23 December 2007

A Holiday!

How wonderful - four nights in a two-room apartment on the NSW north coast! It was lovely to get away, but I must admit it was a challenge.

I was sick, Chubbity Bubbity was teething (yes, finally teething! CB is very grumpy about it), and Sonny Ma-Jiminy is going through a Very Difficult Stage. All screaming and violence.

There were the constant Screaming & Object-Throwing Tantrums from Sonny Ma-Jiminy in reply to parental comments like "We can't go in the pool yet, it's not open," or "We can't go in the pool yet, we have to eat breakfast first," or "We can't go in the pool now: it's dark, the pool is closed and it's time for bed."

There was the thumb-slammed-in-the-car-door incident after which Sonny Ma-Jiminy screamed for a very long time.

There was the day when Chubbity Bubbity reached out, grabbed my vanilla milkshake and spilt most of it on the table, after which Sonny Ma-Jiminy grabbed the cup and took the opportunity while Husband and I were cleaning up the mess with napkins to quickly gulp down the remains. I can't tell you how thirsty I had been, how much I had waited for that milkshake, and how close I came to crying because I missed out on it thanks to my two lovely children.

And there were the many disturbing occasions when Sonny Ma-Jiminy, upset at the outcome of events, thought that the best way to solve his problems was to scream at his parents like they were errant, wayward children. Here are some examples written in capital letters too small to represent the decibel level of the shouting:
Husband and I can't understand where this behaviour came from. We are wondering if we could have done anything to avoid the bossiness and screaming which issues from our two-year-old, but in the end, we assume that it is simply because he is a two-year-old that this behaviour is occurring. Some comfort, but it doesn't stop people from looking censoriously at us at the shops.
None of this was easy to deal with through a fog of sore throat, runny and/or blocked nose and the general tiredness you get when you've got a cold.

Chubbity Bubbity enjoyed her swims especially those in the warm spa. Husband enjoyed relaxing without guilt about the things he should be doing instead of relaxing, and I enjoyed "Being Away." It wasn't the complete relaxation holiday of years past, it was just a new place to be in while I did everything (washing, tidying up, waking in the night to give children a drink of water) but that in itself was good.

I re-discovered the complete joy of doing quiet laps in a pool while all other family members were elsewhere. I hope that I'll be able to find some regular time this year to go to our local pool for peaceful swims by myself.

I didn't get a full night of sleep due to the fact that the children woke for drinks of water each night except for one when Sonny Ma-Jiminy fell out of bed, cried a little and fell asleep on the floor.

Since we have been back, the sleep-throughs haven't been much better. To her credit Chubbity Bubbity has slept very well since we returned, but the nights have still been punctuated by Sonny Ma-Jiminy's requests for drinks of water. Last night I decided to put two glasses of water on his shelves and tell him that he could have drinks by himself whenever he wanted to.

The good news is that this strategy worked. Chubbity Bubbity slept through again, and when Sonny-Ma Jiminy woke at 12:30am for a drink, he remembered he could help himself to a glass of water on his shelves.

The bad news is that when Husband put Sonny Ma-Jiminy down to sleep earlier in the evening, he forgot to put a nappy on the little feller and left him sleeping in undies and shorts. As Sonny stood at the shelves drinking his water, he did a Very Large Amount of Wee on the carpet. As he realised what had happened, he walked across his room, still weeing. While he paused to open his door, the wee collected in another Very Large Amount at his feet. He came out of his room and stood still, making the third large puddle. The first thing I knew was Sonny Ma-Jiminy standing beside me saying, "I've got wet pants Mummy."

The cleanup was long and difficult, owing to the fact that I didn't have contact lenses in and I was only 65% awake at most. When the cleanup was done, Sonny was wide awake and stayed that way for an hour and a half. So of course, I did too.

Tonight, Chubbity will probably sleep through again. Sonny Ma-Jiminy has a nappy on and a drink of water on his shelves. What can possibly go wrong?

THE NEXT MORNING: Of course, I forgot. Husband can wake me up by drinking a glass of milo clinking the spoon on the glass beside me after midnight, and Sonny Ma-Jiminy can wake at 5am demanding a nappy change. How silly of me to forget.

11 December 2007

Ho Ho Humbug

Busy Husband continues to be busy, so today I thought I’d take Sonny Ma-Jiminy and Chubbity Bubbity to a lovely Christmas event at a local church by myself. Last year there was live music, a sausage sizzle, and much to Sonny Ma-Jiminy’s delight, free bouncy castles! And last year it was a wonderful relaxing time. This is probably because last year our family consisted of twice the adults and half the children than it does today: last year, Daddy wasn't terribly busy and Chubbity Bubbity wasn't born. Still, I thought, I'll manage by myself: how hard can it be?

Before we left I thought it would be wise to take some money in case we wanted to buy a drink but I couldn’t find any nice $5 or $10 notes. Even gold coins were in short supply. So I raided the money box and loaded up my pockets with a few dollars worth of twenty cent coins. Bulky, but better than nothing.

By the end of the hike from our parking spot to the action, my hands were full of programs and fliers which I had to stuff into my pockets. I didn't have a handbag because I had decided that two children and a pocket full of small change was quite enough to carry.

Once we found some seats, a young man bent down and gave Sonny Ma-Jiminy a lovely green balloon. How nice. Sonny Ma-Jiminy was so stunned that he let it go and it promptly flew over the heads of the people and far far away. Great.

