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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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I think it’s fair to say that my husband didn’t board the parenting plane at quite the same time as me. Yes, while I had already taken my seat and was working out how the hell to use the infant seatbelt, he was still getting in a few round of drinks in the transit lounge.

Here’s an example. A few weeks after Baby Justice and I’d come home from hospital to our London flat, I was struck down by a terrible case of gastroenteritis and spent most of the evening acquainting myself with the toilet.

The next morning, my husband took charge of the situation.

“You rest up,” he said, gallantly. “I’ll look after the baby!”

But somewhere between the words “the” and “baby”,  he, too, started vomiting.

So while my husband was down the hallway, barking like a dog, I found myself lying on the couch with a blinding headache, pushing the baby back and forth in his stroller with my foot, desperately willing him to sleep for longer than 15 minutes. It was a dunking in the deeper-end of parenting that I will never forget.

Anyway, after hours and hours of this torture, I dragged myself up to go to the toilet and, on the way, spotted my husband lying in bed, happily reading ‘Lord Of The Rings’. What’s more – although I can’t confirm this – I suspect he was reading the poems of Tom Bombadil just to further piss me off.

I reminded my husband of this story the other day and he was flummoxed.

“How do you remember these things?” he asked.

“Oh, I remember plenty of things. Plenty,” I think I might even have crushed a walnut shell in my bare hand as I uttered that last word.

My husband then tentatively reminded me of all the things he *did* do during that period, including buying and cooking special food to bring me back to good health and packing up our entire flat ready to move back to Australia.

“Oh, yeah, there was that,” I said, somewhat sheepishly.

As much as I love to hang shit on my husband in this blog, there is so much else that he does that goes unblogged, unthanked and unacknowledged. There’s the way he brings me coffee and food  when I’m blogging and the way he makes the bed in the evening and cranks the electric blanket up to Number 3 (Mmmm… Number 3….). And there’s the way in which he loves our kids and teaches them stuff like how to ride a bike, play pool and fetch Daddy a beer from the fridge. And the way he still thinks I’m beautiful in all my saggy-baggy post-partum glory and how he trusted me enough behind the wheel of a car on my P-plates to nap when I was driving. And then there’s the way he forces me to stop being a goddamn martyr all the goddamn time and to go out and enjoy myself every once in a while.

So, although we don’t really celebrate Hallmark Occasions in this household, I’d like to take this opportunity to wish my husband a very Happy Father’s Day.  I can’t think of anyone I would rather be taking this journey aboard the parenting plane with –  especially since he really knows how to work an in-flight service.

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All families have their own family folk lore. You know, the stories they like to tell each other.

In my little family, we like to tell of how a newborn Mr Justice lay in his hospital crib with his legs completely stretched out, causing a passing midwife to comment “You don’t see that every day!”. And how the Pixie, was born the size of a small planet and had cheeks like giant marshmallows. And how Tiddles McGee managed to urinate not only on the delivering surgeon but on the pediatrician, too. This last story is particularly popular with the kids and Tiddles takes great delight in randomly telling people that he “peed on the doctor’s face!” – which, when taken out of context, sounds like all kinds of wrong.

It’s little wonder that our vomitous misadventures on the mountain last year have become the stuff of legend. The kids often like to sit ’round retelling the sorry chain of events.

“First, Pixie threw up on Tiddles’ head,” they like to say. “Then Tiddles threw up in Mummy’s hand in the snow. Then KC, Master D and Daddy got it, too. Although, Daddy didn’t vomit, he just got a ‘blurty bum’. Then Mummy starting vomiting… But only Mr Justice and MM stood strong!”

Turns out this nostalgia is as contagious as the gastro itself. As we drove to the ‘scene of the crime’ (our holiday house) last week, I found myself pointing out a bleak stretch of road and exclaiming “I think that’s where we stopped for someone to throw up!”.  Once at the house, MM and I found ourselves standing in the laundry, looking wistfully at the washing machine and laundry sink, site of the scrubbing and soaking of many stained sheets and clothing. A lot of good times, a lot of good times. Over in one the bedrooms (and scene of the initial vomit-on-the-head incident), I found myself thinking “If only these walls could talk…” shortly followed by “Shit, someone should really either clean these walls or slap a gagging order on them before they can talk…”.

Slowly but surely, however, the house was transformed from the House Of Horror to our happy holiday home again, thanks to plenty of good company, good conversation, good food and good wine.

There only remained the mountain for us to reclaim.

