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Archive for March, 2010

Whatever your opinion on Groovy Young Things, one thing is clear: they generally don’t live around my ‘hood.

Traditionally, our suburb – although less than 10km from the city – is populated by aged persons and young families. It’s just how it is. It’s a bit like Perth: most of the population between the ages of twenty and thirty get the hell out.

But listen, it’s not like I’m totally cut off from the world of Groovy Youngters or anything, okay?

My dear friend Mzzzz E remains a steady link between their world and mine  – for example, it’s thanks to her I know that these days the young people are drinking coca-cola and red wine cocktails known as “Bambas” or “Calimocho”. Which has only confirmed my fears that there is no possible future for the human race in the hands of such people. No future at all.

Oh, and I occasionally cross town to be seated next to and served by GYTs in trendy bars and cafés, where I inevitably end up pulling out that sanitary napkin randomly floating around my handbag instead of my wallet when it comes time to pay.

Anyway, at a recent community picnic near our home, I spied at least three Groovy Young Things standing unabashedly near the Scouts’ Sausage Sizzle stand. It was disconcerting to say the least.

“Look over there,” I hissed to my friends MGK and RR. “Those people are young and attractive. It’s, like, freaking me out.”

In fact, it was freaking me out so much that I just wanted to rush up and order them to return at once to the inner-city tapas-punk-fusion bar they’d ironically crawled out of.

“They really should leave,” I moaned. “They’re making me feel… well, they’re making me feel old.

There, I said it. The vintage floral skirt I’d chosen to wear that day suddenly felt decidedly mumsy. I noticed I had grease marks on my breasts made by the small hands of a preschooler yielding a “piggy in a blanket”. I knew for a fact that there was a bottle of low-joule, low-alcohol champagne chilling in my fridge at home. I was wearing Birkenstock clogs for fuck’s sake.

“Oh, I turned 34 earlier this week,” RR said to me, oh-so-casually. “I’m now officially mid-30s.”

“Oh, my bleeding heart,” was my appalled reaction. Here I was, thinking he was One Of Us and he was pretty much One Of Them. It was galling, to say the least.

Eventually, the Groovy Young Things moved off (to groovier pastures which served Calimochos, no doubt) and I was left to glare at RR and his thirty-four year-old ways.

When I got home, I told my husband about the terrible situation that had befallen us all at the picnic and how those GYTs had stood around totally unaware of what harm they were causing by their very presence. And how RR had then revealed himself to be practically young.

“How dare they!” I said. “How very dare they all!”

My husband then admitted to me that, while his short-term memory might be completely shite, his long-term memory was crystal clear.

“I remember, with absolute clarity, what it felt like to be young,” he said. “And part of that was swearing never – ever! – to become what I am today.”

“But at least you can’t remember what you are today,” I remarked. “You know, short-term memory loss and all.”

And we both laughed and laughed – until we forgot what we were laughing about, that is.

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I am A Girl Who Wears Glasses.

Moreover, I am a girl who wears ‘Personality Substitute Glasses’. All my young life, I was referred to as ‘That Mousy Girl’ or ‘The Walking Wall of Beige’. It comes from having the colouring of a  brown paper bag and never bothering to make cosmetics my friend.

The glasses, therefore, do all the work for me.

My most recent frames even have a bit of ‘bling’ on their arms, as is the fashion these days. When people aren’t bending to my will, I dazzle them with my bling. Or rather, I turn my head to the side and they think “Why is she turning her head to the side?” and they temporarily stop not doing what I want them to do. So, in a way, it works. At least, that’s what I tell myself when I go to sleep at night.

Anyway, glasses have been part of my daily life for about 15 years now so I don’t really think about them much except to occasionally say things like “Girls who wear glasses rock!” (profound, right?) and “Where the fuck *are* my glasses?” (usually in conjunction with a hangover).

I was kind of surprised – and yet pleased – when The Pixie said she wanted to get glasses so that she could look “pretty like mummy”. I said she’d have to have her eyes tested first and so she began to hassle me for an optometrist appointment like other children might hassle their parents for an ice cream or for $2 to put in one of those supermarket rides or to “stop piss-farting about on the computer and take me to school”.

So in the end, I caved in and took her and it turns out she’s long-sighted and needs glasses.

You may as well have told The Pixie she’d won a trillion billion zillion dollars, such was the look on her face when she heard the news. In fact, she was so excited about it she started telling everybody we met that she was getting glasses and started counting down the sleeps til those hot little frames are on her face.

But then one afternoon, I found her crying in the school yard.

