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Archive for September, 2009

When all is said and done, I like to think I give good facebook. Why, just the other day, my status update read:

[The NDM] got dressed up, went to the city, drank cocktails, watched a great show, drank more cocktails, didn’t fall over, caught the bus home and threw up. In that order.

Which summed up my recent Mothers’ Group Night Out quite nicely, with the omission of one or two important facts. 

Such as that we drank piccolos of champagne on the train into town, which we hid in our handbags between sips, like teenage girls but classier. Or that I let Mistress M and KT give me a Generation Y hairdo. Or even that many of us had started drinking at 3pm. 

And then there was the groovy bar in which the aforementioned consumption of cocktails took place. It was a strange and wonderful place. For one thing, the interior consisted of fake grass and garden furniture. But even stranger still, was the mix of clientele. On one table, there was a group of middle-aged men in anoraks, sporting “bum bags” (aka the more titilating “fanny packs” in the US), like they were on some kind of walking tour of the city. And on another table was the most sedate hen’s party ever. Despite their traditionally outrageous headgear (which politely alerted the public to their hen party status) they sat around like they were having afternoon tea with the local vicar. And what’s more, the party was starting to wind up and it was only six o’clock.

“What the hell is wrong with them?” I whispered to KT. “You’d think somebody was getting married or something…”

But KT was too busy eying off an untouched plate of sandwiches on their table. Which I myself had clocked the very minute we sat down. 

“Do you think they’re going to eat that food?” KT whispered back.  

“No. Do you think we should nick it?”

Yes.

Of course, the waiting staff must have been onto us. While I say we were whispering, the truth is we were probably using our Outside Voices because of all that fake grass. Oh, and possibly because of all that alcohol we’d drunk, too. Anyway, the very second the last of the hen’s group left, the waiter swooped in to start clearing away the table.  

But that didn’t stop us. Or, rather, it didn’t stop KT, who boldly went right up to the waiter and said: “We couldn’t help but notice those sandwiches haven’t been touched. Do you think we might have them, please?” 

The waiter, a prim young man was visibly horrified. He was clearly someone who had never finished off a butterfly cupcake that somebody else’s two year-old had already licked the cream off, let alone someone who pushed the bounds of The Five Second Rule as far as five hours with alarming regularity.

“Those sandwiches, madam, are chicken!” he exclaimed. “And they’ve been at the table for over two hours.” And then he shook his head firmly at KT, and then, for good measure, looked over at the rest of us, and shook his head firmly again. 

“Hey, I’m the one who says ‘No’ round here!” I felt like shouting. But then I realised that “round here” wasn’t my own habitat, and that there was no room in the Big City for the rather dubious food hygiene standards I applied in my own home. 

KT, unruffled, came back to the table, her head held high.

“Well, it’s a waste of good food!” she exclaimed loudly, in her best mother voice. And we all tutted disapprovingly and muttered things about “the youth of today” and “what a sinful waste” until we had drunk enough cocktails to forget all about it. And when I threw up later, it had nothing and yet EVERYTHING to do with those chicken sandwiches. 

Still, if it’s all the same to you, I’d prefer it if the prim young waiter didn’t find out I threw up later that night. I have a feeling he’d shake his head again and maybe even say “I told you so!”. And that just would not do.

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Like many of my best ideas, the concept for the NDM Children’s Vomit Scale came from some quality piss-farting-about time on Twitter.

You see, I recently found myself boasting to twitter friend and blogging peer Mister Trivia that, thanks to my Famous Vomiting Children, there wasn’t much about vomit that I didn’t know. 

“Why, I could write The Bristol Stool Scale equivalent for children’s vomit,” I boldly declared.

“Do it,” was @mrtrivia’s quick reply. “Name it after yourself. Distribute it to parents planet-wide. Appear on Sunrise. Tell Dr Karl he sucks. Become a media darling.”

And just when I thought my mandate couldn’t be much clearer, he threw in a “Brand yourself ‘Chuck Mom’ for the US and ‘Chunder Mummy’ for the UK and Oz” for good measure. You’ve got to hand it to him: that @mrtrivia has one hell of a strategic mind.

