Thursday, January 31, 2013

Burry japes and bathroom design

It is late summer and tis the season of burs.  The cat attracts those little buggers like a carcass attracts flies.

Every time she walks in the back door she has 5 to 10 burs hidden discretely about her furry person.  I could leave her to do her own bur-removal.  She is a capable and dedicated groomer.  But where would you like her to leave the burs?  In bed? On the carpet?  The sofa? 

Not good options, people.

I chose instead to become her official bur-removal artiste. This involves running my hand all over her little bod, particularly the tail, tummy and legs, and pulling them out with as little extra fluff as possible.

She generally tolerates a certain amount of it.  If she has any deeply buried ones or the count is high, then it becomes a squirmy biz with the occasional nip.  I speak firmly, she looks mildly regretful at best and we move on with our lives.

As for location of the operation, anywhere is fine as long as I am near a bin.   You will be pleased (or in fact completely disgusted) to know that if I do it while sitting on the loo, I wash my hands in the adjacent sink several times during the process.. 

Who would have thought that adjacency of the sink and the loo is a handy criteria in bathroom design?  It is hard to anticipate the range of things you may do on the loo.  I went from nothing at all except the usual (BC - before children) to hugging children, looking at bumps, doing up frocks, patting the cat, fixing hair, and now, de-burring.

No wonder my first morning wee can take 10 minutes.

Monday, January 28, 2013

The final countdown

Having complained bitterly about the terrible burden of the school holidays, here we are in the last week and I am going to miss the little munchkins when they go back to school.

Especially as it is the first year of real school for the youngest.  I am used to having her poddling around after me several days a week.  Aside from her other charms, she acts as a delicious-food-alarm system.  If you go past anything mildly delicious like a bakery, she announces she is hungry on the off-chance I will have a brain sneeze and nip in and buy her a sticky bun.  Then she would have the double pleasure of eating a sticky bun and telling her sister about it afterwards.  You have to love an optimist.

I have also enjoyed spending lots of time with the oldest monster.  It is not the same when she is at school.  It is lovely that this is the first school holidays she has really enjoyed the fruits of her emerging literacy.  She has been writing birthday lists, reading the shopping list to check for delicious things and reading up a storm with her books.  It is amazing how quickly she has gone from just having the confidence to read 8-words-per-page books on her own to chapter books with a hundred or so words per page.

Just in case you haven't seen the theme emerging, both monsters are obsessed with the idea that they should eat more sweet food.  We are about to make a chocolate cake as a last-of-the-school holidays special event so heaven is approaching. 

Further, the eldest monster has taken the giant leap to choosing a chocolate cake with orange butter cream rather than a decorated kids cake for her birthday in 6 weeks time.  This means no making eyes from marshmallow and licorice for me, and the cake will taste nice rather than look pretty.  It is theoretically possible to make a delicious cake decorated as, say, a beetle but if I am going to spend several hours decorating the bloody thing, the inside will be packet cake (gluten free at that).  Think compounded wood shavings with pink icing. 

White rose choc cake
Heavens no.  Mine won't look this good.
So there are two cakes on the girl's near horizons.  It is bliss around here sometimes.

The girls have definitely gotten into the holiday groove.  They are rotating through their toys, spending a surprisingly small amount of time fighting with each other, getting on well with other kids, and particularly enjoying being regularly dunked into bodies of water.

It just won't be the same having tired, grumpy, "I can't remember what I did at school today" girls.

Saturday, January 26, 2013

People I'd like to sue - an abridged list

I just read that some purchasers of Cyclie Armstrong's books are trying to sue him for fiction.  Who would I like to sue if I was remotely litigious and the operator of hot and cold running lawyers?

1.  Breakfast cereal manufacturers and other purveyors of misleading crap

Lets face it, there are bucket loads of marketing bilge spread all over the packaging of many food products.  You would never think from the cover that the contents are so low in nutritional benefits and so high in sugar, fat and (my favourite surprise inclusion in sweet food) piles of salt.

