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Saturday, June 30, 2012

Water Wise

Climbing out of the car after a long day's drive, I had the keys in one hand and a water bottle in the other. 

Having clambered out of the car themselves, Master7 and Miss8 were standing behind me. They were arguing about something but I really wasn't in the head space for playing the parental role of referee. 

With a flick of the wrist I sent a few drops of water soaring up and then down onto their heads.

When the kids turned around I held my hand palm up and looked at the sky.

When they too held out their hands and looked up I did it again, only with more water.

"Is that rain?" I asked, again looking up.

"Dad!" they squealed delightedly, their nonsense forgotten.

Suddenly they both had the lids off their water bottles and were trying to drench me. Of course, my superior smarts and height won out and they both copped a mini-soaking while I barely had a drop on me.

I turned back to the car, chuckling to myself -

- and half a litre of water slammed into my face, chest and crotch from inside the car in a torrential horizontal rainstorm.

"Yep, I think that is rain," said Tracey, handing me a now empty water bottle. "Put that in the bin for me, would you darling."

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Friday, June 29, 2012

A Day of Rest

Next time we do this I'm bringing a
pillow and doing it properly.
At work today we dressed in our PJ's to mark the start of our efforts to raise money for Banking On Kids, which helps children's hospitals across the country. Exactly why we were wearing Pajama's was lost on me, but any excuse to lose my tie.  It sure was nice to feel toasty and comfortable at work.

I don't even own PJ's so first up I had to race into Best & Less where I picked up this sexy little ensemble for $10.80. It's a size too big but I feel confident Tracey will have it shrink it to fit me in a wash or two.

It was all a bit of fun at the office, but I noticed before any of the girls left for lunch they changed into normal clothes. I didn't: I needed to go to the doctors and then to the chemist so I took my kindle and walked out the door. I have a wife I'm especially fond of: I don't need to impress anyone.

I got some chuckles and managed to spread the message and hopefully we'll have a few strangers walking in the door during July to donate some dollars.

Walking up and down the main street of town I only encountered one person who felt the need to say anything derogatory.

"Oh my God!" a woman squealed as I walked past her. "I can't believe I let you marry my daughter!"

That's right, the only day in a month my mother-in-law comes into town and I walk past her in bed clothes.

"Hello," I said to her and leaned in to kiss her check.

She took a step back and looked around. "I don't think so!" she said.

Half an hour later, when I arrived back at work, the girls were keen for me to explain an odd story they'd been told about me chasing a woman up the road trying to snog her.

"That was Tracey's mum," I explained. Now I think about it this probably wasn't the best phrased answer I could have given.

Eventually my chuckling mother-in-law conceded to me kissing her check, but not only was Tracey's mum in the street to witness me in my jimmy-jams, she had Great Grandma Mac with her as well. 

I don't know what Great Grandma Mac thought of my new look because she I don't think she stopped laughing the entire exchange, including when they drove past me a couple of minutes later. If laughter is the best medicine, after the dose I gave her today, she may live to 100.

Meanwhile, thanks to our very generous clients, our fundraising is off to a fantastic start.

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Thursday, June 28, 2012

My head is spinning

I felt like a bit of a wally today because I had to be driven home from work. 

One of my colleagues has been dragging herself into the office for a week despite sniffling and talking like she's doing a bad Krusty the Clown impersonation.

Whereas I went home because I was dizzy. What a princess.

For an hour I lay on the floor with my feet on a chair reliving every bachelor party hangover I've ever had. I was nauseous and the room wouldn't stop spinning. When I tried to open my eyes and focus on something my eyes would slip off the object.

Tracey was really concerned. She fluttered over me in a manner that made Florence Nightingale look negligent. But not all her fussing was well received - she wanted me to go straight to the doctors.  

"I don't want to go to the doctor yet," I whined from our bed, my eyes clamped shut and my arms outstretched on either side of me so I wouldn't fall off the Earth. "I'm pretty sure it's some form of migraine. I'll see how I feel tomorrow."

"Don't you die and leave me with seven kids! Don't you dare!" Nothing inflames Tracey more than me trying to get out of helping around the house.

"You'll be right. My life insurance is up to date," I told her.

I expected a thump or another verbal slap, but nothing. After a couple of seconds of silence I risked falling off the world and opened an eye just in time to see Tracey heading out the door.

"Cool. Well, good luck then," she said over her shoulder, closing the door behind her.

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Crying Shame

Just over a week ago, Tracey went out on the town with a girlfriend to see some stand up comedians.

Now here we are, nine days later, and she's out again! This time with her mother and sister, watching a  show called Motherhood or something.

I know what you're thinking - what a selfless man: what a lucky woman. Hey, maybe I don't know what you're thinking afterall.

All I know is once the dinner, baths & bed are done, it's all about me.

All day at work I kept running over things in my head to ensure it was going to run smooth. Should we play UNO before bed? Should I let them bunk in the one room? What are their names again? It's important to get these little things right.

Which was lucky I did because, as always on the big jobs, something was overlooked this morning.

"Tracey!" I said when she answered the phone. "You need to put some beer in the fridge."

Disaster averted.

So now it's 8pm and everyone is asleep. Actually they've been asleep for nearly an hour. Usually their bed time is around now, but they looked so puckered out and besides, I hid the clock.

