Thursday, April 30, 2009

Phlegm Head

I was twenty five years old when I had my first migraine.

At first, I didn’t know what was going on; I thought a rampant flu and gastro bug had attacked me from behind as I stood swaying uncertainly on the Elizabeth Street tramline, hoping like hell my forehead wouldn’t smack against the concertina doors before they slapped open.

A year later, my wedding day was marred by fears that a mongrel migraine would emerge to ruin it. The resulting photos show a woman who is puffy, clearly unwell and not yet aware that a pesky and explainable brain tumour was rapidly expanding at the base of her brain behind her eyes.

The tumour is tiny now and despite it messing with my reproductive system, baby Sapphire emerged - along with a scientific paper about its unprobability from the Endocrinology unit at the Royal Melbourne hospital. Yes, Sapphire the zygote is a celebrity in the Australian Journal of Medicine, but the diagrams they chose to accompany their article aren’t very exciting unless you particularly love graphs and hormonal charts.

Despite this medical improvement, Mr Migraine decided that he likes me, finds me endlessly entertaining and easy to stir up. He visits me whenever he chooses and there’s nothing I can do about it. Well, there are a few things like don't dillydally but take the medication as soon Mr knocks on the door, lie down in the dark, grab a sick bucket for easy hurling and assume that the next eight hours will be dead and dusted as far as productivity, fun and standing up goes.

Today however, Mr Migraine has timed his visit with the cold I’ve caught from Love Chunks and Sapphire. That is the reality of living with people you like – if they get a disease, then you’re going to get it. Unless you live in a separate wing and look like a masked-Michael Jackson on a publicised shopping expedition. Even when I’m de-lousing Sapphire I love the warmth of her hair and being so close to her so that I can even see the tiny blonde down on her nose and those unbelievably soft cheeks and end up kissing the top of her head: so what chance do I have against germ sharing?

Electing not to kiss Sapphire goodnight just so my chances of catching her cold might be reduced would leave me utterly sleepless as I’m a big believer in farewelling people I love with love (What if Love Chunks gets run over by a tram on the very morning I didn’t give him an adoring peck and a pat on the bum? What if Sapphire never wakes up and the last interaction I had with her was, “Nope, not good enough. Go back and clean your room again – this time with your eyes open young lady." What if Milly's last time with me involves me shoving her head between my knees, forcing her jaws open and buttering her gums with fresh breath gel?).

So, as my head rapidly fills with phlegm, my brain has in turn swollen to accommodate a migraine. This produces a sensation not unlike a dinghy attempting to inflate itself inside a bowling ball that’s already half full of maple syrup. Add dilated blood vessels, highly-strung nerve endings, two blocked ear drums, a couple of leaky nostrils and a shivering body ache and you can see that my morning has been a real barrel of laughs.

Luckily though, Mr Migraine seems to be on half-strength and has turned down his anger to mid-range, which means I can get out of bed, have that second cup of instant coffee (erk, but it's easier to make than spending ten minutes dancing in front of the Gaggia and a helluva lot quieter) to open up my eyes and contemplate having a shower…….

.......but trust me to enjoy the steaming hot water and use the (mostly) decorative back-scrubbing brush too much to forget that automatically shaking my wet hair free of drops like a freshly-bathed dog is NOT going to help the migraine much.

Such mindless stupidity causes me to slump over the edge of the bathtub, legs shaky now, as I stagger around with my eyes closed in agony trying to grope for my towel. PHARK that hurts and my brain is still sliding inside its tenuous container from side-to-side like an oversized oil clump in a lava lamp. The bathmat slips from underneath me, so I end up doing a rather graphic semi-split in the nude before grabbing at the door knob and half-swinging myself outside into the freezing hallway.

I hurl myself onto the bed, still wet, and cram my aching head amongst the pillows. Yes, my arse is up in the air like an x-rated bike rack, but I don’t care: the pressure on my skull sort of squashes away the pain temporarily and with the blood rushing downwards it is better to remain in this position until the cold air around my exposed extremities gets too much to bear.

It is only when I’m in this position and feel how much I’ve wet the pillows that I then start to think: ‘Are the bedroom blinds open?’

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

There's (at least) one in all of us

In every workplace - or so it seems to me - there is at least one person who gets their vicarious thrills by letting a few ripe clouds loose from their trouser trumpet. Or, in layman's terms, a sneakily smelly little person who likes to drop a fart, leave and let someone else suffer from the stench and get silently blamed for it.

At the Environment Protection Authority (EPA) there was obviously a tribe of them because I was 'caught' many times. I mostly suspected the youngish, recent uni grads who hadn't yet morphed into the sensible slacks, grey velcro slip-ons or taken to carrying vinyl briefcases that were empty except for their newspaper and a banana. These guys were also the kind who still met up at the local grungy pub by the river for a bevvie or seven and could still physically handle staying out all night and turning up bright-eyed and bushy-tailed for work the next day.

They were also the kind of blokes that my brothers would admire for their:
a) ability to generate such gut-busting blasts;
b) their ingenuity in dropping them in a small enclosed area and escaping; and
c) making their sister suffer.