I mean, we could be generous, and consider a phrase like "<sporting event involving men in tinky bathers and funny hats>* food" to mean that unless you are a participant in such an event, this is not the food for you.  You need to run around all summer and swim your little tail off to process a product that is over 30% sugar and has a similar salt content to the same weight of salted crisps.  And obviously these particular athletes don't need to sh*t because there is bugger all fibre.

2. Authors and critics who give overblown quotes used on the covers of mediocre novels

We have all fallen for it - parted with hard-earned shekels for a book from some unknown author on the basis of a quote from someone whose opinion we used to respect.   I say used to because by the time you have read the first chapter, skimmed the next couple and thrown the book into the "take me to the op-shop" pile, you are pretty confident the quote on the cover is the result of interchange of little folded pieces of paper and not as a result of genuine literary delight at the sparkling contents of the book.  

I must be an optimist.  I have recently purchased a book largely because of the cover quote, which is "This is just the book to give a girl if she is a loud, dirty, boozy girl".  If this is a fizzer, Dylan Thomas will be lucky he has been dead since 1953 because otherwise, it would be sharpened lawyer time.

3. People who write opinion articles and dress it up with dodgey science

Ten years ago there was a terrible fire here.  Five people died and 500 houses were destroyed.  A week ago someone wrote an article claiming that if people did not have native plants in their gardens and native street trees the number of houses destroyed and threats to life would be minimised.  This week several academics wrote a rebuttal drawing on the scientific analysis of the fire.  The cause of the damage was essentially extremely bad weather causing an extremely bad fire.  Further, the debris causing most of the ember-based fires came from a pine forest, not from garden debris.  I am sure the original article will be the one most remembered.  

Lets not get started on major media coverage of climate change science.  I would have to scream.  

It is just a terrible pity I don't believe in suing people and I can't possibly afford it.

*Apologies for the rectitude but there is not much point writing an article on those whom I would like to sue only to get sued myself.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Rampaging Fred-itis - KEEP CLEAR - CONTAGION ZONE

I have a brother, nominally named Fred, who last night came to dinner with his lovely wife (hiya Wilma).  Now Fred, like many members of my family, is a bit on the whimsical side.

For example, the monsters once came back from their place filled with conversations about whether Fred would really eat Wilma's dog and what type of condiment he would serve with it. (Tomato sauce, of course.)

I blame Uncle Fred.  The topic would have never arisen otherwise.

During dinner Fred was surreptitiously rolling up pieces of his serviette and throwing them at Monster2 at the other end of the table .  She did not know who to accuse, showing a distinct forgetfulness of the fundamentals of Uncle Fred.  He chose well because Monster2 is a whimsy-enthusiast and loves him for it.

Monster1 on the other hand is more wedded to reality and can find zany alterations a bit too tricky to handle.

Now Fred was only here for a couple of hours last night but Fred-itis is catching.

I knew he was coming down with it last night* but by this morning my husband had developed a full dose.  There have been howls as he has turned the monsters upside down, annoyed looks as he has pulled the heads off vampire dolls and hidden them, and sighs of frustration as he says something extremely unlikely and they have to ask whether it was true.

Wait, that last one was me.**

Bugger.  You might want to stay clear til it passes.

*Best not to go into the early symptoms but they are somewhat annoying just before you go to sleep.

**Meaning this entire post could be crap.  Jeez, that's getting needlessly metaphysical.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Oh yeah, that is quality parenting.

Further in the "wearing out the girls in the school holidays" theme, today we went to the beach for the day.  Due to the unfortunate siting of my fair city, handy for hard frosts but crap for surfing, the round trip included 4 1/2 hours of driving. 

We got home at 4 pm and were all in bed by 4.15, three of us deeply in the land of nod.  An hour later, my eldest monster awoke refreshed, dragged her sister out of bed and came into my room.  One monster hugged the husband, they chatted a little then popped off to make a late start on the TV watching.

