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Posts Tagged ‘children’

Generally speaking, when baking, I try to get away with giving my children the baking-equivalent of the “Associate Producer” credit – i.e. they “help” mummy by licking the spoon at the end. 

“It’s a very important job!” I always assure them, as I struggle to keep my preciousssssss batter out of their reach. “The most important job of all!” 

Occasionally I condescend to let them do some “spilling” (The Pixie’s rather apt term for tipping cups of flour and teaspoon measurements of vanilla essence into the mixing bowl) or even some actual mixing, which is not so much “mixing” as it is “whacking the shit” out of the batter with a wooden spoon.  

And, if I don’t mind the kitchen looking like that scene in Annie Hall where Woody Allen sneezes $10,000 worth of cocaine all over the room, I’ll even let them help sift the flour. 

And every now and then, I make the mistake of baking something that requires the cutting out of shapes. Apparently there is some clause in some charter somewhere protecting a child’s right to be involved in the rolling and cutting out of cookies.

According to my legal team, you can not pick up a love-heart shaped cookie cutter and reasonably expect a small girl to just stand by and watch. Or be yielding a weapon the size and weight of a rolling pin and not have a small boy compulsorily acquire it and start pounding the table and their siblings with it. 

So the other day, for reasons unknown even to myself, I decided to make some Honey Biscuits with the children as a “fun school holiday activity”. It turned out to be “fun” in the same way that most school holiday activities end up being “fun” for the parents. In that same way that having root canal surgery might be considered “fun”. 

Firstly, I was under incredible pressure to roll and cut shapes out of that dough faster than my children were able to eat it. The pressure. The pressure!

 And when they finally stopped eating the dough because it was making me shout so much, they were so high on sugar that they took to sticking clumps of their own hair and spit in the bowl when I wasn’t looking. 

And any dough that did make it onto the baking tray and into the oven resembled the gruesome remains of gingerbread men who’d been rumbling in the alley with switchblades.  

And then, after all that “fun”, there was the Clean Up. Such joy! I even got to spend half an hour the following day trying to get honey biscuit dough out of my darling daughter’s hair, which she’d been considerate enough to let set overnight. Let me tell you now: that stuff sets harder than concrete, epoxy lacquer or even weetbix and milk on the side of a Bob The Builder cereal bowl.

Interestingly enough, the recipe for these Honey Biscuits was kindly given to me by Dr L and have apparently been baked by generations and generations of the Dr L clan. Now, I have no information at hand about the incidence of baking-induced psychoses in her family but, from my own experience of making these biscuits, I suspect that it must be high. Very high indeed.

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You can usually spot a local council rep a mile off. For one thing, they tend to wear little name badges, stride about writing things down on clipboards and drive vehicles that have been strongly branded with the Council Logo.

When Mr Justice was an Angry Young Toddler and I had a newborn Pixie, I was lucky enough to encounter one of these Important Types in the local park doing some kind of assessment of the play equipment. The friend I was with and I took the opportunity to go over and give some unsolicited feedback about the park – you know, Voice of the People and all.

Now, I can’t remember but I might have mentioned my Champagne Drinking Fountain Concept to this particular council rep, which, quite frankly, is Pure Genius. But, come to think of it, I don’t recall this particular rep backing Right Off and calling the authorities, so it’s possible that I restricted my comments to the fact that the park would be perfect if only it had a gate at the main street end.

“Oh, but surely,” the council rep responded with a small patronising smile. “That’s just a matter of supervision.”

Of course, only being a few weeks past giving birth, I wasn’t exactly firing on all cylinders. So it wasn’t until much later that I thought I should have politely enquired whether he, himself, had any children and if so, whether he had ever had to run after a toddler heading towards the main road while heavily pregnant and with his pelvis on the verge of spontaneously dislocating. Somehow, I think not.

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A warning: For those of you who didn’t think I was that funny yesterday, I’m definitely not going to be funny today – but this time on purpose. 

