that’s it. But that day haunted me. Entering into vows that will bind me for the rest of my days on earth to my beloved – not a problem. But the thought of walking in a straight line in heels had me shivering in my slippers. Not just falling over, but doing something stupid, saying something stupid and being the centre of attention for the whole day. Anyone who has been a bride or groom will probably agree that it’s totally normal to need close and unfettered access to the throne room in the hours leading up to the ceremony.

2. Be very careful which wedding tasks you assign to your groom. At the wedding I just attended I got the impression that the groom’s job was the music. The bride walked down the aisle to ‘XO’, a Beyonce song covered by John Mayer, which I adore. At the reception there was a musical duo who sang a range of music all night long and were great. Good job groomie! At our wedding, George’s assigned jobs were limited but important. He was in charge of the photography and videoing. He chose a photographer and enlisted a competent friend to video the ceremony. The photographer was a total dud. The photos he took had bad lighting, no creativity plus he spent most of the reception smoking in the side alley and chatting up some of our more attractive female guests. On top of this, it took George a long time to organise to get the prints. I think it was 11 years before we got the photos back. I’m not joking. We got one semi-decent photo out of the lot, the one pictured here and it’s hanging on our dining room wall. The little mini-video cassettes are still in a drawer . Maybe for our 20th anniversary I may get a DVD of our wedding produced if I’m lucky. #groomfail

3. Fashion fads will date. Take a look at the groom’s hair in our wedding photo. Believe it or not, this spiky gelled look was very common and desirable back in the early noughties. As was the little bush of chin hair. But in 2016, most people who come into our house and see the hanging photo laugh at George’s hair without restraint. I have a suspicion that in 15 years there will be a lot of chuckles over the current slick hipster do’s with the side part. But hey, looking back on wedding fashion is part of the fun of reflection. The big meringue dresses of the 80s, men’s suits from the 70s and basically anything from the 90s. I’m not saying you shouldn’t embrace today’s fashion fads, I’m just saying that one day a room full of dinner guests may enjoy a laugh at your expense. But what goes around comes around so c’est la vie!

4. Cherish things that go wrong as endearing anecdotes. At my cousin’s wedding, the officiating minister (who also happened to be my father, a retired minister) not only dropped the rings but also forgot to say ‘you may now kiss the bride’. Everyone was waiting for it and I sat in my chair boring my eyes into my fathers, giving enthusiastic kissing gestures but to no avail. Finally, the maid of honour said tentatively ‘aren’t they supposed to kiss now?’. A stuff up to be sure but now they have a funny wedding story to tell their future children.

5. Speaking of wedding kisses, it’s best to figure out what you want yours to say. You don’t want it to be too sterile. I watched Gilmore Girls the other day and saw Rory & Jess give each other a pathetic little kiss which Lorelai described as like two chickens pecking each other. But on the other hand, you don’t want to go too far the other way. At my brother’s wedding, he and his bride had the longest, most passionate kiss I’ve seen outside of a Nicholas Sparks movie. Save it for the honeymoon lovebirds. Best to work out a happy medium beforehand and you may even have fun practicing!

6. Marry someone kind. I have no idea how on earth I’ve managed to find someone so kind. I don’t think I’m a naturally kind person, I have to work at it. But George is kind by default.  He will come home from a long day at work and forbid me from cleaning the kitchen after dinner. He’ll instruct me to go watch TV and relax as I ‘must have had a long day with the kids.’ If you are going to share your entire life with someone, marry someone kind if you possibly can. That kindness is contagious and it’s easier for me, a villain by nature, to be kind to him because he was kind first.

I’m sure there is more wedding wisdom I could bestow but I must leave you to go get ready for my hot date – just me, George and Matt Damon. I should clarify that we’re dining out then seeing the new Jason Bourne movie, my idea of a perfect night out. George may be kind but I’m one classy gal, no doubt about it. I may even sneak a few Heinekens in for the flick.

Night all x

Pet Peeves & the Parking Police

On a long car trip once I asked George what his pet peeves were. He began listing them. They all involved some transgression or other of mine (eg. after he has cleaned the kitchen, I get ice cream and leave the dirty scoop on the clean bench). The list went on. I felt the need to clarify that I didn’t just mean things to do with me, just pet peeves in general.” “I know” he replied. Ouch.

When it came to my list he didn’t really feature at all, other than constantly squeezing toothpaste from the TOP of the tube. Come on dude, it’s just common sense. To my surprise, as I thought out my biggest pet peeves I realised that apart from people who film smartphone videos vertically (seriously, what shape is your TV?!?), they nearly all involved driving or parking:

  • Drivers who can’t merge
  • Drivers who don’t give you a wave when you let them in
  • Drivers who won’t move over lanes when you need to merge
  • Drivers who don’t use their indicators
  • Drivers who park in the ‘parents with prams’ car spots who don’t have a baby/toddler.
  • And the big one…Drivers who parallel park too far from the car behind or in front and take up 2 spaces.

There are no words to describe how much this last one annoys me, particularly around schools or high traffic areas. Are these people blind, inconsiderate or just lacking spatial awareness? Even as a pedestrian, when I see a car taking up 2 spaces I start to boil internally, muttering obscenities under my breath, regularly vowing to sneak up in the middle of the night with a tin angry woman drivingof white paint and paint some vigilante style parking lines. My brother actually did this outside his home, which was near a busy university and it solved the problem. Awesome!

I was at school one afternoon running late for pick-up and a driver had parked right in the middle of 2 spaces, making the spot in front slightly too small for my car, whilst the space between the back of his car and the car behind was incredibly generous. I don’t love confrontation but sometimes I can’t help myself when passionate about an issue. So when I saw him return I said politely “Excuse me, next time could you park closer to the car behind you, so another car can fit in front.” He looked surprised, then annoyed. “It’s not my fault. I was here first” he said, “they should have parked closer to me.” I tried to gently point out to him that the first car to arrive should park in one of the 3 spots available and not in the middle of 2 spots. But he just didn’t get it. Looking confused and angry, he continued to proclaim his innocence. So I simply had to stop flogging the dead horse. 

I think parking makes many people crazy, as you can see by the Seinfeld & Curb videos at the end of this post (enjoy, btw) and by something I witnessed yesterday. At preschool drop-off, I was in my car waiting to leave because a woman in a mini-van was attempting to drive front first into the space next to me. It was separated from me by a little garden bed and a kerb. A man was in the passenger seat. It’s a poky little car park and her car was long. Nevertheless, it was taking her a lot longer that it should. She couldn’t get the angle right and kept having to reverse and re-try. Another car and I were both waiting patiently to exit while this lady did the car version of the hokey-pokey around the carpark. Her male companion was getting frustrated and I saw him gesturing to her and then attempted to turn the wheel from the passenger seat. She looked increasingly upset and I thought I saw her wipe her eyes. He looked more annoyed as this debacle went on and in desperation she finally just drove straight over the kerb and plopped into the space. She then put her face in her hands and sobbed. I watched with interest and compassion. But this didn’t make me burn with anger as other driving transgressions often do. She was simply incompetent, not inconsiderate.

I have a friend who often parks in ‘no parking’ or ‘no stopping’ zones. He gets semi-regular parking fines and pays them with no complaints. Just the ‘cost of doing business’ is his attitude. This doesn’t bother me. He’s not parking anywhere others would park and is actually freeing up legitimate parking spots for other more conscientious drivers. His self-imposed rules for illegal parking are as follows: You must not inconvenience anyone except the local government. Handicap parking = OUT. Parking across driveways = OUT. No stopping zones = IN. I may not go so far as to say ‘bravo’ to him but I get the logic. I’d be too worried about getting a fine to do this myself but I tend to enjoy living vicariously to this ‘throwing caution to the wind’ attitude when we’re ever out and about together.

What does get up my goat are inconsiderate parkers who take up too many spaces or spaces meant for someone else. A few weeks after my school confrontation, I was dropping my daughter off at a music lesson. I wasn’t staying, just hopping out for 2 minutes to walk her in, then leaving. I backed into a space right near the entrance. As I walked away, a lady parked in a disabled spot, with a majestically displayed disabled pass, called out to me piously “I think you forgot to display your disabled sticker.” I stopped and looked around. Sure enough, it was a disabled spot, darn. “I’m sorry, I didn’t see it” I replied truthfully but snippily. “I’ll only be 2 minutes”. “You could get a fine of $500.” she said. “I’ll risk it, thanks.” I said shortly, feeling patronised. I walked off, feeling like a naughty child after a reprimand.

The thing about me is that I have a quick temper. I get annoyed fast but it abates equally quickly. And I make apologies regularly. Not sheepish ones. I will lay my heart bare and beg for forgiveness in the manner of Anne Shirley if that’s what’s required but with more genuine repentance. In the 2 minute walk to music and back, I realised that this lady had done nothing wrong. I was parked in a disabled spot without a sticker. So what if she had been a bit self-righteous? She was technically correct and I wouldn’t have parked there had I known, in case a disabled person needed it or in case of a fine, a less altruistic reason admittedly. As I neared her car I knew what I had to do. I tapped on her window. She reluctantly wound down the window, perhaps wondering if I was going to throw hot coffee at her. I began sincerely “I’m very sorry for being short with you before. I didn’t realise it was a disabled spot. I won’t park there again and I’m sorry if I was rude to you.” She was incredibly relieved and grateful that I think in that moment, we bonded. I’ve never seen her since but I regret nothing.

That apology felt good and I went home to polish my halo. I usually try not to make myself the hero of a story. More often than not I am actually the villain. But I vow to you now that I will always make sure to be the hero of every parking story. I will not be a hypocritical parker again! But my dilemma is this: what is the socially correct way to point out someone’s parking faux pas? How can it be done without giving offence? I got offended when I was in the wrong and yet I still struggled with the criticism. So I can only imagine how annoying I was to the guy I spoke to when his transgression was moronic rather than illegal. 

I believe I have the answer: there is no way it can be done. If you want to avoid conflict, just keep your trap shut and accept that the world is full of parking douchebags. Just try not to be one of them.

My Preferred Princess Privelege

It seems that Kate Middleton and I are two of a kind. Two peas in a pod. Virtually twins. Is it our exquisite bodies? Flawless skin? Graceful demeanor? Flowing silky tresses? Uh, sure why not! But mostly, we like to re-wear our outfits.

I was surfing the net today and saw a ‘NEWSFLASH’! Was it ‘76 year old Indian woman gives birth to naturally conceived quadruplets, one of whom has 2 heads?’ or ‘Jessica Simpson drowns whilst washing car, found scantily clad straddling hood’? No, it was ‘Kate wears outfit twice!’ As DJ Tanner/Fuller would say – Oh Mylanta!

The offending outfit
The offending outfit

Reading the article, it would appear that Kate likes to wear some of her favorite designer outfits twice as it makes her more ‘relatable’ to us commoners. If I can relate to someone wearing an Alexander McQueen coat not only once but twice to attend the Queen’s annual garden party, then sure, I can totally relate. As I said, twinsies! I guess it’s the same as if I wore my new pair of blue leopard print pajama pants to school drop off and then *GASP* again to school pick up the next day. Far out – this is some crazy stuff here people.

I think I’ve mentioned before that I love Kate. Even though she is a goddess and in comparison to her I feel & look like a troll, there is no jealousy. I enjoy watching her comings and goings, her outfits, her grace and composure in every scenario. But I would never want to be her: Sucking up to the Queen constantly…Having to have perfect hair and make up every time she leaves the house…Pretending to be interested in all the tedious functions she has to attend when she’s probably wishing she could kick back and watch re-runs of Ab Fab with a glass of cardonnay. Thanks but no thanks, it’s all yours Katie.

But the Princess privilege that I would absolutely love is a personal dresser. I detest clothes. I suppose what I really mean is I detest fashion. I like to cover myself, obviously. My 3 year old walked in on me one time when I was getting out of the shower, took one look at my naked form and cowered in the corner, pointing and whimpering “Mummy I don’t like your body”. Sweet child. So yes, I see the need for clothes. I just hate thinking about them. So if I could steal one Princess privilege it would be to have someone buy all my clothes for me and lay them out each day. No matter what the occasion, I would find the right outfit that is flattering to my body type and weather appropriate waiting for me each day. Ah bliss! I hate waking each day and looking in the wardrobe. A third of my clothes are too small from pre-kids. About a third are too big if I bought them either whilst pregnant or just post giving birth (I think I’ve mentioned that I nearly doubled in weight each time, whilst Kate halved). I have a drawer full of underwear that would make me look like a pork roast in a string, as Liz Lemon would say and a few maternity bras left over that could be comfortably used for parachutes if I chose to ‘Sky-dive the Gong’. So that leaves about 1/3 of my wardrobe that is suitable size wise. So like my bestie Kate, I re-wear things often.

My other problem is that I hate shopping. Really hate it. I know that is strange for a girl. But it’s true. I find it boring and tedious. There nothing worse than having to go into change rooms and try things on. Those mirrors are evil. If I owned a fashion boutique I would totally install skinny mirrors, not the freaking carny-style fat mirrors that are in most dressing rooms. Such a poor commercial choice! Don’t they know we would buy more if we looked better!? But even without the change rooms, I can go into a shop, see something I like, that I think will fit and that I can afford. Do I buy it? No. I don’t know why. Perhaps lack of commitment. Or maybe lack of confidence in my own fashion sense, which seems quite sensible given my purchasing history and track record of buyers remorse when I realise at home that the item looked better on the mannequin. So I end up back where I began each morning, sifting through a wardrobe that looks like a rack at a second-hand market stall. This is why you will see me wearing the same jeans, converse sneakers and pink t-shirt over and over again.

But seeing that my buddy Kate does it, I am suddenly feeling so much better. It does make me love her more. I’d like to propose a deal with Kate: if she wears the same Alexander McQueen coat to the Queen’s garden party again next year, I will commit to wearing the same flaming hot pink fluffy dressing gown to school drop off all winter! DEAL!!??!

 

PS Here is the article link if you want to check it out:

http://www.vanityfair.com/style/2016/05/kate-middleton-prince-george-christening-coat-queen-garden-party

 

Maternity Memories

This week my eldest child turns 10. Each year on the days leading up to her birthday, I can’t help but dwell on the memories of the botched attempt to eject her from my body. Her birth was a disaster. An unmitigated, elongated, unarguable train wreck. To sumMaternity sign up: Freakishly long labour. Posterior positioned baby. Tortuous unrelenting back pain. Stuck & immovable child. Failed forceps. Emergency c-section. Tears & trauma. And a partridge in a pear tree. 

I won’t ask you to join me in dwelling on the terrible memories that haunt my dreams about this time each year. But here are some other things I have learned from, or remember about childbirth and the first few days afterwards.

1. Wishful Thinking

After my experience, I don’t understand birth plans. They seem about as useful as attempting to make a weather plan or making a flight plan when you’re not the pilot. I’m not much of a planner but if you are and you’d like to have the illusion of control, perhaps mentally renaming it a ‘Birth Wishlist’ may limit disappointment if things don’t go exactly as you desire. Writing it on pretty paper may help. Help you, I mean. Baby doesn’t give a toss.

2. Say Yes to Drugs

My first childbirth experience was as loaded as an average Saturday night at Charlie Sheen’s house. I had every possible drug that was offered to me and begged for whatever wasn’t. I was like an over-sized, labouring Oliver Twist. Because my labour was so long I was eventually given the full cocktail – gas, pethidine, an epidural and the icing on the cake – a general anesthetic because I could feel them stitching me up during my caesarean. Some women talk about not having drugs like it’s a badge of honour. I don’t get it! If I have the choice of being in immeasurable pain or being in no pain & feeling delightfully high, why would I choose option A? I’m not too proud to admit that I needed drugs after 38 hours of labour. In truth, I wanted them after 38 minutes. Would I like a needle the circumference of a jousting stick injected into my spine? Do you even need to ask – heck YES!

To sum up, drugs during childbirth = Thumbs Up Emoji

3. Your Catheter is Your BFF

Each night I wake up to pee. Each evening I need to consider my fluid intake…Do I drink more so then I’ll wake in the early hours of the morning or do I drink less so I wake around 5am which means I may not be able to get back to sleep and so on and so forth. It’s exhausting. I’ve dreamed of adult diapers but George has said no. He can be so selfish sometimes. So imagine the bliss of having a catheter for a whole night! I could drink any amount of fluid and never feel the need to take a leak. If like me, you have to have a caesarean, which means a catheter, look at the glass half full. And then guzzle from that glass because there will be no need to get up!

4. A Pamela Impersonation

Pamela-Anderson
The likeness is uncanny

I remember clearly the first time my milk came in. Whoa mamma! It was so sudden it shocked me. I went to sleep after a feed one night, woke up in the morning and the milkbar was twice it’s original size. They were as huge as rockmelons and about as hard. I recall looking in the mirror at myself in the bathroom, just speechless. And they dripped like a rusty tin bucket. I would go through a trolley load of those nursing pads in the next month. I was so huge that I had to get poor George to go and buy me new maternity bras in a much larger size. He took it like a champ though and returned with some quality merch that could have been mistaken for yacht sails. The old ladies in Myer thought he was quite a catch to be out on such an errand. After my milk settled down the new bras turned out to be a bit too big but luckily I was able to use them as a hammock swing for my newborn child.

