Thursday, 28 June 2012

Life is a mystery...everyone must stand alone.

I have no answers, only questions. 
Food mysteries

1. Why does sourdough bread taste so good on it's own and yet mysteriously compel you to put more and more butter on it until it's a heart attack in your hand?

2. Why is McDonald's so evil and yet, on a road trip, so convenient and unavoidable?  And why are McDonald's french fries so bloody tasty?

Household mysteries

3. Why does a child who 'never ever wets the bed' always do so the very night after you've boasted talked about this to someone.

4. Why does this always happen the night after you change the sheets?

5. Socks.  Laundry. Black hole. 'nuff said.

Shopping mysteries

6. Why, do I always forget one thing from the shopping list.  Even though it's written down plainly and I've checked it several times.

7. Why is the forgotten shopping list thing always something a bit obscure but entirely necessary, like toilet rolls, or washing powder, required me to go back to the shops again almost immediately?

8. Why can't I ever, ever enter a shop, whether Coles, IKEA or the bakery, without buying something I never intended to buy.  Often several things.  Occasionally, like today, a whole trolleyful.

9. Why can I buy a 3 pack pair of gorgeous high quality pjs online from an overseas shop for $30 but if I walk into an Australian department store, it's $30 for one pair?

Mysterious mysteries

10. Why do people try to win lotto?  The odds are appalling.  Face it people.

Wednesday, 27 June 2012

Farewell, my sweet...oven.

Last week I posted about how my oven ended it's life.  Because that's just the sort of mad, crazy subject matter I like to post about.  It was a Tuesday, of course.

Being thirty years old, and of an indisputably strange design, I did not mourn it.  But I did mourn the ability to cook inside the house.
Weirdest oven in the world.  
Because I am not camping. I am at home. And it's Australia 2012.  Yes, I know it's a first world problem.

Our bbq, which sits on the back deck, has a gas burner, which I valiantly cooked several meals on.  The most memorable being spag bol at 7:30am in the rain (swimming night- have to cook early).

After two days of this I got my act together enough to order a new stove/oven.  On the internet. Unseen, untouched.  For some reason, we thought we were clever to do this.

It's so easy! we thought, clearly delusional by this point from too many hours standing in the rain and cooking.  We'll just whack out the old one, bash out the drawers underneath and whack in the new one.  What could be simpler?

And because we're cheap, we decided to pick up instead of having the damn thing delivered, saving a grand total of $45.  It was supposed to arrive at the store on Sunday, allowing Mike to collect it.  But of course it didn't.

Not deterred, Mike invited his mate over on Sunday afternoon to help remove the old unit, with the promise of a bit of demolition and a beer being hard to resist for any man.  His theory being, at least the old oven would be gone.

They came up against a few obstacles.  Firstly in a final middle finger salute to us, it was hard wired into the electricity, not just plugged in.  Secondly it was even heavier than it looked.  And it looked REALLY heavy.

Mike and our mate spent a bit of time discussing a plan B but as no-one was an electrician we left it there.  Our friend drank his beer and left for his home which has a working stove/oven.  It also currently houses a newborn, so I was not envious because a broken oven neither cries nor requires breastfeeding.

On Tuesday afternoon Issy and I stood in the freezing rain for 25 minutes outside the loading dock area of Seconds World while some Irish backpackers who I'm pretty sure worked there located our new oven and loaded it into the back of the car.

When I got home I had to rearrange the car so the children could actually sit in it and I could go to karate and swimming.  There was no way I was getting the bastard out on my own.

When we finally did get it out, and into the house, we discovered it too, required hard wiring to a power source.

I really don't know why I didn't start crying at this point but I didn't.  I am stronger than I look.  Even to myself.  Did I mention it was Tuesday?

So today has been oven day.  All day.  First I rang our extra handy handyman Pete, whose brother JP  knows far more about me than he should as reported here.  And Pete who last time I needed him had a broken arm? hand? said he'd better come too, which was just as well as it's a pretty heavy mofo.

Pete and JP rocked up, and they ummed and aahed, bashed and crashed.  Lifted and grunted in a manly way.  They have a preferred electrician and so I didn't have to think about finding one, or worry about complex electrical stuff.

Quite a bit of manly grunting went on at this part. 
And before I knew it, my old oven had left the building.

Interesting Feature: oven door lifts up not out (sort of like a sports car, but not really). 
And in it's place? This dinky little number.  It's sooo cute.  And it cooks and stuff.

There's no doubt we could have saved some money by making sure our new appliance came with a power cord but I'm trying not to think of that, instead, I'm just enjoying being inside while cooking dinner.

And the $45 we saved on delivery can make a tiny contribution towards the bills, when they come in.

It's worth it.  At least that's what I tell myself.

First world problem solved.

Are we having fun yet?

Community Service Part Two- The School Olympics Fun Day.

Yes, fun day.   Fun damn it. 

A school fundraiser, in the park, on a beautiful crisp winter’s afternoon. 

Because it was ‘run’ by year 3, year 3 parents were expected to do the lion’s share of the volunteering.  And we did. 

We refereed soccer, adjudicated netball, judged gymnastics.   Made cakes, kept score, put things up, took things down. 

Families were sorted into countries with two to three families in each.  Each country travelled as a pack around 10 ‘events’.  The events included the three legged 100m sprint, tug-o-war and shot put. 

The idea was to have fun.  And raise a bit of money for the school.  Which we did.

There was a costume element with a prize for the best dressed team.  Some teams went all out.  The Christensens were part of Ireland.  My husband excelled by wearing a green leprechaun hat with attached beard for most of the afternoon.  I wore a top hat, which informed everyone I was Irish on St Patrick’s day. 