Beanbags have a lot to answer for. Having a brown velvet monstrosity in our living room growing up meant that it made for a comfortable after-school TV session but if Dave or Rob came in, they'd invariably fart in my face and run off gleefully guffawing, knowing that my anguished struggle to get up and out of the shifting sands of beans would enable them to escape to at least the next-door neighbours' house before I was on my feet.

And thus, many years later, when I was smack-bang in the middle of a serious career, the fart issue arose again. The EPA building was seven stories high and our department used nearly every floor. As a Project Officer for the largest unit, I was a regular rider in these and was often caught in the following scenario:

***The green light on the wall goes 'Ping' and the doors slide open. I've got an armful of bulging manilla folders and am running several minutes late for a meeting four floors below. My mind is already focussed on my apology, what project updates I'll need to talk about and whether I've got time to SMS Love Chunks about booking the local Greek restaurant for dinner than night....

The doors close, and I realise I've got the lift all to myself and.... what the hell is that?

Aww man, this stench is awful - did a horse die in here somewhere? I can't breathe....

Ping! The lift then stops at the next floor and of course, it's our esteemed Chairman who steps in. Brian smiles at me warmly and settles in to do the usual lift-riding routine of looking straight ahead and staring at the glowing floor numbers.
My face is aflame with embarrassment and sheer mortification. What if he thinks it's me who produced this noxious odour? I can see that his normally composed face is twitching and he's now sneaking a few little glances at me, clearly wondering just what sort of depraved creature I must be to have produced such a repulsive rectal reaction.***

The above scenario happened to me on two other occasions, both with senior managers. It was awful to think that they thought that I had created - and proudly let go of it in a publicly-shared space - such an eye-wateringly phenomenal fart.

On the fourth event, I had to speak up. "Look Brian, I gotta say this. This --" I gestured all around me - "--was most definitely NOT of my making. It was in here before I stepped in!"

He laughed nervously, "Oh, OK then, whatever you say," and immediately pressed the button for the next floor, deciding that his original five floor journey with me was intolerable.

And to think that this was occurring in the agency who held responsibility for Melbourne's air quality....

Several jobs and a couple of career changes later found myself still suffering from the results - and unspoken blame for those results – this time produced by a university-based Phantom Pharter.

This one was female because she limited herself to the tiny little ladies' room under the base of the stairs which was the only available facility in the heritage-listed hellhole we worked in. There were just two men in our building, and I had the good fortune to have my office right next door to their toilet complete with rather revealing acoustics and the odd odour that accompanied their activities. Let's just say that Steven was a bloke to avoid the morning after the Tower Hotel's Tuesday Schnitzel-and-Sauerkraut Special.....

But I digress - our gassy girl was possibly a keen dhal curry eater, obviously favoured over-cooked veges and was very, very regular. Yay for her, but not so for me, or indeed any of my girlie colleagues. Phantom Pharteress managed to drop a killer stink bomb no less than three times during the average work day and seemingly about thirty seconds before I needed to go.

Her efforts had the staying power of cockroach surface spray and literally contaminated the ladies' room, stairwell, lobby and the photocopy room and each time I departed, red-faced and gasping, Debra at reception would see me and frown disapprovingly.

Finally, I decided that I was no longer going to shoulder the undeserved blame and I broke the Toilet Room code: I made a conversation with a fellow abluter when both of our cubicle doors were locked.

(surprised tone): "Yeah?"
"You, like me, have just walked into a wall of world-beating bum fluffs - it was here doing its evil work before I came in, I'll have you know. I did NOT, I repeat NOT, do it."

She paused for a moment to consider what I'd said and replied with, "Oh dear, I can't believe you just said that," but then whispered, "It's OK, I know it's not you, because it's been like this before you had even started here.”

There was a bit of over-acted paper rustling on both sides of the shared wall as we tried in vain to muffle the noise of our respective drops and plops.

"Have you got any idea who it is?"
"None whatsoever. She must sneak in when the coast is clear, unleash her weapon of mass destruction and then bugger off as quickly as she can."

The only upside was that Phantom Pharteress didn’t drop ‘em in the kitchen or office doorways as a malodorous joke. Luckily I was eventually transferred to a research unit far, far away. And down wind.

Three years on, my most consistent co-worker is Milly the dog, so we both know who does what and when and to whom. The agonies and ecstasies, therefore, are shared pretty equally. Equality and fairly-apportioned blame at last.

Monday, April 27, 2009

The Fairy Tree folk are fleeing.......

.....well, from me at least. No response to my politely worded card seeking to resolve the mystery of who lives in the fairy tree but I'll keep trying.

However, I was in the vet the other day (seeking an answer for Milly's bottom breath. Answer: nothing wrong, just brush her teeth occasionally) and I saw a wonderful photograph of Mr P on their wall.

Isn't he sensational? His owner, Tam, had left a beautiful thank you note to the doctors who cared for Mr P and it got me reading all of the other genuinely heartfelt cards, letters and photographs of beloved pets departed and still around. It then reminded me of our first dog, Tess.

