Friday, September 15, 2017

The Phone

I had filled one side of my notepad with dot points, each detailing a single point in time of the night:

Taking a photo of the puppy when I discovered her in the remains of the bubble bath, happily sliding in the bubbles and eating great mouthfuls of soap.

Walking into my eldest daughter’s room, using my phone to email the pictures to her.

Walking out of her room shaking my head, as my youngest daughter stretched out on the bed asking to be photographed. (The answer was no).

Hearing a strange beep when I was saying my goodnights to my middle daughter, and then thinking ‘that sounds like my phone.’

Then the realisation.

I had lost my phone.

Standing at the bottom of the stairs, my hands devastatingly empty, I consoled myself with the knowledge that I KNEW it must be in the house somewhere.

I had even called it on the landline, straining to hear it in the sleeping house. Nada.

I stood in front of my iPad remembering the ‘Find My Phone’ app, but quickly walked away remembering I’d never actually set that up. Too hard.

After writing down my steps in great detail, knowing that in the morning I would have already forgotten what I did, I did one (or three) last checks of every room. I prowled around each sleeping child, checked the bathroom, my bag, the bench. The laundry. I turned on the outside lights and peered at the grass to see if the dog had taken it outside to chew on.

I admit it – I even checked the fridge. Who knows if this was actually the start of something more serious?


I went to bed the old fashioned way. I couldn’t check the weather for the next day. I had no idea what I had written on my to-do list. I couldn’t reply to my sister’s text message.

Hell, I couldn’t even bitch about losing my phone on Facebook!

My sleep was poor.

It was in the early hours of the morning when my door slid open and there was the telltale sound of small feet on carpet. I waited for the covers to be drawn back, but instead they retreated and the door slid shut.

That was weird.

I called out her name.

‘Don’t worry Mum,’ she called back ‘I’m just bringing you back your phone.’

I looked at the clock. 3.45am.

‘Wait,’ I called. ‘Why do you have my phone? Where was it?’

She avoided the questions like a pro. ‘Lucky I found it,’ she called. ‘Go back to sleep Mum.’ Her voice got smaller as she disappeared down the stairs.

Go back to sleep? Seriously?

I lay in bed for a few minutes, alternating between fuming and bewilderment. I could only guess why she took it. She probably wanted to watch Kids YouTube, or take a video of herself or who knows – check the weather for tomorrow or update my Facebook status. Maybe she was trying to frame me for a crime. Who knows what five year olds get up to these days.

But she obviously hadn’t counted on the whizzbang new technology of fingerprint identification. She knows her Dad’s phone password (I don’t)… but she couldn’t get into mine.

Why she chose to bring it back in the middle of the night shows a scarily crafty mind… did she think I wouldn’t notice? Blame myself for just being forgetful? She does seem to think I am going die soon now I am "old" (I just turned 40).

It’s now 4.40am and I have been up writing for almost an hour. There was no hope of me ever getting back to sleep, but she did – the face of an angel peeping out from under layers of blankets and toys.

I can’t wait to interrogate her.

And just a little afraid.

Monday, August 21, 2017

The Mole

‘What’s that thing on your face?’ my five year old asked, stroking my jaw.

‘Well,’ I said, ‘it can be called a mole or a beauty spot, whichever you prefer.’

‘A beauty spot,’ she said screwing up her face.

‘I wish you didn’t have it,’ she added, touching it like it was a plague sore. ‘How do you get rid of it?’

I frowned. ‘Don’t you like it?’ I asked.

‘I wish you didn’t have it. How can it be gone?’ she replied.

‘Well,’ I said, ‘someone would have to cut it off with a knife.’

She passed, pondering this rather drastic option.

‘Don’t worry mummy. I’d be right beside you when they chop you. I would hold your hand.’

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Is This the Worst Birthday Present Ever?

It looked totally awesome in the box. A marvellous contraption for polishing rocks, teaching kids not only about natural processes and turning dull rough rocks into beautifully polished gems, but then they could also turn the gems into their very own handmade jewellery. What could be bad about that?

