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Archive for October, 2008

This Weekend Edition of the NDM explores different strategies that can be employed in the pursuit of that most elusive of delicacies: The Good Night’s Sleep. All of these strategies have been used in our household at some point or another, with varying degrees of success – if, that is, you consider pretty much no success at all to be a degree of success, which I do, because it’s the Little Things you cling to when you’ve had as little sleep as I have the past six years. So here goes:

Comforters
Comforters present any parent with an interesting conundrum – whether they be a stuffed Rottweiler (such as Mr Justice’s – and it’s a soft toy, not a taxidermy project, in case you were wondering) or a manky old scrap of grey cloth (such as The Pixie’s – see “The Duck One” for more information).

When they are clear and present, comforters act as gentle ushers to the land of Nod. However, when they are Missing In Action, possibly left behind in the park or – worse still – lost somewhere in the House That Ate Paris, they are the agents of Satan Himself.

The Pixie, in particular, is prone to unprecedented hysterics when Duck One has gone walkabout at bedtime. And while she might fall asleep while you’re ostensibly “still looking for it” (or rather, having a stiff drink in the loungeroom), she will wake throughout the night – as if she had instantly thawed out after being cryogenically frozen mid-sentence – and carry on exactly where she left off. 

And as for those delightful Gastro nights when the comforter is usually the first casualty of war… frankly, I think it way easier to withdraw Australian troops from Afghanistan than it is to wrench that beloved vomit-soaked object from an already-ailing child’s hands. Which is why I would recommend anyone considering the introduction of a comforter to their child to think very carefully about the material it is made of – something fashioned out of easy-to-wipe-down plastic would be practical, or better yet, try looking at some type of hard plastic receptacle that could double up as a Sick Bucket. 

My final word on the subject of comforters is this: don’t make the mistake I made in effectively becoming Tiddles McGee’s comforter. I am currently working on a plan to transfer some of his abundant Mummy-Love to a stuffed monkey. Those who have met me in person might think that an easy enough task but so far he seems to be able to tell the difference. I’ll let you know how I go with it. 

Night Horrors
If your child is prone to waking up at night with the night horrors, my advice is to get a night-light. There are all sorts available on the market – hell, you can even get talking night-lights if you want (you’d hope it would say useful stuff like “Get back into bed Right This Very Minute or So Help Us All” or even just “I’m getting your father”). However you could just do what we do which is to use a regular lamp with one of those energy-saving light globes that starts off shedding less light than a match when you first turn it on and then ends up, a few hours later, radiating more light than the sun. I don’t know if you’ve had a look at your exhaustion-ravaged face in broad daylight recently but let me tell you now, I’ve looked at mine and it’s not a pretty sight. So when my children wake screaming in the night and see my face before them,  they have naturally reassessed the monsters their nightmares are made of and chosen sleep as the far-less-scary option. 

Rocking/Patting/Smacking Your Child to sleep
Violence is not the answer. It might feel like it at the time, but it’s just not. Just walk away. Walk away and take it out on the cat instead. In any case, even with the gentlest of patting and rocking, we all know that there’s nothing to be gained from this in the long term, especially when – once the job’s been done – you have to slowly crawl out of the child’s bedroom like a whipped cur. Geez, you might be desperate for sleep and all, but try have a little self-respect, will you.

Co-sleeping
Also known as the win-lose situation. The win? It is a guaranteed way to get your child to sleep through. The lose? Don’t count on getting any sleep yourself, particularly if you’re like me and pre-disposed to waking up upon hearing even your child’s nostrils flare from four rooms away, let alone when it is amplified from within the same bed. 

Every night I end up sleeping with Tiddles on the fold-out couch in the kids’ room – and every morning, I optimistically pack the bed away – not so much to tidy the room up (that would be completely out of character) but because I live in hope that the next night will be different and I might get to spend the whole night in the marital bed away from the relentless glare of the “day-light-night-light” and having Tiddles try to thrust his little toe up my nostril every few hours. This is when my mantra of “It’s just a phase and this, too, will pass” really comes into its own – if, that is, you define “coming into its own” as pretty much “not getting you anywhere at all particularly fast or otherwise”. 

