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Friday, November 30, 2012

When I grow up, I want to be....

The good people at The View, a localized magazine, asked me to write a little something for them on the topic of 'when I grow up, I want to be'. I wrote this in the first half of the year, and there's been a few birthdays since then, but all's good.

Here's what appeared in their magazine, which came out today.

I attended one of the finest all boy boarding schools on the east coast of Australia and emerged armed  with the ability to eat just about anything (a godsend during my first marriage). In many ways, school can offer us glimpses into a wider world than we might ordinarily experience at home - the sciences, for example – and help spark an interest which might ignite a career.

Unfortunately for me during my school years I discovered an inability to understand most of what the teachers were talking about in science, geography or history, or to draw anything more complicated than a stick figure.

So I started writing my first blog. Of course, back then it was called a diary, and if I wanted people to read my ‘blog’ I had to leave the book in classrooms or dormitories where they could accidently stumble across it, like I did recently: pulling the battered diary from the bottom of a well hidden box. And here’s the thing - a quick flick through the pages gives a very clear picture of what I wanted to be when I grew up.

One of the wonderful things about being a kid is imagining what life has in store for you. I think the young me would be both shocked and awed by what I’ve experienced. For a start, I obviously overcame my fear of talking to girls because I’m married to one.

Suffice to say, my life hasn’t turned out like I’d hoped as a pre-teen. I assume, because I grew up primarily on the Gold Coast, I observed money really can make you happy and at some point decided I wanted to surround myself with lots of it. Unfortunately, I mistakenly took the service road and now work in a bank.

My career, and if I used the term any more loosely an ‘e’ might fall out, has included gardener, console operator, stop-go sign holder, a cleaner of pubs and a door to door salesman, which ended abruptly when the last door was answered by a very scary woman with tremendously hairy legs.

A quick ‘what do you want to be when you grow up?’ survey at our home shows things haven’t changed much over the years.

“Dad, I can’t see the TV!” came Master7’s answer.

“I’m too young to think about that stuff,” Miss8 chastised me, not even looking up from her book.

But when pressed it seems they’re both keen on making rock videos or movies and having legions of fans. Like I said, things haven’t changed much.

Miss5 was more forthcoming. In fact, getting her to stop giving me her answer was the real difficulty. Going by Miss5’s response, if people decided their careers when they were kids, there would be an oversupply of hairdressers, ballerinas and Smurfs, with not so many politicians and bankers. Part of me is actually fine with that.

So what did the young twelve-year-old me want to be when I grew up? According to the magazine pictures glued into my diary, what I wanted to be, more than anything else in the world, was Paul Hogan’s mate, Strop - because that lucky sod was married to Delvine Delaney. 

Here's a link over to their webiste :) LINK

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Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Can you feel it?

"So, Bruce," said the familiar voice on the phone - a friend who works at the council. "I've called up for a dose of your wonderful customer service." I could hear her grinning all the way down the line.

I cussed under my breathe. I knew what this was about. I'd just spent five minutes being ribbed about it by my work colleagues.

One thing I always strive for at work is happy customers. I'm friendly. I'm courteous. I'm personal.

But sometimes, like today, I go too far.

Having satisfactorily completed a request over the phone a few minutes earlier, I'd gone to say goodbye.

"Alrighty. Thanks for calling." So far so good, but then I went on. "I love you." With immediate horror I realized what I'd said. What had happened was I'd been speaking to Tracey the call before and the remnants of our conversation were still fluttering around my head - that's my excuse anyway. I nearly jumped down the phone to take my words back. "No! Wait! No, no, no, no, no-" But it was too late. They'd hung up.

Which, when I thought about it, was a good thing. I'd gotten away with it.

No, I hadn't.

"Nice," said a voice over my shoulder. "It's all about going the extra distance. Giving them more than they expect."

"You know, it's how can I be of service?" said another when word started getting around, "not can I service you?"

Yes, the world is full of comedians. My work has all the ones who aren't funny enough to be given a microphone.

As does, it seems, the local council.

"The whole office has been pissing themselves," my friend assured me ungraciously. "Anyway. Time to go. Don't forget the big finish."

