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Archive for October, 2009

So, it’s official. We have a NEW CAR to replace The Love Bus, now dearly departed (see “The Long Journey Home“). This is the first time I have ever experienced this NEW CAR feeling. By the time I got my license to drive in the winter of 2007, The Love Bus had already been with us for over a year, and around for at least 20 years previous to that. This NEW CAR is not only NEW to us, it’s also NEW within this decade. That’s worth the capitalisation of NEW CAR, wouldn’t you say?

My NEW CAR joy, however, has been somewhat dampened by the extreme pain I’ve been experiencing following my little oral surgery “holiday” (see “Result“). Some holiday that turned out to be. I can bet, though, that my oral surgeon is thanking his lucky stars that I have had that NEW CAR feeling to distract me. So, instead of marching into his office and kicking him where it hurts so he can experience just a small taste of the pain I’ve been in, all I’ve done has been to mutter vaguely on twitter about dropping the words “fuck” and “arse clown” into my next exchange with him (as in “I’m in fucking pain, you arse clown”).

[For the record, when I did actually ring "Dr Nick", he was extremely dismissive about my complaints. "Oh, that's just muscular," he said, after I'd explained how I felt like I'd had to squint directly into harsh sunlight while being forced to smile for the camera and repeatedly slapped on my right cheek for 24 hours straight.]

[Also: I have a theory that while I was sedated, Dr Nick and his anaesthetist made me their Ventriloquist Bitch and video-taped me for hours doing a testimonial for their upcoming late-night infomercial by squeezing my cheeks together repeatedly and making me appear to say stuff like "Even when I'm heavily sedated, I am extremely happy with the services of Dr Nick and Associates". Or that they tried to fit a whole basketball in my mouth as part of some kind of sick bet and then posted their results on YouTube. Either way, I really can't explain the "muscular" pain, otherwise. Or why people keep recognising me on the street.]

Anyway, the NEW CAR came to us with its own name. Because it is a Mitsubishi “Starwagon”, we have rather imaginatively named it “The Star Wagon”. 

Other than being NEW, The Star Wagon has other some other qualities to recommend it:

For one thing, it is white. Just like the A-Team Van. Except that the A-Team van was actually black. Whatever.  From certain angles, it might even be taken for a “light commercial” vehicle. The Mild-Mannered Lawyer, in particular, was impressed with its “loading zone potential” and my husband and I are currently looking into buying some magnetised Australia Post signage to slap on its side when we need a handy parking spot. But don’t tell anyone. 

Also, it has “walk-through” from the front seats through to the back. I think this particularly excites my husband because the next time the kids won’t quit their jibba jabba, he can shout at them “Don’t make me come back there!” and it will actually mean something. Because he can. Go back there. Using the power of the walk-through.

It has a “vacation stripe” down both sides. 

It hasn’t broken down (yet). 

It is NEW.

On the downside, it lacks a certain “personality”. When Mistress M first saw it, she exclaimed “It looks great! But it’s not very ‘you’…”. Which suggested that The Love Bus had been “me” and made me wonder what part of “unreliable 80s throw-back champagne-coloured rust-bucket on wheels” she was referring to. And I’d appreciate it if you didn’t say anything right now. 

Anyway, as wise friend LSK pointed out, “too much personality in a car can be a bad thing.” Just as Dr Nick is about to find that too much personality in a patient can also a bad thing, if my pain doesn’t disappear by our appointment on Monday. Which, also for the record, I will be driving to in my NEW CAR.

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One of the hardest things for me over the past week has been my medication management post-oral surgery. The antibiotics I’m on are supposed to be taken four times a day half an hour before food and two hours after I last ate. 

“Shuh!” I commented to a friend. “Two hours since I last ate?? I mean, when is there ever two hours in a day when I’m not eating?”

(It’s true: I graze all the live-long day, constantly stuffing my children’s left overs in my mouth such as apples with one single bite taken out of them, saliva-infused toast and cold fries languishing at the bottom of the Happy Meal box.  I’m like the Noo-noo from the Teletubbies, who must surely suffer acute indigestion from hoovering up all those Tubby Toast and Tubby Custard accidents. And if you don’t know what the hell I’m talking about, I would count yourself very lucky, if I were you. Very lucky indeed.)

“I’m reading a very interesting book about overcoming overeating,” my friend replied. 

“And what’s the secret to overcoming overeating?” I asked.