How. Awesome. Is this.

Tonight is about me. I can drink beer on the lounge and watch the shows which make Tracey cringe. I'm starting with an episode of Yes, Minister followed by Who's Line Is It Anyway and then a little Fawlty Towers, all while reading The Bourne Supremacy on my kindle....wait, that's the baby. All good - installed a dummy.

So now it's 10.30pm. 

The big kids were great tonight. The only time I heard hide nor hair of them was when Miss8 popped into the lounge room and asked me to keep the baby quiet because she was trying to sleep.

I don't know what my wife did to our baby before she left but clearly Miss0 was broken.

I've barely had time to scratch myself tonight. I haven't watched a single thing I wanted. I haven't even had a beer. My night was a cycle of dummy, bottle, burp, nappy, dummy, bottle, burp, nappy - none of it making any difference. 

Of course, when Tracey walked in the door she took the crying baby out of my hands and the noise stopped.

"Is there a button or a switch I don't know about?" I asked her.

Next time Tracey wants a girls night out I'm thinking she can take the kids so we can both have some fun.

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Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Clothes Dyer

Tracey hates the way I wash our clothes.

I don't blame her. I hate it too.

"They go in dirty, they come out clean," I told her on the weekend. "What wrong with that?"

"Everything pink!"

What makes this worse is when Tracey first moved in with me I gave her the 'separate the whites' lecture. Although I can't remember this I feel like I was there because of the detail Tracey goes into when she's retelling the story.

In my defense I would like to point out I do, in fact, separate the whites from the towels from the colours - it's just sometimes, when I'm down to the last of the pile there isn't enough for a full load of each. So shoot me, I like an empty laundry basket.

Apparently I also suck at hanging clothes out.

Tracey has developed a system whereby she hangs each child's clothes together on the line, making it simpler to bring the clothes in and put them straight into the appropriate wardrobes.

I have developed a system whereby regardless of how they're hung I bring the clothes in and dump them on our bed ready for sorting when she gets home from work.

My trouble is I can't tell which garment belongs to which child. The sizings are too close. To make things worse, we hand a lot of clothes down, so picturing who I've seen wearing a skirt or dress doesn't help. To make things even worse, everything is pink.

But I guess that bits kind of my fault. Luckily most of our kids are girls :)

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Tuesday, June 26, 2012

I can see clearly now

"Hi, Bruce!" a voice called out as I walked towards my car this evening reading my kindle. I just about shat myself.

Where the hell did that come from? I thought, clutching my ebook to my chest like a granny's handbag.

"Hello, whoever you are!" I called back, because some people consider 'Don't sneak up on people in the dark, you prat!' rude. Fortunately, it turned out it was my mate from the chemist up the road, who had every intention of letting me drive away with my wallet and watch, so that was okay.

Unfortunately, if it was a mugger, I wouldn't know they were there until they were on me.

I remember when I was at boarding school and a few of us snuck down to the woods to play, essentially, hide and seek. Oh, sure, we called it something cool, like Commando Black Ops, but any three year old could have joined in without us having to explain the rules.

The young fourteen year old me weaved my way between the trees until I found what I thought was the perfect hiding spot - a scrub. I squatted and waited for them to not find me.

"Bang, bang, you're dead, Bruce," someone somewhere called out. Game over.

Here's the thing - I realize now what I thought was a fantastic spot because I couldn't see anything around me was, in fact, perfectly visible to everyone else. The shrub was in the middle of a small clearing, for Pete's sake. But I didn't know this until a few months later when I went there during the day.

And I didn't work out until many years later, compared to every other bugger on this planet, I have no night vision. Nothing. Naught. Nada. When the lights go out it's like I'm in a cave with patches over both eyes.

This is, naturally, of enormous comedic value for my wife. One of her favourite games is to set up an obstacle course between the light switch and my side of the bed.

As I stub my toes on a shoe or whack a shin on a wicker basket Tracey's response is always the same.

"Hahahahahahaha," she'll coo sweetly. If I actually crash to my knees and cuss I can usually elicit a snort.

So tonight, after being verbally accosted by a ninja in the car park, I arrived home feeling a little out of sorts. Parking the car I reached over and grabbed my kindle, undid my seat belt and stepped out of the car.

Something crunched beneath my feet.

"Bloody kids," I mumbled, wondering why their toys were in the carport, and headed upstairs.

After throwing around kisses and cuddles I set about my usual after work routine - I picked up my ebook and reached for my glasses.

They weren't there, of course. They were in the carport. In pieces.

So now it seems I not only can't see at night, I can't see in the daytime either.

Tracey's gonna love that.

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Monday, June 25, 2012

Home Maid

We are forever chasing our kids from room to room cleaning up after them.

Sure, we drag someone back into their bedroom and demand they pack the mess up themselves, but inevitably while almost cleaning up the room the child will find something amazing to play with and nothing will get done. Supervising the cleanup is almost completely out of the question because while we're standing over Miss8 in the bedroom, the other Gremlins will be tearing up the rest of the house.

And in our experience the teenagers are even worse!

We really only argue with Miss17 about housework these days. She's expected to do the dishes once a week, and take care of her own room and clothes. Not a big stretch, you might think.


The huge mountain of washing in her room is my main beef. Trouble is, her week is just so full. Of course, she doesn't have excuses for not getting to her washing, she has reasons.