"Yeah, I'm just not feeling it," I told her. Funny cow.

Worst thing is, I've done this before - Best Customer Service EVER!

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Monday, November 26, 2012

My pain-in-the-neck son

Seeing my oldest son, Master20, causes me pain these days.

While it was good to see the big man again when he popped home for the weekend, I have to say I haven't been the same since he was here.

The reason for this is I took him for a drive so he could checkout the venue for his 21st party next month. We were driving home, chatting away, when suddenly he screamed, much like the Wilhelm Scream, only louder and only two feet from my ear.

(Here's a complication of Wilhelm Screams from movies, to give you an idea of how it sounded)

Now one thing you don't want, when you're travelling on a busy road going slightly above the suggested limit, is someone to scare the living bejeebers out of you, making you jerk the car into the lane of the oncoming traffic (fortunately, in this case, the oncoming traffic had just passed us, but it was a near thing and I'm going for dramatic effect here).

While I was jerking the car to the right, every muscle in my body decided to give rigor mortis a trial run and snapped stiff, then my neck & head shot to my left to see who we'd killed while my mind hoped, despite the rigor mortis thing, it wasn't us.

Only to find Master20 slapping at his knees like he was engaged in some kids' clapping game and was about to break into Miss Mary Mack.

"What the-?" I began.

"A spider," he yelled. "There's a spider!"

"Are you shitting me?" I asked him soothingly at the top of my lungs. "You scared the shit out of me. I literally think I need to change my pants because my body thought we'd died and emptied my bowels."

"It was huge!" he stammered. Then he found the dead spider and, holding out his palm, showed me the gigantic beast of a thing which could have doubled for Aragog in the Harry Potter films. We both stared at the baby pea-sized body. "Well, I'm telling you," insisted Master20, "it was a lot bigger with its legs stretched out."

"I'm not even scared of spiders,' insisted Master20 when we were back at the house.

"Sit down, son," I told him. "I've got some bad news for you."

It was only later that day I realized, in snapping my head around, I'd messed up a bunch of clenched muscles in my neck, shoulder and back of my skull, and it began to hurt like hell.

And here's the thing - until Sunday, I wasn't scared of spiders either. But after the damage the last one did to my body, I think I am now.

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Sunday, November 25, 2012

Ten Things My Lovely Mother Lied About

1. "I'll tell your father!"
Mum's favourite disciplinary method was to tell dad the error of our ways when he arrived home from work and then, when he was paddling our bums, to feel guilty about it and stop him. It was a confusing time for all of us. Not that she told him everything. At family functions Mum will occasionally dust off a horrid tale about some disastrous thing we did as kids and Dad looks as surprised as anyone. Like when I was two and stepped into a bucket of gloss paint before walking through the house. Mum quickly called her mum and the two of them worked frantically to clean up the mess before my father came home from work, which probably explains why I’m still here to tell the tale. Dad found out at an Easter Sunday lunch ten years ago when I was 35.

2. "You can be anything you want to be."
Turns out I couldn't. I work in a bank so I'm about as far from being a Space Rock God as you can get. I can't even play air guitar, although I do space out a lot.

3. "I know everything."
When you’re a kid you really do think this, don’t you? Mum’s are SMART. I always thought my mum was pretty clever because she could work out who did what despite not even being in the room: sometimes just knowing we’d done something wrong, if not immediately knowing what. Now, of course, I realize she’d simply noticed I’d hidden the ‘world’s greatest stirrer’ spoon, which usually hung on the wall and which Dad used to paddle my bum with if I was naughty. For some reason I figured Dad wouldn't be able to smack me if he couldn't find the dreaded spoon. Sadly, my hiding skills weren't even as developed as my dodgy logic circuits and I’d usually just throw the thing under a cushion and plonk myself on top. Personally, when it comes to stuff my kids do, I know nothing. I admit it. I can almost hear my kids thinking, ‘he’s got nothing’, when I try bluff my way through. Tracey does better. How she even knows who was playing with which toy is beyond me. Hell, how she knows which names go with which child is beyond me most days. I'll tag along as she marches into a bedroom to discipline one of the kids for not brushing their teeth or leaving dolls out and be in absolute awe of her parenting skills and hoping some of her awesomeness will brush of on me. Essentially, I'm Robin: she's Batman.

