30 October 2012

Name that Mutation


The word "tonsillitis" means an infection or inflammation of the tonsils.  My little guys get it occasionally in winter and it's easily cleared up with antibiotics.  (There is no indication that it would be appropriate to go whacking parts out of the children at this stage, that's not where I'm going with this.)

Tonsillitis seems to be more contagious than modern medicine realises, and it suffers more mutations than the text books would indicate.

I have noticed that if Jessie is unfortunate enough to get tonsillitis and have a day off school, the illness spreads quite quickly to Buzz.  However, it undergoes an important mutation before it does.  Once it reaches Buzz's little body, what used to be a strain of tonsillitis has in fact mutated to:


Asymptomatosis, observed and named by me, simply means:
• "a-" = without
• "-symptoma-" = observable symptoms
• "-osis" = a general condition, as opposed to "-itis" meaning inflammation or "-oma" meaning a mass.  Just a plain old "-osis."

More properly, the illness is referred to as "acute selective asymptomatosis."  "Selective" means it happens whenever Buzz pleases, and "acute" means it comes on suddenly in the morning when I say, "Go and find some school socks."

Once Asymptomatosis has infected poor dear Buzz, it spreads quite quickly to me.  It undergoes another critical mutation before it does.  Once the illness gets to me, it has mutated to:


Sing with me: 
" Asymptomatata! ♪♫ I made up the phrase ... ♪
♪ Asymptomatata! ♫ It's a passing craze ... ♫
♫ I have no worries ♪ It's not a genuine sick day ... ♫♪♪"

Which basically means one or more of my children want to stay home without displaying any observable symptoms, and I couldn't give a toss.

29 October 2012

Five years ago

Five years ago, I started contributing to the plethora of useless information filling the internet in the form of blogs. This was back in the day when most bloggers blogged in order to blog.  Sponsors, ads and money-making ventures were rare back then, and we only wrote to amuse ourselves and our friends.

Buzz and Jessie in October 2007

Initially, I told nobody my blog was here.  I wrote a few tentative pieces and then told my sister what I was doing.  She thought I was mad.  Then I told my husband.  He was most amazed that I'd managed to do something technology-related without his help.  Then I told a few other people.  I had a readership of about four, and they only read because they were worried about what I might have said about them.  I saw that blogging was going to need a few rules.

Rule One: Don't blog revealing things about people you love.

You don't want friends and family to be nervous about what you're saying about them.  It's possible I broke that rule by being honest about my biggest struggle in the early days of my blog:  Buzz' habit of doing a late-afternoon poo on the back path.  He was only two, but now he's seven.  Yikes.

Next I tackled the related issue of exactly how grumpy to be on my blog.  The answer to that was going to be dictated by how private my blog was, and I really wanted to blog publicly and meet new friends.  Therefore I imposed ...

Rule Two: Don't blog honest things about people you hate.

I know that I have broken this rule a bit by blogging about our local lollipop lady.  But she's an autocrat and needs to be outed, you know what I mean?  Today she left Buzz and about 10 of his schoolmates waiting beside the road as she furiously and ostentatiously scribbled down the license plate of a car standing in the loading zone beside her crossing.  The driver and the lollipop lady exchanged furious words and angry gestures before the car sped off, but the lollipop lady made a big show of scribbling LOTS MORE down in her little black book before attending to the waiting children, who no doubt got an earful about "standing in loading zones," none of which they would have understood.  So there I go breaking rule two AGAIN.

Rule Three: Don't get too serious about blogging.

•  I didn't want to aim to make money, only to find I'd only made enough to buy a packet of chips, and to be disappointed.
•  I didn't want to aim to have a massive readership, only to find my only readers were my mum, my sister and You, and to be disappointed again.
•  I didn't want to be tied down to "having to write" for the benefit of my readership or my sponsors, and to sit under high pressure staring at a blank screen only to churn out the literary equivalent of boiled manure.

So far, I've stuck to that one.  I've made no money, I have kept my readership small, friendly and cozy, and all the boiled manure I have written is honest, legitimate, natural boiled manure, not boiled manure produced under high pressure to write something brilliant.

Rule Four:  If you don't have anything to blog about, for the love of all that is good and pure DON'T blog about having nothing to blog about.

To my absolute shock and horror, I have broken this more times than I want to admit.  From memory, I've only done this once or twice, but in reality, about one in every 10 posts I re-visit from my little "Random Posts From The Past" in the right sidebar contains some apologetic moaning about how I've got nothing to blog about.  It's pathetic.  I've written nearly 1000 posts on Killing a Fly, and I'm tempted to delete all the "I've-got-nothing-to-blog-about" posts to bring the total to about 900.

