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.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Jack is SIX!

Six is a great number.

Six is old enough to be so stupendously excited about your birthday that you inform everyone you meet in the days preceeding the event that you will soon be SIX!!

Six is young enough to crawl into your mummy's lap on your birthday morning for a birthday snuggle, with spindly arms and a bony little bottom hiding in the dinosaur pyjamas.

Six years is a short enough time to remember exactly how it felt to see his perfect little face for the first time; to recall the joy of his safe delivery; to think about his baby idiosyncrasies and uber-jowls; to once again imagine yourself cradling his warm, wrapped weight in the morning sun, on the day of his birth.

Six years is long enough to have forgotten the fear of nearly losing him in the delivery room; to fade the last lingering feelings of doubt that I did something wrong in my 'failure' to push him safely out of my body; to almost forget the distress felt over his isolation in the tiny chamber meant to cure his jaundice; to realise that only the hairdresser could pick the horrific damage done to his skull.

Six is old enough for a mother to glimpse the man-child more than the baby.

Six is little enough to still see the sweetness, the guilelessness, the joy of toddlerhood.

Six is big enough to present a facade of cool; to have a vast knowledge of the DS games all the 'other boys' play; to ask Daddy limitless questions about the nuances of Star Wars; to have firm opinions on which baddie is the baddiest of all.

Six is little enough to be absolutely delighted with a birthday cake, simply iced with the number 6 picked out in Smarties on top.

Six is old enough to remember to thank his family properly for his presents, and to show them real gratitude.

Six is young enough to get excited about the family coming over for tea to celebrate his birthday with a meal, and a small gathering singing "Happy Birthday" around a homemade chocolate cake.

Six is big enough to choose one's own clothes, deliberately and carefully.

Six is little enough to choose clothes that clash brilliantly and are almost, almost, too small, and apparently, not give a damn.

Six is big enough to hold Daisy's lead on a family walk in the late afternoon sunshine, confident in his ability to be responsible with his pet.

Six is little enough to think a walk around the block with his family is just the funnest thing to do, late in the afternoon of a birthday.

Six is big enough to take a few days of excitement, attention and cake into his stride, knowing that a birthday is special because it isn't every day; to enjoy the time without meltdown or tantrum; to share the fun and presents kindly with younger sisters.

Six is little enough to be exhausted by the events of the weekend, and to now be tucked up after a favourite dinner and a warm bath, sound asleep with his teddy.

Six is gorgeous. Six is exciting. Six is the cusp is big-boyhood. Six is the number of years of life and love we celebrate today, for our beautiful, luminescent boy, Jack. Happy sixth birthday, sweetheart. We love you to the moon and back again xxx

Friday, April 13, 2012

Random funnies

Every now and then, the pace of day-to-day parenting threatens to get the better of me. It usually coincides with the kids having growth spurts (and the inevitable trip to K-Mart to address the everlasting problem of clothes that actually fit my three beansprouts) and makes me stop and take note of what's going on around me (as opposed to blindly carrying on).

One of the best things about being a parent, aside from chubby arms thrown around your neck in a passionate cuddle, are the funny and stupid things your children do and say. If your children are my children, funny and stupid come hand-in-hand on pretty much every day that ends with a 'y'.

I'd love to say that I remember every mispronounced word and every ridiculous habit or obsession, but unfortunately my memory is limited to retaining the two items I need at the supermarket (and yes, my lovelies, make it three items and I'm officially stuffed...)

As a result of this, I try desperately to hold onto the funny, the stupid, the adorable, and the downright ridiculous things that my kids say or do...and I fail miserably. Which means only one thing: I will have literally no fodder for their 21st birthday parties.

So more for my own good than anyone else's, I have collated a few random moments from the past week. They are, quite literally, unrelated to each other. They form no pattern, and provide no theme for this post other than the fact I need to remember something embarrassing (at least for Jack's 21st, at any rate). So here they are. Randoms from this week in April. Enjoy.

At the moment, all three of my kids break into random song for no other reason than because. Phoebs favours songs about what she is doing or watching; Maisie sings the tunes of known nursery rhymes combined with vowels and consonents of no particular order. She sings so earnestly that her voice strains to get the words out, which makes her singing crack on the top notes. She favours ABC and I'm A Little Teapot, but her absolute favourite song this week is "Call Me" by Blondie, which she screams "All Eeee!!!" Almost as funny is Jack's current operatic style of warbling, which is quite disturbing. He knows it freaks me out. I can't quite transcribe Jack and Phoebe's lyrics to "Mamma Mia", but it goes something like this:

"Mamma mia, here I go again, ay ay, e e e nasist ya,
Mamma mia, na na go again, ay ay, something something let you go
Here's something wrong my darling, ooh there's a danger on it
Ay ay! Will you ever let me go?"

