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Monday, December 31, 2012

Bruce's Totally Doable New Years Resolutions

I never usually make New Years resolutions. Not decent ones.

When I was a teenager I would treat resolutions like wishes. I'd make a resolution like, "I will kiss a girl", but then wouldn't do much about it, just sit around with my lips pursed waiting to be snogged. But it never happened. Of course, as I went to an all boy school I was sort of okay with this.

Then, as I got older and went to university, I'd mean to make a resolution, but then I'd start celebrating and soon the only resolution I'd be thinking was, "I will not drink so much the room starts spinning when I go to bed. I will not drink so much I need a bucket." That sort of thing. But usually by this point I was past saving anyway so I'd break my resolution within hours of the new year.

After that I pretty much gave up. I've meant to do it a few times but I'd procrastinate and wouldn't get around to it.

But this year will be different. I have decided to make a list of Bruce's Totally Doable New Years Resolutions. These will not suit everyone else (or possibly anyone else) so if you've come here for ideas, I'm sorry, you'll have to write your own. These ten resolutions were devised strictly with me in mind:

I will give up expensive beers which don't fit into the budget and Tracey won't let me buy anyway.
I will learn how to use a mobile phone. Specifically, I want to know what an angry bird is.
3.   DRIVING. 
I will not back my car into our fence. Unless it really deserves it.
4.   WRITING. 
I will write a kid's book. Actually, I've written it, so mission accomplished (well done me, tick that resolution box), but I will edit the sod of a thing and get the dang ebook out there.
5.   WEIGHT. 
I will maintain my ability to gain weight year on year, or lose weight trying.
6.   FAMILY. 
I will devote time each week to connecting with my youngest son. An hour or two on the Wii playing Skylanders should do it. Or Mario Kart. I love Mario Kart. I mean, he loves Mario Kart.
7.   FITNESS. 
I will ride my bike to work this year. At least twice.
8.   COOKING. 
I will put more wine into my risottos than my mouth. At least, on nights when I'm making risotto. Other nights are fine.
I will never again watch Little Princess. You can't get that half hour back. Desperate Housewives is out too.
10. SANITY. 
I will not make any more babies. Ever. But I will still eat the jelly ones.

That should be enough to be getting on with.

HAPPY NEW YEARS EVERYONE! Hope you all manage to get your little tykes to bed so you can enjoy seeing 2013 in without the smell of a dirty nappy or the whine of an overtired child to distract you.

Cheers, y'all. Catch up with you next year. xx

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Sunday, December 30, 2012

Role Playing

If you ever want to get an idea how your kids see you, listen to them playing with dolls.

"I want to watch tv," the Tinkerbell fairy will enquire of the Barbie doll.

"You have had quite enough electronics for one day," the Barbie doll will say. "Go outside and play on your bikes."

You can hear them act out a problem they're having at school or daycare, and scenes from their favourite shows.

Sometimes it can be quite confronting though, when you hear them snap some poor doll's head off for not going to sleep or picking up after themselves, and you get to hear what you sound like to their little ears.

Sometimes it can be very funny. Sometimes it can be very scary.

Like today. While Tracey was cleaning out a cupboard in our room, I was babysitting the kids (code for trying to have a nap on Miss9's bed) when I heard Miss5 and Miss3 playing dolls in the next room.

"I don't feel well," said Miss5. "I think I better go to the doctor." Followed by a blood curdling scream. "Oh, no! I'm pregnant! I'M PREGNANT! OH, NOOOOO!!"

Now I wonder where on Earth she's heard that. Dora? Prep?

To the best of my knowledge we haven't had that sort of outcry in this house for over eighteen months, so I'm hoping my little Miss5 simply has a long memory.

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Saturday, December 29, 2012

A Magical Man-Flu Moment

A mate of mine had been copping a flogging over the weekend. Both he and his wife came down with some sort of bug, the result being neither of them were feeling especially energetic.

The kids, of course, were perfectly okay. And by perfectly okay I mean they did what they usually do and ran riot.

"I'm sorry," my mate croaked from the lounge as his wife sorted out the scuffles and found food for their little mites. "I can't help. I want to, but I can't."

Naturally, this earned him scathing criticism from his wife and the old 'man-flu' tag.

I'm tired of this man-flu stuff. It seems every time I get sick around the same time as Tracey she storms into the bedroom, dragging the hoard of loud and hungry kids in her wake who proceed to surround my death bed, and I have to try justify the depths of my illness instead of being allowed to die quietly in a corner. I have a theory - sickness hits us men harder because it knows we can take it. 

When neither my mate nor his wife were any better after the weekend they booked into their doctor to see if they could get anything to hurry their recovery along.