Controlled Crying
For heavens’ sake, pull yourself together. If you really must sob through sheer exhaustion and the overwhelming feeling  that you just can’t go on, try exercise some self-control and cry into a pillow in a room far away from the children. They’re like dogs in that way – if they even get even the slightest whiff of distress on your part, then they’ll make you their bitch forever. 

Medication
If all else fails, three quarters of a bottle of gin should do the job – although I hasten to add I’m advocating medicating the parents here, and not the children. Unless, of course, you’re on board a long haul flight – in which case, Phenergan away. But remember you run the risk with Phenergan that it might send your kid the Other Way and so this is definitely a case of Try This At Home First before you find yourself trapped for 14 hours at 39000 feet with a free-basing toddler.

But back to the gin: chug it down – use a funnel if you have to – and you’ll be surprised what you’ll be able to sleep through. Of course you might not even stir when Social Services come to take your children away – and some could argue that this almost certain eventuality – plus the ensuing hangover – might somewhat detract from the overall benefits of a good night’s sleep. But listen, you can’t have it both ways, okay? Sheesh! 

 

There’s a saying – at least in our household there is – that “Sleep is for the weak”. But then, aren’t the weak going to inherit the earth (or at least the meek, a term that not only rhymes with the weak, but also implies an inherent weakness) and that’s hardly fair because they’re all so well-rested and that’s prize enough in my books. But then again, to be quite honest, I’m hardly in a state to inherit the earth right now: capital gains tax aside, I’m just too damn tired. Ask me again in the morning…

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The other day, I was waiting at the supermarket check-out and felt this little frisson when I looked in my shopping basket. I had realised that its contents  – with 1 litre of no-fat milk, a block of chocolate, cat food and an impulse copy of “NW” magazine – represented a “Single Girl Shop”. I felt all footloose and fancy-free as I walked out to the carpark – there was almost a little skip in my step – but by the time I had climbed up into my 1986 Tarago, noticed the snot streaks on my black tracksuit pants and then the strains of Angela Lansbury singing “Beauty and The Beast” on the car-stereo, the spell was broken and I drove back home with a heavy heart.

It took me back to about a year ago, when my friend JS (she who star-jumped off the wagon with such glee – see “Kicking the Habit“) persuaded me to come into the CBD to meet her and a few girlfriends for a drink or two. It started off badly: I caught the bus in, I couldn’t find the bar because it was too cool to be clearly signposted, and the bouncer looked young enough to be a child of my loins. And then, when I finally located JS and her friends, I saw that they were all fabulously frocked up and drinking exotic cocktails, while little old me (old being the operative word) stood awkwardly with my glass of cheap fizz, in three-quarter length trousers and a large floral hand-bag over one shoulder like some kind of poster girl for Miller’s Fashion Club. As I caught the bus home (which, upon reflection, was even more tragic than catching the bus there), I concluded that I probably would have felt more comfortable wearing a garbage bag held together with gaffer tape and was grateful that nobody had had me escorted from the premises for looking like Somebody’s Aunt.

In my own habitat, I still feel just a little bit cool. I wear vintage cardigans! I’ve never owned a pair of white trainers! I wear “New Media” glasses! My hair is interesting and well-cut by a funky lady! (No-one needs to know that she comes to my house to do it). I had the first pair of Crocs out of everyone I knew and even before Meg Mathews (ex-wife of rumoured ex-member of ex-It band “Oasis”, Noel Gallagher) was featured wearing them in UK “Heat” magazine!! (Okay, so strike that last one). Listen, goddammit: I’m a cool mum!!

I guess the telling sign in that proclamation is that I can’t honestly just say “I’m cool” – I have to put the word “Mum” in there, which is a little like saying you’re an “uproarious funeral director” – both words kind of cancel each other out. Some people like to use the term “Yummy Mummy” but that just rubs me the wrong way whenever I hear it applied to anyone who’s not all laid out on Hannibal Lecter’s dining table. I don’t know why it drives me so crazy – but it does. It’s almost as bad as people saying “It’s All Good” when, clearly, it isn’t *all* good, nothing ever is, and to pretend that it is “All Good” is to be walking around in a state of perpetual delusion.