Anyway, I promptly churned out a first draft of the NDM Children’s Vomit Scale. And this is how it’s currently shaping up:

THE NDM CHILDREN’S VOMIT SCALE

minestrone TYPE ONE: Also known as “The Minestrone”, a Type One vomit is a little like a Britney Spears-style comeback of the last meal your child ate: it almost looks the same but is far less palatable.  A Type One vomit is always surprising because a) it will almost certainly contain diced carrot even if it has been many moons since your child last even looked askance at a carrot; and b) the quantity of vomit will be much greater than the serving of food your child originally ate.

spreadable TYPE TWO: A Type Two vomit has a more concentrated, less chunky and eminently spreadable consistency. With the correct dietary input, it can resemble peanut butter. But with added carrot. 
cupasoup TYPE THREE: The Type Three is mostly liquid with the occasional chunklet, some of which will, of course, resemble barely-rehydrated carrot. You can heat this up and serve it in a tin mug as “cup-a-soup”. No-one will know the difference. 
amoeba2 TYPE FOUR: Also known as “The Amoeba”, the typical Type Four vomit usually occurs in conjunction with a head cold. Everything (including the carrot) tends to hangs together in a phlegm-coated globular mass and seeing a Type Four in action is a little like watching someone give birth to an alien life form through their mouth.
acid TYPE FIVE: This is the closest thing to battery acid that the human body can produce, due mostly to the caustic qualities of carrot once finally broken down by the digestive system. Parents are advised to wear rubber gloves when handling this highly noxious substance. If left for too long, a Type Five vomit can burn holes through the floor boards and/or metal bed frames. 
bile2 TYPE SIX: All bile, no chunk (or even chunklets) with an alarming flourescent quality.   There has been some speculation that the Type Six vomit is the substance used to to fill those glow-in-the-dark bracelets sold at festivals and school discos.  All I know is this here is some bad, bad shit. 

Impressive, huh?

Now, I’m going to delegate the next phase of implementation to you good people. I’m relying on you to pass the link to this blog post to every parent that you know. Even the ones who claim their children never vomit and secretly think I must be doing something terribly wrong like serving dinner on underside of the toilet seat to have my kids vomit as often as they do.

While you’re all busy doing that, I’m going to concentrate on choosing my outfits for the talk-show circuit (perhaps my signature look could be wearing a Sick Bucket for a hat?). I’ll also be mentally preparing myself for being stopped on the street constantly by grateful parents wanting to shake my hand and kiss my feet. “Oh, NDM!” they’ll say to me. “We’re just so happy that we finally – FINALLY! – have a mutual frame of reference with which we can talk to friends and strangers alike about our kids’ vomit.”

And that, ladies and gentleman, is my gift to the world.

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The other night we came home to find a very strange message on our answering machine.

“There is a naked man in my garden,” spoke a child-like, slightly-accented, other-worldly voice that sent shivers down my spine.

“Who the hell is that?” my husband asked.

I had no idea. So we listened to the message again. And again. And the more we listened to it, the eerier it became. Like the “Have you checked the children?” phone calls of slasher films past. 

Anyway, after a brief investigation, it turns out it was just a text message my mother had accidentally sent to my landline (instead of my mobile). And that the message was actually “There is an echidna in my garden” but the automated voice programmed to speak the text out loud had rendered it “a nekked na”, which sounded very much like “a naked man”. Trust me on this. 

Now, we are no strangers to such verbal confusion in this household. For a long time, a toddler Mr Justice maintained that the trains of Sodor were managed by the “Fucking Roller” (aka “The Fat Controller”). And Tiddles McGee has, on more than one occasion, run around the house shouting “Fucky Fuck!” but thanks to the accompanying internationally-recognised hand gesture for a duck, I’ve been able to tell shocked onlookers that of course he’s quacking and not pretending to be his mother, say, on the school run. 

And so it is little wonder that my mother’s spoken text message got me thinking and we all know how dangerous that is. I thought that maybe, just maybe, I could have myself good old fashioned prank phonecall fun with that automated voice. You know, the Noughties Equivalent of ringing a random stranger to ask them “Is your fridge running, sir? Well, you’d better run after it!”. And yes, thirty years on, I can tell you I’m still laughing about that one. 

