Archive for September, 2008

For reasons known only to me and my lawyer, yesterday I decided to switch off my mobile phone and to leave it unattended in the children’s room. And lo, within minutes, the phone had been spirited away by small hands, perhaps ne’er to see the light of day again. 

I asked The Pixie if she knew where it was.

“No, mama.” was her immediate answer. 

I decided to phrase the question another way. Often my children are like those mystics on the mountain who will give you the answer to the meaning of Life if only you ask the right question. 

“Pixie, have you seen my phone?”

“Oh, yes. I put it under my pillow.” Bingo!

However, an exhaustive search of her pillow and surrounding areas unearthed nothing except a plastic saw and some lego people body parts. I decided to try again. 

“Pixie, did you put it anywhere else?”

“Yes, I put it where my socks go,” she replied. And then added, somewhat cryptically: “Not my clean socks. But my dirty socks.”

Which means it could be just about anywhere. First, I tried those places I’ve repeatedly (and somewhat optimistically) asked my children to put their dirty socks: laundry baskets, washing machine, the pile of dirty clothes on the floor next to daddy’s side of the bed, etc – and then, somewhat disheartened, moved on to places such as my handbag, the oven, down the side of the sofa, inside the “Mary Poppins” video case… No luck!

I then enlisted the help of T. McGee and The Pixie in my search, by promising a piece of chocolate to the first person to find the phone. My children are never more enthusiastic than when fueled by the promise of chocolate. One by one, I was brought a whole series of phone-related treasures: a toy Spiderman mobile, a book called “Telephone Ted”, a Bob the Builder walkie talkie handset, and the handbook to the missing phone, which I had looked high and low for a few months ago. But still no mobile phone. 

I finally decided to interrupt Mr Justice’s concentrated drawing by asking him if he knew where the phone was – which just shows how desperate I must have been getting. As any mother of a six year old during school holidays can tell you, if they’re engaged in any activity for any amount of time – even if it involves the minor destruction of property – the ironclad rule is DO NOT DISTURB THEM just in case they remember how bored they are. 

“Oh, yeah.” he said. “I found it on my bed yesterday.”

“Please tell me you put it somewhere safe”, I said, somewhat hopefully.

“Ummm… I put it on The Pixie’s bed.”

Which is probably when she put the phone under her pillow and its whole Magical Mystery Tour of the house started.

“I’m bored,” added Mr Justice. 

At this point, I began to to feel the kind of murderous rage I haven’t felt since I last listened to the Teletubbies “Hat” song (a sample of the lyrics: “hat, hat hat hat, hat, hat hat hat, hat, hat hat hat, hat. Hat!”. Shit, I feel angry just writing about it…). When the kids find an old grape with fur growing on it or pull a particularly huge booger out of their noses, they are mindful of bringing them straight to me. But if they find mummy’s precious $500 phone, they put it… where???? It. Just. Isn’t. Fair. 

And so my phone is still missing in action. It’s been over 24 hours now and finding it is looking as hopeful as the global economy’s been looking recently. Which pretty much means I’ll have to sit out the ensuing recession without being able to text a single person. Now *that’s* depressing.

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The other day The Pixie chucked a huge wobbly because I wouldn’t let her wear my birthing tiara (which, in itself, is another story).

“You’re not the boss!” she shouted at me, in that Reichstag-storming voice again. “Girls aren’t the boss! Boys are the boss! Daddy’s the boss!!”

I was shocked. Surely, I *was* the boss and my daughter, of all people, should recognise me as such. Luckily, Mr Justice weighed in on my side. 

“Mummy *is* the boss,” he told her. “Just as much as Daddy is.” (Okay, so he was almost on my side.)

But this just incited The Pixie even further. “You’re a toy!”, she shouted, pointing at me in a J’accuse manner. “I’m a toy!! All girls are toys!!!”

And with that, she ran off sobbing to her room and slammed the door. 

Okay, so she’s been a bit Tired and Emotional following her trip to the dentist (see “Thumb Kind of Trouble“), but to call me a “toy” in this enlightened age where, yes, I may be trapped in domestic servitude but, like Panadol, “it’s my choice”…  Is she pointing out that the fight for women’s rights is far from over? Or is she just wanting to demote me from Boss of the House because I wouldn’t lend her my plastic tiara? It’s a hard call to make. 

