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Wednesday, October 31, 2012

A face only a mother could love

My children are beautiful - which is a real shit because apparently there's good money to be had in producing ugly kids.

It's one thing to look in the mirror and be dissatisfied with the face looking back at you, but can you imagine being so butt ugly as a kid your dad took your mum to court and sued her - AND WON!

Not just the case, but was awarded $120,000.

Jian Feng, whose sole purpose in life appears to be making me look like a serious contender for all manner of parenting awards, apparently had this to say, "Our daughter was so incredibly ugly - to the point where it horrified me."

If you played that game where you circle the differences between
the two faces, I think the only thing left visible would be her ears.  
What really bugs me about this, even more than Mr Feng's horrendous statement, is how much of the social media I've been reading is agreeing with Mr Feng's actions - reporting on this court case seems to have fired up a lot of misogynistic rhetoric. Apparently he's right and she's wrong. Her $100,000 worth of plastic surgery has made her into a huge teller of lies and he was wrongfully deceived into thinking their prodigy would be attractive.

Which is why, on our very first date, I told my wife about my facial birth defect and how I regularly wax my mono-brow, because I didn't want any misunderstandings when Geoffrey the Greek was born.

But seriously, I couldn't give a continental why Jian's decided to divorce his wife (and his wife not telling him about her plastic surgery might be fair grounds in many people's eyes) but what sort of a pig's ass for a father announces to all and sundry he's divorcing because their kid has come out ugly. I mean, they're all ugly at first, with their folds of skin and over-sized heads, but give them time and they grow on you.

I know there's no doubt a lot more to this story than the media has given us. I know his comments have probably been taken out of context or souped up or even made up. I certainly want to doubt he ever intended his comments to be heard outside the courtroom.

But the man is still an ass. An ugly, ugly ass. Fortunately, though, when his winnings hit his account he might have the money to undergo some intensive therapy on his personality and turn himself a much more attractive man.

Which apparently is fine so long as he tells his next wife how, despite the kind and engaging personality which she's come to love, he used to be a real ugly ass. Wouldn't want him to end up in divorce court if his next kid takes after him and he says despicable things to members of his family.

Meanwhile, due to my insufferably good looking children, I guess I'll have to keep dragging my sorry ass to work.

This is my brother, Shanus, when he was about four. I think my dad has a case.

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Tuesday, October 30, 2012

The Media Tart Strikes Again!

The girls at work have dubbed this photo 'Beauty & the Beast' .
Personally, I think that's a little unkind - Talleea looks quite nice.

As many of you know, I am a media tart.

There's nothing I like more than getting my face in the paper. I figure future generations will appreciate the lengths I go to when they're leafing through old newspaper clippings for any mention of their ancestors.

Sure, their triumphant calls of, "Here's one!" will probably be quickly followed by sighs of, "Wait, it's only him again," but at least they'll get a moments thrill in what will otherwise, without my camera-hogging efforts, likely be a thankless and unfruitful search.

The reporter, Craig Warhurst, actually came into the branch to interview someone else, but I managed to elbow my way into his article - a piece on the $70,000,000 lotto up for grabs tonight.

Some people say winning lotto wouldn't change them. It would change me. You'd barely recognize me after all the liposuction, tummy tucking, chin removal and neck replacement. Maybe you'd think there was something vaguely familiar about the smooth faced bloke driving through the bottleshop in his brand new Fisker Karma, but you'd think, 'No, it can't be Bruce. He never bought a carton of beer which wasn't on special.'

My parents once won second division in Lotto. They looked up the previous week and it paid $5000! They rang my brother, sister and myself and told us to go out to dinner - their shout. We each had $200 to spend. Come Monday they found they'd won $500, so they were down $100.

Good luck to anyone who's in the draw. I've gone online and purchased my $2.40 entry (you can buy less games, and therefore spend less, online) so I've been making lists of how I'll spend it and who I'll give it to all week. Please note, if YOU win lotto, you were on MY list, so I'll expect a bit of quid pro quo.

If you'd like to read the newspaper article featuring yours truly as it appeared today you can click over using this link - THE GYMPIE TIMES
This would be our new 'date night' car. It's perfect because
we couldn't possibly fit seven kids in the back.

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Sunday, October 28, 2012

What an awphil thing to say

For me, the scariest thing about Halloween parties is the socializing.

I don't mingle well. I have a habit of saying the wrong thing and being frowned at. First impressions aren't my strong point: I'm more of an acquired taste, like Vegemite.

Not that I'm alone in this infliction. There are some very high profile personalities with the same problem. One which springs to mind, and one I always feel a certain affinity with, is Prince Philip, who seems to wear his feet in his mouth more often than in his shoes. Apparently the Queen genuinely gets a laugh out of hearing his public faux pas, like when he told the President of Nigeria, who was wearing the country's national dress, "You look like you're ready for bed!"