But if you thought that five years has been a little rough on this site, you might be shocked to see how brutal it has been on the very ukulele that inspired its name.  When I started Killing A Fly, the ukulele with which I was urging my offspring not to kill flies was a little less battered, and still had all its strings.  These days, it only has a few bits of broken nylon string hanging from its tattered, decrepit frame. 

And while you could see the state of the ukulele as being allegorical of the state of the blog itself, I suspect I will continue to write things about people that make them nervous to know me, write indiscreet things about our lollipop lady and moan about not having anything to blog about for a while longer. And if you are really lucky and stick around, you're sure to come across some boiled manure before too long.

22 October 2012

Sound bytes from today

Today was a student-free day, so I had all the children at home with me while Mr de Elba was back at work changing the world.  Now I am just curious about the deep-thinkers on Facebook who put statuses like this up on Friday afternoon - and I may be paraphrasing a little but the essence was:

OMG I'm so super-excited lol, it's a LONG WEEKEND LOL!!!!!!!!!!

I would like to ask them what brand of sedative they use on their children? Where can you buy it?  Would they consider using it on themselves before Facebooking about the next student-free day?  Just asking.

As a free gift to them, I will donate a few moments from today so that they may thoroughly enjoy the richness of my student-free day, along with their own.

Jessie: [says something]
Buzz: [copies Jessie]
Jessie: [says something else]
Buzz: [copies Jessie again]
Jessie: MU-U-UM!  Buzz is copying me!
Woody [from another room]: Buzz is copying me!
Jessie: MU-U-UM!  Woody's copying me!
Woody [wicked giggle]: Woody's copying me!
Me: I'm going into the woods to hide.
Me, driving: Now Rex, don't cry when I drive over the bumps...
Jessie and Woody in unison: Bums!
Me, to Rex: Sometimes cars just have to go over bumps.
Jessie and Woody: Bums! 
Me: I said "bumps."
Jessie and Woody: Bums!
Me: You guys are from a different planet. 

You're welcome.

20 October 2012

Goodbye my larva, 'tis time to pupate

Greeny gave me a scare.

A few days ago, he went off his food and he seemed to have stopped growing.  He got all slow and sleepy, scrunched his body up, gradually turned from green to brown, and appeared to give up on life.

I couldn't work out what was happening.  I was expecting a silkworm-like cocoon to be spun, and this was nothing like a silkworm-like cocoon.  I watched him over the hours, and noticed he was going hard and crackly, until he had changed completely.

I am about to post some of the most un-fascinating photos you have ever seen.  Haute photographie, this is not.  Are you ready?  Behold, the new Greeny:

Happy Halloween!  It's Greeny, dressed as a mouse dropping.

Well if that isn't the most awesome photo you've seen today!  Here's another one from a slightly different angle lest you miss any of the excitement:

We know he's alive in there because when he's disturbed, he wriggles!

I know, right?  But it's totally not what it looks like: it's actually Greeny.  As an aside, Greeny did a huge one of those right before changing to brown and crackly.  Who knew the little grub had that much inside him?

I needed to do some research on the cabbage moth tout de suite, because this was not what I was expecting.  It was hard to find information that didn't solely focus on pesticides to kill the common cabbage moth, but I found what I needed in the end.  I learned something that probably most primary school students know:  Some insects pupate inside a pupa instead of a cocoon.

Who knew?  Not me.  Everything I know about caterpillars turning into butterflies and moths I learned from this guy:
And he built a cocoon. Ergo (I assumed) Greeny has got it all wrong.  But he hadn't.

In the last growth stage of some caterpillars they moult as usual but the next skin hardens rather than staying soft, to protect them as they change inside.  They do this instead of spinning a 'silk' cocoon.

I know you already knew that.  I didn't, okay?  In general, the average Australian has less than zero interest in the life cycle of the cabbage moth, preferring to douse their habitat in Dipel and understand the life cycle of pretty butterflies instead.

Now Jessie thinks we should change his name from Greeny to Browny.  I'm thinking he should stay  "Greeny" because if he looks like how I expect him to look when he hatches, we'd have to then change his name again to Whitey.  That would be silly.  I'm going to keep calling him Greeny.

We're now watching Greeny do nothing but look like a mouse dropping for the next ... how long?  The Very Hungry Caterpillar stayed inside for "almost two weeks" but this guy could be different.  If I don't put some netting over Greeny's deluxe egg carton suite, he might just hatch and escape, causing deep emotional suffering among Greeny's human friends.

