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Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Parched

Dry July has been a resounding success here in the Devereaux household. None of us - not a single one - has touched a nip of alcohol all month. I did think Master7 was going to fall off the wagon at one point but it turned out he wasn't reaching for a bottle of red after all, he was reaching for the balsamic vinegar. I'm very proud of us all.

"You drinking tomorrow?" one of the girls at work asked me today.

"There's a 40% chance of beer on my cereal," I joked. I'm pretty sure I was joking.

As always, my darling Tracey has been very supportive.

"You can have a Sober October next," she told me while I sat on the lounge with a Bottle-O catalogue planning my first drink.

"That's a nice idea," I replied without looking up and without any enthusiasm whatsoever. "We'll talk after my September Bender. And if we're going to start making things happen by rhyming them, you can do a No eBay May and a Sex Before Noon June."

That should end the silly talk and keep my October free for wedding toasts and boat races.

The whole thing has actually been a great experience. The time has flown by without incident - unlike when I gave up smoking there were no tantrums or ducking off to the shops/tip/friends/park (anywhere really) for a sneaky puff. The month is done and tomorrow I can have a drink if I want and that's good. I haven't fed the world's impoverished or discovered a cure for hangovers but I'm disproportionately pleased with myself.

And now the Olympics are on and tomorrow night, to celebrate, the time has come to go for Gold.

XXXX Gold, that is.





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Monday, July 30, 2012

The Five Ring Circus

The money shot?
I stumbled across the opening ceremony on Sunday. I had no idea the Olympics was on already.

"Kids!" I called out. "It's the fun bit of the Olympics! Quick! Before you miss it!" And we sat on the lounge and watched it before I got bored with the bit about the two teenagers texting each other and left to do the dishes in the kitchen.

Last night I proved to myself yet again I can't watch sport. I tried. If you're into sport you must be creaming yourself with all these games and runs and jumps and things going on simultaneously. I can only think of several hundred things I'd rather be doing than watching the Olympics, including listing those things down on paper, BUT, I promised myself I was going to try again to get into the event and cheer my fellow Aussies on.

The first sport I tried was men's water polo. This is a very uncomfortable sport to watch on telly. It's all those underwater shots of them in their budgie smugglers. Why would you wear dick togs when you know there's going to be camera's down there? I mean one bad thrust with your leg mixed in with a overzealous throw of the ball and suddenly you've popped a dangleberry in high definition on screens in 204 countries. I want these boys' modesty, and my eyes, properly protected,thank you very much.

Then there was a basketball game - It wasn't even our team playing so I don't know why it was on when we had other people competing in events, but anyway it was France vs United States. What a disappointment. I anticipated far more from the American Dream Team. I thought I'd see balls spun on fingers and bounced off bald heads into the hoop. Maybe I was expecting too much. It's just I remember how good the Harlem Globetrotters were on Scooby Doo.

And the rowing - I had no idea how boring it was to watch. I can tell you from experience, in the boat its very exciting. But I just found myself looking past the racing boats to the cyclists who were keeping pace with them on the far side of the course. It's never a good sign when you're finding the spectators more interesting than the competitors.

Even though these attempts have been less than successful I'm not giving up. I've nearly two weeks to find something redeeming about all this sweat. Maybe women's beach volleyball will save my sporty soul.

No, wait! There is something I really liked about the Olympics so far - it was the bit with the beds which spun and lit up and spelled out a very polite exclamation, which I thought was terribly British but was actually supposed to be the name of a hospital or something, in the opening ceremony, and when all the Mary Poppins flew in to save the day.


Yep, it looks like the opening ceremony is my favourite sport to date.

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Sunday, July 29, 2012

Buying Fruit & Vegetables In Bulk

It has been suggested I should occasionally throw out an actual 'tip' on how we afford to raise our big, beautiful family. Sounds reasonable.

If your family is like ours the 1kg bag of tomatoes will disappear from the crisper at the bottom of the fridge within a day of arriving home from the supermarket.

To save money and ward off starvation we made contact with a guy who drives two hours to the fresh fruit markets to supply the local restaurants and shops, meaning we pick super fresh stuff up at wholesale prices. We also order for a large family up the road. 

Things to ask yourself when buying fruit and vegetables in bulk are:

  • Will we eat them all before they go off? We have several worm farms around the yard for scraps and occasionally they're treated to a whole apple or two, but rarely a mandarin or a banana.  If a 10kg bag of potatoes, for example, would be too much for your family, consider sharing with someone - it only takes a couple of minutes to divide them up. We don't need to - our 10kg of potatoes from two weeks ago is still going strong. Alternatively, you could make jams, cakes, pickles, relish or sauces if it looks like it's starting to turn.
  • Where will you store them? We tend to leave the fruit in the boxes until they're about half way empty (usually a couple of days). Then we fill glass bowls around the kitchen, which looks nice and makes for easy access. Even the boxes aren't wasted - the kids love making cars or buildings with them.

This week, for the two families, we paid $164 for the following:
Two boxes of Pink Lady Apples $48
Two boxes of Lady Finger Bananas $58
Two boxes of Tomatoes $30
One box of Oranges $20
10kg Onions $5
1kg of Garlic $3

This isn't a weekly order. It's unlikely we'll need to order anything for a fortnight and even then it might be one box of fruit or spuds.