But anyway, I digress. Last night, when I was still musing on this post and my own state of “Mumsiness”, I found myself walking into the local supermarket with my bicycle helmet still on, a stained t-shirt which kept riding up and an old pair of pregnancy trousers that kept falling down. To protect the public from the Horror That Is My Midriff, I promptly pulled the trousers as high as they would go, so the stunning result was as bad as Simon “Harry Highpants” Cowell would look like if he wasn’t surrounded by American Idol stylists 24/7.  Much to my delight, I ran into a fellow mother-of-three wearing her netball skirt and a heavy metal tshirt from a band her brother was in during the 80s. We regarded each other with the respect we deserved – after all, nothing we were wearing was inside out or could be classified as nightwear and – here’s the most impressive thing – there we were, both chillin’ in the dairy section of Coles, without our children while our husbands were at home doing the childwrangling. Now that’s cool.

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Book groups are a bit like trying to find a Steve Guttenberg movie at your local Video Easy store – difficult enough to find in the first place, but to find a good one is nigh impossible.

One friend once belonged to a group organised through her local library and her tales of it chilled me to my core. Firstly, they expected you to have closely read the whole book and not to have just sped-read each chapter in the three minutes of reading time you have each night. Secondly, you were expected to turn up with notes you’d made about the book – and not just of the Brodies variety. Thirdly, there was mention of additional reading – and not just “Mr Brown can Moo. Can you?” or “There’s a Wocket in my Pocket”. And finally, it was the sort of group that would certainly never – never! – approve of anyone wikipedia-ing the book’s synopsis five minutes before you went along to the meeting. Should such a heinous crime be uncovered, you would be summarily dismissed from the group to allow some more worthy soul on the waiting list to take your place. Yes, apparently there are people waiting  to join such groups. In my day, you would have just enrolled in an English unit at a university but I guess these-a-days the book group option is a whole lot cheaper, if unaccredited. 

Thankfully, my group is a little more relaxed than all that – for one thing, it’s not essential that you finish the book or even read it at all. The conversation usually – and quickly –  stretches beyond the nominated book to larger issues such as religion, politics, philosophy and why that body-shaping underwear I bought makes me look like the Michelin Man (not quite the “body-shape” I was hoping for, thank you very much, Nancy Ganz). We may then return to discussing the book, but then again we may not. 

There are many reasons why I love my Book Group. For one thing, I love a good healthy round-table discussion with lively like-minded individuals. And not the usual kind of round-the-kitchen-table discussion I have with my family – bless their little odd-socks – where it starts well but usually disintegrates into in-fighting and name-calling – and that’s just between me and my husband (boom-boom!). I also like reading books outside my comfort zone and being surprised by books I would have otherwise bypassed because they had silver writing on their covers. And – on occasion – I even enjoy reading books that I don’t like, particularly when a forum like a book group forces me to articulate *why* I don’t like it and not just dismiss it out of hand the way that Mr Justice used to dismiss anything green on his plate (“It’s yucky.”). I think it’s so important to remain critically aware in some aspects of my life and not just completely surrender to the indiscriminate enthusiasm required of a parent (For example: “Oh Pixie, that line you just drew is so straight and so very liney! You’re the best line drawer ever!” and “Oh, Tiddles – you did a poo! What a clever little boy you are! And what a lovely little poodly-schmoodly-poo it is, too!”).

Anyway, a couple of nights ago, it was my turn to host book group. (Over the years, we’ve experimented holding it in many different locations and have recently discovered it’s easier to hear each other talk over the sound of our children wailing in their beds than it is over ambient music or people just generally having a normal social life). I was surprised by how excited Mr Justice got about it, particularly because he was about to be condemned to wail in his bed for the night. He spent a lot of time lovingly preparing the loungeroom – which mostly involved sticky-taping a peacock feather to the coffee table and writing a sign which enigmatically read: “Book Group Only! Take a book!”. 