Ah, how about everything…

When the box was unpacked my ten year old daughter eyed it suspiciously, glancing over at the outrageous monster dolls with terrifyingly high shoes and eye-popping outfits that her younger sisters had received for their birthdays. Instead, as the eldest child, she was unwrapping a pile of grown-up gifts, books, craft – things that educated and probably made her smarter, but probably rated high on the disappointing-gift register.

But this was a rock polisher. Looking like something out of a Pokemon cartoon, it contained an electronic tumbler, an assorted of rough looking stones, and four bags of grit.

What fun, I thought, as she pulled everything out of the box and began glancing through the instruction book.

A few minutes later, she wandered past, having poured the rocks into the tumbler and added the first, most coarse level of polishing sand. How educational, I thought.

The she turned it on and the entire house was instantly filled with a grinding, rattling sound as rocks bounced off plastic and a cheap motor guzzled up electricity. My smile wavered a bit.

‘So, ah, this first stage will take four to six days,’ she said tossing the instruction booklet in front of me and picking up a book.

Wait, what?

Four to six DAYS?

My husband shot me a dirty look and went to hide upstairs.

‘Yeah,’ she said mildly, ‘the whole thing should only take about four weeks.’


With a nervous twitch I picked up the instruction book and began to desperately search for proof she was wantonly mistaken.

My daughter noticed my panic and pointed out that if left up to nature, polishing rocks would normally takes years, so really, this was very quick. I wanted to point out we could probably BUY lovely polished gems from the local market for a couple of dollars and save ourselves a lot of headaches.

I did some calculations in my head. Four WEEKS. That was definitely long enough to initiate divorce proceedings, I was sure, especially given the angry stomping coming from upstairs, where the vibrations from the rock tumbler were coming through the ceilings.

Ignoring the nasty looks and thinly veiled comments from my husband over the next few days, we established a buffering system which included boxes, cork mats, piles of tea-towels and shutting doors all in a desperate attempt to block the relentless, agonising sound of that damn rock tumbler.

After a couple of days my husband spat the dummy and turned it off at the wall.

‘I have a headache,’ he moaned.

I’m the one who works from home, I thought. I have to listen to it during the day as well as the night.

My daughter was beside herself. ‘I have to reset the timer now, Dad. It goes back to the start of the four days.’

I shot my husband a dirty look. He rolled his eyes and left for work.

We established that we could pause the timer overnight, a compromise that meant that the house would be quiet(er) overnight, but it would now take EIGHT days to complete the first step.

Suddenly, about a week later as I was working at my computer at the kitchen table, the house suddenly went quiet. It took a moment for my brain to adjust to the silence. The tumbler had stopped. 

The first stage was over.

That afternoon, my daughter unscrewed the chamber and poured out the dirty, gritty water. A pile of rocks followed. She was excited about the changes she could already see in the stones. I just saw a pile of dirty rocks.

‘The next stage goes for seven days,’ she informed me happily as she poured the Stage Two powder into the chamber and set the timer. Immediately the house started vibrating again and I felt my head begin to pound. ‘This is so awesome, I can’t wait to see them at the end,’ and she skipped off to school.

We are currently at the end of Stage Two and still have two packets of increasingly fine grit to go. As per our agreement the tumbler is only ever on during the day after my husband leaves for work, so I am the only one who gets to enjoy the brain-numbing repetitiveness of the worst present ever, penance perhaps and well deserved, considering I bought the damn thing for her…

NOT worth it!

Saturday, May 13, 2017

Pooper Scooper

Recently we grew our family by one more, with the adoption of a little black puppy.

In the words of my daughter’s Year Two teacher ‘what was I thinking?' – here I was with my children all off at school full time, finally with the opportunity to do what I wanted – and I took myself all the way back to square one.’

What was I thinking indeed.

[What I was thinking was that if my husband and kids were going to gang up on me and just buy a dog of their own volition, I may as well get involved and have a say on the matter by choosing my own puppy. But as they say, you don’t choose the dog – they choose you, and a tiny black Shoodle with a white beard and sad eyes chose me as her new mum.]