She was a stumpy-tailed blue heeler that Love Chunks bought, sight-unseen, over the telephone when we were living in Darwin. Blue heelers were rather exotic breeds for that part of the world: Pigdogs and bull terriers were the standard fare up there, to go with the dusty twin-cab utes, bogan Ned Kelly-length beards, wrap-around black sunnies and blue singlets (and yes, they were just the women).

Tess arrived from Hayes Creek with owners who admitted that she had been the only surviving female - the other two had been killed by a snake. At first, I couldn't see anything inside the box as she was perfectly camouflaged amongst the newspaper.

It was love at first lick - she slumped into my t-shirt and slept, and when LC came home from work, he too was smitten. A glance at the photo album of the time shows that 80% of the pictures are of Tess - playing with her beloved tennis balls; eating her first solid food from a tiny soy-sauce dish; sleeping under a deckchair; cooling herself by shoving her butt up against the gap under our air-conditioned bedroom door; eating her dog-choccy christmas present.

Entertainment usually involved the blue thongs. She'd slip her snout under the straps so that one part of her face had the sole pressed up against it. A few vigorous shakes of her ears meant that the thong then cheekily slapped her face, thus starting a chewing, growling, ear-flapping Fight Club event that saw her dash around the garden, slapping herself into a frenzy of fun and frolics.

Her orange ball proved to be the segue towards real oranges. When we moved to Melbourne, her beloved plaything was becoming a bit bedraggled and somehow her colour-blind vision managed to figure out that the round things hanging over the fence off the neighbour's tree were orange balls as well.

Tess's first attempts at playing with them always ended abruptly when her teeth inevitably punctured the fruit, shocking her with the tart taste. Eventually however, she grew to like the pungent juice that oozed through the teeth holes and I used to return home from work to see literally dozens of chewed semi-circles of citrus and the unfortunate results (after going through the furry digestive system) violently splattered over the lawn.

Like all dogs, she was extraordinary licky (that's 'Uncle Robert' wrapped protectively in a sheet above, having been 'good morning-ed' in Tess's own inimitable style; such was the danger of being our houseguest). She loved to skulk under the dining table when we had dinner parties and, just when our friends were utterly unaware, shove her wet nose in their crotch. We lost a lot of wine glasses that way.

One thing that is true about dogs is that they are always true to their natures. Her mother was a guard dog on the property at Haye's Creek, and Tess too saw her role as Fearless and Neverfailing Protector of the Lockett family. There was no jealousy when Sapphire arrived: she was another Lockett to love and guard ceaselessly.

By the time Sapphire was two, things weren't so simple. Tess loved us unconditionally, but increasingly saw anyone and everyone else as potential enemies. Cautious introductions, careful sniffing and re-training failed, only for us to have to put her in a muzzle whenever we had company. What kind of life was that for her, or for us?
Then it happened. Three year old Lana was sitting on a deckchair, completely still and quiet when Tess rushed at her. We heard a sickening 'smack' sound as Tess aimed directly at her face, knocking her over. Even now, I shudder just imagining what might have happened had the muzzle not been on. There were hurried apologies, Tess ushered into the shed, sobbing tears of fear to wipe away, awkward discussions to resume, all the while we were thinking Oh My God.

We briefly wondered if we needed to install a smaller, fenced in section of the garden to put her in when we had friends over, but that only raised more questions. What if a child, left alone for a second, opened the latch, or Tess could escape out under her own steam?
The following day, we made the dreaded phone call to the vet. We knew what had to be done and didn't want to pretend that it was an 'accident', or that 'she's never behaved like that before.' We also knew that it wasn't fair to hand her over to someone else or to the RSPCA as she wouldn't pass their adoption tests. The vet understood and an appointment was made.

I was crying uncontrollably at my desk until the boss came out of his office and quietly said, 'Why don't you go home and spend some time with her?' He was a hard-nosed capitalist who wasn't a popular leader, but as a dog-owner himself he showed me nothing but compassion and understanding that I'll always remember and appreciate.

I threw her the tennis ball until she started to limp. She still deposited it hopefully at my feet, stump wagging furiously, tongue hanging out, eyes glinting with joy. LC arrived home. It was time. The veterinary clinic was at the end of our street, and he put Tess's lead on. Oh My Oh My, More fun! A walk!

I kissed her beautiful black velvety ears one last time as she trotted trustingly with him out of the door.
An hour later, LC was back home with an empty lead in his hands and tears in his eyes.

Eight years on and I can still hear the crackling of her cane bed basket in the darkness of our room when she shifted around in her sleep. She was a feisty one, full of love and spirit. Doing the right thing doesn't mean I don't still miss her.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Mm-mmmm Men like them

Now for the fellas - they too weren't forgotten in 1968 Australian womens' magazine land. Sorry Franzy, I wasn't given a 1968 Playboy: my sister-in-law assumed (correctly) that Barbarella B-grade boobies weren't likely to interest me. Sorry about that.