 

Just last weekend, I found myself burdened by an uncooked chicken that had reached its use-by date. I started obsessively checking the weather outside, praying for the cool change to come in earlier than predicted so that I might be able to use the oven. When dinner time came and went, the temperature was still soaring and my chicken remained uncooked, I cursed the land in which I lived where a woman couldn’t roast a chicken when she needed to. 

I woke up the following morning to the news that there had been many more people anxiously waiting for that cool change to come in, but some of them had not lived through the night. And I felt silly and frivolous. 

Latest reports have almost 200 people killed in the bushfires in the southern state of Victoria, many of them children. Almost a thousand homes have been completely destroyed. All over Australia, communities are pooling together to raise money and gather much needed supplies. My sister works for a large company which raised $32,000 for the Red Cross in the first 24 hours of their appeal, which the company will match cent for cent. At Mr Justice’s school, people are bringing in blankets, towels, tinned foods, tarpaulins, tents and toys to give to those who have lost everything. 

On the radio, television and internet, in offices and classrooms all over the country, people are talking about the bushfires. Mr Justice said he wanted to put up his hand and tell his class the really sad thing that he’d thought, but it was just too sad. His thought was that there were children who had lost all their toys in the fire. 

And worse, I thought. But I couldn’t say it. Not to my child, with his shiny eyes, who still believes in the Tooth Fairy, that Good always triumphs over Evil and that Death is just for the Old.  

The harsh reality is that every day over a 150,000 people die on our planet. And not just from old age, but from hunger, disease, accidents, neglect, acts of war, persecution and other unspeakable acts. 

And every day round these parts, we go shopping for the latest fashions when there are people who don’t even have a roof over their heads. We obsess over losing a few kilograms when there are people struggling to feed their children.We worry about getting a Late Pass where there are people who never made it to their destinations alive.

How do we find a balance between being overwhelmed by all the grief in the world and getting bogged down in the trivial minutiae of life? How can we, as a self-professed “Zero Populationist” once asked me, bring more children into this crowded, overheated, under-resourced planet of ours? 

There are a thousand answers to that last question but for me it is this: because a loved and happy and aware child, who is engaged with their community and the problems that it faces, is the most valuable investment we could possibly make in the future. Because, as one wise friend once replied to that same question, “my children are going to save this planet.” 

To all the mothers and fathers, sons and daughters, old and young, who have suffered these past days because of those fires, we are thinking of you. And we will send what help we can. 

______________________

Donations to the Red Cross Bushfire Appeal can be made using their secure online donations form or by phoning 1800 811 700 in Australia.

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Ever had one of those days where you find yourself in tears at a counter in front of some girl half your age who’s looking you in a “You stupid, stupid woman” kind of way, with three children tugging excitedly at your sleeves because a man in a penguin suit is dancing nearby? Sure you have.

Having thoroughly researched becoming members at the Aquarium (or so I thought), I had driven into the city with the kids to join up, only to find the price I had thought was for a year’s membership was for single entry. It turns out the Aquarium’s entry prices have inflated faster than Perth real estate since we were last members two years ago. Unsure of what to do (after all, I had already forked out $10 for all day parking and the kids were baying for fish), I rang The Money Man (my husband), who advised me to pay the membership fee and then just live there for the rest of the year. So with my wallet considerably lighter and my heart considerably heavier, the kids and I walked into the first section of the Aquarium and the minute I saw those heaving school holiday crowds, I realised that the worst of my day was not yet behind me.

At the first exhibit, I successfully lifted each of my children up so that they might catch a glimpse of a real live Emperor Penguin over the heads of the crowd – though why so many adults insist on pressing their noses against the glass when there are so many (much shorter) children behind them, I do not know. In the interests of preserving my back, at the next exhibit I encouraged the kids to snake their way around the legs of those rude adults and push to the front, which only made me feel like Fagan letting his pickpockets loose on a London Market. So then I started using the stroller as a kind of battery ram to push our way through. After some particularly nasty business involving an elderly woman with a zimmerframe snarling at me, we managed to see the clown fish up close and I joined the long succession of parents stretching back in time that exclaimed “Oooh, look children, there’s Nemo”.  (That poor poor fish must be thinking “Who the F is Nemo and why are they looking at him and not me?”). Yep, seeing that extremely small and not particularly amusing fish was certainly worth kneecapping that old lady with my nappy change bag.