It should be noted here that driving up to the snow each year involves the same kind of precision planning and execution required for a large-scale military coup. There’s all that damn snow gear to pack and snow chains to hire and the drive up a perilous stretch of road and then the scramble in the back of the van to locate everyone’s gloves and hats and boots before anyone can even start getting wet and cold and whingey.

It’s the kind of thing that really does made me wish the mountain could come to me instead of me going to the mountain. Especially when I can still remember the hot, wet weight of Tiddles McGee’s vomit in my hand eleven months after our last mountain trip.

For the record, our trip to the mountain this year was vomit-free (or “free vomit” as The Pixie later misquoted). Indeed, I wore the NDM Children’s Vomit Scale t-shirt’ KC and MM gave me as a birthday present last year.

Yes, I made that mountain my bitch again.

But while there may have been no vomiting, there was this:

In case you can’t tell, that is a hot jet stream of piss coming out the sliding door of the Starwagon, giving credence to the adage “Don’t eat the yellow snow”.

And yet this was no holiday mishap. Oh, no. This was another act of reclaiming that mountain. All we needed was for the piss to be hitting a print-out of last year’s holiday blog post. Or, even better, having a bemused and panicked doctor in its direct line of fire. Then this blog post would have been complete…

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I think we all know by now that I should never say anything about anything. When KT first asked me about helping out with her kids, Master J and Cyclone Bella, while she was away (see “And Then There Were Five“), I said something like “Yes, yes, it should all be fine – as long as nobody gets gastro and the car doesn’t break down.”

And you know what? Both those things happened and it was still fine. No really, it was. 

Of course, I can say this now because KT is back this weekend and my first “tour of duty” is officially over. In fact, to celebrate I might just get a t-shirt made up that says “In the last three weeks, I survived three kids with gastro, a fairy birthday party, hosting mothers’ group, the death of the Love Bus and eight whole days of looking after two extra children and I’m still smiling, except I’m not really because I went to the oral surgeon’s yesterday and it kind of hurts!”. But now that I look at it, it’s a little on the wordy side and the writing would have to be really small and would probably mean complete strangers with bad garlic breath would come up really close to me just to read it. Stupid t-shirt. 

But I digress. 

“Hang on, hang on. What was all that about oral surgery, NDM?” I can hear the usual people asking. “We remember your last trip to the oral surgeon was a little, uh, trippy. In fact we’re including a hyperlink to that post in this little interjection of ours… here it is: The Monsters Upstairs.”

Thanks for the hyperlink there, people. And yes, it was another trip to the oral surgeon and I can tell you this much: I embraced the idea of being intravenously sedated so that someone could drill into my skull like it was a holiday in the Whitsunday Islands. Because it meant that I didn’t have to look after any children for an afternoon. 

But, actually, now that I think about it, with all that money I spent on oral surgery, I could have paid for a week’s holiday for me, my husband, the kids and a full-time nanny in the Whitsundays and still had change for cocktails. And let’s face it, you don’t need teeth to enjoy a jug of Mango Daiquiri. What the hell was I thinking?

Again, I digress.

My point here (there’s a point?) is that I did it. I survived all those things listed on that fictitious t-shirt of mine and still managed to crack a few jokes about it all.  It wasn’t always easy, it certainly wasn’t pretty. But I did it. 

And here’s the proof: when, on the second last day, Uncle B came to pick up his kids, I admitted to him that the “shouting [NDM]” had made a big appearance that day but that, hopefully, there had been enough of the Nice NDM in the mix as well.

Master J, who was standing next to me, piped up, completely unprompted, to say: “No, there was only nice [NDM]!”. 

Which makes me think that my celebratory t-shirt should probably just say : “When all is shouted and done, I’m really quite nice.”

No, really.

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The other night, as my husband was setting his alarm for the next morning, I casually quipped: “Be sure to set it for 11pm, 1am, 3am and 5am in case the children forget to wake us.” My, how we laughed.

Of course, Mr Justice then proceeded to vomit at 10:30pm, 12:30pm, 2pm, 4am and 4:45am, with a couple of crying interruptions in between by Tiddles McGee thrown in for good measure. And each time, after the sick bowl had been rinsed out and disinfected, the sheets and towels had been changed and fresh water had been administered to the little patient, I would crawl back into bed and pray that this time it would be the last time and that sleep would be my reward.

Ha!