Still, there was some pretty groovy gear to get into:

Whoah, hold me back..... English cricketer Colin Cowdrey is on the left; yes the one with the Rainman pants in a delightful maroon. He told Sally Baker's column that he'd travelled over 150,000 miles on his cricket trips and needed a lot of pairs of slim-silhoutte sporting trousers. He liked these so much that he ordered a dozen pairs. As soon as he slipped on his favoured 'bronzed buckskins' lucky Mrs Cowdrey would easily pick up the sexy signals he was sending......

The Sean Connery lookalike on the right was apparently sporting the ONLY men's outfit chosen by Fibremakers Australia to exhibit at the Frankfurt International fair. We can only hope that those massive white canoes on his feet were an indicator of his other talents....

For chillier occasions, sunshine yellow fisherman's rib jumpers from Emu (the brand, not the feathers, presumably) were the go, especially if they matched your girlfriend's. It was such a flattering tone for everyone and he looked particularly thrilled to be wearing it.

And the craft pages weren't just for baby shawls, cotton carry all or Hostess aprons, oh no. Men too, were 'treated' to some wonderful and useful gear. Who wouldn't have wanted a 'Sir' tie, crocheted by their loved one?

And if you happened to have had an unfortunate incident with a razor and didn't want unsightly bleeding to ruin the enviable entry you'd be making in your snazzy new neckpiece, then these new invisible Band Aids would have been the ideal solution:

So sheer that you'd have been able to write "YOU'RE BLIND' in band aids all over your face and no-one would even have noticed.

I'm off now to try and crochet Love Chunks a tie. After all, he is a "man who likes nothing but the best." I'll be sure to pop on my Hostess apron first though, to keep off any mess.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Guest post from RIVER

As some of you may have read, I was tagged to do a
Mummy Meme, and I tagged River. This lovely lady doesn't have a blog, but is a regular commenter whose wise words and sense of humour we all enjoy.

Here is her response:

I am socially inept, emotionally awkward, not highly educated, excrutiatingly shy; yet somehow I have managed to raise four wonderful children who I love and who love me. Two boys and two girls. So here it is.

5 things I love about being a mum.

1. In the beginning, I loved the peace and quiet of the 2a.m. feeds.
No-one awake except me and the baby. Even with babies 2, 3, and 4, the night feeds were a pleasure. The house was dim and warm, baby and me snuggled in a blanket in the rocking chair, gazing at each others faces while he or she drank their fill, tiny fingers and toes curling and stretching with the pleasure of it, the sleepy burps after, tucking the baby back into the bassinet then curling up in my own bed again until the dawn feed.

2. In later, toddler years, I loved teaching them. Colours, shapes, letters, numbers. left from right, right from wrong. The joy on their faces when they "got it". The happy laughter when they mastered a new skill, the sound of small running feet as they came to show off what they'd done. The joy each one took in sharing their accomplishment with siblings. Singing the alphabet song with them. Later still, they'd recite the alphabet backwards to anyone who'd listen.

3. I loved that I had easy-going, happy-go-lucky children who loved each other, (still do) and looked out for each other, (still do). They shared everything, from toys and snacks to chicken pox and german measles. They got on well together when playing as a group, yet respected each others need to sometimes be alone. Although this last one was sometimes a little harder to learn. They also knew from an early age that I needed time for reading and would leave me to it for at least half an hour before asking to bake brownies or play outside with them. I loved that each time we moved house, the new home and school was easily settled in to.

4. Fun.
Laughter. Insane giggling at each others corny jokes. A full house more often than not after school or during holidays. I didn't mind as this way I knew where my kids were and what they were up to.
Giving each child a bucket of water and a house painting brush to "paint" the house and fence in hot weather. They painted each other too. Mixing poster paints and letting them paint paper grocery bags which were then cut out (eyes, nose, mouth) and worn as masks.
Watching as the four year old sat his two year old sister on the toy lawn mower and then ran as fast as he could over bumps and pot holes in the yard while she hung on for dear life laughing hysterically.
Enjoying the hilarity as my husband sat on the small two-wheeler bike with kids hanging off him on all sides as he rode around the yard.
Cooking lessons as they got older, making playdough, brownies, Anzac biscuits, lemon meringue and apple pies. Lamingtons, where I'd make the cake and they'd do the chocolate dipping and coconut rolling.
Dressing them in raincoats and boots on rainy days then walking around the block so they could splash in puddles and in the gutters all the way.
Older still, and I allowed them to dress in their oldest rattiest clothes and play down in the old creek after a rain. They'd come home covered in mud and get hosed off in the backyard, drying and dressing in the shed before coming in for hot chocolate.

5. Pride. The biggest of the five. I love the pride I feel when talking about my family.
Pride; when each milestone was succesfully passed. Sometimes earlier than expected.
Pride; when I took them all grocery shopping, out for milkshakes, anywhere really, and they were beautifully behaved, earning me many compliments.
Pride; as each one in turn took to school like a duck to water.
Pride; when #1 was dux of the school in her final primary year.
Pride; when all of them went further through high school than I had. Although two of them came close, none actually finished year 12.
Pride; when, as a teenager, my youngest told me he could never mistreat any woman or child, because I'd raised him with respect. (we'd had friends drop in and the topic had turned to the latest TV show we'd seen on abuse.)
Pride; that all of them have far out-stripped me in learning and achievements.
Pride; that all four are now well-adjusted adults with many friends.
So proud that I now have grandchildren to love as much as I love their parents.