My job as volunteer was to assemble 2 beach volleyball courts/nets and referee one of them.  The Dad who was rostered to ref the other court and I assembled the nets, in such a way that has never been done before and will never be repeated.  I doubt even we could repeat it.  Let’s just say one of them was perfect for kids (or perhaps the seven dwarfs).  The other was the right height but you couldn’t touch it or it fell over.  Together we were a great team. 

Exactly one minute after we finished assembling the final net, the first team appeared over the horizon. 

The rules for our beach volleyball were simple but didn’t have much to do with volleyball.  Each team divided themselves up on either side of the net.  They had to pass the ball across the net as many times as possible in five minutes without dropping it.  If they dropped, I started the count again.  I took their best score. 

Kids under 10 were allowed to throw and catch.  Adults were supposed to use proper volleyball moves.  Believe me when I tell you a bit of volleyball in high school and watching the girls win gold in the Olympics does not make one an expert volleyballer.  After a few disasters, I let everyone throw and catch. 

Due to the varied ages, sizes and respect for rules of each team, the scores varied wildly.  As a ref, I got better as I went along and was generous to teams full of small people.  Especially if their parents were including them and not just passing the ball back and forth over their heads (yes this happened). 

The beach was so small that if the ball was dropped (really, really often) it would often roll into the water and begin to drift alarmingly out to sea.  I decided ball retrieval was beyond my scope of duties but did begin to introduce ‘ocean time’, a concept similar to football injury time.  This gave people plenty of time to get their shoes off and wade in for the ball without losing any of their precious five minutes. 

The five minutes were more precious to some teams than others. 

A few things I noticed. 

1.     Some people, no matter where you put them, are ultra competitive.  They just can’t help it.  It doesn’t matter if you’re playing beach volleyball with a bunch of people barely over 110cm, they’re still playing hard to win.  And they’re not above attempting to influence (hassle) the ref to give them a higher score.  Really?  Because it’s so important? 
2.     Some kids just aren’t sporty.  And there’s nothing you can do about it.  They may be the children of sporty parents, some of whom totally get their kid and are dealing with the fact that they may not have parented a future world champion in -insert sport here-.  Others can’t get their head around it and the result is stressful for everyone. 
3.     Kids are born to have fun.  They may not want to play the game you want them to play, but they’re going to play anyway.  Some played volleyball, some wrestled their brother on the ground, some started building sandcastles, out in the sun, with their parents and friends near the beach, it didn’t matter.  They were having a ball.

And that made us all very happy.  But seven shades of knackered by the end of the day.  Fun is very tiring.  

Monday, 25 June 2012

My brief retail adventure.

This weekend just gone was all about community.  Well at least, it started and ended with community and included a bit of rugby union in the middle.

There was so much community I've had to divide it into two blog posts.

Josh's age group was hosting at home this weekend, which meant volunteering for duties on canteen and bbq for me and Mike.  After racing away from a nail biting 2 point netball loss we made it to our posts 10 minutes late.

No-one minded.  You do what you can.

I entered the canteen, knowing nothing.  But I learned quickly.  Not without a few hiccups.  

In what I believe is a unique situation, our canteen comes with it's very own Gen Y cash register operator.  In fact, he may not even be Gen Y.  He's only 16.  What comes after Gen Y?

Anyways, he is doing his 'Duke of Edinburgh' award (which means he needs to do 40 hours of community service) so he's been hanging out running the canteen and keeping us Mummys away from the technology.

The canteen has a very specific and brief inventory list consisting of chips, kit kats, m&ms, killer pythons, muffins, 1, 2 or 3 filling sausage sizzle (any combo of bacon, egg, sausage), water, soft drink, gatorade and mixed lollies.

That's it.  What more do you need?  And don't say fruit.

Each inventory item has its very own cash register button.  Cool hey? If someone buys a killer python, you just press the killer python button.  Except I'm not allowed.  Mr DoE has to do it.

Nutritionally you can choose from protein and sugar.  Most parents attempt to engage their children in something containing protein before succumbing to a second purchase involving sugar.  Pythons are popular.

When someone wants something from the bbq you have to hand them two bits of bread in a napkin (serviette?), and a little casino chip thing with 1, 2 or 3 on it.  Get Mr DoE to ring it up on the till. Give change if necessary.  Sounds simple doesn't it?

I forgot to give bread to my first 3 customers, forcing them to return for it, after already waiting in the bbq queue.  Lucky, it's a little kids sporting ground and everyone's pretty cheerful.

No fancy blue gloves at our sausage sizzle.
I also forgot to give someone his soft drink.  I am not a canteen natural.

We rode the waves of full time- big rush, lots of sausage sizzles, the queue five deep.   Half time brought bored siblings, parents worn down to purchasing sugar as a pacifier.

About halfway through my hour long shift, I was convinced by my loitering children to buy them all a python, just so they'd stop nagging.  Issy kept sneaking in and clutching my leg with her thumb in until I bribed her with a python to let go.
Aaaah, bribery. Sometimes it just works.

Sometimes I think we're like a big power point, and they sort of need to plug in to us occasionally.  She definitely didn't like me being on one side of the canteen and her being on the other.  But the python helped bring her around.

We kept busy in quiet moments extracting information from Mr DoE, what school was he at, what other activities had he been doing for the award etc.  He was faultlessly courteous and completely unflappable.

We comforted the small boy whose team mate called him an idiot.

We helped an indecisive small girl come down in favour of chips over chocolate.

It's a big job.  And I'd be more than happy to take another shift any time soon.  I was sad when my replacement arrived and I was free to go.  But Joshie was playing by then and my place was elsewhere.

After the games all finished we helped take down the little goal posts, the post protectors and generally returned the ground to one big field instead of four little ones.  The kids were all energised by how we'd spent the morning.  They really 'got' it.

More community involvement tomorrow.  Betcha can't wait.

Sunday, 24 June 2012

Beware of things going cheep...sorry cheap.

Once upon a time when I had less children, or they were at least quite a bit smaller with far few less toys, I used to love this time of year.  For it signalled the beginning of the toy sale season.