In writing about this particular episode, I can’t help but make comparisons with Germaine Greer, another eminent feminist of a different generation, who – like The Pixie – has anger-management issues and is prone to baffling outbursts. 

Ms. Greer was recently here in her native Australia to give the keynote address at a Writers Festival. According to a friend, who was at a small gathering to which the Mighty Greer spoke, she angrily berated the organisers of the Festival for not knowing what a keynote address actually was. Because if they *had* known, they wouldn’t have asked her to give one at the start of a writers festival – they would have asked her to give an “opening address” (or some other such thing) instead. And boy, was she pissed off about that. It was therefore only fitting that her keynote address ended up being called “On Rage”.

Personally, had I been at that small gathering, I would have swooped up to the podium (assuming there was a podium and it was a room large enough for me to swoop in), taken her by the hand and then placed her firmly on the Thinking Spot. 

“Germaine, sweetheart,” I would have then said to her, once she’d served her 69 minutes (one for every year of her life) and had apologised to the room. “There are plenty of real battles out there for the fighting and the definition of a keynote address is just not one them.”

Keynote address or birthing tiara – honestly! Sometimes feminism’s worst enemy is the feminists themselves.

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The things we do for our children. My husband, who has never watched an entire AFL match in his life (see “This Non-Sporting Life“), tried to sit down with his son to watch the Grand Final. When the siren blew after the first half hour, he was excited. “We’re halfway there!”, he exclaimed, pouring himself another fortifying beer. I pointed out that it was only the first quarter and I think, if the television wasn’t up so loud, I would have actually been able to hear his spirit officially break. 

If it weren’t for my uncharitable remarks during the ad for Erectile Dysfunction (“Those ad sellers certainly know their audience!”), he might have gone on to lay slumped in a drunken stupor for the remainder of the game. Instead, he slunk off at the first opportunity with his tankard of beer to get the BBQ ready, where he conveniently busied himself for the rest of the afternoon (“Sorry, son. These sausages aren’t going to cook themselves…”).

Soon thereafter, when I wandered off to get the salads ready, Mr Justice complained. I promptly gave him a bowl of Smith’s finest to keep that complainin’ mouth busy – but knew, in my heart of hearts, that I couldn’t just stuff him with junk food for the next few hours. He’d fill up at one point or another. 

Luckily our fellow non-AFL abiding friends turned up shortly afterwards to help us ignore the football. Touchingly, KC (not affilliated with the Sunshine Band) had tried to get into the spirit of things by making Hawthorn-themed cupcakes. This put Mr Justice’s nose a little out of joint – after all, he’d declared the house a Geelong zone by putting up his own home-made “Go Cats!” sign on the front door. KC tried to explain that yellow and brown were the only colours she’d had in the house, but the damage had been done. The adults were banished outside to chat amongst themselves, while Mr Justice stayed in to barrack for his precious team alone. 

And so the afternoon progressed pleasantly, with much food, wine and conversation. Mr Justice ran out periodically giving us enthusiastic updates such as “Geelong is catching up!”, “Hawthorns [sic] are getting lots of points!”, “I’ve made a poem: ‘They’re strong! They are Geelong!'” and, almost ecstatically, “One of the Hawks has been injured!!!”. 

Out of maternal love, I went in to watch the final four minutes with him – even if it was just to see how many ads Channel Seven could shoehorn into the breaks between play (The answer? An unsurprisingly large amount). As that final siren blew and I turned to Mr Justice to commiserate, I saw tears welling up in his eyes. Gee, he’s really feeling Geelong’s defeat deeply, I thought to myself. But, as it turned out, it was only because Tiddles McGee had just bopped him a good one on the head with a hard plastic light saber and, after a quick recovery, he was off to play on the computer. 

Our BBQ continued without any of the adults really making any reference to the result. KC and my husband talked world politics and the global economy (la-di-dah!) and MM and I went back to chatting aboutthe wonderful world of blogging. Only Uncle B went and kicked the rubber footy around with the little kids for a bit. After all, as the only Victorian-born adult amongst us, his indifference to AFL must make him a little like a lapsed Catholic and so he had to pay some form of penance. In any case, I think we all enjoyed our virtually football-free Grand Final BBQ immensely.  