"You've got tonsillitis " the Doc told my mate. A flurry of activity on the keyboard produced a prescription and a certificate for some time off work. Finally the Doc turned to my mate's wife. "Whereas I'm afraid all you have is a bit of a sore throat." 

Way to score one for the team, mate!!

Mankind                                      1
Womankind          12,458,127,986

Look out, girls, we're starting to catch up ;)

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Friday, December 28, 2012

The Odd Father

Real life is far stranger than fiction, or so the saying goes.

"I remember your mother and I were sitting in a restaurant one evening when we first started dating," Dad told my brother, Master21 and myself as we chatted over a drink on the balcony, "and there were these guys sitting a couple of tables over. A bloke pulled out a gun, pointed at their heads and blew them away."

We sat staring at dad. I suspect the ten odd seconds pause Dad's statement gave the conversation was each of us trying to work out if this was one of those times we he was fluffing out a story to make it more interesting, although exaggerating to the point where someone dies seems a little excessive.

Family get togethers are fun, especially all the family folk lore which are dusted off and trotted out like prize bulls at the local show. Over the years the stories have been evolving and gathering nuances and details and becoming even funnier.  Dad has a saying, 'never let the truth get in the way of a good story' and he's been true to this motto his whole life.Tracey says it's a universal male trait in the Devereaux clan.

This year, however, Mum seems to be heading in the opposite direction - instead of adding to the stories, she's starting to take stuff away. My mum's been losing bits of her past for years. Me too, for that matter, which is why we keep such an extensive collection of photos and why I love writing stuff down. Recently, though, it does seem to be reaching critical velocity.

Over the break I overhead Grandma telling Master21 how much fun they used to have when he'd come and stay with her and Grandad at Bradman Ave, opposite the boat ramp.

"That was me, Mum," I hurried to correct her. We lived there. When I was about seven, I might add.

She paused. "Are you sure?"

"Very sure," I assured her. The house is gone now, replaced by the entrance to a caravan park, but I still point it out to the kids when we pass the spot.

"Damn," Mum muttered, and stumbled off in her own thoughts, no doubt trying to sort her memories into some sort of order given this new information.

I have bits of my life I wouldn't mind forgetting, like my attempt at playing football at school and the time Tracey learned how petrified of heights I am by watching me crawl up to the entrance to a waterslide because my legs had given way, but unfortunately age doesn't let you chose.

Meanwhile, my dad was still insisting they'd witnessed a hit.

"Yep. Killed them right there in front of us."

I was shaking my head incredulously, but not at my parents having seen someone shot. I wanted to know why I hadn't heard this story before now.

"Seriously? I've heard the story about your fascinating hemorrhoid operation maybe thirty times but this is the first time you're telling me this?"

I looked at my brother. The doubt on his face mimicked my own. Master21 was deep in thought at the end of the table. "I'll be right back," I told them all and walked into the kitchen. "Hey, Mum? Remember that time those guys were shot in front of you and Dad while you were in a restaurant?"

She scoffed and rolled her eyes at my father's story but suddenly her face mimicked mine too. I guess she was remembering the Bradman Ave incident.

I went back out to where my brother was waiting. "Mum says she's pretty sure she'd remember something like someone being killed in front of her. That and the police investigation and the court case might have caught her attention." I shrugged. "But given her memory lately she's not prepared to commit either way."

"I got it!" said Master21 from the end of the table. "Grandad, remember we saw The Godfather a few years ago?" My dad acknowledged he did. "Because I think that's a scene from the movie."

You know, when I start to add scenes from movies into my past I really hope I collect scenes from Batman and Xmen - that'll spice things up. I might actually be Batman or Wolverine. Or maybe a little something from 9 ½ Weeks, although with my luck I'd be cast in a minor role.

For now, though, I guess I better go kiss my father's ring and check my bed for horses' heads.

And sure enough, watch closely and you can see my 
parents at the far end of the restaurant enjoying their meal.
(warning: graphic violence)

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Wednesday, December 26, 2012


"What's wrong with you?" Tracey asked me this morning.

I was limping and moaning quietly (just quietly enough for her to hear) whenever my foot hit the ground.

"Sports injury," I told her.

She wasn't the first person I'd told either. Her mother, her father, her sister, our oldest two kids - they'd all heard how I was suffering and how the top of my foot was aching.

"What sport?" she wanted to know. I don't blame her for asking. The only sport I seem to be involved in lately is sexercise.

It's not unusual for Christmas at the Devereauxs to leave a house full of happy and exhausted children, and one injured parent, in its wake.