Last night we went to a fantastic, preemptive Halloween party next door. Our neighbours have four kids still living at home, and when we added our 5 little ones they combined to create a level of noise the local constabulary must have had a hard time ignoring.

Before I go on with my little tale I have to mention this was the best decorated Halloween party I've ever been to. Probably because the man of the house is some sort of props artist and his good wife a movie makeup artist. All I know is it made our effort last year, with Christmas lights we cleverly dubbed Halloween lights draped over the balcony, look a bit preschoolish. These guys had a smoke machine, floating eyes in the punch (made our of lychees and blueberries) and had set up a huge Haunted House in the carport for the kids. And their kids costumes made my liberal use of fake blood on our munchkins look a little underwhelming. Sadly I can't share photos of the event because Tracey had all our cameras at the wedding she was playing photographer for and didn't arrived until around 8.30pm, but trust me, it was an awesome effort.

Around 9pm I dragged home our three youngest, who had started to hit a wall made of sugary drinks and salted chips, and put them to bed. Tracey followed an hour later with the oldest two.

"I had a bit of an awkward moment," she told me.

"What did you say?" I asked, acutely aware of the role reversal. In fact, if I ever tire of writing about our family life I could write a daily post about my faux pas

"Not me," she said. "I was on the receiving end."

"How wonderful! What happened?"

"That lovely lady dressed as a skeleton was saying to me the parade was a bit of a let down and specifically mentioned the dancing in the park," grinned Tracey. "Then I got to say, 'Oh, our daughters were the ones dancing in the park.' It was fabulously awkward."

"Oh," I said to Tracey. "Actually, I think she owed us that one."

"Why?" she looked at me expectantly. Then a little crossly. "What did you do?"

"Ah, well..." I began strongly, "...they were talking about the parade and she mentioned she was in the Mary Valley bit with the turtles and I said how fantastic it was." Tracey raised her eyebrows, waiting for the punchline. "Then I asked, 'Where you lady carrying the baby turtle?'"

"But that was-"

"Yeah, a much, much older woman. I know. She told me."

"What did you say then? I hope you apologized."

"Even better," I told Tracey. "I diverted attention away from myself by pointing to the hostess," (our delightful neighbour), "and asking her why on Earth she insisted I ask this lovely lady that question." Disaster averted.

Not sure what damage I've done yet, if any, but they all laughed so that's at least promising. I guess we'll know Wednesday night when the neighbours are supposed to be coming over for some pumpkin carving festivities.

While Tracey doesn't seem to be quite as amused as, say, the Queen, she has taken to calling me 'Phil' this morning. Every time she does this I'm sorely tempted to ask her to check out my family jewels, but you know me, I'd hate to say the wrong thing.

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Friday, October 26, 2012

Father of the Year

You might recall a week ago I mentioned how I was feeling a bit of a failure as a parent as my son made the class newsletter because, despite completing his homework every week, he hasn't handed any in all term.

Well, hot on the heals of this it seems young Master7 was called up on parade. How do I know? Because another parent told me when she came into the bank. According to this parent, Master7 was pretty chuffed with himself and grinning all the way.

"He was?" I said stupidly.

"Well he would be. He won $1," she told me.

"He did?"

"To spend at tuckshop."

"Really? That's great." I better get on with my Father of the Year acceptance speach. This year it's in the bag.

"And then," this lady went on, "as he walked back to his spot, he poked his tongue out at his sister." In front of the whole school. full...of pride.

I'm starting to think I don't talk enough to my boy. I thought back to the conversations we'd had the last week and while I'm fairly certain Pokemon, Skylanders and fart jokes featured heavily, I'm equally certain there was no mention of parades or tuckshop.

As soon as the woman left I picked up the phone, keen to find out why I'm learning this stuff about my kids from people at work. When Tracey answered I asked her why she hadn't told me Master7 had been called up on parade this week.

"He has?"

"And he won $1 tuckshop money!" I added, my tone probably more suited to saying he'd been called up for setting fire to the library.

"Oh that's nice," said Tracey. "What for?"

When was the last time the winner of Father of the Year was married to the winner of Mother of the Year?

That night we cornered our little man in his bedroom.

"Why haven't you told us you won tuckshop money for something?" I asked him. He grinned up at us like we'd found out his dirty little secret. "And why did you win it?"

"For being good," he told us. "When you're good your name goes into a draw."

"And you won tuckshop money!" I said. "How exciting. You'll be able to buy a drink at lunchtime."

"I usually just buy iceblocks," said Master7.

"You've won this before?"

"Three times this year and twice last year."

I think we'll keep it simple. "My fellow Australians, thank you for bestowing on Tracey and myself the much coveted title of Parents of the Year..." Yeah, that'll work.

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Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Clones are people two

The offending shirt in an offending pose.
"What about this shirt?" Tracey asked me, shaking my 'Clones are people two' t-shirt at me. "I haven't seen you wearing it for ages."

"I love that shirt," I protested.

"Then why don't you wear it?"