It’s dangerous to be A PERFECT HOUSEWIFE

That's right readers, and that title could be something to consider getting tattooed on your ankle in sanskrit when you feel the need for a bit of trendy rebellion in your life. When my spunky sister-in-law Dr B gave me two magazines from 1968 for my fortieth birthday last year, I read them avidly. Unfortunately, our printer was being more troublesome than a condom in the Popemobile, and it was only after several tantrums in Officeworks and the eventual arrival of an equally-ordinary replacement printer that I could scan stuff in for your delectation.

The top story on page 2 of the November 18th, 1968 edition of the Woman's Day screamed, ‘Suzanne is Miss Australia now – THE GOLDEN GIRL FROM THE WEST.’

She was crowned by the Prime Minister, Mr John Gorton, “……who first wiped away the lipstick left on her cheek by congratulatory kisses.” Can you imagine K Rudd taking time out of his anaemic workaholia to do that?

But how's this for a bitchy slap in the face: “With clear hazel eyes, long and swinging light brown hair and a wide, lovely smile, Suzanne is attractive rather than pretty.” Miaow!

Still, she was only a deportment teacher with 'vague ambitions' to do something in Public Relations. Plus, she could console herself with the prizes she'd won: a world trip, $3000 for personal appearance fees, a car, $500 spending money and $200 worth of foundation garments. For someone declared attractive rather than pretty, maybe she needed all the triple-boned corsetry help she could get, poor lamb.

I learned from the article entitled 'It's dangerous to be a PERFECT HOUSEWIFE that “keeping the dust down, the ashtrays continually clean – even when guests are using them and the cupboards papered" can be a bit tiring when "everything has to be immaculate. But think of the stress! Particularly when there’s a husband, children and pets continually disturbing the house.” Their solution came from the husband who threatened to leave if she didn't tone her cleaning down and allow him to relax in peace "after a hard day's work." Rightly so; she should be kneeling silently on the floor with the ashtray on her back for his easy reach fer pharkssakes.

The Ponds Institute weren't pulling any punches back in the day, declaring that by twenty seven, our beauty was already in the balance. That wouldn't have been too comforting for about 99% of their readers, would it?

The woman Bob Hawke turfed out Hazel for, Blanche d’Alpuget, had her own byline and in this particular issue she said "DIAMONDS ARE FOR EVERYONE." That's right; it doesn't matter if you have short nails, stubby fingers, painted talons or pale complexions, every woman's boyfriend should be buying her a diamond. Let's hope that Bob did.

Despite being way, waaaaay over 27 at the time of reading, it is good to know that even in 1968, Modess had developed an upside-down white fishing boat-sized device to allow pretty young things to wear puffy white dresses without fear of exposing their bow-leggedness due to having to cram that watercraft in between them. The poor thing pictured here didn't dare move in case it fell out and her kneecaps shot violently outwards to Port and Starboard.

And where would any Aussie housewife have been without a few crafty suggestions?

Firstly, the Hostess Apron. Why spoil a nice dinner dress when you can protect it - and enhance your overall appearance - by whipping up one of these blue and white babies on your Singer? And no, they didn't give any explanation as to why her hair was allowed to resemble a octopus attempting to latch on to the back of her skull and suck her brains out. Maybe that was in the previous issue.

And if you're not within easy reach of a sheltered workshop or appropriate medication, you can plan for Christmas by making these nifty and useful pot stands that hang so cleverly from a wooden spoon. And then try your hand at magicking up a scone warming basket! Don't they look professional!

Other pictures that couldn't be scanned in with any decency include a fish mousse recipe in which some greyish moosh was shoved onto a plate and vaguely shaped into what looked like a crippled eel with liquorice straps for inexplicable eyes, brows and lip decorations. Margaret Fulton suggested that a milk junket would go down a treat for dessert. Failing that, it could be explained to frightened children that they were merely eating the jellied innards of the eel they'd had for the main course.

There's more on the way because even the fellas weren't overlooked in those days.....

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Mummy Meme

From what I can gather, it started here at Her Bad Mother and I've been tagged by the extraordinary Pommy/Aussie blogging Mother Extraordinaire, Baino.

I’m supposed to link to a couple of other 'mum' bloggers, from other countries around the world, and they’ll write their posts, sharing 5 things about being a 'mum', and then they’ll tag a few more bloggers from their own country and from other countries, and so on, yada yada meme meme meme........ And you’re more than welcome to join: just write a post of your own and link back here to the originator of the idea - and leave a comment. Or something like that.

But. And there's always a 'but' isn't there? But I want to change this to being a parent, because a glance at my favourite blogs shows that some of the most revered and worthy reads are from Dads - Myninjacockle, Franzy, Ashleigh and Tom - with children ranging from zero to their twenties.

1. I found out I was pregnant and publicly announced it at my 30th birthday party which was a shindig held in our back garden on Melbourne Cup Day in Melbourne. It felt like the city was having a day off just for me. Everyone got drunk, sunburned and obscenely full bellies from the day-long brunch whilst I hid under the tarpaulin-draped Hill’s hoist and sensibly slurped Passiona.