As for Mr Justice… As I put him to bed that night, he asked with wide eyes: “Mummy, which team do you think tried the hardest?”. It was definitely Geelong, darling. “Good”, he said, satisfied. “I think I’ll go for Geelong again next year.” They’re strong, they are Geelong, indeed.

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My dentist is always a little overwhelmed – and perhaps just a little fearful – when I burst into his surgery, exclaiming “Here comes your cash cow!”. He knows that I’m onto him – that I’ve discovered his recent car upgrade, which was only made possible by my crumbling teeth. And I’m sure he’d suggest taking out the damn lot and putting in dentures – except for the promise of future root canal and implants which might secure his children’s – and his grand-children’s – futures. 

Still, he’s a nice man and I like him very much when he’s not causing me excruciating pain or draining my bank account to drought levels. Which is actually never, now that I think of it – except, perhaps, when the kids are in the Chair, and even then my lack of personal pain and expense is only because they’re not at the “re-mortgage the house” stage of their dental care. 

Or so I thought. The other day The Pixie had her first check-up, and my dentist must have wet his pants with excitement when he looked into that mouth of hers. Summoning me over, he showed me that when she closes her teeth, instead of the top and bottom teeth meeting at the front, there is instead a little Pixie thumb-shaped gap. It’s called an “open bite” and it turns out that The Pixie is one of those few thumbsuckers who is managing, through sheer force of her suck, to do long-term damage to her teeth before the Tooth Fairy has even paid one visit. 

Part of me was horrified that something like this could happen on my watch; another part of me had to marvel at the adaptability of the human body where a child’s mouth can evolve to accommodate a well-loved thumb; yet another part of me wondered how she still managed to leave such impressive bitemarks on her brothers without a full bite; and there was definitely a part of me that wished that gap had been there in The Pixie’s final weeks of breastbiting. Oh silly me, of course I mean breastfeeding. 

We were sent on our way with strict instructions to cease all thumbsucking *immediately*. Mr Justice was even given the job as “Thumb Monitor” by the dental assistant, who obviously didn’t realise she was giving him an open mandate for violent acts against his sister every time she succumbed to the Thumb. So the trip home was one of those ones where I had to find the Happy Place in my head amidst the screaming. 

Of course, the first thing I did when I got home was to go scare myself stupid by googling the term “open bite”. The very first page I looked at had pictures that made me think, if the sound was turned up on the computer, there would be that banjo song from “Deliverance” playing in the backgound. Eeeeeeee!

The next thing I did was to google tips on giving up thumbsucking. And boy, what a wealth of information there was out there, including tying woollen gloves on their hands at night, slathering their hands in a mixture of sorbelene and chilli oil, and using a rewards/punishment sticker chart where they either get a toy at the end of the chart or have their thumb amputated. And all the while, The Pixie’s shouting in the background “I like sucking!!!” in that scary way that makes me think she is about to storm the Reichstag. And of course Mr Justice, the upholder of the Lawwwwww, was shouting back with equal force. And Tiddles was shouting too, but only because the other two were and it seemed like the hip thing to do. And to think I paid the dentist $50 for this – I could have revved the kids up on sugar and food colouring at the local playcentre for half the price, and still had the same result. 

So now we’re left with the momentous task of getting The Pixie to give up her precious thumb. I’ll no doubt devote future posts to her ongoing battle with thumb addiction and any profligate spending I catch my Dentist doing, now that he has himself another cash cow. But, in the meantime, there is one thing that has given me heart. I was speaking to a friend about my woes and she stopped me mid-sentence to point out she had an open bite. It was something I had never ever even noticed, let alone made me think anything even vaguely like “Squeal like a pig, boy.” Eeeeeeeeeee!

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I came home from a party the other day with two helium balloons, which many might regard as an innocent enough act. However, I should point out that, at the time, I was also in possession of three children. You do the maths.

At first I seemed to be getting away it. Tiddles McGee was more interested in the glow-in-the-dark bracelet from his party bag (which later led to a glow-in-the-dark mouth and a call to the Poisons Hotline – but that’s a story for another day) and all was quiet on the western suburbs front. The sun was shining, the sugar from the party bags hadn’t yet kicked in, the balloons quietly wafted in the breeze, suspended by strings tied firmly to the older two children’s wrists (I’ve learnt that trick the Hard Way with a $15 Wiggles balloon that was relinquished to the beckoning skies by a small hand *before we even got back to the car*… aaah my heart still grieves for that $15). Other than the risk of blood supply to the kids’ hands being cut off by the balloon strings, the afternoon ahead was looking goooooood. “Two balloons is more than enough”, I said to myself in that gay, reckless manner that usually precedes a big big fall. “It’s all goooooooooood.”