Usually my Christmas injuries are the result of opening toys heat locked in plastic which requires a mig welder, engineers degree and two teams of opposing horses to remove, or gashes to my fingers from sharp edged cardboard boxes. I inevitably end up bleeding on something, and then sport cuts and scabs on my fingers well into the new year. Plus, you know it's not easy to maintain a rugged, fatherly, testosterone fueled persona when you're squealing 'ouch' and then sucking on your finger because of a paper cut.

This year, however, I must say I've been impressed with the step down from Fort Knox toy packaging security has taken. Most of the toys displayed in boxes were held in place by string and either easily cut or untied. The powers that be must have been listening to my screamed demands every Christmas morning since the late nineties to have this travesty fixed.

Unfortunately, though, while I didn't slice and dice my fingers this year, I did sustain a foot injury from one of my kids' toys.

I limped some more and hissed in pain as I gathered my strength to say another sentence to my wife: she almost waited patiently for me to speak. "From when I went all skaterboy yesterday," I grimaced at her.

Tracey looked at me incredulously, then snort chuckled. "Skaterboy?" The complete lack of sympathy etched into her face was almost as painful as my foot. When that look did finally leave her face it was only so it could be replaced by another which told me how pathetic I am. "You mean the two laps of the balcony you did on the princess scooter Santa gave the girls?"

I stand corrected, there have been two injuries this Christmas, but only one of them is physical.

I'm just glad Tracey wasn't within earshot when I was telling my story to her mother.

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Monday, December 24, 2012

Party Hard

On Thursday, Master20 clocked over another year and Miss17 did likewise so Saturday night was the culmination of 21 years work as we had their combined birthday parties. Therefore from here on in I need to be referring to my two eldest as Master21 and Miss18. Where the hell does the time go? I'm barely out of my twenties myself. 21 years since the big man turned my simple life upside down? 18 years since my beautiful girl melted my heart? More like 10. Eleven at a pinch.

The party was fantastic. As the date drew closer I've been increasingly worried about gatecrashers and troublemakers but the event went off almost incident free. Almost.

Some of you may have noticed I've clocked up a few days absence from my blog. This is because I've been extremely busy, as in drunk (or at least very happy - the days of spinning rooms, missed lectures and the need for buckets are, thankfully, well behind me). I've been drinking because we've been lucky enough to host all the families' Christmas functions at our place this weekend, which is a lot of work but also saves on the 'who's going to be the designated driver?' discussion between me and Tracey.

This has been my life for the last four days:

Thursday - Master20's and Miss17's birthdays
Friday - Devereaux family Xmas party
Saturday - Master21's & Miss18's combined birthday party
Sunday - Lawrence family Xmas party

And the next few days aren't looking so relaxing either:

Monday - Xmas Eve
Tuesday - Christmas
Wednesday - Miss2's third birthday

Who the hell put Christmas in the middle of all my kids' birthdays?

December has already given us birthdays for Tracey, my brother and my big lug of a nephew.

We've been looking forward to this combined birthday party since the day Miss18 was born on her big brother's birthday and we realized their 18th and 21st would combine. Well, looking forward to it and dreading it. I, like the majority of sensible people in this world, don't like public speaking. Having a couple of decades to prepare didn't help me either. In fact, the only thing I'd managed to do, from the moment I realized I'd have to give a speech at the damn thing, had been to panic. Did I think to write any notes? No, of course not. I opted to wing it. You can imagine how well that went.

As I stood in front of a sizable crowd of about 100 people, it suddenly occurred to me I had nothing. For years I've been thinking of little lines I intended to say, like, "I feel very lucky in that I not only love my two oldest children, I actually like them." Nice, eh? What about anecdotes?  I've got dozens and then some. Any come to me on the night? Not one.

Well that's not entirely true, there was one. But I thought recounting about how Tracey walked into Master21's room one night when he was about 17 and thought she'd sprung him playing with himself would be a little inappropriate.

Of course, speeches are over so I've no compunction about telling the tale now :) Upon seeing Master20 quickly reef the blanket up to his chest, Tracey beat a hasty retreat, a little embarrassed for our young man. Master21 recently told us he overheard Tracey telling me about the incident the next morning.

"I'm so sorry," said Tracey. "You must have been so embarrassed."

"No," he said. "I was actually relieved. I remember thinking, 'Tracey thinks I was masturbating. Thank god.'"

Turns out he wasn't playing with himself at all. What he'd actually done was sneak a girl, who is still his girlfriend (and I hope her mother doesn't read my blog), into his room and she was 'hiding' under the blanket.

I know what you're thinking, is this the story we put on my Father Of The Year application, or do you use the one where Master7 wins awards all year at school and I have no idea until a customer at work tells me about it?

I chose not to tell this story, which I feel deserves a fair amount of praise. Okay, given I didn't know he had a girl in his room maybe we can just call it even-stevens on the praise front.