“I’m worried that people will laugh at me and call me square eyes!” she sobbed.

I chose to overlook the fact that the term ‘square eyes’ is normally reserved for people who watch too much TV and that glasses wearers are more likely to be called ‘four eyes’ or ‘coke bottle face’ or have people say to them  ‘Nice glasses. Did you make them yourself? or ‘Those frames make your bum look big’.

Instead, I got down to her level, looked her straight in the eye and said “If anybody teases you about wearing glasses, I’ll punch them in the nose.”

Nope, there was none of that ‘sticks and stones’ wisdom for me – not when it came to people being mean to my little girl. Because in that instant, I recalled all the rejection, hurt and loneliness that I myself had gone through in my life in the name of “character building” and how I hadn’t even worn glasses for most of it. And the thought that there might be any extra impediment on the road to happiness, confidence and love for my daughter was more than I could bear.

But then I remembered that it’s a different world for the bespectacled these days. That old adage ‘Boys don’t make passes at girls who wear glasses’ is as outdated as ‘Cider before beer makes you feel queer’ because we all now know you can’t ‘catch The Gay’ from having your drinks in the wrong order. And I went back to my original premise: “Girls who wear glasses rock!” For one thing, they can see properly and that’s got to be a good thing, right?

And so last Saturday, we picked up The Pixie’s new glasses – red frames that she chose herself – and her life as a Girl Who Wears Glasses began.

As she put them on for the first time, her face all lit up with pride and excitement, my heart ached a thousand different ways at once. But my overriding feeling was this:  Those glasses won’t wear The Pixie. She’ll wear them.

And then some.

The Pixie and Master J (right) trip the light fantastic with Mummy and Daddy (left)

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As young girls, my sister Belle and I both had bedroom windows that faced a block of flats.

In one of the flats, there lived a man whose only discernible feature was that he had a beard. We rarely saw him but when we did he was doing extraordinary things like closing his blinds and turning on (or off) his lights.

We called him Beard Man.

He became the centrepiece of many of our girlhood conversations. I think we even devised a dance called “The Beard Man Dance”, which involved us pretending to close blinds and turning on (and off) light switches. Good times.

Anyway, I recently discovered how beards have a way of creeping up on a relationship. One day your husband is cleanly shaven and then, next thing you know, he’s stopped shaving all together and you find yourself married to your very own Beard Man.

I told my husband about the Original Beard Man. Upon hearing my (extremely) amusing anecdote (blinds! light switches!!), I asked him to get up and turned on (and off) our light and then close our venetian blinds.

He refused, claiming tiredness. You see, after some 20 years of dabbling in karate, he’d finally got around to being graded and had earnt himself a Red Belt. He said the moment he was presented it was like that scene in Return of the Jedi when Princess Leia gives Luke and Han their medals.

“Except you’re more like the Wookie,” I said. “Anyway, what is a red belt anyway?”

“It’s like a black belt, except very very angry,” he said.

“It makes me think about those early sanitary protection devices – you know, with the belts,” I said.

At this point, he grew angry (very very angry) and said I wasn’t allowed to mock his red belt in my blog. However, I was permitted to write about his beard.

“Have you blogged about my beard yet?” he asked, somewhat hopefully.

“No!” I replied. “Like I have nothing else in my life to talk about… Shuh!”

But actually, between you and me, I’ve been very busy recently. I’ve been hanging out at Kidspot Social as one of their “Hero Bloggers” all week, blogging every day, mixing it up in the forums, sharing my sage advice with new mothers who (quite frankly) deserve better.

Anyway, it’s come to Friday and I’m all talked out. I have nothing left to say for myself. Except about my husband’s beard.

Please don’t tell him you read about it here, okay?

____________________________

News of the beard not enough for you? Feel free to read my Kidspot posts:

The Shoe Must Go On
Indoor “Pay” Centres
Heard As Well As Seen
Bed Time Fun For Babysitters
Let Me Explain

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Once upon a time, I caught my husband laughing at his own joke and, when I questioned him about it, he said he was thinking of wearing a fez to breakfast. This became the centrepiece of a post called “A Husband By Any Other Name” and subsequently resulted in my mother making my husband his very own fez, which he sometimes wears to breakfast. So that worked out nicely for everyone.

So it was only natural that my mother’s next project, after reading my post “What a W***er“, was to find me a black wool beret – you know, the type to be worn by other Creative Types, such as Ernest Hemingway, Pablo Picasso and, er, Frank Spencer.