So, meet Poppy. That’s her actual name, unlike the nicknames I gave the kids (remember them – Baldy Baby, Curly Mop and Blonde Bombshell. Me either].

Poppy’s a Shoodle, as I said, a cross between a Shi Tzu and a Toy Poodle. Of course, when I am upset I refer to her as a Shit-Poo, which is what this story is about (did the title give it away?)

Poppy is now almost five months old and we are working our way through toilet training (square one, Shannon, square one). It’s mostly going well, if you ignore the fact that the kids cry and moan and whine every time it’s their turn on ‘Poo Duty’ so they pretend they don’t see the ever mounting pile of poop in the back yard until finally someone (usually a visitor) steps in it, and then all hell breaks loose and I threaten to get rid of the dog (or the kids, depending on who is annoying me more). Then I have to decipher the Poo Duty Roster to see whose ticks are real and whose are just put there by crafty kids who think I won’t notice they have ticked off their duty without actually scooping some poop.

But the other day, Poppy was stuck inside the house with me. The door had been shut against the sound of a blower vac in the back yard and Poppy, not the bravest soul, had decided that was way too much noise for one small puppy to bear. I had the dustpan and brush out, sweeping up the rogue dirt and leaves that always made it under our old doors (weather proofing, what weather proofing?) when I heard a familiar sound.

I was already on my knees sweeping, so when I turned my head to confirm the sound, I was confronted by the contracting anal sphincter muscles of the puppy, a wettish, slurping sound as she attempted to push a poo out. Right onto the rug.

‘No’ I shrieked leaping towards her on my knees. She looked at me with a bewildered expression, wondering why I was interrupting her Me-Time. I looked up at the door – it was locked and I knew I wouldn’t have time to grab the dog, stand up, unlock the door and take her outside to the grass before she finished pushing her poop out, so I thrust the dustpan under her butt to catch the poop instead. 

Unimpressed, she moved a few steps forwards and continued working on those butt muscles. I shuffled forward on my knees, dustpan outstretched. Squelch. Got one.

She looked at me disdainfully and daintily stepped away again. I shuffled after her again, catching poop as she laid it, me on my knees as I followed the tiny puppy around our living room.

When she finished she sat there watching me as I inspected the dustpan. A small pile of poop, covered in dust and dirt (and full of all the weird crap she ate – I swear there was a shoelace in there). 

She smiled at me in that way dogs do, as if to say ‘what are you going to do now?’

I tipped the entire lot into the toilet, praying to God the bits of leaf would flush away, and then (now the gardener had left) went outside to wash the dustpan. She sat on her cushion and watched me, probably wondering what the big deal was, but gee, wasn’t this good service where her human follows her around collecting her poop as it drops.

And yes, this is my life now.

Right back at square one.

Some bright spark gave the puppy a roll of toilet paper to play with

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

The Pain of Invisibility

I can’t even recall how the conversation started.

I think it is possible she had been complaining about her youngest sister, calling her a ‘butt’ that she was manipulating her dad to sleep with her for no good reason except that she could. The truth being, she was sometimes afraid of being on her own, and was jealous of her youngest sister.

She couldn’t understand why her four year old sister had everything she needed while she, at nine and a half, still had to battle to get noticed across the noise.

I tried to explain:

“You are all different people and you will succeed in the world differently,” I said.

“Your youngest sister walks into a room and immediately fills it. She is bright and bubbly and is happy pushing herself forward into situations other people would feel scared about. It is as though she fills the room with little explosions of glitter and noise and song and people can’t help but notice. They draw energy from her but it can be wild and unsettling for some. Some people back away from her or are put off by her energy, but underneath it all, she has a heart of gold and has a caring soul. It’s just that it comes wrapped in a Mardi Gras. She will impact a lot of people, especially those who are drawn to her energy and vitality.”

She nodded, silent.

“Your middle sister, on the other hand is less obvious and people underestimate her. You have to scratch beneath the surface to see her true value – in other words, you need to take time and make effort. The way she will impact the world is neither immediate nor obvious, but for those who persist, she will be immensely powerful and influential.’