"Because it's shrunk." Even as I said it I knew this wasn't the strongest argument for saving my t-shirt.

Tracey glanced meaningfully at my belly and then ever so briefly on my B cups before asking, "You're sure about that?"

We're having new carpet laid in one of the bedrooms tomorrow, which means we've spent the night emptying that room of anything touching the floor.

Given this is the room Miss17 recently moved out of, you'd be forgiven for thinking it should be pretty much empty already. Reality is, however, it's become the family dumping ground for everything from the vacuum to blankets to washing to odd chairs I didn't even know we had.

Naturally, because we're cleaning out this room, Tracey has decided to go through the whole house like a dose of salts, and the first thing Tracey always does when she's in a 'this house needs an enema' mood is to start tossing out my stuff.

Now I would argue heavily I'm not a hoarder but, with the exception being my kids' stuff (especially the little bits of toys I step on, which I gleefully bin every chance I get) I don't like throwing stuff out. I have a shirt I bought on our honeymoon in Thailand. It's got paint stains all down one side but it's survived every cull in the 12 years since I brought it home: mainly because I hide it amongst Tracey's things.

Unfortunately, though, my 'Clones are people two' t-shirt was already in her clutches.

"Fine," I said. "Throw it out."

"You throw it out," grinned Tracey, tossing it over to me. Like I wasn't suffering enough!

"Fine," I said, issuing a heavy protest sigh. There's no point arguing with your gaoler.

"Hey," Tracey called after me. I knew that cheeky tone. She was about to go for the slam-dunk.  When I turned she was pulling out handful after handful of my t-shirts from the cupboard. "Do you want me to throw out all your other shirts which have shrunk?"

"No," I said, defeated. "I'll have nothing left to wear."

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Tuesday, October 23, 2012

A Piece of...Cake

I don't usually bag a kiddy book, but last night I was reading a couple of stories to Miss2 and Miss5 when I came to a book called The Large Family - A Piece of Cake. The thing is, the wrongness of this story has stayed with me all day, so I have to write it down so I can purge my thoughts.

"I'm fat," said Mrs Large, is the opening line of the book. It's about a mother deciding to go on a diet and so the whole family has to go on a diet.

Now I love kids books. I love how there's not a lot of words and my kids go to bed much better if I take a couple of minutes to read to them - although I myself struggle, as I've mentioned before, to stay awake all the way to the end.

We have hundreds of kids books in the house. Hundreds and hundreds. More today than even yesterday because today was book club at school so we took the kids before work and brought home another ten. I could have done with one of those books last night, but instead...

I was frowning well before I got halfway through the book, with it's idea of a healthy dinner being watercress soup and a glass of water, but it was the following which made me wonder what on Earth the message was this book was trying to teach my kids:

It was awful. Every morning there was a healthy breakfast followed by exercises. Then there was a healthy tea followed by a healthy jog. By the time evening came everyone felt terrible.

Clearly the author hadn't heard of endorphins.

I'm not likely to be mistaken for a rock star surviving on a steady diet of nothing but uppers and downers, but I don't promote being biggish. I don't hate it or feel guilty about it. I certainly don't run down the idea of eating well and getting the heart rate up.

Still the fact we'd just eaten pizza in the park for dinner was probably giving me guilt issues as I read this book.

And how did it end? Well it was all for nothing because the whole Large family stole a piece of cake from the fridge behind each other's backs. Then they decided they were meant to be fat and gave up the healthy lifestyle. How's that for a message to be getting on with?

Yep, I don't normally bag a kiddy book, but in this case the bin is the best place for it.

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Sunday, October 21, 2012

A day of play

Today was Tracey's last day of working for Blockbuster. As sad as she is to be leaving the team, she's very excited about setting herself up as a photographer. - something she's been wanting to do for several years, but couldn't because pregnancy and babies kept running off with her brain.

"I've done the right thing, haven't I?" she asked when she came home, a little teary and emotional. Naturally I assured her she has. She's a great photographer, loves looking at the world through a lens and, if you've got the opportunity, why not do something you love.

I also suspect she's anxious to spend more time at home with the kids on weekends - you know, the time when I'm mostly home with them too.

"I'm a doggy!" Miss5 told me this morning as she scuttled past me on all fours with her tongue out.

"Me dooo!" yelled Miss2, following her big sister in a cloud of chuckles. Miss2 does an even more realistic puppy than her big sister because she isn't fully toilet trained yet so she leaves the occasional puddle around the place.

How much fun is it to watch them pretend play? I like to encourage them.

"Good dogs," I said, bending down to pat them both fondly on the head. "Come on. Come on girls," I said cheerfully, slapping my thighs, and they followed me into the kitchen where I set down a bowl of water for each of them.

This afternoon I could hear the kids in their bedrooms practicing their 'show'. I knew it was a show because I was handed tickets at various stages throughout the day. One ticket isn't enough: each kid likes to produce their own.