Other pregnancy foods that got a real hammering included salt-n-vinegar chips (which are usually avoided by me), cheese twisties, icy cold milk, chocolate (as if I needed a growing being inside of me to provide the reason), bacon sandwiches, oranges, tomatoes and biscuits. Yes, I gained far more weight than just Sapphire and fluids but remained overwhelmingly proud of the fact that I could wear and do up my own lace up shoes right up until the due date.

2. Sapphire was born at the Women’s and Children’s Hospital in Carlton on Sunday 23rd May 1999 at 2pm, a mere 29 hours after my labour pains began at a dinner party on the Friday night. Memories are scattered but the image of Love Chunks leaning over me, struggling to maintain eye contact as he ran alongside the gurney as the doctors were rushing me into the operating theatre was admirable, especially seeing as he was crying and wearing a shower cap thingy on his head at the time.

Our baby eventually emerged without the need for a caesarean and was a uniquely purple colour for a few minutes. Even now, the entire birth experience still visits me sometimes in dreams, as do other even less-pleasant ones of me rushing to catch her from falling from a great height - this is particularly frightening as I was never a sports hero when it came to catching or throwing, but I have found myself actually acting out the movement and wake up shivering, on the carpet, hands outstretched.

3. She was a brilliant baby who started sleeping through the night from four weeks and seeing that I couldn’t breastfeed (due to medication to keep my brain tumour in check), Love Chunks got to share those duties and bond with her extremely well. So as much as I'd like to do that all-knowing nod of sympathy to exhausted new parents and say, 'Yeah, we've been there' re the torture of sleep-deprivation, I really can't.

However - and this is written knowing that it is barely a substitute but at least it's an effort - more than once we were subjected to spectacular displays of projectile vomiting with absolutely no warning beforehand. Thankfully our dog at the time – Tess the insanely protective blue heeler – rushed in and eagerly lapped it up and I was too tired and relieved to feel revolted.

3. 5 Sapphire was a born helper. Cooking, car cleaning, dog-washing, bed-making, sticky-tape applying, you name it. Her curiosity was quirky and insatiable and she still finds pictures and shapes in the way that wood knots are in the fence, via papers are scattered on the floor or through oil spots in the driveway. I discovered that Creme of Tartar was a necessary shopping item as we went through oodles of bright blue homemade playdough and that clean margarine lids, yoghurt tubs and tissue boxes make wonderful animals, doll houses, presents and party favours. I found crudely drawn and cut-out love hearts in my laptop bag, wallet and briefcase which seemed pretty poignant from a four year old.

4. Rushing back to full time work when she was only nine months old and wondering why - about six years later - I was burned out, exhausted, unfunny, joyless and resentful made me assess some of my priorities. Plus, I had six new teeth inserted THREE times to thank for excessive night time grinding and clenching as just one aspect of the physical decline I went through.

The best decision I made as a so-called grown up and mother was to no longer be the parent who waited for the doors to open so that I could drop Sapphire off at before-school care at 7am in order to be at my desk by 7:30am. Also, I dropped the overtly fake ‘good mum behaviour’ of leaving work ‘early’ at 5:00pm in order to then rush home and work frantically at my second job as ‘mother’ for three or so hours before putting Sapphire to bed and opening my laptop for more office work until 10:30pm.

Waiting for my child at the school gate is one of the most important jobs I've ever done. Even now, at age nine and easily embarrassed, my beautiful daughter is as glad to see Milly's wagging tail and my goofy face waiting as we are honoured to be there. Few free things in life are as enjoyable as walking hand-in-hand down the street with your kid, listening to her stories of the day and laughing along with her. Such a privilege.

5. Now, it's Sing Star double competitions, rabbit cuddling and sipping our weak cups of green together as we watch ‘The Biggest Loser’. She used to tease me when I cried over the contestants’ sad stories, but now cuddles in closer as we watch avidly and urge them on to happiness and size Medium/Large.

On camping trips and weekends away with friends, I hardly see her. As the reliably boring person she relies on most during the normal days, I’m required only to holler out when meals are ready, to find her lost toothbrush and to surreptitiously check her itchy scalp for nits. To compensate, I give her more kisses when she's tucked up fast asleep than usual. She woke up recently and muttered, “Dad said I should be glad that you’ve got Milly and now I know why – you’d drive me even more nuts with the kissing and hugging if we didn’t have a dog.”

Anyone can have a go but the Mums I tag are:
Simply Natural

And RIVER. Even though you're a commenter, not a blogger, you're an honorary one.

Dazzling Dads chosen to participate have already been mentioned. C'mon, get those photos out, get all misty eyed and get to work on a meme!

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

While you're up

A few years ago I was working in a government department that had the responsibility for managing the medical treatment of injured workers.

The unit I was in was rapidly expanding due to the recent change of government which invariable led to paying expensive external consultants to come in and review, restructure, resize, redevelop and recycle old ideas as and repackage them as new initiatives. Whatever; it paid my mortgage and chocolate addiction and kept me relatively interested.

