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Archive for October, 2010

The other day, I rang my husband at work.

“Let’s pretend for a moment that one of my aims before I turned 40 was to get quoted in the Australian Women’s Weekly,” I said. “You know, instead of getting a book published or becoming a syndicated columnist for a major print and/or online publication…”

“Uh, ok-ay,” my husband said slowly.

“Well, guess what?!” I enthused. “I was quoted in this month’s Australian Women’s Weekly and I’m turning 40 next week! Yay, me!”

“Yay you!” my husband said. “That magazine has a circulation of about two million, you know.”

“Well then guess how many people have already searched for ‘Not Drowning, Mothering’ today probably as a direct result of that article?” I asked.

“How many?”

“Three!” I exclaimed. I think I might have punched the air as I said it.

“Quick, let’s monetize them before they read any more of your blog and and you lose them forever!” my husband replied, no doubt with dollar signs in his eyes.

I’m not sure if monetizing those three readers is going on my ‘bucket list’ for turning 40. And if you don’t know what a ‘bucket list’ you can either accept my definition of it as being a list of those things you hope to achieve before you drink champagne out of a bucket at your 40th birthday party or you can click here.

Somewhat predictably, my list is getting less and less ambitious the closer my fortieth birthday gets. Of course, quite a few have been ticked off  – e.g. convince someone to marry me, convince someone (preferably the same person) to have kids with me… But gone are all hopes of, say, a lucrative book deal, spending six months drinking wine in the south of France or even finding the perfect pair of red shoes to turn 40 in.

At the moment only three things on the list, with one week left to achieve them. They are:

1. AVOID GASTRO “LIKE THE PLAGUE”: Every time anyone mentions the word ‘gastro’ in my presence, I physically jump back a metre from them. One woman I saw at the shops, pointed at her son (who was wrestling with my Tiddles McGee at the time) and told me he’d been firing out both ends for nine days. Nine days. It was all I could do to pick Tiddles up, throw him over my shoulder and run from the building screaming. If I’m going to spend my fortieth dealing with vomit I want it to the be excessive-alcohol-induced variety. Just sayin’.

2. BE COLDSORE-FREE: Just two days ago, my top lip suddenly exploded into song, that song having something to do with the fact that the lip had herpes.

I rang my dear friend KT, a fellow HVP-1 sufferer, and she helped me do the maths.

“You have ten sleeps until your party,” she said. “You’ll be fine. Your coldsore couldn’t have come at a better time.”

Uh, my coldsore might have thought about coming after my party. Nobody wants to go to a party with the birthday girl looking like this:3. MOUSTACHE-BE-GONE: The volume of dark hairs on my upper lip has been causing strangers on the street some gender confusion lately. Getting rid of it is easier said than done, of course, because it’s currently sharing the same real estate as the cold sore and I’m afraid the anti-moustache lotion that I bought might anger the cold sore unnecessarily and cause it to stage some kind of hostile invasion of my entire mouth and then I won’t even have my moustache to help conceal it. It’s a bad situation.

__________________________

Of course I realise that, now I’ve blogged about these things, I’ve totally jinxed myself. Which is why I’m now planning to wear a bucket on my head on my 40th birthday. Not only will it hid my coldsore and my moustache from the world, but it will come into its own when the gastro hits.

I may even decorate it with the pages from ‘The Australian Women’s Weekly’ article I was quoted in, just to show people I’m not a total loser.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: I do so love it when a plan comes together…

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Every night, I lie next to The Pixie in her bed and read her a few pages from this dreadful book she chose from the library involving fairies, princesses, wishes, magic spells and unicorns. The only thing missing from that heady line-up, as far as I can see, are the pony mermaids. But we’re only half way through the book so there’s hope yet.

It took me about a fortnight of reading this book before I realised that she wasn’t actually listening to a single thing I was reading.

“Uh, Pixie,” I said to her as I put the book away one night. “Did you actually listen to what I just read?”

“Yes, Mama,” she nodded, her grey-blue eyes all wide.

“Oh, okay. So who is going to help Sebastian and Maddie get to Mountain of Clouds?” I asked.

“Lelolala!” she said, brightly.

For the record, there wasn’t a character called ‘Lelolala’ in the book. There wasn’t even a character whose name even vaguely resembled ‘Lelolala’. In fact, I think it’s fair to say, there isn’t a single character in all of literary history called ‘Lelolala’.

And yet, knowing she’s not really listening, I keep reading the book to her each night. I’ve worked out that she’s just using the book as an excuse to snuggle up to me in her bed and listen to the sound of my voice. And now I’m just using the book as an excuse to have her snuggle up to me – oh, and to listen to the sound of my own voice.