Really, I should have known better than to make such an amusing quip about the alarm clock. After all, I had already jinxed us badly enough by confidently declaring our Gastro-Free status that very afternoon to a friend we were visiting, only to have Mr Justice coat the toilet with the contents of his stomach an hour later. So I had known that the night ahead was going to be a bad one. But I didn’t think for a moment it would be that bad. Perhaps if I had, I might have never gone to bed in the first place. I might have stayed up all night watching back-to-back Barbie’s Fairytopia movies whilst simultaneously sticking Bionicle armoury in my fleshy bits instead because, quite frankly, that might have proved more restful and relaxing.

I mean, let’s be honest here: sometimes broken sleep (or in this case, sleep which has been dropped from a great height and shattered into a thousand million pieces and then ground firmly underfoot by a thousand angry feet) is worse than no sleep at all. For one thing, there’s all that damn pressure to get back to sleep as quickly as possible and grab as many Zs as you can before being woken again and then there’s the bitter disappointment of being woken up far sooner than you’d hoped.  In the confusion of it all, I began to think of Mr Justice as a newborn baby and, at the first sound of a new vomiting episode, I’d look at the clock blearily and think “But he’s not due to vomit yet!”

Of course all the time I also had that extra pressure of knowing that the morning would bring two extra charges to feed and water, in the form of Master J and Cyclone Bella. And much worse still, that I couldn’t just declare the day a Doonah Day where we spent the whole day slothing about in front of the television in our pyjamas, eating food out of a tin. You see, the next day was The Pixie’s birthday and there were Big Expectations. She was already utterly devastated that I’d canceled her Fairy Morning Tea at the first sign of vomit and I was going to have to pull something pretty special out of the hat to make up for it – all whilst entertaining five children in quarantine conditions on next-to-no-sleep.

Now, I don’t know how I did it, but I managed to get through the whole day with a smile on my face. Don’t ask me how: it’s all a pink-streamered blur. I don’t even think The Pixie noticed for a moment that her mother was a mere caffeinated-shadow of her former self. As I tucked her into bed that night, she said “Thank you for the bestest birthday ever”.

Of course, it wasn’t until the next day that I found myself shouting a lot and then sitting on my bed, in self-imposed Time Out, holding a wad of home-made green playdough in my hands and sobbing my little heart out. But that? That’s a story for another day.

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There have been some changes here at NDM HQ. It would seem that I have somehow acquired a couple of extra children three days a week. Because I’m obviously managing so beautifully with three. 

Actually, there’s a good reason for this acquisition, other than me being a glutton for punishment. My dear friend (and an amazing performer), KT, has landed herself a gig. But it’s the type of gig that requires her to be away from home (and her two children, Master J and Cyclone Bella) for weeks at a time. And so she has reached an equitable arrangement with Mistress M and I, where we will share the daytime care of her children during her absences and, in exchange, she will (mostly) pay us in wine. 

And yes, that is the same Mistress M who helped me lose KT’s daughter Cyclone Bella at the zoo just last week (see “3 Hours, 7 Kids And 1 Lost Child Announcement“). And yes, KT has still consented to leave her children in our dubious care. Go figure. 

Anyway, I thought I’d start myself a little diary so I’d have some material to draw from for my blog. This is how the first week of having KT’s children has played out:  

DAY ONE (MONDAY): 

Dear Diary,

Today was a total success, perhaps only because KT was still in the country and looking after her own children. I wonder if she would agree to still pay me in wine when she’s doing all the work? Just a thought…

Love the Not Drowning Mother

DAY TWO (TUESDAY):

Yo, Diary!

I did the school and kindergarten run this morning with five children. I know you’re expecting to hear about a guest appearance of the Screaming Crazy Bitch, the issuing of A Late Pass and Tears All Round. But listen up, you cynical Diary! I did the whole thing on foot and we were five minutes early for that ominous 9 o’clock bell. Result! (Although for a while there, I was worried we were actually five minutes early for Wednesday’s bell). 

“You’re early!” one mother exclaimed to me, after I established with her that it was still, in fact, Tuesday. 

“All this time I thought I was always late because I had too many children to organise,” I replied, breezily. “But it turns out I just didn’t have enough!”

What’s more, the children have hardly watched any television today because they’ve been so busy playing games with each other and doing happy crafting projects on the kitchen table while I baked cakes. I’d write more now but I need to go polish my halo,

Love The Now “Domestic-Goddess” Mother. 

PS. That mother at the school thought I was joking, but I was totally serious. Am currently looking into buying KT and Uncle B’s children off them for a reasonable price. I hope KT will continue to pay me in wine, however.  