4. "I never want you to leave." 
Oh, really, Mum? Now I admit I've also said this to all my kids and I know I said it genuinely and sincerely every time. But they were still cute at this point, having not attended school yet. It's such a wonder and joy when your kids squeeze their way into your life; it's hard to imagine ever being happy again without them being right there in the shadow of your helicopter. I think maybe this is why God invented the teenage years. I know I was grinning and waving like an idiot as Master20 drove off to university.

5. Big Family.
For years I thought my family was HUGE. Turns out a whole busload of people I thought were my uncles and aunties were nothing more than Mum & Dad's drinking buddies.

6. "If you eat your crusts you'll have curly hair." 
Mum loved this one, although I think it was just a ruse so I wouldn't waste any food. I went to boarding school where for five years I was so hungry I didn't waste things like crusts, gristle or apple cores. Despite this, I have a photo of me with a perm as proof positive crusts cause nothing more than indigestion if eaten too quickly and not chewed well enough. But then, maybe they only work on hair below the belt?

7. “Carrots are good for your eyes.”
Another of Mum’s favourites which I also think is a load of codswallop. Despite crunching my way through enough carrots to turn a rabbit’s fur orange, my eyes are shot. Although, to be fair, from when I turned fifteen the carrots were always going to be hard pressed to counter 'if you play with yourself you'll go blind'. Who knows, maybe my high carrot intake is why I can still find something to enjoy in a Jessica Alba flick.

8. Names. 
In grade one, we were asked what our parents' names were. My hand rose faster than my wife's temper. I had this one. After all, I'd been screaming at them to do stuff for me for years.

"Yes, Bruce?" my teacher asked.

"Mum and Dad," I said confidently.

"No, their actual names," she said. "Like your name is Bruce. What are your parents' names?"

What the hell was this nonsense?

To make matters even more confusing, I did try calling my parents by their Christian names, Geoff & Judy, on a couple of occasions, but they refused to respond. Well actually, Dad responded then Mum told him to stop. Things got even worse when a few years later I discovered Mum was also known by lots of other names - Santa Claus, The Easter Bunny and The Tooth Fairy amongst them. It was like living in an episode of The Saint. After this, I stopped being so keen to volunteer answers at school, which was a good thing because it freed up a lot of time for me to try catch Sally Noonan's attention.

9. "We don't play favourites." 
Then perhaps you could explain to me why my brother and sister were given two decent eyebrows a piece yet I only got the one? Yeah...that's what I thought. Worst still, my monobrow has a bloody cow-lick. Or rather, had a bloody cow-lick. Years of cosmetic surgery (waxing) have corrected this hideous imperfection, but at what cost? I no longer have the high moral ground necessary to toss scathing comments at my mates who drink shandies and have had perms. No, wait. That's me too. Hey, I’m a child of the eighties. Our role models were Boy George and Adam Ant for Pete’s sake. We were never going to turn out normal.

10. "Come here now, or I'm leaving without you!" 
Although I suspect this was an empty threat because three years ago, after repeatedly trying to convince me to move back to Brisvegas, my parents moved so Mum could be two hundred meters up the road from where I live. But how often was I threatened with this when I was lagging behind at the shops? And I’m a product of my mother’s upbringing. Not that I use this particular threat – my kids are more switched on than I was and would call my bluff. Instead I threaten to tell their mother. We're all rather sensibly scared of her, even though she doesn't even have a spoon engraved with ‘world’s biggest stirrer’ hanging on the wall. She doesn't need it.

If you've never been over to SAHM and checked them out, you need to go. Lots of
advice, tips and laughs to help you enjoy and afford to stay home and raise your family.

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Saturday, November 24, 2012

Knee Butter

"Knee butter!" screamed Miss2 for the umpteenth time. She was so frustrated she slapped the side of her head with her hand and then started bashing on the fridge door, not merely pointing at it.

It was 5.00am and we'd been at this for nearly half an hour. I was seriously regretting not pretending to be asleep when Miss2 stumbled into our room so Tracey could have got up and sorted this out.