And what fun they were.

My bestie girlfriend, who has at least as many children as I, only slightly younger, would ring the minute the Kmart catalogue arrived in her letterbox.  She lived a few suburbs to the north and always received it.  I was not so lucky and would pack all the toddlers and babies into the car and drive to her house to pore over it's shiny pages.  They were chockas with toys designed to educate, entertain, make really irritating noises, almost always plastic, for all ages.

We were in heaven.

We would highlight, circle, turn down pages.  One of us would field 6 children and the other would face the onslaught of an army of similarly excited parents (mothers) with madness in their eyes.  We'd seek the last Polly Pocket bus, or the amazingly discounted Star Wars Lego X Wing.  We'd ring each other from the shop, should we buy 2? 4? what colours?

Repeat for Target, Big W, perhaps Myer, maybe even DJs.

And we thought we were so clever, saving loads of money, getting all our Christmas shopping done and filling our present drawers.

The reality was so different.  The mission was almost always a failure in the long run, with three usual disaster scenarios.

Disaster 1.  Cunningly hide large toy truck in back of wardrobe ready for nephews birthday in 4 months time.  Birthday comes around, am so used to strangely shaped bag taking up my shoe space I forget it's there. Purchase new present.  Wonder what to do with toy shop special.

Disaster 2.  Christmas present for own child seems perfect in June/July.  In December realise 6 months is a long time when you're 4 and child has grown out of it.  Purchase new present.  Wonder what to do with toy shop special.

Disaster 3. Due to failure to properly plan Christmas presents, end up with far too many for one gender/age group and not enough for the other gender/age group.  End up giving inappropriate gender/age group presents and get looked at strangely by close friend/relatives or alternatively...purchase new presents.  Wonder what to do with toy shop special.

This is not a link, this is a bad dream. 
Confession:  There are still a few disaster presents hidden around the house.  Just two or three.  Still have no idea what to do with them.  Whenever I come across them I have a nasty shudder while remembering the madness of catalogue time.

These days I do most Christmas shopping online.  In late November.  Followed by much angsting as to whether they will arrive in time.  Birthday present shopping is often done at the last minute, sometimes even on the way to the party at the local gift/book shop.

We've also stopped (by mutual agreement) buying Christmas gifts for every single child we know.  At some point the plastic maelstrom became too much, and over the past few years we've asked many people to stop buying for our kids and been asked in turn to stop buying for theirs.  We have appreciated the slowing of the toy wave.  They have so much.  They are so lucky.  They need nothing.

I'm not sure what my lovely friend does these days.  I know she used to love the toy sales as much as me.  But I also know she's over it too.  I know she now lives far from where any Kmart catalogue can be delivered.  And strangely, her kids don't have nearly the amount of plastic crap mine do.

What happened there?

Tuesday, 19 June 2012

Effing Tuesdays

Aaah Tuesday, you really have it in for me don't you?

Dentist at 10am (for me), Josh wants a doona day, cleaners are due, washing out of control, swimming lesson night, bookclub after that (if I am still alive).

I think (foolishly) what a great opportunity for Josh and I to get a start on his transport project.  Due for presentation next Monday.

Fierce isn't it?

I say "Joshie, delightful, darling son of mine, shall we research Hercules transport aircraft on the internet and put what we find on a powerpoint presentation as per the suggestion on the sheet your teacher sent home".

Joshie says "no".  His teacher said not to do Powerpoint.  When I asked why, he wasn't sure.  But there was no way he was touching it.

Ok, deep breath.

I say "Joshie, gorgeous, determined little lad, shall you write down everything we discover together on this handy sheet your teacher has given us and thusly turn the most pertinent facts thereof into a charming report."

Joshie says "no".  His teacher told him not to use the sheet because it had to be on a poster or something the class could see and she could put on display.

I say, "Joshie, for Christ's sake, can we at least do something because I've already spent twice as much time on the Hercules Transport aircraft as I ever wanted or expected to do, and my meagre store of patience is really starting to run low."

Joshie says "no". And begins to cry.  And as I drop my face into my hands in frustration and count to ten, I realise he would rather face me in anger than his teacher even slightly disappointed.  And he'd rather please her than me.  And when it comes to it, if I said black, and she said white, it would be white all the way for Josh.  I know my place.

We abandon Hercules and set off to Issy's tennis lesson.  Josh in tears partly because of the project and partly because he "never gets to play".  Loving mother that I am, I told him to suck it up because I never get to play either and this is what life's about, doing stuff all day that you'd really rather give a miss and once you're a grown up you never, ever have fun ever again.

I think I might have been a bit tough on the poor chap.  Not to mention untruthful.

Wracked with guilt, I visited the teacher at school pick up.  She says, "do Powerpoint if you want, but she does like a few reports to display for open day, and you can't do that when the whole class does Powerpoint."  "No problems", I say, "he's already made me buy a large piece of posterboard."

She also says to be careful with the info sheet, as it's a guide and not to be the whole report, which needs pictures and visuals too.

And by the way, it must be in his words.  She can tell when a parent has written it.  I nod and smile, wondering how much information will fit in a report entirely written by someone whose letters are regularly 3-4cm high.

And I am the Wordsmith *cue evil laugh* and I can fake 7 year old boy...just watch me.

As I sent doona boy off to karate (yes he is well enough for karate, and for his swimming lesson too damn it), I looked forward to an hour at home, not doing anything to do with the Hercules.

Instead I am deeply involved with Amelia Earhart, poor girl, who vanished into Pacific Ocean 70 years ago or something.  At least my day is not that bad...yet.  Apparently they found her bones and think she might have lived a little while, castaway style before eventually dying.  What fun.