Which is totally how it goes. Obviously.

One of the activities most enjoyed by our kids on Easter Sunday was collecting old, sun-bleached kangaroo bones in the paddocks surrounding the house. They were fascinated by them, and kept asking which part of the body each bone had come from. Now, keeping in mind the sombre reason for our trip to the country, what Jack did was, let's just say he lifted the mood somewhat. Grasping a piece of kangaroo vertebrae and thrusting it triumphantly into the air, he exclaimed, "I know what this is! It's a Star Wars spaceship!" And he hurtled away with his "spaceship" flying through the air, making the most extraordinary "spaceship" noise (I can't do it - it's this thing he does with his lips and they vibrate and whistle's just weird). I've never seen a kid fly a bone through the air, but my son managed to do it with aplomb.

Whilst the boys were zooming roo bones around, running barefoot through the grass, Phoebe and her beloved Harper were involved in secret girls' business. There were dolls and teddies strewn about, and I saw them running with the kite around the house. But every time I spied the two middle children, they each had cheeks bulging with Easter eggs. The first time I collided with Phoebalina as she ran out the kitchen door, lips wrapped around a bunny's ears, her eyes bugged and she tried to hide the rabbit. "Harper gave it to me! She couldn't eat it all!", she blurted, and as permissive as a mother on Easter Sunday can be, I let her go with her chocolate booty. Each successive time I glimpsed Phoebe, the rabbit was smaller, until I deduced that she had consumed the entire thing. I didn't really care - if you can't eat chocolate at Easter when you're a child, then your mother must have been kidnapped by the fun police. That's what I reckon, anyway.

I didn't see Miss Phoebe for quite a while after that, until Anna and I cooked the snags on the outdoors fire and called the kids for lunch. The fact that Phoebe ate two bites of her "sodige" and begged off the rest didn't phase me at all. I just thought she was keen to get back to running madly around with the tribe. As I found out later, she was actually very green around the gills by that point, and a sausage just about tipped her over the edge! Daddy had found her eating a second enormous Easter egg (again, apparently donated by the more-than-generous Harper), but struggling to finish it. She asked Daddy very quietly to take the unfinished second egg away, and to please "not tell Mum". Uh-huh. As if Daddy's gonna let Mum miss out on a pearler like that!! Funnily enough, Phoebs hasn't gone overboard on the choc ever since...

The Mouse is at that delightful stage in which you could not imagine a more amusing, more gorgeous creature than a two year old. She's really started to push the boundaries, and we've had a fair few barnies at the dinner table lately when the Mouse has pushed her plate away and demanded (quite rudely, but with a charming smile), 'dogurt'. When the yoghurt is refused, and she is taken from the table, dinnerless and yoghurtless, the temper is something to see. She has perfected the fake, open-mouthed "cry", to which the eyes are completely dry and the wail can stop remarkably quickly.

We went to Ikea the other day, not for any other reason other than fun. We still came home with stuff we didn't know we needed until we saw it (and then it was like, how did we survive without this incredible storage solution before? and why don't I buy four?) but with a new house around the corner (bahahahahahahahahaha......huh) I figured, why not? Why not, indeed.

The big kids were pretty awesome. They know the Ikea drill - you can sit in the chairs, you can pat the cushions, but you hold Mummy's hand in the kitchen section and you listen to Daddy when his voice goes deep. The Mouse, on the other hand, has only recently eschewed the pram (much to my dismay). She likes to *ahem* 'walk', preferably without holding anyone's hand, and will insist on a 'tuddle' when she wants to be carried. Basically, she is a pain in the shops at the moment.

In Ikea, Christian and I insisted that Maisie held at least one of our hands at all times. In return, she responded by dropping to the floor at irregular intervals, splaying her body out across the crowded Swedish path. She would grin happily from her position, dissuaded by nothing - not Mummy and Daddy walking away, not strangers stepping over her, not enticing displays. She would have to be hauled to her feet every time and carried until she promised to walk nicely ("Will you hold Mummy's hand?" "No! Hahahahaha!" "Then you can't get down." "Yes! Down!!!!!" "Will you hold Mummy's hand?" "No! Hahahahahaha!" and so on, and so forth.)

In the end, we gave her something to carry (a packet of knives, I think) and followed the arrows as fast as we could. Next time, I'm going back to Ikea pretending to be single and childless. At least then I might manage to sit in the Ikea cafeteria without having apple juice poured everywhere. Phoebe managed to soak (and I mean, SOAK) her pants and undies with apple juice within, I dunno, 20 seconds of opening the bottle? And promptly burst into noisy tears at the table, crying, "Mummy! I'm sorry! It was an accident!!", as though I were a Mommie Dearest-type parent who would beat her with a wooden coathanger for spilling her juice. Everyone looked. I mean, everyone. I felt so judged (and my pants weren't even dripping).