After much searching, she finally found and purchased one last Sunday while we were all out at a countryside market. I immediately put it on and came over all writerly.

“Hussshhhh,” I said to my husband when he tried to explain to me how he’d arranged with my mother to meet us a particular place in half an hour’s time. “My mind is a maelstrom of metaphor and I’m going to start onomatopoeia-ing any moment now. Please don’t bother me with your jibber jabber.”

Next thing I knew, I found myself totally lost in the markets, looking for my mummy, with my fly completely undone and my beret askew. True story.

I thought that might have been the end of it. But then the very next day, my children had a series of wardrobe disasters that I can only ascribe to the Beret Effect.

I accidentally gave Tiddles McGee a pair of his brother’s underpants to wear, which (along with other things) swum loosely around in his trousers.

The Pixie, who had dressed herself in the morning, wore her skorts back to front all day, resulting in a hospital gown effect where the skirt bit looked as if it could flap open at any moment and reveal her naked bum.

And Mr Justice confessed he’d put his school jacket on upside down and got himself “all confused” because his pockets weren’t where he expected them to be.

Yes, by accepting and wearing that beret, I had definitely turned my children into Writer’s Children.

Anyway, on our way out of the school that afternoon, I saw the Mild-Mannered Lawyer’s son in the distance, wandering around the school grounds by himself. My first reaction was pure joy because I finally remembered why I’d walked around all weekend with the words “Green Stockings” written on the back of my hand (I was supposed to give the MML a pair for an Incredible Hulk costume, of course!). My second reaction, however, was concern.

The children and I followed him into the school office where we found him reporting his mother to the staff as Missing In Action. I boldly intervened.

“Excuse me, [Master MML] but isn’t today a Monday?” I interrupted. “Doesn’t your mum work on a Monday? Aren’t you supposed to be at afterschool care?”

Master MML looked at me with some confusion. And no, I wasn’t wearing my beret at the time.

A quick call to his mother from my mobile established that Master MML indeed should have been going to afterschool care and the school office allowed me to take him to the appropriate meeting point, despite my strangely dressed children and General Writerly Air.

Apparently the MML later made a follow-up phone call to the school to complain about her five year old son being left to wander aimlessly around the school. And though she didn’t mention it to me, I expect she added the words “especially in the company of Writers”. Honestly, I don’t blame her. If I were her, I wouldn’t want my child to fall prey to the Beret Effect, especially if green stockings were potentially involved.

I’d detail more but right now I’ve got to go sit at a streetside cafe with my beret on and gaze meaningfully into the middle distance… with my tshirt inside out and my shoes on the wrong feet, no doubt.

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I’ve heard tell of buddy systems in place linking first time parents with more experienced parents. I kinda wish I’d been teamed up with a buddy when Mr Justice was first born, except I suspect my buddy would have said stuff like “Oh, quit your bitching. Your kid isn’t even eating meat yet. You have no freaking idea how bad poo can get!” or “You think one child waking up at night is bad? Try three taking turns waiting. With vomit and diarrhea. Then tell me you’re exhausted”. And yes, okay, that’s just what I would have told myself. Had I known. Had I known.

When Mr Justice was in his first year of school, he was given a buddy.

“What’s his name?” I asked.

“I don’t know,” Mr Justice answered.

“What does he looks like?” I asked.

“Um, he was wearing a green hat…” Which, since it was part of the school uniform, only eliminated the teaching staff and the lollipop lady. Needless to say, we never heard of Mr Justice’s buddy again.

The Pixie, in stark contrast, has been working the school’s buddy system to her advantage.

Her “boyfriend” Master J (and yes, I had to put “boyfriend” in inverted commas just then to stop myself from immediately throwing her over my shoulder and running to the nearest convent. I mean, what kind of a five year old already has a boyfriend?) has been spreading his wings a bit in the playground and “playing with other kids”. It appears he thinks they have “that kind of relationship”.

According to The Pixie’s teacher, the Pixie was very upset one day during the class’s post-lunchtime “catch-up”.

“My…my… my boyfriend didn’t want to play with me at lunch time!” she apparently blurted out to the class. She was about to break down and sob uncontrollably but somehow managed to break through the Tear Barrier with her usual Polyanna-style optimism. “But… but.. I said ‘I don’t care! I’ll play with… with… MY BUDDY instead’!”

