Sunday, October 28, 2012

21st Birthday Gold

So some people might say that our little Mouse is growing up.

Others might say that she has officially entered a 'challenging' period of development.

Some folks have chuckled at my futile attempts to restrain my wilful daughter in such stimulating environments as Woolworths, and offered an opinion about how best to 'handle' her.

Many times over the last month or so, I have closed my eyes, counted to ten, and waited for limitless patience. Many more times, I have wondered if I would go straight to hell for wishing for my littlest child to be just a weeny bit older. Or reasonable, if you will.

Not that I'm wishing her life (or mine) away. But rather, I am sure I will be quite appreciative when the stubborn, argumentative, wily, fearless Duracell bunny who is my youngest daughter develops the area of her brain labelled "Logic and Reason".

In the meantime, I'm assuming that it may be a while before calm prevails in our house. Which is why I'm making hay while the sun shouts at everyone and sits herself on the naughty step, and writing this stuff down. It is 21st birthday gold. Gold, I tells ya.

Lately, the Mouse has picked up a few phrases that she likes to trot out when she's feeling friendly and social. She'll run up to me, bend over as though I'm the short person to be spoken kindly to, and say in a high voice, "Have fun, Mumma!" For example, "Have fun washing the dishes, Mumma!", or "Have fun going to work, Mumma!" Or my personal favourite, "Have fun folding da washing, Mumma!" What a little gem she is.

Her newest trick is to clasp both sides of her face and gasp, "Oh my doodness!" Which she will repeat, ad nauseum, until one of us also exclaims, "Oh my goodness!". This is quite cute, and not nearly so irritating as the bedtime routine in which she says, "See you inna mornin'!" about five times. If you don't reply loudly enough, or quickly enough, or whatever, she will repeat herself until you do. And she gets increasingly louder and more insistent with every repetition. At 7pm, this is annoying. At 2am, when you've merely tucked her back into bed after a bad dream, it plain sucks.

The other night, I had to GET BACK OUT OF BED after tucking her in at 2am, walk into her room, and say "See you in the morning" until she was satisfied enough to shut up. Problem was, I was saying it through gritted teeth. Which, according to the rules of the Mouse, was not good enough. Given that I had tucked her back in more than a few times by this point, to say I was responding in an enthusiastic manner would probably be a lie.

Anyhoo. She's not always a cranky little witch. When we go to swimming lessons she can be almost charming. Her favourite activity in the pool is jumping along with a kickboard, learning how to move through the water with confidence. Her teacher calls it 'bunny rabbits'. Maisie calls it 'runny babbits'.

The thing is, most of it is all very cute. I guess I'm just a little nervous about what's to come, given that she is so much more verbal than the other two were at this age. And more bolshy than Jack and Phoebe put together. Given what occurred this week with the big kids, it can only get worse.

At the beginning of last week at school, Jack's (everlastingly patient, seriously-deserves-a-medal) teacher was asking her Prep grade to brainstorm words either beginning with 'x' or with the sound in it. You know, words like box and socks and axe and xylophone. My son puts his hand up and offers the word that springs immediately to his mind. Sex.


Now, Jack's teacher did a much better job than I could have done in keeping a straight face. She just kept making that list, saying, "Oh yes, that's right, like when you fill in a form and you have to say what sex you are, like if you're a boy or a girl. Like that, Jack?" And Jack, who clearly did NOT mean that at all, nodded his head and kept his mouth shut (a bit too late, but never mind). The kid sitting next to him, however, offered this: "I thought sex was something to do with ladies with babies in their tummies?"


All I want to know is, where did my son learn that word? Because it sure as #$%^ wasn't from me.

So then, while they're all blithely chatting about S.E.X., Jack's teacher looks up and sees the RE teachers waiting to come in. Yeah, you know them. The Religious Education ladies. Riiiiiiiiight. And so my kid beckons to his teacher again, and whispers, "I know I've been working with (let's call her Mrs. Church, ok?) for a long time, and I really like Mrs. Church, but I believe in dinosaurs. And I've been thinking, it's really hard to believe in God AND dinosaurs, y'know? So I think I might not do RE anymore. Because I believe in dinosaurs."

Jack's teacher (let's call her Mrs. Roy), bless her cotton socks, said, "Ok Jack, I see your point, but how about we talk to Mum before you stop doing RE?" And my son replies, "Ok Mrs. Roy. You talk to Mum, and I'll believe in dinosaurs."

Mrs. Roy came and saw me at lunchtime, absolutely shaking with laughter. I explained that neither Christian nor I had ever dissuaded Jack from RE, despite our household not being a religious one. I just found it fascinating that the son of a scientist (and believer of evolutionary theory) and a Buddhist came to this conclusion by himself. And, I'll admit, I was a teeny bit proud. (Oh, and rather remorseful that my progeny had given his teacher such a challenging morning...especially since she's so gorgeous and we love her.)

By the time I got home that night, I was pretty satisfied that I would remember the stories from the day for blogging on the weekend. Obviously, Phoebe thought she could make my day stick even more indelibly in my brain.

While I started cooking dinner, the two girls sat playing together on the carpet. Given that it was quite late and I was absolutely wrecked, I was really grateful to see them playing so nicely and quietly. As I peeled and chopped, I overheard Phoebe say in her sweet little voice, "Just let me get my prick out."

Thankfully, I had put the knife down only seconds before.

She then went on, "Ok, let's both get our pricks out", and they both bent over their laps, concentrating fiercely. By then, I couldn't restrain myself any longer, and called out, "Darling! What game are you playing? It sounds like a funny one!"

She gazed at me with a very serious expression and replied, "We're playing doctors, Mumma. Maisie has a sore foot, and I'm giving her a prick." And she held aloft the toy syringe, using for giving needles. "Oh!" screeched I. "A prick!  Ha ha! Lovely!" and went back to chopping furiously.

Phoebe just looked at me as though I were the weird one. Which I guess I am.

I may be the weird one. And the tired one. The nervous one. The one who shouts. The one who polices them in the supermarket. The one who sees a teacher approaching and wonders which word has come out of his mouth now. But I'm also the one who'll be in charge of the 21st birthday parties. With 21st birthday speech gold in my pocket. Now all I have to do is stop giving my kids 60th birthday gold...

Monday, October 22, 2012

Meet Miss Laini Rose, Our Newest Comedienne

It's not every day that you have the chance to snuggle a brand new baby. Yesterday, I was lucky enough to meet little Miss Laini Rose, 48 hours old and as sweet as they come.

Like every person I've ever witnessed cradling a new baby, I squawked (rather stupidly), "Oh! Were mine ever this small? You forget how little they are!"

Well, duh. That's the trickery of kids, innit? They grow whenever your back is turned. And when you're watching them. And when they're jumping all over you. And when they're far too quiet...

Anyway. This precious little bundle of brunette perfection fitted perfectly into the crook of my arm, and I marvelled at her smallness. She was a healthy birth weight - 8lb 14oz - and measured the incredible length of 57cm. But to look at those tiny little fingers, skinny curled-up legs and dark, downy head of hair...she was a weeny little thing, all scrunchied up and making squeaky noises. I fell immediately into the old pattern of rocking and patting without even thinking about it.

(Yes, all right. I'll say it. And then can we move on? Please? Ok. I got clucky holding Laini last night. As clucky as ever. And I may have contemplated 'borrowing' her. But only for a minute a while)

Now, I was already having a lovely visit with Laini and her mumma, Casey. I think it would be fair to say that both Case and I could talk underwater. Put us together in the same room...there isn't even time to draw breath. And to make matters worse, Casey had upped sticks and moved her family far, far away just before she got pregnant with Laini, so we had a fair bit of catching up to do.

So there we were, nattering away about Casey's third birth and her big kids and my kids and Laini and all the other stuff you talk about when you haven't seen someone for ages and they've just made this divine baby and removed it from their torso, when Laini began sucking her little fists.

I'm not sure why this is so cute, but it is. It just is, dammit.

So Casey began the laborious task of breastfeeding her newborn daughter. If you've never breastfed a tiny baby, it is hard to describe the level of difficulty of getting the baby to suck (in the correct way) for the right length of time (in the correct way) on a booby most likely bigger than the baby's head (in the right spot). If you can imagine that carnival game with the clowns, and their heads move from side to side, and you have to get the balls into their mouths to run down the correct slot? Yep. Just imagine that the clowns move from side to side far more erratically, and have teeny tiny mouths the size of a five cent piece, and the balls you have to put in are as big as basketballs, and occasionally the balls spit milk at you without warning, and the clowns look up at you with a frown as if to say, what on earth are you doing to me? And stop sucking, only to get a face full of milk.

That's pretty much breastfeeding a newborn. (I make it sound so alluring...)

Well. Being the amazeballs mumma that she is, Casey had Laini attached beautifully within minutes. And being the little star she is, Laini was feeding like a hungry baby. To say she fed steadily for nearly half an hour, and was still happily guzzling away when the nurse came in, is no exaggeration. And anyone who's ever tried to stuff a basketball down a clown's throat knows that a newborn feeding for half an hour is stuff of legend.

So when the nurse wanted to take Laini away from her feed to weigh her and do her heel-prick test, I kinda thought...couldn't you wait until she's finished? But Casey is far more laidback than me, and agreed without complaint. Or maybe it was the endone talking. Anyway.

So the nurse pried Laini away, and stripped her naked. Laini's little pursed lips kept trying to find that awesome booby, and when none was forthcoming, she started to get a bit narky. But this baby...she's obviously one clever kid. She didn't make a big fuss. Didn't thrash her arms and legs and begin screaming, like many other babies would have. Oh no.

Laini waited until the nurse was exactly at the right place...and projectiled meconium.

How do I describe meconium to the uninitiated? It's the first poo of a newborn baby, so it's been sitting in the baby's bowels during gestation. I've heard it described as thick Vegemite. Liquid licorice. Black tar. Basically, it's black and sticky, and extremely difficult to wipe off. And it's just a little bit stinky.

That poor nurse had quite a time trying to wipe the meconium off her shirt...her skirt...her keys...her ID badge...the scales...the floor....the wall...the trolley...not to mention the baby. We wiped and wiped, but that stuff is stubborn. I dunno what's in it really. Now there's a Science experiment...