Eventually we gave up on the small-fry exhibits and headed off down the ramp to see the sharks. Above the ramp dangled huge life-size models of various ocean predators, showing teeth and all and it was at this point that The Pixie absolutely flipped out. She jumped out of the stroller and started running back up the ramp, screaming that she didn’t want to see the sharks because they were going to eat her. Meanwhile, Tiddles McGee – always one to run towards danger rather than away from it – continued to sprint down the ramp. I was left no choice but to divide and conquer – Mr Justice, as 2IC, was sent with the stroller after McGee, while I swam against the tide of people also heading towards the sharks to retrieve The Pixie. After a tense few moments, I managed to pick up  a hysterical Pixie and begin uttering sweet reassurances about how thick the glass was that separated us from the sharks, all the while I was thinking “I just spent one hundred and sixty freaking dollars on a membership I’ll never be able to use because of my child’s extreme galeophobia”. Although I didn’t exactly think the word “galeophobia” at the time because it was only when I got home and googled “dacks-crapping fear of sharks” that I found out that’s what it’s called. 

Perhaps if I hadn’t spent all that money on a membership I might have called it a day by producing the Exit Strategy Chuppa-Chups from my bag and getting the hell out of there, ne’er to return. But no, the money had been spent so I grimly continued, still murmuring soothingly in my little girl’s ear, down down down into the bowels of the Aquarium to get her to face her fear head on – and also to find my sons. And you know what? When we finally regrouped at the Oceanarium and got our first glimpse of the sharks, she immediately stopped crying and ran up to the glass ooohing and aahing with the other kids. She turned to me and said brightly “The sharks are okay, Mummy! [Mr Justice] said they would eat me but they’re okay!”. Uh, thanks a heap for that, Mr Justice.

Things seemed to improve for us after that – we even managed to find seats in the Ocean Theatre and (even better) stay in them during a special twenty minute presentation by one of the Aquarium Staff. And our little Aquarium adventure might have ended there on a reasonably high note with us going straight from the Theatre to the Exit (with or without the help of the Chuppa-Chups). But the Aquarium Staffer cheerfully reminded the crowd at the end of her presentation to make sure we joined in the Special School Holiday Activities on our way out: penguin tattoos and penguin masks!!!!!!! And those exclamation marks only represent a small percentage of my children’s enthusiastic response to this happy happy news. 

“Way to go, sister” I thought to myself, my fists clenched in rage. “You just bought me another half an hour’s hard labour in this joint.”

But because I’m a Nice Mummy (or rather because I decided to make the most of that $10 flat fee for parking), I allowed myself to be dragged to the activity area by my ever eager children. But while it only took us a few minutes to get our tattoos, we found that the craft table was packed with anal-retentive colour-inner-ers who were too busy trying to keep within the lines and make sure all their texta strokes were in the same direction to notice a large queue had formed. Meanwhile, Tiddles McGee switched into fine “two-hours-past-my-naptime” mode and the Pixie decided to lift her skirt to show the room her bright pink underpants. I was started to feel the panic rising when Mr Justice turned to me and said “It’s okay. We can always get the stuff and make the masks at home.”

“That’s a good idea!” exclaimed The Pixie.

Now, under different circumstances I might have shaken them both and shouted “Who are you and what have you done with my children?”. But so great was my gratitude that I grabbed the materials and these apparent imposters and fled the place while I still had my sanity intact. So now I only have to go two more times to make my money back on the membership – although, arguably, I might have happily paid $160 to avoid all that stress in the first place.