Another hour later, I was still on the computer and I mentioned to him that, given it was dinner time, he might want to wake up or he would be awake all night.  He agreed heartily and said he had better get the girls up.

I told him they were watching TV, that they had swung by an hour ago, hugged him, sat on the end of the bed while they chatted to him, then sloped off.  At this point I may have mentioned that he was a goose.

He did not agree and considered it was a demonstration of his parenting skill that he could do it while asleep.

There is not much you can say about that, except maybe...
"Honkity honk honk."
In rebuttal, he said, "When you find out you have skills you didn't know you had, you should celebrate them."

Sunday, January 20, 2013

What wheeled madness is this?

When I asked the girls what they would like to do in the school holidays, one of them said, "Go for a long bike ride."

"Uh oh", the husband and I thought in unison.  "Some unlucky bastard is going to have to dust the cobwebs off their bike."

That would be me.  I am the unlucky bastard.

So I taped my pant legs with sticky tape and off we pedalled around the lake.  Meanwhile, the husb. strolled along in the shade with the other girl who was having a gentle scoot on her Santa-scooter.

Luckily the girl rides a small bike and only goes at a modest pace.  I just had to pick a low enough gear that I could keep pedalling slowly enough not to either fall off or mow her down.

Missygoose 16
Tinky, but think of the power behind the pedals!
Sure, it is not a fair fight but I prefer not to lose, thank you.

I figure with my giant bike and 21 gears I can keep ahead of her (though probably not up a steep hill*).  It will be the next bike that is a problem.  A bit more leg length, bigger wheels and a couple of gears and I will be in trouble chasing that girl.  She is a concentrated ball of girlish muscle.  I had better start training now.

*Note to self, choose routes that avoid steep hills.

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Garden gobbling

One of my monsters is prone to dinner avoidance.  This is not particularly unusual in children - common as dirt, in fact.  The undesirable list is a shifting sand of some vegetables, complex flavours and "spicy food".  This last term includes everything from chilli fandangos, the mild application of cumin and things with a sour lemon taste.

Surely these things are poisonous?

Her favourite lurk is to pick at tea in a listless manner, all the while claiming she is exhasted and not hungry.  Then after tea she will go and snack in the garden.  She was bolting berries for a while but the crops have passed.  Lately it has been cherry tomatoes and she has just realised the plums are almost ripe.  Mind you, with only 15 squinchy plums on the tree-ette, she is not getting many days out of them, especially if the parrots or possums catch on.

Then at breakfast, she will eat the usual and claim she is still starving and can she have another round.  That ferret!

She is nothing on the other monster.  When the O.M. was a toddler, she would pick at food in a grumpy manner for 4 or 5 days, waiting for a meal she liked to come around.  Then she would eat like a boa constrictor faced with a tasty-looking goat.  I am not sure if this cycle is good for a child's digestion but we weren't about to give in to her dietary preferences.

You had to give her credit for stubborness, though. Combined with the terrible number of ear infections she had, it also had the side effect of zooming away her baby fat.

I watched several episodes of some reality show about adults with bizarre and restrictive food habits.  It took quite a bit or wrangling with dietiticians and psychologists to get them on the path to a healthy diet.  It confirmed my feeling that there is only a short hop between a fussy toddler and an adult who only eats carbs, dairy and fruit.  The war continues.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Rocks, sand and sneaky girls

The monsters and I went down to the river this afternoon with another family.  It was quite hot so it was a good place to be.

Picture of / about 'Uriarra Crossing' the Australian Capital Territory - Uriarra Crossing - ACT
Rocky but good
The monsters had never been swimming in the river before.  As it is mid-summer, the river level is low and the current mild.  They were somewhat flummoxed by the less-than-ideal swimming conditions.  While it was sandy at the shore, you could not see where there were rocky bits in the murk, including ones lurking just below the surface.  Balls took off downstream in an inconvenient manner and visiting dogs shook themselves near you.  The depth varied randomly and near the shore there were bugs skating on the surface.  Finally, there was no nice edge to monkey along.