I was reassuring Sonny Ma-Jiminy that the balloon was flying "over there to make some other kids happy" when the young man offered to give Sonny Ma-Jiminy another balloon. I tried to politely decline because I feared it would either go the same way as the first one or I’d have to hold it all night to make sure that it didn't. Unfortunately the young man had already completed his transaction with Sonny Ma-Jiminy before I could make my point, so we were now the owners of a new pink balloon. Excellent.

Contemporary Dance displays by young girls who appeared to be dressed for the beach were not quite Sonny Ma-Jiminy’s cup of tea so we went over to the bouncy castles. It seemed like the easy option: I pictured him happily jumping while I stood by watching (holding Chubbity Bubbity, one pocket full of small change, another pocket stuffed full of papers and wrestling a pink balloon desperate for escape.) Easy.

We stood in a line for the Yellow Bouncy Castle for a while. My entire body was exhausted and aching, and Sonny Ma-Jiminy was getting impatient. Then I noticed that the line for the Blue Bouncy Castle seemed to be shorter and moving quicker so when Sonny Ma-Jiminy decided that he wanted to swap lines, I agreed. Anything to get him on a bouncy castle sooner.

Of course, as soon as we swapped lines and started waiting for a turn on the Blue Bouncy Castle, the children on the Yellow Bouncy Castle came off and the waiting children in the other line eagerly clambered on. Don't worry, I told Sonny Ma-Jiminy (okay, I really told that to myself,) it will be your turn soon. Children in front of us began taking their shoes off and so we decided to do the same. After all, it would be disappointing to miss out on our turn just because we couldn't wrestle his shoes off quickly enough.

Once Sonny Ma-Jiminy's shoes were off, I realised that the grass was full of what we call Biting Ants. I couldn't get his shoes back on only to have to take them off again later so I decided to carry him in my right arm while I carried Chubbity Bubbity in my left. I nearly dropped Chubbity Bubbity on the ground as I manoeuvred a second child into position on my body. I tied the pink balloon onto my wrist and hoped my pants didn't move gradually southwards with the weight of the objects in my pockets.

But the line to the Blue Bouncy Castle moved much slower than I had anticipated. I was hot, sweaty, exhausted, aching, emotional and beginning to be bitten on the legs by mosquitoes and Biting Ants (which were very hard to remove without the use of my hands). I waited in this position far beyond my Level of Reasonable Endurance. Surely, every aching exhausting minute of this wait was bringing us a minute closer to the joyful, blissful moment when Sonny Ma-Jiminy would be free to run and jump on the Blue Bouncy Castle ... the same wonderful moment when I could put him down, becoming 15 kg lighter. Then I would only be carrying 7kg of Chubbity Bubbity. And a pink balloon and two pockets full of things I wish I hadn't got.

Finally, the children on the Blue Bouncy Castle were given some sort of signal, lept off the castle and surged towards their parents. The children in front of us in the line flew towards the castle and clambered up, screaming with delight. Then to my despair, the operator put out his hand in front of a little girl just before us and said, "No more. Just wait there please."

A look of horror that I couldn't control passed over my face. There was no way I could place a Filter Of Politeness over the wave of frustration, exhaustion and physical pain that washed over me. And I sat down on the grass and cried.

I just wept and wept. I didn't care if people saw me, judged me or despised me. The only thing I didn't want was for them to talk to me. I felt a hand gently patting me on the shoulder and hesitantly looked up, dreading having to explain to a stranger why I thought it was perfectly reasonable to have a very public meltdown in the lineup for a Bouncy Castle.

It was my little boy patting my shoulder, my dear Sonny Ma-Jiminy, who had waited very patiently during the long delay and subsequent disappointment. (Of course he wasn't carrying half his body weight in surplus humans, a flighty pink balloon and two pockets full of unwanted objects.) He gently curled up on my lap, lifted his feet into the air away from the snapping jaws of the Biting Ants, and put his head on my shoulder while I dried my tears on his shirt.

The wait continued. Coins threatened to spill out of my pockets, and I still sat. I wasn't going to stand up and bring myself to eye level with the parents who had just seen me disgrace myself.

This wait, for some reason, seemed shorter. Before you could say, "Release the hounds," Sonny Ma-Jiminy and about eight other children were dashing madly towards the Blue Bouncy Castle.

Triumphant! I watched for a few minutes then I trudged up the hill towards a shade tent with some tiny children's chairs. Before I collapsed into one, I picked it up to move it to a better place from which to observe Sonny Ma-Jiminy emerge from the Blue Bouncy Castle. As I swung it around, I smashed it straight into a small child walking towards his parents who were sitting under the tent.

The small child was startled but unhurt and the parents appeared not to have observed the incident but I thought it wise to spend some time reassuring the little one that I had no intention of causing harm. When I turned back, I was surprised to see that the children were already jumping down from the Blue Bouncy Castle and scattering in every direction. Was Sonny Ma-Jiminy there? I couldn't see him for a while and when I did finally catch sight of him he was quite a long way away, running fast in the wrong direction.

I grabbed his shoes and raced with them, Chubbity Bubbity, bulging pockets and a desperate pink balloon towards his retreating figure. A lady from our home church (who Sonny Ma-Jiminy doesn't know) recognised him as he ran and she rushed towards him, trying to corral and catch him. This frightened him even more. When I caught up with him, he was crying and shouting at her.

As quickly as I could, I removed all of us from the situation and bought a drink to calm us down. I was very thirsty but it was Sonny Ma-Jiminy who drank most of it. We sat and listened to some of the entertainment for a while but Chubbity Bubbity was very tired and the PA system was too loud for her. She cried so much that I decided to take all three of us home much to Sonny Ma-Jiminy's disappointment.