And along with Amelia, our stove just died, and our oven.  First a nasty electrical smell, a loud pop, a swirl of smoke.  And...nothing.  Dead as a doornail (whatever that is?).   Have cooked dinner on the BBQ hotplate, but this situation is not sustainable.  It is a terrible, unventilated, electrical nightmare of a thing and I'm glad it's dead, I just wish it had held out a tiny bit longer.  

The evil, dead stove/oven.  It's retractible.  Yes, it moves in and out via a handy mechanism.  And the oven door opens up like a sports car.  It needed to die.

Effing Tuesdays.

Monday, 18 June 2012

The Claytons Blog Post.

I had a great blog post planned for today.

But then I got a bit consumed by some blog posts I'm editing for a legal firm.  Which is a nice change from being consumed by Facebook or reading Mrs Woog.

And I managed to cook dinner, comb out nits (ewww) and return the house to some sort of order after a bit of a wild weekend.  Everything seemed to be running smoothly.

Then I got into the car for the gym pick up and realised I had almost no petrol.

And I nearly left the house with no money either, which would have put me up s**t creek but I luckily grabbed my wallet before I ran out of petrol on Pittwater Road with 6 kids in the car at 8pm.

By the time I got everyone home and sorted, I foolishly started watching The Voice and eating chocolate in a sort of dazed stupor on the couch.

And by the time they dragged out the winner's announcement and I'd followed the #thevoiceau hashtag for an hour I'd managed to fritter away a goodly part of my blog writing time.

So there is no great blog post.  Just a list of pathetic excuses.  And a bit of opinion.

I'm glad Karise won The Voice.  She deserves for good stuff to happen to her.  And I guess Seal must really be as good as he has made us all think he is.

It's been an interesting ride.  A bit cheesy sometimes.  But fun.

So the really great blog post will have to wait until tomorrow.  I really hope it lives up to my expectations.  

Speaking of Claytons, whatever happened to it?  The beverage couldn't have been a commercial success because really, no-one wants to drink the drink they have when they're not having a drink, they just want a drink damn it!

The saying however, has lived far longer, at least for old codgers like me.

Sunday, 17 June 2012

Update from the dumpling lady.

It's been a big weekend.  What with the crazy disco dancers on Friday night.
Friends and family for dinner on Saturday night.
Sarah's first communion this morning.

I'm not particularly proud of my food and drink choices.  But I've had a great weekend.

Since Friday morning my main food group has been cake, followed closely by pastry.  I also consumed quite a bit of icing in a stressful way.

My main beverage has been champagne, followed a fair way back by coffee.

And the company I have kept has been first class.    

Now I'm not on any type of program or diet that requires me to keep a food diary but here it is, just in case:

Friday afternoon/evening: About six spoonfuls of icing, birthday cake, sushi mini rolls, pastry wands, a rice bubble bee thingie, a chocolate cupcake, brie, biscuits, olive dip, beetroot dip and several glasses of champagne.

Saturday morning: Festivities started early with a visit to the hospital to visit the newborn baby of some of our dearest friends.  More champagne at 11:30 am.  What can you say?  You have to wet the babies head don't you?  Three cruskits with taramasalata.

Saturday afternoon/evening: preliminary First communion dinner starting with pate, cheese, crackers, quite a lot more champagne, pork dumplings, beef burgingion (can't f**king spell it) made by my excellent husband, and caramel dumplings, made by my superb mother in law.  Oh and did I mention champagne?

Yes there were lots of dumplings.  And now, I resemble a dumpling.

Sunday morning: After Sarah's first communion we tucked into choc raspberry cake, choc croissants and...wait for  Thank God, it was too early for champagne.

The only vegetables which entered my body in the last 48 hours were some token carrots and broccolini we served with the beef.  These possibly counted for 1% of my total food intake for the day.

Michelle Bridges would be turning in her grave.  If she was dead. Which she isn't, and is likely to live far longer than I based on our comparative diets.

After morning tea was over I went for a run.  Mike and his folks took the kids for a bike ride up to the local park/oval, which I run around twice at the end of my normal circuit.  As I ran past the playground they saw me and shouted, screamed and waved.  I waved back and slogged on, noticing a bit of a spring in my step in what had so far been quite a dreadful, very sluggish and miserable run as I regretted every nasty piece of fat, sugar and salt I had recently ingested.

I ran around the eastern edge of the park which has the most incredible view of the heads and the harbour.  On a day like today with all the sailboats out, it's breathtaking.  No matter how tired you're feeling at this point you have to look, and you always feel better.

See, completely stunning.
Back around I went, past the park, where they were waiting for me.  Cheering and shouting and waving.  Begging me to stop and pay attention to them.  

My own private fan club.
And as I ran away from the playground I felt it again, that surge of energy.  And I realised it was the kids.  Just by jumping up and down like loony people.  Sending me love and shouting, they gave me energy, and got me running a bit faster.  Bless 'em.  

The view, while beautiful and capable of at least a distraction to a tired runner in bad need of detox, doesn't give out that same feeling. this afternoon I'm going out to lunch.  With the girls.  To drink some more...champagne.  

Disgusting isn't it?  I really need to find my off button.  I'll have a good look for it tomorrow.  

Thursday, 14 June 2012

How NOT to show gratitude, Issy style

Today we shopped for a great deal of crap food.  Sugar, salt, fat, you name it.  It's in this trolley. 

At the bottom are a watermelon, rockmelon and some grapes, but they're a bit hard to see due to all the crap on top.

After we shopped we went home and I started cooking.  I made little rice bubble bumble bee thingies.

I made a Dolly Varden birthday cake with a purple skirt.  Further decoration will occur tomorrow.    

Say Hi Dolly!!
I carefully organised all the crap food, for easy transportation to the scout hall for the disco party.

And turned a frighteningly large pile of $2 shop merchandise, kindly purchased by my joint birthday party thrower into 24 neat bags of party favours.  

And what did Issy do?  

Did she stay by my side at every moment, supporting and helping me? 

Of course not. Because she was busy elsewhere.  