I stroked the hair off her forehead. It was late, well past both our bedtimes, but I could see she was needing to talk, to make sense of her day.

“You, on the other hand, carry your golden heart in your hands, offered in front on you. You will enter the room and be silent. You won’t draw attention to yourself, you will simply hold your heart up in front of you. Many people won’t notice you or see you. But there will be special people who feel you, who can sense you through the crowded room and be drawn to you. You will make a powerful connection to the world, especially through these special people who are like you, and notice you and seek you out.”

It was at this point that I noticed the tears slipping down her cheek. She simply nodded quickly, as if by agreeing with what I said, would make it come true.

In a room full of people, my eldest can be the last one noticed. Her middle sister is also quiet and often unseen – the difference being that my middle doesn’t mind and she prefers her own company.

When you want to be noticed, and aren’t, that is when it begins to hurt.

“I have no doubt that you will all be incredibly successful in your lives,” I continued. “It’s just that you have such different ways of interacting with the world. So don’t judge yourself by your sisters’ benchmarks and by what – and how – they achieve things.”

“You are totally unique and so your impact will be felt differently, but I have no doubt it will be incredible.”

With a little nod, she smiled. I kissed her on her forehead and said goodnight. She was invisible no longer.

Thursday, October 27, 2016

Why You Should Let Your Four Year Old Self-Diagnose

‘I have a scratchy bottom,’ my four year old told the bemused girl behind the counter.

She leaned forward to emphasis her point. ‘Every time I do a poo,’ she said.

The poor girl was silent, flicking glances at me every now and then.

‘From here!’ she exclaimed turning slightly and pointing at her butt.

‘It’s scratchy,’ she said again, giving her butt a good rub as if to prove a point.

The bewildered girl looked embarrassed. She’ll have to get over that if she wants to work in a chemist, I thought to myself.

‘Is it her cheeks or where… where the poo comes from?’ she asked quietly.

‘Where the poo comes from,’ my daughter replied loudly. ‘Poo!’ she repeated for the benefit of the old lady who had walked up behind us. ‘My bottom is scratchy,’ she told the old lady conspiratorially.

The old lady nodded knowingly.

We all looked at the girl waiting for a solution.

‘I’m going to have to get the pharmacist,’ she said and scuttled off.

Even the old lady rolled her eyes.

The pharmacist was much better prepared, stooping down to the level of her newest patient and not looking the slightest bit embarrassed at the discussion about poos and holes and whether it was appropriate to stick your fingers in your bottom if it was scratchy (hint: it’s not, especially at Kindy or at dinner-time).

After a lengthy chat with my daughter, the pharmacist stood up and gave me a smile.
‘I think the best option is to treat her for worms. If nothing changes after that, then we consider treating her for a dermatitis.’

Awesome, I thought. Worms.

‘And I’m sure you know you will need to treat the whole family,’ she said.

Even better, I thought.

Clutching her chocolate-lookalike medicine as we walked back through the shops (someone deserves a medal for making worm medicine look and taste like chocolate) my daughter was very excited. It could have been the prospect of no longer having an itchy butt, but more likely was the fact that she got chocolate medicine.

At home, the rest of the family eyeballed the chocolate squares I put in front of them.

‘And why are we taking this exactly?’ asked my eldest daughter, sniffing it suspiciously.

‘Just take it,’ said the middle daughter, her mouth already full. ‘It’s yummy.’

My husband knew exactly what it was. ‘Awesome,’ he said drily. I just shrugged.

Two days later and my four year woke up complaining.

‘I have a scratchy arm,’ she pouted. ‘I think the ants went on my bom bom and now they went on my arm and that’s why I’m itchy.’

‘Ummm… I don’t think it’s ants,’ I started.

‘It is,’ she replied with the determination that only a four year old can muster. ‘I think the ants bite me because they think I’m a sandwich.’

She shook her head sadly.

‘I don’t like being a sandwich.’

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