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Monday, April 30, 2012

Speaking of comics

I met Barbara Gordon today. Naturally I played it cool.

"Big fan," I said as she left. She looked at me like I was a bit of an idiot, but then I'm getting used to that these days.

"Who was that?" asked a girl at work.

"Barbara Gordon," I said, raising my eyebrows expectantly. It was a waste of facial muscle movement.


"You know, Batgirl." The look on her face didn't change.

I understand what it's like to have your name high-jacked. They Call Me Bruce came out in 1982 and thirty years later, last month in fact, it is still being used against me.

A few weeks ago I spoke to a lovely lady with Riddle for a surname.

"I bet you want to snot J K Rowling," I said to her. She looked tired for a moment and agreed.

Over recent years I've also met a Bruce Wayne (Batman) and a Steve Rogers (Captain America). I've met Lisa Simpson, Grace Kelly, Richard Harris and Scotty Cam. Actually I really have met channel nine's Scotty Cam, I just wanted to put that in.

So good people who have had their names rudely high-jacked by movies, songs, actors and fame in general, I feel your pain.

Of course, to build up a good head of steam over this, people have to first recognize your name.

"Barbara Gordon? Batgirl? Do you mean Catwoman?"

"No, Batgirl. Commissioner Gordon's daughter is Barbara Gordon. After Batgirl she becomes The Oracle."

And still her face didn't change. Well maybe it got a little less interested.

"I feel like Leonard talking to Penny on The Big Bang Theory," I said, chuckling.

"Yeah, I don't know who you're talking about there either."

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Sunday, April 29, 2012

Word of the Day

Sesame Street is gold, although I can't watch it for as long as I used to. I usually check out the word of the day and then leave the room. Yesterday, Sesame Street's word of the day was 'stupendous'.

"I can use stupendous in a sentence," I told the kids. "I am stupendous!"

"That's like stupid, only on a bigger scale," Tracey muttered as she breezed past. 

Not all kids programs are as good though. Recently I caught a segment of the cartoon Little Princess. What on Earth is that cartoon trying to tell kids? They can whinge and get whatever they want? Thanks ABC2, but like my kids need the encouragement.

Growing up, we had the best cartoons: Scooby-Doo, Gadget, Daffy, Darkwing and Roadrunner. Even when Master20 was growing up we could sit on the couch together and watch Bart and Pikachu. Cartoons were funny and adventurous and full of good life lessons - like rabbits are crafty, clowns aren't always happy and haunted houses are usually built over gold or diamond mines.

It's not just cartoons where I think we were better served as youngsters - have you sat down and watched In The Night Garden or Yo Gabba Gabba? What the...? But my kids love them.

As a young sprog I was always riveted to the screen with quality shows like Sesame Street, the Muppets, Playschool and, if I could sneak in behind the couch while my parents thought I was asleep in bed, I Dream of Jeanie. I still dream of Jeanie.

I also rediscovered Playschool when Master20 was born. Depending on the hosts it can be a great laugh. For example, have you ever noticed how whenever John Hamblin gets involved in a dress up he ferrets away in the box until he finds a dress or a skirt? He was cross dressing before it became cool. The man was fantastic value for both kids and adults. Classic John was the time Benita set up a play picnic with a plate and a knife and John said, "I suppose a fork's out of the question?" Playschool is a lot more bland these days without his double entendres. I like reruns.

Granted, amongst the chaff these days there are some fantastic kids' programs. I'm thinking primarily of  Shaun the Sheep, Jakers and the Super Hero Squad (love those funny little guys). Whichever way you look at it they are positively stupendous.

Like me :)

The age of reason

It seems there's a project underway at prep because Miss5 wanted to know how old Tracey was.

"How old do you think I am?" asked Tracey. At a similar age and involved in a similar prep project, Miss8 and Master7 both guessed their mum was a pleasing 17.

"100," said Miss5 confidently.

"Ouch," said Tracey. "That would make me older than Nanny. Who do you think is older out of mummy or Nanny?"


This wasn't going well. Tracey quickly thought of a way to explain she was actually still quite young and beautiful, thank you very much, to our clearly deluded little Miss5. "Who's older out of mummy or Poppy?"


"That's right. And Poppy is married to Nanny, isn't he. And they're both my parents, and I'm your mummy and I'm older than you. So who do you think is older out of mummy and Nanny?"

The gears started turning as Miss5 processed all this information, and then rejected it for the only bit of information of which she was absolutely certain.

"Mummy! Cause you're 100 years old."

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Spin Doctor

Miss8 has been having some trouble focusing lately.

On Thursday, I took her down the road to Brisbane Children's Hospital for some tests, where she was wired to a computer and put through her paces so they could measure her brainwaves. As I suspected, she had lots.

One of the tests involved her blowing into a handheld kiddy windmill to make it turn.

Miss8 was doing very well for the first minute and then she seemed to get bored and stopped.

"Keep going!" the Doctor called out.

"Don't stop," I told Miss8. "You'll have to start again."

She stated up again. And then stopped again until we encouraged her. As we progressed the stoppages occurred more and more frequently.

"It's too hard!" Miss8 complained. Too hard? Breathing? Honestly, how ridiculous.

"I'll help you," I told her. Kneeling beside Miss8 I began taking deep breaths and exhaling with her. For about thirty seconds we did this together, with Miss8's little windmill spinning dutifully.

And then I got a dizzy spell and fell on my bum. After that I let her press ahead by herself. Turns out I was wrong - breathing can be hard.

Tests done and nothing untoward revealed. Which is good and bad all at once - you naturally don't want there to be anything wrong, but then you want to know some answers so you can get on with fixing things.