We were using the washing machines - even though we have two.

There was no room on the line - again two, but she doesn't like to use the Hills Hoist.

She was working, and after a big five hour shift the day is spent. 

Conversely, (my personal favourite) it was her day off. I mean no one is expected to clean on their day off - right?!

You might imagine my surprise when a couple of months ago Miss17 announced she was being paid to clean the inside of a house for a bloke she knows.

Not only that, when she'd finished, other blokes started hiring her to do their cleaning as well.

"Are you wearing clothes while you're cleaning for them?" I asked. Given the battle we have getting her to even make her bed it was the only reason I could think of that someone would pay her to clean. 'Miss17 the Unclean' simply wasn't gelling with the 'Miss17 the Cleaner' she was describing. "So if you know how to clean, why don't you do it here?"

"It's like you say, Dad, mechanics never get around to fixing their own cars."

Of all the things I tell her, this she remembers.

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Sunday, June 24, 2012

Bad Egg

According to a friend of ours, the great thing about raising kids is they eventually leave.

When this happens some amazing stuff starts to happen around the house. Forget being able to watch what you want on the telly and not having to wait for the toilet. Apparently the biggest changes involve water and cups.

More specifically, when you have a shower the water doesn't turn to ice after thirty seconds and there are always clean mugs available for cups of tea and coffee.

I asked Tracey what she was most looking forward to when the kids leave home and we finally become empty nesters.

"Getting my own room," she said. She's such a kidder. That she says it with a deadpan straight face makes it even more hilarious. 

For our friends, these huge lifestyle changes became more apparent this week when one of their daughters popped home for a few hours. 

While mum & dad prepared dinner, the daughter jumped in the shower, after which they all caught up over the lovely home cooked meal.

It was only after they'd waved her off they realized they'd been left with a sink full of dirty dishes: and only after they'd cleaned up and were preparing for bed they realized all the hot water had been used up in their daughter's twenty minute shower.

But then I imagine that's why parents love when the kids drop home once they've moved out - it reminds them how fortunate they are the buggers left at all.

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Saturday, June 23, 2012

What's Happening To Me?

When I was a kid I learned all I needed to know about the changes my body was to go through from a couple of books called Where Did I Come From and What's Happening To Me. They were the first romp into anime porn for many young sprogs, and are probably under-credited in their role in helping spawn an industry.

Puberty doesn't have to be scary, but around here we insist on it being funny.

Hey, whatever floats your boat, people.

We learned how important chatting with kids about puberty is, and not just mentioning it once or twice and assuming they're all clued up, with Master20. When he first noticed a couple of hairs had appeared in a new spot (as a kid, not recently) we heard a strangled sort of horrified cry from the bathroom and thought he was dying.

So these days we start a dialogue with the kids from about when they start school - just so they know they can talk to us about these things and there's nothing to be scared about.

In theory.

"You're coming to an age when you'll experience some changes to your body," Tracey said to one of our girls in the car the other night. The whole recent string episode with Cousin12 had us thinking about these things.

"Like what?" she asked suspiciously.

"You'll get boobies and grow hair," Tracey told her.

Suddenly there was a problem - a big problem. Our girl was absolutely horrified. She was shaking her head from side to side and shrieking at Tracey, "I don't want hair on my boobies!!"

We're really good at this. Anyone know a good book store?

Not always true I'm afraid. I know, I went to boarding school.

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Friday, June 22, 2012

Stop the press!

I got the call yesterday.

"Hey, can we take your photo? We're doing a piece in the Gympie Times on the government's cash bonus to help families with the cost of education. Your name came up at the morning meeting. What do you think?"

They had me with, "Can we take your photo?" I will take any opportunity to get my mug in the paper. I'm a media tart. My thinking is one day, some two or three generations down the track, a descendant of ours will be doing their family tree and I want to give them something to find. Sometimes I wonder if my strategy might be too successful.

"I found something," a great great grandchild of mine will exclaim. "No wait, it's nothing. Just that daft looking Bruce again. He's everywhere!"

Tracey wasn't quite so quick to jump at the chance for immortality when they rang to request her and the kids in the photo.

"I don't want to be the face of government hand outs!"

What finally won Tracey over was the idea of having a photo with her and the kids - she's the family photographer this doesn't happen very often.

The paper also asked me to give them my top ideas (cause I'm so smarts) for what to do with the money. Here's what I sent them:

Save. My wife suggests we save ours for her birthday.
Holiday. But more Tin Can Bay than Byron Bay.
Toys. So these payments arriving the same time as the toy catalogue sales start. Coincidence?
Waste. With all the boxes discarded after toy sale, they might need to bring the dump charges in early.
Medicine. Painkillers are really expensive these days. Especially as I prefer mine from a stubby.
Formula. Two tickets to Gold Coast Indy will do. Kids can watch it on cable at Nanny’s.
Petrol. For commuting to and from second job required to pay for all the price hikes coming our way.
Coffee. Needed to keep head clear for late night worrying about how we’re going to pay bills.
Supplies. I’m thinking tin food and candles - for when they cut our power.
Charity. People could give the money to some form of charity. FYI we accept cheques.

As it turns out we got a big photo on the front page and another on page five with the article.

The really great thing about a small town rag is the kids get their faces in it nearly every year - you can't do that in a big city. 

