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Archive for February, 2009

Somehow I managed to fall in love with – and subsequently marry and have children with – a man who did not share my taste in books. Yes, my husband simply refuses to read any fiction published after a very specific date which I  believe to be somewhere around mid-July, 1959. He has, however, conceded that he has some interest in reading “Lucky Jim” by Kingsley Amis one of these days, claiming it was published in the early ’60s. However, when I wikipediaed it, I found out that it was first published in 1954, thus proving that his Cut-Off is iron-clad. 

Anyway, this was all an interesting lesson for me about how we can’t get everything out of the one relationship and why they invented Book Group (see “In The Good Books” for more on that merry band of women in my life). And in any case, I have been lucky enough to collect enough friends over the years to complement the many different facets of my personality. I have Sparkly friends and Sane friends. Silly friends and Soulful friends. Coffee-Scones-and-Double-Cream friends and Long-Afternoons-Drinking-Cheap-Fizz friends. And I love them all. 

And then I have “The Cousins”. On my dad’s side of the family, there are eight of us who have been putting on Cousin Christmas Spectaculars and sharing in-jokes since we were in nappies (some of us are still in nappies but I ain’t sayin’ who). Somehow, however, the Cousin Thing in my life has been kept largely separate from my Friends Thing. Perhaps it’s because, whenever the two worlds meet, all my male hetreosexual friends try to crack onto my cousins – both the boys and the girls. What can I say? We’re one hell of a good looking family. 

Recently we had a mini Cousin Get-Together because one of my cousins was in town with her brand spankin’ new fiance. Some last-minute scheduling problems meant that this get-together converged with a spontaneous BBQ we had put on for some other dear friends of ours. As I was introducing everyone, I realised that they already knew each other but just not in the flesh. Why, there I had three of my regular blog commenters all in the same room – “mystery v”, “MM” and “KC” (although, I should hasten to mention that MM and KC have been married for over a decade and have managed to have a relationship outside of my blog, their son being overwhelming proof of this). Luckily, mystery v’s new man “Imaginary D” had been exposed to enough of my blog to appreciate the exchanges of knowing “Aaahhhs!” and cries of “Boobalicious!!” that followed. 

And so we all sat around my kitchen table for some hastily-thrown together food, cheap fizz and lively conversation. I realised I was in safe hands when I was able to exclaim “Bloody Haemophiliacs!” without anyone judging me too harshly for such a random and tasteless joke. And certainly, once my “Rock Cousin” arrived, things shifted to a whole new level. At one point, there was muttering in one corner about “www.cousinswap.com”, which nobody involved in its conception seemed to be able to explain to me. And then later, there was even talk of “www.cousindump.com” which I think was a website that helps arrange certain scattalogical services to be performed by a distance blood relative but I can’t be sure. Best not dwell too long on such things, really. 

In any case, I was well pleased. Some of my worlds – virtual and real, family and friends – had successfully converged for a pleasant afternoon of spontaneous silliness. As you would certainly hope would happen when some of the family you love and some of the family you’ve chosen meet… Perhaps that’s what http://www.cousinswap.com was all about?

Whatever the hell it is, we here at NDM Central raise our glasses of cheap fizz to friendship! And to cousinship! And lazy Saturday afternoons! May the three often converge…

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Every time I swipe my card at the supermarket there’s always a few anxious moments before the transaction is approved. And when the little machine gives me the nod, I grin like an idiot because I don’t have to go through the humiliating process of splitting payment over three cards or, worse still, having to say “Oh, I think I’ll leave it today” and walk proudly away from $12 worth of essential groceries. 

Somewhat ironically, after a particularly nail-biting swipe experience the other day, The Pixie and I were approached in the supermarket car park by a Gentleman With Extremely Poor Dental Hygiene asking for money. I explained that I had just swiped my account clean and had no cash on me, but he wouldn’t let it go.

“Don’t you have just 20 cents you can spare me? Just a few coins?” he pleaded. But as he spoke, I saw his eyes shift past me to the filthy interior of the Love Bus, across to my daughter who was showing a healthy portion of underpants and bum-crack and had a face covered in some unidentifiable green sticky substance, and then back to the necklace around my neck that literally came out of a Bi-Lo christmas cracker three years ago.

In the end, I didn’t even end up having to refuse him a second time because he suddenly backed straight off. Wishing me luck, he went off to find someone a little less tragic and leaving me to feel relieved, annoyed and guilty all at the same time. 

The Pixie was intrigued. “Why did that man ask us for money?” she wanted to know.

