Posts Tagged ‘school holidays’

Something has happened to the radio in the Star Wagon these school holidays. It has found itself tuned away from the usual independent broadcaster and over to “Gold FM”, home to the Good Times and Great Classic Hits.

This is partly because some of the music played on the independent station makes my children cry with fear. Which is not to say that they don’t cry when Gold FM is on – I just wouldn’t know because I’m too busy singing along to Orchestral Manouvres In The Dark at the top of my voice.  Yes, through the power of The Singalong, I’ve been finding that Happy Place in my head as I ferry my screaming children between school holiday activities. Also, I’ve been trying to drown out that Elmo Chicken Dance song that still haunts me from time to time. 

For a while there, I was worried that my husband might burst my bubble by calling me a “goddamn 80s tragic loser” and turning the radio back over to the independent station. 

But no, he came back from taking the car out, all smiles and exclaiming “That Gold FM plays hit after hit after hit!”

So we’ve both been driving around enjoying good times and greatest classic hits and life’s been good… except…

After a while, you begin to realise that there really aren’t *that* many songs Gold FM gives its Great Classic Hits Stamp of Approval to and that you’re hearing a lot of the same songs again and again. And again. And you hear a few too many songs by Christopher Cross, Phil Collins and Whitney Houston and you start wondering whether the 80s were really that “great” after all. 

And then you find, after one too many repeats of a song like “Eye of the Tiger”, that it slips easily into your head, like so much tanbark into your shoes, and that you just can’t shake the thing out, no matter how hard you try. Even when all is still and silent at night, all you can hear is “DAH! Dah-dah-DAH! Dah-dah-DAH! Dah-dah-DEEEEERRRHH!”

And then you start to find everything you do and say and write is informed by that song and that you’ve totally become this freakish Eye Of The Tiger Lady and the goddamn song has become the goddamn soundtrack to your goddamn life. 

And then you stop fighting it. You accept that this is how things are going to be from now on. And you google the lyrics so you can at least sing along to this stupid song in your head accurately and not just go “nah-nah-nah” in the bits you don’t know. 

And that’s when you find out that the lyrics that you’ve thought were “it’s the thrill of the fight” for twenty-eight years are actually “the cream of the fight” and there’s all these references to “rising to the challenge” and being “face-to-face out in the heat” and you realise that the whole song is thinly-disguised pornography and that the “eye of the tiger” is probably a euphemism for that hole at the end of a penis and now it’s LODGED IN YOUR HEAD AND YOU CAN’T GET IT OUT.

So much for that Happy Place in my head. Sheesh!

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The Pixie has two questions she likes to ask me a lot at the moment. She alternates them, perhaps in the hope that asking one might change the answer for the other. It’s like she’s conducting some kind of crazy social experiment.

The first question is: How old are you?

The second question is: How many more sleeps until I start school?

For the record, there’s nothing that ages an NDM faster than being constantly reminded that there are still Twenty-Nine More Sleeps until school goes back.

It must be said that here in Australia, the summer holidays can really sneak up on a parent. You’re so busy doing the whole Christmas thing that you’ve barely got time to register those clues heralding the holidays’ imminent arrival, such as the subtly named “Last Day of School”.

And then suddenly, BAM! You wake up on New Year’s Day and there they are, stretching out ahead of you like the Nullarbor Desert must have done for those early explorers who’d managed to get over the Great Dividing Range.

[NB: For non-Australian readers, the Nullarbor Desert, which is the non-liquid centre of Australia, means “No Trees” in Latin. Or, when used as part of a metaphor for school holidays, “Endless days of children saying ‘I’m bored'”.]

I mean, shit-a-brick, people: why did I not see these school holidays coming?

It’s all a bit like my first pregnancy. I was a stickler for only reading Caz Cook’s “Up the Duff” one week at a time in line with my own pregnancy. It was like I couldn’t allow myself to see past my current trimester and it wasn’t until I actually had the baby in my arms that I found myself speed-reading about how to establish breastfeeding and double-checking that ‘colostrum’ wasn’t actually some kind of frickin’ Roman Stadium about to pop out my already screaming nipples.