To give you an idea of how buying in bulk can save, the tomatoes in the shop late last week were $5 a kilo - our price was $1.50 a kilo. I'm told the same garlic was over $10 a kilo in the supermarket yesterday. It's not always as big a saving, but half price is usually a good rule of thumb.

We bulk a lot of things - meat especially. Buying a side of pork or a quarter of cow puts good quality protein on the dinner plates for the price of cheap mince. Yesterday we stumbled across chicken breast fillets for under $7 a kilo so we filled a tray in the fridge. It's often just a matter of keeping your eyes open and some money available.

Despite how things appear around the snack table at their friends' birthday parties, thanks to the boxes of fruit and veg we buy in our kids certainly don't starve at home.


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Ten Things All Dads Should Know



  1. CONSTRUCTION SKILLS. A father will need to know how to assemble everything from Lego spaceships to pushbikes to swing sets.  It took me a long time to fine tune this skill. Now I place whatever I need built in the middle of the kitchen and invite Tracey's dad over for a coffee. 
  2. CRYING.  As any mother worth their salt will tell you, there are different cries. Fathers? Not so much. If we can hear a cry at all it's usually for one of two reasons. The first one is the cry is so loud we can't hear the telly. Cries of this magnitude tend to mean physical pain is involved so a father will need to find somewhere to safely deposit his drink, pick up his wounded child and go look for his wife so she can decide between kiss, band-aid or hospital. The second, and far more worrisome, reason he might notice his kid is crying is when his wife is standing between him and the plasma telling him about it. In this instance he must do something quickly, or otherwise he might be the one in need of a hospital. About the only time you can be sure a father is actively listening for the telltale cries or patter of feet is when he's in the bedroom practicing making another child with mummy and he doesn't want to risk getting up to lock the door in case his wife's mood changes while he’s away.  
  3. IMPORTANT DATES. Remembering birthdays is the kind of thing a kid looks for these days. The more kids a father has the more difficult this becomes, but super sperm is no excuse for missing a birthday. You need to write them down. Thankfully, this is why they invented Lotto forms. By using your kids’ birthdays to complete your entries you’ll never forget a birthday again. You’re welcome.
  4. FAVOURITE THINGS. A good father knows which toys, books or electronic devices are his child’s most loved. This is so we'll know what we can take off the little buggers to get their attention – a very handy bit of leverage when they won't do what we're telling them.  Not all favourite things work though. For this reason, things like our kid’s favourite number or colour will likely elude dads because you can't, for example, take the colour blue off them; therefore knowing this sort of thing is useless and a waste of brain cells to store. Although if they still don't behave after you've relieved them of their DS, you might be tempted to put a splash of the colour blue on their backsides. 
  5. SPORTY STUFF. Active kids are happy kids, and every dad wants happy kids, if only because it means mummy won’t come and stand between him and his plasma. To achieve these active, happy kids a dad needs to know what his kids are interested in. This might be totally different to what his kids are good at, what he wants them to be good at or what he can afford them to be good at. Listening is the key. Recently two of my girls decided they wanted to do Ireland dancing. Unfortunately it turns out I enrolled them in Highland dancing by mistake. The good news is so far they haven't noticed.
  6. CAR SMARTS. Growing up we all drove jalopies. My theory was dads back then gave their kid a crappy first car so they themselves would have something fun to do on weekends. You see, inevitably these death traps would stop moving, meaning dads and their mates could come out of the house with arms full of spanners to help get them going again, stopping briefly on the way home to grab a six pack. Well, this is one area where I shine because I know exactly what to do when a car breaks down - I call the local breakdown service, RACQ. Over the years I've called these fine fellows for everything from complete engine failure to faulty wipers. Without any doubt it is the best value $80 a year I ever spend. Usually the complete engine failure is a lack of this thing called fuel although I once had the breakdown people, and then a shop full of mechanics, baffled for days over why my car wouldn't start. They eventually ordered a $2000 new computer chip before realizing I'd been trying to start the car with the wrong key. 
  7. HOMEWORK.  I don't have the answers, but I do have Google. For everything else, there's Wikipedia. I've heard the odd parent describe doing homework with their child as a great bonding experience. This has never been my experience. Sometimes I just want my two hours back so I can watch Top Gear.  And by sometimes I mean always.
  8. OTHER KID'S NAMES. A father is supposed to be able to name their kids' best friends. I don’t know why, but I know this is true because I once saw it in a movie. Well, I fail. When Tracey and I recently played this game I named the school kids my lot least got along with because, well, they were the names in all the stories they were telling me.  Well I've done some research now and if we ever play this game again I will go with the following: Jacob, Michael, Joshua, Matthew & Daniel for the boys and Emily, Madison, Emma, Olivia & Hannah for the girls. These are the most popular names for the last decade so I figure they give me the best odds for success. Seriously, the identities of my kids' friends are generally as foreign to me as a Chinese menu in Beijing. But then I have seven kids so there is potentially a cast of thousands. 
  9. COOKING. Where young kids are involved dads need to keep the menu simple because here's the thing - little kids quite often don't like chilli or overly spicy meals. Don't surprise the wife by making the family dinner and expect her to be thrilled if it's your famous Green Chicken Curry, because all she'll see is she still has to make dinner for the kids. If you want to cook dinner for your family, fellow fathers, you can’t go far wrong by firing up the BBQ. FYI, if you do manage to feed your family with a minimum of female assistance the chances of you having to listen out for the patter of little feet approaching your unlocked bedroom door later in the evening are greatly improved.
  10. WHEN MUMMY NEEDS A SLEEP IN. The big one. Huddle round fellas. Some telltale signs to watch out for are a darkening around the eyes, a higher pitch from her usual speaking voice, glaring, snapping, yelling, hitting, slapping, crying for no apparent reason and generally looking at you like you're a moron even when you know you're being hell cute. You must learn these subtle signs because it is unlikely you will simply be asked. Letting mum sleep in will generally involve more than just mustering the kids in front of the telly and then falling asleep on the couch. The moment your guard is down the little sprogs will inevitably sneak beneath your snores and burst into your bedroom, waking their mum up with demands of breakfast. If this happens all points earned with good intentions are out the window. For the safety of all you need to get you and your children out of the house immediately. Take the mobile - she'll call you when you're allowed to come home.
Featured as a guest blog on Stay At Home Mum