The kids are thrilled and I've been having great fun with it all day at work.

Yep, the great, great, great grandkids are gonna love that.

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String Theory

"Close the door!" is the most oft said thing in this house because we have one shower, one bath and one toilet, and they're all in the same room - the laundry. The rooms in old Queenslanders like ours are well proportioned, but there aren't many of them.

Whenever Tracey, Miss17 or I are trying to have a shower some little person will inevitably fling the door open and announce, "I gotta pee!"

And we'll scream, "Close the door!" because they never think to do it by themselves.

Getting caught with your pants down isn't something my brother and his family can afford to be prudish about either. They have six souls living under the one roof - a mum & dad, three beautiful kids and a granny - so bathrooms are at a premium over there as well. 

Earlier tonight, Cousin12 had just finished drying himself after his shower when Grandma walked past the open bathroom door.

"Oh, for goodness sake," she exclaimed. "Put some clothes on!"

Now when I was twelve I would have died of embarrassment if my Grandma saw my tackle. But not this lad.

"Look at this, Grandma," he said, a hint of pride in his voice. "I can still do 'the guitar'!" I'll leave to your imagination to fill in the gaps on what his hands were strumming at that point. "Hey, look," he added excitedly as Grandma walked off shaking her head. "It's got strings now!"

Usually it's the people in the bathroom screaming for someone to "Close the door!"

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Thursday, June 21, 2012

Cut it out

One thing we're especially careful with around here is keeping the scissors away from tiny hands.

We have no less than twenty pairs of scissors in the house, and all of them are kept in a glass in the topmost cupboard above the stove.

I know what you're thinking - another example of helicopter parenting gone too far. You are so wrong. 

I'm not worried about our lot hurting themselves. I'm worried they'll cut things they're not supposed to - like books, curtains, clothes or cords. 

You know: my stuff.

Tracey, on the other hand, is worried they'll cut hair.

"You've had a haircut," I said to a colleague's five year old daughter today as she followed her mum into the office. I was grinning a bit because it was a crowd stopper.

"Hmmm," said her mum, frowning. Words momentarily failing her as she surveyed the damage. Obviously my colleague, Sarah, had tried to patch things up: there was judicious use of bows and ties. "She did it herself," she added unnecessarily.

Turns out while mum was having a haircut last night, the little miss got hold of scissors and gave herself a trim. She took chunks out of the sides and back, and got rid of the front altogether.

Which Sarah tells me merely means she's hitting the same milestones as her mother.

"When I was a kid I was having my hair cut for a wedding," she explained, "and I kept telling the hairdresser to cut my fringe. She'd trim it and I'd yell, Shorter! Shorter! until my fringe was nothing but stubble."

You might not be surprised to learn this was not the look she (nor her mother when she returned to the hairdressers) was going for.

Seems the young Sarah didn't want a short fringe - she actually wanted no fringe, but didn't realize the way to achieve this was to grow her fringe out, not to have it removed.

That's okay, I wouldn't know that either.

But I am sure of two things. Firstly, like her daughter this afternoon, no amount of accessorizing was going to help hide what she'd done to herself. And secondly, she's now going to start hiding the scissors.

I suggest shoving them in a glass way above the stove.

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Wednesday, June 20, 2012


I'm quite content to be fashion-handicapped: it saves me money because I really don't mind what I wear so long as I'm comfortable and not hot or sweaty. Oh, and I also prefer when my undies don't pinch.

But despite my handicap, at least I know to wear pants to work.

"Forget something?" I asked a work colleague who clearly doesn't.

"It's called a dress-shirt," she snapped at me. Turns out I wasn't the first staff member to mention she was only half dressed and she wasn't pleased.

"I believe the shirt bit," I told her. Basically she was wearing what amounted to her husband's work shirt - like those women in the eighties movies would wear to bed.

"It's a dress-shirt and it goes halfway down my thigh, for Christ's sake." Her blasphemy, not mine.

"But the part with the buttons at the front goes halfway up your-"

"Enough!" she snapped again and disappeared into her office.

But what do I know? I wear jeans to weddings and the beach. My favourite shoes are Sampson sandles. My favourite hat has jelly beans all over it.

And now I'm wondering, what the hell happened to my jelly bean hat? I haven't seen it in ages. I'm sure I never gave it away or threw it out. Tracey will know.

My wife's responses are damningly obtuse. She's always detested my hat. I suspect foul play.

Later that same afternoon, my colleague was telling us how her daughter was in the habit of wearing only her pajama tops to bed. 

"Hey you'll match!" I told her.

Much to the disappointment of the male customers, she's worn pants to work ever since.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Please raise your glasses

"You look beautiful!" I told my wife on Saturday night as she was about to head out to see a comedy show with a girlfriend.

"I want contacts!" she said by way of thanks. It's a demand I hear around here every couple of months.

"But I like you wearing glasses," I countered. "You've got that whole sexetary thing going on."

"Then why is it when I'm not wearing them you always tell me I look beautiful?"

Only a woman can turn a compliment like "you look beautiful" into a shit fight.

"I always tell you you look beautiful, with or without your glasses, but you're focusing on it now because you hate me cause you don't have contacts."

But she was earnest. "Look!" she said, facing our mirror. "Without my glasses my face looks so much younger."