We hiked back to the car. Chubbity Bubbity was crying because we'd left it too late to leave and Sonny Ma-Jiminy was moaning "I don't want to go to Home" because we were leaving too early. And once we were finally at home the ribbon on the bothersome pink balloon seemed to always be tangling around my feet, tripping me up at the most inconvenient times.

Sigh. At least there hadn't been blood or flames.

08 December 2007

Using a box of gloves a day would be easier - contributed by Crazy Sister

I recently saw one of those health campaign posters recommending washing hands every time you do something on the list that followed. I got to thinking that every day I usually clean three wet nappies and three dirty nappies, I deal with soiled underwear (not mine) and clean at least one gross thing off the carpet. I’ll also pat a dog, empty a rubbish bin, pull some weeds and wipe a few noses.

I’ll prepare three big meals and two “teas”, put on and take off three pairs of shoes a couple of times and, God willing, I may be able to make a toilet trip myself a few times.

By my calculations that should have me scrubbing up about 26 times a day. For the recommended two minutes of hot soapy water, that’s nearly a whole hour of hand maintenance every day (with the nail scrubbing brush for those “poosidue” moments). And it’s not always convenient – sometimes it seems my hands have barely become dry before they’re called back to doo-doo duty again.

Perhaps instead of heading to the basin whenever these incidents happen I should schedule handwashing every half hour of the thirteen hours my kids are awake. “Sweetie, do you have anything gross for me to clean up? Because I’m washing my hands soon and won’t do so for another thirty minutes.”

A while ago a doctor examined a rash on my hand, and recommended I keep it dry and away from chemicals. I was so violently amused that I was unable to stop a small snort of snot escaping my nose.
Then I blew my nose.
And then I washed my hands.

02 December 2007

Why Men Are Better At Cooking Steak

I'm a Woman. This means I rock the cradle, rule the world, and judging by my contribution to the workforce, I also run the world.

But I'll be darned if I can cook a decent steak.

I'm good at cooking a lot of things, but whenever I look at a steak it goes from rarer-than-edible to tough-as-boots in a flash. And I think I've worked out why.

As a woman, I am not only concerned with cooking a decent meal but also in leaving the least and easiest washing-up after the food is cooked. The women reading this will understand. The men will wonder if this is actually a real issue.

So as my lovely thick juicy steaks cook I am constantly thinking of the bottom of my pan - is it getting charred beyond repair and is the food and grease currently being fused on because I haven't turned the meat? Perhaps. So I turn it.

That's okay, isn't it? You should turn a steak once ideally, so that's okay.

Hmm. Those burnt brown bits visible around the steak are turning black. That'll be murder to clean later. I'd better turn the steak. I've only done it once before, it'll be fine. Gee a lot of moisture came out - I hope that's not making it too tough.

Oh, now there's a pleasantly smoky smell. That's probably okay. But the smoke is coming from the burnt bits that I can't scrape off the pan. I can't afford a new pan. I'll just turn that meat (I've only done it once haven't I?) and try to get that congealed yuck off the pan. Hmm, more moisture. Not good.

And so I turn the meat and fuss over it in a way that will only yield leathery steaks in the name of not-giving-myself-too-much-cleaning-later.

Men cook steak differently (and perfectly). They chuck a bit of meat onto a hot pan or grill and leave it. Have a beer, talk to mates, check their emails, watch something on TV, who knows. But by the time that's done and they remember the meat is there, the pan is scorched and the meat is, it must be said, perfect. Tender and moist on the inside and crisply blackened on the outside. Flip the meat, procrastinate for a while, remember the meat and serve it up. Perfecto!

The steak is enjoyed by all and the woman sighs and tries to clean the pan.

See - I'm sure I could manage all that myself, if only Consuela would do her job and clean the jolly pan.

01 December 2007

"Aw, Is She Teething, Luv?"

I've had it.

I never want to hear those ill-informed words ever again. "Aw, is she teething, luv? She's biting her thumb - they do that when they're teething. Look, she's even sucking on her shirt. I'd definitely say she's getting some teeth!"

I'll set a few things straight now.

  1. Babies mouth things. It's a great way to get tactile information when they're young.
  2. Babies suck things. It's what they do.
  3. Teething isn't a great event, a rite of passage, or a developmental milestone. It just gives mothers something to talk about when they've got nothing better.
Perhaps it's just that I'm cranky and impatient at things in general. Or perhaps it cheeses others off as much as it does me. Either way, I'll snap the head off the next person who asks.

Having a baby who likes sucking fabric and chewing on her left thumb hasn't done anything to help me avoid constant questions about the progress of Chubbity Bubbity's dentition. At least Sonny Ma-Jiminy didn't mouth things so much, but as his first teeth came at nine months I had to suffer about seven months of the insistent assertions of many people that the Great Expected Coming Of Teeth was indeed imminent. And they'd called it first.

Have you met people who ask questions and make comments like this? All they have are a few scraps of knowledge mixed with a handful of Wives' Tales, but they act as if they have a dual qualification in obstetrics and paediatrics.

Your baby moves a lot inside you? Easy - it's a boy. Never mind individual differences.

It's your first baby? Simple - you'll have a long hard labour and difficult birth. Never mind that many first-time mums don't (including me and every other woman in my maternal family tree!)

The baby mouths, sucks and cries? Sorted - younger than three months: it's colic (or hunger). Older than three months: it's teething (or hunger). Never mind that all three are normal baby behaviour.