The nurse had the good grace to laugh and say that she DID undress a happily feeding baby. I couldn't help but agree with her. Casey was trying hard not to laugh (it hurt too much). And Laini?

She stretched, completely starkers on the filthy, meconium-smeared scales, yawned, and went to sleep.

Ladies and gentlemen, I think we may have a new performer in our midst. I adore meeting new babies. They're all incredible. But never before have I met one with an impeccable sense of timing and innate circus skills. Welcome to the world, Laini Rose. I expect great things of you.

Monday, October 8, 2012

September Spring Ding Part 3: When You Turn 85, How Many Fire Extinguishers Are Considered Necessary?

Every year on my children's birthdays, a small part of me is aware of the clock. I cannot help remembering certain times of the three days when my babies entered the world. Considering my exhaustion and the amount of drugs that were coursing through my blood, it's amazing how much of my children's births I remember in detail. I suppose I must have been paying attention.

On October 3rd, as the afternoon shadows grew longer, the back of my neck began to prickle. I was intensely aware of the birds chirping in the twilight, and the creeping darkness of the early spring evening. For you see, on October 3rd, 1927, my great-grandmother went into labour. By the time she was ready to go to the hospital late that night, she was in advanced labour with the only baby she would ever deliver alive.

When my great-grandparents arrived at the private hospital they had booked into months before, they were turned away - the inn was already bursting at the seams. So my great-grandmother laboured through the night at a public hospital that took pity on her, with only her midwife to help her. My great-grandmother was a tiny, fine-boned little woman - not built to deliver large babies.

When she gave birth to my grandmother on October 4th, 1927, she did it all by herself.  Betty Valerie Royle, my beautiful Argie, weighed over ten pounds when she was born. Every year I think about my little great-grandmother, labouring to birth such a large baby, and what an amazing thing it was that they both survived. Even though there were other babies, none of them were carried to term.

Argie was born into a wealthy family, and grew up as the beloved only child. She was educated privately (which many considered a waste of money to spend on a girl in the 1930's), and worked her way through a degree at the University of Melbourne. She and my grandfather worked very hard for their young family had, providing not only everything their own children could possibly want, but their grandchildren as well.

On October 4th, 2012, Argie turned 85. This incredible woman has loved me unconditionally, from the day I was born. Considering what she means to us, and that turning 85 is no mean feat, I wanted to do something special for her birthday. So we decided to have a small dinner party for our Argie, and to make it a surprise.

Due to the fact that she was turning 85 years old, we didn't make it a huge surprise (Christian was a little concerned that jumping out from behind furniture and shouting "SURPRISE!!!" at her might put a dent in her life line). Had I known that she had never, in 85 years, had a surprise party, I might have made it a bigger affair. But I just set the table properly, with a table cloth and the placemats Argie embroidered by hand for her glory box, made a lemon cake (with one candle on top - 85 candles requires a permit, surely?), and strung bunting across the table.

It has long been a family in-joke that Argie is not fond of chocolate desserts - given the chance, she will tell you, "Everywhere you go, there's chocolate. Not for me. I don't like chocolate. But I love lemon. I always choose lemon." So a lemon cake it was for my girl, with lemon icing and cream in the middle. Phoebe was quite disappointed when I chose lemon-coloured sugar to sprinkle on top, rather than pink. I had to remind her more than once that the cake was not actually for her.

When Argie came into the room, supported by my brother and my mum, the look on her face was priceless. She has travelled the world many times, is extremely well-read and educated, and maintains all of her own affairs to this day. To all intents and purposes, my Argie has seen and experienced a lot, and I have never once seen her lost for words. When she entered our house and saw my children prancing around the party table, and realised that the shin-dig was for her, I think you could have knocked her over with a feather.

The one thing my grandmother has taught me in so many ways, is that family is the most important thing. Regardless of who you are, what you have, where you come from, what you have learned...if you have your family, you are indeed a rich person. I hope, seeing her great-grandchildren herbing around like mad things, that Argie feels like a queen.

Many times she has referred to herself, tongue in cheek, as the matriarch of the family. After we had eaten our birthday dinner, and sung Happy Birthday, she grabbed my hand and whispered her thanks. I reminded her that she had created this family, and that we were all there because of her. If I could, in some miniscule way, pay back her love by cooking her a meal and celebrating her birthday, then I would cook for as long as I could stay standing. I only hope that she could feel all the love in the room and recognise that it was there because of her. Not many people have the chance to celebrate 85 birthdays. Then again, not many people do as much good in their 85 years as my Argie has. She is an incredible woman, and we are blessed to call her ours. We love you, Argie. Happy birthday.

Saturday, October 6, 2012

September Spring Ding Part 2: Happiness Is...

Happiness is...

Waking up on the first day of the school holidays, knowing you don't have to be anywhere, at any time.

Mooching over your breakfast with your kids, in your jarmies, with literally no idea what the time is. Because it doesn't matter.

Finding the bottom of the laundry basket.

Getting all of your washing out on the line in the sun and wind...finding the bedroom floor for the first time in weeks...throwing open all the windows while you spring-clean the house from top to bottom.

Sitting in a patch of sunlight, reading a book, in the middle of the day.

Walking with no particular destination in mind with your toddler in the stroller, big kids skipping on either side, Daisy dog trotting along, with the September sunshine and a light breeze to accompany you.

Taking your child to a birthday party and realising that your child's friend lives so close, you can walk to the birthday party. And then walk back again, in the bright sunshiny day, to collect him.

Realising that since you now live in the long-awaited (indeed, almost mythical) house, the majority of your friends live within walking distance. And how simply delightful that thought is.

Watching your two-and-a-half year old dress herself in the mornings. These school holidays, the Mouse has attired herself in numerous eclectic ensembles, including my own personal favourite - the blouse-as-a-skirt, pants on the head, and gumboots. With a tiara. Classic.

Hearing your children shriek with laughter out the front of the house, and knowing that not only are they playing with the many neighbouring children in the cul-de-sac, but they are safe.

Seeing your brother, who lives so very, very far away, nestling the Mouse on his lap for a story. He has literally no idea how idolised he is, but in our house - Uncle Joshie is a legend.

Sitting on the floor while your youngest child 'does' your hair (managing to pull chunks of it out with her loving administrations), your middle child drapes you with bracelets and bangles and necklaces, and your eldest child tells you excitedly about his latest dinosaur discovery.

Going to a BBQ on Grand Final Day and not seeing more than fleeting glimpses of your spouse or offspring, since everybody is having far too much of a good time with their friends. It might seem like an exaggeration, but I promise you it's true - somehow, Jack and his mates drew their mummies together into a tight-knit little circle of sisterhood, and then when the daddies met, well...a house on fire doesn't even begin to describe it. And when these families get seems like we're having far too much fun. Well, I am, anyway.

Grabbing fish and chips and having a picnic tea at the playground on a warm, gusty September evening, while the seagulls wheel overhead and the wind threatens to carry your tomato sauce away.

Dropping everything to go on a walk, as a family, to the local cafe, simply because it's there.

The sound of your children laughing so hard at absolutely nothing, that wetting of pants was had.

Falling asleep on the couch in the early afternoon, wrapped around your toddler, while the rain beats softly on the windows and Harry Potter vanquishes Voldemort on the telly again.

Watching your three children surround their baby cousin, smothering her with shrieks, toys and love. And seeing her return the adoration, ten-fold.

Having a working bee to fix the desolate wasteland left behind by the scoundrels we called developers, shoveling mulch until your glutes scream for forgiveness, getting to know your new neighbours over wheelbarrows and a sausage sizzle. Watching the rubble-strewn front area of your home (reminiscent of Beirut) become something much more pleasant to look at.

Being lucky enough to have friends who arrive with tools and smiles, ready to pitch in and help at your working bee. Raking a new garden bed alongside someone whose company quite simply, makes you happy, and whose friendship you're not quite sure what you've done to deserve.

The calm of an evening after a day in which children ran maniacally through dirt with scooters and bikes, inhaled sausages outdoors and wiped watermelon juice through their hair, and then were bathed and put into warm pyjamas before being tucked into clean sheets.

Not even thinking about the end of the school holidays. Not yet, anyway.

Friday, October 5, 2012

September Spring Ding Part 1: Ikea is Swedish for 'Pottering'

It's a fascinating phenomenon, Ikea.

Seriously. Think about it - they send out one catalogue every year, and it's like receiving a gift in the letterbox. People go to Ikea for a day out - it's not a shop, it's a destination. I know people who practically lust after the organisational storage solutions that Ikea has to offer. Not to mention the furniture, the fabrics, the kitchen ware...oh. Well. I'm sure it's not just me.

Since we moved into our new home in the middle of a school term, and the last holidays were a write-off, Christian and I have not really had the chance to organise some of the finishing touches. The windows next to our front door were still bare (making me feel like I was living in a goldfish bowl), the laundry needed shelves, and quite frankly, I was sure there were storage solutions that were just begging for me to come and visit.

As far as I was concerned, Ikea was a no-brainer. Christian on the other hand, wasn't convinced. But he 'let' me go, anyway. I couldn't understand his reticence - even if you needed absolutely nothing at all, why would you pass up a day at Ikea? That's just stupid talk.

So our three cherubs joined us in meandering through the arrowed pathways of our nearest Ikea store, and while I soaked up the uncluttered, sensibly-organised atmosphere, I pondered. So many people wander through Ikea every single day, and yet our homes are still cluttered (to varying degrees, of course). Why is this so? Do we need Ikea to curb the growing untidyness within our homes...or, do we need the clutter in our homes in order to have an excuse to visit the wonderful world of Ikea?

Hmmmm. Swedish storage philosophy at its' finest.

Why do people spend so much time (and money) and Allen-key-energy at Ikea? Why is there so much pleasure to be gained from obtaining matching Billy bookcases and a couple of Expedit shelves?

The answer? Pottering.

I think the delight gained by the purchase of a new shelf, or a set of woven nesting baskets, or a kitchen tidy, is universal amongst the tribes that wander the halls of the Swedish wonderland. And enough of a reason in itself to visit the great emporium of organisation.