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Saturday, July 28, 2012

Getting Well Soon

Well I think it's safe to say, "thank goodness that's over".

Nearly a week of sleeping in the kid's beds is taking it's toll. Thursday night I was in the trundle, which hides under Miss8's bed. It's a foam mattress on a spring base. I'm not going to say outright I'm fat but most of my body seemed to have direct contact with the floor. 

We knew the kids were on the mend yesterday when an argument broke out in front of the plasma about what to watch - for the previous four days no one really seemed to care what was on the telly.

A good sign we're through this, beside arguments and temperatures returning to normal, is the kids ate food last night. Not a lot, but a hell of a lot more than they did the night before when I presented them with chicken noodle soup and they cried at it.

Not that I can blame them - I wasn't eating either. I've managed to drop 7kg in nine days. There mustn't be a lot of calories in tablets and capsules.

"I look fantastic," I told Tracey this morning as I admired myself in the mirror. "If you ignore me from the shoulders up, that is." My face is a bit haggard from the lack of sleep as much as anything. Yesterday I managed more nap time during the sunny hours than I did during each of the night time ones since Sunday. 

So finally, last night, I was able to sleep in my own bed again.

I love my bed. Absence makes the heart grow fonder. Or is it abstinence? Well one of those sure did the trick cause it felt so nice to be back snuggling up with Tracey.

"Miss me?" I whispered in her ear.

"Don't touch me," she cooed back.

"You know, I struggle to sleep without you beside me," I told her. "It takes me back to when I was a single dad and its kind of lonely. How'd you do?" At first I thought she must have fallen asleep but then there sort of an apologetic little cough followed by an awkward silence. "You did miss me, right?"

"Oh, sure," she agreed. 

I felt her heart wasn't in it. "But?" I prompted, cause there was definitely a but coming.

"It was nice. You do move around a lot and breathe heavy and touch me all the time," she said.

"That's the two year old!" I exclaimed, pointing at Miss2, who had snuggled in next to her mum.

"Yeah, well we know where she gets it from."

I must confess I do have a habit of doing strange things in bed. Not 'illegal in some countries' strange, just odd. Recently while I was asleep one of my hands apparently reached out at about 2am and tapped Tracey on the forehead. Twice.

I'm sure I had further arguments to make as to why Tracey is wrong about how much she enjoyed not having me in the bed beside her this week but the words and inclination were lost in a minor fit of coughing which took control of me at that moment. We're all still coughing. It's part of the fun.

A little coughing around the place I can handle. It's attempting to sleep in the dreadfully uncomfortable kids' beds I can do without.

Thank you to everyone for your well wishes this week. They certainly helped bolster our reserves.




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Friday, July 27, 2012

We help a group of women in Senegal


Today we added $3.54 to the repayments in our Kiva account and for our 35th loan of $25 we helped a group of brightly dressed women in Africa, so they can improve their market businesses.

These women have such wonderful (and to me unpronounceable) names I thought I'd include them - Awa Tidiane, Aissatou Sidy, Dienabou, Mariama Aly, Aminata, Ansarou Diatta, Hawa Mamadou, Mariama, Dienabou Dembou, Oumou, Aissatou, Fatimatou, Aminata Balde, Kadiatou Saidou, Ramatoulaye Ismaila, Sona, Ousseynatou, Rougui, Mariama Poulo, Tombon , Bobo, Saibatou. I doubt many of them would  turn to look at me if I attempted to call their names out at their market.

Here's what their application said:

"This group comprises 23 women who are very active within their banc villageois, created in December 2010. They all come from the same neighborhood and they get along well with each other. Their main activity is small retail.

The group's featured borrower, Diènabou, is 36 years old. (She is sitting on the right-hand side in the photo, and raising her hand). She is married and the mother of five children, four boys and one girl.