Writing on the wall.  


Thanks Issy.  

I know she appreciates me, she just has a unique way of showing it.  

Wednesday, 13 June 2012

The (Real) Game Of Life

Sarah received The Game Of Life for her birthday.

It's a strangely compelling board game, which simulates a traditional western, middle class path through life from young adulthood to retirement.

It's very white bread, mainstream.  And kind of fun, because it's so loosely based in reality.  Although I'm sure the kids think it's pretty accurate.  They'll learn, bless 'em.

You drive around the board in little coloured cars and you put teensy pink or blue people in the car with you, first your wife/husband, then your kids. It's completely up to the spin of the dial as to how many kids you have, but the more you have the more you pay out which is pretty accurate, except at retirement when they all give you a gift of 10 grand...yeah right.

Along the way you are forced to stop in order to properly achieve life's usual milestones and at the end, you retire, add up your wads of cash and the richest person wins.

And that's where the similarity to real life ends.  My comprehensive analysis is below.

Choose Career

Game Of Life: If you choose college, you have to take out a $100,000 bank loan.  You get to choose from such careers as vet, lawyer, accountant, with salaries starting at at least $50,000 with plenty of upside potential with pay rises dotted throughout the board.  Or you choose a career such as salesperson, entertainer or policeman.  You don't earn as much long term, but there's no nasty debt to repay and you start earning from the beginning of the game.

Real Life : Fuck around choosing a course, take a gap year, start a double degree, realise a double degree is too much, drop out of one, go to the pub instead of lectures (or is that just me?), graduate with even less idea of what you want to do with your life than when you started.

Get Engaged

Game Of Life:  That's it.  So simple really.                                  

Real Life:  Shack up with a series of unsuitable partners before (if you're lucky) finding someone willing to marry you, whom you are in turn, willing to marry.  Be proposed to in one outrageous, flamboyant act of madness by your boyfriend, who takes you in a helicopter to fly over enormous letters he's written in the sand or drags you to the top of Mt Kilimanjaro to propose at sunrise, while you're freezing your tits off, possibly being the one and only romantic gesture of his whole life.

Get Married

Game of Life:  You can pick a new little pink or blue figure to put in your little coloured car.

Real Life: Turn into Bridezilla, fight with your mother about everything but mostly about how many of her friends she wants to invite, agonise over napkin colours and what the vegetarian meal choice should be, fall out with one bridesmaid because she refuses to wear salmon pink.

Buy Starter Home

Game Of Life:  Choose from a series of stylish homes including a cape cod, townhouse, victorian and in a tasteful touch, a mobile home.

Real Life: Live with parents as long as possible, save up, scrimp, blow savings on tropical holiday, save, economise, blow money on new car, borrow money off parents (promising you'll move out and leave them alone), finally manage to buy first home in crap street of slightly less crap suburb.

Have Babies

Game of Life: Throughout the game, you can land on spaces telling you've had a boy, girl or even twins.  There are no pregnancy, morning sickness or IVF squares.

Real Life:  Is too real.  Is too emotional.  There's almost never enough sleep.  Is not a game.

Lose Job

Game of Life: Pick another career card, and start collecting your new salary straightaway.  Easy!

Real Life: Survive several rounds of GFC based redundancies before finally accepting a package, have six month sabbatical, realise it's actually harder work being home with the kids.  Go back to work because the house needs renovating, at lower salary than before in less satisfying role.  Wait in vain for economy to pick up.

Buy Second Home

Game of Life: Time to select from a mansion, executive cape, luxury mountain retreat, or penthouse suite.  Or, if you don't like to be tied down, an even flasher RV.

Real Life: Go into stupid amounts of debt to buy a house to fit your family, in a suburb you can't really afford, to be close to the school you want.  Undertake renovations that seem simple at first, but end up being a long, drawn out, expensive nightmare.


Game of Life: Select from the charmingly named Millionaires Estate or slightly less salubrious, Countryside Acres.  Flog all your stuff, collect money from your kids (Hah!), sit back and enjoy...

Real Life:  Continue to assist your children with mortgages, school fees and trust funds.  Attempt to move to a smaller home but struggle when all the grandchildren come to visit because there isn't enough space.  Feel guilty whenever you go away on holiday because you're not helping with the grandkids.  Try as hard as possible not to outlive your retirement savings.
Are we having fun yet?

Tuesday, 12 June 2012

My holy grail...I can almost touch it.

I am about to achieve one of parenting's most difficult achievements.

Something we wait for, plan for, dream about.

I've been working towards this for about 7 years.

So it's been a long time coming.

But finally, after much harassment, gentle encouragement and downright scheming, I am but weeks away from one of my personal parenting holy grail.

From the beginning of July, I very much hope, to have all three of my children attending swimming lessons ON THE SAME DAY AT THE SAME TIME!!!!!!!!!

Yeah, I know.

Thrilling isn't it?

Now before you get too excited on my behalf, it hasn't happened yet, and nothing is allowed to happen until July, when the swim school will finally allow next year's school starters to move to afternoon classes.

But just the thought of very soon only having to drive to swimming once a week, instead of twice, and at its worst, three times a week, fills me with the greatest joy.  

Imagine.  Going to swimming just once a week.  It's been a while since I've been so excited about anything.

What a sad life I lead.

Monday, 11 June 2012

Friday Drinks. On Monday.

The final rainiest day of the long weekend.

I only had to drive was about 2.5 km to the local shopping centre and I nearly drowned. It was heaving with people desperate to get themselves out of the house and out of the rain and buy some stuff.

Grocery shopping took about 40 mins, then I waited a similar amount of time for a takeaway coffee.  How long is it appropriate to wait for a coffee?  It's not like I had much alternative but 40 minutes is almost long enough to send me home for a Moccona.

But not quite.  Because for me, that would be madness.  No disrespect to all you instant coffee lovers out there.