By going to Ikea and obtaining storage solutions and furniture and cushions and curtains and all the other wonderful, practical items you can buy there, people then take them home and potter around the house. They clean and sort, set up new places to keep things's sort of like the human version of feathering the nest, only with Swedish practicality. It's all about making the home you have the most beautiful, functional, comfortable home it can be. The only problem is, there's usually a helluva lot of crap stuff to hide away in the lovely storage solutions...which means more trips to Ikea.

So what did my trip to Ikea entail on that bright, late September day? I was most restrained, I can assure you. I did indeed get some lovely new curtains for the windows at the front door, and not only did they cost me $10, but I hemmed them myself (I know!). The curtain rail was $2. So far, so awesome, right?

I got a set of shelves for the laundry that have turned a completely useless cupboard into something of beauty. Well, it hides all the laundry crap behind a cupboard door now. Which is great.

We bought a storage solution for Phoebe's clothes (since our previous storage solution of stacking them on the floor wasn't working out so well for was great for Bella, apparently, because it was a new place for her to pee, but I wasn't so keen on that arrangement) which could be used in a different way down the track when she is older. Coolness.

And we probably don't need to mention to my husband that the few storage boxes I picked up to keep the toys at bay were so effective that I now have a surplus of storage boxes...meh. I'm just prepared for Christmas, right?

Did I go crazy? No sirree. Did I desperately want the squashy pink armchair that would dwarf my loungeroom? Yes indeedy. But I didn't buy it. I was very well-behaved. I stuck to my list of 'necessities' (apart from the extra storage boxes...ssshhhhh.) Because, you see, by being a good girl and only buying what I went for (mostly), I have now sorted our home into a much more comfortable, organised space. On a very small budget, my home is beginning to look quite lovely, if I do say so myself. I've very much enjoyed my pottering about during these holidays. It's quite therapeutic, sorting and tidying the house. And I can now see exactly what I need to buy on my next trip to heaven Ikea. Excellent.

Monday, September 17, 2012

The amazing Phoebalina Ballerina is five!

When you were a tiny embryo in my belly, you amazed me. I was so sick, I actually lost six kilos in the first trimester. My bump, when it appeared, was quite small (at least to begin with!). You kicked gently, and only sporadically (but with enthusiastic fervour when I was trying to rest). So, so different to my first pregnancy with your brother, who kicked all day, every day, grew to an impressive size and thus made me grow to an even more impressive size!

On the day you were born, you amazed me. You screamed so long, and so loudly, in your first 30 minutes that the nurses laughed and wondered aloud what we had gotten ourselves into. But it seems we caught you in a fit of pique, because after that first squalling half hour, you stopped crying. You nestled, skin to skin, on my chest, and slept for the rest of the day. You were all dark eyes, dark hair, and serious expression, and I couldn't for the life of me work out where you had come from. We toyed with naming you 'Emily', but how could we, when you were so obviously a Phoebe. Bright and shining, a little ray of sunshine.

When you were five days old, you amazed me. You slept right through the furore of the visiting midwife, telling your mama that she was starving you. You were calm and serene as long as no one was trying to feed you. But then...oh my. How you protested. We drip-fed milk through your pursed little rosebud lips, watching every ounce of weight you lost. But then, at a few weeks old, you woke up and happily took a bottle. Eventually your skinny limbs chubbed out into gorgeous rolls of fat, and your stern little face was wreathed in smiles.

When you were seven months old, you amazed me. When the beautiful, kind ladies in the nursery of your childcare centre took you from my arms, and held you to the window to wave goodbye on my first day back at work, you only cried briefly. I, on the other hand, bawled long and loud before presenting my red-faced self to my new class of Year 8 students. Never was there such a reluctant working mother as I. As much as it pained me to acknowledge it, you thrived at daycare. Not all children do. With hindsight, I can see what an incredible thing it was that you did, being so settled.

When you were one, you amazed me. You were so in love with your big brother, you would follow him around the house. No matter what he was doing, you wanted to do it too. You were completely content being near 'Dack'. You ate whatever he ate. You watched whichever Wiggles DVD he chose. You played Lego and Thomas and cars. (The only line you drew was at dinosaurs, of which you were terrified. And understandably so, the way your brother growled when he chased you).

When you were two years and three months old, you amazed me. You came into the hospital to meet your new baby sister with as much aplomb as the Queen herself. You cooed to 'Maisie Mais', stroked her tiny head, and held her gravely. Not once did you ever show any inkling of jealousy; not once did you complain. You were, and continue to be, a wonderful big sister. Maisie Mouse is a very lucky little girl.

When you were three, you amazed me. By this time, you had watched Mummy get taken away in an ambulance; watched Daddy talk to the police about the 'bad men' who got into our house in the middle of the night; had moved out of our lovely family home in Pakenham into Grandma and Grandpa's house; watched Daddy get taken away to the hospital. You simply rolled with the punches, and kept on smiling. Oh sure, you were by this stage the world's slowest dinner eater (an official title, no less), and you still had absolutely no hair to speak of, but by most accounts, you were very placid, happy little girl, despite all that you had seen.

When you were four, you amazed me. Somehow, you had developed a wicked sense of humour. You could count to thirty (well...twenty-nine, twenty-ten anyway), could write your own name (backwards, and mirrored!) and had set a new Guinness World Record in drawing flowers and rainbows. Still the world's slowest eater, you had begun to grow some blonde hair on that fuzzy head. You took up ballet, which you 'indored' from the very first lesson. Although it was rather excruciating to watch at the time, the DVD of you during your class' tap number, mouth wide open and finger pulling at your bottom lip, is very endearing. At the very least, it will be invaluable at your 21st.

When you were four and a half, you amazed me. You began going to kinder full-time, due to my job. You took to it like the proverbial duck; the only wrinkle on the horizon of your happiness was counting the days until you began big school. You happily trotted off to kinder every single day, especially if I allowed you to wear a pretty skirt. I asked your teachers who your special friends were when I was writing the list for your birthday party; since you talked about so many different kids, I had no idea who to ask. Apparently, you play with anyone and everyone. And when the group of girls in Kinder 2 are gathered around the drawing table, chattering like galahs, you are the quiet one, only speaking when absolutely necessary. That I would pay money to see.

Today, when you turned five, you amazed me. You came into my bed early for a cuddle, and waited patiently until everyone was awake. I think you truly enjoyed your birthday breakfast with the whole family, even though after carefully choosing crumpets and jam for your special day, you ate only a quarter of one crumpet before declaring that you were full. You proudly wore one of your new birthday dresses to kinder, teamed with a birthday princess tiara and hot pink nail polish. The thing that made you happiest today was taking balloons and stickers to share with your friends at kinder. Of that, I was so proud. You had a ginormous fairy birthday cake, and were sung to (again!) by your teachers and friends, but the thing you loved most today was painting and playing outside. You were absolutely delighted by the babycino I surprised you with after school, and ate it oh-so-slowly, as though it was a treat to be savoured.

Every day of your existence, in some small way, you have amazed me. Whether it is the sheer force of your love; the might of your will (some might even call it stubbornness); the wispyness of your vague recollections of events; your continued shunning of most meats and vegetables maintained in the face of a stunning appetite for sweet things; or your ever-present insistence at putting your shoes on the wrong feet...every single day you make me look at you in wonder. Even though the dark eyes, dark hair and serious expression were replaced with blonde hair, blue eyes and merry-eyed jollies, I still wonder where you came from. How can someone so clever, and so daffy, and so insightful, and so forgetful, and so incredibly wonderful, be mine? How am I so lucky?

Every single day you amaze me, Phoebe Anna Louise, and every single day I am reminded of the gift that I have been given, being your mum. Happy fifth birthday, my darling. I love you more than words can say, plus fifty-million-one-hundred-ten, and eight.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

The Festival Of Phoebe

This weekend has officially been re-named "The Festival of Phoebe" (which apparently tickles the birthday girl's funny bone). Last night, she was softly telling me about her favourite parts of the day. Apparently she love love loved the party food, and playing 'parcel parcel'. And playing Pin The Flower On The Fairy. And the cake. Thank heavens for that.

She adored having 'Happy Birthday' sung to her, and wondered, "Mumma, if you sang Happy Birthday to me today, 'cos I'm five, does that mean when you sing it to me on Monday that I'm six?" I just laughed at her. She had a hearty giggle too.

My middle baby, my eldest daughter, my little freckled princess, is absolutely desperate to grow up. She has been waiting to turn five since her fourth birthday, and more than once I have heard my own mother's voice coming out of my mouth, telling my girl not to wish her life away. She has been such a delectable four year old, just as she was an edible three year old, a delightful two year old, a divine one year old, and the most perfect baby.

Oh sure, she has her moments. She has a temper that flares rarely, but is a terrible thing to behold. She can be shy in one breath (and usually at the wrong moment), and then much too bold with the next. But she is incredibly affectionate - I think, on average, she tells me around a thousand times a day that she "indores" me. She is kind and sweet, and far too clever for her own good. She is happiest when life is simple and predictable, especially if her day involves going to kinder. She calls the weekends, 'keep days', because they're the days when "Mummy keeps me". I think my heart broke a little bit over that one.

I really wanted to make this birthday party special, (or as special as I could, given my inability to stretch time so I could organise it properly!) because I knew a tiny part of her would remember it. I also wanted her to know how much I indore her...and that even though Mummy is at work all day, every day, I am still always thinking of her.

However, I think this proves once and for all what a terrible mother I am...all my middle child wanted for her birthday party lunch were Cheezles and Twisties (and even those she didn't know the real names of), and "ordigal". Which, for the uninitiated, is cordial. Uh huh.

So Phoebe got her cheesey treats, and her ordigal, plus a few other things that were baked with a good helping of mother's guilt love...

(Sarah, this is for you!)

Sweets for my sweet...

Sugar for my honey...

And the cake that was meant to be a Donna Hay replica and turned into a "Oh-My-Lordy-The-Party-Is-Today!" cake...

The Mouse...

The Pirate...

And the beautiful, fairy-princess birthday girl...

Complete with icing on her nose!

In the morning, we will wish you a happy fifth birthday, Fairy Phoebe. Until then, you are still my little four year old, and I can pretend that you are not growing up faster than is decent. I indore you more than anything, plus 80-9-500 (her words, not mine - that's the biggest number she knows) :)

Saturday, September 15, 2012

A fairy exploded in my house

My house looks like a fairy walked in, threw up, and then exploded.