Your baby turns her head and opens her mouth when her cheek is touched? Obviously - she's hungry. Never mind that she's just finished a feed and has a full tummy, and certainly don't worry about the rooting reflex or the sucking reflex.

And what if my diagnoses are proved wrong? No worries at all - the most important thing is that I've impressed everyone for a minute with my knowledge on pregnancy, birth and looking after babies.

Sometimes you're told something so outrageous that it goes past Patronising, way on beyond Offensive, and ends up in the Just Plain Absurd.

The most notable of these was a Retrospective Non-Self-Fulfilling Wives Tale that actually came from the mouth of a Midwife who certainly should have known better.

Now I hadn't heard the wives tale that if you have a lot of heartburn, you'll have a baby with hair. So I was unprepared when a midwife who saw Chubbity Bubbity's full head of dark hair reversed the "illogic" and said, "What a lovely lot of hair. You must have had a lot of heartburn when you were pregnant."

It was hard to resist the temptation to laugh out loud. The huge potential to be proved horribly wrong right then and there had completely escaped her.

I said, "Oh dear, until now I thought that I didn't have any heartburn, but if babies with hair give their mothers heartburn, I suppose I must have had it."

Even more amazingly, she accepted this and agreed with me!

But unfortunately, I have little or no tolerance for people who assume that they must know more about Chubbity Bubbity's hunger, body temperature, level of tiredness and development of teeth than does her mother who spends every hour of the day living in sync with her.

My great challenge is in responding to odd comments with a perfect combination of grace (so I don't insult them and later regret being so rude) and reality (so I don't allow them to smugly believe I agreed with them, causing me to later regret being such a wimpy doormat.)

Do you, my massive reading public who now numbers approximately eight, have any suggestions (rude, wimpy or perfectly-balanced)? How would you respond to a complete stranger who meets Chubbity Bubbity and immediately says those ghastly words,

"Aw, Is She Teething, Luv?"

16 November 2007

Blood and Flames

At the end of the day, I sit down and take it easy. I deserve to, I've usually achieved in one day what other people take a week to achieve. I often think to myself, "I deserve a medal for making it through today!" But as all mothers would know, no medal comes along.

Sure, I have my Minimum Standards Days. Those are the days when I just get the bare minimum of work done in order to say that "we've managed". Each mum has a different minimum standard. For me, I need to keep everyone fed and clothed, and also relatively happy. This means I only do Subsistence Housework, I try to maintain an even temper for at least 85% of the day, and most importantly, I aim to get through the day without seeing BLOOD or FLAMES.
Then there are the days when I can do a little above the bare minimum. My list of things to do at the moment (Consuela is conveniently absent now that there's a LIST) includes getting a plasterer to fix our bathroom ceiling which appears to be falling in, killing the mouse plague that is living in our compost heap, cleaning up the yard after a few weeks of wet weather, and cleaning up the downstairs floor which has been bled on by Puppity Doggity who has been in season (bleeding and locked up inside) for a week.

But I have recently had a headcold and therefore this week has been a Minimum Standards Week. It's been a nightmare, making me wonder how I would ever cope if I was sicker than I have been. Grocery shopping was a trial as both Chubbity Bubbity and Sonny Ma-Jiminy were Little Pressure Cookers of Fury by the time we got to the checkouts. At least Sonny Ma-Jiminy could be re-directed from his tantrum: he was quite happy to go and "pat the plastic dog" (you know - the Guide Dogs donation bin). But Chubbity Bubbity cried and screamed while I put my groceries on the checkout and paid for them.

As I walked away, I realised that the lady behind the checkout DIDN'T say, "Have a nice day," which was very unusual. It was as if she knew that I wasn't going to anyway.

But at least I got through the day without seeing blood or flames!

04 November 2007

These things are sent to try us

I have been sorely tested. And I think I have been found wanting.

Wanting a little more sleep for one thing.

So instead of blogging it, I will go to sleep and write about it all some other day. Probably just as well. You don't want to hear about the family illnesses and the Great Rubbish Bin Debacle right now. And we don't need to hear the word "maggots" this late at night.

27 October 2007

Mummy, Why Isn't Greg The Yellow Wiggle Anymore?

Greg was exhausted. It had been a long day. The trouble began in the morning.

Breakfast everyone!" Greg called. "We've got a big day ahead!" Murray and Anthony came to the table along with Dorothy the Dinosaur, Henry the Octopus, Wags the Dog and Captain Feathersword. But where was Jeff?

"Where's Jeff?" Greg asked. "We have so much to do - we need Jeff!"

"I think he's asleep again, me hearties," the Captain offered.

"Oh no," said Greg. "We'll have to wake him up. Ready everybody? One, two, three, ... WAKE UP JEFF!" Jeff bounced out of bed smiling and jumping around, making bird noises. How strange. Such a compulsive and deep sleeper, such an easy waker. "Odd," thought Anthony. "Narcolepsy or lazy old man?" he wondered.

"Now I have a few things to talk to you about. I'm glad I've got you all together," said Greg. "There's a bit of a mess outside. Who is responsible for the desecration of my roses again? Dorothy?" She shrunk under his gaze. "This can't go on, Dorothy. If you can't control yourself I'll need to spray garlic on my roses. And what about the holes in the ground? Was that you too?"

"Woof," said Wags sadly and put his tail between his legs. Greg was disappointed. "Oh no Wags, have you been running around, digging the ground again? Oh me, oh my! How many times have I told you..." And Wags whimpered.

"Never mind everyone, we'll fix the yard later. We've got a bit to do today so let's just focus on today's tasks, okay? Now Anthony, you're off to your Overeaters Anonymous meeting, aren't you?"