She has a spot at the market, where she has been selling vegetables and groundnut paste for the past six years.

With this loan, she is planning to purchase some vegetables and groundnut paste at the weekly markets in the south-east. 

She will buy:

- 20 bags of onions, at a cost of 70,000 CFA francs, and will retail them for 120,000 CFA francs,
- 2 bags of eggplants, at a cost of 10,000 CFA francs, and will retail them for 15,000 CFA francs,
- 10 buckets of groundnut paste at a cost of 100,000 CFA francs, and will retail them for 130,000 CFA francs.
She will pay 15,000 CFA francs for handling and transportation costs.

After deducting operating costs and daily expenses, she will end up with an average net profit of 55,000 CFA francs every other week.

With the profits from her activity, she will be able to put some money into saving, assist her husband with the daily expenses, and buy a plot of land."

We love Kiva in part because we don't have a lot of spare cash to give away. With Kiva we can deposit $25 into our account and lend it to someone and then, when the money is repaid, we can either lend it out again or get our money back. We choose to top up our account by a couple of dollars each month, meaning we've so far put a total of $238.32 into our account but loaned out $875.

There's a FREE TRIAL going on over at KIVA at the moment, so if you want to see what it's all about before you put in your own money, press the link. LINK





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Thursday, July 26, 2012

One Flu Over The Cuckoo's Nest

The good news is I think we're getting through it. That's not to say it's going well. The lack of sleep is really starting to take it's toll with my patience.

My fantastic work colleagues are covering for me while our little band of Devereauxs fights this virus. Given I was breathing my germs on everyone for two days earlier in the week, and given it's about a two day incubation, I think I'll be covering for them come Monday. 

I've hardly seen Tracey all day - she's been in the bedroom with the baby. While I've been chasing after the four sickly ones she's been wearing a facemask and continuously washing her hands with some alcohol foam, as though she suffers from severe OCD, in an attempt to not pass on this flu. Miss0 has been coughing for a few days, but otherwise seemed okay. Despite all these precautions though, little Miss0 started a fever earlier today. But we're controlling it, and she's still happy, so all good.

Our doctor returned our phone call tonight at 7.45pm (he's really been putting in the long hours lately) and given us good and bad news. The bad news is there's nothing they can give Miss0 because she's too young. The good news is this strain of the flu doesn't appear to be at all life threatening.  

"Are you sure?" I asked Tracey when she told me. "Because, seriously, I'm so friggin' sore and tired, if another kid comes up and screams at me for nothing I may have to kill them."

Master7 knows what I mean.

This afternoon I insisted all the kids have a nap because I needed them to be quiet. After half an hour of chasing them back into beds and hissing at them to stop talking and close their eyes I gave up and focused on getting to sleep myself. 

Despite being the sickest of the lot, Master7 took over the role of overseer. 

I'd feel him stomp past my head and then he'd start up: "Stop talking! Lie down! Go to sleep! Don't make me get mum!" You know, using all the same lines I do.

After a couple failed attempts at getting his sisters to at least try for a nap he jumped back into his own bed and I heard him mutter to himself, "It's times like this I really wish I could swear."

My guess is he's thinking it. I know I have been all day.



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Doctor, Doctor, give me the news.


To truly get the tone of this post you'll have to pinch your nose and read it out loud. 

Well, hasn't this week been a park full of kites and clowns.

As of last night we've been confirmed with Influenza A. That's A for Annoying, Abrasive, Aggressive, Agonizing, A-lack-of-sleep and Aches.

It's times like these (and they don't happen often) I wish I didn't have the internet on - looking up information on influenza on the net nearly sent us into a panic.

On the bright side, and I insist on trying to find one wherever possible, yesterday I pulled off a convincing rendition of of Barry White's Can't Get Enough Of Your Love, Babe with my husky new voice.

That being said, we're all pretty miserable. There'll be a cough somewhere in the house followed immediately by a moan of agony.

Our biggest drama has been trying to shield Miss0 from the worst of it. She's had a little cough, but so far no fevers, so we're hoping she's somehow avoided the flu.

Master7 is the worst hit so far. Last night his coughs were so repetitive he sounded like a car with a dirty carburetor: he's hardly managed five minutes without barking. I know this because I slept beside him, administering cough lollies, Panadol, Nurofem, hugs and cough suppressants, as required. I'm shagged. I can only imagine how tired he must be.

Unfortunately, despite getting to the doctors within 24 hours and having a swab done, we missed the 48 hours window of opportunity for prescribing Tamiflu for the little man. After discussing things last night we were still going to get everyone on Tamiflu, despite the $600 price tag. However when we arrived at the only late night chemist in town we found they'd run out of the children's version two days ago, and by this morning we were past the 48 hour window for everyone. As it was Tracey and I got the very last adult one, which we're sharing until they get more in.

But the girls seem to be getting through it. Occasional fevers, coughs and nauseous moments, but otherwise a big improvement.

And from what I've seen and heard around town we're lucky. People have been hit so hard they haven't been able to administer themselves, let alone anyone else.

So despite feeling sorry for ourselves we also have to feel grateful it's not worse. Jeez, that sounds 'glass half full', doesn't it? Maybe by tomorrow I'll actually mean it.