Meanwhile, Maisie is practising her vocabulary. Which means she labels everything. Which means we have to parrot every single word she utters, and accompany it with a smile and a little clap. Or something like that. She labels her clothes, the floor, the pets, her food. Our car, other peoples' cars, the sky. She is obsessed with water, and pronounces it "war-ter", with a very strong 't'. Every glimpse of the beach (or, 'bitch') is announced with the phrase, "pa pa tit tit!", which means, "paddle, paddle, kick, kick!", which in turn means, "hurrah! swimming!" The poor thing is so delirious at the sight of her beloved warter, that today, in a rainforest, every time she saw a creek she proclaimed it was the "bitch". "No, darling, not the beach, a creek!" "Crik!", she'd cry, and then around the next bend, "Bitch!" Our children are charming, no doubt.

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Easter Sunday in Heaven

If ever there was a time to be eloquent, it is now. But, as is usual, I find myself at a loss to extract the words that will adequately sum up the maelstrom that swirls relentlessly in my head.

Forgive me then, for dropping words and phrases on the page like splots of paint on a canvas. Collectively, it might make sense. It might not.

Jack, Phoebe and Maisie were awake and chirruping at 5.45am. Despite the Easter Bunny leaving carrot tops all over the lounge room floor, it was a squealingly-good morning for my three. They weren't sure if Mummy had temporarily lost her marbles, and they didn't care - for the first time in their short lives, they were given carte blanche to eat Easter eggs for breakfast. Game on, dudes. (Funnily enough, they asked for an apple each not long madness did not take over completely.)

After our relatively traditional start to Easter Sunday, we then headed towards a more unconventionally religious day. I shall explain. We took our three little Easter bunnies on a road trip early this morning, because there were some friends of ours who needed us.

Although we had intended on making this trip for some time, last-minute bumps in the road changed the course of our plans. And although this day most certainly did not end up the way we had originally intended it to, I think in some ways we still achieved the most important thing. I think that maybe, just maybe, we turned the ashes of a dream into something lovely today.

And no, I didn't go to church. That's not unusual.

But it was a holy day, for me anyway. A day which began in black and white, and gradually turned technicolour at the edges, until the rainbowy bits dominated the picture.

No hymns were sung. No holy water was anointed.

No prayers were mumbled. No wafers were placed carefully on tongues.

No ashes were scattered.


Sunshine was basked in.

Grass was played upon.

Breezes were inhaled, deeply and gratefully.

Dogs ran joyfully, chasing everything and nothing.

Sausages were cooked on a smoky open fire, in a garden overlooking a magnificent valley.

A teapot sat with its' woollen cosy, brewing cups of tea enjoyed next to the smoky flames.

Six pairs of little feet thundered around the garden and surrounding paddocks.

Stones were collected; chocolate eggs shared; teddies tucked in; kites were flown.

A game of hide and seek included everyone, even the grown-ups.

Kangaroos (or 'amaroos'), wombats and koalas were spied in their natural habitat, bringing disbelieving joy to my children's faces.

And hopefully, a very beautiful friend of mine saw the family that she and her husband made, playing with my little family, and felt the love winding around her.

Today I saw the celebration of life all around me, in a church with a roof made of sky and sun, and a floor made of rocks and grass.

If ever there was a way to remember a life, and to commemorate a day, this was it.

Friday, April 6, 2012

Happy birthday Kezzie and Debs

I learned a few things in the last 24 hours. (Yeah, yeah, I hear ya - old dog, new tricks, haha.)

For example, I learned that when completely desperate for a top to wear on the first night out in oh, I dunno, a year (?), you will find absolutely nothing. Nuh-thing. This is me yesterday afternoon: oh geez, all my clothes are packed, and even if they were spread out in front of me, I would still have nothing to wear tonight. Huh. What to do?

Leaves kids with Daddy, drives hurriedly up to local shops. Searches Target (yes, top-shelf for me, all the way!) fruitlessly, finding only skivvies, warm woolly knits, and work blouses that make my boozies look like my name should be Helga. Bugger. Searches Best and Less (did I mention I was classy?), finds scary, stretchy, shiny work blouses, skivvies and warm woolly synthetic knits. Christ. Searches obscure little clothing shop tucked into corner of the shopping centre. Finds lurid party dresses in all manner of frills, frightening Mary-Coustas-costumed-as-Effie type blouses, and red mesh see-through type stuff. Exit stage left. Searches Rivers outlet (only option left other than Coles). Nah. Runs back home in rivers of sweat, searches suitcase packed with clothes. Tries on top that was too small last time I wore it. Fits enough. Awesome.