Friday, April 27, 2012

The little engine who still could

Not only can our family not fit in our Pajero, but the old girl is on her last legs. Every morning when she kicks over and starts Tracey and I high five each other and the kids scream out, "YAY!".

We have a plan to replace the Pajero with a Toyota Hi Ace Commuter (12 seats - enough for friends), but it won't be until we sell our block of land up the road. I realize it's not something you hear many blokes say, but I get excited when I see a good looking van. The girls at work are tired of me excitedly pointing out when a nice Commuter drives past our branch. I think it's a desire borne out of necessity.

Long and short of it is, we don't want to spend a lot of money on keeping our car going. Rather hypocritically, we're hoping the old girl will hang in there long enough to see me up front and ecstatic in a dreamy white van.

When we bought the Pajero eight and a half years ago we planned to hang onto it for ten years, but she won't quite get there. Plus we only had two kids then, with a third one nearing completion. No way did I think we'd be looking at another four kids after that.

For the past couple of months our the old girl has been very sick. We've recently hit the point where we need to refill the radiator after every trip to town. Now I'm not a mechanic but I suspected we might have a problem. Yesterday we finally took her to someone who is a mechanic, but we weren't hopeful our bank account was up to the challenge.

As it was he took one look at the engine and said, "Gaskets. $2000 minimum. We could be talking the head as well and that's the big money." I nearly fell over: since when has $2000 not been the big money! "But leave it with me and we'll have a proper look."

While we waited, Tracey started looking for a temporary replacement rolling lump of junk on that great web car yard, eBay.

"We can pick up a Tarago for under $4000!" she told me.

"Do we have $4000?" I asked hopefully.

"Maybe if we sell shares."

"Do we have shares?" I asked hopefully.

Fortunately it turned out what our old girl really needed was a new radiator cap. With a tune and some odds and ends the total came to a far more reasonable $380.

And it seems we're off and running for another six months. Hopefully.

I can't wait until we can buy ourselves a van. I think I'll take my laptop to bed and Google some photos.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Cop That, Dad

Blood tests aren't a lot of fun so when dad needed one done we all knew it was destined to end poorly, but none of us would have guessed the police would be involved.

For some reason my father thought it was such a lovely morning he would leave the car at home and walk to the pathology centre. Why a man who struggles shuffling the distance between the lounge and his bar fridge should decide to walk two hilly kilometers is beyond me, but there you go. Dad has been doing things I don't understand for years: he's wears white y-fronts around the house for a start.

After the tests, dad decided he'd pulled a hammy or punctured a shoe or hit the wall or something and he couldn't walk home. The nice receptionist rang for a cab.

A couple of minutes later a car pulled up in front of the surgery and dad jumped in the back seat and buckled up. Which was when the police officer in the front seat spun around and said, "You're obviously feeling guilty about something. What am I taking you in for?" 

Fortunately the officer was still smiling when the cab pulled up behind the police car five minutes later.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012


This time it was Master7 who caught me out.

Coming home from a fun day of pony rides I missed the video shop and needed to turn the car around. As we did so we clearly startled a group of young people, who happened to be walking up the road.

"They said a swear word," Master7 called out from the back seat.

"We don't say swear words," I reminded him. But he didn't want to let it go. Eventually I asked what the swear word started with.

He thought for a full five seconds. "W," he told me.

Hmmm.....wanker? It couldn't be worse than that, could it?

"Okay," I said, caving in, merely so we could move on. "What was the swear word?"


So it's official: poor spelling runs in the family.

"At least he knew he wasn't allowed to say it," Tracey consoled me.

I'm more concerned I've fallen for the same thing twice. Shame on me.

Be Cuss I Can

We go country

This is me doing it wrong.
A good friend is home from New Caledonia to visit family, and because she loves us we were invited to her parent's farm for a chat, sausage sizzle and (big bonus) pony rides. Marie's little angel, Maylia, played so well with our slightly less angelic bunch, and little Savanah was a sweetheart too. Morgan was fantastic fun too, keeping Master7 amused with piggy back rides and games while all the girls played.

Initially all my kids were petrified of the pony. There were tears and a bit of ranting. Eventually my ranting paid off and Miss8, Master7 and Miss5 gave it a go. Predictably we now have demands for a pony for birthdays.

Only drama was when I was leading the pony and, because the only thing I know about horses is what I learned from watching Mr Ed, I did it wrong and Master7 was thrown off. Immediately he hit the ground the pony moved over him and from where I stood horrified it looked like he'd been stood on at least twice. I was expecting broken bones. Instead he cried, shook himself off, called it a 'Wonky Donky' and got back on for another go.

A good hour was spent collecting and hammering macadamia nuts to eat, petting soft feathered chicks and stripping their vege patch of cherry tomatoes.

There was even a wonderful surprise just before we left, with Midget, their little foxy, putting on a dog show for the kids. She'd beg and roll and commando crawl when asked, all for a tidbit of dried liver. The kids were very impressed and Marie's mum showed them how she did it - I hope Jazz is up to the challenge because I could see a few gears turning. Inparticularly, Miss5 was really taken with the whole idea of training - she walked up to Marie's mum as we were leaving, showed her a lolly and snapped succinctly, "Sit!"

On the way home Miss8 asked if we could drop into a pet shop and pick up a couple of ponies. When we explained we had no room for them she disagreed, suggesting we could keep them in the backyard and Jazz in the front yard.

"It was the best day I've ever had," Master7 announced as we arrived home. Well it's not every day you get to be a rodeo cowboy.

Great fun. Great friends. Great experiences. Great day.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Cheers Digger

I am in awe of anyone who drags their bum out of bed at sparrows to go to a Dawn Service.