Now because I wasn't married yesterday I know the correct responses to these sorts of 'discussions', although I admit it took me a couple of years to work out the safe path through this beautiful mine field.

"That's because when you're not wearing your glasses you can't see all the wrinkles."

Hey, just because I know the correct responses doesn't mean I have to use them - and I was the silly sod staying home with the monkeys while she was going out to play so I think I can be forgiven for having a little fun.

Actually the biggest problem with Tracey's glasses is our heads are disproportional (so much so, when our lips are together my nose is at her eye level) and I smudge her glasses with my huge honker when we kiss. Come to think of it, I might even be able to argue glasses are better than contacts on a workplace health and safety platform - without the glasses my nose might poke an eye out.

Ignoring me now, Tracey went into the lounge room and asked the kids, "How do I look?"

The cry went up - "Beautiful!" But it wasn't unanimous.

"Come here, Mum," said Master7, making her drop down to his level. "Take your glasses off.," he instructed. When she complied he nodded sagely. "Yeah, that's better. Now you're beautiful!"

Thanks, mate. The cost of contacts is coming out of your pocket money.

"After the show we might even go dancing," Tracey said as she stood up. "I'll have to see if I've still got the moves."

Suddenly it occurred to me these bars and nightclubs are full of blokes! Young, randy blokes full of testosterone and beer! I know - I used to be one.

"Here, Tracey," I told her as she headed out the door. "Put your glasses on. I'd hate for you to stub your toe on the dance floor."

Monday, June 18, 2012

... and the little one said

I just like the idea, come morning, the kids will be where I put them. We have enough trouble with sleep walkers, we don't need a sleep stalker as well.

For the past several months Miss2 has been coming into our room in the wee small hours of the morning and instead of giving her a cuddle and sending her back to her own bed, Tracey (not Bruce) has been cuddling up with her.

"This will end badly," I've told my wife. "Supernanny would find this 'unassepable'."

"But she's so warm and cute," has been Tracey's defense (Miss2, not Jo Frost).

We haven't accepted 'warm and cute' for the rest of the kids and I'm not sure why it's suddenly cropped up as admissible with this one. I suspect it's more 'tired and couldn't be bothered' but I'm not dumb enough to give that sort of derogatory comment a voice.

But I think there's a change a coming - common sense (ie my opinion) is finally winning through and there'll be a few changes come 2 or 3 am this morning.

This new state of affairs has come about because Tracey walked into Miss2's bedroom tonight and was confronted with an empty bed. "Where's she gone?" she called out to me.

I walked in, expecting to find Miss2 hidden under the blankets. Nothing.

"She was here a few minutes ago," I told Tracey as I checked under the bed and behind the curtain.

It turns out Miss2 has finally decided to cut the pretense. We found her snuggled up on Tracey's pillow in our bed, or "My bed" as she was now referring to it, and refusing to be moved. More than that, she'd decided to redraw the boundaries, and was letting mum know she could sleep over the other side of the bed with me. Tracey looked horrified at the idea.

"This has gone on too long," Tracey informed me. "You'll need to start walking her back to her own bed at night."

Change like this is never easy to achieve and I'm anticipating a few nights of whinging and tantrums as I pry Miss2 away from her mother.

And I daresay Miss2 will be screaming at me as well.

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We help a widow in Georgia

For our 33rd KIVA loan we let little Miss5 choose who we would help. I brought up KIVA's map of the world and she instantly hit on her middle name - Georgia. From there she wanted to help a girl, so we culled the list down to less than 40 possibles. We needed to add $6 to our account to make up the $25 needed for this loan, with the remainding $19 made up of repayments from previous loans.

We've now contributed $231 to our KIVA account and used this money to make $825 in loans to these inspiring people doing it rough but having the gumption to get ahead under their own steam.

KIVA is a great opportunity for kids to learn about the world and how fortunate their place within it is. I've heard of teachers who use KIVA in the classroom for educational purposes, letting the kids research and lend money they raise.

When I asked Miss5 why she chose this lady she said, "Cause none of the others are smiling." I'm not entirely convinced Margalita is smiling either, but I guess it's a pleasant enough grimace. I'm also wondering if she only has one leg.

Here's Margalita's story:

"Margalita is 64 years old. She is a widow and lives with her 32-year-old daughter, Nino, in a small village in the Kakheti region. 

Margalita’s main activity is trade and she sells agricultural products on the local open market. In addition to this, she sells seasonal clothing in nearby villages in winter. She's been active in the trade business for more than two years and has become well known and the number of her regular customers is increasing. Her daughter helps her in this business. Finally, Margalita is busy with agriculture as well. She has a small vineyard. The family’s total average monthly income is 700 Lari.

Margalita has requested a loan in order to purchase additional greengrocery products for resale. She will purchase them from neighbor farmers and re-sell on the open market of the nearby town. With this loan she will increase the turnover of her products. As a result, she expects her monthly income to increase accordingly, enabling her to improve the family’s living conditions."