You see, my little girl is growing up and these are the things you cling to.

Recently, I had the great pleasure of going to the school disco with her. Mr Justice had come with us, too, but he had scuttled off into the shadows at the first opportunity, reemerging only to beg for more money to buy glow-in-the-dark sticks so he could make the longest-ever-chain-of-glow-in-the-dark-sticks and whack his friends with it.

The Pixie, in stark contrast, wanted me to dance with her.

Have you ever danced with a bunch of six year olds? It’s hard not to feel incredibly conspicuous, like Gulliver pop’n’lockin’ at the Lilliput Senior Prom. Especially when you’re completely sober, wearing glow-in-the-dark bracelets and holding two bottles of water, two jumpers and a large handbag.

But after a few songs, I found that I no longer cared.

In fact, before I knew it, I found myself leading a bunch of kids in ‘The Marcarena’ and cutting loose to ‘Wake Me Up Before You Go Go’ and then, when Mr Justice came up to me in the middle of ‘Cha Cha Slide‘ asking for money to buy a ZooperDooper, I felt legitimately annoyed because I couldn’t hear what Mr C the Slide Man’s next instructions were. And then my friend Mistress M turned up out of nowhere and she began dancing with me and the kids, too, and she was holding a half-eaten hot dog but it didn’t stop her from joining in the actions to ‘YMCA’, which the school principal was leading us all in from a stage which he was sharing with a DJ wearing a Warwick Capper wig. And amidst all this, I looked down to see my little girl looking up at me with the disco lights dancing on her face and I saw such love and happiness in her eyes and I realised that this was one of the best times I’d ever had – not least because I knew that this time next year, my daughter would want me to drop her off at the door of the school disco and would, most likely, ask me to pretend to be the Nanny.

Indeed, when I asked her a few days later what her favourite part of the school disco was, she was quick to answer “Dancing to [Justin Bieber's] ‘Baby’!”.

And with that, she wandered off to her room, singing “Baby, baby, baby, oh!”.

“Ah…” I thought to myself. “It begins.”

It begins.

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Going to the Cox Plate with the Mild-Mannered Lawyer has become an annual event. It’s pretty easy for something to become an annual event, you know. You do it one year and then the following year you do it again. As they say in the classics: “Too easy!”

Last year, we were living the high life in the Members area. It was all champagne-in-glass-bottles and gourmet sausages. This year, however, we were slummin’ it in General Admission with sparkling-wine-in-plastic-bottles and rolls from “The Meat Shop”.

“Doesn’t he know who I am!” I told the MML when I heard her usual contact hadn’t been able to get us Member passes.

Indeed, when we first arrived in all our races finery, I remarked “There’s a man in skinny jeans and a ‘HEAPS COOL’ t-shirt. I clearly don’t belong here. For one thing, ‘HEAPS COOL’ is grammatically incorrect and I’m a writer, you know…”

I was also growing increasingly angry at the number of doorways we couldn’t enter because of our non-Member status. I vowed that, once we’d drunk our next bottle of champagne, I’d march up to the information counter and ask them if we, ‘The People’, would still be denied entry to the Members’ area in the event of a fire.

Of course, by the time the next bottle of champagne had been drunk, I was past caring and, in fact, had decided that General Admission was as good as Members – if not better.

For one thing, while the General Admission (GA) area was a little short on toilets and has limited access to the track (“Horses? What horses?”), at least we could sit unchallenged in a stairwell. In Members the previous year, we had found ourselves trapped in a World of No. We were always being stopped by officials for transgressing Members rules: no alcohol in lifts, no glass bottles in the stands, no napping under tables…

Also, the GA area had an AGE VERIFICATION tent where you could go up and get a little wristband allowing you to buy alcohol unchallenged. It gave me the opportunity to run up to to the bewildered Age Verification staff and blurt out “I’m – tee hee hee – turning 40 – tee hee hee – and my friend’s taking a photo – tee hee hee.”

Unfortunately, I couldn’t get an age verification wristband because I didn’t have my ID on me. I thought that was a good enough indication that I still looked under 18. Yep, that’s totally it.

Indeed, later, a jolly (=drunk) guy beckoned me over. That never happened to me in Members.

“You’re a bit geeky-looking, but you’re nice,” he said, rather generously.

“Aw, bless!” I said, patting him on his arm. “You know, mate? I hate to break it to you but I’ve got three kids and I’m turning 40 in less than two weeks.”

“Well, I’m 26 and I’m raring to go!” he replied, with some enthusiasm.

He really was very drunk, but at least he wasn’t wearing a fluorescent suit. Which is more than you could say for a lot of the GA crowd.