“I don’t know. I haven’t finished it yet,” was her response. Which is exactly my problem with any kind of book or article or even gate-fold pamphlet about dieting because I have usually wandered off to see if there is any chocolate left in the Treats Cupboard before I get to the punchline. Particularly if there are things like milligrams of fat or “points” to take into consideration. I mean, if I’d wanted to spend my days measuring and counting shit,  I would have become an Apothecary or gotten an apprenticeship with someone like The Count von Count, who is called The Count because he loves to count. 

Anyway, it made me wonder if there was a book about under-reading about over-coming over-eating. Probably. But I’d never finish it. 

Interestingly enough, my issues with alcohol are same same but different. Health Care Professionals recommend between two and three standard drinks per day for women. And yet, as a mother, I’ve identified at least fifteen Key Alcoholic Beverage Opportunities (KABOs) of an evening:

KABO #1: Having a drink to celebrate my husband arriving home from work.

KABO #2: Having a drink while I’m making dinner (also known as “The Chef’s Perogative”). 

KABO #3: Having a drink so as not to Officially Die Of Boredom when supervising bath time. 

KABO #4:  Having a drink when The Pixie’s squealing hits its upper-most register (circa 7pm).

KABO #5: Having a drink while watching television with my husband, particularly if it is really bad television. 

KABO #6-13: Having a drink after each appearance of a child at the door saying they’re “scared” or claiming that one of their siblings “whacked/smashed/looked askance at me”. 

KABO #14: Having a drink to celebrate that moment when the kids are finally asleep.  

KABO #15: Having a drink when the TV is turned off for the night and I realise that the next working day is virtually upon me.

So, with so many opportunities for drinking, you’d think I’d spend most of my evenings blind drunk. However, contrary to popular opion, I am much better with alcohol than anyone might think. You see, I’m a “delayed gratification” kind of girl and I totally wait until the kids are asleep, so that all that white noise and static electricity they create doesn’t hamper my enjoyment of a nice glass of ice cold bubbly. Then I really enjoy those last two KABOs for all their worth, all within the remit of the Responsible Drinker.

Unless, of course, it’s been a bitch of a day. In which case, nothing’s standing between me and that bottle. Nothing. 

Food and drink issues? I’ve got dozens of them. Dozens, I tell ya! I’d count them all, but I’m far too busy stuffing my face with party-bag booty. And there’s the truth.

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When I originally accepted an invitation to the Members Area at The Races with the freshly-single Mild-Mannered Lawyer, I imagined that I would mostly be there on some kind of security detail. You know, screening the menfolk as they approached her: “Sorry, your shoes are too beige, git away back!… How much do you earn? Okay, you can talk to her but you Can. Not. Touch…. You? You’re cute. But I might have to snog you first as a precautionary measure…” Etcetera, etcetera. 

I also imagined that I would look reminiscent of a slightly older yet still beguiling Audrey Tautou in the black 1960s cocktail dress I had chosen to wear and that we would both be sitting around on a red velvet chairs in the Member’s Lounge, being elegant and witty and drink champagne from crystal-cut glasses. 

What I didn’t count on was that I would still be in incredible pain and heavily medicated following my oral surgery the previous week. That the only way I could possibly be said to resemble Audrey Tautou was if she were to play the role of a mad woman who’d decided to store nuts for winter in one half of her face. And that I would make a last-minute – and somewhat uncharacteristic – decision to wear heels. And that there would be nowhere at all to sit – not even along the long concrete ledges where there’d be some girl sitting with a couple of half-drunk alco-pops who’d say “Sorry, those seats are taken!” and make me mutter loudly to the MML “Oh, the poor dear. She thinks those bottles are her little friends.” Not to mention that she counted a narrow concrete ledge as “seats”. Desperate times, people. Desperate times. 

Nor could I have foretold that the MML would insist on placing bets with the independent bookies and that I’d end up saying “I bet you don’t get to see big money like this very often!” to one bookie as I poured a handful of twenty cent coins into his hand for a “$1 bet each way on Horse 14″. 

Or that I’d win $42 off the $9 I placed in bets.

Or that we wouldn’t get an iota of male attention until the very last race, by which time we’d have drunk three bottles of champagne between us and all my weight would have slowly transfered to the front of my feet so that my two big toes were essentially holding up my 75kg frame. And that I’d be almost pathetically grateful for the pain because it at least took my mind off my aching jaw. 

Anyway, let’s just say that I wasn’t exactly in a discerning state of mind when a gaggle of 30-something boys in crisp suits and pastel ties surrounded us and started making remarks about gettin’ them some sweet cougar lovin’ even though we clearly weren’t that much older than them. Clearly. Good-natured creatures that we were (we were also very drunk), we let them take photos of us and examine out our fingers for wedding ring marks and The MML even spot-checked each of them for “beer girth” – although, ostensibly, that should have been my job in my capacity as her Door Bitch. Some friend I turned out to be. 