5. Beware the baby blues

A few days in when the euphoria of meeting your perfect little new human and the adrenaline of the birth have worn off, things can start to get a little blue. I’m not talking about anything serious or long term here, just the melting pot of sleep deprivation and raging hormones that lead to emotional turmoil. All your hubby needs to say is something like “Do they validate parking here?”, “Are you going to finish that jelly?” or something equally innocent and you could possibly break down into a sobbing heap. Visitors, especially those of the male variety, beware. Enter at your own risk and don’t poke Mamma bear.

6. TV Time!

As you know, I am a TV enthusiast. Forget that rubbish little hospital TV mounted so high onto the wall that giraffes could watch comfortably. I say BYO entertainment! My laptop accompanied me into hospital each time and I binge-watched several TV series. With food being brought to me and baby by the bed, all I had to do was get up to pee (once my dear friend was taken away). Guilt free TV watching with my newborn baby at my bosom – such a beautiful bonding time!

7. Innocent Indulgence

Celebrate not being pregnant anymore with all the contraband you can get your hands on. One thing I missed when pregnant was McDonalds soft-serve hot fudge sundaes. Soft serve ice cream is a no-no so I refrained for 9 months for the well-being of my unborn children, the little fun-stampers. One night after one of them was born, George came to visit me in hospital. I had asked him to bring me a sundae. He arrived, sans sundae, with the excuse that the local Maccas ice cream machine was broken. My disappointment devastation was obvious. I’d just had major surgery to get his child out of my body after carrying her for 9 months. The least he could do was immediately leave the room, drive the 5km to the next McDonalds with a working sundae machine and return with it post haste. And that he did.

The other thing that was enjoyed was a small glass of my favorite tipple. As alcohol can go through breast milk it’s best to drink it as far before the next feed as possible. Which basically means just as you’re finishing the current feed, raise your glass. Hence, if you happen upon a new mother breastfeeding and simultaneously drinking a glass of wine, she is simply being responsible.

8. Be Thankful and Pay it Forward

Being not an overly emotional person, I know, rather than feel, that I should do good. But one organisation that actually awakens real emotions within my soul is the Hamlin Fistula Hospital in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. The tales of the women there are tragic. And the subsequent success stories because of their amazing work are truly triumphant. If I had been living in a less fortunate nation when giving birth to my first child, she could have been stillborn and I could have ended up with a fistula like many of these poor women. But thanks to easy access to hygienic and competent medical care in the face of complications, I can enjoy jumping on a trampoline with my living child and stay powder dry. I wish that for all women! If you want to find out more or to donate, check them out at http://hamlin.org.au/ or follow them on facebook at https://www.facebook.com/DrCatherineHamlin/?fref=ts

Ladies, there is much more I could say but we don’t have all night so I will leave you now with my favorite movie birthing clip from the film ‘the Back Up Plan’ starring J-Lo (a totally underrated flick in my opinion), enjoy. For those who are about to give birth – good luck. For those who are looking at childbirth in the rearview mirror – rejoice. I will say it again: Rejoice!

 

 

 

School Holiday Post-Mortem

School holidays are virtually over. How did you survive? Here are my holiday highlights:

1. Renovations…Rescue Me.

No school holidays would be complete without a home renovation project. We are having our laundry re-done. This began the week before the holidays and is not yet completed. I’m experiencing the joys of tradesmen in and out of the house, the smell of waterproofing and tile grout not to mention my laundry items scattered all over the house and deck. My home looks like something out of ‘Hoarders’. I’m really missing our second toilet. Showering and singing my own personal rendition of ‘Simply Irresistible’ into the shampoo bottle isn’t really the same when someone is occupying the throne a metre away, or vice versa. There is about a week to go and I get my laundry and second toilet back, along with a new shower. But until then, it’s mayhem.

2. Feline First.

Not in the mood for a head massage? Too bad.
Not in the mood for a head massage? Too bad.

Our holidays have been spent settling in our new member of the family, Miss 9’s new cat Daphne. The only cat from childhood I remember was half feral and had unusual feline habits such as sitting on our fence posts during rainstorms with a melancholy expression. Daphne is teaching me all about normal cats attitudes, habits and God-complex. She goes where she wants when she wants. She roams the house, ready to pounce at any slight curiosity. Sometimes she’s friendly, sometimes aloof. And the God-complex is a new phenomenon. I’m used to dogs. Cedric is here for us, our loyal minion, a constant in a world of variables. He will sit staring at me, waiting loyally for as long as it takes for even one pat or crumb. But Daphne is her own boss. Our house is her kingdom, we are her loyal subjects and Cedric is her court jester.  The following video is spot on:

3. The Sleepover Trifecta Triumph

For the first time ever, we offloaded all 3 children to George’s mother. It took a 3 hour round trip to take them there but was totally worth it. I’d tried to psych Miss 3 up beforehand by telling her how exciting this would be and how big she was to stay at Nana’s and she started strong! No tears were cried upon my departure and I drove home feeling like a zoo animal that had just been released into the wild. On the first day we got a call there was trouble brewing – tears and demands to go home. But we decided to try to push through so long as Nana was willing. She was, she did and Miss 3 got over it. We enjoyed 2 nights without any children. I cannot tell you how rare this is. The house seemed eerily quiet like a ghost town. I half expected to see tumbleweeds blowing down the hallway. We enjoyed a dusk walk on the beach, uninterrupted meals that I didn’t have to cook and our favorite TV shows without having to stop and wipe anyone’s bottom or break up any fights. There was no partying due to my next point. But it was still glorious.

4. Sick Side-effects.

About a month ago I got sick. It turned into a nasty chest & lung infection which has had me beat for weeks. The holidays were spent recovering. I’ve had no energy for exciting day trips or physical activity. It was all I could do to get out of bed and keep my offspring fed and clothed. We survived with beach trips, board games and movie viewings. Because George has done a lot around the house and been generally amazing, one of the benefits of being sick is being able to binge watch TV. Here is a sample from my current viewing list:

  • Happy Valley – Gritty UK police drama centered around a police sergeant (and her dysfunctional family) attempting to solve a botched kidnapping.
  • Outlander (season 2 has just come out!) – Time travel, romance, action, history, Scottish scenery, what more could you ask for!
  • Suits – totally addicted. Harvey Specter is both irrefutably arrogant and undeniably sexy.
  • Brooklyn 99 – US detective comedy. When you just don’t want to have to think. Laughs guaranteed.
  • Upper Middle Bogan – Aussie comedy about a middle-class doctor who finds out she was adopted and her biological family are drag racing bogans. Anything with Glenn Robbins is always a winner.
  • Broadchurch – Another British drama. Set in a quaint little coastal town, detectives investigate who has murdered a local 11-year-old boy. Gripping stuff.
  • Making a Murderer – Steven Avery, officially most unlucky man alive? I’m halfway through and don’t know how it ends (don’t tell me!). But that poor bastard…
  • House of Cards – Everyone keeps telling me how good this is. I am watching and nearly done with the first season but these people are so awful, it depresses me. Time will tell if I persist.
  • The original Full House. The kids and I are having a great
    Uncle Jesse - Have Mercy!
    Uncle Jesse – Have Mercy!

    time watching this together. Just between us, I am developing a bit of a crush on Uncle Jesse. Watching now as a parent, I have great respect for the mini Olsen Twins and whoever was able to get them to perform like little seals. My kid won’t even smile for a camera without a tantrum.

Umm, there are quite a few more but I am now feeling self-conscious about my lengthy list. It’s because I’ve been sick remember!!!! Let’s leave the rest for another time, OK.

In conclusion, I won’t say we thrived. But we survived. The cat survived my son burping in her face for kicks. The dog survived the cats head massages. Miss 3 survived her first sleepover. I survived my excessive TV watching without developing any bed-sores. I count it all as a win. School Holidays, see ya again in 3 months.

School Holiday Survival Checklist

As the NSW school holidays are upon us, I feel it’s important that we band together for support. Here is an essential school holiday survival checklist:

  1. Lazy mornings

School mornings are often rushed and frustrating. We have a list on the wall of all the kids tasks and still they wander around like lost farm animals with amnesia. I’ll ask them to put their shoes on and they will give me a confused look that says “What are these ‘shoe’ things you speak of?” Or I’ll get “What did you ask me to do again?” 15 minutes after I’ve asked it. Enjoy relief from the dreaded school drop off deadline. Even if the kids get up at 6am, you don’t have to. They can watch TV until at least 8.30. Once you’re up, relish relaxing. Make everyone pancakes or bacon & eggs and a coffee for yourself that you have time to finish. Pretend you’re at Bonnie Doone and enjoy the serenity as no rushed school drop in your dressing gown is required.

  1. Off to the Movies

At least one trip to the movies is standard each school holidays. My tip is to make those little suckers work for it. Eg. “If you clean your rooms this morning and tidy the playroom, we will go to the movies this afternoon.” Or if you can’t get out of the movie trip here is a good one “We’re still going but if you’re not good this morning then NO movie treats”. This provokes looks of horror so profound it’s amusing. To make a child sit through a cinema movie without treats is tantamount to torture. Don’t let this threat go unutilised.

  1. The Family Sleepover

Ship them off to Grandma & Grandpa’s for a couple of nights. I’ve not been able to tap into this delight yet. Firstly, my parents live in Brisbane which makes it more difficult and expensive. My mother-in-law is a shift worker who lives in Sydney, so it’s do-able but not always convenient. Secondly, Miss 3 is my Achilles’s heel in such circumstances. She has rejected any notion of sleeping over anywhere I am not. My mother-in-law has had the older two but has never had all three due to this separation anxiety. These holidays I am hopeful that Nana can tame the beast. Miss 3 has let me know her feelings on the matter in no uncertain terms but I’ve just said ‘you’re going’, hoping for the best. I assume most of you don’t have my obstacles so get your diary and phone out now and schedule that sleepover.

  1. iPad Intelligence

Select a period of time each day, my suggestion is after lunch, for indulgent, no-holds-barred iPad time for your children. You can put your feet up and watch your own show for a couple of hours. My dream for you is that you can get through a whole season of a TV series these holidays – shoot for the stars!

  1. Planned Punishments

It’s wise to plan ahead with punishments so you don’t screw yourself over. Things like iPad bans are a no-no. iPads are a crucial ingredient to getting through the day. Banning play dates is a bad idea too, you’re only shooting yourself in the foot. My go-to punishments these days are jobs or a fine from their pocket money jar. The pros of this approach:

  • They are working for you, cleaning the house, saving you time and effort.
  • They use up their own time and energy doing these jobs
  • Your home is now cleaner than it was
  • You’ve got through another day

If you’ve given them a fine, you pocket their cash and they can earn it back, cue jobs again. My kids do things like: weeding, taking bins out, folding washing, putting washing away, clearing tables, unstacking dishwasher, vacuuming (this is also a workout) and my favorite – having a tea party with their little sister. If you feel your children aren’t up to these tasks, who cares. Let them do their best and even if it’s rubbish and you have to re-do it, it’s still taken up their time and energy and provided an activity. Dream big for your kids, they are more competent with housework than you think. My mantra to Miss 9 is: If you can move furniture to climb up and steal lollies from the top of the pantry, you can certainly figure out a way to hang up your dresses in the top wardrobe.

  1. Protect Pets

It’s important to realise that school holidays can be just as difficult for your pets. My bored children will use Cedric  our dog as a craft activity, ride him like a pony or dress him up like Marilyn Monroe as you can see by this picture, which was taken in the previous school holidays. And now we have our new kitten Daphne to think about too. Please don’t forget to monitor the emotional health of pets as the school holidays progress.

  1. Enjoyable EveninIMG_5332gs

There’s no pressure to get kids into bed by a certain time. I hate routine so this suits me well and there is a trickle down effect. I don’t have to worry what time dinner is ready or baths are done. I can pretend we’re hippies in a commune and do things when we feel like it. I’m not planning on growing my underarm hair or switching to soy milk, but I do enjoy ignoring the clock. We enjoy snuggling up on the couch and watching a few episodes of ‘Full House’ or something cheesy like that together after dinner. Enjoy your evenings. A glass of chardonnay won’t go astray either. When you drink it, please pronounce it ‘cardonnay’ though, for me.

I think I’ve said enough. Friends, my dearest wish for you all is that you don’t end up screaming into a pillow these school holidays. If you avoid that, consider your holidays a raging success.

Tantrums, Tiaras and Teddy Bears…This is 3

Remember the movie Screen Shot 2016-02-21 at 6.16.32 PM‘This is 40’? A married couple are turning 40 and it’s making them a bit crazy. It’s meant to be a funny and real look at life at 40. I am currently going through a different type of life crisis: parenting a child who has recently turned 3. An age of increased independence, strong opinions and desires that are a firm and strong force, this is 3. It’s been a while since I’ve had a 3 year old and I’m finding that it’s hit me hard. This is life with a 3 year old, warts and all.

1. Winning with a Royal Flush

I seem to spend a large part of my day taking Miss 3 to the toilet. The most common time of an urgent toilet trip seems to always be when I have just made a phone call, unloaded a trolley full of groceries onto the conveyor belt at Coles, turned onto the freeway or sat down to a hot meal. In any and all of these situations she will appear before me doing the toilet dance (parents, you know what I’m talking about). And invariably she needs to go urgently. If you attempt to make a 3 year old hold on for a slightly more convenient time, you will end up with a puddle. Fact.

I believe they know this and use it against us. When your kid is desperate for your attention but you’re busy, all they need to do to win is to tell you they need to do a wee. You then immediately become fully attentive. They know this. And funnily they always seem to be able to produce one. It’s the 3-year-old trump card. Or to use a poker analogy, their royal flush (pardon the pun).

2. They won’t be ignored, Dan

Fatal-Attraction-glenn-close-35231725-1943-3071Anyone remember Fatal Attraction? Glenn Close played Alex, a psycho who stalked Dan (Michael Douglas) after their one night stand. He was trying to get rid of her and she delivered this classic line “I’m not gonna be ignored, Dan’. This is my child. She won’t be ignored. If I hear a whinge/scream/tantrum from the next room I know it will not sort itself out. My acknowledgment and intervention will be required.

And a small child will say something to you that logically should not require an answer. But they will keep repeating that same statement until they get acknowledgement. Eg: “Mummy, I see a horse.” Technically this is not a question. But children will repeat their statement 50+ times until they get a response. Something as simple as an ‘oh’,‘yeah’ or ‘great’ will suffice. They are then satisfied. They will not be ignored Dan.

3. Do you wanna build a snowman?

The sound of a screeching old style alarm clock is obnoxious. It’s a hideous way to wake up. But the other day I was sound asleep and Miss 3 came into my room and opened my eyelids with her fingers and said ‘Do you wanna build a snowman?’ There is an element of cuteness there. But it’s also obnoxious. As my other kids are older now they get up and get their own breakfast, amuse themselves and solve a variety of problems without my assistance and I get to stay in bed. But once Miss 3 is awake, so is the world, involuntarily. Do you know when there is a tsunami, the first sign is that the water at the beach will be sucked out, then the big wave of destruction hits right after. Take heed of that warning and RUN! When I lay in bed in the morning half asleep but not ready to emerge, I often hear a thump and then the little pitter patter of feet. That’s my tsunami warning. But I can’t run.

4. It’s Pooh Bear

Actually it’s not Pooh Bear, it’s just poo – sorry for the confusion. If on any day I scrub the bathtub til it sparkles, that will be the exact day that poo needs to be washed off something. Maybe it’s the dog’s poo underfoot. Maybe it’s her poo. But you can bet that if the tub has just been cleaned, there will be poo. Same goes for any other household cleaning. If I have just mopped the floors, the next 15 minutes is a very high risk time for an entire bowl of rice bubbles or spaghetti bol to be spilt. The timing is so predictable that it’s uncanny.

5. Food for Thought

To a 3 year old there is a huge difference between a pink cup and a purple cup. If a child is forced to drink from a different coloured cup then they want, it’s a very serious matter. The emotional distress caused may make your neighbours believe your child is being abused. Same goes with plates and cutlery. If last night, Miss 3 wanted a fork with frozen character on it, and was given the same fork tonight, that could be enough for torrents of tears because she wanted the fork with a Wiggle on it. The same can be said of food. For 13 days straight a 3 year old may eat rice bubbles with gusto. Then on the 14th they are suddenly deemed unpalatable and a tantrum swiftly follows. Whether you punish it or put up with it, it’s exhausting.

6. A Mini Carrie Bradshaw

Golly I hope not. But clothes and accessories are incredibly important to my little daughter. Every morning she asks me if she can wear a ‘beautiful beautiful gress’. She immediately follows up with ‘I WILL CHOOSE’. The wrong undies, socks, shoes or hair accessory is cause for unrelenting grief and sobbing. And by 10am each day she’s had more costume changes than Beyonce in concert. And if she wants to dress up in her blue ballerina dress which can’t be found, I should understand that the otherwise identical pink ballerina dress is not an acceptable substitute. Stick on earrings are chosen and nails are painted. Shoes are also a way she expresses herself she will choose herself and put them on herself. At least 80% of the time she put shoes on the wrong feet, which is quite unexpected given the 50/50 odds.

7. An Apple a Day…

The iPad is the dear friend of the 3 year old. By this age they can navigate their way around the device and some can even unlock a passcode. They understand ‘buffering’ and know that Peppa Pig is on ABC kids iView but Donald Duck can be found on YouTube. Miss 3 even updated the software on my iPad the other day which was nice of her. But the iPad is also like a drug that needs to be administered with care to the 3 year old, and withdrawal symptoms managed carefully. Speaking of devices, don’t try and show your 3 year old a photo. They cannot just look at it. They have to swipe left or right. It’s a biological urge which will result in crying if denied.