That's right, peeps. Today we held Phoebe's fifth birthday party. And just quietly, I think it went well. I'm too tired to be chuffed, but let's just say I'm fairly sure everyone left happy. Oh, and the almost-birthday girl is fast asleep in bed, shedding glitter and tiara-like debris all over her pillow.

I must admit, I was a little nervous about this party. Apart from being the first party in which the guests stayed without their parents, I barely had time to prepare for it. Apart from raiding the $2 shop last Saturday (with a revolting Mouse in tow), I had not really planned anything for today's shin-dig other than "buy pink food". Which, I'm sure you'll agree, was an excellent place to start but probably needed a bit of fleshing out.

So after work last night, I hit Woolworths with a blush-coloured vengeance. After the kids were asleep, we hung streamers and bunting and balloons and Chinese lanterns...put flowers in vases and willed my inner-Martha-Stewart to come forth...made tiny teacups out of marshmallows and musk lifesavers...threw a batch of cupcakes and two large pink cakes into the oven (which mercifully is ENORMOUS - can you tell I loves my new oven??)...hulled strawberries and made pink heart-shaped jelly and cleaned the bathroom...and then fell in a heap.

Luckily, the Mouse heard me go to bed and decided to help me stay awake by choosing that exact moment to become afraid of the dark. Which meant that she screamed blue murder unless all the lights in the house were on. Which in turn meant that no one else could sleep (not to mention the fact she kept calling out from her bedroom, "Is dark, Mummy! Too scary, Mummy! No lights, Mummy! See you inna mornin, Mummy!")

And when she finally fell into an exhausted sleep (still talking, though), we warily closed our red eyes...only to be woken at 2:45am. Jack had woken up at about 2, dressed himself, and was playing (loudly) in his room, waiting for us to 'get up'. He was convinced it was morning, and that we were, in fact, quite lazy. It took some convincing to get him back into his pyjamas and into bed. Entertaining? Uh, yeah. Restful? Nope.

So anyway, the kids dragged us from our fitful dreaming around 6am by kicking the shite out of 30 balloons waiting on the loungeroom floor. Apparently it was squealingly good fun.

While my beloved took the biggies to ballet, Mouse and I got the house in order and threw pink food (artfully) onto the pink tablecloth, with pink plates and napkins and cups and straws and flowers. And some more pink. And some purple.

Thank the heavens above for our next-door neighbour (heretofore known as Aunty Danielle, m'kay?), who was so excited about Phoebe's birthday that she took care of the pass-the-parcel and a shedload of prizes for me. She arrived with an armload of balloons and presents, took over the face painting duties, and was basically a godsend.

Around lunchtime I realised I hadn't iced Phoebalina's birthday cake. I actually enjoy decorating cakes, especially if there's one the kids have asked for on their birthdays. Phoebe has for months had her eye on a Donna Hay delicacy, and had asked me to replicate it. Problem was, I couldn't find the decorative butterflies I needed for the top anywhere, not for any I made them out of icing. To say I was up to my armpits in icing is no exaggeration, my friends.

Eventually, the table was groaning with pink food and a cake that I will admit I was quite proud of. Considering it's thrown-togetherness, it looked pretty good. It was a layered strawberry cake, with fresh raspberries in the middle, icing that graduated from a soft pink at the bottom to a creamy white at the top, and handmade butterflies dancing around the number 5 candle sitting in pride of place on top. Phoebs was happy with it, at any rate.

Phoebe's little girlie friends all arrived in their fairy outfits, and for two hours we played party games and doled out pink sugar (and sausage rolls - they're protein, right?) The actual party was a bit of a blur - all I can tell you is that I played lots of musical games with eight little fairies (and one pirate) and there were lots of prizes and fairy dust. They were the most well-behaved group of little girls I've ever seen, but even still we didn't stop for a minute! (Who needs a gym when you can host a five year old's birthday party...)

Phoebe pranced around in her fairy dress, waving her wand and beaming at everyone with a face that was emblazoned with butterfly glittery-ness. She played beautifully with her friends and was clearly enjoying the moment she'd waited twelve months for. Somehow, even though she has not yet turned five, she seemed more grown-up. I'm not sure exactly why. But even the freckles across her nose and cheeks seemed to stand out a little more...which, combined with her long legs and infectious giggle, seem to emphasise how big my girl is becoming. I still can't put my finger on it. All I know is, today I could not see much of my little baby in Phoebe-the-big-girl. Then again, I could see a helluva lot of fairy.

By the time the family arrived to sing Happy Birthday (was I smart, or stupid, to space the kinder friends and family into two smaller shin-digs?? Hmmm?? I think I was smart. Right then.), we had been partying for several hours. It was nice for Phoebs to see her grandparents, aunties and uncles (and Argie, and Dasha of course!) in a more relaxed way. I'm glad she could spend time with her friends, and then her family, without feeling overwhelmed or rushed. It just made for a very long afternoon!

But what was great, was that we had a drink and a bit of cake (Mummy had a wine, do you blame me??), Asha tried to eat the toy duck inside the plastic sphere (which we all egged her on to do - no one is innocent here), and before tired turned ugly, it was over. Oh, and we discovered that Asha is terrified (and I do mean, the poor kid got the trembles) of balloons. Which was awesome, considering the house was decked out in about a million of the things.

So now, the balloons are still round and shiny; the bunting hangs gaily, flapping slightly under the breeze of the heating; the streamers festooning the house are still bright and festive. But the cake is all gone...there is icing ground into the carpet...twisties under the table...a brand-spanking-new Barbie sits on the couch, wondering where everyone went. My three little bandits ran their sugar-highs out - Phoebs crashed first, most spectacularly. I think she was asleep before the glitter settled on her pillowcase. Jack struggled valiantly to stay up, finding reasons to blow his nose and inform us of random facts before he succumbed to slumber. And a special mention must go to the Mouse, who not only removed her fairy costume and hair-tie at the party and did a nudey/nappy run complete with snotty nose and wild-child hair, but she stayed pumping until only five minutes ago. Gotta love that pink sugar.

And the fact remains that after all the shopping and cooking and cleaning and balloon-blowing and eating and dancing and prize-giving and squealing and present-giving and hugging and thanking and cleaning and hysterical sugar-induced mania, my baby is turning five on Monday. Which is amazing and wonderful and heart-clenchingly bittersweet. And it is normal, I suppose, to feel that way, when a fairy is walking around, holding your heart in her hands. Especially a sweet little fairy with freckles sprinkled on her nose.

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Walking On Sunshine

These days, it seems everyone is nostalgic for the 80's. I mean, obviously the music will never go out of style - after all, who could surpass Blondie, Duran Duran, or Madonna in her first incarnation? Personally, I have always thought that there was only two categories of music - "80's", and "Other", for the obvious reason that anyone with an inkling of rhythm in their veins would understand. Try this: choose one (and only one) song from the 80's as your bestest and most favourite. You can't, can you? It's impossible. Because it's all good. ALL good, I tells ya.

Anyway, any time I hop on Facebook, someone or other will have posted something about being a child during the 80's. How we didn't have Playstations, Wiis, or DS's. How mobile phones were unheard of, and only really, really rich people had weird recording thingys called Beta recorders that you could tape 'Young Talent Time' on from the telly on a Sunday night. How we played outside with our bikes and our friends, with our imaginations. How we could be outside all day, roaming the neighbourhood, only coming inside when your own mother's voice was heard heralding dinner. How we built cubbies; made slip 'n' slides; ran under the sprinkler. How you could buy an enormous bag of mixed lollies at the milkbar for 20c. How we scraped our skin off climbing trees; how we got bindies in our bare feet running on the grass; how we grew strong, healthy and resilient running around all day.

Obviously, as it is with any era, the children of the 80's gaze back now with rose-coloured glasses on. I mean, come on - bindies hurt like buggery, and Beta was terrible. Let's be honest.

But I will admit freely that one of my greatest wishes upon becoming a parent, was that my children could experience an 80's-style childhood like my own. Now, clearly, my kids are still too little to roam the neighbourhood on their own, climbing trees and doing all that crazy barefoot jazz, and when they are old enough...well, I'll probably be a little more restrictive than the typical 80's parent. Not because I don't trust my kids or want to wrap them in cotton wool, but let's face it - the world has lost a lot of innocence since then. If our children have fewer freedoms now, it's for very good reasons. Regardless, what I have always wanted for my own children are good friends who live close enough to play often after school; places to play outside whether it's sunny or windy or freezing cold; and imaginations to fuel games so incredible, they are still remembered into adulthood.

Since Christian was playing golf with some mates this morning, I was in charge of the ballet run. Which basically meant that I charged over to Somerville with two little dancers and a screaming banshee in the back seat, dragged the argumentative, wilful banshee through the shops during Phoebe's ballet lesson, spent a great part of Jack's ballet lesson trying to find the banshee's abandoned shoes in Target while Phoebe trailed dutifully behind, herded two tired dancers and one sobbing banshee back home, made a batch of cupcakes and a potato salad (while the ballerina 'forgot' to take off her undies before she went to the toilet and the banshee and Jack chased each other around the house) and then moved them en masse to my beautiful friend Renee's house.

It wasn't a lovely morning (Thank you, Captain Obvious). It was so bad, in fact, that I mentally prepared myself for an afternoon of horror. We had been invited to a barbie after the 'boys' finished their round of golf, and I fully expected to arrive with revolting children who would fight, scream, and then fall asleep. Or something of that nature.

A few weeks ago, Renee organised this get-together for a few families that met last year at school when our boys were all in the one class. The dads took off to whack golf balls this morning, before the mums and kids joined them back at Renee and Darren's place. I had been looking forward to it all week, particularly as I have not seen the girls at all this term while teaching full-time. But faced with my kids and their feral behaviour this morning, I nearly baled. Pathetic, yes, but true. Don't shake your head at me - you'd do the exact same thing.