You see, one of the best things about the GA area was the number of men who laughed in the face of fashion and good taste. And I discovered that one of the best things about iPhones is that you can look like you’re checking your messages but secretly you can be taking photos of young men in startlingly coloured clothing, like some kind of Germaine Greer-inspired pervy-pants cougar person.

In fact, I ended up taking so many pictures that I started a segment called ‘Suit Of The Day’ on twitter. It had a theme song and everything  – although its genius was somewhat lost in a text and photo based format. It went: “Suit of the day, suit of the day, suit of the day… Suit of the day!” (I recommend you sing it as you look at the following pictures. Truly, it will enhance your viewing pleasure.)

“Next year, I’m doing ‘Shoe Of The Day’,” I told the MML a little drunkenly, as we waited for the bus to go home. “I don’t want to become typecast as the ‘Suit Girl’. I might even do ‘Shih-Tzu Of The Day’!”

Although there’s not a lot of Shih-Tzus at the races, granted. But who knows? Maybe next year, I could galvanise The People to rise up in protest to allow the Shih-Tzus of the world admission to the races, even if they are mostly owned by the Members.

You see, that’s the best thing about annual events. There’s always the promise of next year…

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I have to admit that I went on my recent Ikea junket with a hidden agenda: find the rudest sounding Ikea product name.

After fifteen minutes of being led through the story by my charming guide Mark, I blurted out my agenda.

“Oh, great!” he said, rubbing his hands together with glee. “My favourite one is just around the corner…”

And he led me to a DUMBASS wardrobe – although it was ostensibly spelt DOMBÅS. I knew then that I was in good hands.

I was there to learn about the Ikea Family, the loyalty program recently launched here in Australia. Oh, and to receive my Ikea goody bag, which didn’t disappoint, not least because it contained a complimentary bottle of Glügg. Yes, Glügg! For the record: I’m still unsure of what, exactly, Glügg is, but I expect that there will be a Glügg Occasion at my 40th birthday party, some time after 4am when the wine’s run out.

A few things I learnt about the Ikea Family:

  • It’s free to join and you can join online from the comfort of your own home or in-store at your next visit.
  • If you forget your card or your small child has played 52 pick-up with the contents of your wallet back in the car, you can print yourself out a temporary one in-store.
  • Swiping your card at the checkout earns you savings on a host of different products throughout the store – most are ongoing and with a few “limited time only” offers thrown in for good measure.
  • Every time you use or swipe your card in-store, Ikea donates 10c to charity and somewhere someone opens another bottle of Glügg (OK, so I made that last bit up).
  • Your purchase is insured from store to home which is good news for people who do things like drive into a low multi-storey carparks, completely forgetting they have new roof racks on their car – should such people exist.
  • Ikea’s usual 90 day return policy is extended to 365 days for Ikea Family members. Ikea’s policy is generous, according to my guide Mark. You can return something as long as it is in “re-sellable” condition and with its original packaging.

“So!” I piped up, when Mark shared this last point with me. “Let’s just say someone who was about to turn 40 – don’t know who – bought a whole heap of garden furniture and party lights – for example – and then discovered a few days after they’d turned 40 that they actually need it any more?”

Mark, thinking I wasn’t serious, laughed and told me a story about once selling a man 148 folding chairs and then seeing him the following week trying to return them, each with a little bit of grass on the bottom of their legs.

That chair-returning man was a loser. I totally would have crocheted little booties for the chairs to protect them from the grass. You know, with my non-existent crocheting skills – the same non-existent crocheting skills that I plan to use one day to crochet my friend Mrs Woog a merkin. What’s more, I would have given those crocheted chair booties a fabulous Ikea name like KNUBBIG (which is actually the name of an Ikea table lamp and looks a little like BIG KNOB, tee hee hee. I hope it comes with ANSLUTA power cord connection. A SLUTTER, geddit?).

Anyway, Mark, if you ever see someone trying to return 148 folding chairs and the Ikea Dodgy Returns Crime Lab picks up acrylic wool fibers on the base of their legs, it’s fair to say that the perpetrator got the idea here.

Also, if there’s a sudden rush on Glügg, you’ll know who to thank.

Glügg!

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You know that saying that you never really know what goes on inside a relationship? I think my husband and I are a sterling example of this. Few people have any idea what goes on inside our marriage and it’s likely that they don’t really want to know.

But I’m going to tell everyone anyway.

Back in the day, when ‘Lost’ hadn’t become completely incomprehensible and was still shown in a reasonable time slot, my husband and I would sit down of a Thursday night to watch it.Well, I would watch it and my husband would just sit and tut and let out exasperated sighs as if to say “Could this show be any stupider?” but strangely never ever took my suggestion to go and spend his time doing something else.