KIVA has a number of free trials available at the moment if you'd like to see how microfinance works before you commit your own money. KIVA LINK

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Ten Things I Suspect My Wife Hates About Me

  1. My one handed dishwashing. While reading a book. Well I was reading already when the dishes needed doing. When it comes to multitasking I'm an old hand - an old withered hand gripped by arthritis and hangnails. My greatest multitasking achievement is being able to simultaneously not watch more than one child at a time. As for the dishes, well  I don't ask Tracey to stop cooking dinner when one of the kids needs help with their homework. Besides, the cutlery is just going to get dirty again at breakfast. 
  2. My ability to produce air. Seriously, I don't know where you women keep it - you must burp a lot or something. All I know is if I didn't let it out I'd explode like a baked bean in a microwave. 
  3. How her parents put me to sleep. When we take the kids places we do the traditional "Now you kids be on your very best behaviour or there'll be no food for a week and we'll cancel Christmas" pep talk. When we go to my mother-in-laws the pep talk is firmly directed at me. "Don't you fall asleep!"  I've tried everything - throwing back extra strong coffees, sleeping in before I go, sipping on V drinks while I'm there. I've attempted explaining to Tracey I nod off on her parents' lounge because I'm so at ease and it feels like home, but she's not having any of it. "Don't you dare fall asleep or, so help me, I'll wake you with a kick to your groin. I'll do it too. I've got enough kids so I don't need those things anymore." I tend to stand a lot when I'm over there.
  4. The way I tidy the house. Tracey can take all day to put the kids' rooms back to rights. I can do it in ten minutes. Okay, so there'll be bits of puzzles missing and dolls clothes they'll never find again, and I'll probably need to make an extra trip to the dump, but at least we'll be able to see the carpet.
  5. My parenting. I have a more 'hands off' approach than Tracey. I give my kids permission to hurt themselves whereas around Tracey the kids are more likely to get clipped by the blades of her helicopter. I figure they'll soon learn the definitions of hot, sharp and high. Tracey is the forest ranger who makes sure everyone is sticking to the rules whereas I see myself more as an SES member who sweeps in at the last minute to whisk them to safety. Or the hospital.
  6. My shopping skills. You see, Tracey and I have polar views when it comes to essentials. With a flood imminent, I raced to the supermarket to stock up on toilet paper and eggs while they were still available. The trouble is supermarkets have so much nice stuff. Like Bocconcini, which was on special. Then some lemonade - well work was to be cancelled for a few days so I figured we could sip shandies. On a similar theme I added coke, cornchips, salsa, cream and sticky date puddings. And Tim Tams.  I figured the flood was essentially a bonus holiday so we may as well enjoy ourselves. Tracey took one look when I got home and labelled me the worst emergency shopper ever.
  7. My driving. I really don't know how I manage to drive anywhere by myself. Tracey takes on the roll of spotter when we're out together. "Truck!" "Bike!" "Lights!" she'll announce as we scoot around town. She has no faith in my abilities. Which is why when I was driving to the shop with a friend from work it was so nice to hear her say how well I managed to maneuver the big beast around the car park. "I do do alright," I thought to myself as I parked. Then backed into the car behind me. "You really botched that," I told my bewildered colleague. "You're supposed to yell Car!"
  8. My inability to hear the kids. "Bruce!" Tracey will scream from the other end of the house, causing the hairs on the back of my neck to stand to attention. "Can you see what's going on?!" I'll look up and there in front of me will be Miss5 and Miss2 embroiled in a battle over a teapot lid, both screaming blue murder and baying for blood. "Hey, hey, hey," I'll say, almost stepping between them, but more accurately just stretching a hand in their direction. "No need for this. Give me that." And then I'll sit on it and go back to my book until Tracey contacts me again. Which, given the girls will now be baying for my blood and trying to dig the lid out from under my bum, will likely be about thirty seconds. 
  9. The way I dry myself. Or more specifically, my insistence on using a fresh towel after every shower. I know it's wrong but I don't care. The soft freshly scented material makes me happy. Tracey uses more soaps, scrubs and shampoos than me, so I figure we're about even. And anyway, I more than make up for this small indulgence by managing to dry all five little kids with a single towel - sometimes I even go the extra distance and use the one I dried myself with.
  10. My face. When Tracey was pregnant she'd wake up feeling fine. It was only when she looked at me in the morning she'd get morning sickness. She'd glance at me then suddenly freeze, a look of shock and horror on her face, before racing off to the bathroom with her hand over her mouth. Seems when she's preggers my face makes her vomit. 

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Great Stuff

Keeping all the balls in the air is hard. We love catching up with family, but sometimes, for whatever reason, we leave it a bit too long between cuppas.

Which is why we were so happy Great Grandma Lawrence dropped by this morning. As a lovely surprise she brought with her a bunch of dressups she picked up at the thrift shop for each of the girls.

 "They're beautiful!" I told her as I called for Miss8, Miss5 and Miss2 to drag themselves away from the telly for a minute.

I was very pleased when the girls showed they were as happy to see Great Grandma as they were to be given fairy dresses.

Miss5 was especially thrilled and surprised to find Great Grandma Lawrence in the kitchen. "I haven't seen you for a long time," she squealed, throwing her arms around her. "I thought you were dead."

Better late than late, I guess.

We help a 21 year old mother in Kyrgyzstan buy livestock

Our 32nd KIVA loan is going where none of our loans have gone before - Kyrgyzstan.

Now Kyrgyzstan, for those even less traveled than myself, isn't misspelled. Apparently they had a pile of unpopular letters sittings around and thought they'd make their country's name out of them.