"What do you want?" I asked my daughter again. I must have looked a bit odd - I still had one eye firmly shut in the hope I could sort her out and get back to sleep before the 10 month old alarm next to our bed went off.

I have this 'thing' (Tracey calls it a 'stupid thing') where if I wake up in the middle of the night and open both eyes my body and brain thinks we're done sleeping. Alternatively, if I keep one eye shut I can do whatever I like around the house, flop back into bed and fall instantly back to sleep.

I can even swap eyes if I accidentally open the one which doesn't work so well (I'm basically blind in my left eye but I prefer to think of this eye as having my 'soft filter lens' for looking at Tracey when she's a bit haggard).

"Knee butter! Knee butter! Knee butter!" continued Miss2. For the fifth time I opened the fridge and pulled out the butter. "NO!!!" she cooed so sweetly I thought my eardrum was going to burst.

"I'm sorry. I don't understand," I explained to her. "Do you want a sandwich? How about a glass of milk? What about a lolly?"

I would have offered to whip her up a pavlova if I thought it would shut her up.

"Knee butter!" she yelled, slapping her head again. We were going round in circles.

Only this time it occurred to me she doesn't normally slap the side of her head when she's frustrated. She normally slaps mine.

"Is your ear sore?" I asked. I started ferreting around in the baskets above the fridge, looking for the thermometer.

"Yes! Knee butter!" But this time it was a happier yell.

Eventually I found the thing and took her temperature, which was fine. The change in my little daughter was instantaneous.

"Night, Daddy," she said, and went back to her bed, leaving me free to stumble back to my own bed, close my eye and go to sleep.

When I started explaining the scenario to Tracey this morning, with much emphasis on my lack of sleep and the chivalrous nature of my having jumped out of bed, I expected sympathy, praise and the promise of sex, but instead she served me up a big, fat slice of 'I'm so much better at this than you'.

"I just couldn't work out what she wanted," I told her. "I still don't know what the hell 'knee butter' is."

"Knee butter? Oh, she wanted you to 'make me better'," said Tracey. "You just needed to take her temperature."

At least I'll know for next time. By which I mean I'll be keeping both eyes firmly shut and letting Tracey get up.

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Thursday, November 22, 2012

The naked truth

"Aaagh!" yelled Master7, stumbling out of his bedroom and into the living room. He was rubbing his eyes so fiercely I thought he'd been squirted with something toxic.

Which was close.

Miss5 had done a bum dance at him. Only as she'd dropped her pants to her ankles, she was more accurately throwing him a brown eye.

"Who taught her that?" Tracey asked me pointedly as I placed my trashy daughter in the naughty corner.

"Don't look at me," I told her.

Because I chase the kids around the house backwards (clothed), using my alias The Bum Monster, I'm instantly responsible for all butt related transgressions.

On a happier, more satisfactorily dressed note, our big man, Master20, is home for a few days. He's staying down the road at Grandma & Grandad's (because they have all the spare beds) but they dropped by here after picking him up from the train station so we could touch base.

Sitting, chatting at the dining table over cups of tea the conversation was somehow derailed from my exciting topic of 'I've got a new coffee machine'. Next thing we were discussing how daytime telly has sex scenes these days, unlike when I was a kid and we had to sneak out of our bedrooms after nine and hide behind the lounge if we wanted to see boobies.

Fortunately, my kids don't have to sneak around behind our backs to get their soft porn fix - it turns out Tracey's seen to that.

"The kids were watching a preview DVD one day," said Tracey, "and the first movie was PG but the second one was a little more adult." This was back when Miss9 was two and Master7 had no teeth. "I was racing around cleaning the house because an electrician was coming over so I put the DVD on. Then, when he arrived, we walked into the lounge room and the two little kids were staring transfixed while a couple on the screen were starting to get it on."

I was horrified. Sure I'd heard this story before but never in front of company, which is always much more fun.