I was very proud of my little girl and just a bit envious that I’d never had access to personal resources such as hers – particularly when I was 25 and had been “seeing” a boy for six months when I realised his ex-girlfriend was actually still his current and, indeed, live-in girlfriend. Which, now I think about it, explained a lot of his strange behaviour such as having to leave my house at two o’clock in the morning because he had to go home “to do the dishes”. And yes, I really do think I sat for six months with my hands over my ears going “LA-LA-LA-LA-LA!” to have missed all that.

ANYWAY, I asked The Pixie recently if she still played with her buddy. She said that her buddy’s friend [S] didn’t want The Pixie to play with them. She seemed surprisingly cheerful about it because, as it turns out, she’d already come up with a strategy.

“I’m going to invite My Buddy to one of my five birthday parties. And I’ll invite [S] too. I think, perhaps, she will really like Mr Justice,” she said, before adding with greater conviction: “Yes, she really will like Mr Justice. And she’ll want to play with him. And then I’ll be able to play with My Buddy!”

As impressed as I was with her strategy, I had to get her to rewind a little to find out about these so-called “five birthday parties”. I mean, who did she think she was? The Queen of England??

“Oh, I’m having one party for my family, one party for my class. Then one for my friends, one for mother’s group and then a special morning tea. That makes five!” was her chirpy reply.

It would seem I have a lot to learn from my little girl about love, relationships and the planning of birthday celebrations. Why, for my fortieth, I’m now thinking of having a party for my friends and family at home, a two-day opium den party in Shanghai, a three month cruise through the Bahamas and a party on the Moon by way of Sir Richard Branson’s planned Virgin Spaceship Airliner… Yes, that should about do it.

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I’m one of ‘Those Parents’. You know, the ones that waste valuable tax payers’ money by signing their children up for a state government reading initiative and then losing all the paperwork so that the kids are unable to log on to the relevant government website.

Mr Justice tried to help me by claiming he remembered his password.

“It’s 14!” he exclaimed and then provided me with a long convoluted explanation for his reasoning, involving someone else in his class’s password was “12-something” and how he was “next” and how things were “going up in twos”. You know, just generally using seven year old logic to explain something he thought he might have maybe remembered.

After the kids went to bed,  I tried to see if “14” really was his password. It was a long shot, but I was willing to do anything to avoid having to present myself to a deeply forbidding-looking School Librarian as “An Irresponsible Mother” and get spanked for it – although I daresay it’s the kind of thing my bookish husband fantasises about all the time.

My husband, in the meantime, was watching some random cop show on the ABC, oblivious to the fact his wife was trying to hack into a government website. After about fifteen attempts, however, I had to give up in fear that the Feds would burst through our front door and wake up the kids. I could just see the ensuing headlines in the local tabloid: “Children Woken Up Because Irresponsible Mother Lost Password” or even “Husband Asks To ‘Just Watch’ As Feds Spank Wife”.

And so I returned to blogging and general piss-farting about on the computer, whilst keeping half an eye on the TV.

After one particular scene in the cop show where the plot took yet another turn, I felt compelled to speak out: “That’s rubbish! There’s no way Ewan was involved in the robbery. It was Eddie.”

“Who’s Ewan?” my husband asked.

“Eddie’s son.”

PAUSE.

“Who’s Eddie?”

“Uh, only the policeman who was shot and the one Caroline Quentin’s character is giving the eulogy for. And please don’t ask me which one Caroline Quentin is.”

“Oh, you’re the type to pay attention to the plot,” my husband said waving his hand dismissively. “For me, it’s all just colour and movement.”

“Yes, I pay attention to the plot while blogging, catching up on emails AND hacking into government websites,” I commented. My husband just snorted and went back to his colour and movement, interspersed with the colour and movement of the shiraz swilling in his glass.

And I thought of other times where the “colour and movement” rule might apply to my husband’s life – for example, when the children start vomiting in the night and he sleeps through the whole thing. Or whenever  he picks up his guitar and starts strumming, completely oblivious to fact the kids have taken off all their clothes and are dancing naked around him and either holding sharp scissors in their hands or trying to see how many marbles they can fit in their mouths.

ANYWAY, after the TV show finished (and I had explained the ending to my husband), we both watched an ad for that Griff Rhys Jones show where he goes places on boats along famous rivers called something like “Rhys Jones Goes Places On Boats Along Famous Rivers”.

“What’s with aging comedians and travel shows?” I remarked.

“What was that comedy show he was in? Was it ‘Alas Smith and Jones’?” my husband asked.

“No, it was ‘Alias Smith and Jones’,” I replied.

“Are you sure?”

“Well, let’s just say if there was someone else in this room who’d watched that last police show with us, whose word do you think they’d take?” I was feeling quite smug by this point.