So in my rather short and meandering speech I told Master21 & Miss18 I love them, I thanked people (family, our friends, the kids' friends) for helping us mold them into who they are and I dished out the cake. Mission accomplished. I guess we're lucky in this family in that we tell each other all the time how much we love each other so we don't need special events to make this known. Having said that, Master21's speech had Tracey sobbing and blubbering - he could talk the hind legs off a donkey, that boy. Even my beautiful Miss18 said some lovely words, and she'd rather wear pink than talk in front of a crowd.

The night itself was great. We booked the local Junior Rugby League clubhouse, surrounded it with people, food and a band, erected a huge jumping castle outside, a pool table inside and had us some fun. Most of us anyway. There was this one guy who might have a bone to pick with the way the evening turned out.

This guy, let's call him Michael, hasn't been to our home before because he's one of Master21's uni mates. Halfway through the evening he decided to start up an unfortunate conversation with Miss5 on how tough she is. She explained how she could beat up her big brothers, or her dad, or anyone because she's watched Karate Kid or some such. He then tried to tell her she couldn't beat him because he's so much tougher than her. He shouldn't have called her out. Anyone who's spent any time with Miss5 knows this. She punched him with all her might straight in the nose.

So an almost incident free party and a lot of fun.

Three more days of excitement and gluttony and then the fun begins - I'm back at work. It's been a nice, busy break.

Oh, and sorry Michael. I hope they set it nice and straight.

Merry Christmas, everyone! You all have a wonderful time with your partners, kids, friends and/or family. Behave or I'll sic my five year old daughter on you.

Stay safe and I hope the big guy has you on his good list :) x

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Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Christmas Toy Story

"Come in here," Tracey whispered to me when I arrived home from one particularly exhausting solo expedition to the grandparents. She was indicating the bedroom.

"Alright!" I thought to myself, all tiredness swept aside in a rush of adrenaline. "Kids! Watch the telly! Or play your DS! Or iPod!" Or play with matches! Or sniff paint! "Mum and I are going to have a nap and we don't want to be disturbed for five whole minutes." I tried to run some quick mental arithmetic before all the blood abandoned my skull. "Maybe four. It's been a few days since I've had a nice nap."

You know how sometimes when you get started on something like cleaning house and suddenly you have energy? Me either, but clearly this was the little miracle working its magic on Tracey.

In anticipation of the truckload of new toys coming into the house at Christmas, Tracey has been doing her best imitation of a 'dose of salts' and purging of the kids' rooms.

Every crappy, broken or unused bit of toy is being relegated to either a garbage bag or a plastic box. The plastic boxes end up in the shed where they hibernate until someone small squeals because they can't find their favourite Barbie lampshade or the kids need fresh stimulation on a rainy afternoon (or so I can play online). If they go long enough without being missed or called back to active duty, then they're off to Vinnies.

Unending drawers, pulling out boxes and foraging behind beds for last year's must have Barbie or action figure may sound like Tracey's drawn the short straw, I know, but I'm undertaking the toughest role - I'm keeping the kids out of her way.

And by 'out of her way' I mean 'out of the house' because it isn't enough to have the kids sit in the living room watching telly - the moment they catch a hint of Mum tossing out a toy, that's the moment hell seems like a nice, relaxing summer resort in which to spend eternity.

 Mine was a thankless job, or at least I thought it was up until now.

"Lock the door," Tracey said in a low voice.

"Don't have to tell me twice," I grinned as I skipped into the bedroom.

"Look at this!" said Tracey as I flicked the latch and turned to face her.

Sadly, she hadn't stripped off her clothes but instead was indicating a huge pile of toys which beep and make noises. Or, at least, which used to. These days they don't do much of anything except lie around unused, not getting played with. Yes, well it's been that sort of week.

"Next year at Christmas," said Tracey, oblivious to the fact we were on different wavelengths, "we're not buying toys for the kids."

"That'll be a fun Christmas," I said. "You get to tell them."

"Look at all these toys they don't use!"

"You can't be cross at the kids because they don't play with some of this stuff." I picked up a plastic toy computer we'd bought back in 2010. "They just need batteries," I said.

"Exactly!" exclaimed Tracey triumphantly. "Next year, instead of toys,Santa can give the kids batteries."

With the blood begrudgingly making its way back up to my head I did some more math. If we were to put new batteries in all those toys we couldn't afford to buy presents as well. We were going to need hundreds. Plus full Kevlar body armour if we had a hope of surviving the mutiny which was sure to come in the aftermath of our kids reaching into their Christmas stockings and discovering a few packs of AAA's apiece.

"I'm not saying your plan doesn't have genuine merit," I said to Tracey, "but lets hold off on cancelling Christmas until after I've died of natural causes."