Of course I've done it for years - only as soon as I arrive there I turn the car around and go back home to bed.

I'm not a morning person: I'm more a 9.15am person. My oldest two have gone to the Dawn Service year on, year out for, well, years, and I'd be volunteered by Tracey to drop them down to the park. The trick, I've found, is to not open both eyes at any point. If both eyes open I'm suddenly awake with no chance of getting back to sleep. But if I keep one eye shut for some reason I fool myself. Of course, it makes driving a little difficult, but there's not much traffic out there at that time of day, so it's okay. Or rather, it's been okay so far.

But tomorrow morning I get to stay in bed. This year, in a flash of genius, I thought of a reason for Miss17 to stay at my mum's place tonight. Unrelated, of course. Just unfortunate, really, mum will have to get up at 4am to take her to town. Or so I thought.

Twenty minutes ago, Miss17 rang me up to ask if I thought it would be okay if she went to the mid-morning service this year. Wait.....


Since when!? Why weren't Master20 and Miss17 going to this far more reasonably scheduled service the last 10 years?

Once I recovered from the shock I explained to her it doesn't matter which service you go to. The main thing is we use some time on this day to remember those who have served and risked and lost their lives in the service of their country.

I don't just think about them on Anzac Day, I think about them throughout the year - the movie Gallipoli left a deep impression. My Pop served in PNG and I've been to where the Kokoda Trail begins. Hearing about it is bad enough - depressing in it's way. I complain if I'm camping and there's no hot water and the tent leaks. I hate we put them through it. I can only imagine the horror they endured.

Poor bastards. We're thinking of you, today more than any. RIP.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

New Dawn

I watch telly with my laptop in front of me. Not because I need to check everyone's FB status every two minutes (that's just a bonus) but because otherwise watching movies is simply too frustrating. For everyone.

Inevitably an actor will pop into a scene and I'll think, 'Where have I seen him before?' Now ignoring the dialogue and plot entirely I'll run through the possibilities - A similar movie? Guest spot on Friends? New Idea?

"Have you seen that bloke before?" I'll ask my wife.


"The short one with the thin moustache."

"Bruce, would you shut up!"

"I know the voice."

"I'm trying to listen!"

This is where a conversation would traditionally end (often with violence) but not anymore.

"Don't worry if you don't know. I'll look it up for us."

Which is why I always have the Internet Movie Data Base ( close at hand.

"Oh, it's Linda Hunt!"

"I don't care."

"I remember, Tracey, she was in Kindergarten Cop."

"I'm going to bed."

And after a discussion with my mother earlier tonight I'm thinking it's genetic.

"Have you seen the Coles ad on tv?" Mum asked me. "That woman looks just like Dawn French."

"It is Dawn French," I informed her.

"No it's not," said Mum.

"Based on..?"

"Well, why would she be out here in Australia?"

"To make money? Maybe by doing an ad?"

"No, it's not her," Mum assured me. "Good impression though."

Any word on whether someone is bringing out an Internet Commercial Data Base site? I'm sure we can move Mum's computer into the lounge room.

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Saturday, April 21, 2012

and this little piggy went bla bla bla all the way home

Some friends offered to bring Miss8 home from her party today, to allow Tracey to race off to a party Miss5 was invited to, and to save my good wife a trip back out to the property. It took a weight off our shoulders.

When they dropped her off I thanked them, but apparently Miss8 made the trip fun with her banter.

"Sometimes I think I'm half boy and half girl," Miss8 explained to them all. When they told me I rolled my eyes but then it occurred to me she's spot on. Not that I think she's having gender identity issues because, "Maybe I'm a little more girl because I like girl's stuff." Makes sense to me.

She then proceeded to tell them how messy our house was. Being a large family themselves, and so understanding the messonomics involved, they said their house was too. But Miss8 was having none of that. Without even having to see their place she assured them our house was worse. And especially her room.

'It's a pigsty," she explained.

"You told them what?" Tracey asked aghast.

"A. Pig. Sty."

"You don't tell people that!" she said, a little manically.

"But you say it all the time," Miss8 explained to her. Where do you go with that?

"Well I'll have to change how I tell the kids to clean their rooms," said Tracey. Kids are like parrots: they repeat what they hear. Better think fast too, because it won't be long before they've covered the floor in more crap.

Sure enough, an hour later the girl's room was a mess again. Always keen for an opportunity to shine and show my wife how helpful I can be, I marched in and announced, "This room is a brothel!"

Apparently my services as a parent are no longer required.

Our Haunted House Guests

There are two kinds of people - those who believe in ghosts and those who don't. Well I'm neither of those.

I don't believe in ghosts but I believe I have seen one. Confused? Welcome aboard: there are no exits but we will be serving refreshments.

I tell myself all this ghost stuff is explainable if we give due consideration for lack of sleep, poor diet, overactive imaginings and the usual grumblings of old houses. But then I also talk to our house guest and ask her to not ever let me see her ever, ever again. Unlike my wife who seems keen to start up a dialogue.

By any conventional definition of the term, we live in a haunted house. We don't mind because it's not a b-grade movie sort of haunting. Our ghost is one of the best house guests we've ever had.

It all started a few years ago when Miss17 was born. She'd be crying in her bedroom and the door would open. We'd settle her down and close the door and shortly she'd start up again and the door would open. A friend was babysitting for us one night and this happened three times, at which point she called out, "well you settle her down!" to the walls and closed the door again. And a minute later the baby was settled. When our friend opened the door again she found the baby cooing at a spot on wall.

For a while I was really hoping instead of a ghost we had some sort of X-men type mutant child on our hands, however except for her ability to attract boys like metal shavings to an industrial sized electromagnet she's quite normal. Still in terms of our ghost theory it's not conclusive. But then I've only just begun. Then we have the footsteps.