8. Teddy is a girl’s best friend

FullSizeRenderForget diamonds. ‘Teddy’ is the faithful and frayed companion of Miss 3. Teddy watches her eat. He sleeps in her arms. He accompanies her to preschool and everywhere else. If Teddy cannot be found at any point, panic ensues. Real, live, heart thumping panic. And that’s just me. She is inconsolable. Every so often Teddy needs to have a bath in the washing machine. She watches him go round and round, tears pouring down her cheeks until he emerges again, clean but still incredibly thin and worn. His days are numbered. When his body finally gives way and he loses an arm, a leg or, heaven forbid, his head, I can’t imagine how any of us will recover.

All of it is exhausting and frustrating.  I breathe a sigh of relief each night when she is finally asleep. But as I see Miss 3, this minute dancing in front of me to her music box chimes with joyful exuberance, glittery wand in hand, I know it’s also incredibly magical. Warts, moles and beauty spots, I’ll take it all. This is 3.

Self-Sabotage Suspicions

Let me begin by apologising for going AWOL over the past month. I’ve been busy oscillating between enjoying my offspring on holidays and frantically trying to maintain a will to live, with not much in between. I find their persistent presence tugs at my heart strings and simultaneously saps my creative energy. Perhaps it inspires topics & stories but doesn’t allow uninterrupted time for those juices to stew into anything other than a momentary idea before collapsing onto the couch mindlessly to watch the latest episode of Jane the Virgin or whatever else I’m into at the time.

I hope you all had an enjoyable Christmas. I did. But I also heard horror stories from friends and acquaintances about family friction, great expectations and under-whelmingly average delivery. Not my experience. We had a great day at my in-laws. The sun shone, the food, wine & conversation flowed freely, cousins bonded delightfully, the pool glistened and the air conditioner hummed along. It was all extremely pleasant.

What wasn’t pleasant was present opening time. I enjoy buying gifts for my family. It’s a way that I show that I care and if I am ever late or forget someone’s birthday I am horrified with myself. I have taken over nearly all gift buying in our house. But as there are quite a few nieces and nephews, this year I asked George to buy our nephews presents for his side of the family. Also I am terrible at buying for boys, seriously, I have no clue. He agreed and told me he had it sorted. I trusted him.

Before Christmas he started fretting that the books he’d ordered from the Book Depository a few weeks earlier hadn’t arrived. Mistake number 1. You don’t order books in December that are going to be dispatched from the UK unless you enjoy suspense and the possibility of having to go out on 24 December to buy replacement gifts. Finally they arrived on 23rd – phew! But when I opened them, they seemed quite small and inadequate. I’m not sure what was going on in his mind when he bought them or if he’d accidentally purchased the miniature versions but I wasn’t satisfied. I felt I had no other choice but to go out days before Christmas and buy another item for each boy to supplement the meagre gift my husband had purchased. Crisis averted, I thought.

On Christmas day my oldest nephew opened his gift. The item bought by George was a book about Rafael Nadal, because my nephew is a tennis player. ‘Oh, great, thanks’ he said with a strange expression on his face. Once his mother saw the book she told us that we’d given him that same book for his birthday in September. Of course I had delegated the job of buying his birthday gift to George. She went on to tell us that, at the time of his birthday, he also already had the book in question. So now, my poor nephew had THREE copies of this freakin’ book. How can you not remember buying the SAME EXACT book for someone less than 3 months earlier??!?!?! Embarrassed, I apologised and slipped my nephew a lobster, whilst exclaiming loudly and indignantly in front of my in-laws ‘You’re OFF present duty!’ to George.

I told my mother about it on the phone on our drive home. She joked that maybe George did it on purpose and got exactly the outcome he wanted ie to be off present duty. She reminded me about an episode of ‘Everybody Loves Raymond’ just before Robert marries Amy. Encouraged by Ray and Frank, Robert deliberately screws up the only job she gives him to do, the invitations, so he won’t be asked to do anything else. It obviously backfires. Take a look:

Self-sabotaging gift-giving George? A new idea. A definite possibility. I was beginning to think about other tasks I had taken over during the years of our marriage. Hanging out the washing (men can’t grasp the concept of shaking first!), all IT related issues, paying household bills. However I’m not sure George would self-sabotage on purpose. He’s too nice. Maybe it’s nothing more than actual incompetence with no malice aforethought? But I did think back to my childhood and wonder if my father, who hates cooking, did this in the kitchen. I recall one evening when Arnie was on dinner duty I was served up a plate with the following items on it: kidney beans, a chicken wing, a cold sausage and several slices of beetroot. Bon appetit Carrie! Needless to say, he wasn’t asked to cook much.

It is possible that a man in your life is self-sabotaging? Is there anything you’ve just taken on simply because he is rubbish at it? But there’s really no proof, so maybe we need to try some self-sabotage of our own. I genuinely can’t mow the lawn because I can’t start the mower with that string-pully thing. But if you’re a lady freak with muscles like Vin Diesel and can actually manage it, pretend you can’t. And you only have to feign confusion between unleaded and diesel once and you’ll never be asked to fuel up the car again. Before you know it, jobs like picking up dog poo and putting bins out will be out of the question as it will be obvious you can’t help but stuff it up.

With some reflection you can learn self-sabotage from the best in the business: the men in your life – husbands, fathers, brothers and uncles. Then sit back and enjoy the fruits of your non-labour. Good luck and may incompetence be with you!

Monopoly Marriage Counselling

My brother just got engaged. He is in his early thirties and often shows similarities to an excited child who has just skulled a jug of red cordial. He may slip a whoopie cushion on your chair, or show very politically incorrect youtube clips to my children whilst laughing hysterically or become extremely excited & hyperactive about an idea or activity. He is one we all suspected may never settle down and take a wife. But he met an amazing gal and couldn’t resist putting a ring on it. They were holidaying in Hawaii recently and he packed an esky of beer and snacks and of course, a ring box on top. As they relaxed on the sand, he asked his beloved to please pass him a beer. She opened the esky and saw the ring box, opened it and gasped at the beautiful ring inside with a huge & elegant diamond.

Him: So, will you?

Her: Yes!

Him: Where’s my beer?

Very romantic stuff. It got me thinking back to the time when George and I got engaged and it was all new and exciting. But as many of us have experienced, when passionate moments such as proposals over, you’re left with the warts and all of living in close quarters with someone who has annoying habits, their own family baggage and never, ever squeezes the toothpaste from the bottom. How do you navigate through those waters with someone you vowed to love forever but who may never change those irritating customs?! When George and I got engaged we did a marriage prep course called Prepare (I think this is the website FYI http://www.prepare-enrich.com.au/). It may have changed since we did it about 13 years ago but back then we both went to a counsellor and began by filling out a lengthy questionnaire. The questionnaire covered everything from parenting styles, family history and expected involvement, gender roles in marriage to simple things like what temperature you like the room you sleep in to be. It is meant to prepare you for any difficulties you may face once married based on your personal preferences. There are no right or wrong answers, it was simply designed to highlight your differences so you can work through them with the counsellor before marriage.

A good idea for any couple. But of course at the time you are deeply in love and everything the other person says and does is delightful. Differences are quirky and diversity is seen as a refreshing holiday from monotony. It’s almost like during any pre-marriage counselling it would help to simulate stressful conditions, to see how you would really respond. To have practice resolving issues when you’re really mad! Get rid of the hazy, crazy rose coloured glasses and see each other in the bright light of day. When planes are manufactured, they are put through very extreme tests, that simulate way harsher conditions than anything mother nature will throw at them, to ensure that they can withstand the pressure. Tests such as bending the wings up and down and testing other areas of the fuselage and engines. Check out this interesting article if you want to know more examples:

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/travel/travel_news/article-3266180/Eight-thawed-chickens-fired-engine-stalling-mid-air-bending-wings-NINETY-degrees-extreme-testing-planes-delivered.html

But how can this be done in a counselling session? How can stressful conditions be created to practice this concept and see how well your relationship will stand the test of time?

Screen Shot 2015-12-18 at 1.32.34 PMI believe I have the answer. Have you ever played monopoly? Of course you have, everyone has. This pie chart tells a true story. It doesn’t matter who you are playing with, or how much you love them, game boards and pieces will be flung in anger because Monopoly makes people crazy. My older kids recently played monopoly with a friend and unsurprisingly the game ended with my 9 year old daughter flipping the board over in a fit of fury and storming out of the room. It’s uncanny how often this happens to those you may suspect the least of having the potential for such crazed and manic behaviour. Take George for example. He is a very calm person 99.9% of the time. He loses his temper badly probably once every 3-5 years, usually for good reason. And his tantrum during the time period of 2002-2005 was over a game of Monopoly. We were playing with a close & long time childhood friend who is like family. The air was full of tension. The game had been going for around 2 hours. She taunted him. He snapped. Money, properties and pieces were thrown across the room and he stormed out into our bedroom and slammed the door, refusing to come out until my friend had left. If my tranquil and self-controlled husband can lose it, then who is safe? Everyone is cranky after a game of Monopoly.

My theory is that marriage and pre-marriage counselling should be conducted immediately following a game of Monopoly or possibly even during. All loving feelings toward the other person have been extinguished. You’ve most likely just had game pieces and a pair of dice thrown at your head (or done the throwing) and fake money is floating from the sky like confetti. How you respond during or after a game of Monopoly will generally be from the worst version of yourself. So if you can be taught to work out your issues at that point, you can be assured that your lifetime partnership will not only survive, but it will flourish & prosper, much like a hotel on Mayfair. But if it all goes pear shaped, you’ll know to play your get out of jail free card before saying ‘I do’. And if it’s too late for that, just keep playing your best and if you’re lucky, occasionally you may get to pass go and collect $200.

The Elephant in the Room

Welcome to summer. Christmas season. Present season. And because I happened to give birth to a child in December 3 years ago, that means present season is on steroids. Birthday presents PLUS christmas presents.

Once you have kids, your loved ones will be generous and give many wonderful gifts…and many undesirable gifts. I have found that uncles in particular delight in giving loud obnoxious toys that will have you wishing you were deaf. And when the gift giver asks you delightedly if the gift was a success you must lie and say ‘It’s great, you really hit the nail on the head with that one’, when what you really mean is that it feels as though someone is hammering a nail into your head. Other undesirable gifts include soft toys that seem to breed and large bulky items that don’t fit in cupboards and will inevitably will be constantly underfoot. The elephant in the room at this time of year is often ‘what to do with unwanted or ridiculous gifts without offending the gift giver?’

Unless the elephant in the room is just that…an actual elephant in the room. A couple of years ago a family member gave my daughter a huge rocking ride-on elephant for her 1st birthday. It was a generous gift, as these monstrosities aren’t cheap. But it was big & bulky and thus obnoxious. Where do you put something like this when you have 3 children and a playroom thats already bursting like Kim Kardashian’s cleavage in any given outfit on any given day? But I couldn’t get rid of it, not right away anyway. There is an unspoken buffer period of at least a couple of months after receipt of a gift that it should be on display whenever the giver comes to visit.

Miss 2 (who was 1 at the time) could not have been more terrified if a real elephant was stampeding toward her. She screamed whenever she caught sight of it. Sitting on it and rocking joyfully was out of the question. So, unridden and without achieving its supposed destiny, back into its plastic case it went and immediately into storage.  If it were a character in Toy Story I think it may have had sunk into a deep depression. It made an appearance a year later when my daughter turned 2. After rediscovering it on top of the wardrobe during a cleanout, I decided to get it down and see if her feelings had changed.

This time she wasn’t scared. Time had healed the emotional scar and she was ready to ride as enthusiastically as a jockey on Melbourne Cup Day. Alas, she was now too big. So again, unridden, back it went into the plastic case. I could almost hear Cowboy Woody conducting trauma counselling. This thing sat on my bedroom floor for 3 months as I wondered what to do with it. It was brand new so I didn’t want to throw it out. Re-gifting was out of the question as I actually like my friends. I offered to donate it to a local creche. I was asked ‘Is it hard or soft”

Me “soft’

She said “I’m sorry, we can’t take it. It’s against our policy to accept rockers that aren’t hard”

Wow. They have a policy for that? Random and vexing. Randomly vexing.

I appealed to friends if anyone wanted it. Nope. Meanwhile ‘elephant’ sat on my bedroom floor, silently mocking me every night as I hopped into bed. I tripped over it at least once a week in the middle of the night on the way to the loo. It was turning from an elephant into an albatross around my neck. 

Finally I felt I had no other option but to put it on eBay. My policy is that I list everything at a reserve of 99c. In a fair market auction, things should sell themselves for the right price. I put it on a 7 day listing, pressed ‘List’ and then forgot about it. A week later I got a little ‘ding’ notification from eBay: ‘Your item has sold..! Hallelujah! I clicked on to see what some poor sod had paid – 99c.

Occasionally in a fair market auction, you get screwed. But the relief I felt to have this elephant gone from my room and out of my life more than compensated for any perceived financial shortfall. I think the bubbly came out that evening.

So fellow parents, as we embark on another Christmas, we need to prepare ourselves for a toy onslaught. The more kids you have, the worse it is. And add a December birthday or two in and it gets really crazy. When your kids unwrap those gifts in front of the eager eyes of the giver, there will be an elephant in the room. Literally in my case, but probably metaphorically for the rest of you. How are you going to respond to jagged toy pieces that look like they’ll pierce the soles of your feet when stepped on in the middle of the night; stuffed animals that are bigger than the neighbours great dane; offensively noisy flashing toys that will make you envious of Helen Keller?

My advice to you: like an elephant at a watering hole, suck it up. Be thankful that your relatives love your kids enough to buy them masses of stuff. Or if that fails, wait 2 months then order a council clean up.

Merry Christmas.

Tennis Skirts – Perks & Pitfalls: The Non-trim Athletes Guide to Activewear

Just a quick post for you tonight. I just had another game of tennis this week where the tennis skirt made it’s second appearance. I have some thoughts:

  1. I was initially very attracted to the efficient and somewhat mysterious idea of storing tennis balls up the back in the little pants under the skirt. I’d watched female players do this for years and wondered what was going on. It looked intriguing, almost magical. That was part of the appeal of the tennis skirt – being a part of a magical world, almost like a tennis ball smashing Hermione Granger who can make things appear and disappear at will. But now that I am a skirt owner, I am realising it’s not as easy as it looks. Getting balls up under those little pants in one smooth action is actually quite tricky. Fumbling has, unfortunately, been required. And fumbling around in that area looks like you’re either scratching a persistent case of hemorrhoids or giving yourself a little fondle. Neither is a great look on the court.
  1. After a knee sprain earlier in the year I have had a little soreness lately so this week I went and purchased myself a knee brace on the way to tennis. Given I am showing quite a lot of leg already that’s teetering on the edge of acceptability for public viewing, a brace isn’t ideal. When you squish your thigh area into a tight compression the effect is similar to if you took a sausage and squeezed hard in the middle. You can see it can’t you. And it’s hard to unsee what has been seen.
  1. In spite of all these difficulties and roadblocks, it seems that women of all shapes and sizes are quite comfortable wearing very short skirts on the tennis court. And I am frolicking in the herd, unfettered and free, with the wind at my heels and under my nether regions. I will continue to embrace the skirt, but after a little hiatus. I think that the skirt and the brace work against each other like nemeses. They are mutually exclusive, a Superman and Lex Luthor if you will (my leg can be Superman in this analogy…please?). So whilst the brace is in my life, the skirt will have a little holiday in the cupboard. But once my knee is back to full health, I shall bound proudly around the court, head held high and balls stuck low. 

I have included a picture of a tennis skirt that I would like you to keep in mind when you think of me, if you wouldn’t mind. Please stare at it for 1 minute saying ‘Carrie’ in your head before closing this page. Thank you in advance.

Tennis skirt skinn

 

Photo Day!

As you know, I have huge teeth. We’ve discussed this. My daughter has quite large teeth too that will one day be spectacular but for now the orthodontist has just told us she needs a double plate, top and bottom. My 7 year old son has no front teeth at the moment and this gives a very cute look. It’s a look of mischievous innocence that he’ll never get again unless perhaps he becomes a hill-billy or a hockey player. But the other night when he threw his head back to laugh I noticed a white line – one of his new front teeth breaking through the gum. I had thought I’d try and get some family photos taken before his, presumably huge, new front teeth made their debut and at this point I realised I needed to get a move on. I quickly got on the blower to my friend who has recently started a photography business with his wife. I have seen their beautiful portfolio of some other friends who have 6 children, so I figured if he can tame 6 kids then 3 should be a breeze. On the phone with him, I tried to stress the urgent nature of the project. I think he heard the panic in my voice as if I were trying to outrun a tsunami and graciously told me he could come that afternoon.

Well, that meant much sprucing and cleaning since my kids’ play activities render them with hygiene levels similar to that of a gardener who’s just finished a hard days work. I had to get scrubbing, cleaning, washing and blow drying. There were complaints. There were tears. But I was on a mission. I WOULD capture forever the innocent smile of a child who had not yet been afflicted with the gigantuous tusks that I was anticipating considering my genetic legacy. I picked out clothes, cajoled children to get dressed, brush their hair and STAY CLEAN until my photographer friend arrived. Let’s just call him Adrian. Cos that’s his name.