And so I thought I could start sending prank texts to people’s landlines. For example: “Suck my big one”. Which I could then claim was supposed to be “Sack the Bhagwan”, even though he’s been dead for almost twenty years and quite possibly beyond the reach of any existing labour laws. Or I could resort to texting my favourite misheard lyric of all time “You might as well face it you’re a dick with a glove” and say I was merely quoting Robert Palmer’s “Addicted to Love”.  Or I could pass “You Arse Clown!” off as “U.R.’s Crown!” or “Boobies!” as “Boo! Bees!” or “Bum Breath” as, er, “Bun Breadth”…  But still, imagine the possibilities, peoples. Imagine…

And in case you’re wondering, next time I see my  mother, I’m totally checking the SENT box on her mobile phone to see what she really texted me.  As if I’m not onto her and her little mind game. Ha! An echidna in my garden, my R’s…

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On Sunday morning I found myself standing at the supermarket checkout behind an unnervingly good-looking Young Man doing what I’d call a “bachelor boy shop”: a litre of orange juice, an apple and some Lynx deodorant. And there was little old me, in my tracky-dacks and birkenstocks, buying a bumper box of sanitary hygiene products and (as per my husband’s request) “a shit load of pegs”.

I watched the Young Man carefully place a divider between our shopping items and thought about tapping him on the shoulder and saying “Uh, I think they’ll know where your shopping ends and mine begins.” But I didn’t, mostly because I didn’t trust myself not to lick my lips salaciously while doing it. He really was That Good Looking.

Then I began thinking of saying things like “I once was young and beautiful too, you know.” and then “Well, I was once young…”. Or perhaps even a little soliloquy like “My life is not so different to yours, actually, buddy. In case you were, like, wondering… For one thing, we both look like we’ve been up for most of the night. Admittedly it’s unlikely to be for the same reasons… Let’s just say that the kind of stains I’ll be washing out from my sheets later this morning are of a completely different nature from the stains you’ll probably be washing out of yours.”

And then, I thought to myself, that it was exactly this kind of statement that made Young Men like him not really want to talk to me much, even when I was young. So I changed tack in the conversation, which you can do quite easily when it is entirely imaginary. 

“Yeah, being a parent is just like taking drugs, man,” I imagined myself saying to him. Which was something some friends and I had conversed about wittily just the other day (a non-imaginary conversation, actually). We had decided that both parenting and (some) drug-taking are the same in that they are “life-style choices” that are all-consuming and expensive. And, we concluded, if you do too much of either, you could do yourself some serious long-term damage.

“Except,” I had announced to my friends at the time. “One makes you fat and the other one makes you thin.”

We had all laughed at this but then I had suddenly stopped laughing to say: “Shit, I obviously chose the wrong thing.”

“And I obviously chose the wrong drug,” my friend Mzzzz E had piped up. And we had all laughed again because she was So Clearly Hot. 

But then I stopped imagining myself telling the Young Man about Mzzzz E at this point because I realised he would totally fancy the pants off her and this moment was about Him and Me, even if he had actually paid for his three items and already left the supermarket. That’s the greatest thing about imaginary conversations: the person you’re talking to doesn’t even have to be there. Genius. 

Anyway, when I finally got outside, I wasn’t at all surprised to find my husband sitting in the Love Bus and gazing longingly at the Young Man as he put his shopping away in his bicycle panniers. As I said, he really was That Good Looking.

“He’s really, really, ridiculously good looking, isn’t he?” I whispered, as I got into the car.

“What?” my husband said. “I was checking this guy’s bicycle out. It’s a beauty.”

And he licked his lips salaciously.

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A mother’s bag is a wondrous thing. It harbours a whole host of essential items – some of which might not seem that essential to the untrained eye, but can be pulled out to save the day at a minute’s notice. For example: a mini-Easter egg found at the bottom of my bag in mid-September placated a small child about to have a godzilla-sized tantrum in a public place; a wad of used tissues was used to transport a fragile bird’s egg found by my big boy at the park; and a champagne cork stopped a reservoir water tank from leaking on The Love Bus. When all is said and done, the motherbag is the McGyver of the Bag World. 