Yes, my urban children are accustomed to a pool environment and it was all a bit peculiar.

They did get into the groove.  They started several interesting rock collections, donated the less appealing bits of dinner to tonight's possums, climbed a tree with ants, climbed another stump and jumped off, and considered roaming in the long grass.  This last item was vetoed by the mothers as too snakey, though it would have to be an extremely deaf snake not to have evacuated long before the troop of bellowing heathens got near.

It was also a salutory lesson for Monster2.  She realised that having an older sister who is mean and exclusionary is not just her lot.  So much so that she plotted with the other little monster to hide the older child's shoes.  We were half up the hill on the way home before the other mother asked her youngest if she knew where her sister's shoes were.  Hidden in a tree, apparently.  Ha ha, victory for the sneaky littlies.

It was nice sitting in the river, though I felt a little like a tea bag being dangled in a tepid, tannin-filled pond.

On other matters, I accidently told my children about sex today.  Not that I objected to it, in fact, I was unsure how much Monster1, in particular, had understood from previous discussions.  I think the penny dropped when the matter came up while describing a scene from "A Fish Called Wanda", as it does.  All I have to do now is think of a reason why Monster2 should not kiss strangers, because that also came up today.  Sigh.

Monday, January 14, 2013

When I grow up

What would you like to be when you grow up?

At 43, I suspect I am grown. 

My brothers started on a new career at around this age - this included doing a new university degree before post-graduate training.  It is a bit early to tell how it is going to work out for them but you have to admire their persistance.

I am not sure if I can be bothered with another degree.  The problem I have is that I was fine with my previous career.  I just got a bit bored with it and it was difficult with little monsters.  I don't feel a dreadful need to launch into some new field of endeavour.

When I was a youngster I rather fancied being a meteorologist.  I still fancy it a bit.  I would need to be taken on in the graduate intake at the Bureau of Meteorology and I would need more physics for that.  I always hated physics and the thought of having to take it up again at this late stage makes me feel slightly ill.  Perhaps I should abandon all thoughts.  There is probably quite a bit of physics is meteorology.  And computing (double ick) and applied mathematics (triple ick).

This mid-career malaise is all rather tiresome. 

It would be nice to snap my fingers and have the whole career-thingie go away. I would like to be working somewhere not too far away in an interesting role with civilised people part time, so I can pick up the monsters from school.  Hmm, that sounds easy.  I'll just pop off and do it.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Selection of next husband - further consideration

In a previous post, I considered my selection criteria should I be in the husband-picking-trade again.  I am not planning on setting the current one adrift on an ice floe during hungry bear season but it is fun to speculate.

I did not get much traction in the task last time.  With discussion of the preliminary assumptions and general stuffing about, I really only tackled the level of geekiness I would find acceptable.

Today I am going to throw myself into the vexed issue of height.  I am a tallish woman myself - not small side to side, either.  The current husb is a giant human string bean.  He has trouble with pendant light fittings but can generally get through door frames without sconing himself.

When he was last huntin', fishin' and shootin' for a woman he had a height cut-off. I am not sure if he ever told me what it was.  Praps I fell below but he decided I was just too darned attractive to pass by. (I know, my natural modesty is often commented upon.)

Being of the jolly green giant persuasion, I had always assumed I would end up with someone smaller than me.  It has been slightly weird to live with a man where I need a step ladder if I want to smooch him without getting neck cramp. 

Could I go a shorter chap?  Or a taller one (ye gads)?

Shorter, lets see, hmm.  If he was as short as me, I would not have as much trouble with the quilt.  Winters are currently a war zone to keep my neck and his feet covered. 

If the next dude was shorter, I could hide the best chocolate in the top cupboard for solitary snorking.  I would not have to keep the hair on the top of my head tidy*, because unlike the current model, he would not spend all day staring at it.