There is still the potential for Greeny to refuse to pupate in captivity and perish in his suite, again causing deep emotional suffering among Greeny's human friends.

And of course, rough handling or a hungry bird could ruin his release into the wild, yet again causing deep emotional suffering among Greeny's human friends.

The pressure on me to deliver this cabbage moth to local vegetable gardens alive and happy remains strong.

Jolly Greeny.

Greeny Part 1: "Greeny"
Greeny Part 3: "In which procrastination finds me out"

15 October 2012


Wow.  Monday is awful isn't it?  Well, Rex hates it.

He cried all around the grocery shop while Buzz, Jessie and Woody made me say things that made other customers smirk as they passed us.  It's a bit of a blur, but I do remember hissing to them that I'd attached a device to the trolley that caused it to deliver a strong electric shock to all unearthed children who touched it. Completely justified.  I'd struggled to manoeuver the trolley with one hand while Rex, who refused to snuggle down in the baby cradle thing lined with layers of his soft Storchenwiege wrap, cried in my other arm while the three big children tried to "guide" the trolley in all the wrong directions then fought each other to get into it from where they could do nothing but stand on the lamingtons.

They're good shoppers in twos and threes.  Four just breaks the zen.  When we were done, I declared to the quiet, echo-y carpark, "I am never buying groceries ever again!  What could we possibly need so much that would make that experience worthwhile?"  I am 55% sure there was nobody else in the carpark.

The challenges keep on coming.  I just moaned to Mr de Elba via Google Talk:  "Am wondering what to do with these miserable scraps of life-extinguished fowl before I can call them 'dinner.'"  He replied, "Sounds palatable."

I'll try to redeem today by telling all you non-facebooking friends and relatives out there about Greeny.

Mum has been growing chickpeas, and they are delicious to eat fresh.  We were munching our way through a container of them when I noticed one chickpea shell had a hole out of which was crawling a green grub.  "Shall I squash it with my fingers?" I thought.  "Not worth getting icky green grub blood on my fingers - I'll just put it over there for now, and take it outside later.  Some random bird will solve the problem for me."

Unfortunately, between then and later, the grub had been named, and was therefore, in the eyes of three of my small dependents, "a pet."

Allow me to introduce you to "Greeny."

 We've kept him alive for quite a few days now, because as my friend The Accidental Housewife pointed out, we know what he eats.  However he has gone off chickpeas and moved on to pumpkin and lettuce, so I'm not sure what to do with him when he turns up his nose at that and desires something else.  But if he thinks he can refuse his veggies and then ask for dessert, he has another think coming.

Each day, he gets an urge to hop onto the rim of his container and motor around it quickly a few times, almost as if he's having daily exercise.  If he was a 55 year old man, he'd call it his "constitutional" and use words like "bracing."  At many points in his constitutional, he stops and tries to make a break for it.  Like the refusing veggies thing, I am having none of it.

Greeny gives me a scare every day - he hides in his lettuce and can't be found.  This, along with the potential for his haphazard diet and random habitat to cause him to be rapidly re-classified as "Browny" prompted me to ask Jessie the other day, "Sweetheart, if Greeny dies or gets himself lost, will we cry, or will we be okay with that?"

Without skipping a beat, she replied, "Cry."

I feel the pressure is on me.  The happiness of a number of small children depends on my ability to nurture this green grub to the cocoon-building stage and beyond.  The best-case scenario involves Greeny hatching and being released into the wild for the purpose of laying eggs which will hatch into other vegetable-eating pests for the joy of my neighbours and myself.

In reality, I only hope Greeny manages to fly out of sight of the children before being snapped up by a bird.

Greeny Part 2: "Goodbye my larva, 'tis time to pupate"
Greeny Part 3: "In which procrastination finds me out"

09 October 2012

2012 Bus Story - Sequel

You will be pleased to know that the bus, complete with new battery thanks to a Good Samaritan with black-grease-stained hands called Phil, performed admirably for the week of camp, taking 20 teenagers at a time to and from electives.  "Performed admirably" in this case involves the bus shuddering and shaking along the road while roasting its sweaty, red-faced passengers and melting Mr de Elba's Thankyou Chocolate which was given by the camp leaders to thank him for driving the "Bucket 'o' Bolts" all week without once uttering a bad word.

The only Bus Incident that occurred while actually on camp was this:

The bus ran over our Family Sunscreen.  But it was still useable despite the bottle being squashed flatter than it was, the lid being blown off and, I suspect, a good amount of sunscreen being splattered all over the road.