Between our kitchen area and the lounge room we have had years of hearing someone walk between the two rooms. We have a wooden floor so they're quite loud and easily recognized, to the point where you'll turn to see who's come up behind you. I once bounded into the kids' rooms to have words with whoever was out of bed only to find everyone sound asleep. We'd tell people about our ghostly footsteps and they'd scoff at us. One nigh we had some friends over and as they were leaving 'someone' walked into the kitchen behind us, and we all turned to see who it was. No-one. 

"That's her!" we exclaimed. "That's the ghost's footsteps!" 

"Bye!" they said. Fifteen years and they've never been back. Maybe it was the curry.

Still think we're kidding ourselves and maybe wanting this a little too badly? Are we talking ourselves into it? I ask myself the same thing. But then I'm not done yet.

We say 'her' because we're pretty certain we know who she is and we met her son one night when he dropped us home from town - he's a cab driver.

"I grew up in your house," he told us. Naturally we took the opportunity to ask if anyone had passed away there.

"Sure. My mum," he answered a little hesitantly. "Hazel." 

On another trip Tracey described our ghostly friend to him - he was a little put out.

"You've just described her," he said. I think he was a little freaked out but a few months later he provided us with a copy of a photo of his mum.

"It's her," Tracey told him, adding she is lovely. "She's great with the kids and shows up when we have a new baby and we're stressed. She's a calming influence."

You might be wondering how we know what she looks like. Well obviously she's been seen. 

A bloke who boarded with me for a number of years saw her - she walked behind him, the same lounge room/kitchen route, when he was watching television.

Then there was the time I woke up one night and she was was floating over me with her hair hanging forward, as though gravity was still an issue in the afterlife. 'I must be tired,' I thought. While I didn't soil my pants I don't think I'll be winning any bravery awards. I snapped my eyes shut and woke up Tracey.

"Honey, do I have any sleeping tablets?"

"Sure," said my long suffering wife. "I'll get them."

The next day we're driving down the coast and Tracey says, "The strangest thing happened last night. When you woke me for a tablet there was a girl standing at the end of our bed and as I watched her she faded away."

The next several seconds were taken up by me regaining control of the car. 

"What did she look like?" I asked her, and she described the young woman I'd seen.

"That's her," I told Tracey.

"You saw her?"

"Why do you think I wanted a sleeping tablet?"

But this was all years ago and we haven't had even the footsteps for a long long time. I wondered, on one of the occasions I've allowed myself to think maybe there are ghosts and maybe we've encountered one and maybe it isn't all lack of sleep and poor diet, if our talking to her son and saying how wonderful she is with kids hasn't helped her to cross over.

That being said you might be wondering why I'm bringing this all up now. Well, last night we had another sighting, this time by one of the kids.

Our littlest kids don't know about the ghostliness. Master20 and Miss17 do, but we've kept it from them because they might use the information to scare me.

After the usual bedtime shenanigans, the kids were all in bed last night when Miss8 suddenly appeared at her door, which opens onto the lounge room where we were watching telly.

"Who was that?" she asked us.

"Who was what?" I asked back.

"Who just walked past my bed and out the door?"

"Your brother going back into his own room?" I suggested. But Tracey was giving me pointed stares over Miss8's head. Afterall, we've just had another baby so the MO is the same.

"No, after he left. There was a girl, about five years old."

I checked all the other kids, and inparticular Miss5, but they were fast asleep.

I don't claim to know about these things, I just know what I've experienced myself. And even then I find I sleep better if instead of lingering spirits I believe in the tiny movements in old houses on stumps and sleep in eyes creating blurry images and the odd coincidence of two people waking up from similar dreams. 

"Maybe I'm just tired," Miss8 said, jumping back into bed, squeezing her eyes shut and pulling her doona up under her chin. "But I hope she comes and sees me again." Looks like she's a chip off both our blocks. 

Meanwhile I might get to the doc and grab myself another prescription for sleeping tablets. No point in all of us losing sleep.

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Friday, April 20, 2012

Let's air some dirty laundry

On entering high school our oldest two began doing their own washing. Sure, it cut down on our washing pile a bit, but mainly we wanted them to learn to fend for themselves. I know in some families the kids do more: I know some families the kids do nothing. I know one family where the winds of change have started blowing.

You see, I had a chat at work with a lady who told me how, on the way to school this morning, her fourteen year old son volunteered to do his own washing. Kinda.

"What's that on your shirt?" she asked her son as he jumped into the car.

"Rexona." Seems he'd pulled on a dirty shirt and sprayed a bit of scent to mask the smell. And he wasn't happy about it. "I had to because I don't have any clean shirts."

"I bought you four! Where are they all?"

"On my floor. You haven't cleaned them."

"Why haven't you put them in the wash?"

"I told you to. Last night when I was in the bathroom I yelled out and told you where they were."

"Oh, I see what you're saying now. You think this was my fault."

"Yeah well you do my washing."

Not anymore.

She took her son's criticism of her laundering to be his volunteering to take care of his own laundry needs from now on. And in case you're thinking she handled this calmly she's fairly certain the people driving in the other cars could hear her 'talking' to her son about his attitude.

I'm thinking, if her son's in charge of his own washing, she might want to stock up on deodorant spray.

We help some ladies in Tanzania get ahead

The reason I chose to help these ladies is they're from Tanzania and we haven't lent money to anyone in that country yet. I'm trying to fill in the map of Africa. 

