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Archive for December, 2009

Camping with small children is all about Togetherness.

There is no television or computers or telephones to distract you, no walls to separate you, no toilet trip to be taken unaccompanied.  You go to bed at the same time as the kids, you rise together at first birdcall, you eat together, you shower together, you laugh together, you cry inconsolably together. 

And when you camp along a major route at Christmas time, you share a lot of togetherness time with a lot of other campers as well. For the record, I take no great pleasure in parading in front of a group of 20-something revelers in my floral pyjamas at 7 o’clock at night. Nor do I enjoy brushing my teeth less than a metre from a fellow camper taking a dump. Still, it’s all part of the communal camping experience and my internal hippy embraces that. No, really. 

But in a recent camping stop at ‘Seaford’ (not it’s real name), I learnt that there was sharing and then there was sharing. 

As we pulled into Seaford, we were greeted with a sign that said “Seaford says NO to Violence.” I don’t know about you but it was a sight that didn’t exactly fill my heart with confidence. Things must be pretty bad if the council had to advertise the fact they said NO to violence. I mean, it should be assumed that most towns in Australia would say NO to Violence, in the same way as they might say NO to Drink Driving, Wanton Destruction of Property, Excessively-Wide Shoulder Pads and (in a perfect world) Bratz Dolls. But there were no signs advertising any of that

And in any case, who ever took notice of something that was written on a sign anyway? Except maybe “STOP” and “FREE BEER”. 

ANYWAY, as we pulled up to our designated camping spot at the Seaford caravan park, we were understandably a little apprehensive when we saw our two young male neighbours, Jim Beam towel hung out like a flag, drinking beer at 3 o’clock. And they no doubt looked with equal trepidation at both my husband and I shouting at our three screaming children with Dire Straits blaring from the stereo (my husband’s choice, I’ll have you know). It was hard to know who’d got the worse deal. 

In the end, it was The Pixie who swung it. Not only did she treat the entire campground to a “special show” which involved her shouting songs of her own creation from a wall outside the toilet blocks, but when I took her into the toilet, she announced in a very loud voice: “Oh, I don’t need to go to the toilet after all! I thought I did because my bottom was hurting. It must be hurting because I must have a BOTTOM BISEASE! Oh no! I can’t do my Show any more because of my BOTTOM BISEASE!” and crying loudly.

By the time we walked back to our tent past our neighbours, she had recovered enough to cheerfully ask (just as loudly): “Is Baby Jesus growing in my tummy?” and then, a few steps later, “Mummy, have you ever been stabbed? With a knife??”. 

My answer? Certainly not in Seaford, where they say NO to Violence. Apparently. Although try telling that to my children who went on to spend at least an hour jumping around the tent shouting “I’m gonna smack your bum-bum!” before finally collapsing asleep. Sheesh, no wonder the people of Seaford put that sign up. 

As for those two young men? They scurried out of camp with their slab of beer at the first opportunity to do their reveling elsewhere. We were too hardcore for them. Fact. 

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Here’s some weird-arse shit: I’m writing this post the evening before my family and I set off on a week long road-trip but it is being published on the morning of the day we’re scheduled to return.

How’s that for a Terminator-style mind-fuck?

It isn’t entirely unlike the kids having an “Early Christmas” with their Nanna the weekend before Christmas. The Pixie, in particular, was interested to know why Christmas had come so early when her Advent Calendar clearly showed there were five more sleeps.

And then Mr Justice and I started arguing about which day “Actual Christmas” (as opposed to “Early Christmas”) fell on and he went to look at the calendar on my mother’s wall.

“That’s not this year’s calendar,” I reminded him, for it was a decorative calendar and not a functional one, being a gift from my late (and much beloved) Aunty M to my mother from the year 2000.

“Oh, I just want to see which day Christmas was on in the olden days,” Mr Justice replied. “Oooh, Wednesday! Ah, so Christmas used to be on a Wednesday, huh!”

I didn’t have the heart to point out he was looking at October. But technically, he was correct: Christmas had most certainly fallen on a Wednesday in the past.