And that's the end of The Bus Story.  How underwhelming.

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
The children had a blast on camp, even though they were only hangers-on at a camp which was really for high-schoolers.

There was a lot of beach swimming:
Bimi insisted on swimming with her handbag one day.  
It even went out in the surf with her.
 Counting heads: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 ...
...6, 7...
  No, no, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8... plus Rex makes 9!  Nine?  Oops we counted someone else's kid ...
 In the middle of the nights I didn't want Rex to wake anybody up, so I took him to a little room to settle him.  In the darkness without my contact lenses, I could see practically nothing.  I named the room "The Pineapple Room" because it had fruit in it (including pineapples) waiting to be used for The Masterchef Challenge one night.
How tropical, how fun, how happy does "The Pineapple Room" sound?  How disappointing to see it already had a name, heralded by the sign on the door which could be clearly seen in the light of day:
This camper made a corn cob stack with all our leftovers.  Clever.

On the day that Buzz and Jessie went with the campers to Wet'n'Wild, Woody and Rex and I packed the day full of activities with Justamum and two of her kids Boris and Bimi.  At the big local shopping centre, Woody spent half an hour on a bouncy bus before being bored stiff at a dreadful Lorax stageshow involving two perky dancing girls and a person in a huge Lorax suit saying "Redooce, Reuse, Recycle" in a fake New York accent.
Buzz and Woody loved the bowling:
Belle, who had never been bowling before, won the game.  After we got home, we realised that the final round entitles you to three bowls, not two.  Fail, Givinya, Fail.

Here are Jessie, Banana, Buzz, Belle and Bimi dressed up for Formal Night at camp.  Blurry phone photos again.
Little Rex spent most of the week in his new wrap. I got a Storchenwiege after finding my way out of the babywearing culture I accidentally got immersed in as part of my research into the type of wrap to buy.  I just want to be hands-free, not subscribe to a culture!  Babywearing Institute?  Babywearing Conventions?  For real?
Formal Night: the de Elbas weren't prepared and had to make do with regular holiday clothes:
The children took a joking suggestion that they were traveling in the trailer as the honest truth, and were disappointed to hear that it wasn't going to happen:
Dear Baby Rex.
Completely exhausted after a week at camp, Rex slept for 11.5 hours straight as soon as he hit his comfy cot.  Here he is the next day saying "Keep your bassinette.  I will sleep right here thanks."

08 October 2012

2012 Camp Bus Story


That's the sound a bus makes when it's got a flat battery.

When a bus goes "rurr-rurr-rurr" in an unfamiliar place at 9:00pm in the cold, wet weather and the bus is filled with tired, frightened children, the "rurr-rurr-rurr" sounds a little more sinister than I can make it look on the screen.

Mr de Elba, Justamum and I had taken seven children to have a fabulous night ice-skating and tobogganing, and we'd stopped at McDonalds to get 30c cones for the children on the way home.  We clambered back on the bus to make the 20-minute drive back home when the "rurr-rurr-rurr-rurr" changed our night from Fabulous to Potentially-Very-Bad-Indeed.

Mr de Elba kept his cool as he turned the ignition key again and again, but the bus didn't give any hope of spluttering to life.  One by one the children sobered as they realised what Justamum and I had realised in the darkness of the bus: we were stuck.  Justamum and I said little prayers while the girls cried and the boys prophesied doom.

Baby Rex decided he was hungry but he didn't want my milk, an impossible scenario he sometimes presents me with.  He alternated crying with screaming and I took him up the back seat of the bus, as if that would somehow minimise the noise for the other passengers.

As I sat there offering milk that was somehow offensive to a person smaller than my arm, I considered our options.

How to start the bus? No idea.

How to evacuate the children while someone cleverer than I worked out how to start the bus? Ah, there were several options there, each more unsatisfactory than the last.

I could call my Dad to drive our car (complete with baby seat for Rex and boosters for the others) to pick us up and take us home ... but he didn't have our house or car keys.

I could call Crazy Sister's husband who had the benefit of living close to where we broke down.  But he would have had to make several 40-minute round trips to take us all, and didn't have the requisite child restraints in his car.

Also, when I invited Crazy Sister ice-skating, she said with her characteristic charm that it sounded "damn nasty" and that she "just spent what feels like most of this year waiting for winter to finish."  Dragging a Crazy Family member out into "damn nasty" weather that felt a little like the winter that had finally just finished seemed defeatist at best and humiliating at worst, so I abandoned that idea.