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Champagne is best drunk when it is cold and when it is free. There’s nothing quite like a glass of icy cold fizz at someone else’s expense to make a Not Drowning Mother’s heart very glad indeed. 

A couple of nights ago, I went to the Opening Night of a big musical with my friend Uncle B to see his wife – and my dear friend – KT take to the stage. It was a momentous occasion for a number of reasons:

  1. It marked KT’s return to performing after a four year absence, which is far too long for someone with her talent;
  2. It was the culmination of three weeks’ worth of down-to-the-minute scheduling of KT’s kids’ childcare – split between a part-time nanny, numerous friends in the ‘hood, and the occasional care centre. Honestly, it would have been easier to plan J-Lo’s wedding than to plan and run that schedule;
  3. There was going to be Free Champagne at the After Party. 

But before we got to the sweet sweet fizz, we had to get through the actual play. Contrary to popular opinion, I am no great fan of the musical theatre genre, despite my joyful participation in Broadway-For-Beginners dance classes (see “All That Jazz“). Every time a character bursts into song, I have to fight back the urge to snort “As if!” very loudly, particularly when they are fleeing from the Nazis or about to die of a gunshot wound and they still find time to sing about it. Luckily for me – and for the people seated around me – the production was actually pretty good and, other than nudging Uncle B during a few “Magic of Musical Theatre” moments, I was very well behaved and indeed deserving of a free bevvy or two after the show. 

And in any case, it was just so nice to see someone I love doing what they love to do and what they excel at doing. My friend KT simply shines on stage and it makes my heart almost as glad as the promise of Free Champagne does. However, I should point out that she’s lucky that what she loves doing is something that a lot of people love to watch. One of my dear cousins is a superannuation lawyer- and a very good one at that – but I doubt he’s ever had many chances to show HIS loved ones exactly how good he is at HIS job. Perhaps he could start an amusing little blog to broadcast his wins in that stimulating field? It’s not like anyone else we know is using that medium to shout “Look at me! Look at me!”, now is it… 

ANYWAY, swiftly moving back to me and the Free Champagne part of the evening… (Did I mention there was Free Champagne?) At the After Party, Uncle B and I found ourselves standing on the peripheries, with (free) drinks in our hands, and both of us feeling a little Smaller Than Life amidst such a gregarious Theatre Crowd. I quickly came up with a Strategic Plan: whenever I leant in to Uncle B and said “Blah blah-blah blah”, that was our cue to throw our heads back and laugh with gay abandon.  Unfortunately for Uncle B, the champagne was flowing so freely (no pun intended) that soon all I was pretty much capable of saying *was* “Blah blah-blah blah”, that my laughter was less “gay abandon” and more “self-respect abandon”. And so the good times rolled…

I finally got home long after midnight (well, thirty minutes after midnight – but every minute after midnight has a double loading for people like me who Don’t Get Out Much) and was in bed just before one o’clock. Rock and Roll! Tiddles McGee then did me the service of waking me up at 4:30AM (now officially known in this household as ‘four-fucking-thirty’) and my penance well and truly began. Before too long, I found myself lying incapacitated on the couch while Tiddles, who had somehow magicked himself a recorder from thin air, stood tooting in my ear really loudly. Soon after that, ABC Kids (which I had previously led my children to believe was only broadcast on a Sunday morning) was swiftly turned on and continued to stay on for the many long hours to follow. And as I lay, riding out my first ever serious hangover in over six years, with my three little angels staring quietly at the box with wide square eyes, I thought to myself “Now this – this! – is why they invented television.” Hallelujah!

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Like many pop divas of her generation, The Pixie has attached a pretty impressive rider to her ongoing contract as my daughter.  