Adrian arrived and my older two kids were happy, excited and very hyped up. They climbed around our Japanese Maple tree like chimpanzees and Adrian was able to get some good shots of these two up the tree, although their behaviour was starting to cause me embarrassment due to an extreme level of hysteria. They tried to keep still and smile but the undivided attention of a new adult and the temptation to show off was obviously quite difficult to resist.

Enter Miss 2, who is nearly 3. Although extremely cute, she is also fussy, clingy and stubborn at the best of times. But after enduring her least favourite activity of getting her hair washed and then being greeted by a strange man with a camera, she was determined not to co-operate. She screamed. She fussed. She whinged. She scowled. She clung to me like I trying to shake her off a cliff. Her teddy was brought out. Her dummy. A block of chocolate. Alas, nothing worked. She wanted me to sit next to her, screaming like a banshee if I even moved over 10cm to get out of the frame. My dear friend clicked away, trying his best to tame this mini-she-beast (as she will here-after be known).

That poor bastard. I felt completely humiliated by my offspring, all of them. The older two were acting like they were high on something and the youngest like an angry calf who’d just been branded. Our dog, Cedric, lazily wandered in and out of the frame, posing quite majestically at times, and appearing nonchalant at others. Cedric was by far the best behaved and, ironically, the one acting least like an animal. Adrian was delightful, patient and even had the compassion to blatantly lie to me and tell me he’d experienced many more difficult children. Although we both knew this to be a fabrication, it was nice of him to say. We got a few shots of all 3 kids with the littlest having a blank look which at least is an upgrade from wild bellowing, so I’ll take it. Other shots sans the mini-she-beast were great. But the shame of the day still lingers and will probably wash over me each time I see those lovely photos.

When Adrian left last night, I thought I’d hit parenting embarrassment rock bottom. But today I discovered that Adrian had accidentally left his camera bag in our yard. The mini-she-beast, apparently determined to really give him a kick in his metaphorical cameraman nuts, poured the dogs drinking water into it. As Rachel Green described using hand gestures you’ll just have to imagine, “But today, it’s like there’s rock bottom, then 50 feet of crap, then me.” I totally understand ya Rach.

Losing My Mojo

REM had a great song come out around 1991 called ‘Losing my Religion’. It is a catchy song and was a huge hit that spoke to heaps of people. At the moment I’m not losing my religion. I’m losing my Mojo. Since April this year I have somehow been able to write out a blog post and get it up on my site with pretty good regularity. More regularity indeed than I possessed in many other areas of life, including the routine shaving of my legs. I had so much imagination and so much to say. A week never went by without some time behind the computer screen tapping away and out popped a blog post at the end, with me lovingly admiring it like a newborn baby, just with less drugs involved in the birthing process. And even if I had a day where I didn’t have an idea, I knew that it would be short lived. The sun would come up again tomorrow, bet your bottom dollar that tomorrow, there’d be a creative spark. And even though I wasn’t an orphan with ridiculous hair, tomorrow has never let me down.

Those days appear to have ceased. My mind is barren, like an ageing spinster with shrivelled up ovaries incapable of bearing creative offspring of any kind and no prospects for the future. Annie’s signature song is now not an anthem of hope, but a mocking mantra. Why?!?!?! After careful reflection this evening and a bowl of peanut M & M’s (peanuts are brain food), perhaps there are a number of factors that have numbed the creative section of my brain and caused my Mojo to disappear like a vial of botox at the Kardashian’s condo.

Firstly, I believe my spirit has been broken after 6 weeks of severe and unrelenting sickness in my home. My husband has had pneumonia and all children have had a variety of colds, viruses, gastro and we may as well throw in some head lice too. These combinations have dulled the part of my brain that is able to function on an artistic level. And also, NOTHING HAS HAPPENED TO ME in the past 6 weeks worth writing about, as I am aware no one wants to hear about how to clean nacho vomit out of a shag rug (bicarb soda, a hose and ultimately Ryan’s carpet cleaners FYI).

Secondly, over the past few months I have found extra employment, which has been excellent. Or rather, employment found me and knocked on my door. This has meant finding a nanny for my kids and rushing about like most other women do everyday and have done successfully & without complaining for years. Trouble is, I’m not used to it and I’m a whinger who loves a slow start to her day, much like sloth. I like to start my day like I get into a pool, leisurely and at my own pace. I’m not used to getting up at 6.30am and having to get OUT OF MY PAJAMA’S immediately and actually do my hair and make up. I think my entire being has been shocked by this process and any brain development been subsequently stunted. As you may recall, I had only just recently been inspired by another mother to actually do the school drop off in my dressing gown. For me, this was a monumentous realisation and achievement, much like putting a man on the moon. Although it may seem insignificant, think of the impact if this practice caught on. It was one small step for me but one giant leap for all stay at home mothers. Imagine a world where you don’t need to get dressed at all? Comfort, in your dressing gown…all day!? Yes please! And now, much like a baby being yanked out of the comfort of the womb, I’ve been thrust in the real world of office-working mothers, confused and screaming but with a bright pink lipstick and a pair of heels. It has actually been a great and worthwhile opportunity that I am thoroughly enjoying.

baby brainBut I have to conclude that my own brain actually has a limit to the level of output it is capable of, particularly after three children and the onset of what medical professionals term ‘baby brain’. Let’s call this output ‘credit’ in the bank. Before I had this job, a lot of that credit was spent on you – writing these blog posts. Now that I am getting used to working too, it would seem my brain power has hit its ceiling, and with a massive debit, it is actually all used up by the time I get home. The only thing I seem to have the energy to do is open the bottle of wine, pour and stare at the TV. Lather, rinse, repeat. I wonder if it’s only me who feels this way. Or do the rest of you like to come home after a long day, cook dinner, bath and put to bed 3 kids and then jump at the chance to write an essay comparing the themes of Tolstoy’s ‘War & Peace’ to Dostoyevsky’s ‘The Brothers Karamazov’?

I am not sure if it’s me or not. Hopefully soon, to continue my newborn analogy, this baby will stop screaming in protest and start snuggling and maybe even smiling or giggling on a level of extreme cuteness. That day will hopefully come. But for now, all I know is that I’ve lost my Mojo and I would really like to get it back. If you see it, please send it home to me with a bottle of Vodka and an oversized Toblerone. Thanking you in advance. Carrie.

Footy Frank Fever – A Woman’s Guide to getting through Grand Final Day

Apparently today is grand final day. Whoop de-do. I only just found out who is playing and have actually never even heard of one of the teams. I have no interest in watching sport on TV. Particularly football and cricket. Watching these sports is about as boring to me as listening to Mr Collins read from a book of Fordyce’s sermons was to Lydia Bennett.  I spent my early childhood years in Queensland surrounded by 4 brothers and a father who were all (and still are) sports mad. When cricket wasn’t on TV, it was being played in the yard. As my brothers got older, rugby league viewing became essential too, particularly cheering on the Brisbane Broncos.

I have no problem with any particular sports person or in the interest others have in it and I can definitely see the appeal of socialising around a television with an alcohol beverage in hand. So this is not a post trying to malign sports fans. Everyone has something they’re passionate about watching. My passions just happen to include such programs as Downton Abbey, Nashville, The Bachelorette or a range of extremely girly movies, some of which I am very aware would be found completely tedious by others. But personally I have absolutely zero interest in watching a group of men kick a ball around a field. I do have a strong interest in food though and as Sharon Strzelecki says ‘Crack open the Tia Mia and put on some footy franks!’. That is a ‘footy fever’ I could totally get on board with.

You’re probably now thinking I am a bit of a princess. Not so. I hate shopping. I am a logical thinker. I enjoy a beer and a good belch from time to time. I just hate watching sport. This being the case, I regularly congratulate myself for marrying wisely: George doesn’t watch much sport. He certainly doesn’t watch cricket or football, which are the most obnoxious time-suckers as far as I can see from observing brothers and the husbands of friends. George may watch an important football game from time to time but his interest in cricket is about the same as mine. His passion is Formula 1, which is usually on in the  middle of the night, so it really doesn’t effect me. So if on State of Origin night I want to use our only TV to watch the latest episode of ‘Hart of Dixie’, I really don’t get any resistance from George. After my childhood in that male dominated home of cricket, football and perpetually upright toilet seats, I feel I deserve a little solace and tranquility. And I’m getting it. Bless that man!

There are some ladies out there who are reading this who are thinking I am the crazy one. You love watching sport and are annoyed at me for this blatant gender stereotyping. Sorry gals. Watch and enjoy the game tonight. I don’t understand you, but I have no problem with you and am happy to wish you well. As for the other women out there who abhor televised sport but will be subjected to it this evening as you have voluntarily yoked yourself together for life with a sports nut, I feel for you. I really do. I won’t say things like ‘You’ve made your bed…now lie in it.’ Never. I will try my best to ease your suffering. To that end, I have assembled a collection of scenes from a few of my favourite girly movies below. Every time you hear a cheer or a burp this evening, please stick in your earphones, play one of these links and be refreshed.

Disclaimer: I take no responsibility for spoilers. If you haven’t see the movie that the clip is from, watch at your own risk 🙂

 

 
 

Ladies, I genuinely hope this has been helpful in getting you through Grand Final Day. If it’s still not enough, crack open the Tia Maria and put on some footy franks and get caught up in Footy ‘Frank’ Fever.

  

P.S. If you are an email reader and the links don’t appear (or work), just click the link at the very top of this email post and it should take you to the live Carried Away page for viewing.

Attack of the Man Flu

The past week has been rough. George has been really sick with what we thought was a cold, then the flu and now it turns out is pneumonia. 2 of our 3 kids have also had viruses, including Miss 2 with consistent fevers over 39 degrees for a few days. Our kitchen bench looks like a pharmacy shelf. Curiously, I seem to be the only person who has resisted whatever bugs are going around. Just call me Superwoman.

Having George around at home for a week now has made me reflect on the different ways men are sick, and how they are able to react (well here anyway). When sick, George lies in bed all day, doing nothing. He tries to sleep a lot but when he can’t get to sleep, he just lies there like an Egyptian mummy. When I am sick, I never get the luxury of lying in bed. I always have children to herd and look after. But if it was a weekend and George was around, rendering me able to lie in bed, I would probably read a book, or at least watch TV when I wasn’t sleeping. I think simply lying there would make me feel worse due to excessive boredom.

Can I admit to you a little daydream I have? I feel like I shouldn’t admit this as it may be bad karma, and I don’t really mean it. But I also do. Being a mother of 3 kids with no family support around, I sometimes have a little dream of having to go into a nice private hospital for a non-invasive and non-life-threatiing procedure of some kind that then requires a week of bed rest as an in-patient. Having my meals brought to me and then taken away, having no laundry to do, watching TV all day and getting the occasional visitor bringing flowers and chocolates…that is the stuff fantasies are made of!

When I had my second and third babies, they were both required to be scheduled caesareans. Each time I spent a week recovering in hospital after their births and it was delightful. Sure, I was getting over a major surgery and had swollen aching breasts that Dolly Parton would be scared of, but I was required to do nothing except feed the baby and relax. I had a TV by my bed, morphine on demand and a night nursery. Bliss! Since then I have never been sick where I’ve actually been able to be sick and lie in bed all day.

It is also a widely acknowledged idea that men don’t cope with being sick as well as women do. I am sure this doesn’t apply to all men, but it’s a common idea that I’ve heard people talk about as if it were fact. Maybe it’s because women are used to feeling pain or discomfort more often as part of regular life. We get regular period pain, have to deal with pregnancy, labour and often painful breastfeeding as part of life. With men, their bodies are always the same. Elaine Benes said ‘the male body is utilitarian, it’s for getting around, it’s like a Jeep’. Now, she was talking about look of the naked male form but maybe this ideal could also apply to their state of ongoing health and maintenance? So when something comes along giving them an ‘owie’, they can fall apart a bit quicker as they’re not used to it. Case in point was George telling me the other day that his sinus pain when flying home from our Qld holiday was as painful as he imagined labour would be. Wow. He’d be begging for the epidural with the first contraction. I can’t complain though. As far as sick, pathetic men go, he’s pretty good. Much better than this guy:

Seeing George sick this week reminded me of that video, an old favourite. I am sure you have all seen it but it’s good for another chuckle that’s on point. And as for me, I promised to love George in sickness and in health. Now that the former is upon us, Superwoman must fly off and prepare her hero a honey and lemon drink and rub his tummy. Good night!

Pregnancy: The Good, the Bad and the Ugly.

Last weekend I attended a baby shower. The mother-to-be was beautiful, tranquil and perfectly proportioned with a delightful little round baby bump and enviable cleavage. From the back you wouldn’t have known she was pregnant. Apart from her fetal girth, she was significantly slimmer than me. It made me reflect that there are two types of women in this world: those who have a requited love of pregnancy, during which they radiate a peaceful, glowing aura. Serene biatches. And then there are those who turn into she-beasts. An excellent example of the former is Princess Kate, a gestating supermodel look-a-like. A prime example of the latter is yours truly. If you’d rubbed my expectant belly, I may have oinked.

With each of my three babies, I expanded exponentially throughout pregnancy. First time around, at about 14 weeks I had a cute little pot belly and started wearing maternity clothes as it was new, and exciting getting into the spirit of things. But as time went on, although ecstatic to be growing a little person, I realised how great the toll was on my body. I felt exhausted and sick all day, every day. The aromas wafting upstairs from the authentic cooking of the Indian folks living beneath us at the time certainly didn’t help. I am like Jerry Seinfeld – we don’t vomit. But I certainly still felt constant nausea from dawn til dusk unless I was eating. As you have probably learned from previous posts, I love food. I thought I finally had a legitimate excuse to eat whatever I wanted, whenever I wanted. And George is the type of husband who will go out now and get me chocolate or ice cream if I have a craving. Can you imagine how eager he was when I was carrying our baby? I only had to hint that I felt like something and he was already out the door, leaving behind only the fading sound of jingling keys and puff of smoke in his wake. Our unborn child was certainly well nourished.

What really tipped the scales, literally, was a sudden fluid retention problem at about 30 weeks. I remember one day looking down at my feet suddenly and they were swollen like fat curry puffs and felt tingly and tight. My ankle bones had gone AWOL. That was the beginning of the end. My entire body swelled up like Aunt Marge in Harry Potter 3 (sorry, I have a 7 year old, HP is all we talk about). I looked like someone had stuck a air-hose in me and started pumping. My feet got worse as time went on. All I could fit on my swollen hooves were those hideous sandals they sell at chemists. Occasionally photos from that period scroll up on our Apple TV screen saver and although George doesn’t say anything, I can see it in his eyes…he is shuddering on the inside. Luckily the fluid retention stopped as soon as our little girl was born. I recall having lost about 17kg within a few days of her birth.

My subsequent pregnancies weren’t much better. I didn’t get the crazy fluid retention, just good old fashioned fat ass/thighs/arms/face. “I’m storing fat for breastfeeding” I would tell myself as I ate another bowl of ice cream. Besides my eating habits, it was like my body just knew what to do. Each time I got that magical second line on the pee stick, I seemed to get an instant pot belly. Occasionally I see other expectant women who look like they’ve also packed it on and I feel an instant bond with them. When I was pregnant with number 3, I remember explaining to Miss 6 that Mummy’s tummy was fat because there was a baby in there. “Then why are your legs fat?” she wanted to know. All that aside, my pregnancy con list included more than just weight gain. Add reflux, gas, cravings, sleeplessness, constipation, back pain, metallic taste in my mouth, mood swings & the need to pee every hour 24/7 and you realise that growing a human is hard work.

But then pregnancy is over. I have heard people say that as soon as you hold your newborn baby you forget it all. All the pain of labour, the trauma, the bad stuff, it’s gone. That you look into your baby’s eyes and all you can think about is the overwhelming love. That’s rubbish. I remembered it all. As I looked at my baby daughter, I loved her immediately. But the trauma of her complicated delivery was fresh, painful and unforgettable. I spent the first week of her life crying, upset that she would be an only child as I was never doing that again. Each year on her birthday a part of me truly trembles as I can’t help but think back to the horrific process by which she came into this world.

At the baby shower, my friend was so glowing, serene and innocent that I couldn’t enlighten her as to what was coming her way. She will find out on her own. But I did tell her what I do still truly believe: that there is nothing more exciting than having a new baby. Nothing has topped the feelings of seeing each of my babies for the first time and laying next to them in the hospital, watching them sleep. Counting their fingers and toes. Looking at their downy heads and wondering if their hair will get darker or lighter. Looking at their little chests moving up and down with each breath and having them strain to open their new eyes to look at me.

Even though all the pain, nausea, weight gain, reflux and moodiness will never be forgotten, the truth is… it’s all worth it.

Forget About It

One of my idiosyncrasies is being absent minded. I lose everything: keys, hats, jackets, handbags, shoes, lipsticks etc. Not a day goes by in our house that I don’t wander around looking for something like a character on Days of our Lives who has recently woken from a coma with amnesia. This morning it was my sunglasses. I saw the case on my desk but as I never put them back in the case, I didn’t even bother to look there. I searched handbags, drawers, the car then finally as a last resort, opened the case and there they were. I was surprised to find them in such an obvious and sensible location. When I come home, my belongings just seem to disperse from my person without my knowledge or consent. Nothing has a home. It’s supposed to in theory but in reality, my personal items fan out around the house like shrapnel.