Then, when they suddenly disappeared off to the bar and the one left behind to “mind us” decided to call his mother – yes, his mother – the MML and I had a quick conference.

“Do you think they’ve gone off to buy us a magnum of Moet?” I asked her, always hopeful.

“I don’t know,” The MML replied. “They might just come back with five coldies for themselves.”

Which it was, we’ll never know. We chose to slink off mysteriously into the crowd, like the cougars that we were. And actually, it was lucky we didn’t stay because, as the MML herself put it later, if she’d drunk any more champagne she might have thrown up and that might have “ruined the magic”.

Anyway, the point is this: who’d have known that I could wear heels and drink as much as I did on the amount medication I was on without falling over?  Or that my fascinator would end up staying on my head and not falling in the toilet? Or that I’d end up spending so little and laughing so much at a day at the races?

Thanks for a great day out, MML.

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I think we all know by now that I should never say anything about anything. When KT first asked me about helping out with her kids, Master J and Cyclone Bella, while she was away (see “And Then There Were Five“), I said something like “Yes, yes, it should all be fine – as long as nobody gets gastro and the car doesn’t break down.”

And you know what? Both those things happened and it was still fine. No really, it was. 

Of course, I can say this now because KT is back this weekend and my first “tour of duty” is officially over. In fact, to celebrate I might just get a t-shirt made up that says “In the last three weeks, I survived three kids with gastro, a fairy birthday party, hosting mothers’ group, the death of the Love Bus and eight whole days of looking after two extra children and I’m still smiling, except I’m not really because I went to the oral surgeon’s yesterday and it kind of hurts!”. But now that I look at it, it’s a little on the wordy side and the writing would have to be really small and would probably mean complete strangers with bad garlic breath would come up really close to me just to read it. Stupid t-shirt. 

But I digress. 

“Hang on, hang on. What was all that about oral surgery, NDM?” I can hear the usual people asking. “We remember your last trip to the oral surgeon was a little, uh, trippy. In fact we’re including a hyperlink to that post in this little interjection of ours… here it is: The Monsters Upstairs.”

Thanks for the hyperlink there, people. And yes, it was another trip to the oral surgeon and I can tell you this much: I embraced the idea of being intravenously sedated so that someone could drill into my skull like it was a holiday in the Whitsunday Islands. Because it meant that I didn’t have to look after any children for an afternoon. 

But, actually, now that I think about it, with all that money I spent on oral surgery, I could have paid for a week’s holiday for me, my husband, the kids and a full-time nanny in the Whitsundays and still had change for cocktails. And let’s face it, you don’t need teeth to enjoy a jug of Mango Daiquiri. What the hell was I thinking?

Again, I digress.

My point here (there’s a point?) is that I did it. I survived all those things listed on that fictitious t-shirt of mine and still managed to crack a few jokes about it all.  It wasn’t always easy, it certainly wasn’t pretty. But I did it. 

And here’s the proof: when, on the second last day, Uncle B came to pick up his kids, I admitted to him that the “shouting [NDM]” had made a big appearance that day but that, hopefully, there had been enough of the Nice NDM in the mix as well.

Master J, who was standing next to me, piped up, completely unprompted, to say: “No, there was only nice [NDM]!”. 

Which makes me think that my celebratory t-shirt should probably just say : “When all is shouted and done, I’m really quite nice.”

No, really.

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It all started because my husband woke up in my mother’s house out in the country with a hankering for curry. 

“Maybe…” he said. “Just maybe, an Indian family will have moved into Blinkton over night and have opened a roadside stall, selling curry and rice.”

I laughed at him, knowing full well that the closest he’d find to a beef vindaloo ’round those parts was a curry-flavoured pie and even then, he’d have to soak it over night in Tabasco sauce to get any kick out of it. 

However, later that morning, we happened upon a neighbouring town’s monthly farmer’s market and there, tucked in between the “Devonshire Tea” and “Sausage-in-a-bun” stalls, was a Sri Lankan woman dishing out large plates of home-made curry and rice. 

“I should buy a lottery ticket. This is going to be my lucky day!” my husband said. And, as he tucked into his food and the sun shone and the kids played merrily in park and behind us a band struck up a swing version of “Sesame Street”, I was inclined to believe him. Sunny day, sweepin’ the clouds away, indeed. 

A mere three hours later on our way home, of course, the Love Bus’s engine overheated Big Time. Almost like someone had soaked it in Tabasco sauce over night and then set it on fire. 