So you can imagine that a mother, say, on a visit to a special exhibit at the state museum with four children, for example, might feel a little cranky when asked to check in her tote bag at the cloakroom because it was deemed to be a “large, bulky item”. In fact, you could say such a mother would be distinctly prickly with the museum attendant. 

“You’ll thank us when you get in there and see how crowded it is,” the museum attendant told such a mother (which was of course me). 

“So crowded that my unconcealed wallet will be wrenched from my hand?” I asked, pointedly.

You see, the denial of the motherbag and a distinct lack of pockets on my attire meant I had to become a Type A “Holder” – you know, one of those people who walk around doing everything holding their wallet, keys and mobile phone in their hands. Shit, they probably even got married, fell pregnant and gave birth holding all that crap. But listen, I have nothing against Holders per se. It’s just that when I’m personally holding stuff in my hand, I grow all uneasy that I might be faced with one of those “catch my child falling or keep hold of my purse” scenarios and some days it’s hard to say which way I’d roll, depending on how much juice was left on my credit card.

Of course, because I was so busy being cranky when I checked in my bag at the cloakroom, I didn’t properly assess what the kids were carrying or make any projections about what I might end up carrying in their place. And so I found myself shepherding four children under eight around a crowded exhibition space, carrying a total of two jumpers, a hard-covered book, a light saber, a stuffed pink poodle, a wad of tickets and programmes handed to me on entry and – of course – my purse, mobile and carkeys. All of which would have easily stored away in my tardis-like motherbag, leaving my hands and arms free to, you know, prevent the young children in my care from tearing the exhibition to shit. For example. 

As I struggled my way around the exhibit, I found myself bitterly keeping count of people bearing leather handbags the same size or bigger than my humble canvas tote. The difference? The bearers appeared to be either without children or with one or two of a more civilised age, able perhaps to blow their own noses and/or manage their own toilet breaks from start to finish.

So what exactly did the museum have against mothers of small children and their motherbags? Were they worried that I’d unleash a torrent of sultanas and diluted juice over their preciousssss exhibitions? If so, damn right they should have been worried. They should have been very worried indeed. But not because I’d be brazenly flouting the NO FOOD OR DRINK rule in the gallery, but because my famous vomiting children might just spontaneously download their breakfast onto all the equipment at the audio tour booth at any given moment. Fact.

I mean, why let children in at all if you won’t let the motherbags of the world in?

For the record: a mother without her motherbag is like a soldier without a gun. Or a skydiver without a parachute. Or a father without whatever thing fathers can’t do without, which is probably their trousers if you think about it as it might get them arrested. Again.

*Sigh*.

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On a good morning, our family “walking bus” will set off at a leisurely pace and I will sign my daughter in at the kindergarten at 8:45am and get my son to school in ample time for the 9 o’clock bell, with a smile on my face and a song in my heart.

On a slightly less good morning, I will thrust my daughter into the arms of a unsuspecting parent outside the kindergarten, begging them to take her in, and I will then sprint the rest of the way to the school, my brow furrowed and  jaw slightly clenched.

On a bad morning, I will end up driving my son to school first to make that 9 o’clock bell, and then drop my daughter at the kindergarten some 20 minutes after the session started, my fly undone and my hair still wet, and a stream of “Shitty fuckin’ fucks” in my wake.

