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Archive for December, 2008

Non-Australian readers please note: it may help to watch this 30 second ad for Children’s Nurofen before reading this post. But then again, it may not.

Dear Mr Daddo

There was a time I might have started this letter “Dear Andrew”, perhaps during your “The Factory” days with Alex Papps. But those days are long gone, along with my youth, looks and patience.

I am writing to you regarding certain useability issues with the “dosing device” that accompanies each bottle of Children’s Nurofen. In that completely unscripted Zoot interview with Australia’s Sweetheart™ Georgie Parker, you have openly celebrated this device as being “dad-proof, fool-proof, middle-of-the-night-proof”. On national television, no less.

On the ad it looks oh-so-easy. Fit the “dosing device”, turn the bottle upside down, pull down on the syringe for the Perfect Measurement Every Time.

Oh so easy

Nothing could be easier...

But in battle conditions? With one small child screaming on one side of me and another child burning hotter than Daniel Craig in just his swimming trunks on the other, I fitted that “fool-proof” device. I turned that bottle upside down – counter-intuitive as it was, but hell, I trusted you, Mr Daddo, I trusted you. But when I pulled down on the syringe to get that Perfect Measurement, the whole top of the bottle came out and all its contents with it. So instead of giving Rapid Pain Relief to my ailing child, I gave myself a large puddle of sticky white liquid in my lap. You like that, Mr Daddo? A grown woman mopping up her inner-thighs with a Bob-the-Builder flannel in the middle of the night with small children screaming in the background?  Does that turn you on? Well does it? Take a long hard look at yourself, man.

In the porn industry, Mr Daddo, it’s called “the money shot”. In the mothering industry, it’s called the “I’ll-take-my-money-elsewhere-thank-you-very-much shot”. Except, actually, I probably won’t because the only competition is Children’s Panadol – the taste of which my children find more repulsive than one of my more elaborately home-cooked meals. There’s also something deeply unsettling about its Anne Geddes-style children-in-animal-suits branding.

penguin

Panadol Marketing Department, please note: anyone – even the cutest child in the world –  wearing an animal costume in the small hours of the morning looks positively sinister. I mean, haven’t you guys seen “The Shining”?

Take your medicine, children!

Honestly, do I have to spell out everything for you people? And yes, Mr Daddo, I’m well aware that I’ll have to CC the Panadol marketing department in on this letter now too. Hell, I’m going to post it on my blog so that all the world can know about you and your apparent proclivity for sticky flannels.

Yours sincerely, etc.

The NDM (who would have hand written this letter using her One True Vanity, except that her hands are still sticky).

CC. Panadol Marketing Department

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You know that thing going around at the moment? The one that makes your kids vomit, burn hotter than the sun and then whinge incessantly for days? Well, it seems to be in a holding pattern above our house. 

No sooner has one child recovered, then another one gets sick. Then just as he perks up, the original child’s fever makes a big John Travolta-style comeback. And then the child who has been well all along waits until the other two get better and then throws up in a truly spectacular fashion (some might say a High School Spectacular fashion, based on the recent telecast of that sequined event). And in between all this, there is the mopping of brows and wiping of noses, the changing and washing of bedclothes and pyjamas and the emptying and disinfecting of sick bowls. No pre-natal class I ever took or baby book I’ve ever read prepared me for all this. If anything starts coming out of anybody’s arse with mach force any time soon, I’m seriously considering asking for my money back. 

And then there’s the medication. I’ve started to feel like Nurse Ratchet with my little plastic cups and syringes, except I expect most of Nurse Ratchet’s patients were a little more reasonable. I even had to start a little wall chart so I could keep track of who I gave what and when, but resisted the temptation to add an extra column for “Mummy’s Valium” because it’s best not to leave a paper trail for those kind of things. 