Here is a small sample of some of her special requirements:

  • Strictly no crusts on bread, no icing on cake, no skin on fruit and no seeds in bread, watermelon, etc. The appearance of any of these items will immediately render a meal null and void. 
  • Clothing for The Pixie must be chosen by The Pixie and put on by The Pixie. Any discussion regarding clothing being season-inappropriate or on backwards and/or inside-out will not be entered into. The Pixie’s word on what she wears and how she wears it is final. 
  • When the Pixie makes her grand entrance of a morning, the parent on duty must exclaim “Pixie!” in a sufficiently ebullient manner or The Pixie will take immediately to her bed in floods of tears. 
  • Upon occasion, excreta will only be passed with a parent on guard outside the toilet door *for the duration*. There will be other times when the parent is forbidden to loiter outside said toilet door and, instead, must ‘go away’. The Pixie is not legally required to communicate her needs in these matters, the parent must just ‘know’ and woe betide the parent who gets it wrong.

Another three-and-a-half year old we know, Master J, has successfully negotiated his own rider with his parents. In many aspects, it is more impressive than The Pixie’s because he’s an eldest child and we all know what that means. Here is a very small example of some of his conditions:

  • After bath, Master J must be carried to the couch. 
  • Once on the couch, Master J must be immediately covered in his “cuddly blanket” or “luhpi” , formerly known as his mother’s dressing gown. (As the once-was-owner of The Duck One, I know his mother’s pain). This act of covering must be performed by his mother – *there is no substitute*.
  • Milk must then be served *in the specified drinky pot* within 5 minutes at a temperature of exactly (no less, no more) 36.9 degrees centigrade. *Milk not meeting these requirements will be returned immediately to the kitchen and loud wailing will ensue*.
The best thing about all this is that The Pixie has many times proclaimed that Master J and she will be married when they’re “growned up”. I, for one, will be very interested to see their pre-nup. 

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According to the Parenting Charter my husband and I drew up in 2002, any hour between midnight and 6am is legally defined as being the middle of the night. Up until recently, this was ironclad. Even 5:59am was strictly shut-eye, sleepy-bye-bye, cosy-cupcakes, STAY-IN-YOUR-BED-OR-GOD-HELP-US-ALL time. 

But try telling that to Tiddles McGee. As the youngest member of our family (at 21 months of age), Mr McGee has fallen foul of the household law by forming some bad bad habits – but, of course, like many of the bad habits that young children have, it has been born of the bone-infiltrating, jet-lag simulating, spirit-breaking exhaustion of his parents. 

Prior to June 2008, Mr McGee was sleeping at the back of the house in his own room. There he had begun to wake throughout the night and scream blue murder until someone either patted him or breast-fed him back to sleep (it doesn’t take a genius to work out which parent did what). 

He was then moved to the front bedroom to share with Mr Justice (aged 6) and The Pixie (aged almost 4) – if only to spare his parents the long cold walk from their cosy bed to the back of the house. At first, this change of sleep venue seemed to resolve the situation. Tiddles McGee was thrilled to have some company and – after some unsupervised monkeying around at bedtime – would collapse asleep in his cot where he would stay happily until well past the dawn.

But then came the Big Jail Break of July ’08 – where Tiddles found he could climb out of his cot, even with the side firmly up – and from this point things have disintegrated completely. For a while there, he even had to be physically held down on his bed to get him to sleep, recalling scenes from “One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest”. Thankfully my husband and I have moved on from that low point in our parenting history, but it has not been without its repercussions. 

Now, not only has Mr T McGee had it written into his contract that he must have an adult-aged minder on hand throughout the falling-asleep stage of the evening, but also that his mother is obliged to relocate herself, anytime between 11pm and 2am, to the sofa bed in his chambers to sleep with his Royal Self.  

And to top things off, he has recently negotiated himself a wake-up time between 5:01am and 5:42am, well before the previous 6am cut-off. 

Luckily for Tiddles McGee, I now have this blog to occupy my mind, so there’s almost (*almost*) a slight skip in my step as I stumble out to make coffee at 5:23am.

And, after all, Mr McGee is the baby of the family and will be forgiven almost anything – except transgressing the new 5am cut-off, of course.

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