The third option was "Panic Now."  But by that stage, we were too tired. Instead, we and the children said, "Dear God, we pray the bus can start, amen."

I hadn't noticed that a kind bloke with a really nice new ute had asked if he could give us a tow, so we could try a rolling start.  Mr de Elba had to back the bus up by allowing it to roll backwards down a slight incline.  My job, since Rex and I were sitting in the back row, was to tell him when to stop so that he didn't smash the car parked 10 metres behind us.  That was when I started to sweat a little.  "Panic Now" seemed a good option.

We rolled backwards without incident, the tow cable was attached, and we were slowly towed out of the carpark.  Then we started going faster to get up a fair speed before trying a rolling start.

"Rurr-rurr-rurr!"  No luck.

They tried again in a different gear.  Rolling slowly, rolling faster, rurr-rurr-rurr, no luck again.

A third try - much the same.

Fourth try, and they went much faster.  It was then I realised how difficult it must be to concentrate on getting up enough speed to start the bus while watching the ute's brake lights so that you could stop the bus quickly enough on the wet road so that you didn't smash into the back of the Good Samaritan who was trying to help you.

Then all of a sudden: BRAKELIGHTS-EMERGENCYSTOP-SKIIIIIIIIIID-stopjustintime!

We'd just avoided rear-ending a really nice, new, expensive ute with a really old, unreliable, shuddery bus.  "Panic Now" was instigated.

My choice would have been to pull out then.  No more tries, no more potential rear-ending of the Good Samaritan for his kindness.  However Mr de Elba decided to give it one more shot.

Rolling slowly, rolling faster, rurr-rurr-rurr-rurr-rurr, splutter, cough, START!  It had worked!  We were running again, and as often happens in these situations, the Good Samaritan congratulated us, we thanked him profusely, he said goodbye and then he disappeared into the night.

"Thankyou God, the bus has started!" we said together.  Girls stopped crying, boys were perhaps a little sad that the eventual doom didn't transpire because it seemed to have been quite an adventurous possibility, baby Rex had cried himself out and fell asleep slumped across my arms, and Justamum and I laughed silently in the darkness.  Because what else could you do, really?

And as we drove home in the dark wet night, we wondered what the ending of this story would be - the story whose beginning involved being stranded with a flat battery outside McDonalds late at night and whose middle involved driving that very bus packed with 20 excited teenagers three hours to the beach for a week-long camp.

Woody had no such qualms.  He sat happily beside me saying over and over again, "Fank God da bus has start."

07 October 2012

2012 Camp Bus Story - Prequel

What is camp without a good bus story?  This year we didn't manage to steal a bus, or the obvious one-up from that: exploding a bus, but we did manage a bus incident two nights before camp.  But before I tell you about the bus incident, which will seem quite tame after this wind-up, I need to tell you what we did the night we took the camp bus for a pre-camp trial run and fuel-up.

Before the warm spring holidays in our Queensland town, we received a flier in our school newsletters saying that there would be ice-skating and tobogganing in a Fitness and Recreation Centre 20 minutes from where we live.  Buzz and Jessie had been ice-skating before and enjoyed it, and we decided that we'd take all our kids along with Justamum, Belle and Banana (from the blog Yes I Said Four) to try it out.  They had a family friend, a boy of about 10, staying with them, so it seemed like a good idea to take the 22-seater bus to fit us all in, and also to do the pre-camp trial run in the same trip.

The kids loved ice-skating!  Buzz thought he was an Olympic-standard skater as he shuffled around the rink, Jessie and Woody both cried until they got little-kid skates which helped them shuffle around too instead of their usual falling/crying routine, and Mr de Elba and Justamum helped their respective children around while trying not to fall down, get wet or get bruised.

I was glad to sit out with baby Rex in the wrap, because can I just remind you of this:

which, while much improved since the birth of little Rex, cannot be trusted in a slippery-floor situation, much less an ice-skating situation.

The tobogganing was also a winner after initial tears from Jessie and Woody.  Jessie seemed to have had no real reason for tears, but we thought Woody's tears were probably justified.  His first ride went perfectly if his cape is anything to judge by, despite his facial expression:

 But his second trip was generally considered to have been a mistake:

Tears ensued, but Daddy saved the day:

Banana and Belle had a blast on the toboggans:
 As did Buzz and Jessie:

And when it was all over, we hopped into the bus to go home, with a quick stopover to buy 30c cones at McDonalds.  It was late, dark, rainy and cold.  Everyone was tired, especially baby Rex who needed a feed, a bath and his own comfy cot.  The bus felt a little old and unreliable, but what could go wrong, right?