My cubicle was brand new with vestiges of plastic wrapping still taped to the edges and the technicians were still installing my new telephone line. After only a couple of hours surreptitiously popping the bubble wrap I’d stolen from the empty printer box under my desk, the phone rang.
“Good morning, this is the Medical and Allied Health Unit, Kath Lockett speaking.”
“Is this the Spicy Szechuan Home Delivery?”
“Er, no. I’m Kath Lockett, from the Medical and Allied Health Unit.”
“Can I have----“ (paper rustling as the caller presumably looked at the menu) “-----a serve of spring rolls, two Tom Yum soups, a satay chicken, steamed bok choy and fried rice?”
“Sorry mate, you’ve called the Medical and Allied Health Unit. What number did you dial?”
“What about a banquet for four, do you do that?”
“No sir. We are a GOVERNMENT DEPARTMENT. We can help you get well and back to work, but can’t feed you lunch.”
“But I want to place an order and it says here that I get a free bag of prawn crackers and home delivery if my order is more than twenty five dollars---“
“I’m sure it does sir, but you’ve called the wrong number.”

Every professional recitation of “Good morning, this is the Medical and Allied Health Unit, Kath Lockett speaking,” greeting-with-a-smile-to-indicate-my-genuine-interest-in-providing-quality-customer-service phrase was wasted on fending off hungry callers wanting chilli beef stir fry and wontons within forty five minutes.

It was almost as though they didn’t want to *hear* that they’d somehow misdialled the number and that I wasn’t about to drop the urgent report I was working on and rustle up some dumplings and spicy squid instead. My voice had worn out; as had my patience.

“Good morning, this is the Medical and Allied Health Unit, Kath Lockett speaking.”
“Is this the Spicy Szechuan Home Delivery?”

Pause. Evil plan about to hatch. “Why yes, it is. What would you like?”
“I’d like three Thai fish cakes, a beef and black bean, Mongolian chicken and a large serve of steamed rice.”
“No worries sir. Where would you like that delivered.”

It felt so good to put the phone down. And unplug it before I left for home a few minutes later.

I've always hated answering telephones. This is a bit of a worry really, seeing as it has encompassed a major part of all the jobs I've held for the past twenty years.

Maybe that's why, when the phone rings at home, I do my utmost to avoid answering it. It doesn't matter that it's likely to be someone I know, love, like and have been dying to hear from, I hate the bloody phone. That plastic chirruping machine that insists on interrupting my free time at inopportune moments, requiring me to respond to its summons like a drone.

The overseas marketing call has now reached plague proportions here in Australia and has done a great deal of damage to my already tenuous willingness to answer the phone. You can tell straightaway - a fuzzy sound, several seconds pause, and a strong Indian accent saying, "Helloooo, is that Mrs...?" The only time I ever get called "Mrs" is during a papsmear or by a telemarketing maggot.

The old cliche of a woman on the phone to her mates for hours and hours seems very outdated to me. My friends are more likely to see the phone as another chore on their never-ever-completed list of things to do around the house - none of us see an hour-long chat after 8pm as something fun. A few of us - myself included - have admitted that we sometimes purposely call when we know that the person is not likely to be at home. This enables us to leave a brief but useful message on the phone without the lingering chitchat we'd all desperately like to avoid.

Sapphire, at age almost-ten is still quite happy to answer the phone and is more than willing to stop what she's doing to run towards the chirruping. Bless her sweet, still-mostly-innocent and helpful little heart. I guess it's only a matter of a few years between the childish exuberance of now to when all of the phone calls will be for her anyway.

The hours between 5:00pm and 8:30pm are when we are at our most frenetic. This is when the after school - bathtime - dog feeding - rabbit entertaining - homework - music practice - playdate hosting - meal cooking, eating, cleaning up, dishwasher packing - lunch next day making - tidying up - sorting through the mail - putting out the rubbish - watering the plants - jobs are completed - all done in order to spend the rest of our waking hours relatively inert and quiet. Therefore, after the 8:30pm deadline that is Sapphire's bedtime, my desire to be in any way sociable is completely non-existent.

I would much rather be on the lounge, watching a DVD or hoping that 'Spicks and Specks' is on; that Love Chunks has filled my glass with a zesty cab sav and we have a plate full of snapped chocolate squares between us. Bliss, sheer bliss and completely deserved (in our minds at least).

Of course, that is when the pharken phone decides to make itself heard. And it is then, that Love Chunks and I end up having a kind of verbal tousle over who has to get up and answer it:"While you're up...." "Nah, it's never for me, it'll be your brother...." "I'm in the middle of something here, can you get that?" "I answered it last time!"

Thankfully, we both win and lose on relatively equal occasions, but it's still gives me a tiny thrill when it is LC who sighs dramatically, reluctantly puts down his glass and slouches out to the kitchen. When I've lost the Who Answers the Phone battle, the irony is that when it's been quickly established that the call is indeed for me and is from someone I like, I am always happy to have a chat and smile for ages after we've hung up, saying to LC, "You know, I really need to call her more often...."

Monday, April 20, 2009

Oh for Freekah’s sake!