“You should have bought that lottery ticket while you still could!” I shouted out to him as he risked life and limb opening the car’s engine hood and I referreed rock’n’wrestling matches between the children on a picnic blanket with semi-trailers roaring past. 

After forty minutes, the Love Bus was still blowing steam out all of its orifices so we piled back in and limped the last few kilometres to the next small town. There, I proceeded to encroach on the kind hospitality of the local shop owners by letting my children paint their booth seats with ice-cream, while my husband rang the Roadside Assistance people and tried to get the stuff from the trailer into the back of the Love Bus. Because OF COURSE we were traveling with the trailer full of stuff when we broke down. 

An hour later, it became apparent I’d have to select some dinner for the kids from the shop’s bain marie, where the closest thing to vegetable matter was a Steak and Onion Pie (no curry, unfortunately, because that would at least have contained peas). It’s meals like those where I take much comfort from the inclusion of the word “tomato” in “tomato sauce”. 

Finally, two hours after we first broke down, the Roadside Assistance guy arrived to give us his professional opinion on the engine and it was: “It’s totally fucked!”. He then gave us a lift back to the nearest big town to catch the train home, where our underfed, overtired and hyper-hyped children amused fellow passengers during the 90 minute trip with antics such as spitting on the windows and then licking it. 

“I’m blaming the Maltezers,” my husband said, referring to the bag of chocolates I had bought – while he was chugging a last-minute middy of Victorian Bitter in the train station buffet, no less. 

“Actually, Curry Boy,” I retorted. “I’m blaming the fact that our ninety minute trip home has turned all Gilligan Island-like and yes, all the kids have eaten is fat, sugar and more fat” followed by something insightful along the lines of “Lucky day, my arse.

But I shouldn’t have spoken so harshly to him. Because, when we arrived home almost six hours after we’d set out, he still had to drive back to the scene of the crime with our friend The Sculptor to get our unlocked trailer, which was now worth far more to us than the car. They also had to make the Love Bus scrapyard-ready by stripping out all of our belongings. And of course, in his tiredness, my husband didn’t quite tie down the load on the trailer down as well as he should have and somewhere along the highway, three of our four childseats blew off into the dark void behind them . And then, although the carseats would have been write-offs the minute they hit the ground at 110km/hour, he and The Sculptor ended up running up and down the side of the highway in the black of night trying to find them, while wild dogs barked at them from the bushes. True story. He finally got home, unpacked the trailer, and crawled into bed some 3 and a half luxurious hours before he had to get up for work.

Still, the final joke was on me. Of course, because we didn’t have the Love Bus and nobody could lend me a car big enough to take me and the five children under my care, I had to do the school pick up the following afternoon with five kids on foot in surprisingly warm weather. And my husband had the nerve to drive past in the airconditioned comfort of a taxi, stopping only to pick up Mr Justice – the one child who could travel with just a seatbelt, but also the one child who was capable of walking the long journey home by himself. 

I personally hope my husband never wakes up and wants curry for breakfast again.

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This post appears as part of the Car Sick Carnival over on “It’s A Small World After All”. I suggest you swing by there for more tales of travel horror, some of which contain vomit. Imagine! Vomit!

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The other night, as my husband was setting his alarm for the next morning, I casually quipped: “Be sure to set it for 11pm, 1am, 3am and 5am in case the children forget to wake us.” My, how we laughed.

Of course, Mr Justice then proceeded to vomit at 10:30pm, 12:30pm, 2pm, 4am and 4:45am, with a couple of crying interruptions in between by Tiddles McGee thrown in for good measure. And each time, after the sick bowl had been rinsed out and disinfected, the sheets and towels had been changed and fresh water had been administered to the little patient, I would crawl back into bed and pray that this time it would be the last time and that sleep would be my reward.

Ha!

Really, I should have known better than to make such an amusing quip about the alarm clock. After all, I had already jinxed us badly enough by confidently declaring our Gastro-Free status that very afternoon to a friend we were visiting, only to have Mr Justice coat the toilet with the contents of his stomach an hour later. So I had known that the night ahead was going to be a bad one. But I didn’t think for a moment it would be that bad. Perhaps if I had, I might have never gone to bed in the first place. I might have stayed up all night watching back-to-back Barbie’s Fairytopia movies whilst simultaneously sticking Bionicle armoury in my fleshy bits instead because, quite frankly, that might have proved more restful and relaxing.