"I hardly see why it's necessary," complained Anthony. "I only eat fruit salad (yummy yummy) and vegetable soup (uh uh huh), but they seem to think that because eating is my schtick that I need to attend the classes!"

"Yes, whatever, " said Greg, getting impatient. "Look, I need to you run an important errand when you go. Can you take Wags to the vet for me?"

"Sure, what's up with Wags?" asked Anthony

"He's got the mange" replied Greg. Everybody stared at Wags and moved a little bit further away.

"Ohhh-kay..." said Anthony, suddenly unsure. "You'll have to stay in the back, Wags. And don't chew on the seats or shed hair in the Big Red Car. Come on, boy."

"Woof," said Wags.

Suddenly there was a knock on the door of the Wiggle House. "Who can that be?" wondered Greg.

Officer Beaples stood outside the door. "Ello ello ello! And what 'ave we 'ere?"

"Oh, good morning officer," said Greg. "Actually you've caught us at a pretty bad time - I wonder if you wouldn't mind..."

"Well your day is about to get a bit worse, my lad," said the officer. "We've 'ad a complaint about Murray's guitar playing."

"A complaint? Surely there must be some mistake, Officer."

"No mistake, laddie. Turns out your neighbours aren't all that fond of 'Music With Murray' after all. They've asked me to come down 'ere and hin-vestigate! 'Ang on a minute, what's all this then?"

The good officer had caught sight of Anthony about the set off in the Big Red Car. "That registration sticker appears to 'ave hex-pired. Could I see your license please sir?" Anthony sheepishly handed over his drivers license as Officer Beaples began checking the Big Red Car for any "hin-dications of hun-roadworthiness."

As Greg stood there aghast, Henry the Octopus raced out of the house with his tentacles flying this way and that. "Where do you think you're going?" demanded Greg.

"I've got a lunch date with Chef Alfonso - we had a really good chat after the show last night. He said he liked the look of me at the show and he had some new ideas for me!"

"You're not thinking of leaving The Wiggles are you?" demanded Greg.

"Oh, no, not at all, not at all," reassured Henry. "No, quite the opposite. I think Chef Alfonso might have some good ideas for how I could be used in our upcoming shows! He mentioned some of his ideas to me, let me see now, there was a thing called Octopus Terrine, that sounded like me doing some singing number, and there was Octopus Confit and Octopus Risotto too - I think they're different types of circus tricks or something. Anyway, they sound great and Alfonso said we could discuss them today. He said he'd have me for lunch, so I'll head off now ..."

"No no no no!" screamed Greg. "Henry, come back here! I think we need to have a little talk."

Henry sat down in a huff and crossed a few of his legs.

"But before I talk to you I have something to sort out with Captain Feathersword. Where are you, Captain!?"

"Ooh, yes, Gregory," said the Captain, appearing from the kitchen.

"Listen, we need to discuss your use of the feathersword inside the house. I'm getting quite tired of being tickled all day long! Look, it's a little annoying getting a tickle in the ear while you're cooking ..." Greg complained.

"Okay," said the captain giggling.

"... and it's quite frustrating to be tickled on the back of the neck while you're hanging out the washing ..." Greg continued.

"Okay," said the captain again, chuckling.

"... and it really gets my goat when I'm tickled up the nose while I'm trying to get some sleep ..." Greg went on.

"Okay," said the captain one more time, chortling.

"... but when I'm just sitting down for five minutes of peace on the toot and I'm tickled on the ... Captain! Why are you laughing? You have been a Serial Pest since we moved in here! Do you think this is funny?"

"Oooh, yes, I do Gregory, hee hee heeee!" guffawed the Captain.

"ALL RIGHT!" screamed Greg. "I've had enough of this! I thought that we worked well enough on stage that we could manage living under the same roof! BUT I WAS WRONG! It's bedlam, and I can't stand it! I'm quitting!" And Greg stormed off in disgust, striding down the street. "Let's see how Sam manages this!" he muttered.

22 October 2007

A Church Camp I Won't (Be Able To) Forget

I have spent the weekend on a church camp. It was a great camp with heaps of awesome activities and fantastic company, but a few things happened to severely try my patience and self-control.

After one or two of these incidents, I wanted to run away and hide. By Saturday night I thought it would be best for the poor children if I resigned as their mother. And by Sunday morning I was thinking maybe I should start going to a different church.

Here is a short list of the major hassles and incidents:

  • The country setting was lovely but that meant there were bazillions of flies. They had gathered in plague proportions to lounge around on every available area of our arms, legs and faces.
  • Chubbity Bubbity slept dreadfully. Deep in the darkness hours after much broken sleep I simply held her in my arms and looked into her bright beady eyes as I wept desperately for more sleep.
  • Sonny Ma-Jiminy had his normal number of tantrums but I was completely unable to manage his behaviour like I do at home. This was because on camp I usually had Chubbity Bubbity in one arm while using the other arm to hold a plate, a bib, a spoon and swat away flies.
  • I left the washing liquid out of my laundry box during a moment when all three of my hands were busy. Sonny Ma-Jiminy took a quick swig after his shower and started coughing and burping up what sounded like gallons of gurgly, bubbly air. “It’s a-scusting!" he cried. "Yuck! That drink has a weird taste!” I held him up to the basin while he drank and drank and drank (and gacked up some bubbles and froth). No lasting damage, but I felt terrible for failing to lock the washing liquid back up in my laundry box earlier.
  • My only pair of warm jeans got soaked while I was showering ...
  • ... and I sat on a small puddle of spilt chocolate milk in my only pair of half-warm jeans …
  • … and therefore also ran out of clean knickers.