I was privileged to catch up this afternoon with two of our dearest family friends.  Both families used to live next door to us (well, next door and next door to that to be accurate).  We have been through a lot together.

Nothing specific, just raising lots of tiny kids and dealing with the associated day to day monotony and exhaustion without going bonkers.

When I met these girls, Sarah was just about to turn 1.  As the new neighbour, I was invited for morning tea.  One had 7 month old twin girls, the other a gorgeous 7 month old baby boy.  All 4 are now in year 3.  And still excellent friends.

Soon enough we all discovered a liking for a drink on a Friday, and "Friday Drinks" was born.  Every 2 weeks we'd meet at one of our houses and share a glass of wine and some nibbles.  The other girls had older kids at school and preschool.  I managed to keep getting pregnant and only being able to have one drink for the first three years we met.

After a while we added kids dinner into the mix, allowing us to stay and drink longer. Husbands would come home and join in, forging their own friendships too.  Other families came and went (by invitation) but we remained tight.  Some would say, exclusive.

Having a support network so close by when I had no family around me meant the world and helped me through some seriously hairy moments.  I remember one day, bursting through the gate we'd made in the fence and running into Jane's arms when everything just got too much for me.  Issy would have been 3 months, Josh 2 and Sarah 4.  Sarah had just thrown the mother of all tantrums at the Mall and I'd barely managed to get everyone safely into the car and home I was crying so hard.

I really needed a hug, and I knew where I could get one.  Thank goodness for Jane.

We don't catch up as much anymore, the kids are older, the oldest in high school (this particular young man being the "saver of Issy" from a recent post), another in year 6.  They all still get along really well, and so do all of us.  I couldn't think of a nicer way to spend a public holiday Monday afternoon.  We drink some bubbles and beer, eat cheese and bickies and natter.

And it's a school night, and we know our limits.  Although it has not always been thus.

Thanks guys x

Sunday, 10 June 2012

Proud, well travelled, and a bit damp.

Today we went to Seven Hills.  In the rain.  Along the M2 which was enjoying some Diamond Jubilee long weekend roadworks and only had one lane in either direction for much of it's length.

What fun it was.

We were going to Sarah's first gym comp.  Mike and I are as surprised as can be that we can create someone who could even be considered a starter for a gym comp.  We are the least flexible people in the world.  I have never ever been able to touch my toes.  Not even when I was 5.  He is ever so slightly more flexible.  I think he last touched his toes when he was like, 10.

A level of flexibility to make the eyes water, even for a statue.
Considering our sum total of sports experience equals lots of rugby, a tiny bit of swimming and...nothing, we were pretty excited regarding the gym thing, and proud as punch of our girl.  Although the thought of driving 40 kms through Sydney on a Sunday evening dampened our enthusiasm slightly.  

Nevertheless, out we drove, through the rain, in the gathering dark for our spot at 4:45.

Our session had four teams with 5-6 kids working on 4 apparatus (oh how far I've come with the jargon).  They were to perform on bars, beam, floor and vault.

We sat, we watched, hearts filled with pride when we caught a glimpse of the swinging blonde ponytail that was ours. Mike played a little sudoku on his Blackberry (who knew the Blackberry had games?) in quiet moments.  I took Issy to the toilet twice, Josh once.  The spectators were all crammed into two rows of fold up chairs at the side of the gym.  As I ran this gauntlet three times, I noticed every adult had a very big SLR style camera with a massive lens, and every sibling had an iphone, ipod or ipad to play with.

Except us.  We had the devices for the kids, but the only camera we had was my iphone.  Pathetic.  Hence we have not record of Sarah's first gym comp.

Mike decided it was a good time to hear the story of why we were here in the first place and kept asking questions about how Sarah even got into this level of gymnastics in the first place.  It is a bit of a long story, and I'm sure I'd told him before but anyways...

Then, just when he started grilling me about how I arranged the complex car pool we have set up to get the kids to and from gym twice a week the lady in front of us told us to be quiet, because her daughter was doing her floor routine.

This charming personage proceeded to talk through every other child's performance, and her son was so busy watching Josh playing his ipod he was almost sitting in his lap.  But according to the mantra of this blog, I remained in a state of great casualness and kept my mouth closed.

Every now and again an official would come and shout at us because someone was using their camera flash. (Strictly forbidden because it puts the kids off their balance.)  The guy next to me was packing a lens roughly the size of a small nation, and seemed to know his way around a camera, but just couldn't managed to turn off the flash until he'd been pointedly yelled at three times.

Blog name, comes in handy twice in 10 minutes.

Sarah wobbled her way gamely through her routines.  I thought she looked beautiful.  And when she did the extended hand presenty thing at the beginning and end of each routine, she looked sensational.
Floor Exercises
 Sarah looked a bit like this, but way better.  
She came 9th in one of the apparatus.  We can't remember which one for sure, but we think it was vault.  She received a certificate and is as happy as if she had won the whole thing.  And therefore, so are we.


There's a part of my brain that keeps saying, if only she hadn't had that ankle injury, or she'll be better once her ankle gets stronger, or, she's got a bad cold she's not on top of her game, and then, I slap myself mentally around the head, because that would mean I'm becoming a psycho gym Mummy.

The last thing I want to be.  It's so hard not to be a little bit psycho where your kids are concerned.

Thursday, 7 June 2012

My Baby Is Five

By the time you get to your third child, you think you've pretty much got this parenting thing sorted.  By the last few weeks of my pregnancy with Issy, all I could think of was getting whoever it was, the hell out, so I could stop having reflux and being enormous.

Because I already had a girl and a boy, I thought no more surprises were in store.  What on earth could possibly happen.

And then...Issy happened.

She was born in a storm, early on the morning of the same day the Pasha Bulker ran aground at Newcastle.   Mike had to chase our umbrella down the street near the hospital after it was blown out of his hands.