Anyway, the point of this is you know how sometimes when you get started on something like cleaning house and suddenly you have energy? Yeah, well turns out neither does Tracey. Damn it.

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Monday, December 17, 2012


I remember watching my Dad on Christmas morning sitting in a big chair behind us kids, a pile of presents growing larger on the floor beside him. Whereas we'd be tearing the paper off our gifts the moment they touched our fingers, most years he wouldn't even have opened any of his by the time all the presents were handed out.

I used to think this was a ploy to tease us by having unwrapped presents to look forward to once we'd finished unveiling all ours, but now I know the truth - he just knew what he really wanted for Christmas wasn't inside any of those wrappings.

Aussie Daddy Bloggers
Like on our birthday and father's day, women always over think the presents they buy us for Christmas with our beer money because men are, as I’m sure you’re aware, fairly simple creatures. In this household, a typical conversation in the lead up to Christmas will go something like this:

Tracey: “What do you want for Christmas?”

Me: “Sex.”

Tracey, after an exhausted sounding sigh and an unacceptably long pause: “Can I phone a friend?”

Look, we know you're tired and the kids are giving you hell, but we simply want our pound of flesh, or however many pounds you weigh, and the good news is we don't really care about the wrapping. In fact, unwrapped is probably best because bras just slow us down (even at forty-five, they still baffle the hell out of me - if I could invent a bra it would have a pull-string at the front, like a parachute).

The thing is you'll spend a lot less time giving us this particular gift than driving to the shops and searching for something else. You might even enjoy it. We're seriously doing you a favour here. Yes, it's a bit cliche, but we're far more interested in your presence than your presents. 

Speaking of cliches - come Christmas morning, if you insist on us menfolk pulling something out of our stockings instead of yours, you can't go wrong with socks and jocks, right?

Well, actually, you'd be more right than wrong.

You see, blokes generally have no desire to march into Best & Less or Target and buy the damn things ourselves. These sorts of shops are devoid of alcohol, gadgets or football memorabilia, so we plain don't like them. Hell, most of us don't even know what size undies we wear. We'd end up in the middle of the Bonds section, contorting our torsos and giving ourselves a wedgie, trying to read the faded label riding just above our butt crack.

By giving us socks and jocks you're giving us more than just a few strips of fabric to house our tackle: it's the female equivalent of an afternoon at a day spa. You're giving us a frustration free Saturday afternoon unhindered by the drudgery of shopping which would have meant time away from the telly and our bar fridge. We get to relax. Thank you.

Second. Best. Present. Ever.

But socks and jocks are just the tip of the clothing iceburg. This is the thing about Christmas - women get the chance to buy their hunks of spunk the stuff they know the buggers need but can't convince them to go shopping for.

Tracey always buys me a shirt for Christmas in the hope I will use it to replace one of the older ones in my wardrobe. Tracey and I were married back in October 2000 and I still have a couple of the shirts we bought from a vendor on the streets of Phuket. Okay, so they're not shirts I wear out to functions anymore but they still, to Tracey's horror, make an appearance every month or so.

Unlike a woman's top, which sometimes can only be worn once or twice before being relegated to the Vinnies' bin, a man's shirt tends to go through a sort of recycling process.

After the shirt starts to fade it isn't thrown out, it's merely downgraded. For example, a faded shirt is still good for trips to the beach or going to the in-laws. Fraying might downgrade the shirt to the pajama pile, and if washing refuses to budge an odour, or a small rip appears, this means the shirt is just about perfect for yard work or fence painting.

Why do we continue to wear this tired, old shirt and steadfastly refuse to buy a new one?

Well, it's our lucky shirt.

Why is it our lucky shirt?

Because after we wore it this one time you had sex with us, therefore it is already one sexual encounter luckier for us than any shirt you could possibly want us to purchase.

Which means all we've managed to do is a lap of the Christmas tree because we're back where we started, only now you've gone and spent our beer money on a shirt. And my advice is, if you want to see us wearing this new shirt more often than that hypercolour t-shirt we bought back in the early nineties, sleep with us after the very first time we put it on. In fact, sleep with us before we even get a chance to take it off. Because, you know, if do this regularly enough, by New Years we might even throw a few of our older, stinkier, holier, but now less luckier shirts out. Just saying.

But if the idea of a shirt doesn't float your boat and you still insist on using our beer money to buy us something to unwrap on Christmas morning - assuming, of course, you aren’t keen on giving us an actual carton of beer - go with something new and gadgetry because if it's one thing us guys love it's having the latest bit of 'Wow!' before our mates do.

But chances are the kids will still have torn the Chrissy paper off their presents well before we get to ours because we know the 'Wow!' we really want for Christmas doesn't require wrapping.