So earlier tonight, with Tracey home from work, we gathered in our best pajamas in one of the bedrooms and Miss8 kicked things off with Mary Had A Little Lamb on the violin. We all sang along the second time through, some of us with our own version of the lyrics which earned me some raised eyebrows and her a huge round of applause.

Then Miss5 danced and sang a song of her own making - a little ditty about Christmas Eve and all the stuff she seemed likely to find waiting for her under the tree - which ended with a heart-stopping spin and jump off the bed, and again we clapped and cheered.

Miss2 danced as only two years olds or rhythmless headbangers can, and earned herself a standing ovation.

Then came Master7. Master7 learned today derriere is another word for bum. How he learned this, I don't know. Perhaps it was that one time I mentioned it today while I was threatening to pat his bum if he didn't behave, after which the two of us, joined by Miss8, chased each other around the house playing a sort of bum-slap tag game. Who knows? That might have been it. So tonight, Master7 did a bum dance for us while reciting all the words he knows which mean bum: derriere being the latest addition and, going by the number of times he mentioned it, the chorus. Master7 didn't quite make it to the end of his song before we stopped him but still earnt himself applause from the (mostly) appreciative audience. Especially this one bloke who was trying hard not to laugh.

So a very creative day all round for the kids. Unfortunately, though, some of the pretend play did carry over to the evening meal.

"Don't use your fingers," Tracey said to Miss5, and to our little girl's credit she immediately pulled her hands out of her bowl....

....and planted her whole face, mouth open, into her food.

"I'm a doggy," she said when she came up with a mouthful of mash.

"Good dog," I said, and patted her on the head. When I spotted the horrified look on Tracey's face I added, "Well she is. She did what you asked." Her expression changed to a smile, although I confess she was shaking her head.

Yep, I think Tracey feels she's made the right decision changing careers.

I'm happy too - with Tracey home I'll have more time to teach our cute little puppies some tricks.

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The Daddy Dojo

As babies my lot have traditionally been so hungry we've been flat out retrieving the spoon between mouthfuls. But it seems Miss0 is set to change that.

While I've been feeding her, Miss0, the teeny tot Bruce Lee wannabe, has spent the morning batting the spoon out of my hands like I was moving in slow-mo. Yes, it seems Miss0 is a master of Kidjitsu.

There ensued a battle of wills between my experience and her determination. I gave up after five minutes, the bowl and her belly both empty. But it wasn't without an upside. I mean, This girl has some serious talents. After only several attempted teaspoons she wasn't even dropping her guard - she kept her hands up ready to slap the offending food away.

"You really think that's a habit you want to be encouraging?" Tracey asked me as another spoonful of apple, potato & pumpkin mix took off and splattered on the fridge door.

"Are you kidding?" I answered her. "She's a natural. I'm thinking black belt. I'm thinking Olympic gold, I'm thinking movies." I aimed another spoonful at her mouth and with a thwack! she sent the food flying again. "The Karate Kid started like this."

My name is Bruce, so martial arts comes kind of naturally to me too. I mean, I already have a yellow belt in Taekwondo.

At one point Miss0 got hold of my spoon and refused to relinquish it, so I grabbed another out of the drawer. More often than not, when a baby has a spoon in their hands, you can slip food past their hands and into their mouths. Not with Miss0.

Her spoon became a short staff.

"She's started on weapons training," I said to Tracey in an awed sort of voice. "She's so advanced."

Then Miss0 started whacking my spoon away with an accuracy you wouldn't have associated with the same kid who, only an hour earlier as I lay on the lounge, took ten seconds to work out how to get her hand to my face to rip off my glasses.

"A natural!" I repeated to Tracey, food forgotten now as I sparred with her, spoono-a-spoono. "She could be the next Jackie Chan or Chuck Norris."

The trouble with this sort of thing is it's fun. Well, it's fun if you're a dad. Hell fun. Mums, I've noticed, often don't seem to see it the same way. Can't imagine why.

"All your doing is teaching her a bad habit," Tracey admonished me as she grabbed a cloth and started to clean the floor around the highchair and then the fridge. "She'll think it's a game every time you go to feed her."

"There's no harm in it," I said, just as Miss0 launched her spoon at my left eye. The lack of sympathy from Tracey was palpable. "It's okay," I announced as I washed the gunk out in the kitchen sink. "I hardly ever use that eye anyhow."

"Just make her a bottle and put her down for a nap," Tracey sighed.

I unstrapped my little Kidjitsu master from her highchair and walked her in to the cot.

"You're going to be a force to be reckoned with, aren't you my darling?" I cooed to her as I lifted her in.

She got all excited and kicked off the mattress, sending her head up under my chin. The result was bone jarringly painful.

"A natural," I hissed through gritted teeth as I gave her the bottle and tried to regain my wits.

Yessiree, I'd say it's a given we're going to have a famous, gold winning, kick ass, action movie star for a daughter.