Soon after 7:30pm, everyone arrived and I can safely say that pretty much no-one paused for breath for the next two-and-a-half hours. About half-way through, my husband – whose monumental task is to settle the kids each night – dropped by to say Mr Justice was still awake, apparently still beside himself with excitement. Too shy to come out himself to see us, he’d instead asked my husband to take a photo on the digital camera and bring it back to show him “what a book group looked like”. I don’t quite know what he was imagining we would be doing, but we must have come in well below expectation because when I checked on him five minutes later, he was fast asleep.

Luckily for me, I obviously get a whole lot more out of Book Group than that. And here are my hopes for the future: may my book group go on and on and on and keep giving me an excuse to flex that otherwise sedentary brain muscle, may people keep writing good books for me to read, and may I eventually find some underwear that actually makes my stomach look flat. And not necessarily in that order.

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Genghis Cat hasn’t been getting a lot of coverage in this blog lately because, well, we haven’t been seeing much of each other. Since my husband installed a cat flap, ol’ Genghy’s been spending a lot of time outside and only coming inside occasionally to eat, hassle me for food or just generally snarl. I like to look upon it as training for having teenage boys in the house. 

But then last week, Mr Justice came up with the bright idea of taking Genghis in to school for Show And Tell. This term, his class is focussing on animals and another kid had raised the bar by bringing in his pet Love Birds, who flew all around the classroom crapping all over the kids’ workbooks. For a six year old, it really doesn’t get much cooler than that – except, perhaps, bringing in the closest thing to a domestic tiger…

With Genghis’ prior convictions in mind (see “Genghis Cat“), any sane parent would have just said no, and that be that. But I think he must have caught me at a vulnerable moment because I found myself saying we’d have to ask the teacher first. Next thing I know, I’m actually asking her and she’s actually saying yes, whereas I’d really been hoping she could do what I wasn’t strong enough to do and say No. Which is kind of disappointing as I’d been counting on the education system to somewhat polyfilla in the gaping holes in my parenting. Thank Freud for the kids’ psychiatry funds, I say. 

ANYWAY, the night before we’re supposed to bring him in, Genghis – displaying that famous animal sixth sense – made a big point of scratching both Mr Justice and Tiddles McGee for the first time in months. And whatsmore, he did it quite visibly right across their cheeks so that I couldn’t claim any attacks he made on innocent children at the school as being “totally out of character”. 

It put me in a difficult position. On one hand I had Mr Justice compiling his legal case against me for failure to meet contractual obligations – and on the other hand, I had… well… I had Genghis Cat and the more-than-likely chance that the other parents would file some kind of Class Action against me for throwing the lion to their children. But instead of refusing outright, I found myself saying we could take him next Tuesday if – and only if –  Genghis didn’t scratch anyone for a week, all the time winking at Genghis as if to say “You’ll sort this out for me, won’t you, Genghis you old stick”.

But he didn’t, and yesterday morning I found myself trying to shoe horn Genghis into his cat carrier with this really bad feeling in my heart. It was just like that scene in “Gallipoli” just  before they’re about to go ‘over the top’, except with children hanging off me and the cat going ballistic. 

And then, half-way to school, when Genghis started to bite his way through the mesh wire of the carrier, I morphed into that Bill Paxton character in “Aliens”, panicking and blubbing like a baby. “He’s breaking out! God! What am I gonna do? Shit shit shit! The cat’s breaking out!” And in a strange reversal of roles, Mr Justice was as calm and as cool as the gin and tonic I started needing really really badly. “It’s okay, mummy. Just keep driving.” he said.

So I did and when I calmed down, Genghis calmed down and stopped his escape attempt. And in time, we made it to the school without the whole thing becoming like that car scene from “Cujo” but with the rabid cat on the inside of the car (which is my third pre-1986 movie reference in a row, which in itself should pretty much tell you what kind of state I was in).