The reason I chose to loan at all (had to add $14 to my account to bring it up to a loanable $25) was so I could draw attention to a post from Suzanne, who had some concerns about KIVA. Here's the article, which I think poses some fair questions - David Roodman's Microfinance Open Book Blog

Personally I think KIVA is very transparent in it's operation and accountability - more-so than most and certainly enough for me. They don't skim money from the money we loan (their offices run from separate donations specific to their running costs). Similar topics about pre-payment of loans have been discussed on KIVA itself (I participated in one with other members of the Australia team). Some people were unaware the loans were funded before we loaned them our money and felt in some way ripped off. But most knew and understood the reasons the loans are handled the way they are and the benefits to the very people we're all trying to help.

In the end the points which settled the discussion were: a) without our money, the loans wouldn't happen b) if the loan defaults, we wear the loss. Therefore, no matter how you look at it, they're our individual loans to feel good about.

And now here are the details of the latest loan we're feeling good about :)

"Fatuma, who is in her late 30s, is married with four children. Her children go to school.

She has been selling charcoal for six years now. She explains that she works from 6:00 am to 6:00 pm daily, and is able to make a small monthly profit.
This would be her tenth loan from Tujijenge Tanzania. She used the previous loans, all of which she successfully repaid, to pay for her children's school fees, household expenses, a plot of land, and additional sacks of charcoal. She is seeking this loan to buy more sacks of charcoal. Her dream is to one day be able to build her own house.
She will share this loan with her loan group, named "Songa." The group is made up of 15 members, who will hold each other accountable for paying back their loans."

Thursday, April 19, 2012

My 2nd 'Gympie Woman' Magazine Contribution

How excitement! I've been looking forward to getting my hands on the latest edition of Gympie Woman magazine all week. I must have done alright last time because the lovely gals asked me to contribute again in their I Say, You Say section. Here's what they published:

My bucket list is fairly simple and totally devoid of things like bungy jumping or visiting the seven wonders. 

Here’s my top five – 1. Retire. 2. Sleep in. 3. Watch an entire episode of The Big Bang Theory without changing a nappy or wiping a bum. 4. Paint my fence. 5. Canoodle wife without making her pregnant.

We didn’t plan to have seven kids. In fact the only child who was planned was the third of my kids, my eight year old. The best you can say about the rest is, except for the latest arrival, we didn’t plan not to have them. As for the baby, well she slipped in between two vasectomies.

You know how you can tell we didn’t plan to have so many kids? The oldest children got two good names a piece: if we’d known we were having so many we might have saved some of better ones for the younger kids and avoided a whole heap of baby name ‘discussions’.

The trick to making ends meet with all these kids is fairly simple and born out of necessity: we buy in bulk, we buy on special, we hand things down and we say ‘no’ a lot.

“Dad, can I have a-“


“Dad, we need a-“


We’ve learned if we wait until they finish the sentence it can cost us a fortune because we often want the same stuff they do – fast food, cool gadgets and trips to Dreamworld – and if we let them finish a sentence we’ll end up thinking ‘actually pizza for dinner would be great.’  

We don’t do snow trips to Kosciusko and, as a family, the fanciest restaurants we go to have play areas for kids and give toys away with their meals.

Holidays for us are weeks away in Tin Can Bay, the tourist Mecca, where we ride bikes, fish, feed dolphins, play games, BBQ whatever’s on special at Woolies and simply relax and enjoy each other’s company. Even better, because we aren’t flying anywhere the kids get to take their dog.

I read an article about 20 years ago which professed it cost a quarter of a million to raise a kid to adulthood. Recently I saw another article suggesting it was now a million dollars a child. Jeepers, what on Earth are you people feeding your kids? I don’t know, maybe these figures include nannies, private schools, holidays to Disneyland, world safari gap year, first car, first house, first Picasso original and space wedding.  However you look at it, we clearly weren’t included in either survey. What I do know is we spend nearly every cent we’ve got and we do it gladly.

So while at our current rate of savings and investment our retirement is unlikely to be filled with pyramids, colosseums and tandem jumps out of planes, with seven potential breeders on our hands I daresay we’ll be so busy visiting and babysitting all our grandkids we won’t have time to miss it.  As long as I get my Bucket List top five I don’t think I’ll have any complaints.

Actually, I'll be more than satisfied if I can just pull off number 5.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

We help a mother of 8 in Uganda

This is our 28th KIVA loan!

That means our KIVA account, which currently has $207, has managed to fund $700 of loans (because as the money comes in we relend it).

Tracey chose to help Rose from Uganda stock her shop with sugar, salt, soap and cooking oil. We knew Tracey had found her loan when she got teary. Here's Rose's KIVA application:

"Rose lives in Kampala, Uganda. She is married and has eight children, four of whom are in school. She also takes care of additional family members (Old parents). Rose has a retail shop business. She has been in this business for 10 years and she works seven days out of every week. Rose sells her products in a shop, by means of retail. Rose has requested a loan of 1,500.000 Ugandan Shillings from MCDT SACCO, which she will use to buy more bags of sugar, cartons of salt, boxes of soap and jerrycans of cooking oil. The main business challenge(s) for Rose include thieves and transportation. Her goals and aspirations for her business are to start selling at wholesale and own a fully stocked shop. Rose lives in a home that she rents. She has access to electricity and piped water. Her major monthly expenses include school fees, rent and feeding the family."

Eight children plus looking after aged family members - we were never going past Rose.

"How do they do it?" Tracey asked me. "We think we struggle! We've got nothing to complain about."

It's so true. We love helping people out a little with our $25 loans each month. We love it even more if, as with this loan, it's entirely funded on repayments from our previous loans.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Today's Post

We have an old, crappy car: a 1997 Mitsubishi Pajero which has seen better days and almost all of those before we bought it. Bits of our car have been falling off for years - the passenger side window is currently held on with tape.

