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Archive for November, 2009

There must be something very calming about the final 50 metre stretch to my front door. As babies and toddlers, my children would remain stoically awake (i.e. screaming) for the entire journey – whether it be 3 minutes or 3 hours long – until those last 50 metres, when their eyelids would grow suddenly heavy and sleep would pull them in…

Of course, the minute I turned off the engine or (more daring still) kept the engine running and tried to do “The Transfer” into the house, their eyes would spring right open as if to say “Just forget about it! Let’s pretend the whole damn thing never happened!” And then their mood would be even less charming than before the micro-sleep (i.e. more screaming) and they would somehow use those 2 minutes of sleep as leverage to stay up at least one hour later than usual (still screaming). 

Tiddles McGee is the worst of them all. Even now, he can fall asleep in the car in the 1km between the school and home. I’ve tried repeatedly shouting “STAY AWAKE!”, singing show tunes at the top of my voice and getting the other children to poke him. When it’s just him and me, I’ve even taken to throwing balled-up tissues at him from the driver’s seat. He just shouts “I’m not sleeping. I’m RESTING!” and then somehow still manages to fall asleep.

It always reminds me of this game show I once saw in Japan where a group of people were strapped into a bus without sides or a roof and driven through walls of fire and swarms of wasps. And all the time they were expected to try to complete a complicated maths problem on these little blackboards. Oh, and the host was dressed up as a bottle of sake.

Now, obviously nobody is dressed up as a bottle of sake in Tiddles’ situation. Well, not yet anyway. My point is that Tiddles McGee could be a passenger on that Bus of Weird and still fall asleep.

So, inventive soul that I am, I came up with a game to play when I don’t want him to fall asleep in the car.

This is how you play it:

When you go around a corner, you go “Ooooooooooo!”
When you drive under a bridge, you shout “Wa-HEY!!”
When you go over a speed-bump, you say “Bee-Boh!”
When you see a truck, you shout “Trucky-ucky-uck!”
When you see a red car, you call out “Boom-boom-boom!”
When you have to stop at a traffic light, you go “Aw, mannnnnn!”
When you go ’round a roundabout, you sing “You spin me right round, baby, right round, like a record, baby, right round round round”. 

Just to give you a few examples.

TIddles loves it. He stays awake just to go “Ooooooo!” as we pull into our driveway. Result.

Of course, I hadn’t taken into account the long-haul car trip and my children’s staying power when I came up with this particular game. On a recent trip to my mother’s, we hadn’t even hit the outskirts of the city and my husband was beginning to twitch uncontrollably from the constant stream of “Boom-boom-booms!” and “Trucky-ucky-ucky-ucks!!”.

I just sat quietly in my seat, shrugging my shoulders and rolling my eyes slightly, as if to say “Kids! Who’d have ’em!”, like I had Nothing Whatsoever to do with all this hullabaloo. But when one of the kids asked me what they should say when they saw a bus and I let out a rapid-fire “Bussity-Bussity-Bussity-Bussiteeeeeeee!”, he turned to me with the kind of look that let me know in uncertain terms I had ruined his life.

Luckily for my marriage, the further you drive into the country, the less there is of everything and eventually the children fell silent. And Tiddles McGee? Well, he fell asleep about five kilometres from my mother’s door, which is the country-equivalent of 50 city metres, and then bounced off the walls until 10:30pm. Which, in my humble opinion, is far worse than a car-full of kids shouting “UTILLA THE HUN!” every time they see a ute. But then, that’s just me.

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It just so happens that we have a friend who shares the same name as Mr Justice – let us call this friend Poetic Justice (or PJ for short).

You  might think this is coincidental but in fact we knew PJ long before Mr Justice burst into our world and he actually helped us settle on [Justice] as the name for our firstborn son. You see, when I was heavily pregnant, my husband rang PJ to ask his opinion. For not only was PJ funny, handsome and clever and like some kind of walking advertisement for the name of [Justice], he had also tried and tested it in the schoolyards of Western Australia. 

I think the telephone conversation started off with my husband saying something like “We’re not stalking you, but…” and PJ was able to tell him, with great confidence, “I have never had a problem with my name!” shortly before taking out a restraining order on us and/or moving to Amsterdam. Can’t remember which. 

A few years later, there came a time when PJ and his wife lived in the same city as us and they would come over on Saturday nights and teach us how to play Texas Hold ‘Em poker. It was around this time that I earnt my fearsome reputation ’round the card table as “The Serpent Queen” and they moved interstate, although they said that the two events weren’t related. They said. 

Anyway, the Pixie thinks PJ is very handsome. I know this because she told me so.

“He’s very handsome!” she announced brightly one day, after a brief interstate visit from PJ. Then she added, somewhat dreamily: “He has King Hair!” 

King Hair? I was intrigued. Even more so when she made another King Hair pronouncement about an older boy she’d been following around at a party, all wide-eyed and doting, no doubt basking in the glow of his King Hair. The boy’s hair wasn’t anything like PJ’s… but then I thought maybe, just maybe, it’s not about the actual hair. Maybe it’s about the quality of the man behind the hair. Maybe my daughter is already an astute judge of character at the ripe old age of five. 