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Sunday, December 16, 2012

The Sorceress

Our house is filled with conversations I can't follow - from Tracey's ones about homework and 'rainbow numbers' to Miss2's garble about Knee Butter to the quick Gatling sentences of Miss17 in general.

So today, when the Master20 led off a conversation about Dungeons & Dragons type gaming with Master7 and Miss9, I went off for a quick break to my own make believe happy place inside my head.

Don't get me wrong, I love the idea of using your imagination for a game, instead of pressing buttons and playing out someone else's creation on the big screen, I just prefer my fantasy world to be free of scrapping kids and fighting in general.

When I reentered the conversation, Miss9 and Master7 were still enthralled by Master20's description of Dark Elves and Wizards and Rogues. Only now their brother was leading them in a game.

"I'm a Swordmaster," Master7 explained to me. "I climbed up a tree to have a look around and The Sorceress lit a fire and the tree started to burn."

"Nice game," I said to Master20. "It's not enough they argue, now you're teaching them about weapons and encouraging pyromania?" But I was only teasing him.

"It's great, Dad," Master7 nodded at me. This game needs a fertile imagination so it was right up his alley. "I had to get down because of the fire so I jumped and my pants caught on fire so I ran around with my bum on fire trying to pat it out. I had to sit in a river." He was grinning.

Reminded me an awful lot of the old Daffy Duck and Roadrunner cartoons I used to watch as a kid, and I've never lit any illegal bush fires so I guess they're not being corrupted too much.

"So who's The Sorceress?' I asked, full knowing the answer but keen to have her tell me herself.

"That's me!" said Miss9, beaming as Miss5 joined the table. Clearly they were both loving the game and having a ball with their big brother.

"I want to be a Sorceress too!" cut in Miss5. "I'll put sauce all over me and wear a sauce bottle on my head."

How cute!

Still, it seems I'm not the only one in the house who can't quite follow a conversation. I left Master20 to work that one into the game. Afterall, he started it.

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We help a young man in Armenia buy livestock

It's that time of the month again - my monthly KIVA plug. The repayments from money we've loaned to people in some of the poorest countries in the world is starting to filter back to us, meaning we can lend it out again and help someone else :)

This month, for our 65th KIVA loan, our family has decided to help Smbat in Armenia (the 56th country we've loaned money in!). He's the sole breadwinner for his family, despite being on 20 years old. He wants to buy some livestock to improve their situation and we've decided to help him. He'll be paying his loan back over two years beginning in February next year, which will hopefully give him ample time to fatten up his improved herd and sell them off for a profit.

Here's what Smbat's application had to say about him:

"Smbat is 20-year-old proactive young man. He lives with his parents in Goris, Armenia. Smbat is engaged in agriculture and is the only breadwinner in the family. He keeps 8 cows, a calf, and 40 sheep. Despite his young age, Smbat has big plans for the future and is working hard to achieve his goals and ensure a better life for his parents. Smbat has applied for this loan to purchase 2 cows and 10 sheep. The loan is very important for him because an increase of his livestock will give him an opportunity to earn more income and implement his future plans."

What I love about KIVA is we don't have to contribute huge amounts of money to help someone. US$25 is all it takes to get involved in meeting someone's loan request - and you get to chose who you help. Plus, as the money rolls back into your KIVA account, you can opt out of any future loans and take your money back if you find it's not for you.

If you're interested in looking into the KIVA world of microfinance, here's a LINK to the website. And if you join and are looking for a Team to join we're part of Paying It Forward - love to see you there.

If you're one of the 127 people who have already joined KIVA through Big Family, little income and begun stretching a helping hand across the oceans, your repayments will likewise be coming into your account over the next day or two, if not already, so check out your account and relend the money! There's still a lot of people in need of a hand to get their little street stalls or farms up and running.

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Saturday, December 15, 2012

High Flying Drama

Miss2 enjoying Tracey's birthday present
"Don't take that outside or you'll lose it," I heard Tracey warn Miss2 this morning, about thirty seconds before there was more wailing outside our back door than Japan does for 'scientific' research.

Back on Tracey's birthday, my sister arranged a lovely basket of goodies to be delivered. Part of this was a helium filled balloon, which was quickly commandeered by Miss9, Master7, Miss5 and Miss2 as being too much fun for Mum. Consequently, since then I've spent a goodly amount of time each evening being dragged into the various high ceilinged rooms of our house to pluck the balloon from the ceiling after someone has let go of the string.

Following the sounds outside, which had escalated to bawling, I followed the pointing finger up into the sky and, sure enough, there was Tracey's balloon, already twenty or thirty meters up, slowly drifting off.

Attracted by the noise, we were soon joined by Miss5. They too, guided by Miss2's finger, soon found the cause of their little sibling's frustration.