We used to have a relatively nice car, but nine years, seven kids and irregular maintenance has fixed that as nothing short of a bingle with a bus would.

I've owned a lot of cars in the past 20 years. Most have been less than civilized. If cars were countries, I've owned most of South America (no offence - love what you've done with the G-string).

When we first bought our Paj the kids weren't even allowed to eat in it: that was the 'shoes off before you jump in' phase. Now we feel lucky if they remember to remove the scraps when we come home and we are now well and truly approaching dirt in the 'run it into the ground' phase.

The reason this is all playing on my mind is today we had a package delivered by the postman which nobody posted.

It seems our mailman noticed the hub-thingame in the middle of one of our tyres was missing. I've no idea what the hub-thingame is called because it belongs on a car and therefore I struggle to even feign interest. Actually I couldn't even tell you which tyre has the hub-thingame missing - just don't care.

But that is beside the point. How wonderful is our postie! Turns out he had a couple of these hub-thingames sitting around at home, as you do, and decided we needed them more than his shed.

If the garbo has a radiator thingame, we might grab another year out of this rolling heap of scrap metal :)

Our 'BIG FAMILY little income' Facebook page :)

Monday, April 16, 2012

Lip Service

Tonight, I think because she needed some cheering up, Tracey accused me of having a poor head for the little details. Naturally I protested this accusation and demanded she give me one example.

So she did.

Tracey, the kids and I were having lunch in the park last Friday when a bloke I hadn't seen for a while came over for a chat.

"Hey!" I greeted him. "You're back at work!" Clearly, cause he was wearing one of those reflector shirts which you just don't sport on a day off. He'd been off work having an operation. "They've done a fantastic job," I told him as I gave his lip a look. "I can't even notice where they've cut it out."

"Cut what out?" asked Tracey. I explained he'd recently had a growth cut out of his lip.

"Yeah," he said, pointing to a nice scar on his bottom lip. "They've done well."

Which was when I realized I'd been staring at the wrong lip.

Tracey one. Bruce nil. Again.

(And his lip really does look great).

Sunday, April 15, 2012

A new flavour of 2 minute noodle

Last week I was conjuring up a quick snack for the kids when I received a bit of a shock. It was a different flavour to what was written on the pack. I like chicken flavour myself. Beef, oriental - not so much.

But when I opened my pack of 2 minute noodles it had a new flavouring - a dry, green patch of mold-like something. Yum.

Screwing up my face, I went to toss it in the bin but then thought better of it. One bad packet won't break the bank, but then what if there are others out there. What if there are others out there and some kid doesn't notice and eats it? Well, probably nothing would happen, but then what if it isn't mold?

I decided to send off an email to Maggi, explaining I had photos if they wanted them. Then I decided to keep the pack in case they wanted to look at it, which was good because after they saw the photos, they did.

Still waiting on the results, but in the meantime Maggi have sent me a $10 gift card for my trouble (thank you very much) which was very nice of them.

We've never had any trouble with Maggi before, and this certainly won't turn us off buying their products. In fact I was very impressed with how quickly they responded and how sincere they were with their disappointment something wasn't right.

But mostly, I'm just glad I noticed the yuck before I went ahead and ate it.

Return of the Tomato Fairies

I have this nagging dread my kids will be the ones who answer, 'from the supermarket,' when the teacher asks where eggs come from.

Mind you, 'from a chicken's bum' probably wouldn't earn them any points either.

With this fear niggling at the back of my mind we occasionally try to edjumakate our kids on how food makes it to our table.

We started a little vege patch a couple of years ago and suddenly the backyard was full of Tomato Fairies every afternoon, stuffing their mouths with handfuls of cherry and roma tomatoes. The kids loved it. I loved it. I felt very Farmer MacDonald, even though I had nothing much to do with the success of our crop - it was a wet season. I doubt the plants would have survived if they were reliant on me to water them: I struggle to remember to have a drink of water myself throughout the day.

Unfortunately the buffalo grass which frustratingly came with the load of soil I trailered home took over and for the last couple of years every time we looked over the balcony at the forest of weeds our enthusiasm evaporated like a puddle of pee in a heatwave.

We're not very good gardeners in Devereauxville. We're not green thumbs and we're not even very outdoorsy - I used to venture out a lot when I was a teenager, but mainly to find someone to snog. Still, every now and then we try to do better.

With the weather becoming a lot more pleasant we thought today might be a good day to plant tomato plants with the kids. We began with a trip to the Sunday markets to buy some seedlings. Now despite my honest assessment of my lack of gardening skills and any hint of a green thumb, I have to say the same can't be said for my enthusiasm for buying seedlings. So much so the guy at the market lights up and rushes forward to greet me every time I enter his stall. I'm embarrassed to admit some of the seedlings haven't even made it out of the plastic bag I've carried them home in.

It's not just tomato seedlings either. I've purchased no less than a dozen mango plants in the last ten years and only one of them is still with us and thriving - although I fear this may be due to being planted over a sewerage pipe. It's producing well though. Ten years and we've plucked about 8 mangoes of it. That's nearly enough to fill a $15 tray from our Marketman. So no chance of supplimenting our income by selling fruit at the front gate just yet.

So today, in stark contrast to the last 600 odd days, we started the weeding and digging with vigour and enthusiasm. This lasted nearly a full minute. 

In the end I did the digging and weeding while the girls played with the hose and dirt - ah well, it was nice to have them in the garden with me.

The girls' enthusiasm spiked again when it came time to plant the seedlings and water them in. Of the ten seedlings we planted, I've high hopes for the two they didn't drown or step on.

All we need to do now is remember to water our little tomato factories. Wish them luck: they're probably going to need it.