And you know what? The Show And Tell went much better than expected and no-one lost an eye or even got scratched and Genghis is now fully-recovered and happily sitting behind me on the bed as I type this, his bells a-jingling in that way they do when he’s casually licking his own arsehole. I’m not sure what the message is in all of this except to say I won’t be making that mistake again. Next time I’ll find it within myself to say a firm N.O. from the outset and show those kids who’s boss. But hang on a minute, what’s this? Why yes, Pixie, of course we can take Genghy to kindergarten next week. As long as he doesn’t scratch anyone between now and then. (Between gritted teeth:) Tiddles, quick quick, come here and take the cat’s tail. Now pull it. Pull it really hard with all your might and get me the hell out of this mess.

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A lot of people say to me “With three kids, how do you manage to write anything at all, let alone six days a week?” These people have obviously never done the white glove test on my house else they wouldn’t have to ask. However, I usually indulge them by claiming to take the Brangelina approach to parenting and employ a nanny, housekeeper, chauffeur, naturopath and astrologist for each child. And between us all, we still can’t find a matching pair of socks or even the kids’ shoes in this house. Honestly, you just can’t get the staff these days. 

“But come on, NDM”, I hear those people say. “What is your secret? Tell us. Tell us!” Okay, okay, calm down, I say. And stop kissing my feet. (Can you tell this conversation occurred entirely in my head yet?) The truth is almost too dull to share but here it is: I write in fits and starts throughout the day, usually with children climbing all over me or with food cooking on the stove – or even both. As long as I don’t get confused and cook the children by mistake, I can just about manage it. And every day, I thank the universe for the Miracle of Wireless Internet, without which I would be stuck typing in the dark front bedroom while my children roamed around the rest of the house completely unsupervised, quite possibly with sharp scissors in their little hands.

I have often wondered if I didn’t have three children hanging off me half the time what lofty heights I might reach with my writing. But then, what the hell would I have to write about? It’s just soooooo 1985 when I got my first job at McDonalds and had to buy the uniform to work at McDonalds to earn the money to buy the uniform to work at McDonalds… etc, etc. Ah, the irony! The irony! 23 years on, it’s still not lost on me. 

When I started this blog, my husband made me promise one thing and one thing alone: that I never use the term “jump the shark” because, according to him, it had descended into the realms of cliché. (If you’ve never heard the term – as one friend of mine hadn’t – here’s a link to the Wikipedia definition of To Jump the Shark full of fun facts, such as how actor Ted McGinley is known as “The Patron Saint of Jumping the Shark” because of his uncanny knack of joining the cast of shows like “Happy Days” and “West Wing” just as they were starting to get a little bit on the nose).

This post marks my 50th on this blog site and it’s about time I donned my leather jacket and waterskis and star-jumped that shark, don’t you think? Some might argue I already jumped it around post #24, when I slipped in the second “Deliverance” reference in as many weeks (according to my ever-knowledgable husband, blog etiquette dictates that you’re only allowed one every two years). Others might have seen the writing on the wall by the fact I’d used that old star-jump joke again so soon after the last time (see “Kicking the Habit“) – and in the title of this post no less. I’ll have to concede that its re-appearance might be a warning sign of sorts – just like when Tiddles stands behind the armchair and looks really cross shortly before he does himself a big ol’ back-sliding poo. 

In any case, here I am – about to Officially Jump It. What will be on the other side? Indiscriminate usage of smiley faces, and animated ones at that?  Maybe cop-out posts where I just link to those YouTube clips doing the internet rounds, showing stuff like someone pull a whole string of spaghetti out their nose? Or perhaps I’ll just rehash old posts, much like those Flashback epsiodes from 70s sitcoms where the main characters stand around saying stuff like “Remember when…” and “What about the time we…”. Then again, I could just get old Ted McGinley to guest-write a column to seal my fate once and for all. It would be the humane thing to do. 

Whatever happens, it will be interesting to see what I’m churning out in another 50 posts’ time, especially since I’m on the verge of re-entering the workforce in a part-time capacity (ooooh, I kept that one to myself didn’t I?).  And as for jumping the shark, I think we should all stop to remember that Happy Days still went on to spurn “Joanie loves Chachi”, which was at least memorable if only because it was so very very awful.  And in any case, urban legend has it that “Joanie loves Chachi” was the highest ever rating program in Korea because “chachi” means penis in Korean. And for those very same reasons, no matter what I go on to write, I’ll still be getting hits on my blog site from people searching for “lactating asian babes” for many, many years to come. So there.