So anyway, we arrived, Renee and I popped the first bottle of bubbly, the kids melted into the backyard, the other girls and their kids arrived and platters of nibblies turned into another bottle of bubbly and meat on the barbie...and before I knew it, I had stepped back into the halcyon days of my own childhood. In the kitchen (the nucleus of any rockin party) were the mummies, friends I made only 18 months ago but whom I could not be without. We cackled and told stories and filled each others' glasses. We helped each others' children and dished out sausages and juice. The daddies moved between the BBQ outside and the warmer kitchen indoors, joshing each other about their golf scores and wrangling the boys when necessary. Little Miss Chelsie and the now-not-screaming-like-a-banshee-Mouse were scooped up, not only by their own dads, but by the others too.

And around us, careened our offspring - eight boys and three girls - playing, running, light-sabering, trampolining, ball-throwing, sand-pit-digging, sliding, pot-plant-discovering - all without any need of parental interference.

These eleven kids, the eldest only in Grade Two, played so beautifully together it was almost stuff of legend. I'm fairly sure the girls and I will sit in our rocking chairs at the nursing home, reminiscing... "Do you remember the day all of our kids played without fighting or anyone getting hurt or breaking something or having a temper tantrum? It was a BBQ at Renee's house..." Most likely, someone will butt in and say, "That never happened! You're losing your mind, Mabel" And I'll reply, "Who's Mabel...??" Huh. I might possibly have gone off track there somewhat...

What I'm trying to say (before the Alzheimer's sets in) is that today was the realisation of a dream I have held for my children since they were a twinkle in my eye. The music (80's, of course!) was pumping, the kids were free and happy, and the mummies and daddies laughed so hard our faces hurt. It was exactly as I recall my childhood when my parents would have their friends over - all the grown-ups were relaxed and having a good time, the kids pretty much ran for five hours solid (and ate more sausages than is decent, but no one was counting), and it was just fun. Plain and simple. I'm not sure whether my early fantasy for my children involved my friends and I taking photos of each other "from a height" so that our chins and wrinkles were diminished, but geez it was hilarious.

Today I realised: This is why we moved here. This is why we waited so long for our house, and put up with so much to be here. This is what we wanted for our kids. The bonus is, that in wishing for a nice, safe place to raise our family, and for mates nearby for our kids, Christian and I have landed ourselves in an amazing group of friends. And it is a wonderful place to be.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Just call me Chucky

Unless you count talking as a sport (and I totally do), then I am not what you could call a 'natural athlete'. Oh sure, I played sport when I was a youngster. My poor Dad coached my basketball team and tried fruitlessly to teach me how to catch the ball properly. It wasn't his coaching efforts that gave me a broken nose, I can tell you. I trained for years as a swimmer, until I gave it up (because I wasn't competitive enough). I loved my netball, especially before my knees turned 100. And for some very strange reason, I adored the hurdles in primary school. Not athletics, mind you. I abhorred any sort of track-and-field type event. Still do. But for some reason, I enjoyed throwing myself over the little steeples in the middle of a running race. I enjoyed it even more when I didn't hit them. (This, of course, was in the golden era before I needed a bra. Nuff said.)

If I was ever going to be a Spice Girl, it was never going to be Sporty. (Actually, promise you won't tell? Ok. I totally was Ginger Spice. Once. In my first year at summer camp in Pennsylvania, I wore a Union Jack tea towel and shook my jollies to a spectacularly-choreographed version of 'Stop'. Impressive, huh? Oh. You stopped at 'tea towel'. Gotcha.)

So anyway, given my lack of sporting prowess, it has come as a complete shock to me this week to discover that I seem to have grown a pitcher's arm. A scarily accurate throwing technique, if you like. The ability to hurl objects at moving targets without so much as batting an eyelid.

For example. On weekends, I have begun throwing any leftover vegetables I can find lurking in the crisper, into a saucepan, and somehow it turns into soup. There's no discrimination involved. Not much chopping, either. I just aim the veggies at the pot, bung in some stock, and simmer away. Voila. Instant soup. (As far as flavour goes...meh. Why go there?)

Since our household now resembles the 100m sprint every single weekday morning, I find myself throwing all sorts of things at the children in an effort to get out of the house on time. It's like magic. I chuck clothes at the big kids, and somehow the clothes end up on their bodies (I've tried this technique with the Mouse, and although the clothes are technically put on her body, obviously my throwing arm needs some work as her outfits don't always end up in the correct places...) I hurl breakfast at them, and sometimes it lands on a plate or in an actual bowl. I throw clothes on myself a tiny bit more accurately. Would hate to go to school naked. (Can't afford therapists' fees for my own kids, let alone 600).

I throw food in the supermarket trolley. I chuck clothes in the washing machine. I hurl toys away in various baskets and containers. I sling food into lunchboxes. My throwing arm knows no boundaries.

Just yesterday, my new skills were brought to my attention when I threw my child into her kinder room. Which totally sounds more violent than it was (well...sorta), so let me explain.

Being a Tuesday, I had to get to work, right? And being late is never in the plan. So when we were about to exit the building, and the Ballerina said she needed to go to the toilet, I huffily agreed and continued to throw essentials into bags. After five minutes, I called out to her. Was she doing something that required extra time? A magazine, perchance? No, Mumma, I'm finished, says she. Rightyo then.

Five more minutes later, I find my almost-five-year-old daughter standing in front of the mirror, mooning at herself and her bee-yoo-ti-ful hairstyle. Totally my fault, you see: I had put her hair into a 'bun' for the first time (and I use the term 'bun' very loosely) and she was completely in love with her reflection.

Seeing as I was now ten minutes late, you can imagine that I lost my mummy cool and chucked a tanty. Just a little bit. Which is why we arrived at kinder five minutes later, only to discover that not only had Phoebe been wasting time loving herself sick in the bathroom, but that she was shoeless and kinder bag-less as well.

Snatching the spare pair of sneakers out of my car boot, I ran the length of the daycare centre's corridor, threw Phoebe, the shoes and an apologetic glance at her teacher into the room, and bolted. I was so cross, I wasn't even sure if I'd slung my daughter into the correct room. Don't worry. I didn't really throw her. Not properly. She didn't bounce, or anything.

(And being the complete sook that I am, I nearly threw up with remorse when I got to school. So at lunchtime, I hurled myself back in the car and whizzed into her kinder to hug her in the middle of her sandpit. Apparently, she forgave me.)

Perhaps she should have thrown some extra kisses in my pocket THAT day. Huh.

So needless to say, I shocked even myself this week. I would never have guessed that I was capable of such sportiness. More specifically, I would never ever have contemplated chucking a kid into kinder. (Knowing my skills, I'd sling them into a wall or something drastic like that...) Not that I plan on throwing my children anywhere again soon. Goodness knows, Phoebs has been ready and waiting at the door every morning since, shoes on, bag in hand, hair un-admired. As has the Mouse and Jack. Hmmm...

Thursday, August 23, 2012

A pocket full of kisses

I guess by now, most of you know me pretty well. (What's amazing is, you've stuck around...?!?!)

And it would be fair to say that I don't usually blog unless I've got something specific to get off my chest, or remember, or commemorate. Or rant about. Let's not forget about the ranting.

Now, I'm not dismissing my rambling. Or just plain old talking nonsense. I humbly acknowledge that the majority of stuff that comes out of my mouth (or out of my keyboard, if you want to be pedantic) is sheer blather. Even I don't know what I'm going on about most of the time.

But usually, mostly, on the whole, there's a point to my blogging. A reason, if you will, to get some sort of meesage across.

If I have nothing new to tell (or more specifically, if the cat has NOT wee-ed in my bed that day), then I generally leave you alone.

So, given that this is my usual style, and given that today was fairly ordinary, I had no intention of blogging tonight. There was only one little thing that I would have told you about, because it was so gosh-darn cute that I really, really want to remember it at Phoebalina's 21st (and obviously, at other times too. But you'll see why I need to tell it when she's trying to be a grown-up. It's squeal-makingly delightful). But other than that, all I had was a fart joke. Truly.

See, what happened during the kinder drop-off this morning was this: the kids and I all trooped into the daycare centre and started saying our kissy-huggy goodbyes to the girlies. The Mouse was having a happy morning, which meant I was too. As I hugged Phoebs goodbye, she blew a plethora of kisses at me through the air, and said, "Here, Mummy. Put these extra kisses in your pocket for later, when you miss me at school." And she patted my coat pocket, took Maisie's hand, and went to play.

Oh my. I think my heart just about burst with love and unshed tears. My beautiful, beautiful, baby girl. What a sweetheart. I patted my pocket, and took Jack back to the car, thinking about my Phoebalina, and what a loving little thing she was. What an amazing person to have in my life, reminding me every day of the incredible feeling of loving, and being loved.

I was aglow with love for my children, and honestly felt as though Phoebe had left me a little parting gift to make my day so much brighter. I felt those kisses in my pocket as much as if they were made of something tangible.

I buckled Jack into his car seat, hopped into my seat, and started the engine. Only to cop the full appreciation of the Mouse's parting gift to me, right in the nostrils. My youngest cherub had very kindly and thoughtfully left something in the car so that Mummy wouldn't forget her in a hurry either...the strongest fart known to toddlerkind. She must have dropped it as we exited the vehicle, in a silent-and-very-deadly fashion. It was a monster. Even five minutes after blast-off, Jack and I had to drive the rest of the journey with the windows down. Talk about wrong.

So as you can imagine, I really wanted to make sure I never forgot Phoebe's words to me this morning. That little act of kindness is something I want to tell her about when she's 15, and doesn't want to be in the same room as me.

And, in some small, disturbed way, I wanted to remember what Maisie did to me and my nose this morning. One day, that story will come in handy. Probably when she too, is 15.

But I hadn't really thought that I would blog this evening - just that I would probably whack it in the Drafts folder and do something proper and nice with it on the weekend. Well, proper and nice with Phoebe's story. The Mouse's vindictive little blast of hot air would most likely go in the "Stories My Children's Therapists Will Love" folder.

That was until I ran into a certain young lady at work this morning, who accosted me outside the staffroom, wanting to know where "her" blog was this morning! How could I expect her to eat her breakfast without a nice, juicy little post to read? My pleas of a very naughty toddler who refused to go to sleep last night, coupled with an absent husband and lesson prep to do fell on very deaf ears. Nope. Nothin' doin'. She wanted her post.