“Um, because he doesn’t have much himself.” I replied.

“Oh. Why doesn’t he have much money? He should buy lots of money,” she said. “When we get some more money, we could give him some.”

“Maybe,” I said, changing the subject. Something told me he wasn’t going to spend any money we gave him on a toothbrush but how could she understand that? Why should I want her to understand that? She was only four, after all. 

Recently my visiting mother-in-law found herself desperately trying to distract Mr Justice from reading too much of the explicit signage outside our local “Adult Shop” when they went together to pick-up the take-away (from the Chinese Restaurant next door and NOT the Adult Shop, I hasten to add).

“The kids will have to grow up fast living around here!” she remarked to my husband afterwards. Certainly, I didn’t think, when I embarked on this Journey called Motherhood, that I would find myself having to explain to a three year old what a syringe is and what it was doing lying in our street. But then again, there are far more dangerous parts of the world for a child to grow up where they are exposed to far greater horrors than junkies and syringes and signs with the words “XXX Sex Toys” in them. 

The question remains, however: how do you bring up your children to be worldy-wise but not world-weary? How do you protect them without smothering them? How do you preserve their childhood and the innocence and joy that it should contain but without bringing them up in a bubble?

My husband has often said that he would like his bio to read “[Name] grew up in [Suburb] in the 1950s and was horrified, upon leaving, to discover it was actually 1995.”

“Still, my childhood wasn’t so bad”, my husband has subsequently mused. “At least I knew how to use chopsticks”.

Note to self: teach children how to use chopsticks. 

Another note to self: find a way of finishing this blog post without answering any of the questions I’ve raised because I really Don’t. Have. A. Clue. and these were things that were just swilling around in my brain and nobody comes to my blog Looking For Answers Anyway. Unless, of course, they come here looking for the answer to the question “How do I decorate a boob cake?” (and quite a few do, according to my WordPress Stats), in which case they really will be disappointed. 

Final note to self: write a blog post entitled “How to decorate a boob cake” so at least something somewhere is answered. But just make sure the kids don’t see the diagrams in the interests of preserving their innocence just that little bit longer.

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The other day Uncle B got offered a free magazine subscription as part of some internet/mobile/Big Mac combo deal he signed up for. When faced with a choice of “House and Garden”, “The Women’s Weekly” and “Cosmopolitan” for his lovely wife (and my good friend) KT, he chose “Cosmopolitan”. 

When KT told me about it, I felt so proud of Uncle B and somewhat envious of their relationship. After two children, five years of marriage and four years languishing away in the suburbs together, he obviously still considers his wife to be a sassy’n’streetwise gal who needs to read articles like “How Do I Show That I’m Interested In Him And Not His Paycheck” (although, in a single-income family arrangement, that paycheck is pretty important…) and “25 Random Things You Don’t Want to Read About a Guy on Facebook” (as if those things could be anything but random). Anyway, it was one hell of a compliment.

Of course, before I knew it, I had admitted to KT that I would have definitely chosen “The Women’s Weekly” for myself and had even cited “the article and recipes” as my reasons, which left me with a peculiar taste of middle-aged frumpiness in my mouth for hours. Like the time my sister Belle pegged her itsy-bitsy teeny-weeny g-string next to my post-caesar “trampoline with leg holes” on the washing line. Or the first time I saw an outfit in the window of a Miller’s Fashion Club store and thought that it looked “quite nice” (and if you’re not acquainted with Miller’s Fashion Club, I think the inclusion of the words “Fashion Club” in the franchise name speaks volumes, as well as my reaction of “quite nice”).

To make myself feel better, I quickly emailed my husband with the question “If you had to choose me a magazine subscription out of “House and Garden”, “The Women’s Weekly” and “Cosmopolitan” which one would it be?”

His one line response: “Cosmo, surely, coz it has rude bits in it.”

Hmmm. Now I don’t know about anyone else, but I suspect that was more a choice for himself than for me. Which was a timely reminder that the magazine’s real target audience is not women of the 18-25 year old age bracket but in fact Men.  Of any age.

The next time I saw Uncle B, I presented him with this idea that “certain men” placed in the same situation might subscribe to Cosmo for their wives with their own selfish reasons in mind. But Uncle B proved himself to be a far nobler creature. Apparently, the very nice telephone salesman in Bombay (no doubt prompted by the script in front of him) had made a special point of mentioning that Cosmo no longer ran their sealed section before confirming the subscription. And Uncle B went ahead with it regardless. Because he thinks his wife is sassy’n’streetwise and not because he himself is Some Kind of Pervert.