"Daddy, get it down!" Miss5 instructed me.

"I can't, love," I told her. I could no longer read 'Happy Birthday'. There didn't seem to be any wind around this morning, but the balloon was determinedly drifting away regardless.

Now I had two little girls howling - one at the balloon and one at Miss2.

"You naughty girl!" Miss5 admonished her sister. "Now I don't have a balloon to play with either."

I tried to redirect their thoughts.

"I wonder if it will drift all the way to Brisbane," I said. "Maybe Lily or Annie will be able to see it." I thought throwing in their cousins might work. It didn't.

"I want it back!" Miss2 continued to sob.

"When it lands, maybe another little girl or boy will find it and play with it. Wouldn't that be nice? They would be very happy," I said, appealing to my children's altruistic side.

"Noooooo," howled Miss2.

"They'll have MY balloon!" yelled Miss5.

"Come on," I said, shepherding them back into the house. "Let's race around to the other side of the balcony and see how long it takes before it's out of sight."

It took ages but by the time it was completely untrackable the anguish and wailing had been replaced with a few smiles and chuckles as Miss9 joined us on the balcony for some balloon watching. Occasionally someone would lose sight of where it was and the others would point and help them find it again. As the balloon had drifted away I kept watching for low flying planes and wondering how difficult it would be for the Air Safety investigators to remove fingerprints or DNA from the foil.

Eventually we scattered and things returned to normal. Of course, this is us, so by normal I mean Miss2 began attempting to feed the dog banana, Miss5 began checking out her own bum in the mirror and Miss9 changed Miss0's nappy before I even realized the baby had done a poo.

"What a nightmare," Tracey said to me later. "It was bound to happen though. I've been stopping them from taking it outside all week."

"We should buy them one each for Christmas," I suggested.

"Are you mad?" Tracey asked me. This comes up a lot. She never seems quite sure.

So helium 'happy birthday' balloons are definitely a no-go for under the tree. Gotcha :)

Mind you, I've already bought the kids (ME!) one of those remote controlled floating clown fish for Christmas - so if you're thinking of taking a joy flight you might want to watch for that in the skies over G-town come Boxing day. Or listen for it: My kids will be sure to let off an air raid siren like scream as it swims up over our roof towards the clouds.

 (after watching this, for the first time in my life I want a cat)

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Friday, December 14, 2012

A nightmare before Christmas

Have you and your kids watched Arthur Christmas yet? We watched it once then bought the DVD - it is that good. It's one of those movies which pulls off a great story with lots of laughs and no nasty bad guy. The movie was light and funny and thoroughly enjoyable. Just how fabulous and uncommon a concept this is in a movie came home to us on Sunday night.

One of the best things about Christmas, or Easter, are all the wonderful movies. I always looked forward to the stop go animation movies as a kid (I think it's my nostalgia for them which lead me to enjoy Hoodwinked so much).

Hot on the heels of Arthur and his family, I wanted something Christmassy to watch with our four little ones (the baby is happy to watch us watching). I decided we should watch A Christmas Carol - the one voiced by Jim Carey, because he's hell funny. I was very excited as I pressed play and hunkered down on the lounge with the kids.

"Nice choice," Tracey congratulated me me five minutes later. She was adorned like a human Christmas tree, with Miss2 was burying her head into her Mummy's chest while Master7 and Miss9 were clutching an arm apiece.

It was as though I'd sat them down to watch Jaws, The Omen or Dawn of the Dead. Within five minutes the room was full of screaming and moaning, and none of it was coming from the telly.

"Aaaaaaaaah!" cooed Miss5 sweetly from my lap. Between sobs she managed to tell me, "I don't like gho-oo-oo-oosts."

I never realized just how frightening A Christmas Carol is. I should have, of course, because it has ghosts and anyone who's played Pacman knows ghosts are scary. But then I've primarily watched the Scrooged version staring Bill Murray, where the scariest moment was when I thought they were going to staple little antlers to the heads of mice.

So the long and short of it is we didn't watch A Christmas Carol, or any Christmas movie that night. Instead we spent the next two hours explaining it was only a movie and Daddy won't be allowed to chose any more DVD's in the lead up to the fat guy bringing all the goodies.

But I'd bet my Christmas stocking we'll be watching Arthur Christmas again, cause that movie ROCKED!

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Wednesday, December 12, 2012

The Bum Monster

Find these cracking pants here

We have a lot of kids. I know cause I live here and I have to share the toilet with them.  Even with the oldest two having moved out of the house, there are still five of the little critters running, screaming, through the house trying in vain to get my attention.

Our house is loud. All the time. Especially if Master7 is trying to be funny. I often think to myself it couldn't get worse, but it is incredible the difference to the noise level an extra two children make.