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Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Fever! In the morning. Fever all through the night.

Our fridge shelf at the moment. There's more in the door.

I've never been a party to a nasal swab before. I pictured they'd shove something like an ear bud into his green gold mine and swirl it around.

"Nothing to worry about," I told Master7. "Stick your finger up your nose. No, your pinky. Push it in. There you go. It's going to be just like that." I wasn't even close.

One by one we've all been falling ill. First it was Master7 on Sunday, Miss8 and Miss2 Monday morning, Miss5 by Monday lunch - the teacher thought there might be a problem when my little girl fell asleep on the floor during class.

They've each been allotted some drugs and have been on a steady diet of Paracetamol and Ibuprofen. And here's the thing while I'm on the topic of kid's drugs, if they can make Charlie Sheen palatable surely they can do something with kid's medicine. Quite aside from the prescription drugs, we've spent $120 at the chemist in two days because I keep buying the wrong flavours. FYI there is nothing berry-like about strawberry Panadol. Can't they make a flavour kids actually like? They love those sour lollies. 


We somehow managed to scrape an appointment at the doctors for all four yesterday.

After a very thorough inspection of all four kids, the Doc asked for me to volunteer one of them for a nasal swab. I chose Master7 because he looked the most lethargic, so he'd be easier to hold down.

He was thrilled.

"I'm going to use Mishaela's (Miss17) excuse and say I don't want to," he told me in no uncertain terms as we drove to the testing centre. 

Instead, the nurse pulled out a thin blue tube about two or three feet long. I had a moment when I worried she might be entering through his bum, because there was enough reach, and I hadn't prepped him for that sort of intrusion. She then quickly measured roughly how far it was from his nose to his ear and then thrust it into his nostril and, given his reaction, directly into his brain.

"AaaaaAAAAHHHHHH!" he said.

"See. Just like your finger," I said hopefully.

"It was not!"

"Well don't tell your sisters. If you don't scare them off when we get back to the car it can be their turn next time."

Last night Tracey and I fell prey to this bug so it looks like the joy will just keep coming our way.

On the bright side, though, Master7 has already had the nasal swab so I won't have to. What a trouper my little man is.




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Sunday, July 22, 2012

Life's Little Joke

It may not surprise anyone to learn my wife and I love making babies. In fact, if a few things were different, for example if I was closer to Tracey's age, we'd probably have kept going and made ten. After all, everything is metric these days.

Only a few months ago, Tracey was cuddling a baby when she looked up at me and gave me that look.

"Oh, I'm feeling clucky," she cood at me.

"You can't feel clucky when you're holding your own baby, Tracey," I told her. "That just doesn't make sense." Although to be honest I have no evidence either way. Still I persevered. "It's like seeing your own Ferrari parked in your driveway and thinking, 'Oh, I want a Ferrari'."

"Well, maybe I want two cars."

"Or in this case, eight," I reminded her. "You really want eight Ferraris? They cost a lot to maintain, you know."

It's fun to joke, isn't it? Well life decided to join in the laugh today.

"I'm sooooo tired," Tracey told me this afternoon. "I'm going to bed straight after dinner."

"You went to bed early last night too," I reminded her. "You slept for twelve hours. Are you sick?"

"No, just tired." 

We looked at each other. 

"You don't think..." I trailed off, not wanting to finish the sentence.

Tracey's bottom jaw dropped and her expression changed to one I suspect would be more suited to defendant who's just lost a case for manslaughter and realizes they won't be eating fast food for a long, long time. Then her face changed again as her thoughts went to a calmer place.  "Not possible," she said confidently. "You're neutered. I'm back at work. My photography business is starting to take off. I have a brain again. I mean, what are the chances we'd fall just as things are coming good?"

I pointed to the five month old in her arms. "About the same as last time." When we conceived Miss0 I'd had a vasectomy, Tracey started her photography business and we were done. In fact we didn't plan any of the last four - we would never be asked to speak at a family planning convention. 

I shouldn't have said anything. Suddenly my wife was back on death row. "Oh yeah. I forgot about that."

"No, you're right. It's not possible," I said. But if wishes were horses we'd have a herd of Ferraris in the driveway.

Tracey quickly summed up the situation. "Shit," she said. Then her face brightened again. "Maybe I've got glandular fever," she suggested. "Or Ross River or something like that."

"Jeez, I hope so," I said eagerly.

A quick sprint to the local shops and a gallon of water later, I was pacing outside our bathroom waiting for the result.

"Anything?" I called through the door.

"Not yet," said Tracey. "Don't rush me."

"And don't you mess with me," I told her. "I want a straight answer. I can take it," I lied.

A few minutes later we had our answer. Tracey flung open the door and wrapped her arms around my neck.

"Congratulations!" she yelled. "I must be sick."

Well, thank goodness for that.




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Saturday, July 21, 2012

Keep out of reach of children

This is not our house, but it is a hint of things to come.

I swear my kids are going to be hoarders. They have no concept of what constitutes rubbish. And I don't think they're the odd one's out - I suspect in years to come, shows like Hoarders will be ever more prevalent on our tellies. Personally, I intend blaming Pixar. 