I have lost my wallet many times. About 2 years ago I got a knock on the door and there were two kind policemen who had come to return my wallet. Someone had found it on the street in my neighbourhood and handed it in at the police station. I hadn’t even realised it was missing. Last May I lost it again and did realise. But I wasn’t worried; I assumed I’d just misplaced it around the house like usual. Several days went past and it still hadn’t turned up. I got by with raiding George’s wallet for petty cash but I was starting to get a bit more concerned simply because I would need my credit cards to go shopping. Sitting up in bed that night I wondered aloud to George about where it had got to. He shot up like a geyser exclaiming “What? You still haven’t found it??? Someone has probably stolen it. We need to check our online credit card statement.” I still wasn’t worried but to appease a stressed man I calmly logged into our online banking on my phone. That’s when a shock shot up my spine and it was me who shot up like a geyser. “Oh no! Someone HAS stolen our card!” I burst out as I looked at the last purchase on the top. George paced around with a grim look that seemed to say “I knew this would happen you foolish woman”.

I went on…“Somebody spent $50 yesterday at Sussan!!!”

George’s face instantly changed. “That was me. I bought you pyjamas for mothers day” he said dryly.

In an instant, the excitement of all the drama came to an abrupt end. I found my wallet the next morning under a couch cushion.

Evidently this characteristic is making its way through my family tree. Do you find that the most annoying qualities of any child you have produced are invariably those they have inherited from you? Miss 9 and I are a lot alike. I like her. I admire her. I wouldn’t change her. We laugh, enjoy each others company and also butt heads like a pair of angry rams particularly when I am irritated by her behaviour, even though it’s often like looking in a mirror.

Like her mother, she misplaces everything. Lunch boxes, shoes, hairbands, hair brushes, drink bottles and the hats…oh the hats – I have lost count! I have started buying $2 replacements from the op-shop to try and put a ceiling on my frustration levels when she inevitably loses them. Whenever I tell her to grab her hat, she starts wandering around like Bo Peep and I feel a surge of annoyance. I have to remind myself in that moment that we are EXACTLY the same! She forgets her instrument on band day. Then if she does remember it, she forgets to bring it home. I rarely get a note home from school. But occasionally this does work in my favour…

“Excuse me…Carrie…did you make it to the parents’ gardening day this morning to overhaul our compost heap and veggie patch?”

“Oh, I’m sorry, I never got the note.” I say honestly, silently thanking my forgetful offspring.

But mostly it just makes me look like an idiot when I arrive at school and have no idea about the special event/assembly/parent-teacher interviews/*insert important educational occasion here.

But it’s not her fault. I must place the blame where it truly belongs: with my father ‘Arnie’. He is the source of the problem. Arnie has turned his absent-mindedness into a multi-generational legacy. He is so forgetful that, some years ago, he ordered a memory-boosting program online to be delivered. When he was looking at his credit card statement a week or so later he had no idea what the charge was for. He had to call the company and ask what it was he’d paid $100 or so for. Money well spent, obviously.

What can I learn from all this? I think simply to be more patient and sympathetic with my child. The poor girl has decades of losing lipsticks & the like ahead of her and she only has genetics to blame for her distracted demeanour. I can then blame my offending parent who started this mess. But if Miss 9 and I do argue over a missing hat/umbrella/jacket/*whatever one day, and sound more like Emily & Lorelai than Lorelai & Rory, does it really matter? We will both wake up tomorrow and forget it ever happened. 

The Claytons Blog Post

This is a short blog post about how I am not doing a blog post tonight. Make sense? I think I mentioned when this blog  began that I was doing it partly out of boredom and having too much time on my hands without a vocation or anything creative to do. Well since then a few things have changed in regard to paid work and I have found myself becoming increasingly busy. So busy, in fact that I am now struggling to find the time to write a post each week, which was my original intention. And heaven forbid IKeanu fortnight pump out a quick post of low quality and betray my beloved readers. So I think the only course of action is to try blog fortnightly, or at least somewhere between Keanu’s definition and the actual one.

So I bid you all bonne soirée now as I go to watch the Bachelor with a cup of tea & a medium-to-large bowl of ice cream, all the while repining the fact that my girth is significantly more portly than any of the ladies on the show.  A real head-scratcher.

Mmmm…Ice cream. Gotta go. X

Life After The Bachelor

Wednesday nights for the past few months have meant pumping out a fresh blog post for my beloved readers.  Now Wednesdays mean so much more because the new season of The Bachelor has begun! Such quality reality TV (an oxymoron??) where we get to watch yet another tall, ripped, handsome man choose from a fresh crop of emotionally unstable women dressed in high heels and sequins. Essentially, Bachie Wood (as he is dubbed by reviewer Rosie Waterland over at Mamamia) gets to know his 19 girlfriends, plan dates and then eliminate a couple of unlucky spinsters by NOT giving them a red rose at the end of each episode. Relax on a comfy couch, add a bottle of chardonnay and a quick witted viewing companion and it’s pretty much the perfect evening.

What I notice is the Bachelor doesn’t really need to have a mind of his own. There are no doubt stylists, event planners and producers behind the scenes telling him what to do. Last week an earpiece was actually visible in Bachie’s ear as he called out the names of the lucky ladies who would be receiving roses. All he has to do is smile, regularly pose with his shirt off looking pensive in various remote locations and dole out the roses as directed. If he follows the rules, he is guaranteed a lady-love to walk off into the sunset with for at least 6 weeks of relationship bliss. Easy peasy!

But what happens to Bachie after the finale?? What guidance is available to him then, or any man already in a relationship? Who is there to help them navigate through the minefields of married life, specifically special occasions, conversation, customs and generally keeping wifey happy? No one. They have to rely on their own gut. Maybe there is a market for a new TV show – ‘The Married Man’, with coaching available from a slew of experts? Sometimes guidance is required.

Example number 1 is our recent wedding anniversary. George and I just celebrated 12 years of marriage. Sometimes we do gifts on our anniversary, sometimes not. This year we’d agreed on no gifts. On the morning of our anniversary, I handed George a card, with a heartfelt hand-written message that filled both sides. He thanked me and said sheepishly “I didn’t get you a card.”

“That’s OK honey.” I said very graciously. “There’s still today…”

I was going out that morning. When I returned a few hours later, the house was spick and span and there was a huge bunch of flowers in a vase on the table. A guilt cleaning had taken place. Grovelling flowers had been purchased. I assume he had felt the need to buy me flowers because I had given him a card, not that I expected it. But he is a kind husband who would never deliberately disappoint me.

The same day we had a male lunch visitor over who was eager to give commentary on the situation and support his own. He told me that I had broken the sacred no-gift covenant by buying George a card and thus upset the equilibrium, forcing George to one-up me and go out and buy flowers. I am of the firm belief that a card is NOT a gift. But on the other hand, in some cases flowers are not a gift either. Let me explain my theory, which brings us to example number 2.

A young newly married male friend recently told me he planned to buy his wife flowers for her birthday and take her out for dinner. “And what are you getting her for a gift?” I queried. “I have to get her a gift too?!?!” he exclaimed, clearly bewildered. I was forced to explain to him that on a woman’s birthday, flowers are a garnish, not a gift. He didn’t understand. But at least in his ignorance he showed the presence of mind to follow my advice and did, in fact, purchase a gift for his wife.

My anniversary flowers, gift or not, opened up a dialogue which has highlighted a 12 year misconception, leading us to example number 3. The flowers given to me were a ‘mixed bunch’. Not to look gift horse in the mouth, but the ‘mixed bunch’ is the best friend of the florally confused man. They are a way for indecisive males to hedge their blooming bets. I told George, somewhat truthfully, that I liked them and he replied “Oh, good. I wasn’t sure as they have roses in them and I know you don’t like roses.”

Me “Huh? I like roses.”

George repeated “No, you don’t like roses.”

Me ‘Umm, yes I do.”

George very confidently confirmed “No. No you don’t. You told me once you don’t like them so I never buy them.”

He was so adamant that I began to wonder if he was right, that I don’t actually like roses. Perhaps I had mentioned it casually years ago and he’d noted it, in an effort to please me. Whatever the truth, the reason for the dozen or so years of abstinence from roses was unveiled. Men: annual flower preference audits could have averted this confusion.

So I think it’s clear that all married men can use a little help from time to time, even those with the best intentions. If only there were a means by which men could seek wise counsel. A TV show, a guidebook, or even a sensible female relation? I will continue to ponder this over The Bachelor, essentially just another confused fellow doling out roses left, right and centre…but doing it gracefully with perfect hair, a six-pack and an earpiece.

Surprises: The Good, The Bad and The Awesome

Jane Austen said ‘Surprises are foolish things. The pleasure is not enhanced, and the inconvenience is often considerable.’ I love you Jane but I’m sorry, I couldn’t disagree more. I LOVE surprises, both giving and receiving them! I don’t mean surprises I know are coming – they just make me crazy. I love surprises that are completely out of the blue…WHAM, take that!

I love to surprise George. I delight in bringing him home random gifts when I’ve been out shopping. It could be a t-shirt. It could be a donut. It could be a mug. I recently booked him in for a massage without his knowledge and just added it to his diary, setting a reminder pop-up for an hour beforehand with the details. He was a good sport about it and went to see ‘Paul’ the middle aged masseuse but told me afterwards that if anyone was going to rub down his naked body, he’d prefer it to be me. Fair call. Verdict: surprise fail.

The best surprises are birthday surprises. Last week was George’s birthday and beforehand we’d  shopped together for his birthday present. I felt it was mandatory that another surprise gift was purchased to be opened on the big day. I decided on a men’s dressing gown. We’d just had a cold snap and there’s nothing like being ensconced in a warm, downy dressing gown. Mine is hot pink and is fluffy enough to smother a baby seal. I chose George a thick, luxurious, navy gown. He unwrapped it and was evidently surprised. “Oh. Astock-illustration-48961786-gift-box-with-red-bow dressing gown. Wow.” he said, very obviously faking enthusiasm (George Clooney is no George Clooney). In his mind, dressing gowns are only worn by the elderly. To please me, he tried it on and sashayed about (I may be embellishing…it’s possible he simply walked from the bed to the door and back). As the smooth material caressed his body, he began to get it. Since then he has been a faithful wearer of the gown, and keeps it on the floor next to his bed, and close to his heart. I picked it up the other day and hung it in the wardrobe. The following morning he demanded urgently “where’s my dressing gown?!?!”. I calmly explained it was hanging in the wardrobe. The relief on his face was palpable as he went to retrieve it. He put it on, basked in the comfort and warmth it provided and then proceeded to strut around like a young Hugh Hefner. All I need are some implants and a hot tub and it’ll be like the playboy mansion around here. After the initial shock, the dressing gown surprise has been a hit, much to my delight. See Jane – birthday surprises rock!

I recall clearly receiving my best birthday present ever. It was a surprise I had NO idea was coming. I had desperately wanted a dog since our border collie had died of a tick several years earlier. I had consistently asked my parents for another dog and they had consistently said no. I promised to walk the dog, look after it, pick up its doggy do, even pay for its food out of my pocket money…but still the answer was no. I resorted to desperate measures and wrote my parents a letter from God. It was simple and to the point:

‘Dear *Arnie & Mrs Arnie,

Please get Carrie a dog. She will never be happy unless you get her a dog. She will be better behaved if you buy her a dog, trust me.

Regards

God.’

I suspected they knew it wasn’t God communicating with them in letter form because no dog was forthcoming. Time passed and I had almost lost hope. Then one day close to my 14th birthday, something special happened. I came home from school but my parents weren’t home. I went into my room and sat on my bed, probably to read the latest Sweet Valley High and wonder if Jessica’s latest scheme would bear fruit. My father appeared suddenly and sat down. He began “If we bought you a dog, would you feed it and change its water every day?”

1992 April Boris on trampoline“Yes of course.” I replied, surprised.

“And would you walk it every day.”

“Yes.”

“And would you pick up after it?”

“Yes.” I said confused but also hopeful.

Arnie said calmly “he’s in the car.”

Usain Bolt could not have made it to the garage faster than I did that day. My mother was in the car with a cardboard box on her lap. Inside was a jet black kelpie puppy. An early birthday present. I squealed like a piglet and grabbed the little ball of fur. ‘Boris’ and I quickly became completely devoted to each other. Our love affair lasted his entire life.

Boris was the best gift I ever got and the fact he was a surprise was the icing on the birthday cake. And although initially resistant, George has embraced his surprise dressing gown with vigor and perhaps more passion than is appropriate. I am also convinced that Mr Darcy would have worn a dressing gown, one prestigious enough for a man of his class. So perhaps if Jane Austen had answered an unexpected knock at the door to find Mr Darcy standing there in his dressing gown, her opinion of surprises may have been slightly more positive…Just a hunch.

Big Brother, Royal Family Edition

Prince George turned 2 today! You must have heard – it’s splashed all over the news. Far out, that is one cute kid! I recall when he was born, being glued to morning tv, hoping for any details or to get even a glimpse of the new prince. He didn’t disappoint then and he doesn’t disappoint now. Little George is completely adorable, looking rosy, dapper and just perfect in every photo. The Palace released this official photo of him to celebrate his 2nd birthday. It looks as though he has inherited the best features of both his parents and is just as cute as a button.

Prince George turns 2. Photo by Mario Testino
Prince George. Photo by Mario Testino

While the little tike may look like perfection, the birth of Princess Charlotte in May made him a brother, a role which comes with certain instinctive behaviour, royal or not. In my opinion, brothers inevitably annoy their sisters. Whilst girls can and do tease their brothers (I certainly did, as does my eldest daughter) it seems somehow less compulsive. In my experience, boys seem to have special annoying powers. My brothers delighted in provoking me during childhood and now I see it in my son, who is nearly 7. The means by which he likes to torture his sisters are developing at an impressive rate. He likes to poke his tongue out and make faces or will takes Miss 2’s teddy from her to kick around the house like a soccer ball. He pokes the girls in the car when he thinks I am not looking or hugs them with a bit too much vigor. Miss 2 will often scream when he approaches her in anticipation of whatever she thinks he might do. Lately he has graduated to emotional mind games. Fabrications he has told Miss 2 include:

  • Mummy & Daddy are going to shave her head
  • Elsa from Frozen has died
  • Our breakfast bacon came from Peppa Pig

And worst of all was telling his 2 and 1/2 year old sister the other night as she went to bed that tomorrow was her birthday and she was having a party. The excitement of her impending celebrations, complete in her mind with balloons, presents and a cake, was tragically short lived, and the boy had to be punished. Although his behaviour is often just the result of excessive mischievous energy and not meaningfully malicious, I’m exhausted from it all. I feel as though I am trying to break in a wild stallion.

As the only girl of five children, I am very familiar with these types of annoyances. Sadly, I never got the sister I always wanted. I recall very clearly when my youngest brother was born. I was nearly 5 and instinctively felt this was my last chance for a sister. I was hopeful, determined even, that this baby would be a girl. When 1983 Carrie and Richardwe got the phone call that a boy had been born, I burst into tears. I was so devastated that I went to stay with my grandparents rather than see the baby. After a week or so they talked me round and then took me to a toy store to choose something for my tiny, new brother Richard. I eventually got over it and settled with being able to push him around in my toy pram like a doll, as pictured.

Would life have turned out differently for me if ‘Richard’ had been ‘Rochelle’? I’ve often felt sad that I never had a sister: braiding each other’s hair, sharing nail polish and shaving each other’s legs…that’s what sisters do, right? But unfortunately, testosterone dominated our home and my brothers loved to torment me in many ways. Sassy as I was, I gave back as well I could but my father was old school. It didn’t matter what his little angel did, there was no excuse for a boy EVER to hit a girl. If the boys even laid a finger on me Arnie would turn Terminator-like and there would be hell to pay.

Subsequently, their brotherly misconduct was more emotional. I have large teeth, even for a grown woman. Imagine large adult teeth on a 10 year old girl. Add a moderate overbite. The result was regular name calling, specifically ‘Bucky Beaver’. And whenever my parents weren’t looking, they would make a buck teeth face at me. One particular day we were having a professional family portrait taken. As I was smiling for the photo, one of my brothers called me that dreaded moniker in front of everyone. The humiliation and pain was acute. I broke down sobbing. The portrait that resulted shows me looking sullen with red puffy eyes and an indisputable broken spirit. It was a traumatic day for me and is burned in my brain. Thank the Lord for the braces that came 5 years later and exterminated ‘Bucky Beaver’ for good.

We got through those tumultuous times and I get on now with my brothers – I wouldn’t swap any of them! And although I will never have a biological sister, I am grateful for the beautiful sisters-in-law I now have. They mean so much to me that if any of them ever felt like coming around to shave my legs, they would be warmly welcomed.

Little Prince George will grow up with a sister to poke, prod and tease. Because beneath that angelic smile is still a little human boy. I predict that sibling life in the palace may not be all that different to life in the outside world. I can imagine him kicking Princess Charlotte under the royal dinner table while the Queen sips her tea, pinky erect. But then they’ll grow out of it, like my kids. Someday my girls will like their brother. Someday all the annoying boisterousness and emotional turmoil will be distant memories. But until then, ‘brother’ and ‘bother’ will generally be interchangeable terms.

Oh, and Happy Birthday Prince George.