Secretly, I suspect he loved Lost and wanted to kiss it on the lips.

Not so secretly, I knew he was waiting for Troy to come on. You know, Troy Ellis the guy who does the Powerball draw.

Oh, how we both loved Troy. We loved him more than we loved Vanessa O’Hanlan who did the helicopter traffic report on Sunrise and who (almost) inspired us to have t-shirts made up to say “The O’Hanlan”. We loved Troy because he was the consummate professional  – unlike Gavin, who filled in for Troy one night and read out one of the numbers incorrectly.

(Poor Gavin. He really blew his one chance at fame. As that urban poet, Eminem, once said “You only get one shot, do not miss your chance to blow/ This opportunity comes once in a lifetime yo!” Gavin, you sure did blow but not in the way Eminem intended. And no, not in the way you are thinking. Sheesh.)

We would often tell tales of Troy trying to blag his way into A-list events, that time he tried to date The O’Hanlan and how he would meet Gavin down at the Bingo night at the local RSL where they would take over the microphone and start shouting out random numbers (Gavin would still get the random numbers wrong. Poor Gavin.)

We would even sing songs about Troy. There was Toni Childs’ 1988 hit Stop Your Fussin’ (“Stop your fussin’, Troy/ stop your fussin’, Troy/ your time will come… yes, your time will come…”), Deniece Williams Let’s Hear It For The Troy!, The Cure’s Troys Don’t Cry – all sung using the vocal stylings of Toni Childs, of course. (Of course!)

We even thought of starting a Troy tribute band called ‘Troy Division 5′.

This wasn’t our first collaborative venture. In 1999, we came up with a successful marketing campaign for ‘Clipper Organic Teabags’ with a jingle and everything. By “successful”, it meant we bought at least two more packets of the stuff so we could keep singing the jingle.

And then there was this radio ad we wrote for Bondi Junction (in Sydney):

VOICE ONE: (broad Australian accent) Come and have a cup of cino and a cruss-ont at…
VOICE TWO: (heavy French accent) … Le Jonction!

Of course these days, we no longer watch Channel 7 on a Thursday night. My husband now has a proper job and I have this blog to entertain me (I have many Hugh Jackmans to befriend on Facebook, don’t you know!).

Sadly, Troy is no longer the centrepiece of our marriage…. Although, if Channel 7 wanted us to write a pilot for a sit-com called ‘Gavin and Troy’, we’d be willing to reinstate him…

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Imagine being one of the Chilean miners still waiting to be rescued from the mine and getting a message from one of the guys who’d been already rescued saying  “Enjoy yourself down there while you can! Above ground is sooooo overrated and there’s nothing on TV tonight,  anyway.”

Well, that’s how a little how it felt when I was wrangling a wailing newborn and a shouty toddler at the supermarket and some random stranger would pat me on the arm and say “Enjoy the baby years, love. They go past in a flash!”

(It should be noted that generally, the kind of people who offered such advice, would have just spent their life savings on a Winnebago so they could enjoy their grandchildren at a healthy 400km+ distance. Whatevs.)

Still, here I am, actually standing on the other side of that long dark tunnel called “The Baby Years”. The moment Tiddles McGee turned three, it was like someone handed me a large martini and said “Enjoy yourself.” Well, it was more like “Enjoy yourself a little more than you have been enjoying yourself”. There’s still the early mornings and the washing and the cooking and the laundry and the dishes and the picking up of toys and the perpetually unsolved mystery of the odd socks – but everybody can wipe their own bums now and (mostly) sleep through the night, even if they often do so a mere 1cm from my face, holding onto my ears. (That’s my Tiddles McGee for you).

And now it feels like I was never in that ‘dark place’. That place where days lasted years and I thought I might never wear an item of clothing that wasn’t either stained with hindmilk or had an elastic waistband that came up to my armpits. That place where the idea of ever being able to walk across a room without a small child clinging to my leg seemed impossible and where three hours of unbroken sleep was the greatest gift I could ever be given and would make me weep openly with gratitude.

But it was also a place where gummy smiles were my bestest reward and my days were punctuated by unbridled laughter and the kind of joy that banging an empty plastic bottle on a table can give a little person. A place where small arms automatically reached out to me the minute I walked into view because, to my children, I shone brighter than the sun and they were only truly happy when they were safe in my arms.

So yes, random strangers at the supermarket, you were right. Those baby years really did pass by in a flash. And I do wish I had stopped and enjoyed them a little more — and not least because I can see a flashing sign coming up in the distance saying “WARNING: TEENAGE YEARS AHEAD”…

Oh, shit.