The Toy Story franchise has confirmed for legions of children the world over their toys are real and have emotions. If you toss a toy out they have their little toy hearts broken.

Thing is, once the idea of endowing toys with thoughts and feelings gets a foot in the door...well...where does it end? Old ballerina sheets, cause they have faces? Same goes for Ben 10 lunch boxes, right? Scraps of paper with kid's drawing? Why not? Suddenly everything is precious.

We have a string in the dining room which displays all our kids' masterpieces. Miss5 inparticular thinks any time she passes a pencil over a scrap of paper it should be wall mounted and admired. I attempted to clear the string off today. It didn't go well.

"What are you doing?" Miss5 asked me. My hand was poised over the bin.

"Tidying up," I told her. "Tossing some rubbish out."

She looked at the balled up wad of papers in my hand. 'Here it comes', I thought to myself, and she didn't let me down.

"Is that my....NOOOOOO!"

And suddenly I had a five year old screaming and clawing her way up my torso, her hand outstretched and snatching at my extended hand like King Kong swiping at biplanes on the Empire State Building.

Which of course attracted the attention of the real monster in this house.

Tracey walked into the kitchen. "What are you doing?" she asked me.

"Tidying up," I told her. She, too, looked at the balled up wad of papers in my hand. I tried to explain. "I'm tossing some rub-"

"Is that the.....NOOOOOO!" Of everyone in the house, she's the person who is most anal about keeping every little drawing.

Maybe I'm being too hard on Pixar. When my kids are snatching their fifteen minutes of fame on Hoarders: Buried Alive I think I'll blame Tracey.




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Cracking jokes in the face of misery

Food is a big deal over here in Devereauxland, so being told you can't have something yummy is bound to bring out some strong emotions.

Young Master7 was diagnosed Celiac a few weeks ago - this on top of his peanut allergy and sensitivity to fish. He is not very happy and there has been a lot of 'why me?' going on. I empathize with my little man's plight - the things we can't have seem to illicit the greatest desire. Like when Tracey and I crawl into bed and she tells me in no uncertain terms I can't have what I want and to go the hell to sleep. It's upsetting.

Master7 has always been very good with his allergies - when given any food he religiously asks if it has peanuts. He wouldn't even feed the dolphins at Tin Can Bay because it meant touching a fish (we've tried to explain this wouldn't be an issue but he won't have a bar of it).

So we've allocated a special draw full of gluten free snacks. This is now the number one, favourite spot in the whole kitchen for pretty much the whole family: full of apricot bites and cornchips and rice crackers and all sorts of goodies.

In some ways the whole house is switching to gluten free foods, such as breakfast cereals, to accommodate the latest curve ball life's thrown at us. It's a hassle, but Tracey and I figure there's worse stuff out there so we don't complain too much.

Yesterday, completely against type, I messed up. I needed to buy some morning tea for a meeting and picked up a couple of sausage rolls as well to share with the kids before school. When I realized my mistake I thought things would be okay because I could pull out a snack from the drawer for Master7 so everyone would have something special. Great theory.

Shortly after arriving home I found Master7 on his bed sobbing and saying things like, "This sucks!" and "Why me?" Hot dogs and meat pies are fine, but it seems sausage rolls cross some sort of line.

We chatted for a few minutes but he wasn't really coming around. The other kids had come into the room with me to offer their support as well, which was good because it took Miss8 to bring him out of his funk.

 "I hate it! Why me?" he told me while I knelt down beside the bed to chat. It was important we got through this quickly because school was to start in fifteen minutes and, just as importantly, I wanted my morning coffee. 

 So I'm chatting away, being all soothing and parenty. 

"You never miss out, mate," I told my son. "You might not always have the same stuff, but you'll always have something just as good." Suddenly I felt a cool draft creeping up my lower back, but for the sake of coffee I persevered with my child-whispering. "What would you like instead? Something awesome. Sausage rolls are out, but you can....what the hell is going on back there!?" I said, spinning around. The cool draft had spread even further up my back. Turns out Miss8 was standing behind me gingerly lifting my shirt.

Seems when I knelt down a hint of my plumber's crack was peaking through and caught her attention.

"I just wanted to see how far it went," said Miss8. She looked at her miserable brother. "It went a really long way.  Seriously, you gotta see this." Her little joke brought the misery rocket safely back to earth. Next time he's feeling upset about his new diet I'll have to remember to loosen my belt and wear my pants at half mast.

Or I could simply avoid bringing home sausage rolls. Either way I guess.





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Thursday, July 19, 2012

Scary Prick

I'm having a most uncomfortable time.

Because this afternoon I'm having cameras shoved into my every orifice, I've spent the last 24 hours not eating and the last 12 hours testing the sturdiness of our plumbing.

The only fun bit has been scarring the children for life. Well, it was fun at first.

Driving them to school yesterday I explained why I was home and briefly touched on what the procedure entailed.

"They put a camera inside you?" gasped Miss5.

"Have you done this before?" a wide eyed Miss8 wanted to know.

"Sure have," I told her. "Half a dozen times at least."

"Does everybody have to do this?" asked Master7, his knees around his chin.