 

Seafood Swingers

Next month George and I will celebrate a dozen years of marriage. I have learned in that time that it is very important to find out what your spouse’s needs are and then try your best to meet them if you possibly can. And ideally, they will focus on attempting to meet your needs. Follow this concept and you should have a happy, satisfying marriage. George doesn’t really need much so it’s been a bit of a walk in the park for me thus far. Me…the truth is I may be like Sally Albright from ‘When Harry Met Sally’ (yes we’ve been here before but I do believe we can learn a lot from this movie):

Harry: There are two kinds of women: high maintenance and low maintenance.

Sally: Which one am I?

Harry: You’re the worst kind; you’re high maintenance but you think you’re low maintenance.

There is a small chance this could also apply to me. That being said, I probably only have one need that George has been unable to meet in nearly 12 years of marriage. It’s been frustrating, disappointing and sometimes just painful. One of my basic needs is to eat seafood, and lots of it. I have a great love of almost all seafood. I remember with fondness and salivation a rare time I had the pleasure of eating a whole lobster. We were travelling in the USA and stopped in the delightfully quaint little seaside town of Newport, Rhode Island. Not only was the lobster delicious but it came with a bib. Any food that comes with an adult sized disposable bib is OK with me.

George does not like seafood. Possibly he’d have the good old crumbed fish and chips but that’s about it. No crustaceans of any kind will ever pass his lips. Because George won’t eat seafood and I am too lazy a cook to prepare separate meals, we rarely eat seafood at home. So every birthday and anniversary dinner I request we go to a seafood restaurant. He is usually happy with the small range of non-seafood options on the menu as he is a ‘safe’ orderer. I enjoy our occasional seafood dinners out but something is always missing. I desperately crave the seafood platter for two. Or should I say ‘tower’. I see waiters straining as they carry huge multi-level seafood platters to couples at the next table. I then spend a portion of the rest of our evening leering over and then complaining that I will never be able to get the shared platter – all because of George and his seafood aversion. My basic need to share a seafood platter for two was being unmet. And it was causing resentment.

Complaining about this deprivation one night with another couple, I discovered that they were in the same boat. He loved seafood. She didn’t. That’s when our eyes locked and a scheme plan was immediately concocted… It was obvious that we needed to become Seafood Swingers! Why had this never occurred to me before!? A reservation for dinner was made at a nice local seafood restaurant overlooking the water. When we all arrived, the mood was just right. The moonlight sparkled on the water below. The lights were dimmed. The music was relaxing. The white wine was cold and crisp.

Menus were brought and our spouses ordered their lamb and beef and then sat back. This was our night – Mine and ‘His’…Our time to shine. After a discussion with the waiter, a hot and cold seafood platter for two was ordered. The young waiter had caught onto the excitement as he heard about our plight and he seemed to be personally invested in making sure my dream was fulfilled in all the glory it warranted. He joked, he chatted, he loitered. Then he delivered. When it did finally arrive I was a liCarrie-seafood2ttle disappointed that it had not come in tower form. I had wanted the wow factor of multi-levels and maximum height and had envisioned it to be delivered by several burly waiters, struggling under the weight of it. But two regular sized metrosexual waiters seemed at ease carrying a single platter each and laid them down in front of us. The delights included mussels, oysters, hot and cold prawns, blue swimmer crab, lobster and Moreton Bay bug. Although single levelled, the platters still took up the whole table and were high enough to obstruct vision of our spouses faces. Who cared? We began meticulously working our way through the great feast.

Whilst George couldn’t meet this need, I can say that he encouraged me with all his might. He told me “Go for it, after 12 years you deserve this…Yes you can fit that last bit of crab in… No you haven’t got anything in your teeth.” He was a delightful cheerleader from the sidelines and my heart swelled with love and appreciation for him as I enjoyed sharing a meal with another man.

I think the moral of this story is obvious. When your husband can’t meet your needs, sometimes it can be appropriate and prudent to find someone who can…especially when it comes to seafood dinners. Just make sure you all grab the right keys off the table at the end of the evening.

Pride & Pastiness…Mr Darcy is Happy with the Skin You’re In

It is a truth universally acknowledged that an open Google Chrome page will inadvertently stumble onto an image of the tanned hind quarters of Kim Kardashian. Or Kourtney Kardashian. Or Khloe. Or…who’s the other one?? And we cannot buy a paper at the newsagent without seeing golden-brown skinned, bikini clad women posing in the sand on the covers of displayed magazines. Make no mistake, nice golden brown skin is where it’s at in this day and age. It seems to be the epitome of sexiness, health and beauty. Unfortunately, I have had the misfortune of being born with very pale skin. I have blue eyes, blonde hair and am so fair-skinned that if I had lived 100 years ago, a young Hitler may have had a poster of me stuck up on his bedroom ceiling.

As the years have gone on and the hole in the ozone layer has got bigger, I have developed freckles and sunspots everywhere. Whilst I’m not in the league of a Lindsay Lohan, I am far from the classic peaches and cream look of a Cate Blanchett. Unfortunately for me, very white skin is not considered desirable on a woman nowadays. Back in the era of Jane Austen, being pale-skinned was considered most beautiful. In my favourite book ‘Pride & Prejudice’, the nasty Miss Bingley gossiped and sneered at our heroine Elizabeth Bennet behind her back for being too tanned when she visited Pemberley. Mr Darcy, a man deeply in love with Lizzie, conceded that she was rather tanned from riding about in the sun, but he still liked her anyway. IN SPITE of her tan!!! Ah, Mr Darcy, we would have been great together.

Those of you who are not lookalikes of Narnia’s white witch may not realise the troubles we have to go through. Let me enlighten you a bit so you can see how the other half live:

1. Doctor’s Visits

Thanks to my parents for this complexion and a family history of skin cancer, I need to go to the dermatologist for regular skin checks. I strip down to my bra and undies and have a doctor, who is probably a bit too young & good looking, examine my entire body with those microscope glasses. I deal with this awkward situation very maturely – by giggling. He then chuckles. We’ve developed quite a comfortable relationship in the 4 years I’ve lived in this town, laughing at each other nervously as he explores my body…What was I talking about? Oh right. Then I pay an enormous bill and leave for another 6 months. George is probably reading this right now and simultaneously google searching in another window for a new dermatologist, possibly an unattractive & elderly woman doctor with calloused hands and no sense of humour.

2. Beach Trips

I am lucky enough to live 5 minutes from the beach. But a simple trip to the beach is an activity that is fraught with danger for the pale-skinned woman. For starters, it’s unheard of to venture out between 10am and 2pm. That is the time to huddle at home in our 50+ SPF (yes, in case sunlight bounces in through the windows) and bunker down in front of the TV. And when we do go out, our loved ones assume we have changed religions as only our eyes can be seen through the little slits in our fuCarrie-sunscreen2ll head and body coverings. There is no lounging around on the sand in a bikini looking sultry. There are no romantic ‘From here to eternity’ moments in the crashing waves with our special someone. There is serious packing that is required beforehand which resembles a normal person’s holiday checklist. I take a wide brimmed hat large enough to shelter Wagga, a rash shirt, board shorts, sarong, sunglasses and sunscreen…oh the sunscreen. The amount of preparation and packing makes a quick beach trip almost not worth doing. The only other option I have is to go at dusk…shark feeding time… Great.

3. Faking It

Fake tan applications seem to be a frequent and often ghastly regime for the pasty skinned. While I have never had a spray tan, I have tried once or twice to apply fake tan myself at home and it looked awful, though granted, I am not good with my hands. I had marks around the elbows, knees and the whole lot was as patchy as your Grandma’s crochet. Often fake tans end up looking either too dark or orange and I haven’t seen many that don’t stand out like a pig on a spit at a PETA protest. I think the only people who can actually get away with them are those who are only boosting an already existent natural tan. Unfortunately, the pale seem to feel they need these fake tans to feel better about themselves and fit into ‘attractive’ society. We need to nip this in the bud, like, yesterday.

Ladies, I implore you to simply be yourselves. If you happen to be a naturally tanned lucky biatch, good on you. Work it baby, and I wish you all the best. But if, like me, you’re as white as a wedding dress, please let’s give ourselves a break! Join me in being ‘Proud and Pasty’. Ditch the fake tan, get intimate with your dermatologist, slip slop slap and most importantly – don’t be ashamed. Let’s band together in a fluorescent pack, sashay our chalky chazzis all over town with confidence and bring sexy back. Mr Darcy would approve, I know it.

In Bed With George Clooney

It’s a question that many have pondered from time to time: what is it like to be in bed with George Clooney? Well, ponder no more. When George and I are in bed together and it’s time to sleep, there is limited touching, minimal cuddling and definitely no spooning. We kiss goodnight and retire to separate sides of our Queen sized bed. Occasionally on holidays we get the luxury of a King size and can go a whole night without so much as touching. As part of a healthy, loving and committed relationship, I actually don’t really like him even facing me…though I promise that I am delightfully low maintenance in a number of other ways. He always sleeps on his left side and I sleep on the right side of the bed and hence always have his face sleeping near my face, staring at me all night through his eyelids. Creepy. Twin beds may be on the cards for my 40th.

Generally I am not a fan of most physical touch, particularly with those outside my ‘friends with benefits’ circle (see May 20 blog post if you’re confused). I couldn’t agree more with Jerry Seinfeld when he wanted to abolish all ‘kiss-hellos’ from his life. I am totally on board. I can tolerate a kiss hello from family, close friends or from my kids but the obligatory kiss and hug hello from acquaintances…please no! I have actually gone to lengths to avoid them much like my small screen hero Jerry, who has been my role model in this area. For example I can try sneezing or ‘accidentally’ looking the other way or having my head stuck in the fridge…that type of thing. But those excuses can only get you so far…there is always next time. Don’t get me wrong, sometimes I can be keen for some touchy-touchy. I have some dear friends who have been travelling the world for nearly 3 months now and I am really missing them. When they return I will bestow on them both a huge bear hug that may even linger just a little too long – and I will enjoy it. But that is the exception that proves the rule.

Recently I did the 5 love languages quiz and then made every member of my family over the age of 3 also partake (If you’ve not done it, give it it a go. It’s based on the great book by Gary Chapman and is very insightful. Go to http://www.5lovelanguages.com/). Chapman tells us there are 5 love languages: Physical touch, words of affirmation, quality time, receiving gifts and acts of service. My lowest score out of all categories was physical touch. Unfortunately, both my older kids had physical touch as their highest scoring category. I have been spending 6 & 9 years giving them unconditional words of affirmation (which incidentally is what I discovered that I want) when all they wanted was a hug. So that day we had a Mummy sandwich and their little love tanks were replenished, temporarily at least.

So moving forward I have 2 issues:

  1. Giving my family the love they want in physical affection, which often isn’t the first thing that comes to my mind.
  2. The social air kiss/hug hello from randoms.

I can easily suck it up and become the ‘Hug Santa’ for my kids, it’s just a matter of remembering to do it. And bedtime with George is all sorted as he shares my distaste of sleepy-time cuddling. The greater problem is how I can get out of having to touch other people. One friend I have made in the past year actually told me that she doesn’t like to be hugged or kissed hello. Brilliant! Thanks for letting me know and I wish it was all as easy as that. But there are certain people in my life who have just landed square in the ‘air kiss hello’ region and set up camp there. How do I remove them from that place? Probably writing this post may weed out a few of you but for the stubborn cling-ons, I am not sure. I think the problem I have is the perfunctory nature of the kiss hello. If you are doing it because you think you have to to be polite, it would be convenient to me if you would pretend you never read this post and just phase it out over the next 3-5 times you see me. But if you are kissing/hugging me because you genuinely love me and I am an important part of your life, I can get on board with that.

So please, my friends and acquaintances, reach into the depths of your heart to gauge your affection for me. If you are still unsure where you stand, let M.C. Hammer’s wise words be your guide…‘U Can’t Touch This’.

Will You Have What She’s Having?

Have you seen the classic 1989 rom-com ‘When Harry Met Sally’? The ‘Sally’ is Sally Albright, a quirky and loveable character living in NYC and looking for love. Do you remember how she ordered food in restaurants? She was extremely particular and always had to have a variation of what was on the menu. Her reason was “I just want it the way I want it.” In case you have no idea what I am talking about, watch this link:

There is a ‘Sally Albright’ in the life of every person. Someone who is a pain in the neck every time they order. Someone who makes the wait staff cringe every time they walk into their favourite cafe.  Think about your family, friends and loved ones. Who is it? If it’s none of them, then it’s probably you.

I have to admit to being a bit of a ‘Sally.’ I would guess that about 75% of the time I don’t order off the menu. I will either ask for something to be changed, omitted, added or sometimes just actually make up what I want. Basically what I am doing is saying to the chef: “You’ve trained, and practiced your craft and probably spent a lot of time working out a menu you’re proud of and think works well. Good on you. I just have a better idea.” And I have to admit that I have sent food back on quite a few occasions if I am not completely satisfied. But I do have to wonder what goes on in the waiter’s mind behind my back when I’m being difficult specific. I try to make up for it by being very grateful for food & drink delivery and lavish feedback when it’s good – I’m not a monster!

As particular as I can be, there is someone in my life who is much worse – my father. (I should mention that he is happy to be a blog subject and hopes to be included in many more posts. To that end he has suggested, very seriously, that he have the alias of ‘Arnie’. If my husband gets George Clooney, then he feels that he should have ‘Arnie’, a perfectly, legitimately appropriate nickname, in his mind. It’s so ridiculous that it could work. How about I humour him today and try it out? BTW no one else is getting an alias, I’m done.). So anyhoo, Arnie and I often go out for coffee and it’s plain embarrassing listening to his coffee order and the looks on the waiter’s/waitresses faces. It goes something like this, every time… “I’ll have a skim flat white, EXTRA hot, with 2 equals”. Then as s/he is walking off probably rolling their eyes he will call out…. “EXTRA hot please. And don’t forget the equals!” He keeps little equal sachets in his wallet like George Costanza just in case they do, heaven forbid, forget the equal. For years now my family have told him that he is probably drinking burnt coffee. He doesn’t care. Like Sally Albright, he just wants it the way he wants it.

The other day we met up for coffee again and it got a little crazy. He made his usual coffee order as I hung my head and pretended not to know him. The friendly waitress had the audacity to respond extremely politely with “Sure sir, I’ll ask the barista to make the milk as hot as he is able to without burning you.” Arnie replied “OK and then please put it in the microwave.” Not joking. Surprised, she said “we can’t do that, it’s a commercial microwave, it’s against regulation. We aren’t allowed to put a coffee cup in it.” My father was not impressed. The waitress went away and he then went on a tirade, telling my mother and me that this was terrible service, that when he’d done his MBA he’d learnt that the customer is ALWAYS RIGHT. My mother, sick of 43 years of having to listen to this, snapped “So if I go to a restaurant and asked them to serve me meatballs with maggots in them, then they should do it?”. “YES” my father firmly shot back, sticking to his guns although I had to wonder if even he could see his argument was wearing thin. Mum and I both felt that this poor waitress had been hardly done by. We tried to point out to my father that she was very courteous and willing to make his coffee as hot as allowed by LAW. But he was having none of it. His coffee arrived and although it didn’t actually burn a hole in his oesophagus, he deemed it to be acceptably hot. The waitress returned a little later to check that he’d enjoyed his coffee and say she hoped it had been hot enough. He admitted to us that maybe she was in fact ‘OK’, the coffee was pretty hot and he was happy enough generally about the place to declare “I’ll be back”. (*apply Schwarzenegger accent & insert drum beat here*).

Who is the Sally Albright in your life? Is it you? After reflection, do you need to terminate any ordering habits similar to Arnie’s (*drum beat* again). Maybe you don’t care – you also just want it the way you want it and believe that developing a tortured soul is simply an occupational hazard for any good waiter. Or are you the unwitting and embarrassed companion of a ‘Sally’, cringing every time you go out to eat or drink anywhere and hoping the waiter’s malicious spittle doesn’t rebound onto your plate? Wherever you sit, two things are worth remembering:

  1. The customer is always right.
  2. …But no one ever looked over at a ‘Sally’s’ loogie laced food and declared “I’ll have what she’s having.”

My Dirty Little Secret

My mother once complained wearily to her GP that “everything I do gets either eaten or dirtied”. Fast forward 30 years and here I am feeling the same way. I often wonder how she managed to be the amazing mother, wife and general superwoman that she was with 5 children – 3 kids are enough of a handful for me. She always used to say ‘hard work cures the blues’. She wasn’t referring to any medical conditions here, all she meant was when you’re having one of those days where you’re in a funk, don’t sit around and feed it, get out and do something. Get working, achieve something and you’ll feel better.

One particular morning recently I was home with Miss 2, the house looked a fright and I was feeling horrid. I find that manoeuvring kids through the before-school morning routine is like leading a herd of blindfolded goats with amnesia through a maze. After a few random outbursts and basically having my spirit broken by their selective hearing and never ending mess, I had run out the door to school leaving dirty floors, clothes everywhere and unwashed dishes all over the table. I returned home determined to clean. That will make me feel better, according to Mother dearest.