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I’ve always thought it completely unfair that I’ve gone straight from puberty to old age. Who would have thought that when the pimples finally started to clear that there would be all these wrinkles lying in wait underneath? But apparently, according to a skin care sales rep I once had the pleasure to meet, there’s even worse to come under all that. 

A few years ago, I went to one of those “Party Plan” events  – you know the type: where you get to eat, drink, make merry and be sold stuff in someone else’s home. This particular event was for a skin care line and, to show us how much we needed her product, the sales rep led us one by one into another room. There we were invited to gaze upon our reflections using her Very Special Machine, which basically was just a mirror and some UV lights. Although I shouldn’t dismiss the machine so easily because, as the rep told us, it used NASA technology. So how exactly are UV lights used by NASA in space? My guess is that astronauts are just like housewives in laundry liquid commercials: they want their whites to look much whiter. And let’s face it, it must be pretty damn dark out there in space so they need all the help they can get.

An aside: I must admit I love it when any product advertised on late night television claims to use NASA technology. I sit there waiting, waiting, waiting until… Yes! They roll out the stock footage of the NASA rocket blasting into space… Aaahhh. It’s truly the money shot of the infomercial world. But honestly, whether the rocket blast actually lends the product any credibility or not is neither here nor there: it’s the astronauts I worry about. It’s little wonder all those space shuttles keep falling out of the sky because their scientists are just too busy working on breakthroughs in skin care or inflatable mattresses. The safety of the astronauts should come first, surely. Although then again, even the astronauts would have to agree that you can’t put a price on flawless skin or a good night’s sleep – so perhaps NASA’s got their priorities straight after all.

Anyway, back to what I saw in the Magic Mirror – all I can say is that I did not like one little bit. Oh no siree. Apparently what I was seeing was what was lurking under the skin’s surface. And, as the sales rep told me, if I didn’t start looking after my skin properly, all those things would come to the surface within 5 years. All of them. 

Great! I thought. By the time I turn 40, I’ll look like I have leprosy. But then again, beggars, loonies on the bus and Mormons would most likely start giving me a wider berth… surely that couldn’t be such a bad thing…

But before I was allowed to get too excited about my bright new future, the sales rep assured me that there *was* hope for my complexion. In the most surprising revelation of all, she went on to tell me that I could avoid this fate simply by using their product! Who could have guessed that’s where all that was leading? I can’t remember how I got out of buying anything – I’d like to think it was in the same manner in which I dealt with the Scientologists (see “Parking Pride“) but I probably just begged poor and let the next person in line get to see their future.

As it turned out, the next person was my friend HT who got pretty much the same schtick – but she also was told, somewhat sternly “You are already looking beyond your years.”

HT, being of a gutsy disposition, wasn’t going to let the rep get away with that very easily. “And how old do you think I am?” she asked. 

“Umm…. Mid-30s?” was the sales rep’s guess.

HT was 43. So could it be that perhaps that machine wasn’t up to much after all? Just in case, we should all start praying for the next lot of astronauts to be launched into space, who are not only putting their lives at risk, but are very probably spotty and sleep-deprived to boot.

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Having touched briefly on this whimsical pastime in a previous post (see “The Night After The Afternoon Before“), I felt that it was worthy of a bit more attention. Particularly because I’m right in the middle of Birthday Season now, which is kind of the DIY-Mum equivalent of being a bitch on heat – and a crazy bitch at that. Basically, those Birthday Cake books should come with health warnings, perhaps even with little inset photos showing what you’ll look like the night before the birthday party trying to finish off the cake or, worse still, trying to make room for it in the goddamn fridge. Believe me, it is not a pretty sight.

Still, if you insist – as I do – on doing it yourself rather than selling your vital organs on ebay to pay the local bakery to do it, here are some helpful tips to help you along the way. 

