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Archive for November, 2009

Make-up is a little like sugar on cereal. The longer your kids don’t know about it, the better. And then of course when they do finally find out about it, they have a tendency to pile it on. 

And so it breaks my heart to say that The Pixie – at the ripe age of five and through no fault of her own – has discovered makeup in a Big Way. 

It’s all because I thought she should do dancing. You know, as a bit of exercise and as something to do that was entirely for her and had nothing to do with her brothers. The dance school I chose seemed so relaxed – kids did the class in their school uniforms and without proper shoes. It was cheap, it was local, she was happy, I was happy.

But then we hit The Concert Season and everything spun rapidly spun Out. Of. Control. 

Suddenly, I found myself faced with a list of make-up requirements that looked like it’d been issued by the wardrobe department of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert. I was dishing out money at every turn for special stockings, flesh-coloured underwear, makeup, hairspray, bobby pins, concert DVDs and photos and discovering that the inclusion of the word “ballet” or “dance” in any item’s description had the same effect as the word “wedding” – it doubled the price instantly. 

Still, I had come this far and it was too late to pull out without letting anyone down (The Pixie most of all). And so I dutifully turned up at the theatre for the dress rehearsal at the appointed time with my child and all the requisite accoutrements. I had even managed to hang two (out of the four) costumes on hangers with a plastic shopping bag draped carefully over them.

I felt pretty damn good about myself – after all, it’s hard to find spare hangers in The House That Ate Paris. And the plastic bag showed that I was a mindful mother who didn’t want her child’s costumes to get unduly soiled (or at the very least the shoulders of the costumes, since that was all the plastic bag covered). Then I saw the other mothers arriving with zippered suit bags and fold-out hanging racks and suddenly I felt  like I may as well have screwed the costumes up in a wad and stuffed them at the bottom of a bag with a wet towel from swimming lessons, such was the level of “care” I’d obviously taken. 

It turns out that all this time I’d been smiling and waving and exchanging small-talk with other parents when I dropped The Pixie off at her lesson, there were all these Bona Fide Stage Mothers walking amongst us, who only revealed their true identities at Concert Time. These women took things very very seriously. They had check-lists. They had separate little zip-lock bags for each costume accessory. They “shusshhhhed” other children when they spoke above a whisper in the dressing room. 

It was enough to make an NDM turn to drink – except a little talk to the parents before the dress rehearsal from the Dance Teacher put an end to that particular avenue of relief. STRICTLY NO ALCOHOL BACK STAGE, was the clear message she delivered – while looking directly at me, no less.

I nudged The Fabulous Miss Jones sitting next to me.

“She’s looking at me! How does she know?” I whispered. And then I remembered the rather loud conversation Miss Jones and I had had in the theatre carpark about ten minutes beforehand which went something like this:

MISS JONES:  I wish I’d bought a hip flask … Only joking!

THE NDM:     I wish you’d bought a hip flask, too…. Only I’m not joking. In fact, I don’t think I’ve ever been more serious in my life.

Anyway, somewhat disheartened, we returned to our Stage Motherly duties where I watched the Miss Jones put makeup on her daughter, hoping I could learn something. For someone who is always so well-groomed herself, Miss Jones did such terrible job that I burst out laughing. My, how I laughed. But my laughter quickly dried up when I started doing my own daughter’s face, turning her from a naturally beautiful five-year-old into an extra from Michael Jackson’s Thriller in a matter of minutes. 

“Don’t take the black stuff off, Mama!” my little girl cried, when I tried to make amends. “It’s sooooo lovely!” 

“Yes, lovely for a Panda Bride, my love,” I replied. But the more I tried to fix things up, the worse I made it and it rapidly got to the point where it physically hurt me to look at my own child’s face.

And so, it was with a very heavy heart indeed that I sent my daughter off to the stage and slipped into my seat in the auditorium. Honestly, why the hell am I doing this? I thought to myself. I mean, there I was, literally haemorrhaging money so I could stick my five-year-old daughter on the stage looking like Christina Aguilera in “Lady Marmalade” and I couldn’t even get drunk while doing it

And then the auditorium lights dimmed and the curtains parted.  And I saw my little daughter gaze up in wonder at the stage lights overhead and be struck by that very same lightning bolt that once struck me many many years ago. And I cried. 

I cried because I still remembered that feeling of being on the stage for the first time after 33 years. I cried because I was so proud of my daughter, freak show make-up and all. And I cried because I knew it was entirely likely that I’d go out and buy ziplock bags the very next day and well and truly begin my descent into Stage Mother Hell…

Stay tuned for the second part of this exciting NDM adventure on Wednesday, entitled “Concert”… In the meantime, nobody tell my kids about sugar on cereal, okay? I don’t think I can take it right now. 

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I was faced with an etiquette dilemma a few months back when I received a text announcing the birth of a baby. Unfortunately, the number wasn’t stored in my phone and there were no details in the text itself that gave away the identity of the parents. 