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Today, I have the great pleasure of giving away a copy (or two) of ‘Cocktails At Naptime‘, by Gillian Martin and Emma Kaufmann. Described as “a woefully inept guide to the early years of motherhood”, it also boasts itself as being the only parenting guide that doesn’t offer any actual advice.

To have a chance at winning a copy, please leave a comment below describing the most useless or annoying advice to a new parent that you’ve ever heard. The winner will be drawn randomly on Friday 22nd October at 2pm AEST (or thereabouts).

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I think it’s safe to say that I was the only person at the recent school Quiz Night to have made my own team t-shirt.

Most certainly, if anyone else *had* made their own team t-shirt, they probably hadn’t made it for team with a name quite like ‘TEAM SPEEEDZ’ – a name born of a drunken conversation with my friend The White Lady some weeks beforehand (all I can say is thank god I didn’t name my children while under the influence).

And they wouldn’t have left making the t-shirt until the last minute and ended up using masking tape to write the words  ‘TEAM SPEEEDZ’ on a black t-shirt.

And then they wouldn’t have had to reinforce the masking tape with sticky tape in the fear that the some of the letters might fall off and they’d be left wearing a ‘TEAM PEE’ t-shirt, which would just remind everyone about that time they pissed their pants on school grounds.

So yes,  I made this t-shirt:

It’s fair to say that what I lack in brain power and ability to focus, I certainly make up for in enthusiasm. For weeks in the lead-up to the Quiz Night, I’d been pumping up my fellow team members by punctuating most sentences I uttered with “TEAMSPEEDZ!” (you have to say it as if it were one word, otherwise it just sounds stupid. Okay, so more stupid).

And then I drank just a little too much and it all fell apart. In my defence, this was the same day of my daughter’s birthday party and my husband’s rather ill-timed hangover. Let’s just say I had me some tension to release. And I was still recovering from the stress of organising two Quiz Night tables, which was not unlike doing a seating plan for a goddamn wedding with all the ‘who won’t sit with whos’ and ‘who doesn’t know anyone elses’.

By about the fifth round, I had completely taken my eye off the Quiz Night prize and set my sights on the people on the next table.

“Look at FatherOfCrankyPants looking at me. He’s soo hot for me right now,” I said to my friend The White Lady. FatherOfCrankyPants – it should be noted – was not looking at me. Not at all. In fact, I think he might have been trying to scrape something off the bottom of his shoe.

“Yes, yes,” said The White Lady, patting me on my arm like one might pat a small child on the head. “You’re a little bit bored now, aren’t you?”

Indeed I was. The other end of the table pretty much had the answering the questions bit of the Quiz Night under control. All that was left for our end of the table was to drink piss and talk shit.

“Look at that dad over there!” I continued, looking over at a table of people I didn’t know. “He’s checking me and my masking-tape t-shirt out. Again: Hot. For. Me. And that guy in the nylon tracksuit? Sohotformerightnow. “

Yes, I had contracted a case of the ‘sohotrightnows’. This is when I make myself ‘sohotrightnow’ by telling everyone I see how hot I am at that very moment. It’s called “creating a buzz” by some PR types. By others, it might just be known as “being annoying and drunk”.

Sure enough, soon everybody was talking about how hot I was right then. By “everybody”, I mean ‘me’. Oh, and one other friend who went on to twitter to specifically mention that I was “sohotrightnow”- although he threw in the word “apparently”, which I thought showed how jealous he was that he wasn’t quite as hot as I was at that particular moment.

Anyway, the evening ended with a crushing third place defeat for ‘TEAM SPEEEDZ’ but with me being as hot as I ever was.

As we packed up, I made a point of going over to my friend McFee’s husband, whom I had discovered that evening was a complete hoot when playing lame-arse Quiz Night games.

“You are soooooo going to be my facebook friend,” I told him.

Indeed, I managed to befriend him on my iPhone while holding a full (plastic) glass of champagne as I walked home. My friend MM was witness to this amazing feat, although he had some reservations about it.

“Um, don’t you think it might be a bit ‘overwhelming’ to your new friend,” MM said to me. “I mean, we haven’t even left the school grounds yet.”

“He knows I’m sohotrightnow,” I told him, loftily. “He’ll be sohot for the friendship request.”

You have to understand that I’d manually converted my t-shirt to say ‘TEAM PEE’ by that stage and was spilling champagne on myself as I walked.

So hot right then.

And still right now.

Sohotrightnow.

___________________

The NDM: available for hire as entertainment at quiz nights, bar mitzvahs and ute musters.

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