And then there’s this: having a viral illness take hold of my family like this is a little like declaring martial law – except that the word “martial” suggests some form of discipline and that’s the first thing that goes out the window. Here are just a few examples of how standards have lapsed in recent days:

1. Too much TV is not enough: For me, at least. The kids actually ended up asking me to turn off the TV. Sad and sorry days indeed. 

2. Icy poles for breakfast: Preventing dehydration, soothing an inflammation of the throat and keeping them quiet are three very valid medical reasons for feeding my children sugar and food colouring before 9am. 

3. The Little Things Get Smaller:  Just yesterday, I found myself arguing with my two year old because he kept saying that Bert was Ernie and that Ernie was Ernie. “But it’s ‘Bert and Ernie’, not ‘Ernie and Ernie'” I repeatedly insisted in a whiny tone that belied my years, whilst Mr Justice stood on the sidelines with this “Let it go, mummy” look of disgust on his face. 

4. Nightwear as Daywear: On Mr Justice’s first day back at school (after three days absence), everyone – with the exception of Mr Justice himself – did the school run in the clothes they had slept in. Luckily for me and the school community, I slept in the clothes I wore the day before and thus turned daywear into nightwear and then back into daywear, and so transgressing all manner of fashion and hygiene regulations. [An aside: of course we were late to school and had to get a Late Slip. When asked for the reason, I said “Sister’s projectile vomit” only to have the office lady write down “Illness in the Family” which sounds more like a distant and elderly aunt coming down with the ague than me having to strip beds and scrub down walls splattered with the previous night’s dinner.  Which is just further proof that They Can’t Handle the Truth. (See “Last Ones Walking” for more on this touchy subject)]

And of course, all of this could not have happened at a better time with Christmas now less than a week away. The number of social engagements we’ve had to cancel (so as not to “Give the Gift of Gastro this Christmas”) means I’ve missed out on a helluva lot of cheap fizz – I mean, Christmas Cheer – and have had to deal with all the mounting pressure stone cold sober. I’d be getting positively Scrooge-like right now except for one small detail. The four batches of butter’n’chocolate-saturated cookies I had pre-prepared for these social engagements remain unbaked in the freezer. I think if I had found myself trapped in the house this long with those cookies baked and ready to eat, by the time everyone was back in good health and the quarantine was finally lifted, they would have had to widen the doorways to get me (and my mu-mu) the hell out of here. So at least in all of this, I’ve been able to rediscover the True Spirit of Christmas by finding something to be Truly Thankful for.

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The internet is a truly scary place. Only yesterday, my friend Nellie sent me an email urging me (begging me!) to look at a site called “Veg Porn” which boasted “titillating tofu eaters”. I must admit that just reading her email gave me a little frisson as it immediately brought to mind another site “Hats of Meat“, which has photos of fully-clothed people wearing hats made of, er, well, meat. Before I’d even clicked over to “Veg Porn”, in my mind I was already pitting these two sites against each other in some kind of internet version of a battle-rap, perhaps with a special appearance by the girl in the Bacon Bra holding up the score cards. Mmmmm…. Bacon…..

Unfortunately, “Veg Porn” wasn’t quite the joyous celebration of vegetables that I was hoping for.  For one thing, there were no photos of legumes and gourds gettin’ it awwnnnnnnnn. At the very least, I thought there would have been a few vegetables featured in the photos –  not merely as sex aids, I should add,  but as equal and consenting partners (thus giving vegetables the respect they deserve). But no, not a single leafy green in sight – just naked vegetarians. Even the “Food Lust” section was a bit of a let down – just more naked vegetarians cooking vegan cookies. And in any case, how do I know those naked people are vegetarians? I mean they look like normal people and what’s to say they didn’t just eat themselves a big old sausage? Yep, all in all “Veg Porn” was a big disappointment. At least “Hats of Meat” does what it says on the tin, even if what is says is just plain strange. 