Meeting the baby sister.
People said the third child is a piece of cake, they're always so easy going.  But Issy needed human contact whenever she was awake.  Meaning she spent a lot of time crying while I tended to the other two, and a lot of time in the pouch.

If you tell the other two to do something there's about a 60% chance they will do it eg. make bed, clean room, pack lunchbox.  If they don't it's because they've vagued out (Sarah) or can't hear you over their own ka-pow noises (Joshie).  Issy has about a 20% hit rate, simply because she doesn't see herself as part of the normal universe.  Special rules apply.  Just to her.

She has an answer for everything, she knows everything already.  I suspect she has been here before.

She has abounding love for everyone.  I've lost count of the laps she's infiltrated, the hugs she's wrangled, the general hand holding she gets away with.  At school, she's like a celebrity.

She has frightened me more than the other two combined.

Once when she was just under 2, she left the house at twilight without me knowing, wearing dark purple, almost invisible, rolled under the closed driveway gates and headed up towards the busy roundabout at the top of Ethel St.  It was only because our neighbours son was walking back from the shops and saw her, that she is still with us today.  He, only 10 years old, walked out into front of a car with his hand held out in a stop gesture, and then pointed at the tiny child he was about to save the life of as an explanation for his mad behaviour.  Naturally the car stopped!  Then he brought her home to me.  By this stage I was hysterically screaming her name on the footpath, not sure which way to start running.

Spending a day with Issy is like spending the day with a scrap of sunshine.  She sings, she dances, she twirls, she twinkles, she hugs, she kisses.  She relentlessly asks for food, toys, lollies, attention.  Mostly I just give them to her.

Don't let the heartbreakingly beautiful smile fool you.  
She has never been easy going, but she has been something better because she shakes us up if the other four of us are in any danger of being a bit too predictable and conservative, and by joining our family has guaranteed our lives will never be dull, because she adds the extra bit of madness, chaos and unpredictability we need.

I look forward to finding out what she becomes.  But not too soon, because she's my baby.

Happy 5th Birthday my joyful little Issy Belle.

Wednesday, 6 June 2012

Baby Bonus My Bum, It's A Baby Boom!

Once upon a time, in 2003, or was it 2002...whatever, the government of the day, which I believe was run by that odd little man with the glasses, no not that completely bonkers one who keeps trying to make a come back, the first one.  Let's call him John.  

John thought that not enough people were having babies.  He thought that not enough mums were staying at home, chained to the kitchen sink, popping spoonfuls of mushy food into little open mouths and vacantly singing "If you're stir crazy and you know it".

Apparently the birth rate had dropped...or something...and we were only having 1.73 kids per couple.  And some mothers had the gall to be going out and getting jobs, clearly they were bored at home because they didn't have enough kids to keep them busy.

See, babies are very boring. 

John and his merry band the best way to get those Mums back home where they belonged, was to offer them wads of cash.  Loads of it, like um, $3000.  Because that so equates to what a working mother would earn in a year if she went to work instead of having a baby.   

Anyone who's ever procreated knows $3000 disappears faster than you can say "two lines on a stick".

But something funny happened.  Something unexpected.

Around 2002/2003 the birth rate went up and kept going up. Somewhere in the mid 2000s it went gangbusters, getting up to nearly 300,000 in 2010. More babies have been born in the last 5 years than any other 5 years ever.

And some people if you ask them, say, "oh yes, that's because of the baby bonus".

Yeah right, are you mad? Any correlation between the baby bonus and the birth rate is complete and utter bollocks if you ask me.  And I have proof.  Sort of.

The year of my birth 1971, was also a bit of a baby boom, with a peak of kids being born that year and the 2-3 years on either side.  These years coincide with the first cohort of baby boomers (born 1946-1965), reaching maturity, getting married (much earlier than we did as a rule) and popping out a few kiddos.

And now, the first decade of the 21st Century sees these little baby boomlets (or as we know ourselves, the restless, angst ridden, recession plagued Gen X), thinking perhaps we need to crack out a few kids ourselves, now we are nearing 40.

See! Don't you SEE?  We had babies because we wanted babies, and could, and we certainly pocketed that $3000 but the fact that we were getting some cash had um...(pulling number from bum)...0.1% impact on our decision.  It may have had a tiny influence on our choice of pram, or highchair, and I know a couple who went out and bought themselves a new winter wardrobe with it, but it wasn't a major factor in our decision to procreate. 

Because if you really wanted to save money, you wouldn't have kids at all.  They are like tiny cute money pits who grow into bigger, hungrier, less cute money pits. 

If having babies was a financial decision, instead of this...

We could be enjoying this! 
The desire to have babies come from the emotional part of ourselves, not the practical, or the financial.  I mean, would you ever tell a woman, desperate to have a baby, but can't, that it's all for the best, because babies are expensive?

No, because that would be utter madness. And this is how I know the baby boom isn't about the money. *folds arms*

And the fallout of all this reproduction...

All these little darlings are growing up, schools are starting to stretch out into weird pyramidal shapes with (in some cases) 6-10 Kindy classes, and just 2 year sixes.  The impact on private school waiting lists means where once you were fine to put your kid down at 6-8 months of age, even 2-3 months is too late, driving some people to visiting a registrar the day the little treasure makes an appearance just so they can follow in Daddy or Mummy's footsteps.

I know this has been the case for some private schools for many years, but it's becoming the norm rather than the exception. My brother did it in 1980, the day his son was born.  Not because there was any doubt his kid would get in to the school, but because he's a natural born tosser.  And I hated my school, so no chance I'll be lining up to get my kids in (it's in Brisbane anyway), but maybe if I had loved it, I'd want to do the same and be a tosser too.

I'm not sure if the secondary school system, public and private, knows what's about to hit them.  And I'm not about to tell them, because it's not my job.  My job is to blog massive generalisations in order to get my opinion off my chest.  Which I have now done.