On a really bad morning, I will probably repeat the MO for a bad morning but with a Late Pass issued by the school office thrown in for good measure. And then I’ll come home from the school run, heart still pounding, adrenaline a-pumping and feeling all vague and woozy through lack of food. I will go to make toast only to discover petrified bread already in the toaster is from the last time I’d tried to make myself breakfast three days ago. I will instead decide to perform my morning ablutions, which I have had to put off all morning because it appears to have been “International Hit Your Siblings With a Rubber Mallet Day”. I will then be interrupted from said ablutions by a small boy who has put both hands in the honey tub and is now crying because his hands are ‘sticky’. While cleaning him up in the bathroom, I will subsequently discover that my seemingly wet hair is actually no longer wet and is just incredibly greasy because I forgot to shampoo it in the 30 second shower I managed to have before one of the kids had started screaming again because they’d been hit on the head with a rubber mallet. I will then discover my favourite bra sopping wet, stuffed with partially-chewed sultanas and  My Little Pony accessories and stashed behind the bathroom door. I will briefly contemplate returning to bed, possibly never to rise again, but will see the tell-tale ring of grey cat fur on my pillow as evidence of some vindictive anal grooming. I will then kick something in my rage but it will be with the foot where the big toe has a verruca growing under the toenail, which will just make me angrier because a) it fucking hurts and b) I want to know what kind of a person gets something that sounds like a sexually transmitted disease on their foot anyway, and then, while jumping up and down in pain, I will accidentally land on a piece of carefully concealed Bionicle body part. At which point, I will start screaming and flailing my arms and legs about like Animal from The Muppets or like Peter Garret used to before he was made to put on a suit and assume the position for the Rudd Government. And I will probably do this for quite some time.

And then I will finally remember to breathe and it will all be okay again. Except that I’m still hungry and I still need to do a shit. And my almost-three-year-old is probably just about to hit me on the head with a frickin’ rubber mallet.

Welcome to my world.

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When it comes to having a sick day all of my very own, it would seem I’m always the bridesmaid, never the bride. No sooner have I come down with something, at least one member of my family is sure to follow quickly behind, most likely my husband who will get it much much worse than I. Always. And then suddenly, there I am, playing nurse, when I really just wanted to be the patient.

Anyway, just the other day, I found myself feeling very poorly indeed. I’ll spare you the details, but let’s just say that every toilet trip I made was punctuated with cries of “It burns! It burns!”. And no, I didn’t have the clap. Hell, I don’t even really know what the clap is, except perhaps a good name for a “The Clash” coverband, don’t you think?

ANYWAY, turns out that the very same morning where all I wanted to do was lie in bed and feel incredibly sorry for myself, Mr Justice bounded out of bed shouting for a sick bucket. After spitting in said bucket a few times and doing a poo which was allegedly “a bit dribbly”, he entered his claim that he was “too sick to go to school” and then proceeded to chow down breakfast, tourment his siblings with a stick and run around the back yard. And yet, every time any mention was made of going to school, he had an instant relapse. Just like that. 

Now, I have a number of litmus tests I perform when faced with a child who claims to be ill but without displaying obvious symptoms of illness – e.g. fever, vomiting, rash or singing Bindi and The Croc Men songs.

The first is to remind them gently of my rules of No TV, No Computer, No Wii. Instead, I announce, we shall dedicate the day to quiet contemplation and gentle convalescence in a semi-darkened room. When faced with this bleak prospect, school suddenly looks like the Warner Brothers’ Movie World in comparison and an ailing child, previously unable to to even lift their weary head from the pillow, can make a miraculous recovery.

The second is to say something like “Oh, what a shame. I had planned to have [insert best friend's name] over for a playdate this afternoon but I guess I’ll have to wait until tomorrow when you’re feeling better.”

The third is to casually lay a five cent coin on the table and say “Oh, I thought that I would award this generous cash prize to the child deemed to be Most Well today…”

Mr Justice maintained that he was Truly Sick through all three tests. And yet he seemed perfectly fine. Still, I kept him home from school since the last time I doubted him, it ended spew-tacularly (see “The Boy Who Cried Sick“). And so it came to pass that I, who was actually sick, found myself with one extra child at home and one step even further away from having a sick day of my own. The injustice of it all.

Perplexed and somewhat broken, I sought counsel from my friend The Suburban Diva about my son’s mysterious ailment.

“Ah, it’s just Thirdtermitis,” she pronounced. “This has been a long term and it’s the arse-end of the cold and flu season. Everyone’s officially Over. It.”

And that’s when I really started to panic because Everyone Knows that a common complication of Thirdtermitis is School Holidayalgia, which can quickly develop into premature Fourthtermosis and progress into Summerholidayrhhea. And then, before you know it, it’s advanced into full-blown Teenagalgia, a condition from which no-one apparently ever really recovers. Neither parent nor child. No-one.

Better get some Actual Sick Days in before that one hits. I’ll need my energy.

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