But then, if he was really short, we could have the whole step ladder/ lip lock prob again.  Further, rather than gazing at my coiffure, it would be my chest under the radar, and frankly it is not improving with duration of gravitational exposure.

And if he was much larger that husb. #1, unless he had asbestos feet we would probably have to move to a 2-quilts-in-one-bed system, and that doesn't augur well for the passing grope.  

Geez Louise.  I am sure I haven't achieved husbandal perfection.  The conclusion to these trivial dribblings?  Lets say somewhere between too short to pucker easily and so tall I have to dust the cobwebs around the cornices so he doesn't look prematurely grey.

*You got me.  That one was a flagrant lie.  You could describe my hair as having a tragicomic air, as if I had a shaggy eighties perm and then tried to end it all with some volts.

Holiday madness, or why Mummies drink

We are at the half-way point of the summer holidays.  (Please don't tell me if I am wrong - I can't be fagged getting the calender down to check.)

I just spoke to a friend who is at home with three children.  Well, I spoke but I am not sure how much she heard, what with the general screaming and bellowing in the background.  Her toddler was in the bathroom (not a good thing, those shampoo-drinking noogets) and the 7 year old was torturing the 4 year old (by the sound of it).

Just at the moment my house is a haven of sanity and quiet.  I wore the girls out scooting (or whatever you call riding around on a scooter til your legs fall off) this morning.  They are zonked in their rooms.  Yesterday I wore them out at the pool.  I may take them on a forced dawn pack march tomorrow.  Whatever it takes, those little monsters are going to be played til enfeebled.

I am lucky the monstrous ones are similar enough in age that I can almost wear them out at the same rate.

My friend and I have agreed to join our resources at a playground in a couple of days to more efficiently exhaust the children.  There will be skinned knees, falls and bumps, and, at best guess, two children falling into the lake or ponds - I am willing to put $5 on her oldest and my youngest being the wet ones. (Later - I lost. Only one of these two children fell into the pond.)

It is all for a good cause.  If we play them hard enough they will start the school year fit and ready to buckle down, and we will get the breaks from nagging and quarrelling that make it possible to survive this time of trial.

My friend is a very abstemious woman.  It is a pity.  Three weeks to go and I have a bottle of gin and a tonic pond to draw upon.  I just have to keep the lemons flowing.

Later - Ha, I gloated too soon.  They are up, tired and gripey.  

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

The defence of extreme provocation

Imagine this, you are standing at a work morning tea, gazing lustily at the sausage rolls and chocolate biscuits.

A giant stringbean of a man next to you is complaining that if he eats any of it, he will put on weight.

You look at him.  His legs are like twigs and, though he is in his forties,  he is wearing the same size pants as he wore when he was a teenager.

You think of all the diets you have been on over the decades, the three sizes of clothing that clog up your wardrobe (most of which you will never fit again) and the knees that ache after a pathetic amount of stairs.

You look at the man and your eyes show your murderous thoughts.

That bloke is my husband.  I have suggested he keep his mouth shut at such times but he has trouble working out how other people may feel about what he says so he dices with death.

If someone does stab him with the cake knife, my victim impact statement will be sympathetic to the perpetrator.

ERRATUM:  Apparently the husband's waist has increased one inch in the 25 years since he was 18.  Whew, he has really let himself go.

Pavlovaholics anonymous

We have returned from a pilgrimage to the pavlova centre of the universe.  In order to cope with the terrible numbers of eaters at the various Christmas events, the older women of my husband's family purchase giant pavlovas from the supermarket then dress them up for each event.* 

This one is a bit fancily dressed but you get the picture.
With the collection of such events we were bolting pavlova for a fortnight.  One evening we left early to take the girls home but the person with whom we were staying brought home the leftover pav.  That was the next day's morning and afternoon tea sorted.