“Certain men”, take note.

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Some people have written to me complaining that my husband has been unreasonably objectified by only ever being referred to as “my husband” in this blog and not being endowed with a charming nom de guerre like the rest of my family and friends. 

And, of course, by “some people”  I mean “no people” – but look, it was just a way of opening this post, okay?

Still, even if someone had written in complaining about that, they would be raising a fair point (and look, it’s too late to write in now, the point has been made. Let. It. Go.). In other blogs, I have seen the husbands referred to things such as “The Gate Keeper”, “The Donor”, “Him Outdoors” and “What’s-His-Face”. I guess my defence is that my husband is so many things to me it would  be impossible to sum him up with any other name than “my husband”. 

But if you really insist, here are a few alternatives I came up with:

1. The Enigma

The other day I caught my husband laughing at something. I asked him why and he said “You really don’t want to know”. But because he said I didn’t want to know, it made me want to know all the more. So I pushed him for an answer.

“Oh, I was just thinking of wearing a fez to breakfast.”

Why??” was my immediate response.

“You asked!” he said. “Up til then it was still in my head so it wasn’t ready yet.”

Ready for what, I’ll never know. Perhaps that’s for the best. 

2. My Rock

They say behind every blogger is a tolerant partner. My husband really is very tolerant and, indeed, supportive of my writing. Just the other day, I decided to get up at 5am every morning to write.

“That’s what Hemingway did.” said my husband. “And look what happened to him.”

“He got a Nobel Prize for Literature?” I asked.

“Well, yes. But he also became a cantankerous old man who nobody liked.” my husband said. “And then blew his brains out with a shotgun.”

Uh, thanks. 

3. The PICTAAECH (“The Person I Can Talk To About Anything, Even Cat Homosexuality”)

Recently we discovered that Genghis Cat has found himself a girlfriend a few doors up from our house and it warmed the cockles of our heart. 

“Does it make you feel less guilty about having had him castrated?” I asked my husband.

“It probably be better if he found himself a boyfriend,” my husband replied. “With a girlfriend he’d need fully operational breeding tackle, but in a same-sex arrangement, he could get away without.”

Followed by a long pause while I thought about what castrati gay cats get up to. 

“I can’t believe you just made me think about that,” I said.

My husband shrugged. It was all in a day’s work for him.  

4. The WBMD (“The Wind Beneath My Doonah”)

Enough said. 

5. The OTA (“The One True Artist”)

My husband has the real talent in the family. If you need proof, here is a cartoon he drew for Mr Justice:

boxted

But seriously, my husband is the better writer, the deeper thinker, the more creative soul between us. I just merrily skate along the surface in life but my husband is always thinking, thinking, thinking. And not always just about things like wearing a Fez At Breakfast, although I suspect that there was some deep ontological reason behind even that thought. 

This week marks the 9th year of our marriage, while later this year we celebrate 11 years as a couple and 13 years as friends. I want to say thanks for the journey so far (and it has, as they like to say on Reality TV, “been a journey”). Whoever would have thought those two twenty-somethings in love would find themselves a decade later in a ramshackled weatherboard house trying to make major decisions about their lives with children scrambling over them like they were climbing frames.

Interestingly enough, etiquette dictates that a couple exchange “leather goods” in the ninth year of marriage. Yeah, baby! It’s our Leather Anniversary! Are you thinking what I’m thinking, my darling? Yes, I thought so: His & Hers Leather La-Z-Boy for the glorious years of slow decline ahead of us. Oooh, just the spelling of La-Z-Boy has got me all aroused…. 

Happy Anniversary, my husband. 

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The other day Mr Justice filed a formal complaint about his school sandals. The evidence he presented to the court were two tiny holes, one on the sole of each shoe, which I summarily dismissed, thinking those shoes would do him Just Fine until the weekend, when I could go out and buy him a proper pair. 

But then I found him one morning, on the verge of tears, poking one of the shoes with the end of a paintbrush. At first I thought he was freeing a random rock that had filled one of those tiny holes. But then I discovered, in one of those Boinggggggg! moments the writers of “Lost” seem to favour, that the whole sole was filled with bits of gravel and that walking in those things definitely created a Princess and the Pea situation. And, as someone who starts swearing like a crazy bitch whenever even the smallest bit of tanbark gets into my Crocs, I felt his pain. 

So I decided to take the late pass on the chin like the Man I’m Not and went to buy him some school shoes at the local Discount Shoe Emporium on the way to school. But before we could go, we had to find some shoes for The Pixie to wear, which presented me with yet another FMI (Footwear Management Issue). 