"No," I told him. "But lots of people in our family have. Grandad has, and Uncle Shane. Maybe you guys will be the lucky ones who don't have to worry about it," I assured them. "But you won't have to worry about this sort of thing for a long, long time."

"Doesn't it hurt?" asked Miss5, her bottom lip starting to quiver.

"Not one bit. When they're ready to do it they give me a needle and put me to sleep."

"A NEEDLE!!" they chorused.

When I was younger I was scared of needles too. I think this stems from the tetanus shots, after which your arm aches for days. What cured me was an endoscopy when I was about 20 which taught me there are worse things than needles. Not having needles, for example.

A friend of a friend had just had the same procedure, which involves a camera down your throat, into your stomach, and told me he didn't have a needle. So on the day I told my doctor I didn't want one either.

"We'll see how we go," he told me doubtfully.

So I lay on a slab and, fully aware of my surroundings, they fed what seemed to be a 10 foot tube into my mouth and down to my toes. To my credit I managed to suppress the gag reflex, but it was a near thing.

FYI, I don't recommend this. Neither does the friend of a friend who suggested it. When I saw this bloke a few months later he inquired how things went.

"All good," I told him. "And I did it without a needle."

"So you had the gas?"

"The what?'

"The gas. Instead of a needle."

"You didn't say anything about gas!"

These days I have the needle. As I mentioned, there are worse things.

Thanks to my fun little chat, last night no one was terribly keen to go to bed. Seems they were worried while they slept someone might put a camera inside them. I ended up sleeping in the girl's room on a mattress I'm pretty sure was stuffed with a concrete-stone blend, and which I've now decided needs urgent replacing.

So quite beside the Fleet mixture working it's magic on my insides, I've been having a most uncomfortable time.

But then I guess, unlike my first endoscopy, I've no one to blame but myself.




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Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Stop Helping

The sun wasn't even up when Miss2 once again graced us with her presence in our bed. Unfortunately she doesn't sneak into our room: she's the two year old equivalent of a marching band.

"Mummy!" she softly bellowed. "Up!"

Not surprisingly she woke up Miss0. Not that this worried Miss2, who hunkered down into Tracey's pillow and promptly went back to sleep. 

After several attempts to ignore the little poppet in the cot, and several more pinning our hopes on plugging the noise with a dummy, we realized a bottle was called for.

Well, Tracey realized this. Ashamed to say I barely realized my wife was out of bed.

Of course, when I did realize she was in the kitchen and Miss0 was screaming blue murder I quickly put two and two together and sprung into action. 

"Sophie.....Sophie.....Sophie....," I called out from my pillow. "Don't cry, darling. Mummy's coming." 

She continued to squawk.

"Sophie!" I said loudly, in a lazy attempt to distract her so she'd be quiet again and I could go back to sleep. "Sooooophieeeee."

"Bruce, stop helping! And learn the names of your kids, would you," Tracey snapped at me as she arrived back in the room with a bottle. Seems our Miss0's name is Emily, but then I'm pretty sure I knew that already. "If you'd woken Sophie back up I'd seriously have throttled you."

"Stop helping. Got you," I mumbled. "I'm all over it."

I think she said some other stuff too, but I was already back to sleep.

Not Sophie.



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Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Show & Tell All

I learned something at school today - if you want to know what the gossip is about you around town, talk to a prep teacher.

Today is the first day of my ever so brief holiday (I'm off the rest of this week for a minor procedure) so I took advantage of being home to take my sprockets to school. Or rather, Tracey took advantage of me being home to not take the sprockets to school. Either way, I ended up in young Miss5's prep class watching her Show & Tell presentation.

Miss5 decided to bring in a 'coloured sand man' she made while we were holidaying on the Gold Coast in 2009. It used to have a nose and a milk bottle attached to it - cause hers was a baby bottle - but now it's barely holding onto it's hair, eyes and arms.

The bottle of sand wasn't her first choice though. Her first choice was every doll and bit of doll furniture in her room, which Tracey caught her trying to shove into her schoolbag. The sweetener which convinced Miss5 to take the bottle of coloured sand was a photobook Tracey had put together of the holiday.

"It's so cute watching them do Show & Tell. I've marked the page showing the kids making the bottles," Tracey had said this morning, pushing the big, white book into my arms before shoving me out the door. "Have fun," she beamed, no doubt deciding between a fresh cup of coffee or maybe a lie down.

It was during the book showing I had a sample of how these crafty teachers extract all manner of gossip from the kids - they let them talk about whatever they want. Things sure have changed since I was in primary school.

"And this is the bottle my big brother made," said Miss5, pointing at Master20's effort (when we do a group activity we are all in). "His coloured sand man has a bottle on it too, but his is alcohol. He really, really likes his alcohol." What a wholesome picture you're painting of your family, Miss5. If I can ever catch him sober I'll let Master20 know you think he's got a drinking problem.

This no doubt explains some of the stories the kids bring home about some of the other parents.  

So if you're wondering why the teachers occasionally give you a sympathetic look or disapproving smile when you pick up your little darling I'd suggest sitting in on your kid's Show & Tell. You might learn something fabulously wicked about yourself or your family.