I mean, what would you have done? At the risk of sounding like a quiz out of Dolly magazine, would you:

a) write back “Congratulations!” and hope you work out who the kid belongs to some time before their 18th birthday;
b) write back “Look, I’m really happy for you and all but who the fuck ARE you?”; OR 
c) do nothing in the hope the news will come via other channels, such as email, pamphlet drop or some kind of reality TV special.

In the end, I was so paralyzed by uncertainty I ended up going with c). And a few days later, I received an email from long-serving friend (and erstwhile reader of this blog) Madame Zap that revealed not only that she was the mysterious texter (and now newly-mother-of-three) but that the text had in fact been sent from the delivery bed. 

I felt terrible. And not just because her mobile number details had obviously dropped out of my phone’s address book in one of three recent phone changes. Mostly I felt terrible because if had been me texting from the delivery bed, I’d like to think people could be bothered texting back. It doesn’t take that much effort to punch out a few words on your phone, you know. Unlike, say, pushing something the size of a small planet, for example, through your watoosy. Just sayin’. 

Of course I immediately set about making amends and went out and bought a card and a present for the baby. Which then sat unsent on my desk for four long months. Etiquette failure number two.

And so, in the end, I had no choice but to drive across town to Madame Zap’s house with The Pixie and Tiddles McGee to hand-deliver both card and present. It was the only way to sort out this whole mess. 

Now, I should point out here that Madame Zap had moved to a rather ritzy suburb since we’d last met. I had some trepidation about going there because the last time I’d driven ’round those parts I’d been with the whole family in the Love Bus and it was a little like the Beverly Hill Billies rolling into town. I think some local residents actually had to wash out their eyes after seeing us driving down their immaculate hedge-lined streets and, had they known where their gardeners stored the pitchforks, they probably would have tried to chase us out.  

This time, however, I was driving the Star Wagon and therefore cloaked in the power of the Light Commercial Vehicle. Thus, I could easily pass myself off as a courier delivering a package. And since I was actually delivering a present or card, my story was water-tight – you know, just in case a member of the Local Citizen Action Group challenged me as I tried to enter the suburb. Which, somewhat disappointingly, they didn’t.  

Anyway, it was lovely to catch up with Madame Zap, to meet the latest addition to her family and to see her beautiful new house. And it was a blessed relief to finally hand over the card and present. 

And that might have been the happy end to this story, EXCEPT for some further breaches of etiquette I committed while there that have been weighing on my mind ever since, including:

1) managing to stretch a morning-tea invitation til well past lunchtime (not acceptable when there is a small baby in the house);
2) bringing a teenage mutant ninja turtle figure into a house previously untouched by the TMNT franchise and then leaving it there; and
3) changing Tiddles McGee’s shit-packed nappy in the back of the Star Wagon and in full view of the neighbourhood. 

Lord knows how you even start making amends for that lot. Any suggestions? Anyone?

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I am reluctant to call myself a “Writer”. I feel it’s a bit disingenuous to hang my whole identity on an activity I do less than 5% of the time – if that. I mean, I spend 33.3% of my time sleeping (or trying to sleep) and I don’t go around calling myself a Sleeper or even (more accurately) an Aspiring Sleeper.

Of course, one might argue that so much of what I do with the rest of my time informs my writing and I’m always thinking about it – thinking, thinking, thinking… But then, one might also argue that so much of what I eat informs my bowel output. ‘Nuff said.

My husband – who is currently working on his own Top Secret writing project – and I often accuse each other of writerly behaviour. 

“Oh, you’re such a Writer!” we say to each other.

When my husband complains about something trivial, I toss a casual “Go write me a sob story, Writer Boy!” his way.

And when I say I need to take some time out for my blog, his retort might be something along the lines of: “Well, you’d better grab your beret and go find yourself a fucking street cafe.”

Of course, the time he said that to me, we were staying in Blinkton at my mother’s house, which is at least 50 km from the nearest street cafe – unless a cup of instant coffee in a polystyrene cup drunk while squatting outside the local truck stop counts. Is that behaviour befitting a Writer? I can’t remember Nicole Kidman doing it during her turn as Virginia Wolf in “The Hours” so I’d say not. (Note to self: must buy prosthetic nose). 

Anyway, it must be said my husband goes a bit strange when we’re in the country, and not just because he often does a lot of goddamn writing there. For one thing, he fancies himself as a bit of a Country Boy and starts offering to write “Spirit Of The Man On The Land” guest posts for my blog.

For another thing, he makes grand statements like “I understand The Land. Unlike you city writers. You’re like Vincent von Gogh staggering drunk around my sunflower plantation. OF COURSE the sunflowers are going to look all squiggly when you’ve drunk that much absynthe.”

And I’d say he has a good point if he wasn’t being such a goddamn writer about it. 

Anyway, if you’re wondering what has sparked all this writer talk, I’ll give you the lowdown.  I just got one step closer to being able (but perhaps not yet willing) to legitimately call myself a Writer. As of yesterday, I became a guest blogger on kidspot.com.au . There’s a retro-NDM piece up there now but there may be some freshly-baked posts up there one day soon. 

Oooh, look at me! I’m a guest blogger on a major Australian parenting site! La-di-dah!

(What a Writer.)

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