All I have to do is survive the next eighteen years of training.

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Friday, October 19, 2012

Sunday Sunday

Master20 is finishing off his second year in a four year double degree - Criminology & Psychology. I'm not saying he's smarter than me or anything, but I had to look up how to spell Psychology.

I'm proud of my son - not for going to uni, but for deciding on something he wants and going for it.

I went to uni. It was a lot of fun. Maybe that's why I didn't last long. Or maybe it was because I was doing an Economics degree yet somehow managed to sign up for a music subject.

Last Sunday I phoned up my number one son for a catch up.

"Dad. I can't talk for long. I've got this assignment." Master20 sounded stressed. "It's due Monday."

When I was at uni my Sundays were generally spent recovering from Saturday night or drinking all the wine from a wine flagon so we could blow it up and use it as a pillow in the park. Have I mentioned how much fun uni was?

My Sundays are still about pillows, but more wanting desperately to be able to put my head back on one and sleep.

Headache aside, sometimes I miss my old Sundays.

"I understand, mate," I lied to my son. "It's just the little kids are missing you."

"Oh, okay," said my good man. "Put them on." And he took twenty minutes out of his study schedule.

I loved it. I love it when they reconnect: all my kids.

A close friend with three much older siblings once told me he didn't even realize his brother was his brother for years. He felt his oldest brother was a stranger who popped in occasionally and demanded hugs. Despite living two hours away, Master20 is making sure he's a presence in his younger siblings' lives.

After working it's way around the kids, the phone finally ended up back in my hands.

"I gotta go, Dad," he said. "I need to get this done."

"No worries, mate. Talk soon."

Several hours later a message popped up on his Facebook message board.

"Soooo....spent several hours getting an assignment done today. Did 1000 words and found references only to discover that it wasn't actually was a farking example!!!!"

Turns out the lecturer had given the topic as a sample question and not an assignment. Unfortunately, Master20 only realized this after completing the task and attempting to submit it online. Which would have been a shame but not embarrassing if he hadn't, at that point, emailed his lecturer complaining and then gone onto a message board all the other students in that subject use and asked if anyone else had the same problem.

So what do you know? He isn't smarter than me afterall.

Shortly after discovering his mistake he followed up on his Facebook post.

"I want my Sunday back!"

I hear you, son. 

They grow up so fast, don't they?

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Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Jibber Jabbering

These days, when the kids say something embarrassing, I just ignore both the comment and the person it's directed at and change the subject.

"Dad! What's wrong with that lady's face?"

"Pass me the groceries please. Come on, you're supposed to be helping, not jibber jabbering."

Kids say the most embarrassing things, don't they? Things like pointing and yelling 'why is he fat?' in the middle of McDonalds while you're waiting to be served.

Where do you go when your otherwise well mannered and respectful child yells out, "Dad, that man's boobs are even bigger than yours!" in the middle of a store?

I've tried the majority of responses to these sorts of statements. I've knelt down and quietly explained about being rude. I've laughed nervously and apologized to the person. I've frowned nervously and apologized to the person. I've tried pointing to a completely different ficticional* person behind the person being pointed at who, just as the person turns to see who I'm pointing at, has just gone round the corner.

I know it can be embarrassing for the other person but social etiquette doesn't have a chapter for this.

Or, alternatively, I'm a coward. Probably more the latter.

Tonight we took Miss17 over to see the venue for her birthday party. It's the big one this year - her 18th and Master20's 21st.

Parked in front of the venue, we had the windows down and were chatting about things like the band, the food and how drunk Tracey and I were allowed to get. We were there for maybe five minutes and occasionally someone would walk past.

"I just saw a man in a dress!" yelled Master7 through an open window.

"Umm," said Miss17. "That wasn't a man."

Reaching for the keys, I called back loudly over my shoulder, "Check your sister's seat belt please. Come on, you're supposed to be helping, not jibber jabbering."

And we took off quickly up the road, my tail tucked up firmly between my legs.

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*Also, for all you word Nazis out there, I know fictitional isn't a real recognized word, but I'm doing my best to bring it into mainstream usage. I figure if the people from Oxford and Webster can add words like bimble and blinging after they're muttered by a few clubbers in Suffolk or NY, I want my fictitional, which I've been using liberally since somewhere in my teens, although mainly because I didn't know it wasn't an actual word. So yes, I want it 'legalized' so I don't feel stupid.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

We help a father of 9 in Mozambique

This is our 58th loan through KIVA!

Here it is, my monthly KIVA plug. I love what this organisation does and also how helping people through it makes me feel.

This month we're helping Armando who lives in Mozambigue. He wants this loan to buy a cow to butcher and sell at a profit so he can support his family, which includes two grandchildren.