So here you are. Just like in Ferris Bueller's Day Off, when he dedicates his song on the parade float, "to Cameron, who thinks he hasn't seen anything good today"....Libby, this is for you. It may not be the best blog post ever written, but it was created with lots of love, good vibes and even a complimentary fart joke. Happy reading sweets! See you in the morning! xxx

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Random Hat Mumblings and Other Non-Handbag-Related Stories

I wrote this post a few weeks ago. Maybe four weeks ago? I can't remember. Anyhoo, I was too tired to finish it so I chucked it in my Drafts folder and promptly forgot about it. I can't even remember what I was blathering on about. Sorry. A post. Wooo! *says she slinking away after not actually writing anything this evening due to blatant laziness*

I'm not a hat person.

I love love love handbags. I have way too many, considering how unfashionable I am. It's not like I actually coordinate them with my outfit (Haha!! 'Outfit'. What a grown-up word. Makes me sound like I don't look like a bag lady most of the time...) or use them for anything other than carrying nappies and tissues.

And I adore shoes. Oh, how I worship lovely shoes. Have I been known to drool over the displays in Wittner? Have I been asked to leave Nine West for mildly disturbing shoe-related behaviour? Is there an imprint the same size and shape as my nose on the window at Jimmy Choos in the city?


That's not the point. (What IS the point? I hear you mutter. Geez this woman rambles.) And you'd ramble too, I reckon, if you were perched atop a pile of freshly laundered sheets, on the couch, still in your work clothes, late at night, tapping away on your trusty pink laptop while you waited for yet another load of washing to finish and the cake for tomorrow's staff morning tea to come out of the oven (also pink - the cake, not the oven).

Hang on. I'm so tired I've forgotten - are you talking, or am I? It's me? Oh. Sorry.

Anyhoo, the point is, I was so tired on Tuesday night, it wasn't funny. I'd had yet another insane very busy day entertaining  teaching the Preppies. I'd managed to get all of the kids to daycare / kinder / school in the correct clothing, at the (roughly) correct times. I'd even managed to wear clean clothes to work. I'd raced Phoebe to her appointment with the surgeon after school, to see about her dodgy adenoids. And may I say, my girl was mighty impressive. Even with a camera stuck up her snozz, she still managed to keep her cool (and her pom-pom beanie on). It took me a minute to convince her that the doctor wasn't about to shove Daddy's SLR up her left nostril (the look on her face was priceless). Even considering the micro-camera on the long thin tube was pretty small, I was still dead impressed with how cool she was about the whole thing. Best of all, she scored a photo of the inside of her nose to parade around at kinder. I think it made the whole ordeal worthwhile. That, and the pink jellybean the doctor gave her for being brave.

So what with this full-time gig and whizzing around the hospital appointments (not to mention the weekend spent with Argie in hospital, the ballet and swimming lessons, the five meals made in advance of the working week, the washing and ironing (hahahahaha!!!!!) of "work" clothes, etc., etc), I was pretty knackered on Tuesday night. Which meant that when I climbed into bed at 11.15pm, straight into a cold pool of cat wee, I wasn't the happiest lady alive.

Poor old Ernie must have struggled to get down the stairs - arthritis is a bugger - so my bed must have been the next best option. Unfortunately, he neglected to let me know this little fact, so when I pulled the wet sheet over my legs, it wasn't the most pleasant surprise. Given that we only have one underlay for the double bed, and one doona, Christian and I slept on towels (to soak up the excess) and blankets on Tuesday night. And again last night, since I have been at work (and the magical housework fairies have not visited) and the rain made my washing all wet again.

Quite possibly (unless my darling husband has done it for me...???), we will be sleeping on towels and blankets again tonight. Whatever. I won't be awake to notice. Tomorrow is Friday again, and the end of my second week as a full-time working mummy of three. Which brings me to the subject of hats. (Really???)

Yes, really.

Regardless of whether a mother works for fun, or for money, or for the "adult conversation" - even if a mother does paid work outside of the home simply so she can go to the toilet by herself (with the door closed, without having to narrate the experience) - it seems to me that by doing this she is forced to wear many different hats. Sometimes, more than one hat at once.

Personally, I tend to wear the same couple of hats over and over again. The hat of pride I wore at Phoebe's appointment with the surgeon was adorned again at the school assembly on Monday when Jack was the Prep Student of the Week. I also threw it on when collecting Maisie from her first day back at daycare after three weeks' absence, when she was so breezy and happy to see me, without the usual teary palaver.

But the Proud Hat is usually worn over the top of the Every Day Mummy Hat - you know, the one that goes with pretty much every outfit and hides stains easily. I have my Teacher Hat, which goes on every morning as I fling my Every Day Mummy Hat off and chuck it in the back of the car, ready for home time. The Teacher Hat makes me stand up a bit straighter, and wear clean clothes. I'm quite fond of the Teacher Hat. It also comes in very handy when faced with unruly teenagers on public transport.

Every so often, I drop my bundle and whack on the Beanie of Sloth...the hat which means that I stay in pyjamas all day and try to convince myself that someone else will clean the house and feed the children. Usually, the BOS is replaced swiftly with the Kercheif of Housewifery, in which the house is returned to more sanity standards swiftly (and usually just before the arrival of visitors).

My prettiest hat doesn't get paraded often enough. It is, of course, my pink, sequinned, fabulous Party Hat. When I put that particular hat on, the clock winds back more than a few years. (Let's just leave it at that, shall we?) The funny thing is, as much as I love wearing my party hat, I can only keep it on for a short time before it starts to feel funny. You might say I even begin to miss the familiar contours of my Every Day Mummy Hat.

Right now, there is dirty hair under my Every Day Mummy Hat. The Hat is accessorised with the old faithful Hello Kitty pyjama bottoms and a hoodie that used to be blue. Even the Hat itself could use a wash. It has a trail of something on it, left over from the Mouse's massive hug before she went to bed. It has texta on it, after helping Jack with his "homework". It has some toast crumbs mashed into it, courtesy of Phoebalina's time spent on my lap at breakfast this morning. It's pretty filthy, actually, the old Mummy Hat. But it's comfy, and it fits my head. I may not look pretty in it (I told you, I'm not a hat person!) but I can't seem to go a day without wearing it. Besides, it hides my unwashed hair.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Mummy's Pensieve

A few weeks ago I found my precious box of home videos while tidying under my bed (read: pulling out the old tissues, clumps of dust and random items shoved under there during a 'clean-up').

Rather than arranging them neatly and putting them somewhere appropriate, I perched on the edge of my (unmade) bed and began looking at them. Somewhere along the way, I rediscovered my babies (and lost several hours).

There were the messages we made for each child while still in my tummy. There were precious minutes captured of each newborn, most likely between those interminably long feeding sessions that delineate the first few weeks of a new baby's life. There were first smiles, breathy little oohs and aahs encouraged for the camera. Rolling over. Crawling backwards. Bum-shuffling. First steps. Birthdays. Christmases. Random little vignettes that were simply captured because the camera was at hand.

They were so, so little. And so very gorgeous. It was magical, watching my babies grow up through the tiny lumps of time captured on tape.

But it was also a tiny bit sad.

Watching these pieces of my children's lives, I realised how much I have forgotten. And yes, I understand how pathetic I must sound right now. I also know how lucky I am to have children to video at all. I know that if we spent our lives recording every event to watch later, we'd miss out on life altogether...but I still wish I could remember it all. Stupid, I know.

I suppose it's Life's Big Filtering System, really, isn't it? Actually, now that I come to think about it, forgetting the minutiae of parenting is probably an evolutionary survival mechanism, honed over thousands of years of wiping bums.

Watching my old video tapes, I can see the enormous jowls that Jack developed after breastfeeding every two hours. I am reminded of his Leo-Sayer-esque hair at age two - huge, bouncy, ginger-hued curls that were the envy of many a little girl at playgroup. I remember how much he adored trains, and the Wiggles, and his baby sister. I remember how I used to find him on his "naughty stool", just sitting there, biding his time until he decided that he had done his penance. He would cheerfully tell me what he had done 'wrong'. I had a very hard time not laughing at his self-discipline.

I don't remember much about Jack's monumental temper tantrums at age 3. I don't remember the months when he would refuse to go to sleep at night. I don't remember how terrible it was, each and every time he had a new tooth come through. I don't accurately recall his phenomenal bouts of vomitting, his reflux, his eczema. I am so glad not to remember his toilet-training phase. Oh, the trauma of opening his kinder bag at the end of a working day, to discover how many pairs of soiled undies that needed to be dealt with. Motherhood at its' finest.

Moving on to other tapes, I find a smiling, chubby little baby Phoebe - the Baby Who Never Cried. What a little doll she was. I always feel particularly guilty about the black hole that is there instead of memories of Phoebs as a baby...but I suppose that's post-natal depression for you? What I do remember though, is golden - Phoebe's obsession with our cat 'Nernie'; her sheer relief when I finally gave her solids at four months instead of horrible milk; her funny little one-knee-bent-forward-bum-shuffle that allowed her to "crawl" while still talking to us face-to-face; her painless teething and toilet-training; her wispy fairy-floss hair that has only now begun to grow in earnest. How there was one night, when she was about 6 months old and she just wouldn't sleep. I distinctly remember telling myself to relish the sensation of having her fall asleep in my arms, because very soon she would be too big to hold for that long. How I rocked her, and rocked her, and her entire body relaxed and curled around mine, while her breathing calmed. How I stood there, for another 30 mins, simply rocking and humming, for the sheer pleasure of holding my sleeping baby while I could. How, when she was about 18 months old - maybe 20 months? - she did something naughty and I asked her to come to me. I counted to three. She looked me dead in the eye and said slowly, "four, five, six, seven, eight, nine, ten", and then walked over to me, while Christian shook with laughter and mouthed at me, "Did you know she could count to ten?" Point made, Phoebs. Cheers.

Sometimes, I look at my daughter and wonder how on earth she will be five in a few weeks. I have forgotten her toddler tanties. Her refusal to eat anything at dinner time. Her determination to convince everyone that she and Jack are in fact, twins. I have tried hard to forget how she broke her nose, aged 2, jumping on the bed, but memories like that are hard to erase. Especially when she did it with a week-old baby sister in the house, and a Daddy who had had heart surgery only 24 hours prior. Fun times.