Unfortunately, my husband wasn’t going to let it rest. He got me to look it up on imdb.com where I discovered it was “Alas Smith and Jones”. Although, in my defence, it was on obvious play on the name of  a much earlier American show that was called  “Alias Smith and Jones”.

“You may be right on the surface, sure,” I said to my husband. “You know, where all that colour and movement is along with trifling things like passwords and paperwork… But it’s like there’s the truth and then there’s deeper than the truth… And that’s where you’ll find me, my friend. That’s where I hang.”

You know, using thirty-nine year old logic and all… Now, quick! Some help me use that logic to explain to the School Librarian how I lost that stupid paperwork in the first place.

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Everybody has Bad Trouser Days. But if the truth be told, I probably have more than the average person (see “Ye Of Little Fashion” for proof).

In my haste to get to school on time the other day, I chose a pair of trousers that effectively turned my “apron” of extra fat into one of those play tents that had been folded and stuffed in its accompanying bag by someone who didn’t have a Higher Degree in Play Tent Folding: it felt like it was going to pop out with great force at any give moment and (quite possibly) wind an innocent bystander in the process.

Because I’d driven the kids to school, I didn’t realise the full extent of my potential wardrobe malfunction until I lost my car keys. Yes, it takes a very special kind of person to lose her car keys in between turning off the ignition and getting the kids out of the car. It also takes a special pair of trousers on a special kind of person to showcase generous amounts of arse-crack to her own children and assorted passersby as she scrambles about on all fours trying to find said keys.

Since the bell was about to go, I had to leave the car unlocked and get the older two kids to their classrooms. I walked, as if in a daze (stopping to readjust my trousers every five steps) and further built on my reputation at the school by telling everyone I met how I’d just lost my keys. At least two people asked me if I’d left them in the ignition with the engine still running, leaving me to conclude that my reputation was probably worse than I had ever thought.

Of course when I returned to the car for one more look, I finally found the keys wedged firmly between two seats and could finally stop worrying they’d actually fallen down my arse-crack.

Anyway, I had to then rush Tiddles McGee to kindergarten and settle him in (he’s currently of the opinion that kindergarten has jumped the shark), and then rush back to the school to see Mr Justice receive his “Pupil Of The Week” award. Mr Justice had specifically requested my presence at the assembly and since most of the time he’s on the verge of taking a temporary restraining order out on me in public spaces, I was keen to be there.

I burst into the back of the school hall just in time to see a steady stream of children being rewarded for achieving their “Personal Best” (see my post “A Day Of Personal Bests” to read about the drinking game this turn of phrase inspired) and thought “Phew!”. My relief was only short-lived, however, as two minutes later the assembly was finished without any sign of Mr Justice or his Personal Best Certificate.

I made a bee-line to fellow-parent FatherOfCrankyPants, who confirmed the awards were given in two groups and Mr Justice had been in the first.

“Argggghhhh! I missed it!” I moaned. “Mr Justice had really wanted me to come today. Should I lie and tell him I saw him?”

“Yes, lie.” FatherOfCrankyPants urged. “LIE!”

It seemed the obvious thing to do, but then I thought of my recent post “Infrequent Liar Points” and promptly changed my mind. It was the kind of small white lie that seemed harmless at the time but would no doubt ultimately end with me standing semi-naked in front of a crowd of booing strangers.

I decided the most responsible thing to do was to loiter by the front door of the assembly hall and wave cheerily as Mr Justice left with his class. That way he’d  think that I’d been standing there all along without me actually having to lie about it. Genius.

But after waving cheerily at at least seven classes traipsing past, I looked back into the empty hall and realised Mr Justice’s class must have exited through a different door.

Unsure of what to do next, I ended up loitering outside his classroom. I was about to give up and go home when one of his classmates returned from the toilets and opened the classroom door. Catching Mr Justice’s eye through the temporarily open door, I began waving manically and giving him the double thumbs up.

Instead of smiling and waving back in an “It’s good to see you’ve got my back, Mum!” manner, Mr Justice looked at me as if to say “What the fuck are you doing here, you Keyless Arse-Parading Clown“.

Luckily, it was only when the classroom door was actually shut that my “apron” chose its moment to pop out over the top of my trousers. B’DOINGGGG! Just like that. But nobody saw it and no children were hurt. It was a small comfort for somebody who wasn’t about to win any Mother of the Year awards any time soon, but I hoicked up my trousers and walked back to my car with my car keys firmly in my hand and my head held high.

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