KIVA is a non-profit organization with a mission to connect people through lending to alleviate poverty. Leveraging the internet and a worldwide network of microfinance institutions, KIVA lets individuals lend as little as $25 to help create opportunity around the world. Best of all (from our budget's point of view) the money comes back to us in repayments and then we get to lend it out again to some other family :)

Here's what Armando's KIVA application had to say:

"Armando is married and the father of 9 children, 2 of whom are still in School. He lives in his own house with his family and supports 2 grandchildren who live with him.

He is a military pensioner and with this loan he intends to buy one head of cattle to put down and resell the meat."

KIVA gives you the chance to make small loans to borrowers working to start businesses and improve their lives. We're already lending on Kiva and thought you'd like to join me!

Here's a link - LINK!

Monday, October 15, 2012

Shag Pile

Tonight, when I arrived home, Tracey had nearly twenty carpet samples in Miss17's room for me to test drive and judge.

With Miss17 moving out with friends for a little while, and having herself an adventure, we have the opportunity to move the five kids still living here around the three bedrooms and sleepout to make the house more livable.

But before we do that we've decided the carpet in Miss17's room needs replacing. Actually the carpet throughout the house needs replacing, but we're starting with her room because it's empty.

Seven years ago we recarpeted the house with a beautiful, thick, deep blue carpet which we instantly fell in love with. The honeymoon lasted about a month. The only way mess could stand out more on this carpet than it does at the moment would be if a fanfare of trumpets went off every time a speck landed on it. It shows up EVERYTHING. 

Plus, it LIKES mess and doesn't want to give it up, even when vacuumed. 

Of course, what hasn't helped are our kids walking the outdoors inside, a steady progression of dripping bottles, leaky nappies and maybe the odd spilt milk or stubby, plus the usual wear and tear from a family of nine, the last seven years has turned our lovely, expensive carpet into a wannabe nature reserve, complete with walking tracks. It's gone from flash to trash.

This time, Tracey was leaving nothing to chance. For two days she's been visiting all the carpet stores in G-town and checking out their stock and telling them exactly what she wants.

"Easy to clean! And when I do clean I don't want it to look like I haven't vacuumed five minutes later. I want it to hide dust. I want to be able to throw a handful of bark on the floor and they can't be seen without a UV light and a microscope." 

The carpet samples all looked pretty much the same to me, but I do have a bugbear with floor coverings. Tracey's priority is mess, mine is carpet burn. And keep your minds out of the gutter - it just so happens I give all the horsey rides around here.

On all fours I scuttled around all the samples, quickly rejecting and tossing several sandpaper hybrids and finally whittling the contenders down to a knee-friendly three - two browns and a dark cream. Tracey seemed very happy with the one's I had left. 

You see, when the store assistants' backs were turned Tracey would reach into her handbag and pull out a packet of sample mess - dog hair, bark splinter, link, grass, Lego, hair tie, paper, feather - and scatter them over the sample carpets to see how they fared. 

"I lost the grass and lint at one store," she told me, then bent to lovingly pick up a motley dark cream sample and beamed. "That's why this one is my favourite."

Ladies & Gentlemen, we have a winner!

Only trouble now is working out which samples goes back to which stores. And by trouble I, of course, mean it's Tracey's problem :) Not that it's not all beer and skittles for me - I've got really sore knees from a mild carpet burn.

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Saturday, October 13, 2012

Gold Rush

Today was Gold Rush time in Gympie - meaning it's parade time. Unfortunately, so many people want to be involved it usually seems there's more people in the parade than watching from the sidelines.

Their Highland Dancing group was asked to join in the fun today, so Miss8 and Miss5 got to dress up in traditional clothes and march and wave down the main street and, afterwards, dance a jig in the park. What was really lovely was so many of our family turning out to throw their support behind the girls.

My dad was having the time of his life, chatting with total strangers who've never heard his funny stories before. He loves fresh meat. I heard him start up a conversation with one man which began, "I was talking to a bloke yesterday who had a receding hairline like yours...." I left at that point and went to stand with my mum, who hardly ever picks fights with people in the street.

The girls haven't been to a lot of dancing lessons yet, but they flung their hands and feet around like pros today - just maybe not Highland dancing pros.

Miss8 did wonderfully - she loves the dancing and dressing up. She wasn't as taken with the public appearance and said she felt a bit sick, but soon overcame her nerves.

"They told me to wave at people when they waved at me and at first I didn't, but then I did and then I started to wave at people before they waved," she told me. The old preemptive wave - not an easy maneuver to master, but a game changer if you can pull it off.

Little Miss5, on the other hand, was dancing to the beat of her own drum. Literally. I mean she was dressed like everyone else in the group but that's where the similarities ended.

For starters, whereas the other dancers swanned onto the dance area, Miss5 decided to squat down and jump, frog-like, over to her spot. Then she found half a dozen things to do with her feet for every one toe point the other girls did, plus there were twists and turns when everyone else was simply facing forward. And, for the finale, whereas the other girls ended with poise and a knee bend, our Miss5 decided to go for tiger claws. It was a Strictly Ballroom moment.

Afterwards, I made sure to thank everyone for coming to cheer the girls on.