On another day, after scoffing several slices at the event, the leftovers were at the other farm house so a morning visit happened to coincide with morning tea.  Well, a rather early morning tea because if we had waited until the others came in from milking we would have been reduced to dinky slices.  When it wasn't in the kitchen fridge, my husband went outside to the shed fridge because he had heard rumours of its existence and he wasn't going to let it get away.

Then, when all the festivities had officially passed, some relatives came around to dinner bringing an unused pav for dessert (and more morning and afternoon tea).

It is not even as though we were eating small slices.  These monsters are made to feed 20.  By the last one we were deep in the sugar zone and were bolting down canoe-sized pieces.

I blame my husband.  Growing up on a dairy farm he, like most of his family, has a terrible cream addiction.  They used to drink the "milk" from the top of the vat in the dairy.  Un-homogenised milk from the top of a 20,000 L vat: I think you can assume they were putting cream on their cornflakes.**

These are not even real pavlovas.  When you make them yourself they are usually cracked, collapsed, explosive on the outside and chewy in the middle.  Bloody good, though.  The supermarket ones are bizarrely perfect in shape, lightly crusted and like eating sweet air in the middle.  Goodness knows what chemically-induced food technologies go into these monstrosities of the egg-white arts.

So we came home to dry out.  If we had stayed any longer we would have been hard-core addicts.  We would have needed residential care somewhere where even sweet potato was forbidden as it may feed the terrible sugar urges.  Then there was the cream ... mmmmmm, cream!

* I note it is always the older women who bear the catering brunt of these events but that is a rant for another day.

** This was one of the attractions of my husband - good skinny genetics even under considerable duress.  He also has a chronic weakness for custard and complains that nothing is like the custard he had when he was a kid.  "Yes", I say, "that is probably because it was made with pure cream that was so fresh it still had moo."

Monday, January 7, 2013

Inappropriately caressed

The cat returned from prison yesterday.  It was her first incarceration and she did not enjoy it much.  She was pathetically glad to be home and spent the evening circulating to house members and rubbing against them in a "give us a tickle, then" manner.

I never done it.  I am innocent, I tells ya. (Not Toast)

She must have been sleeping in her cage because she spent all of last night spreading her love and anguish around.

The lowest point was at about 4am when I heard purring very close to my head.  That would be because the cat was standing on my snoring husband's shoulders, reaching out to me for a little love.  4am love.  Pre-dawn love.  She got the same answer anyone else would have gotten - a firm "No", followed by being shoved out of bed and back to sleep for me.

Poor Toast.  I am a bit tired, though.

Saturday, January 5, 2013

Jammy Mutiny

Several weeks of staying with relatives and assorted farm animals is at an end.  It was a lovely peaceful place but I can live without the smells, both bovine and septic. Curse my keen nostrils.

We have returned through the heat to our little home. It was quite a drive.  We spent two days on the road where it was over 40 degrees Celsius both days and peaked at around 44 (111 degrees Fahrenheit, for you Northern folks).  We resorted to zoo tricks of preoccupying and cooling the girls with frozen juice boxes.

Shall I tell you what happens when you switch on the world's smallest air conditioner in an uninsulated tin cabin when it is over 40?  Not much.  And this is after the husband stood on the sofa to clean the incredibly dirty air filters in the unit.  Luckily the sofa was pre-slumped.

Upon return the husband has mutinied.  I bought a jar of lovely (read crap) blackberry jam while we were away to remind him and the jam girl of the advantages of helping your lovely wife and mother with fruit picking.  They dutifully swallowed it while away but back at home, near the comforting glow of a jam cupboard full of new cherry, raspberry and mulberry jam, the husband refused to finish the commercial jam.

I did suggest he had to finish it but he got a mulish expression and said he would swap to honey until I reopened jam heaven.  So he ditched it and cleaned the jar just in case I wanted to fill it with something, say, edible.  Like jam, maybe.

Yeah, right. You wouldn't last a week on honey, you jam-mad thing.

Now I know how Lieutenant Bligh felt.