Just the day before, one of the Pixie’s sandals had broken irreparably and both shoes had to be binned, even though she had bravely said they could be her “hopping shoes”. Another pair was MIA, there was one single Pink Croc on the shelves and then there was one last pair that had been deemed “TOO BIG!!!”, as the Pixie helpfully screamed at me whilst shaking her leg violently to show how the oversized shoe fell off when she violently shook her leg, which apparently she does all the time otherwise those shoes wouldn’t be the Big Issue they quite clearly were. And so I promised to buy her a new pair of shoes, if she could stop violently shaking her leg long enough to walk in the Too Big Shoes between the car and the shoe shop. 

But could we find a single pair of pink shoes that fitted the Pixie in that giant Shoe Emporium? No, officer, we could not. At one point, I discovered The Pixie in aisle 4 trying to squeeze her Size 9 foot into a Size 6 sequinned ballet slipper, sobbing her little heart out. It was a little like one of the Ugly Stepsisters trying to shoe horn her hoof into the glass slipper – or, even more tragically, like me trying to squeeze back into my pre-baby clothing. Again, I felt my child’s pain. 

Having found and paid for Mr Justice’s shoes already, I decided to abort the rest of the mission and go directly to the school. But The Pixie quickly escalated her sobbing to a full-blown tantrum, screaming “I’M NOT GIVING UP!! I’LL FIND MY SPARKLY SHOES!!!” and making me realise that the “It’s too big” moment earlier that morning had been a moment of quiet reflection in comparison. 

The shop assistants all started running around to find a suitable pair of shoes for her Royal Highness but alas, there wasn’t even a seasonally-inappropriate pair of pink faux Uggs to be found in the entire store in her size. I glanced over at Mr Justice, who had his hand to his throat in an anxiety-attack-because-we’re-so-late-for-school gesture, and was about to call it a Mental Health Day for one and all when all at once I realised that 

A) it was raining; and

B) I had – as recently as two days beforehand – spotted The Pixie’s gumboots wedged under the stroller in the back of the car.

Now all parents will know that Gumboots + Rain = Puddle-Jumping Fun. And so with the promise of puddle-jumping (and glossing over the fact that Tiddles McGee was wearing canvas sneakers and his inevitable participation in that activity would lead to yet another Footwear Management Issue with his melodramatic cries of “Wet!! WET!!!”) , I managed to coerce The Pixie back to the car and deliver Mr Justice to the school only 29 minutes after the bell. 

And the late slip? “Shoe Crisis” was the only thing I could think to write as our excuse. It  was the closest thing other than this almost 700 word blog post that could describe it.

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My beautiful daughter is a little like Snow White. She wanders around singing little songs of her own creation all the live long day, but unfortunately without doing any housework as she does it. Just the other day I overheard one little tune that went a little like this:

“Have you ever seen a fairy just like me?
Have you ever seen a fairy
Kiss a Transformer
On the nose, on the nose
Have you ever seen a fairy
Just like me?”

Yes, my little pink princess is very much that little fairy. Her predilection for all things Pink and Sparkly is regularly off-set by things like her collection of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle toys and her obsession with wearing a Transformers’ Bumblebee mask. 

Now, if you’re not lucky enough to be au fait with Transformers oeuvre, I should add that this Bumblebee of which I speak is not, as he might sound, a cute little buzzy friend with fluffy antennas that bounce gently as he dances from flower to flower. Instead, he is a 1976 Camaro equipt with a cannon (yes, a cannon) which transforms into a blade (yes, a blade) when he himself converts to Robot Mode. Ah, the lyrical whimsy of children’s playthings!

And if you’re still struggling to envisage the mask, try to imagine the kind of mask that would most alarm old women in the 60-85 year age bracket. I’ve literally seen a few clutching their chests and grasping around for their heart medicine when they’ve caught a glimpse of my sweet little masker in the shopping trolley at Coles. And if you’ve been wondering what the hell a “masker” is, it’s one of my grammatical hangovers from Mr Justice’s earliest forays into language when people who wore masks were “maskers” who were “masking”. Come on, you know it makes sense.

Anyway, when The Pixie is strapped in the pram on the school run and wearing her favourite mask, I can’t help but feel like I’m transporting Hannibal Lecter between high security prisons. And her ongoing attachment to the mask and insistence on wearing it absolutely everywhere makes me think she’ll be wearing it down the aisle on her wedding day (and most likely dragging The Duck One to boot). But at the very same time, I have to admit that I really like it that, no matter how Pink’n’Pretty she is, she’s still got her foot planted firmly in the other camp (see her concept of the “Boy-Girl” for more on this theme). You go, sister-boy-girl-friend-whatever!