He was quiet for a while, no doubt imagining the former glory of past Wednesdays that had been Christmas “in the olden days”. And then he piped up again:

“Remember the launch of Ben Ten Alien Swarm that was on Cartoon Network on Saturday the 16th?” he asked.

“The 16th of what?” I asked.

“I don’t know. It doesn’t matter!” Mr Justice replied somewhat impatiently. “The point is that in the olden days it would have been on a Monday. That’s a school night!”

He seemed almost outraged at such poor planning on the part of the creators of Alien Swarm.

“Except it wouldn’t have been made yet because this year was the first year it was shown,” I pointed out. “Thus the ‘launch’ aspect…”

“Yeah, yeah,” was his dismissive reply. “But it *would have been* on a Monday. You know, in those old days.”

Okay, sure.

Anyway, the point of all this is that now I’m writing this future post in a present that is already the past. It’s enough to turn a Not Drowning Mother to drink. Except that I suspect the road-trip might already have done that. Just a guess. Or rather, just a past prediction about a future which is now the present. Sheesh!

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I.

Even though it’s generally over 30 degrees Celsius outside and I’m almost 40, there’s something about Christmas that makes me want to walk around in an oversized overcoat, clicking my heels and saying “Gawd bless yer heart, guvna!”

I put it down to too much exposure to cheap made-for-TV versions of A Christmas Carol as a child.

My husband, however, holds little affection for me talking like a cheeky cockney chappie. Just the other day, he even had a little rant about “cockney rhyming slang” that can be summarised thus: “What. Is. The. Fucking. Point?”

“It can be funny,” I said. “For example: ‘pony’ is a goodie. I always liked that when we lived in London.”

“Yes, but how funny is it really?” my husband snarled. “Let’s look at it for a moment: ‘pony and trap’ rhymes with ‘crap’. Where exactly is the humour in that?”

Which just makes me wish I knew the rhyming slang word for “bahumbug”.

Anyone?

II.

Christmas is for the children. We all know that. So what do my children have to say about Christmas?

When I recently posted Mr Justice’s latest “Christmas Story” on twitter, people must have thought I was making it up. But here is the proof:

A Christmas Card. Once a boy was making a mess on the Christmas tree. He was shooting sauce at it. Then 100000000000000000000000000 ninjas burst through the window. Then one of the ninjas said “May the force be with your poos.”

And here is a picture The Pixie painted of Santa, projectile vomiting:

As for Tiddles McGee? Well, Tiddles McGee, aged all of three, just jumps up and down and shouts “WHERE’S MY PRESENT?”.

Yes, Christmas is for the children, all right. 

III.

On the day that my grandfather died, I began to bake. Up until then, my interest in the art of home-baking had been sporadic and (largely) disastrous. 

For example:

Ever seen what happens to your beaters when you fail to soften your butter before creaming it?

Ever seen the look on a small child’s face when biting into a banana cake containing large lumps of bicarbonate of soda?

Ever made a cake that is pure charcoal on the outside and completely uncooked batter on the inside?

Well, I have done all of this and more – and might have continued to do so on those few occasions I was legally permitted to enter a kitchen. But there was something about my grandfather’s passing made me feel it was time to step up to the mark at the ripe old age of 34. And, although it was February, I decided to bake my grandmother’s Christmas cookies for my family who were gathering together for the funeral.

I mixed and rolled and pressed and baked and, as I did so, with every single cookie I made, I felt like I was honouring my grandparents’ memory and the risks and sacrifices they’d made so that I might be here today. 

Of course, when my cookies came out of the oven, they didn’t taste at all like my grandmother’s. 

I’ve made them many times since – every Christmas since 2004, in fact – and they still don’t taste anything like hers. But the problem is, I can’t remember what hers taste like any more. 

But the recipe that I’ve made has become my own and one that my children now know and will grow up with. 

My husband said the same applies to “whistling solos” in folksongs as they are passed down from generation to generation. I said “Whatever” and then added a cheeky “guvna” just to piss him off.