Please note, my generalisations are all mine, no one else's.  And my point of view is stuck, right where it belongs because it knows nothing else, in suburban middle Australia.

Tuesday, 5 June 2012

What is it about Tuesdays...?

Today I iced 36 cupcakes during a blackout in the midst of a torrential rain/wind storm.

The blackout was due to power lines down in a street only about 300m away.  If you lived to the East of the tree your power stayed on.  To the right...suck it up people.  

Because the IGA also lay to the right of the fallen tree, I had to source my 4 D sized batteries to light our camping lantern from a friend who lived on the lucky side of the tree.

The kids were disgusted that while they could still use their ipods during the power outage, they couldn't do anything requiring internet access because there was no network.  

I really felt for them.  It must have been awful. 

When the lights came on, in between cleaning fifty thousand cake mix bowls, I experimented with quinoa.  A puzzling grain.  It is however, spoken of highly by those who are careful of what they put into their bodies.

Maybe I need to cook it differently.  Doesn't really look so appetising does it?

Funny how I was sparing with the quinoa on my beef casserole, (unsure of what it might do to me in larger quantities) but quite happy to go back for secondsies of the Cadbury Jelly Crunchie Bit chocolate.

Of course, the kids wouldn't have a bar of it, and the dutch carrots (who looked so beautiful when I bought them) went sort of wonky, but the hearty beef casserole saved the day.  Cooked mid afternoon, well before blackout.  To be ready after swimming, which we never went to.

Heavy sigh.

What the hell is it about Tuesdays?  They are becoming my arch nemesis.  


Monday, 4 June 2012

10 Ways I Fail As A Model Housewife.

Just so you know, this list barely scratches the surface of my inadequacies.

1. My favourite tupperware item, is not tupperware, it's Decor.  And it's not even mine.  It was left at my house by someone and I can't remember who.  And even if I could, they're not getting it back.

Just don't be asking for that Tupperware (sorry Decor) back, whoever you are...

2. I don't iron, anything, ever, no matter what.  Mike's shirts go to the dry cleaning.  Everything else hangs on a hanger and I hope for the best.

3. Actually I do iron.  I iron hemming tape.  On Sarah's skirt hems and Joshie's trousers.  Which leads us to point 4.

4. I don't sew.  I can't.  And don't tell me it's easy, because it's not.  It's really hard and tedious.

5. If a child is wearing trousers I don't care if their socks are school regulation issue or have pac men all over them.  Just don't show me.

6. I hate washing up.  So much that I'll put large inappropriate pans in the dishwasher.  Like a roasting tray that, really only takes about 5 minutes to wash if I give it a good soaking.  Instead I let it take up too much space in the dishwasher and throw around all sorts of nasty leftover roast bits which stick to the other dishes.  Then I take out the roast dish, put the rest of the load on for a second time and wash the roasting tray by hand.  But I never learn.  I'm like a goldfish in this regard.

7. I can read a book in the shower and wash my hair without getting the book hardly wet at all. (That's not really a housekeeping fail, more of a party trick that it would be very inappropriate to perform at any party, so I'm getting it out there while I can).

8. Sometimes my husband gets kids leftovers in his lunchbox.

9. No matter what I do, what products I use, what receptacle I put it in, I cannot soak stains out of clothes.  Especially chocolate milk and chocolate paddle pop.  Sometimes preen works, but mostly not.

10. Whenever my children wear a new shirt for the first time, if it is white or of a pale colour, the first thing they will eat will always be a chocolate milk or a chocolate paddle pop.

50S Housewife Unique Adult Humor Birthday Greeting Card Nobleworks
Yep, that's just the beginning.  But I'll get depressed at my sheer uselessness if I'm forced to face any more.

Anyone got any fails they wish to share?

Sunday, 3 June 2012

A Tale Of Love

This week my first baby turns 9.

She was due on the 24th of June, 2003.  But on the night of 5th June, at about 10:30 pm, my waters broke and the rest is history.

When she was eventually born at 4pm the next afternoon, by c-section the OB turned her nether regions to Mike who was supposed to be hiding behind the blue sheet from the gore but had stood up at the last minute because, really, how often do you get to see your baby be born.

He said, "Becca...we've got a little girl".  I couldn't see her, but I could see him, and I'll never forget the expression on his face.  

When she was put into my arms, all purple and swollen and cranky, I was more confused and exhausted than overwhelmed with love.  And then I started to hemorrhage (sp?) or something so things went a little blurry for a while.  Next thing I knew I was in recovery talking the ears off the nurses cause I was the only patient awake, everyone else was out to it, with general anaesthetic, cause they'd had, like, real operations.

I mean, why would you EVER stay awake during surgery if it wasn't for the fact they were pulling a brand new person out of you?  No way Jose.  Hence, everyone else was nigh nighs and I got to give the nurses an earful for an hour.  By which time I was gagging to see my family.

And over the next few days, she became like a drug.  I craved her.  Have done ever since.

Since there, she has (in no particular order), blown my mind, scared me senseless, driven me mad, stolen my heart, made me laugh, made me cry, taught me patience (sort of), filled me with pride and changed mine and Mikes lives in ways we never could have imagined.

All good, all very good.

From this...

How on earth you go from a small, purple, scrunched up, screamy thing to a (mostly) self possessed, sax playing, gymnastics obsessed, nine year old, I still don't know.  Time sort of slowed down for the first year or so, but since then it's been steadily going faster, so that now, nine years on, it's entering warp speed.

To this!!

She was bald, then she was fat and bald (I called her my plum), then she had blonde curls but was still fat, then she stopped being fat.  She talked early, and hasn't stopped (can't imagine where that's from), she has always considered her actions, can be a bit shy and reserved at first, has a generous heart, a quirky sense of humour and a good moral compass.

On Wednesday I hope we make her feel as special and loved as she is.  Which is bazillions.