Some family members having the time of their lives :) Actually I
think they'd just found the 'butt crack' photo Tracey snuck onto
their camera. It's okay guys, it's really just a close up of my arm pit.
"No worries. It's nice to support them in something they enjoy," Uncle Jason told me. "Beats the months I spent supporting them in something they didn't," he added, referring to the girls' season playing soccer, which turned out to be nothing like the dancing and gymnastics they asked for.

Besides, I think the Highland Dancing is a big improvement because there were no soccer clubs dancing in the street today.

Happy Birthday G-town!

The big finish. Growl!

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Go back to shhhhleep

Some of the world's greatest discoveries have been made by accident - chocolate chip cookies, potato chips, Viagra. And now it seems I'm going to add my own stroke of accidental genius to the mix.

"You!" Tracey came into the kitchen and snapped at me this morning.

"What?" I asked in a very good impression of our two year old using her new favourite word.

"You know!"

I really didn't.

"Last night," she sneered lovingly at me. "When the baby woke up." I must have continued to stare at her with a dumb look on my face because she went on. "At about 2am." I could vaguely remember the kettle boiling and covering up my back after a cold draft of wind, but that's about it. I certainly didn't open my eyes and look at the clock. "You woke me up to go fix the baby a bottle."

"I did not," I said confidently, although I admit there have been times over the past decade where I've accidentally woken Tracey up when my foot has involuntarily jerked at the sound of a baby's cry and struck my sleeping wife's leg. But it's not like I ever did it on purpose.

"Oh, it's not like you said 'Hey, Tracey, the baby needs a bottle' or anything obvious like that," she said in what can only be termed a mocking tone. "Oh, no. Instead you had your face all up in my ear and you were whispering 'Shhhh! Shhhhhhh!' louder and louder until you woke me up."

I went for the save. "So even deep asleep, I still attempt to pacify our baby. Wow. My subconscious never rests."

"You were waking me up!" She shook her head at me. "Don't pretend like you don't remember."

I really, genuinely don't.

But that doesn't mean I'm not going to claim it as a stroke of fatherly genius. I wonder if I can patent this - The Bruce Shhh Method. The BruShhh Method! Genius aside, it seemed I needed to dig myself out of a hole earlier than usual this morning.

I went for the usual bold-faced lie. "You know as well as I do-"

"Shhh!" hissed Tracey at me, and sat down to deliberately drink her morning coffee..

"-if I heard the baby cry-" I continued.

"Shhhh!" she interrupted again.

"-that I would immediately get up-"

"Shhhhh!" Tracey hissed at me loudly and pointedly. And I finally noticed a squawk coming from the bedroom.

At least she was grinning when I went to fetch our baby.

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Friday, October 12, 2012

Ticked Off

Class newsletters are always full of interesting snippets, especially when one of our kids is singled out for something they've accomplished. Like last week's edition for Master7 year two class.

"Congratulations to M, L, T & K for completing every homework for the year so far! This is particularly fantastic for one child as she has been away and yet still managed too complete her homework. Unfortunately there are 2 other children who did NO HOMEWORK all term! Very disappointing!"

I'll tell you what was disappointing about this note - Master7 wasn't mentioned for getting all his homework done. He's always the first to finish his set work at home because then he can read his books or play outside.

As for those two kids who haven't done their homework. Tut Tut. Some parents just don't see the value in homework. When I was a single dad with my oldest two, homework was a nightmare. I'd work all day, pick up the kids from daycare, get home and start dinner. Homework was not my priority and finding time was a trial some weeks, but I understood why it had to be done.

As did my mum when I was a kid, which was why she unfailingly did it for me.

These days, with Tracey being home four afternoons a week, it isn't as difficult to find the time, but I'm told the frustration aspect still exists.

So you might imagine Tracey's surprise when she ran into the teacher after school this week and found out Master7 was one of those two kids who hadn't handed in homework ALL TERM!.

"But he does it!" she told the teacher, her voice begging to be believed. "I'm forever finding the completed homework sheets on the floor in his roo....ahhhh."

This makes no sense to me. I always made sure I handed mum's homework in first thing I walked into class.

Naturally, Tracey confronted Master7 about this and, naturally, he immediately saw an opportunity.

"What do I get if I hand my homework in?" We let Miss8 and Master7 buy a book for three consecutive weeks of getting all their spelling words correct. Turns out he thought a computer for three successful weeks of handing in homework sounded about right. Unsurprisingly, Tracey had other ideas.

"Well we could work on a reward system, but since handing your homework in is something you have to do I think we'll go with punishment instead. No homework handed in means no DS that weekend."

All I know is there better only be one kid on the next newsletter who hasn't handed in homework all term.

And for the love of Pete, let it be someone else's kid.

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Thursday, October 11, 2012

Mopping About

The worst thing a bloke can do is draw attention to how little he does around the house. Or more specifically, inside the house.