Merry Christmas, everyone.

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As elaborate lies we tell our children go, there are none larger than the whole Santa thing. 

I mean, let’s just imagine for a moment if Santa was actually real. For one thing, let’s think about what kind of administrative support he would be needing. The database required to keep track of current postal addresses would be a complete nightmare to update, let alone provide technical support for.

Then there’s all those letters that roll in from children all over the globe. Someone would need to sort, open and translate them, enter the requested items into the database and then file the letter away in a filing cabinet the size of Western Australia. Because, if you think about it (which I obviously have), those letters would probably need to be kept for seven years, in case of some kind of audit, right?

Then there’s would be the job of coordinating Santa’s diary – you know, fitting in all those public appearances in shopping centres, community parties and street corners in the weeks leading up to Christmas. And let’s not even start on the travel arrangements for Christmas Eve and the stress of off-setting his carbon footprint. And I’m pretty certain there’d have to be a large team of logistic (and house-breaking) experts dedicated solely to planning his entry and exit points for each home he has to visit. 

And then there’s the whole “who’s been good and who’s been bad” thing. Would Santa have surveillance teams working around the clock, spying on every single child on the planet all year around? Wouldn’t that just creep you out a little if it were true? And, most certainly, the definitions of “good” and “bad” behaviour would make for very tricky work for Santa’s legal team. 

Luckily, most children haven’t worked in an administrative capacity, like I obviously have. They’re like top-level management who think that the stationary cupboard magically restocks itself and that the Food Fairy makes and delivers those plates of little triangular sandwiches and jugs of iced water. 

Of course, my own children – like many others – occasionally ask a few logistical questions: “Our gas heater blocks the fireplace. How will Santa get in?” or “Who will tell Santa we’re going to be in Perth this year?” or “Why don’t you think I’ll get a Nintendo DS from Santa? [So-and-so] got one from him last year.”

[For the record, my answer to that last question was: “Mummy and Daddy have a special arrangement with Santa where we get to give you the really cool stuff and Santa gets to give you a box of sultanas and a plastic rainbow slinky.”]

And I’m sure questions that might be asked in future years will include: “Does Santa drink beer at every single house he visits and does he get absolutely rat-arsed?” and “Where the hell does Santa get off saying whether I’ve been good or bad this year?”

So why do we spin these tales of flying reindeer and magical elvin sweatshops? 

Because everyone loves a good story. 

Because small faces that burst into smiles when they see that Santa’s visited in the night are precious. 

Because many of us remember what it was like to be a child and to see a world untethered by policies or procedures and instead full of magic and possibility.

Just because.

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I confess: in the past I have made fun of bloggers and the awards they like to pass around to each other. I think my exact words on the subject have been something along the lines of how I’d be all “Oh, great! I’ve been given an award… which is just a stupid jpeg… WHERE’S THE FUCKING CASH?”

If someone – say, a psychoanalyst or a civil court – were to examine me further on why I don’t like blogging awards as a general rule they might uncover the following reasons:

  • They are uncannily like those chain letters I used to get as a child that contained barely-disguised death threats for not passing them on;
  • When I *do* choose someone to pass them on to, I worry about the people I didn’t choose because they might feel left out. And then I worry about the people I *did* choose because I might be legally required to kill them if they don’t pass the award on;
  • Nobody ever gives me these awards. I think they’re afraid they’ll award it to me on the same day I’ve decided to prattle on about “lactating asian babes” or “online scrabble sex” and they’ll be tainted by association. I’m like the drunk-uncle-at-a-wedding of the internet world.

Anyway, now someone’s been brave enough to actually give me a blogging award, it’s suddenly no longer just a stupid jpeg. It’s like how I used to feel about people who wore Birkenstocks before I actually tried on a pair: suddenly it was no longer a fugly overpriced smurf shoe, it was a ‘lifestyle choice’.