Anyone know a good raindance?

Friday, April 13, 2012

Hair Today. Gone Tomorrow.

I've never been very good at growing facial hair, although every morning when I splash water on my face and pick up a razor I'm tempted to try again.

My hand was forced three weeks ago when I felt the tingle above my top lip.

"Dad's got a coleslaw," the kids will announce when stress or sun or lack of sleep deliver me this evil.

"Well tell Herpe-Boy not to kiss me!" Tracey will call back. She's always very supportive like that.

The last thing you want to do with a cold sore is to shave it, and rather than end up with a Hitlerish monstrosity beneath my nose this time I chose to let my whole face blossom and just trim the jowls. 

Naturally this invited lots of comments from my customers.

"It's not Movember," I was told more than once. I tried to tell them it was Mopril, but most didn't buy it.

By the end of the week the tingle was gone and I was about to shave when a lovely customer, who I really must remember to send a card to this Christmas, commented with the beard coming in I looked a bit like George Clooney. Were they serious? Probably not. I didn't care. But it may not surprise you to learn I didn't shave for another two weeks.

Conversations were a little repetitive after that.

"It looks good on you," a customer would say. 

"Apparently it's very George Clooney," I'd happen to mention, after which they'd laugh: sometimes rudely. Some would be very pro-whiskers, some very against. I can't help but feel the ones who were against it were being more honest.

Still enough customers in need of cataract surgery agreed it looked good so I kept growing the fuzz, even though it was infuriatingly itchy. 

I wasn't even tempted to shave it off after one customer harshly disagreed with the George Clooney comparison, adding, "I'd say it's more George Michael." Fine by me. I figure there's people knocking on both their doors.

No, what finally had me tearing at my face with a couple of blunt razors was when a lady decided, even more than the Georges, I reminded her of an iconic Australian.

Trust me to reject the Rolf Harris look? Sure can.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Another shitty day in paradise

It's been busy at work this week, with the long weekend and all, but I can't bring myself to complain about it to Tracey. Somehow I don't think she'd be very understanding.

The vomits have been making their way through the family since last Friday. Mostly it hasn't been a problem - we've lots of buckets - although Master7 was devastated he missed out on spending time with his cousins on Sunday.

It's always a different story with Miss8, though. Tracey says she gets sick like a man (more specifically me, I believe). With the other kids there's been stretches of feeling okay between chucks, but Miss8 doesn't get those. From the moment she felt a bit nauseous her bottom lip projected out half an inch from her face and stayed there until she was all better.

Last night she dragged her bucket into the kitchen and flopped down at my feet. "Is a minute up yet?" she moaned at me.

"Why? What are you talking about?" I asked her.

"Mum said I'd feel better in a minute. Am I there yet?"

Sometimes her efforts to show us physically how sick she is backfire. Like last night when she collapsed to the ground after regurgitating half a cup of water and toppled the spew bucket over onto it's side. Lucky we have a large store of towels in this house.

This afternoon she's come good though, so only Miss2 to go now and all the kids have been through it. Mind you, we've probably saved the best for last.

Miss2 has already had a big day making a mess around the house. I rang Tracey at lunch time to see how things were going.

"We're getting there," she beamed into the phone. "I'm just feeding the baby and.....oh no!"

"What?" I asked.

"I've got to go find a nappy," she said miserably. "Hang on."

Turns out Miss2, who we've been trying to encourage to think of the toilet as a great place to poo, had walked into our bedroom with no nappy, her sister's new togs on (inside out) and lots of poo sticking out the sides.

Can I just say at this juncture, for those who think I don't censure what I put on this blog, if I put up every poo, wee and vomit story which occurred in this household of tiny people we'd have to rename the blog something clever like 'BIG BOGS, little bogs'.

Tracey eventually found the nappy by the toilet. Miss2 had taken it off and proceeded to manhandle the poo into the toilet for flushing. I mean it's nice she's starting to get her head around the concept, but we've clearly still got a way to go.

Unfortunately (yes, there's something even more unfortunate than what you've read so far) she'd not got so much into the toilet as on the seat itself. It was several minutes before Tracey returned to the phone. I used the time to sip my coffee, nibble on my sandwich and read my kindle.

"How's your day going?"  she asked me after she'd come back to the phone and explained what had happened.

I wanted to tell her it was nearly as shitty as hers but I didn't have the nerve. I might let her win this round.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

The writing's on the wall

My oldest two came with me as a box set to my second marriage. I've seen a lot of blended families come through work. Some work better than others.

I was very lucky with my oldest two. Tracey saw no barriers, and neither did her parents. They're Tracey's kids, and by extension they're her parents' grandkids and her great-grandparents' great-grandkids. The word 'family' means a lot around here.

One of the most disturbing things I've heard at work was a grandparent talking about their daughter's step-son.

"That's HIS child," they said, like the kid doesn't count. Their daughter's latest kid, their 'real' grandchild, is molly-coddled and praised and spoiled, but not this older kid. It's horrible. It's wrong. It happens all the time.

Clearly this has occurred to Geoffrey, Master20, as well. The other day he posted this message on Tracey's Facebook wall:

"I don't think I've ever publicly said this before Tracey, but I love you and I am incredibly blessed to have you in my life. 

You were thrust into a situation where you suddenly had two little kids and you treated us like your own. Not only did you manage to keep your head above water but you made swimming look easy. You looked after us and gave us an incredible life.

I love that you get offended if people even hint at Mishaela and I not being counted as your kids. lol. You are an amazing individual and deserve the best. Thank you for the wonderful life and quality memories we've shared together."

She cried. We all got a little teary actually. I can tell Tracey how wonderful she's been with all my kids but there's something very special about it coming from where her attitude to her step children has made the most difference.