Mr Justice, on the other hand, is reaching that age where boys are boys and girls are girls and ne’er the two shall meet. The days when he asked his babysitter to dress him up in a Snow White costume, make up and hair-clips because he wanted to be “beautiful just like [Pixie]” are pretty much over – although not quite…

The other day I set up “Mummy’s Beauty Shop” which is my way of making trimming their fingernails fun. And it is fun. So much fun. Like the getting-your-legs-waxed, teeth-pulled or nipples-twisted kind of fun – at least judging from my children’s howls of pain when I do it. 

Anyway, the reward for staying still and thus not losing the tips of your fingers with my blunt manicure scissors is getting your fingernails painted. After Pixie and Tiddles had their nails trimmed and duly dipped in “Pink Taffy”, Mr Justice (somewhat surprisingly) presented his hands for a service. But when it came to the painting stage, he asked  “Do you have any other colours other than pink?”

“Oh, but pink is so lovely and sparkly!” The Pixie exclaimed as she skipped around in the background, admiring her own nails.

“Pink is not a proper colour!!! No country on this planet has pink as its colour, [Pixie]!!!” Mr Justice retorted, with quite a lot of venom for a boy who then agreed to have his nails done in “Pearl Shimmer” in the very next breath. 

Ah! Boys, Girls, Transformers, Fairies, Pink Taffy, Pearl Shimmer… long may the lines drawn in the sand between them be blurred by little dancing feet and small well-manicured hands….

manicure

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Recently, I completely lost my writing mojo. How I lost it, I’m not quite sure. I expect that it was through the same kind of carelessness that caused The Pixie to lose all her clothing and suddenly be standing nude in the kitchen – when I asked her what had happened, she said “Because I was wobbling so much.” Anyway, whatever the reason, I had lost that mojo and could not find it anywhere – not even down the back of the couch where almost everything else that I’ve ever lost seems to end up hiding (my virginity, patience and temper excepted). 

So what does an NDM without her mojo do? Not much it turns out, except stare blankly at her screen and then publish a few “back-up” posts that had been languishing away in the Drafts folder instead of freshly-brewed material. But when the back-up material runs out and there are only a few odd posts left with titles like “Fez At Breakfast” and no body material, then what? THEN WHAT?

My good friend KT tried to snap me out of it. “What are we going to do about this?” she asked. 

I replied that I didn’t know. But then I suddenly thought how, at our upcoming mothers’ night out, I might just get Very Drunk Indeed and run down the street naked singing show tunes and surely that would be blog-worthy and get my writerly juices flowing. And I felt this little frisson, like how an evil genius must feel when they’ve just come up with their Ultimate Plan for World Domination. Or even how the Mild-Mannered Lawyer must have felt when she laid the foundations for the Cake Off (see “We’ve got Ourselves a Cake-Off”)

Luckily for everyone, KT quickly diverted me from that particular course of action. “Why don’t you just prepare a game of ‘Truth or Dare’ for everyone to play. Maybe writing some questions will help get the mojo back.”

Okay. So I started writing some “Truth” questions. But after about ten minutes, all I had was:

Which Beverley Hills 90120 character do you think you are?

If you had to snog one of the Wiggles, which one would it be?

Did “Sesame Street” jump the shark when Mr Snuffleupagus became visible to everyone or when Elmo started to do the talk-show circuit?

Which Corey: Hart, Haim or Feldman?

So, you think you can dance?

Yep, it was definitely a Mojo No Show. 

I moved onto the “Dares”: 

Cook a meal that all three of my children will eat that doesn’t include chips.

Toot this recorder in my ear for as long as you can and as loudly as you can and Suffer. The. Consequences. 

Try writing better questions for this game. Go on. You try do it and see how much you like it. 

See? The mojo has gone the way of the missing socks of the house, ne’er to be found again. 

But maybe, just maybe, this is my chance to reinvent myself Madonna-style, perhaps even start wearing a flat-cap and marry a Mockney Geezer, only to end it all in a very public and very bitter divorce and go out with someone 16 years my junior instead. Tasty! It’s so nice to know that, even I’m not able to write anything half-decent ever again, that I have Options. 

In the meantime, if anyone finds my Mojo, could you please send it back to NDM Central as soon as you can? For one thing, its return will ensure I never mention my nudity and flowing juices in the same sentence again. And that’s got to be a good thing. Surely. 

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