So yes, last Friday, Bern Morley, twitter-friend and ace blogger, gave me this award:

I was particularly chuffed to receive it from Bern because, when it comes down to it, she’s the kind of person who’d be picked for a team in sports way before me, whether she was good at the particular sport or not. She’s just the kinda girl you really want to have hanging around: smart, sassy and funny.

Also, the award came at a time where I really needed a little bit of cheering up, mostly because of a vomiting child who curtailed my revelry at the mothers’ group Christmas Party and potentially created a sub-type on The NDM Children’s Vomit Scale entitled “The Blue Heaven Milkshake and Dill Pickles Combo”. 

So, as these things go, I have to pass the award on. After much agonising deliberation, I’m passing it on to @Gabfran over at Caveat Calcei, who has made me realise through the power of her majestic prose that there is way more to the world of quality footwear than I could ever have imagined. Not only is this budding blogger a passionate shoe advocate and mistress wordsmith, she’s also a great person to have in your online corner. 

I guess this is the point where I have to say to @Gabran: “Now you must pass this on within 5 days or cute puppies will die.” Which is effectively what Bern said to me. No, really, she did

But now, Bern, where’s my fucking cash?

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When it comes to wrangling the children at shit o’clock each day, my husband and I believe that “one pair of hands is often better than two”. That is to say, why should both of us be on duty, when one of us can so easily be lying supine somewhere, with a glass of vino and a good book at hand?

And so we often play “swapsies” of an evening. For example, I might cook dinner and bathe the children while my husband has a lie down. And then a little later, I might go off to the shed-slash-study and blog for an hour, while he reads books with the kids, brushes their teeth and puts them to bed. For example.

However, the other night I came back in from the shed-slash-study to find the children exactly as I’d left them and not a single step closer towards bed. Which begged the question to my husband: “What the fuck have you been doing all this time?”

Apparently they had been ‘Folksonging’. And yes, I’ve spelt that correctly. You’re probably thinking of ‘Folksinging’ which is a group of people joined together in tuneful verse. ‘Folksonging’, however, involves my husband playing ‘hippy shit’ on the guitar with his Best Guitar Face on, oblivious to the fact the children are running around wantonly destroying property.

When I intimated as much to my husband, he scoffed. “You don’t have an appreciation of the power of Folksonging” he said. He was obviously thinking back to the very first time he’d sung me a song on his guitar and I’d burst out laughing when he came to the whistling bit.

“It’s part of their musical education,” he added.

“We also watched ‘Beat It’!” The Pixie piped up, referring to the Michael Jackson tap dance tribute from her Dance Concert DVD. “Three times! Daddy slept on the couch!” 

I shot a look at my husband that clearly said “Musical Education, my arse!” and proceeded to get the Bedtime Express back on track in a way that showed I was mightily displeased – you know, with lots of tutting and eye-rolling and harumphing. That showed him real good. 

And as I continued to harumph my way around the house, stepping over the basket of clean laundry inexplicably dumped right in the bedroom doorway and knocking a pile of uncased DVDs perched on the edge of the piano, I started to look at our house with fresh eyes. It had the look of a $2 shop that had exploded – there was plastic crap and paper and clothing everywhere. And I wondered if my husband ever came home and looked around at the debris and thought of asking me: “What the fuck have YOU been doing all day?”

And if he ever were to ask that question, I would probably have to answer something like “community building” – which, roughly translated, might mean idly gossiping with other mothers outside the school or at the local cafe or cracking open a bottle of cheap champagne with KT and Mistress M at 4 o’clock.

And I realised that whether it was community building or folksonging or whatever, sometimes there are some little detours you just have to take to get through the day. And I thought next time my husband pulls out the guitar at shit o’clock, I’m going to stop what I’m doing and sing along. Of course, I’ll draw the line at joining in with the whistling bit. Never the whistling bits. 

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The Gift Of Lists

Click on over to Mamamia to see what I’m giving my cousin’s boyfriend this Christmas… I think you’ll be surprised. 

http://mamamia.com.au/weblog/2009/12/the-gift-of-lists.html

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