I also learned that 15 minutes is the same as a few hours when getting ready for a big night out, for this little black duck, anyway. In ye olde goode days, I may have been known to set aside a generous portion of the day to prepare for the night, doing such deeds as drinking a few litres of water, having a sleep, shaving my legs, blowdrying my hair, and so on, and so forth. My preparation for last night consisted thus: pull off dirty, snot-encrusted housework clothes, pull on clean(ish) clothes (that fit marginally better since my workout running around the shops), smear makeup on face with more hope than skill, drag brush through hair to get rid of the largest chunks. Run out door. See? Minimal effort, fairly similar end result. Or maybe I need glasses.

I learned that the combination of warm weather and the night before Good Friday is an intoxicating thing. The buzz in the city last night was just a bit fabulous. Kirst and I got dropped off in St.Kilda to meet up with Pauleen and Jess, and even standing in a dodgy pub with the footy on the telly was exciting. Even though I had already realised that my heels were a tad dressy, I didn't care. I said I was wearing them because I'm short, which is partly true (well, I am short. Not partly. Totally short. I digress.), but I was really wearing them because they make me feel good. Apparently I swagger in them. I prefer to call it 'sauntering'.

I learned that there is a reason why people with half a large intestine should not drink beer and eat fatty food. Neither of which I have done in a very, very long time, and most especially not since my last surgery. But for some unknown reason, standing in the Prince of Wales last night, having a pot of Carlton Draught seemed like an excellent idea. And since the first one went down so nicely, I followed it with a second. So far, so good.

What I learned next was, that the problem with beer is not the actual swallowing, but the digestive processes that come after.

I learned fairly quickly last night that I can no longer keep up with my beautiful friends in the beer-drinking department, and so after a little break, I switched to lemon ruskis. Which, I may say, I have not had since the barmaid who served me was a babe in arms. And my, my, were they refreshing. (But I showed my age when I tried to order one and didn't know what to call it! I was trying to look after my friends and wanted to get the first round...thank goodness Paulsa was there to help me out with naming the bloody drink. Sheesh.) Somewhere along the way, I must have learned to stop before things got messy, because after two ruskis I had had enough, and was more than happy to drink water. Which I suppose shows absolutely nothing except I am a boring lightweight. Whatever.

I learned that my body will now tell me, very quickly, when it has had enough. And that my intestines are a weathervane for the rest of me. So girls, when I sat at the table rather than shaking my booty with Kezzie, it was not because I was being a party pooper. Rather, I was trying not to be a pooper, full stop. (TMI?? Sorry. I guess when they took half my bowel they took my discretion?? Or was that on the birthing table...???)

I learned that celebrating a 37th birthday is pretty much identical to celebrating a 17th birthday. At least, with my friends, it is anyway!! We were all still rapt to see each other, there was lots of squealing and hand-flapping and hugging, we still tried to out-do each other telling embarrassing 'do you remember the time when...' stories to Paulsa's new bloke (who, by the way, is completely lovely), we still just had a great time hanging out together. The only difference was, we were the group of old chicks in the pub being eyed suspiciously by the 18 year olds. Meh. We might be old(ish) biologically, but we're as immature as any other them when we choose to be! (wait a minute....)

I learned that I am absolutely able to get up and drive home relatively early after a big night out and very few hours sleep. Buoyed by a cup of tea and some of Kirsty's magic sourdough toast, I felt fab enough to come home to my babies. It was only in the early afternoon that I began to sag a bit...ok, enough to go back to bed and sleep for a couple of hours...

I learned that my babies missed me, but they do not hold grudges. They were so excited to see me this morning, I felt a bit like a rock star when I opened the front door. And then Harry Potter replaced me...but the Mouse kept exclaiming "Mama!" every few minutes, which was lovely. I made them vegetables and fish for their tea, and stewed apples for sumpin else. We ate our Good Friday dinner early, all together. It was nice to be home.

I learned that with a storm raging outside, and tired kidlets asleep (or "fweep", as it is in Mousish) in their beds, I am glad to be home tonight, rather than tripping the light fantastic in the city. Jarmies, a cup of tea, and the promise of easter eggs over the weekend, are all wonderful things in themselves. What makes them even better is the warm and fuzzy feeling you get, thinking of the brillliant night you had with your mates last night. The only thing that tops that, is the thought that in four weeks, we can all go out again for my own birthday! And luckily, I have already learned that I will be doing something that allows me to wear comfortable shoes (in which I can still 'saunter'), and that I will NOT be drinking beer.