I mean, let’s be honest here: sometimes broken sleep (or in this case, sleep which has been dropped from a great height and shattered into a thousand million pieces and then ground firmly underfoot by a thousand angry feet) is worse than no sleep at all. For one thing, there’s all that damn pressure to get back to sleep as quickly as possible and grab as many Zs as you can before being woken again and then there’s the bitter disappointment of being woken up far sooner than you’d hoped.  In the confusion of it all, I began to think of Mr Justice as a newborn baby and, at the first sound of a new vomiting episode, I’d look at the clock blearily and think “But he’s not due to vomit yet!”

Of course all the time I also had that extra pressure of knowing that the morning would bring two extra charges to feed and water, in the form of Master J and Cyclone Bella. And much worse still, that I couldn’t just declare the day a Doonah Day where we spent the whole day slothing about in front of the television in our pyjamas, eating food out of a tin. You see, the next day was The Pixie’s birthday and there were Big Expectations. She was already utterly devastated that I’d canceled her Fairy Morning Tea at the first sign of vomit and I was going to have to pull something pretty special out of the hat to make up for it – all whilst entertaining five children in quarantine conditions on next-to-no-sleep.

Now, I don’t know how I did it, but I managed to get through the whole day with a smile on my face. Don’t ask me how: it’s all a pink-streamered blur. I don’t even think The Pixie noticed for a moment that her mother was a mere caffeinated-shadow of her former self. As I tucked her into bed that night, she said “Thank you for the bestest birthday ever”.

Of course, it wasn’t until the next day that I found myself shouting a lot and then sitting on my bed, in self-imposed Time Out, holding a wad of home-made green playdough in my hands and sobbing my little heart out. But that? That’s a story for another day.

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Every time I hear the sound of the Postie’s bike stop outside our house to deliver some mail, I clap my hands with glee and exclaim “Cheques! Cheques!” as if somehow, just by saying the word, it would make it so. 

And every time there is a knock on the door, I think, with great hope, “Oooh, a package! Someone’s sent me a package!”. I just can’t help myself. 

Of course, we get far more bills than we ever get cheques. And that knock on the door rarely results in packages, but rather sales reps, Jevohah’s Witnesses and charity collectors. Or, if we’re really lucky, a merry band of junkies checking to see if anyone’s home. 

My husband has a very clear technique that he employs with such doorknockers. He refuses to engage with them by saying “No thank you. We don’t do business of any kind at the door” and promptly shutting the door. Short, sharp, swift: the bandaid approach. 

I, however, can’t do that. I always think of how it must be a doorknocker and have everyone open the door on you and physically baulk when they realise you’re not the Postie delivering a present. It would be very wearing on a person’s soul… 

So I try to let them down a little more gently than my husband. I usually end up saying something stupid like “Now isn’t a good time!” – as if the fact the smoke alarm is going off and there are naked, screaming children running around in the background doesn’t already tell them this. And of course that only gives the doorknocker the opportunity to say “When is a good time?” or (my favourite) “Perhaps I should come back when your husband is home?” like I’m not a responsible adult. 

And then, when I start to explain that no time is a good time and/or that I really am a responsible adult (no, really!), before I know it I’ve been caught in their web of carefully scripted sales-speak. 

So it wasn’t much of a surprise to anyone when my husband came home recently and I announced cheerfully “We’ve changed energy retailers!”.

I then added, for clarification: “The salesman really wanted to help us save money on our energy bills. I mean, he was Scottish and everyone knows that you can trust a Scot with your money!” (Albeit a Scot who was young, good-looking and charming and who was hungover like a bastard and had to sit on my front door step with a big glass of water. And who said it would just take “two minutes of my time” and twenty minutes later was still there getting me to fill in forms. But my husband didn’t need to know all that.)

My husband strangely didn’t jump for joy at the thought of reduced energy bills. Instead he stood and looked at me, blankly. So I said brightly, echoing the words of my converter: “There’s no fixed contract, a ten day cooling off period and there’s a good chance our current retailers will drop their rate to match the new offer and we won’t have to change retailers after all!” 

Still nothing. 

So I said “If I repeat all that in a Scottish accent, you’ll totally believe this was all a good idea. You really truly will.”

And then “Look, if you’re going to leave me alone in this house day in day out, you’re going to have to accept I’m going to save us some money on our energy bills from time to time.”

And then “You’re using your technique, aren’t you? Well, it’s not going to work.”

And then “Okay, okay! I’ll ring them up and cancel it. Sheesh!

For the record, my husband does do some business at the door – but only with pizza delivery men and strip-o-grams. So if my Scottish friend is keen to change my husband’s mind on the matter of energy bill reduction, he’d be well advised to come back wearing easy-to-remove clothing and carrying a pizza. You know, just sayin’.

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