TIP ONE: Choose your cake carefully
A friend once spoke wistfully of her youth when her mother had allowed her to choose whichever birthday cake she wanted from the Women’s Weekly Cake Book. So at the first opportunity I went out and bought a copy, which has ended up being the most well-thumbed book in the house. Ah, the hours of peace that book has given me while the kids sit quietly side by side perusing the cakes. However, every time their little eyes rest too long on something like the Carousel cake, I suddenly find myself running across the room in a slow motion “Nooooooooooo…..” kind of way. I mean, consider something like this:  

Don't try this at home.

Don't try this at home.

After a quick assessment of what might be required to make such a cake – and with a delivery date of The Pixie’s 5th birthday (next October) in mind – I realise I basically should have started work some time around the second trimester of my pregnancy with her. I mean, really! If it can’t be decorated in a single night, then leave it well alone. 

TIP TWO: Adopt a phased implementation
Don’t bake and decorate in the same night – unless you are keen to relive a misspent youth and be awake to see the sun rise. Instead bake the cake a few days in advance and stick it in the freezer – it will be easier to cut to shape that way. Oh dear god. Did I just slip in an Actual Tip, uncloaked by wry self-deprecating humour? The Mommy Blogs I’ve been reading recently are obviously getting to me and I most sincerely apologise – but not too sincerely, else I start treading in Mommy Blog territory again. Zoinks!

TIP THREE: Steer clear of the red and yellow food colouring 
Unless of course you’re not going to be legally responsible for any of the guests eating the cake, in which case too much red colouring is never enough (no, really – otherwise it looks distinctly pink, especially when you’re tinting an off-yellow butter cream icing… Oh shit. There I go again, doling out actual advice. Feel free to slap me.)

TIP FOUR: When all else fails, chuck a whole lot of marshmallows at it.  

It's supposed to be a lion

It's supposed to be a Lion, dufus

See Mr Lion? See his beautiful bejewelled mane? According to the book, all I had to do was swirl a dark orange icing through the light orange icing with a fork – with a fork! But since it was already midnight by the time I’d laid down the light orange layer and it had ceased to be butter cream so much as butter-and-cake-crumb cream, I thought of much better uses for that fork (mostly involving the Women’s’ Weekly editorial team) and chucked a whole heap of mini-marshmallows on the cake instead. Marshmallows will cover-up a multitude of cake-decorating sins – but probably not any fork-related crimes so try not to act on impulse when it comes to cake-rage. 

Barbie casts one last coy look over her shoulder before being consumed by 3 year olds.

Barbie casts one last coy look over her shoulder before being consumed by 3 year olds.

See the hemline on Barbie’s lovely ice cream skirt (above)? It was supposed to be a gorgeous satin ribbon but within seconds of putting it on, it had soaked up the chocolate ice cream and she’d started looking like Glastonbury Barbie. So I substituted the ribbon with marshmallows, which have a much higher sugar content than satin and so kept everyone happy. And for the record, I can’t look at this cake now without thinking of The Pixie’s recent misadventures in her pyjama pants… (see “Open Rage Zoo“).

TIP FIVE: Remember that “All art is transient; even stone wears away”
And let’s face it, cake gets worn away even faster by those furious little teeth.

Just imagine you’ve been up to midnight the night before making this:

Before

Before

And all the while knowing that, less than five minutes after the candles have been blown out, that Masterpiece of the Modern Cake Age will look like this:


After

After

It’s something that all birthday-cake makers have to deal with – after all, that’s why you’re making it aren’t you? (Aren’t you??) Thankfully, they invented cameras long before they had Birthday-Cake Making as a competitive sport so you can preserve the memory of your cake forever in a photo. And, for god’s sake, make sure your photo is taken at the right angle so that it doesn’t show the spot where you totally ran out of icing and tried to cover the gap with a Twix bar. 

So there you go. However you end up decorating your cake and however long it takes you to do it, do not under any circumstances remember this: recently at kindergarten one of the Mums came in with a cake to share with the class for her son’s birthday. The cake? A square tub of icecream, turned up side down onto a plate and with about five packets of lollies chucked on top of it. It looked great and the kids loved it. The very memory of it still makes me shudder…

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