Afterall, whether we're parents, children, step children or step parents, we're all family and we all want the same things: to be acknowledged and loved and accepted.

Monday, April 9, 2012

We help a woman in Peru get a whole village hammered

For our 27th KIVA loan, with the recommendation of KIVA newbie, Nick Haggarty (of Financial Freedom for Gens X & Y fame), we have gone with helping Yolanda from Peru and her dream of bringing together beer and tools under the one roof - it's pure marketing genius.

Now the whole village knows where to go to get hammered ;)

Joking aside, Yolanda is a savvy business woman who sees an opportunity to expand her business. All she needs is $1075, which most financial institutions would consider too small to bother with. This is why KIVA is so important.

Here is Yolanda's application:

 "Yolanda, 54, is a born leader. She lives with Walter, her husband of 28 years, and they have two children, Mabel and José, who they care for in their own house in the city of Chilca. She is the treasurer of her association and has always enjoyed managing money. Thanks to this, now she has a hardware store that is well stocked. She says business is going well, since she opens every day of the week. And since she his a hard worker, that's not all she does; she also sells food on Sunday from home. Her husband rents heavy equipment to state institutions and private constructors, and earns a monthly salary which pay for their children's university studies, so they can receive a good education.

Now she wants to expand her business and sell beer wholesale. They started selling beer not too long ago and now want to expand the business because demand is high and they have done well in the past few months. She belongs to the communal bank "IDME" and this is her 26th loan through MFP. She is counting on your support so she can continue toward her goals. She is committed to paying back the loan on time and is grateful to the communal bank because all of the members are responsible and caring.

Yolanda plans to use the loan to buy merchandise for her businesses, i.e. beer and hardware merchandise."

Our $25 was part of $1,075 which Yolanda needed to fulfill her dream. With Nick's money she was $50 closer to her dream. The best thing is, because this is microfinance, in six months we'll both have our money back in our KIVA accounts and we'll be able to lend it out again to someone else.

Press HERE to link over to the KIVA site to see what all this helping people is about :)

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Merry Easter!

This morning the kids woke to a large and small Easter chocolate bunny each, supplemented by colouring pens and books. They've all agreed this was fantastic and there have even been cries of "Best Easter Ever".

Of course, these little guys weren't about in the Easter Hay Day even ten years ago when there was only much younger versions of Master20 and Miss17. Back then, like commercial fishermen's hauls, the chocolate count was measured in kilos rather than grams. Whole African villages were kept employed by their demand for cacao beans.

But it wouldn't be a major holiday in the Devereaux household without a little drama.

While Miss8 and Master7 were colouring in their books, Miss2 discovered if she dribbled chocolate onto the floor she could finger paint a Pro Hart type work of art. Sadly for her I ruined it when I accidentally stepped in it and nearly went on a little Easter trip.

Miss5 is back in bed wanting to throw up, even though she's not had a bite of chocolate. She was sick two nights ago, along with Miss17, but we thought she was through it. Hopefully a little rest this morning will settle things down for her. Tracey's also been fighting the urge to purge the last couple of hours.

But it's 'one in all in' around here and Miss2, Miss8 and Master7 have been furiously chomping away on their chocolate bunnies in a concerted attempt to feel just as sick and unwell as their mother and sibling. Way to go, guys. I'm so proud.

On an especially bright note, The Bunny left me hops, in the form of beer, so it seems despite the dramatic Easter story unfolding in this home my Easter won't just be happy, it'll be merry. If I get an opportunity to open my present that is.

Merry Easter everyone! Eat well, spread the love, drink up, drive safe and above all, don't wander too far from a bucket. 

I know that's the plan around here :)

Friday, April 6, 2012

You've been EGGED!

I imagine the Easter Bunny's lair must look something like this - lots of mini-bunnies sitting around preparing the eggs for delivery. Afterall, Santa has the elves all tied up.

As much fun as discovering someone had hidden 14 eggs in our yard for us to find in a surprise egg hunt, preparing a similar surprise for their friends has our kids even more excited.

After purchasing more plastic eggs and filling them with sweets and stickers, we wrote a list, with our kids' help, of ten friends to egg.

At each house one or all of the kids (depending on how many eggs we were leaving) would race around finding spots while being bery, bery qwiet. Or at least pretending to be very quiet.

Miss5's idea of being quiet is to not scream. This morning, when we went to the park so the kids could play with some friends, I took Miss5 for a walk and we practiced whispering. After five minutes of encouragement she finally seemed to have it down pat.

Then as she raced around the first house hiding eggs Master7 stuck his head out the car window and yelled, "You're doing really well!"

"I know!" she bellowed back.

In some houses we could even hear people inside watching telly.

It took about two hours to get around to all the houses and it went mostly without incident. Until the final stop.

All the kids were out hiding eggs through a fence because there was a dog. Our friends were home so we tried to be very quiet (bery, bery qwiet). We worried the dog might chew the eggs up before they discovered the note explaining they'd been egged so I produced a series of sharp beeps with my horn to grab their attention then drove forward.

And immediately had to stop.

Unfortunately a little tike from a neighbouring home was out on his scooter and when I blasted the horn he thought it was directed at him and he panicked and came a cropper in the gutter.

"Sorry, little fella," I said out my window as we passed him. His father was giving us the thumbs up to indicate everything was fine. "If you knock on the door of that house back there, they've got chocolate."

Assuming the dog didn't beat them to it.

So our day of egging houses has come to an end and already we're seeing messages on Facebook as people discover our handiwork and even venture out to egg other people's houses.

Next year we want to make an even longer list of houses to egg because we all enjoyed it so much.

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