Aigerim has asked for $750USD to help increase her herd from one to more than one. Here's Aigerim's story:

"Aigerim is 21 years old, married and has a 2-month baby. Animal husbandry and crop-farming are the main sources of income for Aigerim and her family. As of today, Aigerim's farm counts 1 cow with a calf, 1 horse and a 1.4-ha plot of land where Aigerim grows potatoes and maize.

In order to further develop her business, Aigerim has turned to Bai Tushum & Partners for a loan of 35,000 som (KGS) to purchase young livestock. Aigerim is planning on investing the earnings from the loan into further business expansion."

KIVA helps people to help themselves by providing the funds for small microfinace loans which they would otherwise be unable to access. We loan out in lots of $25USD (lots of lenders put together to make up each loan) and the money comes back in dribs and drabs so we can then lend it back out to someone else.

If this sounds like a great idea (and it is :) ) then here's a link to KIVA so you can see how it works for yourself. There are some free trials on offer at the moment, meaning you can get in and see first hand how the process works without using your own money. Link to KIVA site

Friday, June 15, 2012

Hot Water

"The bins on fire," my boss told me.


"Outside. The Bin. It's on fire."

I looked. It was: smoke was wafting out the top. A lot of smoke. Some idiot had put a lit cigarette into the bin.

I raced to the kitchen, flipped on the tap and threw a bucket under it. I didn't wait for the bucket to fill because I didn't think I'd need all that much water. Within a minute I was outside dumping the water into the bin.

The smoke almost stopped, but then went on as strong as before.

"You're doing something wrong," said a helpful passerby.

"My mistake," I told him. "It was hot water so only made it worse."

I left him trying to sort that one out and raced back inside to re-half-fill the bucket.

This time, when I splashed the water into the bin, the smoke stopped. Mission accomplished. Disaster averted.

"That was so exciting," I told the girls at work, "I'm considering a career change."

When I told my story to Tracey I embellished a bit. "Do you think they'll make me Mr May or Mr December?" I asked, referring to the firefighters' yearly calender of hunks and spunks.

"Mr February," Tracey told me. Then, before I could get a big head, she added, "It's the tiniest month."


Thursday, June 14, 2012

The Highest Form of Flattery

Sitting down for a cuppa with Grandma and her friend, Tracey and a swag of our kids were having a chat.

Generally our kids are well behaved at Grandmas, and they love going over, but you can't always control what the kids will pull out of a situation and find amusing. Maybe it was the talk of corns, aches or checkups, but suddenly Master7 was drawing chuckles from Miss8 and Miss5.

He was bent over with one hand on his hip and the other stretched out in front of him and he was mumbling something.

"What's wrong with him?" said Grandma as Master7 maintained this odd stance as he shuffled over to the table. "What's he saying?"

Master7 turned around and did the same thing again, this time back across the room to the door. 

Again he mumbled and, in horror, Tracey realized what he was saying and what this bizarre pantomime was about.

"What's he saying?" repeated Grandma more loudly. "Is he alright?"

Suddenly it was clear to Tracey the hand out in front of Master7 was meant to be clutching a cane. She wanted to get him to stop but words wouldn't leap fast enough to her lips.

Pivoting, our boy trotted across the lounge room like a giant teapot. By now the two girls were in serious danger of losing control of their bladders. This time he spoke loudly enough for everyone in the room to hear, his voice warbling for an added note of authenticity. 

"I'm an old man," he said with his cheeky grin firmly in place. "I'm an old, ooooold man."

Not if you keep that up you bugger.

Fortunately Grandma and her friend didn't seem to mind, or they're so deaf they still don't know what he was doing. Either way really.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Love Match

Today is one of the highlights of the year for the matriarch and patriarch of this Devereaux household.

It's a day which reaffirms to my wife why we're so perfect as a couple and why I'm so awesome in her eyes and, dare I say, irreplaceable in her heart (I'm projecting here, but I think I'm close, really close). As usual, she requested alcohol.

For lovers the world over, the 14th of February is a date set aside for their trysts and kisses, to reaffirm their love and, in the case of parents, to claw back some of the magic which helped create their little buggers in the first case. For us, one day is not enough.

Each year we have three days which serve to symbolize the biggest thing I have going for me in terms of being attractive to my wife. I am not a sport nut.

In our household there are no days lost to car races or grand finals. I don't own a single jersey. I don't watch it, follow it, think about it or ask about it. I just don't get it. The State of Origin, all three matches, stand tall as a symbol of my total lack of interest in watching sport which my wife finds an extremely attractive trait. And we think that's worth celebrating.

So while the rest of the state gathers around pizza and beer to holler encouragements at the telly, my wife and I snuggle up on the couch and do something a little naughty: We watch a non-G rated movie. Tonight, it's my number one favourite - When Harry Met Sally. It's about two friends who fell in love, just like us.

Don't wait up people: I may want to watch the special features. 

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

On the wings of a prayer

Clearly a self service airport
Friends of ours took off for the US yesterday for a relaxing holiday. Their blog entry this morning reminded me why, when it comes to flying, if given a choice, I always choose to stay home.

It was supposed to be a 13 hour flight, but before they'd even taxied to the runway they spent a fair bit of time sitting on the tarmac while the ground staff tried to work out what was wrong with the fuel gauge. Turns out the problem wasn't so much the fuel gauge as the lack of fuel - seemed there was enough in the tanks to get them started but, once over the Pacific, there would have been a very real chance they'd get to experience a genuine Amercian 'Hudson River' style landing.