Being Baby #3, there are fewer videos of the Mouse. Still, it makes me gasp to see how small she was when we brought her home...and how little Jack and Phoebs were too. I can vaguely recall her wispy mullet and her folded-up froggy legs, but only the video can help me recall the squeaky little mouse noises she used to make when beginning to wake. Watching footage of the Mouse, aged a few weeks old, I can recall the heat of the summer, the hum of the ever-present air-conditioner, the small weight of my babe in arms. The theme song of Waybuloo can transport me back to the gentle days of a three year old Jack, a two year old Phoebalina, and a newborn, snuffly little Mouse. I suppose, being the most recent bub, time has not yet erased my unprompted memories of my baby Maisie. On the rare occasion that she falls asleep on me now, I can catch a glimpse of my tiny baby...but only for a second. It's just nice to know that my last little bubba is still there, tucked inside the body of a two-year-old teenager.

I know that, eventually the edges of my memory of this time will go fuzzy. The daily screeching and battle of wills that we are enduring with Miss Mouse will fade. I won't need to use the naughty step on a daily basis (fruitlessly, it often feels). I won't recall the round-and-round conversations in which I might ask my youngest child, "Would you like some lunch?", to which she screams her reply, "No!" At which point I say, "Ok, then, it's time for bed." To which she replies, "No!" "They're your two choices, Mais. Lunch or bed." "No! No! No!" And so on, and so forth. Sigh. In years to come, I will desperately try to recall the mumbly baby-talk 'conversations' that I have with Maisie  - those long-winded sentences that end with one or two recognisable words, but are given in such an enthusiastic manner, you can't help but laugh and join in.

I watched my kids playing this morning, and I thought, I won't remember this day. This particular Sunday, just like so many before and after it, will be swallowed up by my brain. Being an ordinary day, there is no reason to video it. So after a while, I will not remember my girls flitting around in fairy dresses (Maisie trying on three before being satisfied with her fairyness) and dancing with each other, just like Hermione and Viktor Krum in the Harry Potter movie. Indeed, I won't remember that being a cold, wet Sunday, Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire was playing on the telly for the umpteenth time. I won't recall how funny it was this morning when Mais was prancing around, swishing a pencil at all of us, saying, "I Harry Botter!" I won't remember Jack dressing himself as a 'dinosaur' and begging to turn his bedroom into a dinosaur cave, complete with newspaper rocks and 'dark fings'. I won't remember Phoebalina sitting next to me with the Donna Hay Kids Annual open to the "Enchanted Garden" birthday party pages, reverentially turning the pages and telling me every five seconds the sweet treats she would like at her fifth birthday party. I won't remember that this was the day we took our first trip to Masters to begin gathering the compost and mulch to begin our tiny vegetable garden, instigated by an over-excited Jack. Hopefully, in time, I'll be able to tell you about my children harvesting the vegetables they grew themselves. I just won't remember the hours spent picking up dog poo and fixing the mess left by the bankrupt landscapers necessary to make a decent garden. Deliberate memory loss!

I realise that, if I were to remember every single tiny thing about my children's early years, my brain would be unable to function in a normal manner (which, now that I mention it, fails to happen what's my excuse??) It is a natural progression of time that daily details, no matter how cute or disgusting, are lost to the recesses of our brains. It would be fair to say that if we did manage to remember every little thing, perhaps parenthood might suffer a decline...especially if those memories of rainy, cold, bored days with exhausted parents and fractious toddlers were permitted more than their fair share of air space.

I suppose there's only one way to look at my memory loss. Thank goodness that the reality of the newborn-days-of-exhaustion has faded. Thank goodness that I cannot remember the dark, dark days of poo and vomit and not being able to leave the house (aka: three kids under three in the middle of winter) Thank goodness that I have three beautiful, amazing, messy, noisy, farty, clever, shouty, huggable children to give me memories in the first place.

And thank Buddha for those video tapes.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

I am...

I am a mother of three young children.

I am a full-time, boots-and-all, Grade 5 teacher.

I am juggling many, many balls in the air. And, most days, I am dropping a fair few.

I am trying desperately to stay organised. On top of things. Providing, at the very least, a pretense of being in control of my household.

I am completely, and utterly, contradictory.

I miss my daughters while they are at childcare so much, it is almost shameful. I crave their company. I desperately glean morsels of their days from them when they clamber, tired and happy, into my car at hometime. My womb contracts at the thought of all the time I have been separated from them, and how many smiles and cuddles they must have shared with their amazing teachers, instead of with me.

And yet, I am delighted at how much they love their creche. I am thrilled at how busy they are, how many little friends they have both made. It must be so much more exciting than folding washing at home with Mummy, with occasional trips to Woolworths. I love the fact that going to childcare is something they look forward to. For Phoebe, kinder is the gold-plated cherry on her cuppy cake. As for Maisie, after the Mouse's two days with her adoring Grandma, she spends three days at "work". Not creche. Not kinder. Ask my youngest child where she goes on childcare days, and she will state defiantly and proudly, "Maisie go to work".

I saunter through the school playground at recess and lunchtime, just to grab a glimpse of my tall, sweaty-headed, ninja-and-Star-Wars-playing son. I relish the fact he is still so happy to see me when I do this. I dread the day my presence is an embarrassment.

But then, not many mothers have the luxury of seeing their children during school hours. And to be brutally honest, Jack is happiest when he is at school. These days, when he is at home, it is a constant quest to keep him busy. On a rainy day, his passion for Reading Eggs is both a blessing and a curse...

I stay up late on the weekends and every weeknight, cooking meals, ironing work clothes, preparing lunches, organising lessons, cleaning and tidying, just so that I don't have to waste a moment when my children are awake, and actually with me. I have lists of specific foods to buy, for specific freezer-friendly meals, so that my supermarketting is as quick and efficient as it can possibly be.

And yet, as my working-mother-shopping-system gets honed further with every passing week, I think to myself...I should have done this a long time ago. Being organised in the supermarket saves me time and money. It forces me to cook better meals, to use all our leftovers, and to think about stretching our dollars more efficiently. It gives me more time at night. It's worth the effort.

I ignore the unneccessary cleaning during the week, and clean furiously on Friday and Saturday nights to try and stem the tide of dust and dirt.

But then, I have also begun to see what is important, and what can be shunted a little further down the list of priorities.

I have never before worked full-time whilst mothering three children. I have taught full-time (albeit very briefly) with two tiny children. I have taught part-time with two children and a big pregnant belly. But this full-time's taking some getting used to. Every minute of every day is accounted for. There is no time for slacking off. This ship...she's a tight one.

And the thing is...I'm actually really enjoying it. No, really. Brownie's honour. Yes, I am getting less-than-desirable amounts of sleep. Yes, I am planning and cooking five or six meals at a time to avoid the supermarket crush after work with three tired kids. Yes, I am constantly juggling time spent at work and at home, racing desperately from one to the other before and after school. Yes, I feel guilty about being away from my kids, and therefore sometimes (ok, a lot of the time...) get my discipline/mummy-cuddles ratio mixed up. Yes, I think about lesson plans and learning activities in my sleep.

But I am loving this job. I adore my grade, even after only such a short time. They are a brilliant bunch of kids and I must say, I really enjoy their company. The days go so fast, it's stupid. I am thriving on being part of a teaching team, exchanging ideas, the banter, the brain feels as though it has actually moved up a notch on the speed dial.

I am tired. I am happy. I am guilt-ridden. I am grateful. I am excited. I need a holiday.

I am a working mother.

I am going to bed.

Friday, July 20, 2012

Return Of The Absent Mummy Blogger


I almost feel a bit shy, fronting up here after being AWOL for three months. I say 'almost', because anyone who's ever met me (even for five minutes, or via the bloggy world, or in the pitch dark during which time I say or do absolutely nothing) would probably not use the word "shy" anywhere near my person.

But as bolshy as I am, it still feels a bit like I nicked off for a few months without so much as a 'back in a tic, m'kay?' and have just arrived back on the block, expecting my mates to be standing exactly where I left them. Or something.

I can explain what happened - no worries there. The problem is that my head is so messy, and tired, and so, so much has happened in the last three months (and it's been EXACTLY three months since my last post - yeah, because I so totally intended to do that...) that there is absolutely no doubt in my mind that I will do an awful job. I will make no sense at all, probably, and you will end up either shouting at your computer or plonking your forehead onto the keyboard in sheer disbelief, and I will give myself sugarholic poisoning. (Yes, there is a bag of Skittles next me right now. Yes, it is being emptied as I type. No, it's not my first bag of Skittles this week. Judge away.)

So consider yourself warned, and read on at your own peril. I can't control your eyeballs.

Um...right. Three months in a nutshell. Here goes...

So basically the last time I bothered with you was just before I took on a two-week stint teaching a Grade 6 class. If we're being totally honest here, I knew I wouldn't bother blogging during that time. I mean, with three kids, two dogs, two cats, a full-time job and packing to move house, would you have plenty of embarrassing bloggy fodder? Probably. Would you have the time to tap-tap-tappity-tap it into your laptop at night? Nope. Unless you are a Superwoman-type-of-person, able to go without important things like sleep. Which I am not.

So I'm guessing my kids did funny and cute and revolting things during that time, but I don't really remember because I was too busy making school uniforms, ironing sandwiches, organising clothes to teach my students and preparing lessons to wear to school.

The only thing I do remember from that time was that it was my 36th birthday, and my beautiful, wonderful, amazing Gertrude flew down from Queensland to spend the weekend with me. We had lunch at my mum and dad's house with all the fam, which was made extra special because my brother was also home from Queensland, so the big square table was surrounded by my parents, Uncle Joshie and Aunty Son, Aunty Miffy and Uncle Whale, Argie, my kids, Asha, Christian, Gertrude, and I. Pretty damned impressive, I must say.

Then, in our typical wacky, spontaneous, girls-gone-mad style, we left the kids with Christian and went to the supermarket (I know!), and then Target (crazy, right??) Apparently the sight of two *ahem* 'respectable' women trying ugg boots and coats on in Target and laughing fit to wet their pants was just too much for the citizens of my town. Who cared if I had to try on every single red winter coat they had? It was 50% off, one day only!! And it was my birthday. If I wanted to prance around Target with my best friend, trying on gumboots and slippers with pom poms and 1000 coats, all the while finding it hysterically funny, then why shouldn't I? Shut up. And anyway, I didn't buy a red coat after all that. I bought a white one. (Shut up!)