I think nature makes us like that deliberately. Because if we knew the full scale of it, we would never have children at all. And I challenge anyone to find a pregnancy book that mentions you’re suffering indigestion, pelvic unstability and stress incontinence all so that you can spend the first 33 days of a future New Year having conversations like this:

PIXIE: Mummy, how long until I go to school?

ME: Thirty-three more sleeps.

PIXIE: How old are you?

ME: You know how old I am.

PIXIE: But how old are you?

ME: I’m as old as I was the last time you asked me five minutes ago. Perhaps a little bit older but the number remains the same.

PIXIE: And what’s the number?

ME: 39.

PIXIE: And what’s the number until I return to school?

ME: 33. Now, shussh for a moment, sweetheart. I’m trying to do something. 

PIXIE: What are you…

ME: Shussshhh.

PIXIE: (whispers) Why are you saying “Shussshhhh”?

ME: Shussssssh. No more questions. 

PIXIE: (brightly) Okay! No more questions. I like to ask questions. Because I’m interested in things. Like Spanish… And nose rings…

ME: And my age, apparently.

PIXIE: Yes! (PAUSE) How old are you? 

At this rate, by the start of February, I will quite possibly be 94.

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Imagine my terror when I recently arrived at the zoo at the height of school holidays and discovered the stroller wasn’t in the car.

“Oh, come on!” I can hear the usual people pipe up, though admittedly they’ve been pretty quiet in my head recently. “Your youngest child is almost three and more than capable of walking by himself.”

“But what about the lunches, snacks, drinkypots, jumpers, nappy stuff, change of clothes and (inevitably) Mr Justice’s backpack containing a cubic metre of McRubbish and The Big Book Of Knowledge, aptly named because it weighs more than a four-year-old wearing a diving belt?” is my quick(ish) retort to such people. “Are they able to walk by themselves??”

Honestly, I don’t know how people go anywhere without a stroller. They must either have trained their children to trek for days through the jungle carrying their own body-weight in provisions, or they just buy their food and drinks while out at the kind of prices that would make employing a full-time Porter a more economical option.

Luckily I was meeting my more-prepared friend Mistress M, who did bring her stroller but who also turned out to be slightly less prepared than I because she’d left her wallet at home, with her zoo membership card in it.

You know how they say “getting there is half the fun”? Sometimes it also takes half the energy. By the time Mistress M had blagged her way past the Zoo Door Bitches armed only with a Medicare letter and her smile, we’d sorted out parking tickets and we’d finally started the negotiations of Which Animal To See First, I felt a wave of fatigue and was ready to go home. But with a grand total of seven children under our care (six of whom were under 5 years and two of whom were Not Of Our Loins), we were not going to get out of it so easily.

Still, I managed to rise to the occasion. Normally I have this “sense” of three kids about me. I don’t have to count, I just know when there are three and when there are not three. After an hour or so of constantly counting seven heads as we wandered from cage to cage, I started to get a sense of seven, too. Such is my skill.

But then Mistress M and I made a fatal mistake: we tried to have an actual conversation. In the time that it took to say “Oh, you used to watch Survivor, too!”, we managed to lose a child. And of course it had to be one of the children that wasn’t ours. I put the remaining six children in lock down mode (using an artful distribution of sugary snacks and a rousing sing-a-long), while Mistress M ran around the zoo desperately shouting “Bella! Bella!” (for of course, it was she – the child known as Cyclone Bella).

Thanks to a Lost Child Announcement and a network of zoo attendants armed with walky-talkies and taser guns, she was returned to us after ten long minutes. And, of course, it was then and only then that I really fell apart and clutched at Bella and Mistress M like a drowning sailor.

When I asked Cyclone Bella where she’d been, she said “Oh, I was just sitting down.” Which I kind of understood, except if I were to have gone missing at that very moment, it would be more a case of “Oh, I was just sitting down and alternating between breathing into a paper bag and swigging from a bumper-sized flagon of wine.”

Anyway, the long and the short of it is this: next school holidays, I’m definitely employing a Porter. He can carry the snacks (etc), The Big Book of Knowledge, the paper bag and the wine. And Cyclone Bella. And probably me.

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