Cut to: world war three in my loungeroom as all three children rush between balloons trying to violently claim ownership. As The Pixie clamps her jaw firmly around Mr Justice’s wrist, adding teeth imprints to the already-alarming string mark, I calmly reflect that the inclusion of sugar in this kind of scenario never helps. But at the end of the day, it comes down to a simple matter of mathematics: one balloon (or more – NOT less) to each child. It’s all laid out in the Geneva Convention in their Balloon-to-Child Ratio recommendations. It really truly it is. (Okay, so it’s not. But it should be.)

It’s interesting how the underlying principles of the balloon-to-child ratio can apply to other areas, such as the packaging of certain chocolate bars or other confectionary, such as Bounty Bars or Twinkies. All very nice if you have two children – or even one child (they get everything) – but, really, anything that comes in a twin-pack should be avoided when you have three children. (I must add that four or more children pushes you into the realm of the Bulk Buy, which most of us don’t get to until our sons hit adolescence… shudder…). 

The most important twin-pack to a child, of course, are parents – who tend to come in twos. This makes it very hard to divide precious parental attention into three whilst maintaining good parental mental health. When we had one child, my husband and I used to take turns either childwrangling or clinging onto our pre-child life. When we had two, we could have one child each OR one of us could have two and be somewhat fortified by the fact that at least the other was off tripping the light fantastic. Nowadays, one of us can be struggling in public with both Mr J & The Pixie – and someone *still* has to stay at home to be Tiddles McGee’s bitch.

Not that I’m complaining. I’m grateful for the three children I have – I know when they’re all clambering up for a hug on my lap at the same time (Lordy! Even my knees come in a twin-pack!), that I’m a very very lucky woman. The only time it becomes really tricky is when you have a situation such as a serious breach of the Balloon-to-Child ratio, when I honestly think I would have been better off raising Sea Monkeys. Sea Monkeys don’t like balloons.

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Ladies and gentleman of the jury, I present you with the plaintiff: a hard-working, hard-done-by woman, at the end of fourteen straight hours of solo-piloted childcare and house-slavery, including the elaborate construction of a birthday cake in the shape of a Disney-syndicated character for a child who was *not even the fruit of her loins* and culminating in the forceful restraint of her youngest child in his cot while he went – not without a fight – to the Land of Nod. A heart-wrenching sight, wouldn’t you agree? And all this without the slightest hint of martyrdom. Oh, no. Not a jot.  

Then, ladies and gentleman, may I present you with the defendant: a self-purporting “hard-working” man, fresh from the delights of shopping at the local mall, carrying in his hand a plastic bag from a well-known camera shop. If it pleases the court, I’d like to submit this digital camera as Exhibit A – evidence of hedonistic and willful spending of money that ‘we-simply-don’t-have’. 

The defendant might have claimed that he was holding the bag for someone else or that he was forced to make the purchase by an armed gunman. But no, the defendant had to go and secure his own prison sentence with five simple words. He all but admitted his guilt when he turned to the plaintiff and said – and here I quote – : “Before you say anything, I can explain.”  

Okay, okay, so my husband did have very valid reasons for the purchase of this camera – but I won’t list them here as that would be giving him a fair trial. This is MY blog. If he wants to give his side of the story, he’ll have to start his own – perhaps he could call it “Not Saving, Spending”?

Listen, he did need the camera. And he did deserve it. But what he didn’t realise is that, in its purchase, it represented another month of low-grade 24/7 dental pain, of which I won’t complain. Oh, no. Not me. (Again, not a hint of martyrdom). And what he also didn’t think of, when he slap-happied it on his credit card, was that I had counted out my last five cent pieces *only days beforehand* to pay for some urgent re-caffeination (which perhaps is tautological – is there any re-caffeination that isn’t urgent?).  But do I feel comfortable about putting even a coffee, let alone two grand’s worth of oral surgery on *my* credit card? And without legal sign-off from my financial partner?? Damn straight, I don’t.  