Oh yes, I forgot one.

  • I flashed my Naked Self to the campsite and the World At Large.

It was this totally mortifying flashing incident on Saturday afternoon that broke the metaphorical camel’s back.

It happened like this. In the middle of our dormitory block, there was a bathroom with disabled access. It was a very large room with a toilet in one corner and a shower in the other with no walls in between.

I’m getting good at showering with Chubbity Bubbity now so I decided that she would shower with me on Saturday afternoon. I lay a beach towel down in the middle of the bathroom floor for her to lie on and undressed her and wrapped her up in a towel. I then showered myself and after that I picked her up and cuddled her close in the shower. You can’t get a slippery baby completely clean in the shower but you can have a nice close cuddle and she always seems to enjoy licking the drips of water while showering with her mummy.

The next step was to put her back on her beach towel and wrap her warmly in her bath towel so she could happily kick around while I dried and dressed myself. I reached for my bath towel and as I did, I slipped a little bit on the wet tiles. I automatically stretched my arm out to steady myself, and found myself pressing on the door that connected with outside.

Its latch was a bit dodgy.

The door clicked open and slowly swung outwards as my Naked Self stood aghast watching the door swing wider and wider. I was dumbly aware that each passing second of inaction revealed more … and more … and horribly more of my dripping wet Naked Self to the campsite, the Outside World and the few huddles of friends and church acquaintances who had gathered about 20 metres away in the rotunda.

My towel was not close enough to grab without having to flash across the open doorway and I desperately needed to halt the steady progress of the swinging door if I ever was to shut the stupid thing without having to emerge too far out from the bathroom. I made a quick decision and plunged into The Outside World as quickly as I could and wrenched the beastly door firmly shut.

I stood there in dumb amazement. What on earth? Did that really just happen? Was this one of those awful naked-in-public dreams? Or was it a horrifyingly real moment that my sub-conscious will draw on for inspiration for future awful naked-in-public dreams? It all seemed a bit unreal as Chubbity Bubbity smiled up at me from her towel on the floor, unaware how absolutely mortifying that moment was for me.

Humiliated, Chubbity and I emerged from our dorm ten minutes later. I spoke confidently to people over dinner hoping that my laughs and smiles hid my concern. Nobody mentioned anything about it at all and I hoped that perhaps - just perhaps - this meant that nobody saw my mortifying moment in the first place.

But I’ll never know for sure whether my Naked Self was seen by young children, half my friends and a handful of elderly church people – or not!

And I don’t ever want to know!

19 October 2007

How Brian Came To Be Monocular

I'm not good at keeping fish alive. My brief attempt to become a Fish Owner in my first year at University sadly ended after only a few weeks with the flushing of Doctor Honeydew and the sub-geranium burial of Beaker soon after.

But my Crazy Sister is good at keeping fish. She always keeps a few tanks of goldfish and Black Moors who usually enjoy long healthy lives. I suspect that this is because she knows much more about keeping fish than I do, using plants and snails to maintain underwater eco-systems and finding time for the essential fish-keeping tasks like changing the water.

The most remarkable fish she ever kept was a Black Moor with long flowing fins and goggly protruding eyes called Brian (naming your five fish after the Backstreet Boys is grounds for being called "Crazy", in my opinion.) His early life was unremarkable but an event soon occurred which set him apart from the other Backstreet Boys. That event was The Great Siphoning Accident.

One day, my Crazy Sister decided to clean the tank and replace the water. Her first task was to siphon most of the old water out. I suppose that if I'd changed fishtank water many times in my life, I would have cut corners too. This day, she decided not to remove the fish during the siphoning process but instead to keep a close eye on them as she held the siphon while the water drained out.

But boring tasks are daydreaming tasks and as she mentally floated away for a moment, Brian swam too close to the siphon. Crazy Sister felt a gentle "thoonk" in the tube and looked down to see a black fish eye zipping through the siphoning tube with blood vessels streaming behind it. A quick check of the tank revealed Brian calmly swimming away with similar blood vessels trailing from where one of his goggly eyes used to be.

Now Black Moors characteristically have poor vision to begin with and Brian's certain visual handicap along with the severity of his siphoning injury indicted that perhaps his rapid re-classification from binocular to monocular would end in his ultimate flushing. But the strangest things can happen in the animal world, and to our collective amazement, Brian made a full recovery and later rejoined his band members in the clean tank. (I like to imagine they went on to write a hit single called "Black Moor's Back: Larger Than Life, but a little Incomplete.")

Brian lived for years after The Great Siphoning Accident, even outlasting his fellow Backstreet Boys. He became a large, fat, one-eyed aristocrat of a fish who always swam ten-degrees off vertical and who permanently wore a glum (if somewhat startled) expression.

And perhaps the greatest irony is that although The Great Siphoning Accident is folklore in our family and we will remember it for generations to come, Brian forgot it three seconds after it occurred.

16 October 2007

Spiritual Food, Time Zones and Online Shopping

I've been looking for a rare out-of-print book. I have found it in a bookshop in the UK that sells some fiction as well as Christian books. Every now and then I visit the bookshop's website as I consider whether to buy it from overseas or to try to find it in a shop closer to home.