So anyway, despite having to drink wine out of plastic picnic beakers from Coles, and despite Gertrude having to sleep on the loungeroom floor near Daisy's snores and Archie's big-ness, and despite the fact that on the Sunday Gertrude had to leave me to go home to Queensland, I had a fabulous birthday. And then I went back to work. So I didn't tell you about it.

Oh, and four days after I last blogged, we took possession of our house. Like, totally got the keys and the mortgage and stuff. Which would have been super-cool, if we'd actually been able to move in to the house. And before you start saying what dumb-arses we are for settling on a house we couldn't live in, here's what happened:

We bought a house off the plan in April 2010. Actually, it was April 1st, 2010. Should have known better... Anyhoo, for one reason or another, our slab was poured in June, 2011. That's right lovely people, 14 (count 'em!) months after purchase. After our "builder" began "building" our house (hahaha!! "building"!!!!! So funny) our house, we were told the only thing that would hold us up would be the common driveway (servicing the 20 houses in our cul-de-sac). Haha. Hilarious!

When the driveway began being poured in February 2012, we foolishly had hopes that we would soon move in. By April, we were told to move in without a serviceable entry to our home, as there would not be a driveway in the foreseeable future. Being that we had been paying rent, a mortgage and storage for our furniture for two years at this point...we succumbed. And settled on the house with the intention of moving in and trekking over the mud until our drive was poured.


Two days after we settled, we were told we could no longer access the property. At which point, we owned a house we could not live in, and were renting a house full of stuff we could not use because it was completely boxed up. Twas mind-bogglingly funny, I can assure you (and perhaps explains to some extent why Gertrude and I could be found around this time, rolling in the aisles with mirth in Target ladieswear...)

So we did the right thing and waited...and waited...and finally at the end of May, we thought, bugger it. So we moved into our beautiful new home (sans driveway but with lots of lovely free rubble strewn about) only two years, two months and 20 days after we bought it. Can't complain about that (*insert maniacal, slightly strained laughter*) And it was brilliant. I mean, as long as we ignored the disgusting wasteland outside the house, and the fact that I had to park a block away and trek up the middle of the road with three kids and all the groceries without anyone getting run over or drowning in the mud or falling down an open pit. Apart from that, it was great.

We finally got the rest of our driveway about 6 weeks later (following a fair few lawyery-type letters from Consumer Affairs), which was handy. We're still waiting for the landscapers to come back from smoko...but I can live with a crappy garden. Even with piles of blood-and-bone everywhere. (Maisie holds her nose every time she goes out the front door and exclaims, "Ew, Mummy. Poo-dog. Schmells! Tinks!" Indeed, Mouse. Indeed.

Do you know what? I think I'm going to have to finish this tomorrow. Because although my bloggy itch is far from scratched, I need to go to bed. And before you call me soft, I've just spent an entire week teaching Prep (hence the Skittles), with another two to go. So I'm practically typing with my eyes closed. Which is probably a skill I should cultivate. Never mind.

So at the risk of never seing you again, thanks to this appalling blog post, I'm going to crawl into my jarmies. I haven't told you any news of the kids. I haven't begun to think of anything with any detail, really. I haven't allowed my brain to even broach the story of Archie. I will tell you. But later.

Right and my Prep-fatigued brain are going to bed. In my newish bedroom. In my old, old, oh-my-goodness-is-that-a-hole?-Hello-Kitty-jarmy bottoms. And apparently, a little Mouse will be joining me, since she's just come down the stairs looking for Mama, fairy-floss hair flying and full of stories of "closhing my eyesh to be ashleep", but she woke up because she had a "big toff" (cough). Wish me luck. I think someone slipped the toddler some Skittles...

Friday, April 20, 2012

Pog Mo Thoin, Mr. CityLink.


You might remember me from such rants as 'Dear Mr.Telstra', in which I vented my feelings towards the pathetic excuse of a communications company (and by the way, I am obviously using the term "communications" veeeeeeery loosely).

I will shortly be writing a post about my builder. And also my builder's wife, their *ahem* receptionist, the developer, the concretor and the three foremen who preceeded our current (fourth) foreman. (Does that make him our fourman?? Or am I tired?) But since that post will probably make you rename me Ranty McRant, I will hold off for a while. Probably until we actually have the house and have passed beyond the 13-week maintenance period. I'm not completely stupid.


Tonight's rant is a doozy. It's not quite up there with the story of our house construction...frankly, that one is in a league of its' own. Trust me.

But tonight's venting is brought to you courtesy of CityLink, that magnificent bastion of new, congested and expensive roads. A company so inordinately disorganised, they don't realise how ridiculous they are. A company who employs people so stupid, it must be a prerequisite of employment to have an IQ lower than 10. Oh, but listen to me, rattling on. I'm being far too kind. Let's begin, shall we?

Once upon a time, a few years ago now, a dirty great road was built across Melbourne. Everyone was really happy about it, because not only did the interminable roadworks cause massive congestion on every other route available, but when this new road opened, it was just as clogged as the old road. Not only that, but it incorporated a lot of old roads that we'd already been using for quite a while. The only difference was, now we had to PAY to use this new road. And the old roads that were already there. Which we had previously used for free. But I digress.

Like so many other people who used this road on a regular basis, I signed up for an access account to make paying for my road usage more manageable than forgetting to ring up the toll line within the stipulated three days, and then having to plead with the operator to let you pay on the fourth day.

This access account worked pretty well for me for several years. Every once in a while I'd get a piece of paper in the mail telling me how much CityLink had taken out of my bank account, and I would glance at it before doing something important. (Let's just pretend I was doing something important, ok?? Ok.)

I even bought a new car when the Mouse was in my tummy (I'm thinking around mid-2009), and put the new car on my account. Too easy.

So it was a bit of an unpleasant surprise when I got a nasty "you drove on our road and you're not allowed to without paying for it" letter late in December last year. It was actually for EastLink, the even newer, less congested but still damned expensive road built between my nearest freeway and CityLink.

So I rang EastLink to see what the problem was. They wouldn't talk to me because I'm not Christian. I explained that he had authorised me to speak to the call centre about our account, and that I had been doing so for several years. Nope. Nothin' doin'.

Christian rang them, and waited on hold for 45 minutes. After explaining that we did in fact have an access account, EastLink explained that obviously there had been a problem transferring our details across to the new system incorporating EastLink. We were to phone CityLink, because they would have all the answers. Right then.

Phone CityLink. Again, wait on hold for nearly an hour. No, says the CityLink man, you don't have an account with us. And, might I add, you never have. (You could just imagine him shaking his pumpkin of a head at Christian over the phone, sadly denouncing the public who deigned to phone the call centre with stupid questions). Christian told him, with admirable courtesy, that we did have an account, and had the statements to prove it. Perhaps there had been a glitch in the system? Perhaps we had dropped off the list in the transfer to EastLink??

Mr.CityLink insisted that there was no way that they could have made a mistake, and that we were simpletons who clearly had never had a CityLink account. At which point my husband pointed out that there were only two explanations: either we had been driving, unnoticed and therefore, for free, on CityLink for several years, OR our car had dropped out of their system.

Mr.CityLink then agreed with Christian that quite possibly, there had been a problem with their computer system. And that maybe, just maybe, the mistake was not our doing. Huh. But that he couldn't fix the fine, because it was on EastLink's system. I'll fix it at this end, he promised, and you ring EastLink and sort it out with them. Ok? Oh, and by the way, your wife is now authorised to ring us if she wants. Gee, thanks a bunch.

I could sit here all night and tell you the to-ing and fro-ing that went on after that. I'm not going to, only because my blood pressure is rising as we speak. Needless to say, EastLink couldn't fix the problem, because it didn't originate with them. We (and I say, 'we', but I mean Christian - I'm still not authorised to speak to them. I can't imagine what Christian needs to do to allow me to do such a grown-up thing as speak to CityLink about my own car??) rang CityLink four times to get put back on the system before they finally managed to do it. Including two times when they gave us a "new" account number over the phone, which then turned out not to exist.

Throughout January of this year, we had to ring CityLink every time we travelled to the city, because every single time we would receive an infringement notice. In the end, (after being transferred to the Department of Climate Change by a "Senior Supervisor"), we were advised that the problem was fixed, and that we should ignore any further infringement notices or nasty letters from them because they were already in the system, and couldn't be stopped. Whatever.

So I did just that. I ignored the nasty letters that kept coming, and coming. I collected every document that came from CityLink and EastLink shouting that we, the worthless vermin who dared to travel on their gold-paved roads, had not paid our tolls!!! I also collected the ones that showed our (automatic) payments, thanking us for travelling on CityLink, and celebrating Victoria's wonderfulness.

Until today, when one letter arrived that was so horrible, it took my breath away. And then formed a rant in my hot little head.

Apparently, one tiny little toll imposed when we took the kids to the Wiggles in early December (when I had just come out of hospital? And I was absolutely stonkered on pills? And it hurt, a lot?? Yep - that time) had slipped through the "don't worry love, we'll fix it" net.

Because now it's not a few bucks to travel in North Melbourne, it's a few hundy or a date with a judge in court. Are you serious?? We now have to spend time and energy (on top of the already considerable time and energy already expended) dispelling this false fine, or risk jail time?? Mr. CityLink, you must be off your tree.

And you just bought yourself a fight.

My hubby and I, we're peaceful folk. We like to keep life simple, keep it nice. I don't think you could ever describe us as litigious. Until now.

Bring it on, Mr. CityLink. We have the names and numbers of the people in your company we spoke to, the dates we did so, and for how long. We have the invoices and receipts proving our payments, and our ownership of an access account. And we are sick and tired of being harrassed by you, of spending our precious little spare time sitting on the phone waiting for you. And you can bet your backside, you are not getting one red cent from us. Christian is more than prepared to don a prison-issue jumpsuit and spend a few days behind bars, rather than pay you anything.

Given that your phone system does not allow us to speak to someone about this issue, but instead asks for our problem in writing, expect some writing. From a lawyer. Mr.CityLink, you have taken stupidity to a new level. We'll see you in court. It means I'll have to buy new shoes, but I'm willing to endure that hardship.

Rant over.

Thank you.