If Tracey heads out the door and say, "Can you put away the washing?" I put away the washing. I didn't know there was even washing to be put away, so clearly she's washed, hung, taken down, folded and sorted the washing without me even knowing. By the time she comes home those clothes will be in drawers and cupboards.

There's even an element of guilt at contributing so little to the process, so I'll probably do the dishes as well.

But not all blokes think like this it seems.

The husband of a friend of mine is on holidays at the moment. Their kids are at school and she's at work, so he's got the whole house and day to himself.

Every morning this week, as she's left the house, she's been asking him to mop the floors. Finally, yesterday, he dragged himself off the lounge and went looking for the mop, and from her telling of the story, she's livid.

"Where's the mop?" he phoned to ask her mid-morning.

"Which bucket?" he phoned to ask her a short time later.

"What do I put in the bucket?" he phoned to ask her just after lunch.

When she arrived home from work she was greeted at the front door by her husband.

He'll be wanting praise, she thought. I better turn it on thick or he'll sulk. But he wasn't standing there for applause, he had a bone to pick. Personally, I don't think he put a lot of thought into his statement.

"Did you know," he demanded indignantly, "it takes over an hour to mop the entire house?!"

Considering they've lived in that particular house for over two years now, she probably does.

Considering he now knows where the mop, bucket and detergent are kept, and the manic look in his wife's eyes when she told the story, I'm guessing he's just had a new chore added to his feeble list of duties.

Methinks he really should have kept his mouth shut and done the dishes.

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Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Our Too Cute To Boot Theory

Until ten months ago we'd never had a Terrible Two.

We'd heard about them, of course, and how they test the waters and then the boundaries and then your patience, all without a brain to guide them, but we'd never had one in the house. Instead, we've always been 'blessed' with Temperamental Threes - still no common sense but faster and heavier so they're harder to catch and do more damage to your back when you do manage to get a hand to them.

Tracey and I have been developing a theory these past fifteen years we've been raising kids together: the reason mother nature has made young children look so very, very cute is you wouldn't put up with them if they weren't.

Seriously, there'd be that one "NO!" too many, after a week of refusing to eat what you've cooked or sleep in their own bed or stay with you in a shopping centre, and you'd consider driving into the country, letting them out and hoping like hell they didn't have a sense of direction.

Instead, after pulling all the saucepans and Tupperware and cutlery out of the draws and pouring water from one to another, and more often missing, they smile at you and say 'duddle' instead of 'cuddle' and your heart melts and you forgive everything. The crafty little bastards.

We're just praying our Miss2 hitting the Terrible Twos instead of waiting for the Temperamental Threes means we'll be through this phase quicker and not, as we fear, that we'll have two years of hell instead of one.

At the moment, Miss2's weapon of choice in testing her parents is with words: or more specifically, with one word. Kids tend to go through a 'why' stage but our little miss is going through a 'what' stage.

Not a smart what stage like, "what is aluminium made of?"  Oh, no. A dumb what stage as in when we answer one of her endless stream of questions and she says, "what?" like we're interrupting her train of thought.

Here's a sample of the quality banter we've been having with her lately.

"Would you like a milk?"


"A milk?"


"Milk. A drink of milk. Would you like one?"


So I give up and walk the milk bottle back to the fridge. And suddenly she's screaming at me, "I want a milk!"

"So you do want a milk, do you?"


"Honey, I'm talking (Miss2) out for a drive!"

"I wanna duddle, daddy."

If only life took the same precautions with teenagers you might not be so keen for them to move out.

Instead, during the Terrifying Teens mother nature matches their toxic attitude with pouting, sneering and a face full of zits. Before you know it you're offering to help them pack and putting up bond money...

...and looking whimsically at photos of them when they were two or three and super cute and therefore so much easier to handle.

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Monday, October 8, 2012

Call me HOTGUY!

Master7 told me last night if he could be any superhero, he'd be Hotguy.

"Who?" I asked him. 

Master20's lifelong obsession with all things geeky means I have a better than necessary knowledge of the world of superheroes. And all things Pokemon. 

I don't know which superhero I'd want to be but if I could choose to be a Pokemon I'd be Snorlax - he only wakes up to eat. Although having said that, Master7's superhero choice was sounding a bit of alright.

"Hotguy!" Master7 repeated to me, and my head filled with images of a caped crusader lounging against a bar giving passing women the old nudge nudge wink wink treatment: using his powers of hotness to save them from having nothing to dream about - a bit like the guy in the Old Spice ads. But Master7's next comment pointed me in the right direction. "From The Avengers."

I couldn't remember a Hotguy in The Avengers movie, although Tracey seemed to take a long time to answer my questions whenever Thor was onscreen. 

"You know, Dad, with the bow and arrows."

I mentally ticked off the Avengers - Ironman, Hulk, Captain Underpants....

"Oh!" I said, connecting the dots. "You mean Hawkeye."

I'm really glad we cleared that up. 

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