Anyway, all this was occupying my little bored brain when my dear friend Mzzzzz E came over for a visit. Now if you’ve read previous posts such as “Fi-DIE-lity“, you will already know that this girl means Trouble-With-A-Capital-T. Well, within about five minutes of her arriving, we found ourselves rummaging through the vegetable crisper, giggling like two schoolgirls while Mr Justice (languishing away in the makeshift sick bed in the next room) kept shouting out”What are you doing?” and “Can I see?”. “No, sweetheart… (giggle giggle giggle)… Mummy’s just (giggle) a bit busy (giggle), you can see it (giggle) in a minute (giggle giggle giggle)”. 

And here she is: our Vegie Porn Star. 

vegie_softporn

I would like it stated for the record that all of the vegetable and fruit matter used in her creation was subsequently eaten because, in my capacity as a Good Eating Role Model for my children, no food (particularly food which falls into the fruit’n’veg category) is wasted in this household.  Oh, with the exception of the celery which was “on the way out anyway”. I, myself, took great pleasure in eating the half-apple which constituted her head because, as I said at the time (still giggling), it gave a whole new meaning to the teen-movie phrase “to eat face”.  

And, while I am stating things for the record (is anyone actually noting down this stuff?), I would also like it to be known that I most certainly did not go all “Gin and Bear It” and push my photo project too far by taking other, far more compromising photos of my little “VPS”. No, no, not me. Other (lesser) people, made slightly hysterical through lack of sleep and an inability to leave the house due to their children’s ill-health for days and days and days (and days) OR who were under the ill-influence of certain Troublemakers (see that capital T?), might have let the situation get out of hand and, say, made a photographic tribute to her friends, the lactating asian babes. But not I. I’ve learnt my lesson. And there is no way anyone could persuade me to prove it otherwise.

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I read recently about a woman jailed for stalking actor John Cusack and I wondered how one became a “stalker” as opposed to just a “dedicated fan”. It must happen slowly over time without you really knowing it’s happening and suddenly you find yourself standing on the wrong side of that fine line between an enthusiastic appreciation for someone’s work as an actor and a pathological obsession. For example, it might start off innocently enough with, say,  repeated viewings of “The Sure Thing” or “Better Off Dead” and a few appreciative fan letters dotted with your perfume. And then you get all revved up by “Grosse Pointe Blank” and maybe indulge in a spot of queuing-in-inclement-weather just to catch a glimpse of the Man Himself on the red-carpet and shout “John! John! I’ll have your babies, John!”. And then somehow you weather the doldrums of “Serendipity” and send off a few more fan letters, perhaps written in your own blood to show exactly how much you care. And then suddenly there you are, parked in your car directly outside his residence, carving the words “I [heart] JC”on your forehead with a stanley knife. Et voila! You’re handed a restraining order and branded as a stalker for the rest of your life. See how easily it can happen?

I guess that slippery slope into stalkerdom has been a bit on my mind as a few nights ago I was ever-so-slightly coerced into seeing “Quantum of Solace” again, which made me feel a bit of a Capital F “Fan” of the beautiful Daniel Craig. You see, I really don’t make a habit of wasting precious cinema time on films I’ve already seen and in fact, now I think about it, the last film I saw twice in the cinema was “The Matrix” in 1998. But then I saw that twice because I didn’t quite understand it the first time (having seen it under jetlag conditions in Boston). And for the record, I didn’t understand “The Matrix Reloaded” and “The Matrix Revolutions” either but not because I was jetlagged but because they were stupid, and needless to say, I didn’t extend them the same double-viewing treatment. No, siree. Not this punter. 

Luckily for me, my second viewing of “Quantum of Solace” gave me two gifts: it not only brought me just a little bit closer to understanding what the fuck was going on with that plot, but it also brought to my attention the fact that ol’ Danny Boy is wearing white trousers for a good part of the film. Yes, you read that correctly: White. Trousers. Now call me a fuss-pot, but I have never liked a man in White Trousers. There’s just something deeply wrong about it. Same goes for black trousers and brown shoes. Wrong, wrong, wrong, wrong, wrong. And yet, the black-trousers-brown-shoes combo was another fashion crime committed by the wardrobe department on QoS. I’d like to think Daniel would dress himself differently, given a chance, but I Just. Can’t. Be. Sure. 