Not that this story surprises me - I have heard so many dodgy flying stories over the years, it's a wonder anyone gets anywhere alive.

Another friend of mine had an incident when she trotted off to Indonesia for some R & R. On landing, one of the wings hit the ground and decided this indignity was the last straw, it was giving up the air industry entirely, and promptly left the plane. Some time after the passengers and crew had crawled from the wreckage, my friend rang her husband and told him her plane had crashed on landing.

"Don't be ridiculous," he told her. "Someone would have called."

"I'm calling you, you stupid man!" she snapped at him. Turns out the trip was a bit of a failure at helping her to unwind, although she did discover a passionate devotion to strong cocktails which continues to this day.

Even my wife has near miss air travel story. When Tracey went off to Europe with a friend for a bit of fun their flight was taxiing out to the runway when Tracey called a stewardess over.

"Is that door supposed to be shut?" She pointed to an obviously ajar door and a crack through which the moving tarmac was visible. "Would you mind if they closed it? It's winter in England and it might get chilly with a draft." They also got to sit for a while on the tarmac while the maintenance people tried to get it closed and think of a good reason why no one noticed it.

So today, after 15 hours (two hours waiting for ground techs to fix the 'fuel gauge' issue and thirteen in the air) involving broken screens, seats and head rests our friends finally touched down in LAX and began taxiing to the terminal.

"Made it!" they thought prematurely. Suddenly everything shut down - all the lights, air conditioning, everything. Silence.

"Oh, well, it seems we've had a complete shutdown of the electrical system," said the attendant. "I''ll just crank that over and get it back up again for you."

So guys, how's things over there in the US of A? You feeling that relaxed holiday vibe yet?

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Lost & Found

Have you ever noticed how the more people you have watching out for a kid, the more likely you are to lose them?

We had an instance of this up in the Bunya Mountains. The family had met for a week's holiday and we had eight adults or adolescents watching three little kids. No worries, you'd think. But the trouble is everyone kind of assumes everyone is watching so no one does. We'd walked through the gallery/cafe and finally taken our seats at a table on the balcony when someone pointed across the car park to the road.

"Oh, look! There's a little girl walking across the road!"

It was our little girl. By the time we raced down the steps and across to her she was taking her first steps into the national forest.

So when someone asks where a kid is in this house we all jump. Some quicker than others. For the record, I'm the 'others'.

"Where's Sophie?" Tracey asked me as she came into the kitchen. Sophie is Miss2. As Tracey was working on her laptop I was in charge of the kids this afternoon, so naturally I was watching movies on my laptop.

"I don't know. In the girls' room?" I suggested, my eyes still on the screen. Of course, she wasn't. But that's okay, I had more ideas. "Hiding in her cupboard? Patting the dog?" I finally looked at Tracey. "How about I pause this and go look?"

A twenty second frantic search ensued. Miss2 is renowned for impersonating the crew of the Enterprise and boldly going wherever the hell she wants. Gates aren't roadblocks so much as speed bumps.

"Found her!" Tracey called out while I did a perimeter check along the fence.  "She's sitting on the bathroom floor, naked, with Miss8's undies on her head."

Now you see we could have saved ourselves a whole lot of anguish if I'd just stayed on my laptop because, as I explained to Tracey, "That would have been my next guess."

Saturday, June 9, 2012

The Game Plan

On the way to soccer this morning I asked my son what his game plan was. Essentially it was two pronged.

"I'm gonna eat TWO hot dogs!" he told me. I'm not sure he's totally clued up on why we give up our Saturday mornings.

Of course, when I say 'we' I mean 'me'.

As usual this morning there was the traditional tussle between myself and Tracey to decide who had to jump out of bed to take Master7 to his game. Tracey's a higher belt than me (my yellow vs her green tip) so I haven't won the right to stay home yet this season (but I've been watching Kung Fu Panda a bit lately and I'm hopeful the tide is about to turn in my favour).

At least I only have the one game to make it to this year. Last year we tried to encourage a couple of our girls to play, but it didn't go so well. Miss5 just walked around tapping the ball with her foot saying, "this is boring," while I'm not sure by the end of the season Miss8 had worked out what the ball was even there for.

Once I've showered and dressed and found a car park I generally enjoy myself watching my little man race ineffectively around the field. Master7 is especially good at running beside the player from the opposite team who's dribbling the ball up to the unmanned goal, often matching him stride for stride while never getting closer than three feet. And on those rare occasions he does tackle he doesn't care which team he's kicking the ball away from - if they've got the ball they must be stopped no matter what colour shirt they're donning. 

Sometimes I worry he'll cop some flack from his teammates but then something will happen and I'll realize he's found his tribe. Like today I watched two members of his team both race up to a stray ball and tackle each other to the ground without either touching the ball. 

While Master7 might not be in any danger of kicking a goal this season he does love getting out there and having a go.

Of course, there's the one maneuver Master7 has mastered. 

"I've really worked up an appetite today," he told me today as we walked the nets over to the shed, which just so happens to house the canteen. 

At the end of the season, if there's a trophy for most post game hotdogs, my little man has got it in the bag.

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