As I surveyed the pride land, I could see firstly that the carpets looked terrible. It was as if Hansel and Gretel had been lost in the bedrooms, frantically trying to find their way out. So I brought out my dirty little secret: the good old ‘Shark Navigator’ vacuum cleaner, a beloved friend who, I’m somewhat ashamed to admit, entered my life months earlier by way of a TV infomercial. Ever wonder who those pushy advertisers are brazenly targeting? Me and anyone like me with a high level of impulsiveness and access to a credit card, that’s who. Over a coffee one morning in front of the tele, there was the advert for the Shark Navigator. Wow! It could pick up coffee grinds, cereal, marbles…and then they brought out the big guns….this bad boy could suck up a BOWLING Carrie-vacuum2BALL! Holy balls! The fact that I did not have a house full of rogue bowling balls constantly underfoot and detracting from our quality of life was not at all important. And a bagless vacuum cleaner, with a clear receptacle where you could SEE all the dirt you pick up was very appealing. It would make you feel like you have really achieved something, like your day hasn’t been simply a wasted combination of food preparation and folding piles of clothes as tall as baby giraffes that will, of course, sit around for days, mocking you. Seeing that dirt after vacuuming would be like getting an emotional pat on the back. And sometimes we desperately need that pat. I was sold! I found that my fingers were dialling before my brain could catch up (and if you are wondering if my purchase also came with a set of knives, the answer is yes). My husband does not do impulse purchases and was not impressed with my spontaneity, as I had robbed him of the investigative purchasing process he holds dear. But I stood staunchly to my ground and the ‘shark’ has been my loyal minion ever since.

So that morning I switched on my trusty vacuum cleaner and got to work. After vacuuming 3 bedrooms and my hallway, it was full of dust, dirt, loom bands that seem to breed and goodness knows what else. I held it up to study it. The feeling I got was a bit like when you see one of those zit popping videos, you know the ones where they show you someone squeezing a huge pimple on some poor sod’s back and the pus keeps coming and coming. You can hardly watch because it’s totally disgusting. But you can’t look away either because it’s so satisfying. That is how I felt looking at my full receptacle, hardly able to believe that we had been living in all that filth. But I felt so pleased with the results I had achieved that I had a warm glow and a feeling of ‘my work here is done’. My spirits were lifted and my faith in my mother and her glorious wisdom was reaffirmed.

So I implore you, if you find yourself down in the dumps over the never ending filth your little humans produce, forget the shame of a TV informercial purchase, buy yourself a Shark Navigator vacuum cleaner and get to work! It’ll fix the funk and have you so satisfied that you’ll be reaching for that proverbial cigarette in no time.

 

The Dark Side of the ‘Fun’ Parent

In many homes there is a ‘fun’ parent and a ‘stable’ parent. The gap between them can be wide or narrow but it exists. I’m going to claim it: I am the ‘fun’ parent in our house. It’s not my fault, I was born this way. We have impromptu dance parties, sing ridiculous songs, play games and do crazy obstacle courses, often at inappropriate times. George is the ‘stable’ one and often the ‘bad cop’ to my ‘good cop’. If there is a plan to suddenly spring-clean the playroom, leading to outcries from our children similar to that of the Hebrew slaves in Egypt, it was generally instigated by George. If the plan is to scrap homework for the night, go out without shoes and get ice cream…well, that would be me. I am not saying that George can’t be fun. Of course he can. He is an extremely loving, patient and devoted father with an incredible endurance to spend quality time with our children. He will sit down for hours and draw with them, do lego or other lengthy & monotonous activities that would have me tearing my hair out with boredom. This is typical ‘stable’ parent behaviour – generous, kind and sincere. Their moods are more tempered though which means they’re often not as lively and amusing as the quintessential ‘fun’ parent.

But there is a dark side to the ‘fun’ parent that no one talks about. Fun parents can be manic and too crazy at times. We have short attention spans and are prone to mood swings. One minute we may be totally frenzied with excitement but then the moment is gone and we can’t be bothered anymore with the activity. This can leave hyped up kids dazed & dejected and the poor stable parent has to come in and clean up the emotional debris.

My father was definitely the fun parent when I was growing up. He also had a few mood hats and could switch from a fun-machine to a drill sergeant at a moments notice. After heavy rainfall he ran contests as to who could go out into the mud and get the dirtiest, with a delicious sugary prize for the winner, as seen in the attached photo, t1981 Bundamba January prize for the dirtier boyaken circa early 80’s. My sweet mother would watch, smiling patiently, but knowing she would be cleaning up the mess. He used to do treasure hunts round the yard for us that attracted a crowd of jealous neighbourhood kids who wished their dads would be half as awesome. Or at any given moment we could suddenly be shoved in the car and taken to run up and down the sand dunes in weather-inappropriate clothing. Bliss! And there was no end to the things we could get away with when our ‘fun’ parent was wandering around the house, deep in the intellectual hypnosis that usually accompanied his relaxed persona. Some of my brothers were avid surfers who liked to skip school and go surfing. Dad home? No problem…just duck out the window. My father, walking up the hall one school morning happened upon one brother passing his surfboard out the window to his fellow truant and attempting to climb out himself.  “Next time use the door” yelled my Dad at them and continued on his way.

But other times his mood would change and he would turn into the Sherlock Holmes of criminal observations. “Who’s left this bowl of half eaten cereal in the lounge?! Right, no TV, food or AIR for anyone til it’s cleaned up and don’t let it happen again!!!”. Although my Dad and I are very different in many ways, we do have these similarities. He was not a crazy, unstable parent by any means but he certainly did display many of these ‘fun’ parent characteristics and has passed them on to me. In the blink of an eye my bewildered children can watch me switch from Fraulein Maria to Captain Von Trapp and they never really know which persona will be getting out of bed to parent them each morning.

Some homes have either 2 competing fun parents or 2 stable parents. To the former: Ouch! Your house is a circus. Good luck with that. To the the latter, you neither want nor need my advice. You are happy with your schedules, jigsaw puzzles and enclosed footwear. Please just don’t forget Christmas, OK?

But my advice to other ‘fun’ parents in a ying/yang relationship is this: you can be a bit crazy and flighty. Admitting this to yourself is step 1. Realise that when you take your kids to heights of ecstatic happiness and suddenly pull the rug from under them, they may end up sad and confused. And just as importantly, respect your co-parent. Their reliability is your saving grace. You can only be the ‘fun’ one because they are willing to be the ‘stable’ one and pick up your slack…and they probably love you for it because that’s who they are, poor sods. So please take some of that crazy and lavish your ‘stable’ partner with the benefits. If you want to be the mad march hare, keep that workhorse fed & happy and they will continue plowing the field…and everybody wins.

 

The New and Improved Romeo & Juliet

When I met my husband it was like love at first sight. It was not a ‘When Harry Met Sally’ saga that went on for years. It was more like a ‘Romeo & Juliet’ immediate infatuation…but without the family feuds, emotional angst and eventual double suicide.

Perhaps I should start with the night before I met him. I had come from a string of relationships that ended up going nowhere and although I felt a bit frustrated, I was nowhere near breaking point. I was young, having fun and perky enough that everything was still pointing up, which really is the epitome of youthful femininity. I was doing OK. A girlfriend and I met up for a drink and we decided to swear off guys for a while. We decided we would move to Boston and live an adventurous and fulfilling single gal existence, whilst meeting new people, travelling and generally living the ‘girls just wanna have fun’ lifestyle. After a few cocktails, this seemed like a wise and foolproof recipe for happiness and general life success.

Fast forward to the next day. I was going up to a church in Sydney who were having a evening focusing on mission. At that point I was employed by a non-profit mission organisation and it was a work night for me. Crazily, I still remember what I wore – a pale pink cotton button up shirt that was kind of cute and an ankle length denim skirt that any Amish woman would be proud of. I was not on the prowl.

When I walked into the room, almost immediately I saw him. Our eyes met across a crowded room and for a split second the world stood still. “Wow, wow, wow” was all I could think. Dark hair, dark eyes, olive complexion…the opposite to me, which I have a partiality for.

The bubble burst rapidly as my gaze was soon drawn to the kids hanging off each limb, playing on him like a jungle gym. My eyes were darting back and forth from his handsome face, to these children he was babysitting (here’s hoping), to his ring finger which was bare as a bone. Was this a single dad, widower, divorcee or doting uncle?? I needed to find out – stat. Even though I was young, I felt I knew myself well enough to realise that I wasn’t the best person to parent children not produced from my own loins. But as the night went on, the children got lost in the crowd and he was kicking back, relaxing and chatting with other adults surrounding him and I was left to the conclusion that they weren’t his kids, he was just an appropriately child loving awesome, fun dude. Another tick in the ‘pro’ column.

We were seated at tables and as luck would have it, I happened to be seated next to his ex-girlfriend’s mother. An ex-girlfriend who had recently and violently ripped out his heart, minced it up and fed it to her dogs. He has since told me that he was racking his brains as to who I was – was I some relative of his ex-girlfriend that he’d never met? Why had I been concealed from him at family events? He was on high alert too.

Carrie-met-George-0I got up and gave a talk to this crowd. He was watching and liked what he saw. Apparently the Amish look was working for him. Sitting next to him were his two close friends. He looked at his friends. His friends looked at him. There was an understanding between them. Unbeknownst to me, the mission was on for these friends to introduce us. Afterwards I was chatting to one of them, who was nodding along but not actually listening to a word I was saying. She was simply biding time and plotting an excuse to call George over…and apparently coming up blank. Our one sided conversation droned on as I attempted to promote my organisation. As home time loomed and this was the time before smart phones and Navman, I asked this girl if she knew the directions to another Sydney suburb I was headed to. This evidently woke her from her hypnosis and she burst out “No, but HE DOES!!!!” and grabbed George, as he was loitering nearby. “HE is the GURU of directions!” She then faded into the background, leaving us alone. And that was it. Sparks flew and the rest is history. We were married less than 18 months later.

The ironic part about this whole story is that George has a terrible sense of direction. He gets lost in car-parking stations semi-regularly and has a collection of street directories as large as an Agatha Christie library. It took me a little while to notice how bad his affliction actually was and then part of me felt that I had been sold a lie.

But it’s OK. For better or worse, Google Maps keeps our marriage strong.

Hollywood, Husbands & Hipflasks…the Mummy’s Dummy Guide to the Movies

One of my favourite pastimes is going to the movies. I have a few friends who are my faithful movie buddies and we go so regularly that I have it down to a fine art. Here is my list of essential guidelines to make every trip to the movies a roaring success:

  1. Timing. Instead of ‘location location location’, it’s ‘timing, timing timing’. As a mother of young children, I have learned that the best time to plan a trip to the movies involves minimising the opportunity cost of what will you be missing at home. If it’s something undesirable, such as dealing with the whole dinner, bath and bedtime debacle, the value of your movie sky rockets. The ideal time to leave home is around 5.30-6pm. By the time you get home, your children should be slumbering like hibernating bears. A whipped supportive husband is crucial to this step.
  2. Movie snacks. I usually don’t buy movie candy bar food. Only in a sweet-tooth emergency will I ever decide spending $9 on a 200 gram bag of M&M’s is a good idea. And I am not a fan of popcorn. Normally I will bring chocolate/lollies from home. I have been banned by George from bringing Maltesers to a movie. He finds them too loud and crunchy, which detracts from his enjoyment of the film. But watching a movie without Maltesers detracts from my enjoyment of the film. This leaves us at a stalemate. Which brings me to my next point…
  3. Movie buddy. It is essential to pick an appropriate companion who will be comfortable with your desired snack food and level of chatting during the film. One of my regular movie buddies discourages commentary and talking during a movie but since she ticks all my other boxes, I let it slide. It is also vital to pick someone with an accommodating husband who won’t deter the early exit that is crucial to maximum movie enjoyment. If your proposed companion’s husband is unwilling to feed, bath & put their children to bed, forcing you to go to the 9.30pm session *shudder*,  consider her now dead to you.
  4. Beverages. I rarely go to the movies without smuggling in beer, cider, wine, or occasionally if I am feeling a little crazy, maybCarrie-movie1e something in the ‘vodka cruisers’ family. If I am going to enjoy a movie, I will certainly enjoy it more with the consumption of contraband alcohol. The gratification gained from an illicit beverage should not be underestimated. My husband doesn’t love me bringing drinks in as he finds it a bit bogan. Luckily, we don’t often venture out to the movies together so usually I am free to knock it back like a dehydrated camel. I should clarify that I don’t normally sneak booze into kids’ movies, though ironically that is where there is a greater need for it.
  5. Arrival time. Don’t get there too early or even on time. George took a lot of training in this area. When we first met, he would want to rush to get there for the session time. Don’t bother, they always start late. Take your time. Stop and grab some sushi or a cocktail. Whilst you may miss an ad for your local ugg boot factory or personal injury lawyer, you certainly won’t miss the start, so do not fret.
  6. Flying solo. Don’t be afraid to go alone. I have, on numerous occasions, gone to the movies alone if I cannot find a companion. I am a spontaneous person, so often if I decide at 5.45 to go to a 6pm movie, I can’t find anyone available to go with me. I know, crazy – right! That does not stop me. I have sat there by myself on a weeknight, with my hipflask and bag of Maltesers, knowing that I am NOT in fact, a loser. I have left my husband at home with 3 wide eyed children and a sink full of dirty dishes. I am a winner.

Ladies, I hope these pointers have opened your eyes and will help you to unlock your full movie-going potential. Implement my guidelines and before you know it, you & your chosen sidekick will be tap dancing around like Annie and Miss Farrell singing ‘Let’s go to the Movies’ in excited anticipation.

Friends With Benefits

What is the definitive sign that a friend has moved into the inner sanctum of your friendship circle? Recently we had some friends around for dinner and over a few drinks we got to talking about what the ‘tell’ is that they have crossed into that sacred realm. You know, that friend you’d take swimsuit shopping, or ask to help you bury the body.  As we went around the table, several ideas came up including:

  • You can go to your friend’s fridge without asking and help yourself to whatever tickles your fancy.
  • You’d be happy to turn up to your friend’s house for the evening in your slippers. The next level of friendship is arriving at their house in your pajamas.
  • You would have no qualms about answering natures less appealing call in their toilet.
  • You park in their driveway.
  • You can get away with the ‘pop in’.
  • You enter their house without knocking.
  • You may, on occasion, discipline their kids in front of them.
  • You don’t clean your house before they come over.
  • You would go to bed while they are still in your home.

Recently I was babysitting the children of some close friends whom I have known many years. I thought about how I could show them they were belovCarrie-Ugg-Bootsed by me that evening by claiming some of those friendship benefits. Of course I would be raiding their fridge, that just goes without saying as one of the rights of the unpaid babysitter…but they wouldn’t be home to see and be emotionally blessed by it. I couldn’t park in their driveway as they would be going out and it would mean parking them in. Hmmmm. There was nothing left to be done than to turn up to their house on that cold and windy night in my pajamas, ugg boots and dressing gown. Yes that’s right, in my conspicuous, bright pink, fluffy dressing gown. Exposing myself in that way is basically like giving them a friendship medallion on a necklace where I have one half and they get the other half.

When I knocked on the door, I wasn’t sure of the reception I would receive. My friend opened the door and was surprised and then immediately delighted. She quickly grabbed her phone, took a photo of me and posted it to social media without my permission (perhaps another friendship tell right there). There was no look of ‘what the hell is she doing’. It was understood. Her husband, however did look a little surprised but to give him credit, he went with it. After they left, I poured myself a glass of white wine and raided their lolly jar. “There is no better way I can show them what they mean to me” I thought, as I chugged down a second glass of wine.

After reading my list you may fall into 1 of 2 categories. Either you have looked at my list and realised you do all of those things regularly to everyone you know. That doesn’t necessarily mean you have lots of close friends. It could just mean that you are an obnoxious jerk. Alternatively, you have realised that you have dear friends whose love tanks need a bit of filling up. If you’re the former, there is no known cure. If you’re the latter, you need to take stock of your friends. If there are any of them who you feel particularly close to, don’t fail to let them know that they hold a special place in your heart. Pop in today, unannounced and in your pajamas. Park in their driveway and let yourself into the house. Help yourself to a beer from the fridge, smack one of their kids and then go number 2 in their bathroom. Believe me, they will be touched.

 

Tennis

As mentioned, shame has motivated me to start playing tennis again. A friend recently asked me to join her comp when I showed an interest. It had been 20 years since I had played regular tennis and I was feeling very nervous that I would be too rusty

I had given up tennis due to a combination of laziness, the demands of mothering young children and a fear of commitment. That is a story for another post but basically I hate having regular events in my diary. I prefer to live each day as it comes, with no commitments or obligations. We’ll talk about that psychological defect another time.

Tennis-3With great trepidation I turned up at my first match. I was worried I would be so terrible that I would embarrass myself.  As the game began, I did start to feel embarrassed and it only worsened as the evening progressed. But it was not because of my tennis ability. To my surprise, I wasn’t that bad. Of course I was the worst one there but I was still at the bottom of the general realm of what was considered acceptable for that division.

What was embarrassing was my level of fitness. Up until now I had been doing non-scheduled activities such as dog walking and yoga classes. I quickly realised that the past 10+ years of posing in down dog, sun warrior and kicking back in happy baby pose had not prepared me for the onslaught my body would be taking that night. Just in case yoga enthusiasts attempt to track me down and beat me with their yoga mats, let me clarify – yoga can be very difficult. But it’s strength based, not cardio. Not long into the first set I was breathing heavily and guzzling water. As the evening went on, my panting increased to a level I previously imagined could only be produced by that big white creature from the Never Ending Story. Sweat dripped off my entire body, a phenomenon quite unfamiliar to me, and I was wetter than Jessica Simpson at a car wash, though considerably less attractive. While everyone else looked powder fresh, I was exposed, saturated and heaving. Somehow I made it through the night. I can’t say whether we won or lost, I was simply grateful to have made it through 3 sets without collapsing.