HOWEVER, despite all this Daniel Craig is still hot. Hot! Hot! Hot! And not just trapped-in-a-burning-hotel kind of hot. The man knows how to pout. And how to fill a suit. And how to drive an Astin Martin while pouting and filling a suit. AND YET, the white trouser question remains. Would he…? Could he…? And it’s that which stops me from becoming a full-blown stalker. If only John Cusack had done his fans the same courtesy, he could have saved himself, his stalker, and the US legal system a whole heap of trouble.

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I read the other day that renovating a house could put even the strongest of marriages under considerable strain. My beloved husband and I are only in the initial “Discussion” stage of the renovation process and I often feel we’re standing on opposite ends of an icy field looking at each other with equally icy eyes (not to be confused with the “ice eyes” you get from drinking a frozen margarita too quickly. It really wouldn’t make sense to be drinking frozen margaritas on a frozen field but then again, it’s summer here in Australia so the whole metaphor is a bit of a stretch in the first place, so  – what the heck – we may as well throw a frozen beverage or three into the mix. Cheers!)

ANYWAY, the main tension is currently being caused by the fact he wants to do it and I don’t. (The Renovation, that is). You see, I’m focusing on the immediate task at hand (Christmas) which we can barely afford,  and my husband has chosen instead to focus on The Extension, which we definitely can’t afford. But it’s not just about the money – it’s that I am totally without enthusiasm for the project. 

Look, it’s not like I don’t feel for the guy. As the only person legally able to handle powertools in our household (my experience with the Bar Mix has seen me black-banned for life – see “Up in Arms”), my husband has to slot the role of “Caretaker” in with his other roles as “Man Working for The Man”, “Loving Husband and Father” and “Sophisticated City Gent Speaking Like Sean Connery at the Pub” (which is almost always followed by the role of “Sad and Sorry Shadow-of-a-Man Throwing Up in the Toilet”). He therefore takes every single squeak in the floorboards and every single crack in the walls very very personally. And when he can’t cross a room without stepping on a rogue piece of Bionicle armour or knocking a teetering pile of caseless videos off a shelf, he gets just a little grumpy. I know in my heart-of-hearts that he would most certainly spend all day every day making more shelves for our house if a) he could afford the wood, b) he could afford the time and c) it would actually solve anything. The problem with shelves in this house is that they tend to get filled. And very quickly at that. No sooner has the last nail gone in than I’ve cried “Op Shop Crawl!” and brought back a bumper box of vintage Tupperware containers mostly without lids because “you never know when you’ll need them.” ‘Cause you really don’t. 

Other (lesser) men  might consider finding themselves another wife with more finely honed housekeeping skills and an aversion to garage sales, but my husband – god bless his odd socks – has decided to channel all his energies into ‘fixing the house up’. Like that’s really going to make me a better housekeeper – all there’ll be  is even more space for me to fill with op-shop junk. You see, what he hasn’t realised is that I like fact that the house is unrenovated because it provides me with the perfect cover for my lack of housekeeping. I can always shrug my shoulders at the mess, look out the (cracked) window wistfully and say “some day…”. But if the renovation has been done, then all my excuses are gone. Just like that. 

So, with this little confession in mind, you can understand why, if we really must renovate, I might be leaning towards Mr Justice’s floor plans for a New’n’Improved House, which include: 

  • a special area for light saber battles
  • a Kung Fu practice room
  • a “secret door” to mummy and daddy’s bedroom so that we can “surprise people”
  • a subway 

At least then, when people come over, I can either blame the mess on the light saber battles (“Bloody Jedis. But what can you do?”) or shove as much as I can in the subway. And if all else fails, I can retreat behind the “secret door” where nobody will ever be to find me and judge me. Perfect.