You see, money is a tricky thing with couples, especially where one is the main bread winner and the other is just spreading jam on the bread for the kids. It doesn’t matter how much my husband insists that it is *our* money, I just never really feel it is *ours* even now, some six and a half years after I stopped working. Well, working for monetary reward. My rewards these days are different – the occasional sleep-in til after 6am, five minutes peace’n’quiet in the sun with a cup of tea, small sticky hands wrapped around my neck for a hug-slash-asphyxiation… But try entering a bartering agreement with an oral surgeon with only that in your coffers.  

Yesterday, in the interests of a transparent reconcilliation process, I informed my husband and his legal team that I intended to publish this post. Rumour now has it that a certain lens shop in the city is expecting a visit from him and his credit card some time this afternoon and… eeeowwwww, there’s that troublesome tooth again.

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Somehow, from the word ‘versus’, Mr Justice has created his own verb which is “to verse” someone or something. For example, the Autobots versed the Deceptacons on the planet Cybertron – or The Pixie versed T. McGee over the last remaining cupcake. You know it makes sense. And I kind of like it because it suggests a great big sing-a-long where each side takes turns serenading each other, or at the very least reciting long tracts of poetry. 

And so I almost understood what Mr Justice meant when he solemnly informed me that The Cats were going to verse Geelong next weekend. Of course, any AFL fan worth their salt would know The Cats and Geelong are one and the same team. And – while they were showcasing their knowledge of the Great Game – that same AFL fan might have also spared me much confusion by explaining why Gary Ablett is not only *still* playing for Geelong but looks younger than the last time I paid attention circa 1996. (The answer, apparently, is that the current Gary Ablett is in fact Gary Ablett Junior. But someone somewhere chose to drop the “Jr” just to keep people like me in the dark). 

In any case, Mr Justice didn’t need the salted AFL fan to point out his faux pas, because he immediately corrected himself, and, with a small laugh, pointed out to me that if The Cats did actually verse Geelong, neither side could win and they would, in fact, be kicking the ball to themselves. I like this kid’s way of thinking. 

Since Mr Justice is the only member of the household who has any knowledge of the Great Game, I asked him to explain it to me. He thought carefully for a moment and then declared “AFL is like Aussie Rules, except it has badges and colours.”

I suggested that that they might actually be the same thing.

“They *are* the same thing,” he replied. “Except that AFL has badges and colours”.

Perhaps he is making the distinction between the game itself and the over-commercialised and over-hyped competition that seems to occupy our televisions for a good chunk of the year? But then again perhaps he is just as confused as the rest of the household and is just putting on a brave face.

Of course the bigger picture here is that we live in a country that seems to define itself by its sporting successes and I, personally, couldn’t give a flying proverbial about sport. Sure, I enjoy a cooling glass of Pimms during Wimbeldon, a champagne (or four) on Melbourne Cup day, maybe an ice cold beer at the cricket… erm, is a theme emerging here? But, as un-Australian as it may seem, I just don’t care about the sport itself. Perhaps it is because I chose to pursue a Life of the Mind. Or maybe it’s just because I was totally un-co as a child. 

In any case, is it fair that my – and indeed my husband’s – indifference to sport should put our children at a social disadvantage? My husband recently watched – with barely-disguised horror – as Mr Justice tried to kick a footy in front of his peers. The next day he went straight out and bought an oval-shaped ball and – no doubt after googling instructions – he promptly gave Mr Justice a lesson or two on how to properly kick and pass it.

But Mr Justice is a smart boy and he can look after himself. He took matters into his own hands by bestowing his previously teamless dad an Official AFL Team for Father’s Day. He did this by spending two bucks on a Demons mug’n’socks combo from the school’s Father’s Day Stall. Of course, neither my husband or I knew who the Demons were so Mr Justice cheerfully went off and did some research. He came back to inform us that they were right at the very bottom of the AFL ladder with only 12 points (in stark comparison to the leaders’ 84 points). Which goes some way in explaining why they were off-loading merchandise at a primary school stall.

“Twelve points!” enthused Mr Justice in that tone of voice that echoed my own effusive praise when given a birthday present made entirely of empty toilet rolls and patty pans. “Your team’s trying really hard, Daddy!”.

Go, you good thing, go!

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