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Monday, July 16, 2012

Beastly Mondays


Monday's are not a beast to be trifled with in our house: like a wild cat, they must be watched warily as they approach.

With Tracey now back to working two days at Blockbuster, Monday mornings have become a logistics nightmare. From the moment our alarm clock shoots the starter's gun we are moving, moving, moving towards our goal - to arrive at work close enough to our start times to keep our jobs.

This morning, because getting seven people fed, dressed and delivered to four different destinations with all their homework and mental capacity in tact isn't hard enough, we decided to up the pressure.

"You know, if we can get out of the house by 8, you and I can probably have a coffee together," Tracey suggested. Oh, hell yes. That's almost a date! Only better, cause there's coffee.

"I'll do breakfasts and dress the baby while you have a shower," said Tracey. She's in charge when we're in a hurry. 

"Now you dress the rest while I jump in," she told tell me as I stepped out of the bathroom. "And don't forget their hats!"

So we don't have to wake up before sun up, we're organised enough so the lunches have been made the night before, and each uniform or outfit laid out for the kids in the lounge room so they don't need to empty the entire contents of their wardrobes onto their floors, but for all that sometimes all it takes is one little fly in the ointment to give Monday the chance to pounce.

This morning, as is so often the case lately, the fly was Miss2.

After supervising the kids dressing themselves I moved onto getting lunch boxes and water bottles into their bags. I pulled them all out of the fridge, including the sandwiches for Tracey and myself.

"Don't forget to make up the baby bottles!" Tracey yelled above the sound of cascading hot water.

"Ya Vol," I called back. When the bottles were done I returned to sorting out the lunches. Three things struck me in quick succession. Firstly, my sandwiches were gone. Secondly, Miss2 had her lunchbox open on the kitchen floor. Thirdly, this despite her lunchbox being still on the bench.

What the little 'cherub' had done was snatch my sandwiches off the bench while my back was turned and grab out a new lunchbox from the drawer to put them in. Unfortunately, after a couple of tries, she must have realized the sandwich wouldn't fit in this lunchbox so she removed the wrap and then the crusts, finally managing to get the whole lot  in only after she treated the mass of bread, ham and cheese more like play-do.

"How are we doing?" Tracey asked, coming into the kitchen.

"Great!" I lied. I wanted my coffee.

So we managed our fifteen minutes of 'this is what normal people do' this morning almost totally unscathed - maybe the beast had gnawed my arm a bit, but it was my left arm so not one I use terribly much.

And my lunch? Well I shoved the whole mess into the sandwich press at work and chewed with my eyes shut. Seriously, I couldn't tell the difference.





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"

Sunday, July 15, 2012

We Get Smart




Sometimes parents need to have a conversation over the heads of their kids. Recent advances in our kids' spelling abilities means Tracey and I have started resorting to codes. Fortunately I've spent forty five years studying this sort of thing. Only recently I read Ian Fleming's entire James Bond series, and I've similarly watched every episode of Get Smart at least once. I am all over it.

"Our Southern Son phoned up today," I told Tracey while Master7 sat between us on the lounge watching Surf's Up.

"What are you talking about?" said Tracey.

Big heads up, people, if you're going to resort to talking in spy speak it's a good idea to make sure the person you're talking to knows what's happening and has a copy of the codebook.

"You know," I said meaningfully. "Our Southern Son."

"Geoffrey, Mum," said Master7, his eyes not leaving the screen. This was going well.

"What did he say?" asked Tracey.

"Nothing, just letting you know he called," I said, trying to throw Master7 off the scent. I gave it another couple of minutes before I tried again. "I also spoke to The Big G today," I said. Then, before Tracey could say anything I quickly added, "And please catch up or we'll be here all night."

"What did he say?" We were off and running. I filled her in on the happenings in our big lad's life, using our clever new language full of colourful people called things like The Big F, The Big M, The Big L and The Big A.


Finally the whole story was passed on and we settled back into watching the telly.

"So who's M?" asked Master7.

"What mate?" I asked him.

"I know who The Big G and The Big F are. I just can't work out The Big M. Is it Mishaela or Molly?"

I looked at Tracey. "Sorry about that chief."

Next time we better lower the Cone of Silence.





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About Me

My photo

Bruce Devereaux is one of the nicest people he knows. When not at work he enjoys reading, writing, hiding from his children and not changing nappies.

 

His career, and if we used the term any more loosely an e might fall out, has included a gardener, a personal lender, a console operator, a stop/go man (not as big a bludge as you might think but great if you’re into sunburn, abuse and varicose veins), a cleaner of banks and pubs and, for a very brief period, a door to door salesman (until the last door he knocked on was answered by a very scary woman with tremendously hairy legs).

 

Bruce Devereaux currently works as a forty-five-year-old award winning customer service officer (glass statuette available upon request) for the Bank of Queensland and as a very casual employee for Corrective Services. He likes to believe he excels at both but then he has always been prone to exaggeration.

 

His favourite colour is green, with a picture of Dame Nellie Melba on one side and General Sir John Monash on the other. His favourite flower is self-raising.

 If you see him around town, call his wife immediately - he's probably snuck out and left her alone with all the kids.


 

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