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Every year here in Australia, we mark the birth of the Prince of Peace by engaging in hand-to-hand combat in shopping malls all over the country. I guess it’s an improvement on, say, embarking on the Crusades or the Spanish Inquisition in the name of Christ. But not much. 

Usually the local shopping mecca (“The Monster Mall”) is filled with people wandering about aimlessly looking for ways to spend their money. But as a recent trip to the Monster Mall showed me, people are now wandering around With Extreme And Violent Purpose looking for ways to spend Uncle Kev’s money. (For non-Australian readers: the Prime Minister recently promised $1000 per child to families in an attempt to inject a bit of oomph into the flailing economy. I don’t know what effects it’s had on the GDP, but from where I was standing in the Monster Mall, it looks the fiscal equivalent of feeding Mr Justice something saturated in E102 food colouring: everyone’s gone just a little hyper-whacko-crazy and will probably need physically restraining on the sidewalk somewhere, just as Mr Justice was after three large serves of “rainbow jelly” at kindergarten).  

Anyway, I truly feel sorry for anyone working in retail at the moment. One friend, The Lovely Tattooed Lady (hereby known as TLTL), works at the Monster Mall in a shop that sells flowing kaftans and “ethnic” jewellery. The kind of place where incense might be burning and the shop assistants greet you by saying “Namasté” and realigning your chakras for you. Just the other week, TLTL had a lady turn on her because A) certain limitations in the shop’s computer system which wouldn’t allow her to pay for her purchase in the way she wanted to and B) she was late for work. Both of these reasons combined evidently gave her the right to go completely E102 on the shop floor. TLTL did her best to resolve the situation (not an easy job when someone’s screaming at you all the while) and the lady eventually left the store, supposedly to go off to her job which she was oh-so-late for. But then, in fact, returned to the shop a further THREE times simply to continue her screaming at TLLT. Seems that punctuality wasn’t so important to her after all. Although, maybe I’m being unfair and that screaming at helpless shop assistants *was* her line of work? God knows there are enough people out there doing it, somebody somewhere must get to turn professional in this particular sport. 

My own shopping experiences in recent days included an incident where a pregnant lady wished death upon me because I blocked her path with my pram and children and took far too long for her liking to manoeuvre them out of the way. If that was her first child she was carrying, then she has yet to learn that no matter how pregnant you get, it is still easier for you to move out of the way in that delicate state than someone who is heavily accessorised by two small children on foot and a $10 opshop stroller beset by heavy bags of groceries and a dodgy wheel. Sorry, I have all sympathy for the plight of the heavily pregnant, but it’s true. And if that *wasn’t* her first baby, then she was just a bitch, pure and simple. 

Yep, there’s definitely the foul stench of desperate cut-throat consumerism in the air. I remember back to my own halcyon days working in retail (now almost 20 years ago), where I was so filled with the Spirit of Christmas that I turned a HAPPY BIRTHDAY party hat I found under the counter into a HAPPY BIRTHDAY JESUS hat simply by adding a word with a magic marker. Customers either commented on my hat with a smile or politely ignored it, according to their personal beliefs. However, these-a-days, I expect customers would either fail to notice it at all or choose to spit in my face and subsequently fire-bomb the shop. And all because they were running late for work.

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As much as I am loathe to bring up Disney in my blog (I get enough of it at home, thank you), I was musing the other day how “It’s a small world” is another of those songs that has taken on a new meaning since I became a full-time Stay At Home Mum. (For other shapeshifter songs, see “Music to a Mother’s Ears“).

You see, my head is filled with the small details of our lives – shopping lists, dates of birthdays and immunisations, shoe sizes, medical histories, culinary likes and dislikes, the whereabouts of toys and other beloved items (but not the shoes, never the shoes), milestones such as when each child got their first tooth or started to answer back… Of course I can’t always retrieve this information when I need it, but it’s there somewhere. With the shoes.