I know because the other night Cousin9 and Cousin5 were over for dinner and the place was deafening.

But it wasn't just our ears which were being assaulted - Miss9 decided to accost one of the other senses as well.

'My eyes! My eyes!" moaned Cousin9, stumbling into the kitchen, squinting and simultaneously rubbing his hands across his eyes and trying to focus on them.

"What's happened?" his mother asked, worried.

"She pulled her pants down," he said, almost gagging.


My money would have been on Miss5, but surprisingly, in this case, it was Miss9. It seems my daughter had decided to introduce her cousins to The Bum Monster.

"You get the blame for this," Tracey hissed at me as she raced into the bedroom to ensure our child was pulling clothes on instead of off.

"I think the word you mean is credit," I called after her, grinning. "And yes, I do." But I wasn't really feeling all that confident because The Bum Monster has been known to backfire.

The Bum Monster is a tradition in this house, dating back hundreds of months. When the moon is full or there's a cheeky feeling in the air The Bum Monster can sometimes be found chasing kids around the house. Okay, it's me :) I chase them, bum first, from room to room until I corner them on a bed or the lounge. The love this game because my bum is, quite simply, hilarious, with a capital H. And when The Bum Monster catches them, he sits on them, which is even funnier, with a capital HILARIOUS.

The trouble is the kids don't always dress appropriately when they do The Bum Monster. The younger ones, like Miss2 and Miss5, for example, tend to go the full monty when they attempt it, and actually release the beast, which tends not to illicit as much merriment from whichever poor kid they're chasing.

Tracey, as you might have guessed, feels I might be encouraging her darlings towards becoming social pariahs, and no doubt, as she stomped out of the kitchen, was already adding this incident to her quiver of poison tipped arguments against letting The Bum Monster back into our house.

But I was saved by my daughter's prudishness.

"It's okay," Tracey said as she came back into the kitchen, looking relieved. "She kept her undies on."


(In case you missed it, a previous post a few weeks ago THE NAKED TRUTH also touched on The Bum Monster - hit the link and have a catch up read if you missed it)

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Monday, December 10, 2012

My wife's birthday present sucks

"The kids slept well," Tracey said to me when she emerged from the bedroom this morning. It was a statement, not a question.

I glared at her through aching, unfocused eyes and said, "You're shitting me, right?"

This is roll reversal - usually it's me making the ignorant, insensitive comment first thing in the morning.

"I was up four times in six hours," I shot at her. Not that I've any real grounds for feeling indignant. You see, today is Tracey's birthday and all she wanted was a night off from getting up to her children.

"From midnight to midnight, you're doing the kids," she told me yesterday. "And by the time I wake up I want them fed, dressed and bags packed."

"No worries," I said, because it's her birthday and what's one night as a thank you to my wonderful wife for all she does. Well I was wrong. 'Big worries' would have been a more appropriate response. 'Lots of worries' would also have sufficed. No wonder our Miss0 naps so well during the day - she's awake all bloody night!

I knew I was wickedly tired before Tracey even skipped out of bed. I'd been up with all the kids for an hour already, a good deal of which I'd spent looking for my Kindle. I read a few pages of a book every morning while I sip my coffee to help ease myself into the morning. The thing is, Kindle or no Kindle, there wasn't time for easing into the day while I was trying to light a bomb under the kids' bums.

"Josh! Out of bed, mate. Molly, stop playing with your doll and pour a bowl of cereal. Grace? Grace! Where are yo...what are you doing? The telly isn't even on. Why are you staring at it? Come on, put your uniform on. Josh! Last warning. Get up and start breakfast or there'll be no DS this weekend. Yes, or computer or Wii. Thank you. Sophie, where is your nappy? Is that poo? Oh no."

I eventually found the damn Kindle thing, which I'd put down to help Miss2 and Miss5 mop up the milk from their attempts at breakfast, in the fridge.

Another sign I was in for a bad day was when I accused Tracey of getting up herself to attend to our baby in the early hours of this morning. I might not be good at this but I wanted to be able to say I came through with her 'present'.

"I didn't get up," she assured me, grinning.

"But Emily had a bottle filled with just water when I got up this morning. You must have."

"Well, it wasn't me," reasserted Tracey. "No way. I clocked off at midnight."

"Oh," I said, my mind thinking this over. "In that case it looks like I forgot to add the formula to her bottle last night." What else had I forgotten?  "I changed the baby's nappy too. I better check I put one back on." I'm  extremely pleased to say I had.

So HAPPY BIRTHDAY my darling! Another year older but you still look the same to me as the day we first kissed.

Or maybe that's just the sleep in my eyes. I'll check again tomorrow after a good night's sleep ;) xx

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