Of course my husband couldn’t resist asking her if he himself was blessed with “King Hair” and she said “Yes”, but in that way that made it clear she was only saying “Yes” because she knew he wanted her to say yes.

But when I asked The Pixie later in private, she confirmed his King Hair status. And she explained herself further: for hair to be considered king-like, it had to be “smooth”.  By which I think she meant “straight” or maybe even just “combed”. There went my “quality of the man” theory… although, there’s a lot to be said for a man who maintains personal grooming standards.

Still, as a turn of phrase,”King Hair” conjured up such visions of romance in my mind that I felt a little unnerved. Surely my little girl shouldn’t be thinking about romance until she was old enough to read those Sweet Valley High books? (That’s apparently somewhere around third grade). 

But then I remembered how, when I myself was five, I used to draw pictures of princes and princesses holding hands together on the inside cover of my colouring-in books. I remember the flush of excitement I’d get imagining myself holding hands with such a prince, who always had dark hair and dark eyes (my own “King Hair” equivalent). Of course, it took me years and years (and years!) of heart-ache before a certain red-headed blue-eyed man met me at Bristol Temple Meads Station and took my hand, and then went on to marry me (although not at Bristol Temple Meads Station, I hasten to add).

So I know that the path ahead of The Pixie is long and hard and probably filled with ignoble wolves hiding behind their carefully combed hair. But my hope is that she will get there in the end and find what her little heart yearns for, “King Hair” or no.

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You’d think preschool children who hung out with each other a lot would synchronise their toilet-trips in much the same manner women synchronise menstral cycles. But, no.

Just the other day, I ventured to the science museum with five children, all under the age of six. And look, before you say anything, I thought it was a good idea. I truly did. And really, it mostly did turn out to be a good idea except, well…

It’s just that when you’re on your own with that many children under six for over two hours, you pretty much can count on doing at least one toilet trip per child. And because you have to take everyone with you each time, you spend another big chunk of time persuading the non-toilet-needing children why it’s a good thing to leave the fun museum stuff and do yet another tour of the toilet facilities. 

It’s therefore fair to say you’re going to spend at least half of your allotted time either in – or traveling to or from – the toilet. 

Luckily for me, this particular museum had “family facilities” which are multi-gendered places with plenty of wide spaces for prams, water-play and tantrums.

Would that it were so in all public venues. Now that Mr Justice is seven and more prone to catching “girls’ germs”, he refuses point blank to go into the women’s toilets. And legally, I’m not sure of his status in there anyway. So I often find myself wedging the female toilet door open so that I may observe the toileting activities of The Pixie and still keep an eye on Mr Justice outside, while Tiddles McGee merrily runs back and forth between the two.

Happier still are those times I’ve had to lurk right outside the men’s toilets shouting out “Are you okay?” every five seconds, whilst explaining to other toilet patrons and passersby that “My son’s in there!” and “I don’t normally make a habit of this. No, really.” 

Is it little wonder I prefer to use the disabled toilets when out and about on my own with the kids? Of course, I do it with a heavy conscience and only after scouting out for people who look like they might need it more than us first. I remember someone once said to me “Why shouldn’t disabled people have to wait for the toilet like the rest of us?” causing me to mutter something along the lines of “Um, because the rest of us are having a much easier time of things, really” and terminate my friendship with said person on the spot.  

Anyway, back at the museum, we’d just done toilet trip #4 and were back looking at actual exhibits (as opposed to tap fittings), when Master J made a surprise announcement.

“Uh, [NDM]?” he said, oh-so-casually. “I’ve just done poo in my pants.”

I shouldn’t have been surprised – after all, this is the child from past posts such as “Poo-tential” and “All The World’s A Toilet” – but I was surprised. Mostly because toilet stop #4 had actually been for Master J. 

“How did this happen???” I asked Master J, as I rounded up everyone for the fifth time.

“My bottom opened up and I pushed the poo through,” was his measured response – which admittedly answered my question, albeit in a way that made me want to plunge my mind in bleach. 

As we trekked back to the toilet (some of us more comfortably than others), I felt a wave of despair wash over me. Not only did I have to deal with the Unknown Horror in Master J’s pants, but the fact I had no spare clothes meant I’d have to bring the museum trip to an untimely end and find some way of getting the disappointed five-under-six safely out to the car against their will. 

Luckily for us all, it ended up being the smallest amount. I quickly scrubbed the undies and hung them on the pram handle to dry (I’m both resourceful and classy) and Master J happily went commando for the rest of what turned out to be a pleasant afternoon. Disaster averted. 

That night, when I recounted my toilet adventures to my husband over a glass (or three) of Recovery Wine, he said “I know you’re like some kind of Super Mum, but next time you find yourself in charge of five-under-six, maybe it’d be best to stay at home”. 

Shee-itt, I ain’t no Super Mum, I thought to myself. Not even close.

But let me tell you all now: if I were, I’d definitely be one of those really smart superheroes that has a sidekick to delegate all those toilet trips to. That’s. For. Sure.

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