Last Sunday, I visited the site again to check some details on postage. I got a surprise. Instead of the bookshop's website, I found this message:

We're closed on the Lord's Day!
Just as we wouldn't have a physical store open on the Lord's Day, we don't believe it's the best if we have our online store open today.
We recognise that some of you are shopping for your spiritual food which you may well want *for* the Lord's day, but we'd prefer if you came back another day to do the buying :-)

Hmm. Now I think that in God's eyes, this is a very good idea. I myself find it hard to slow down on Sundays and spend time with God and have a decent rest. And I think that God would be really happy with these bookstore owners who close their online store and give God's day of rest the proper respect.

But as Aunt March said, "the best of us have a spice of perversity in us" and the spice of perversity in me poses two questions:
  1. Is it morally wrong to purchase Spiritual Food during Australia's Lord's Day which, due to time-zone differences, is in fact late Saturday night in the UK?
  2. Do I have grounds to complain because I cannot purchase Spiritual Food from Australia in the earlier hours of a Monday because it's still the Lord's Day in the UK and therefore this online bookstore would be closed?
I think the answers are (1) No and (2) No. And I think that the Pharisee in me would do well to pipe down and leave the issue alone.

But these facts remain:
  • I would still like to buy a copy of this book.
  • I need to have a Day Of Rest each week, just as these online bookstore owners do.
  • The spice of perversity in me serves no purpose other than to provide blog fodder.
In the end, I think that the only thing I've decided after blogging all this is that the best policy would be to buy books on a Wednesday.

15 October 2007

My Imaginary Housekeeper

The mess can get a bit out of control at my place.

Sonny-Ma-Jiminy is now two and a half and he's programmed for mayhem. I put his toys away into his toyboxes; he takes them out again. I put all his trikes and trolleys under the deck; he takes them out again. I put his ukulele away where I can't stand on it; he takes it out and places it where I will accidentally step on it and mindlessly kick it again and again. For example, behind me on the kitchen floor or just outside the shower door before I get out dripping wet.

Chubbity Bubbity is quite dependent on Mummy at 6 months old and she prefers me to devote at least 50% of my ARMS to her. Which means I'm usually doing my housework one-handed except when both my arms are devoted to her care, when nothing gets done at all.

My husband is frequently busy at work or enjoying his own "down-time" (and who doesn't need down-time?)

Puppity Doggity, in her defence following my recent post about the BBQ Grease, is fairly easy to look after however she tends to walk thousands of clover burrs inside on her foxlike brush of a tail. But overall, she contributes little to the general domestic chaos at our place.

And me - well, I tend to procrastinate a little bit. And when things are really untidy, I just look at the List Of Things To Do and I procrastinate a lot.
At any given time I have plenty of jobs on my List Of Things To Do, whether the list is in writing or just a mental note. Large jobs, small jobs, easy jobs and the jobs I'd run away from home to avoid. It's usually a long list and although compiling it lifts the burdens from my mind, attacking items on the list is not enjoyable and nearly impossible to juggle, especially when Chubbity Bubbity is awake.

Now, we're not particularly rich. It's unreasonable to consider spending large amounts of our money employing a housekeeper to attack the tasks on my List Of Things To Do. But I've decided to make myself feel a little better by imagining that I can.

There are three qualities you need in an Imaginary Housekeeper. The first is kindness. I don't want anybody coming into my house and being unkind. The second is a willingness to do anything you ask her to do. I want to be able to leave any job (large/small/easy/run-away-from-it) in her hands and know that she'll do it without complaining. And the third quality? I'll tell you later.

My Imaginary Housekeeper is a lovely Spanish lady called Consuela. Our arrangement is simple: I pay her a lot of imaginary money to come and complete items from my list. It's an imaginary burden on our imaginary purse, but I imagine that I do it. And every now and then I walk past the List Of Things To Do and see a job that is down for Consuela to complete and I think, "Oh poor Consuela, she really is quite busy. I'll just quickly get that one thing done and then she won't have to do it. And maybe I'll save some money today because Consuela will be able to leave early."

And before I know it, I'm getting the housework done and saving imaginary money everywhere. It's a win-win situation. Just tonight I put away three baskets of folded clothes that had been washed, dried, folded and presumably left for Consuela to put away. After about a week of fossicking through baskets of folded cloths for underwear and shirts, I realised that Consuela (being imaginary) wasn't going to get to it so I saved myself a bit of money and did it myself. Just as I should have done in the first place.

The thing is, if I HAD done it myself in the first place, it would have been drudgery. This way, it's not drudgery - it's part of the lovely win-win situation I've created by saving money by getting to it before Consuela does.

And that's the final quality you need in an Imaginary Housekeeper - a little touch of laziness!

14 October 2007

I Am Simply No Good At Wiggly Multi-Tasking

The Wiggles are good. Very good. They are superb children's entertainers and creative songwriters. Their music tends to "switch on" the musical part of kids' brains and it encourages them to grow and develop musically.

Sonny-Ma-Jiminy loves The Wiggles. I often find him singing a Wiggles song, strumming his guitar like Murray, singing the words like Greg and performing the actions like a besotted Wiggly Groupie. He frequently falls asleep like Jeff, stopping all activity as he feigns narcolepsy with his eyeballs rolling back in his head (which has frightened Grandma on more than one occasion.) He begins to snore gently as he waits to be "woken up" when he jumps up and down flapping his arms and tweeting like a bird (yeah, what's with that, Jeff?)

Like most children his age I suspect, he thinks that his mother would love nothing more than to fill her own day with a constant Wiggly Role-Play. But the average mother has many calls on her time, and the pressure to multi-task the housework with the Wiggly Role-Play is immense. To my disappointment, this area has been nothing but a debilitating domestic limitation.

I simply cannot simultaneously hang out the washing while pointing my fingers and doing the twist.