My other initial issue was tennis clothing. Not being that active in any sports, I had little sporting apparel except yoga pants. And everyone knows you need a pocket for that extra tennis ball. I made a trip to a 24 hour K-mart on my way to my first match and all I could find was one pair of royal blue shorts, with pockets, marked down to $3 as there was a little hole in the leg. Sold. But as I turned up week after week I noticed the in thing for women was to wear tiny tennis skirts regardless of their age or body type. There was some compartment underneath that held the spare ball but I had no idea what. Once she served a fault, the lady would reach under her skirt and pull a ball out. But where was it coming from!? It was almost like she was laying an egg. I couldn’t ask…but my curiosity was soon rewarded. On my birthday, my husband bought me a tennis skirt, complete with attached bike pants – that’s where they shove the ball! I quickly tried it on to check it fit around the waist then took it off. On my next tennis night I excitedly put the skirt on with a singlet top and stood in front of a full length mirror. Uh oh. There was a muffin top showing. Not to mention that it was really short. Shorter than something I would have worn out clubbing in my younger years when I may have been able to get away with it. I felt so… exposed. In front of Georgie boy I walked up the hall and asked if he could see any cellulite.

“No!” he said, sounding shocked.

“Really?” I asked skeptically.

“You don’t really have any anyway” he replied innocently.

“What?” I said sharply.

“You don’t really have any” he replied, less confidently, as if afraid of a trap.

Ah…overuse of hyperbole, the classic mistake of the sycophantic husband. Men, flattering your wife is like playing poker: don’t overplay your hand, or you’ll be forced to fold.  Either way, the tennis skirt was not making an appearance that night. I knew that when I bounced around the court that thing would billow up like a parachute on a windy day. The $3 shorts have remained my loyal friends.

Since starting, I have continued to improve. I still pant and sweat but I only look like I’ve run through a sprinkler rather than been blasted by a fire hose. And I have really enjoyed myself, win or lose. You get to the point where you don’t mind losing points here or there as long as it means avoiding a ball in the boob. And I am hoping that the muffin top will soon be gone so that the skirt can make its debut.

Tennis, you have made me sweat, pant and turn up to the same place every week… but I have so much love for you and only some of it is on my scorecard.

 

Day Spa

At Christmas, I was given a gift voucher for a swanky day spa from a very generous friend. All women deserve a little break from reality at times to enter such a tranquil place and I was super excited recently to redeem it. I assumed there would be cucumber water in the lobby, fresh flowers, flickering candles and irritating rainforest music. You know the type of place I’m talking about. The ladies who work there are serene and perfectly made up. They definitely do not look like they have recently dealt with a code brown in a child’s undies… which incidentally I was forced to do 10 minutes before I left home.

Before I went I had a look on their website to see what I was in for with the specific package I had been gifted. I couldn’t help but notice that it had cost $300 for 2 hours.  I thought “My gosh –  what are they doing for me for that amount money in 2 hours?! Botox? A brow lift? Collagen implants? I’m ready baby! Ready for a new and improved me with fuller, poutier lips and eyes that reach the skies!”

As soon as I got there I could see that my predictions had been correct. It was set in a fancy-pants hotel and had all the bells and whistles I had expected. Instead of cucumber water, I was offered a totally natural and organic herbal tea, which no doubt also had colon cleansing qualities. My beauty therapist introduced herself as ‘Sharon’ (I have changed her name, albeit slightly, to protect her privacy. You are now trying to work out which name is closest to Sharon aren’t you? Good luck).

Sharon led me into a small, dimmed room complete with a massage bed and its own shower. It was full of potions and lotions and had large feathers laid randomly about for no apparent reason. The rainforest music was sounding melodically in the background. It was a serene little oasis, just for me. She instructed me to strip off and put on the disposable undies that were laid out for me.

Day-Spa-4I obediently stripped and lay down, covering myself with the towel, face down in the hole. Sharon returned and began rubbing and caressing my entire body, almost lovingly, using a range of scrubs, lotions and muds. She painstakingly applied each separate layer to each limb/body part with a full massage every time. It was amazing and I began to mentally float away, completely relaxed.

But after about 10 minutes, I began to stress. My first dilemma: Whilst receiving any type of massage I am always at odds with the age old question of “do I make small-talk with the masseur?” If I was giving the massage, I would be bored stiff without some conversation. This woman was getting to know my body intimately so I figured the least I could do was to throw her a bone, conversationally. But sometimes when you’re lying there, so relaxed, you just can’t be bothered. Which is when the guilt starts. To talk or not to talk?? I decided today to hedge my bets and asked a few light questions and then left the ball in her court. It was not returned. Fine. If she had hoped for a D & M today and felt let down, then she only had herself to blame. I could now allow myself to enjoy a guilt free rub down. Crisis averted.

Dilemma number 2: I had purposely shaved my legs before coming today. The thought of some poor woman rubbing down my spiky legs was too shameful to consider. Whatever her wages, they weren’t enough to cover a task that would be equivalent to embracing a pair of cacti. So I’d given them a quick once over in the shower that morning. This turned out to be a big mistake. Do you know what happens to freshly shaved legs when they are rubbed down with a myriad of lotions? They burn like a British backpacker on Bondi Beach. But I kept my mouth shut. I could handle this.

My third problem was becoming more serious than any other. Now it is common knowledge that any woman who is getting a massage, facial or any other pampering treatment that involves being naked on a table, will at some point or other be betrayed by her bladder. Combine this fact with a cup full of herbal tea and melodic rainforest music with trickling water sounds and you’re really fighting a losing battle. “I can hold it. I can hold it. I can hold it…OK – I can’t hold it.” But I was on a table, mid body-polish, covered in mud. I was supposed to see this out, have a shower and then have a facial. But I couldn’t wait any longer, the enjoyment had ended and I was almost in pain. “It’s OK” I told myself. “I’ll just ask to have a quick potty break, wrap myself in a towel and dash down the hall and be back in 2 minutes, no harm no foul.” I tried to ask casually about using the facilities but the pressure on my bladder had somehow travelled to my larynx and I heard myself speaking in a kind of high, strangled voice. Shazza informed me that their facility was not, in fact, equipped with a toilet and that I’d have to have a shower, get dressed and head out to the hotel lobby toilets. No toilet?!?! Are you freaking kidding me?! I was lying there getting a $300 treatment in a room with its own shower and feathers that look like they’ve been harvested illegally from a real ostrich, after being plied with hot tea and they didn’t think to put in a toilet!? They should really think about offering clients a catheter with their herbal tea upon arrival!!

But I had no alternative. Shaz finished up prematurely and sent me to the shower. Now at this point I was on the verge of bursting. I looked into the shower and saw the drain. For a split second I considered…well, you know. But no! I couldn’t possibly do that in a public shower. Of course we all do it at home from time to time when nature calls… but a stranger’s shower is a different story. I am no George Costanza…I do have some dignity! And more importantly, how would I explain to Sharon, who was waiting at reception ready to give me directions to the lobby loos, that after the shower my pee pee had magically disappeared? No, the gain was not worth the shame. I showered, scrubbing off 5 layers of body paste as hurriedly as I could and rushed out to the toilets. You remember that scene in Austin Powers where he takes a wizz after being unfrozen? That…and then some. I then hurried back to my little room, stripped off, all ready for the application of my body ‘custard’ and facial.

But the spell had been broken. On re-entering the room, now with the knowledge of the lack of toilet, my initial impressions of opulence had somewhat dimmed. I was suspicious, doubting and disillusioned. Then I saw it. Out of the corner of my eye, an Aldi tissue box was poking out from under a cupboard…being very naughty. It had almost certainly been told not to make a public appearance. It was their dirty little secret. In all this grandeur, that humble little tissue box brought me back to reality. I had to wonder whether the fancy bottles of lotions had been decanted with good old Aldi beauty products. But I’m not too proud. I enjoy a bit of Aldi. Where else can you buy fresh poultry, a $4 bottle of wine and hedge-trimmer all in the same place?

I had been punted back to reality, which was really a good thing as I was about to re-enter the regular world, much like an astronaut returning to earth after a space mission. By now, after a 2 hour rub down that was generally greatly enjoyed, I was ready to come home. Shazza finished up my facial and told me to take my time getting up, presumably in case she had lulled me into a psychosis.

It’s usually hard to come back to the harsh reality of motherhood and to a home without fresh flowers and oversized feathers. But I’ll be eternally grateful to the Aldi tissue box for making that transition a little easier this time.

A Princess is Born! A word from a Commoner…

I guess you’ve heard – a Princess has been born! I heard the news late last night and got very excited. We had had visitors for dinner earlier that evening and while the men sat around talking about… I dunno… exhaust pipes and hammers, we women were talking about the Duchess of Cambridge being in labour…and when will the baby be born…and what gender will it be… and what name will they call it etc etc. I’m a fan of the royals. I made a night of watching the royal wedding with my then 5 year old daughter. I was excited at the birth of Prince George and glued myself to the couch to watch Sunrise that morning as they replayed the exact same footage on a loop for about 5 hours. I can’t get enough. It is a fascination with the lives of those beautiful people… a window we can peak through into the whole other alluring world of the Royals.

My friend and I both agreed that Princess Kate is extremely stunning specimen of womanhood. Although born a commoner, she seems every bit the royal now, exuding excessive levels grace, beauty and style wherever she goes. But as much as I love the royals and Kate herself, how does it make us feel when she pops out onto the hospital steps a few hours after the birth in a cute yellow number looking like she could take to the runway? Far out! What is in the water that girl is drinking and where can I get some? Yes I’m sure she had a hair and make up team working on her, and a rack full of designer dresses to choose from, but still – come on! She had just gone through hours of labour and then pushed a baby out her hoohoo. It seems almost criminal to look that good!

My own birthing experience was quite different. It is, in fact, another story for another time. But to sum up, it was about 38 hours of excruciating labour, a posterior baby who was determined to reside in my uterus for the duration of her existence, resulted in an emergency caesarean and finished off with a general anaesthetic as the cherry on top. Not exactly text book. There is a photo of me just after I have woken from my general. I have been brought back into my room and am holding a new baby girl and I look….well… a fright. My face was extremely swollen from pregnancy fluid retention, I was exhausted after losing 2 nights sleep, completely traumatised from an experience I can only imagine being similar to torture and my ‘bed hair’ was classic – classically hideous. I couldn’t stand up and would have been in no way ready to have my face or any other body part being seen by a curious and gaping world.

But I guess that is the reason that Kate is royal and I am not. Fear not though. I am happy for her. I don’t deny or envy her her amazing looks, lustrously tamed hair, slim figure throughout pregnancy & beyond and a gorgeous little prince & now princess in her nursery. No – I would rather be able to sail through life as a commoner – wearing converse & jeans, drinking a beer, and not being concerned with flashing anyone when removing myself from a vehicle. I think it’s a very fair trade.

Kate  – I genuinely wish you health, joy and happiness with your baby Princess. But I might also wish you a little less of a thigh gap.

Gaga 4 Gilbert

To any men who may have been invited, persuaded or even tricked into following this blog, read on at your own risk. There will be talk of bosom friends, puffed sleeves and possibly even flowering cherry trees…this one may go over your heads. Girls – I’ve got you covered.

To my dismay, I read recently that Jonathan Crombie, the actor best known for playing Gilbert Blythe in ‘Anne of Green Gables’, had died at age 48 on April 15 of a brain haemorrhage. This news, although tragic, brought back many happy memories of watching ‘Anne of Green Gables’ which has always been one of my favourite movies. Before you put me in a box, I should add that ‘Dumb & Dumber’ is also another favourite. What can I say?… I am an enigma. As a child (and let’s be honest, a teenager and woman) I watched ‘Anne’ over and over again. Growing up as the only girl in a home with 4 brothers, it was like a refuge for me. My brothers would put on the cricket for hours on end and I would repay them with the 3 hour version of ‘Anne’ and then the subsequent sequels, a total of about 10 hours of viewing pleasure. I’m not sure if that trauma ever completely left them and it certainly took some of them many years before they could even look at a red headed woman without shuddering. But for me, it was bliss, the first movie particularly. I think I still know all the lines off by heart. And it didn’t matter how often I watched it, not even my stone cold heart (you’ll learn…) could resist blubbering like a baby each time I watched Matthew die…“I never wanted a boy… I only wanted you…from the first day”. Oh come on! If you can’t cry at that you must be some kind of cyborg.

The original Anne movie was something preferably watched with a kindred spirit and I tried to do just that. I recall the first time I watched it with hubby George not long after we were married. As I suspected, he had not seen it and I felt the need to remedy that. We were holidaying in a little house on the NSW central coast and on a rainy day, I suggested we put it on. He reluctantly agreed, I think partly because there wasn’t much else to do and partly because he envisaged earning significant brownie points. Wisely, I omitted disclosing to him the duration of the film, lest he change his mind from the outset. As Anne’s story unfolded, he coped. I think he may have even enjoyed it (enjoyed/tolerated…potato/potato). At around the 90 minute mark, he asked how long it had to go. I couldn’t meet his eyes as I told him we were only about halfway through. My sensitive, loving husband was done. “I’m sorry” he said. “I just can’t do this, I’m outta here”…and before I could say ‘carrots’, he had vanished, leaving behind only a puff of smoke and a butt print on the couch where he had once sat. Apparently the gain was not worth the pain. Men!

IMG_2479

But for us gals, an Anne of Green Gables viewing was an almost sacred affair. It was such a pure, clean pleasure. No sex, swearing or violence, just beauty and goodness set in a heavenly place filled with brooks, meadows, flowering cherry trees and puffed sleeves. Megan Follows portrayal of Anne Shirley was superb. Gosh I loved Anne’s ambition, her temper, her courage, her outbursts & subsequent apologies and of course, her red hair! It was immensely satisfying to watch her gain a family, education, a ‘bosom friend’ and eventually, true love.

Crombie’s portrayal of Gilbert was also a huge part of the success of the film series. He was perfection. What girl watching didn’t dream of him saying to them “there will never be anyone for me but you”. Gilbert was sensitive and faithful enough to pine over his unrequited love for years on end, gallant enough to graciously accept Anne’s volatile behaviour towards him, man enough to be able to love a fiery & independent woman and good looking enough to tempt us all.

Sadly, Jonathan Crombie is no longer with us. But Gilbert Blythe will continue to live on in our hearts and make the men in our lives look inadequate for many years to come.

The First One

Hello. I have decided to write a blog and if you are reading it, then I’m off to a good start. I am a thirty-something year old wife of 1 and mother of 3 (wouldn’t want to mix those up) living in NSW, Australia. I have been married to hubby for 11 & 1/2 years and he’s awesome. Let’s nickname him “George Clooney” as he is handsome and greying prematurely. Carrie

I’ve got 3 great kids – Miss 8, Master 6 and Mini Miss 2. I love my husband and kids and know I am doing the most important job in the world raising little people and all that… but after 9 years out of the full time workforce sometimes I can feel a little restless with the monotony of the stay at home mother life and the lack of creative outlet. Do you ever feel you might have something to say but there’s no one over 2 years old to listen?  

I had dinner with a group of women recently that included friends and acquaintances. We were talking about hobbies, talents and how we spend our time. Some were musical, some danced, some had crazy arts/crafts habits and most had careers but they all did something. The gal next to me turned and asked ‘ Are you musical?’

Me “No, can’t read a note”.

She said “Did you dance as a kid?”

Me “Nope, I have no hand/eye/foot co-ordination, I struggle doing the Nutbush.”

Someone else “Do you play sport now”.

Starting to hang my head I said in a small voice “no” (there was then a long pause as people couldn’t help but to turn and watch me curiously) “…but I like to watch TV”.

What am I doing with my life?? Apparently nothing worth impressing anyone at this dinner, myself included. But it got me thinking. It’s not like I do nothing but sit around and watch TV. I run a household, look after the kidlets, go to church, do weekly yoga and enjoying hanging with friends…but I realised it is more about having that extra something that you’re passionate about, or that stimulates the brain. That extra string to my proverbial bow. Due to possibly a combination of lack of child-free time and laziness, there is currently no extra string (kicking myself for quitting the clarinet at age 10 and the piano at age 12!). But maybe there could be….? I have always enjoyed a good laugh as well as telling a yarn. Hopefully now writing this blog will give me something creative to do with my time and energy…if you are willing to read my stuff.

I should give you my rules/guidelines: I am not political. I will not be talking deeply about such issues as policies, taxes, asylum seekers or global warming (though the large ears, or dreamy looks of certain politicians may get a mention here or there). I am not interested in discussing how to decorate your home, or providing you with nutritious lunch box ideas in the shapes of smiley faces for your kids or how to use your leftover candle stubs for DIY home pube waxing.

I will however try to amuse you with stories from my life, past and present, my crazy kids, our overweight kelpie ‘Cedric’ and issues of parenthood, wifehood (is that a word?), TV shows, wine-time musings and other general trivial pursuits. Ladies, if I can cause you to grin, chuckle, or better still – pee a little, I’ll be a happy woman. Men, you are more than welcome to read along but I am not really writing with you in mind. Comments such as ‘You go girl!’ or ‘I totally agree with everything she has to say’ will be tolerated but keep them brief and to the point. 

Over and out.

PS. Since writing this I have been shamed into joining a tennis comp. Game. Set. Match.