I’ve done
Hating with Honesty One and Two and it’s been a long time between moans. Time for another one; although this time ‘hate’ is too strong a descriptor; more like ‘annoying’ or ‘could do with a swift slap’ kind of moans around here today.

Pompous Provisions. Why do chefs have to include that one whacky ingredient, even in dishes that appear to be fairly easy and accessible? In The Age Sunday Life magazine, Karen Martini decided that we must have Freekah in our salad with easy-to-obtain onion, parsley, almonds, fetta, lemon, oil and pepper. Freekah?

She then writes, ‘If you can’t find it, pearl barley is a perfect substitute.’ Then why not just put the bloody pearl barley in there to begin with?

And Ms Martini is not alone. All of them like to add that one bizarre bit of food we’ve never heard of – let alone where to find – just to remind us that they are godlike, talented and able to make a meal of marinated goat lips, glass shards and angel tears whereas we have to be wealthy enough to find them from an overpriced providore or give up altogether. My response is always the second one.

Dung-like Dog Breath – this is now serious enough for us to consider a visit the vet, but I’m embarrassed to be using up their time – and my money – on Milly’s breath. It is excruciatingly, off-puttingly, shit-stinkingly awful. The poor beast merely has to yawn from her beanbag on the other side of the room and we humans reel back in horror, going ‘Peeee-yoooo!” She has a regular supply of fresh bones and I’ve even had Love Chunks hold her unwilling jaws apart to let me get in there with a toothbrush and some Colgate. Then the poor dog is set free in the garden, foaming ridiculously at the mouth and trying to run away from her own tongue. Not only do dogs miss out on opposable thumbs, but the inability to rinse and spit also has its disadvantages.

Porridge. I want to like it, I really do because it's full of good GI and is cheap and really healthy and all that but I’m afraid that it’s about as appetising as working my way through a bowl of chunky library paste. My grandfather ate porridge for breakfast for every single day of his life whereas I make it every six months, hate every gluggy, dishwater-flavoured mouthful and resolve never to do it again. Which I don’t, for at least another six months. Same goes for any kind of breakfast cereal, especially Weetbix for the hellish cardboard pulp taste and the noble-but-nauseating untoasted muesli which tends to exhaust and bore me whilst I’m miserably trying to chew my way through it all.

Beyonce – the telly is full of advertisements that, at the very least, break up the diet and meal supplements shoved in between the drawn-out-longer-than-a-full-pack-of-chewing-gum program that is the 'Biggest Loser', and are bleating excitedly that Beyonce is coming to town. Trouble is, the only ‘music’ (and yes, the term is used very loosely) we hear during the ad is a kind of annoying wail that surely she emitted during her last eyebrow wax, and not on a single?

Her latest song, ‘Single ladies put a ring on it’ is a crime against talent, taste, intelligence, common sense and all that is holy in pop land and only makes me mutter where I'd like to shove a ring on it..... She should be forced into a cell with Fergie, post-2000 Madonna and Mika for a slap fight to the death wearing nothing but CD covers and those hurty black plastic ear buds.

Extinct green pillowcases – are we the only adult couple in Melbourne who use pale green pillowcases? I can get bright orange, dark purple, sea/forest/olive/puke/lime green, hot pink, ruby red, bone, stone, maroon and black but no pale green. And, similar to the nonsensical cooking ingredient, I refuse to wander into a snooty linen store and fork out $35 for a small fabric rectangle regardless of thread count, brand name, origin of the organic cotton or the first name of the dedicated young virgin who sewed it.

Careless coffee – when a cup of flat white coffee costs four bucks, the least you can expect is that it’s filled to the top, and not an inch shy when Love Chunks got served his yesterday. In spite of Sapphire’s extreme embarrassment, LC called the waiter over, very quietly and politely explained that the ‘tide was out’ on his coffee and could it be topped up?

The waiter then did the thing that we all loathe: he pretended that there wasn’t a problem and if there was one, it was surely with us, the complainers.

“But,” he said, scratching his gelled-up head, “This is what we always serve.”

It was then I piped up with, “Oh no you don’t – look over there.”

On the table next to us were four cups of cappuccino almost spilling over. “Near enough is not good enough.”

Sapphire died a little more, put her head down and busied herself with the colouring-in sheet they gave her (despite only having two blunt grey and orange pencils to do it with) and he very promptly brought back a full cup. We watched the barista boofhead sulkily slop a bit more steamed milk in – luckily for us he was by the window and couldn’t slyly spit into it.

Social snob-offs. Look, I’m no oil painting but I’m not an axe-wielding maniac either. I’m sure if you’ve seen me every single morning and afternoon at the same time each term with a friendly orange dog, you might start remembering me. Especially when I look directly into your eyes, smile and say ‘hello’ as I pass by.

But no, this particular mother with whispy hair scrunches her humourless lips up into the perfect cat’s bum, looks straight through me and marches on with her son. Is she legally blind and using her child as a seeing-eye dog or do I really look ugly, intimidating and crazier than blowfly on bin day? Would it kill to acknowledge me, seeing as we have to brush up against each other as we pass?

There. I feel better now.