Neither can I peel potatoes while standing on one leg and shaking my hands.

And I can't keep my cool while being wrenched from what was a peaceful sleep with the dreaded words,
"One ... two ... three ... WAKE UP MUMMY!!!"

My only hope is that Chubbity Bubbity will grow into another little Wiggly Groupie and be satisfied following her brother's constant requests to "be Dorothy" or to "stand up and dance" or to "play her guitar like Murray."

Until then, I'll have to bear it graciously.

And just for today, I might put on The Hooley Dooleys instead.

13 October 2007

My 2006 Christmas Poem

A Christmas Poem (with apologies to E.A. Poe)

In this Christmas season cheery, while my baby cuddles near, he
Hears the sound of crinkly paper coming from behind his door,
So he thinks, his hands a-clapping, “Someone’s there and they aren’t napping,
Someone there is present-wrapping, safe behind my bedroom door.”
Peering low, he crouches so he spies the feet upon the floor.
“Someone’s there, of this I’m sure.”

Celebrating, we’re all munchin’ some expansive Christmas luncheon,
Sharing gifts with those we love; we know God’s gifts to us are more!
Telling jokes with bon-bons snapping, piling up the Christmas wrapping,
After lunch we’ll fall to napping, trying to suppress a snore.
Backyard cricket: all the kids are trying hard to keep the score
(Problem is: they’re eight for four!)

Times like this, by way of reason, usher in the Christmas Season
And our thanks for Baby Jesus come quite swiftly to the fore.
Mark the diary, we remember: twenty-fifth of each December
Every precious fam’ly member has been blessed with so much more
Than salvation brought by merely keeping with the ancient law!
Jesus saves for Evermore!

12 October 2007

Frog Dreams - A Key To Your Subconscious?

I woke up this morning to the sound of frogs. We've had a bit of rain recently, after many years of drought. And the little froggies have patiently waited, baked into the dry soil, for some rain like this. It doesn't take long for them to wake up, re-hydrate or whatever they do, and start croaking.

And as I lay there in the early morning light listening to the croaking, I realised that this must be why I had The Frog Dream.

It was stupid. Dreams always are. And I never dream proper storylines, I just dream situations. Nothing ever actually HAPPENS in my dreams; I just find myself in certain places with particular people and ... that's it!

In this Frog Dream, I found a frog and decided to release it outside. I was hoping it would find a home in the bushes or something, I don't know. Anyway as I let it go, I saw that I'd released it into a writhing pile of toads. And that bothered me because in my hazy dream-reality, there's a rule that you must never mix frogs with toads. I cannot tell you why. Nothing bad seemed to happen to either the frog or the toads, but I woke with a vague feeling of unease, knowing that I'd put a frog in with a pile of toads.

And this reminded me of the best Frog Dream I've ever heard. My Crazy Sister once had a dream that a frog had crawled up her pants leg and got itself firmly lodged up under her buttock. It remained stuck and thrashed wildly about trying to get out. Crazy Sister then woke up and realised that she actually had a Massive Buttock Twitch that then persisted well into the next day.

Her subconscious had perceived this Gluteous-Twitchus-Maximus and decided that in order to make sense of it, a Frog Dream was needed.

Sometimes I worry what we'd uncover if we ever broke into her subconscious.

11 October 2007

Puppity Doggity's Very Bad Day

Man it's been a tough day. My patience has been tested from the moment I was woken up early by Chubbity Bubbity, through the torment of getting Sonny-Ma-Jiminy ready for Daycare, continuing on past the preparations for the lamb roast and guests for dinner tonight, through to now - when I sit at my computer and start to blog the lot of it. Well, the bits I can remember anyway.

And yet as I reflect on a day full of difficulties thrown at me by my two lovely little ones, the frustrations that really stick out for me are the ones delivered to me by Puppity Doggity. She's insane, and today I'm not sure she's such a good addition to the family. She's a lovely two-and-a-half year old Border Collie, very personable, lovely nature, easy to train except she is completely insane with other dogs. She has this desire to grovel, ingratiate and humiliate herself in front of dogs she considers her superiors. And the flip side is that with dogs she considers her inferiors - she tries to tear them apart.

First thing this morning she breaks away while my husband takes her out to the kerb to put rubbish in the bin and she flies across the road to maul a tiny ball of white fluff on legs. Snapping, snarling, she gets her teeth involved, there's some blood, you get the picture. And within an hour, Fluff-On-Legs' owner (a complete stranger) is on our doorstep with a rather large vet bill which we're expected to pay. Puppity Doggity gets in trouble.

Then I find that she has been desperately trying to dig up the rotting carcass of some poor dumb bluetongue lizard which I found in the yard and buried over a fortnight ago. Dog in more trouble (though this time, she has no idea what she's done wrong).

And later in the day, I find that she has licked a large puddle of grease (plus cooked meat juices and the essence of a thousand Barbecues Past) from the barbecue roasting tray. Okay, so I left it on dog-level, but with Chubbity Bubbity crying all day, I DID have to leave some jobs half-done! I usually don't mind if Puppity Doggity licks the roasting tray clean - it saves me most of the cleaning. The thing that bothered me was that she gacked it up inside on the lino. (The silver lining here is that she didn't gack up on the carpet.) By this stage, I was too exhausted to work out how to punish a dog for doing a typically doggish thing and I just cleand it up, trying not to gack-up my own lunch.

And out of the thousand frustrating things that made up today, it is this dog and her insanity that will be last in my mind as I fall off to sleep.

Some days need to be totally written off.