DAY THREE (WEDNESDAY):

Dear Whatever

I have had no sleep because The Pixie decided to run the full gamut of the Vomit Scale all night long and burn hotter than the sun. 

The only benefit of her being sick was that there was one less drop-off/pick-up to do today for my school, kindergartenS and creche run. Of course, one of the (many) downsides was, even after calling in a few favours from friends, I still had numerous pickups/dropoffs remaining, all with a vomiting child in tow. 

(An aside: when I swung by a cafe to revive myself with a takeaway coffee, the cafe owner and I could see The Pixie’s back-lit silhouette through the tinted windows of The Love Bus parked outside. Which might have been a beautiful sight if she hadn’t been spitting into a sick bucket at the time.)

Meanwhile, I can’t say the television has been turned off once today. The Pixie and Master J have both entered some kind of television-surfeit-induced trance. 

Also, Tiddles McGee has decided that snatching any toy Bella picks up out of her hands is appropriate behaviour. And Bella has decided that squealing very loudly is an appropriate response. 

I have decided that a daughter’s squeal is something only her own mother can bear. Luckily, I have also decided that I am far nicer to other people’s children than I am my own.

Finally, I have decided that I need that wine NOW. 

From The Needs-to-be-Drunk Mother. 

Now, there are people out there who might deem me irresponsible to have taken extra children into my home when it is so obviously beset by illness. 

“Where’s your sense of civic duty?” those people are probably saying. “Won’t somebody please think of the children?”

In my defence, I rang Uncle B first thing Wednesday morning and we both decided that if he was going to be left without childcare every time one of my (or his or Mistress M’s) children were sick, he might as well quit his job right now and call himself Mr Mom. We also decided that since the kids had been sharing icy poles and baths the day before, they were likely to get it anyway. 

“We’re all family now,” I concluded, channeling shades of Papa Lazarou, as The Pixie threw up ominously in the background. 

Yep, there’s definitely some great blogging material in all of this. Now, if only I can get enough sleep and/or get sober enough to write those posts…

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Toast without butter is just cooked bread. 

There, I went and said it. Shocked as you might be, I’ve never made a secret of how much I love butter. Ooh, how I love butter. Buttery butterly butterish butter

But following our recent battle with gastro, my husband and I tried to stick to a plain diet largely devoid of fat, protein and alcohol for a few days to settle our battle-worn systems. Which is another way of saying life had ceased to be any fun whatsoever.

“Would you like another cup of cleansing herbal tea, my darling wife?” my husband asked me dolefully on Day 4. 

“Go on, knock my socks off, husband dear,” I said through gritted teeth and then added, as an afterthought and not because it was consuming me: “I’ve had three completely alcohol-free days in a row AND with all three children at home. I must be some kind of Saint.” 

“Yes, the Patron Saint of Delusion,” my husband replied, only because he was thinking of drinking his way back to better health and was envious – yes, ENVIOUS – of my saintly staying power.

“I’m so hungry but I don’t know if it’s me or the rotavirus saying it,” I commented. 

“It sounds like you,” my husband remarked.

“Maybe it’s a very intelligent rotavirus that is able to replicate my voice?” I suggested.

After a bit more thought on the matter, I asked my husband. “What exactly is a rotar?”

His reply mostly sounded like “blah blah blah” but apparently had something to do with an internal combustion engine.

“Perhaps the term ‘rotavirus’ is named after the Rotary Club,” I suggested, deciding his answer was far too boring. “You know, like Legionnaires Disease was named after a bunch of legionnaires who caught it in some hotel in the 70s.”

“Why would ancient Romans be gathering in a hotel in the 70s?” my husband asked, slightly alarmed.  

“You’re right. No wonder they were feeling sick,” I concluded.

As I drank my joyless herbal tea, I remembered how – pre-children – KT and Uncle B used to go on an annual “detox” diet and how Uncle B – a committed chocaholic – would weep with happiness when he was allowed to have the pineapple and carrot cake that the diet permitted. They went on that diet for Eight. Whole. Weeks and they weren’t even sick. Which proves, actually, that they must have been very sick indeed.

“I’m not made for dieting,” I declared to my husband. “I don’t even know what a calorie or a joule is.”

“One joule per second is a watt,” my husband said.

“A what?” I lamely joked.

“Yes, a watt,” he repeated and closed his eyes as if it hurt too much to even look at me any more.

Sweet Cheeses, I thought to myself. I better get some fat and protein and alcohol in my diet QUICK SMART so I have some better material to blog about.

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