There are the little things that I get a kick out of: the kids and I got unreasonably excited when my husband parked the Love Bus the other way around in the driveway because it felt like we had a Brand New Car. I still get a little thrill whenever I’ve just freshly iced and decorated a platter of cupcakes. And then there was the time Mr Justice insisted on wearing a single black glove to school. And the time KC tried to encourage our collective children to get moving at the zoo by singing “I like to move it, move it” and we had to wait an extra five minutes while T. McGee danced and sang “Mood it! Mood it!”. Or whenever The Pixie climbs up onto my lap for a “huggle”. Or when someone walks into my severely organisationally-challenged house for the first time and exclaims “I love your home!”. And that hard-earned glass of wine heartily enjoyed when the kids are finally in bed at night. 

Then there are those things that I like to put a little positive spin on. Such as the time The Pixie went through the fruit bowl and took a single little Pixie-sized bite out of every single apple. Some might have said “What a waste!” but I preferred to say “My daughter ate some fruit!”. Or whenever the children empty the entire box of little lego all over the loungeroom floor and start merrily jamming it into every crack and cranny. Some people might say “What a mess!” or “I just tidied that room!”, but I choose to say “They’re having fun!” and “At least they’re not hassling me!” (although I do say those other things, too but probably with a few more exclamation marks or some expletives thrown in for good measure). 

Of course there’s also that expression “Don’t sweat the small stuff”. Fine for someone who’s world extends further than the four walls of a little suburban house. But for a stay-at-home mum like me? Not so easy. For example: I felt bad all morning the other day because a a cyclist passed me just as I threw something into someone else’s garden and his face said it all and had he been a Shakespearean actor of some repute (which he wasn’t), he might have exclaimed “Get thee behind me, ye slovenly ho!” . But before anyone else judges me, let me just tell you that it was a handful of partly-chewed banana which Tiddles had made a point of spitting onto my palm and I had Nowhere To Put It. And because the cyclist passed us so quickly, I didn’t get a chance to blurt out “It’s organic matter, already partially broken down by my son’s own teeth and saliva”. I then went on to spend the next hour alternating between being embarrassed that there was a member of our community who thought I wasn’t doing my Civic Duty and thinking how that cyclist wasn’t in any position to judge me because he wasn’t wearing a helmet, which is mandatory by law, thank you very much. Small stuff? Sweat-drenched, baby.

And then there are those small things that threaten to push me over the edge: sticky-rice feet, my husband eating crackers in my ear, scratched DVDs that skip or Just Won’t Load just when I really need the kids to spend some Quality Time with the TV, the fact that The Pixie never just comes when you call her but always does it in a way that suggests she isn’t coming because you’ve asked her to but because it was her idea to head that way anyway. And those Wiggles songs where they’ve sped up the voice track so it sounds like they’ve done a collaboration with Alvin and the Chipmunks. 

And then there are those toys with a million little separate pieces which come into our home and upon being opened for the first time, immediately explode so that every little piece is distributed widely throughout the house, never to be reunited with its brethren again. I have jars and boxes full of these small objects that I add to every time another piece is found, in the hope that one day we’ll ‘get the band back together’. It’s a small dream, but one that I can cling to for quite some time (before finally emptying those jars and boxes directly into the bin).

But of course the most important Little Things of All are the children themselves – who in turn, frustrate, amuse, thrill, confuse, infuriate and fill me with love, pride and wonder. They throw their little arms around my neck, press their small mouths to my ear and say things like “You’re the Bestest Mummy in the Whole World”, which I know is quite some way from the truth but am so willing to believe for the duration of that precious hug. Ah, whoever would have thought such wonderful things would come in such small packages.

“We can do no great things, only small things with great love.”
— Mother Teresa

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