"It's shit like that which stops us winning parenting awards," I told Tracey, shaking my head and looking at my parents for support. Then I noticed the flicker of genuine horror on my parent's faces as opposed to the mock horror I was expecting. "And don't you two look shocked," I said to my mum and dad. "Our kids saw a bit of flesh on the television. You guys gave Shane a live sex show!"

Well, kind of. My poor brother walked in on my parents being amorous when he was about 10. I think it's hilarious because it could have been me with the nightmares and need for therapy. I mean, you can't un-see something like that.

Which is probably the train of thought going through poor Master7's head right about now.

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Wednesday, November 21, 2012

You lay down with dogs

"You right in there?" Tracey called out to me.

I'd slept in this morning while Tracey supervised the zoo feeding at our dining table. Eventually, Miss0 decided I'd had enough nap time and stood staring daggers at me from the cot, screaming at the top of her lungs.

"I've got her," I called back to Trace, picking up our big little bundle of sometimes, but not right now, joy. As I talked and cooed, Miss0 screamed even louder and began clawing my face and trying to throw herself out of my arms.

"I don't know what's wrong with her," I said to Tracey when I walked in with Miss0 still going feral. "How did she sleep last night?"

It's a bone of contention I even have to ask, but the fact is I don't hear her. Or, as my wife sees it, I ignore her.

"Maybe she's teething," suggested Tracey, taking Miss0 out of my hands so I could go for a shower.

"Maybe," I said, vaguely registering that Tracey had suddenly starting behaving a little oddly, lifting each of her feet and checking out the soles of her shoes.

"I think I've stepped in something," she mumbled. Even as she was looking around, Miss0 had settled considerably.

But I didn't hang around for the details. I'd offloaded the screaming baby and was free. I headed for the bathroom with a skip in my step.

But just as I was about to step into the shower Tracey stood outside the bathroom door and yelled, "I think I know why the baby's crying!"

I opened the bathroom door and Tracey gave me with that disgusted, loving look I've come to expect and, like Miss0, turned her head away from me.

"Yep," she said. "You're really gonna need to brush your teeth while you're in there."

This morning, apparently, I was bypassing my lungs entirely and breathing with my bowel.

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Monday, November 19, 2012

Round & Round She Goes

Our night away on the Sunshine Coast was fabulous.

Even better than the seafood buffet, the breakfast buffet, the bar tab and the general atmosphere at Twin Waters, we managed to shop for two whole days. And I mean WHOLE days, from open to close. Bring on Christmas because we are ready.

Far better than even the glorious shopping was we only took Miss0 (who was a dream) and farmed the rest of our brood out to family.

My mum minded Miss9, Miss5 and Miss2 at our place, which meant we didn't even have to pack their bags.

"How were they?" we asked as we came in the door and were disappointed by lack of both dirty dishes and bickering.

"Perfect," said my mum. Worst thing about letting my mum look after the kids is she does such a fantastic job of it you feel inadequate.

When we arrived home on Sunday night not only was the kitchen spotless it was resplendent with flowers made of colourful tissue paper and pipe cleaners, which she'd crafted with the girls. When I saw them my heart simultaneously leapt and sunk. She's so good with housework and the kids you end up feeling grateful and mediocre all at once.

But then this morning, when I took my mum out for a thank you coffee, she admitted things hadn't gone as swimmingly as she'd hinted.

The best bit, if I can be so petty as to call it that, was when, having taken the girls to the shopping centre to pick up a few things, Grandma decided to treat them to a ride on a coin operated car. You know the ones which, for $2, will flash lights, play a song and rock about from side to side without actually doing anything. They're a little like a mechanical bull for kids.

Our kids love going on the rides at the shopping centre, although admittedly we've never actually inserted any money in them. Which might explain Miss2's reaction.

Sitting Miss2 between her older siblings, Grandma inserted the money, expecting a minute of entertainment for the girls which she could use to zone out and gather some energy.

"Gwaaaaaaannmaaaaah!" screamed Miss2 the moment the car started to move. Her arms were flapping about above her head as she insisted she be taken off the ride. By the time my seventy year old mother extracted her from the car the ride, and my mum's inner calmness, was all but spent.

"Never mind," my mum said to the two older girls, who were a little (and by little I mean a lot) disappointed their special treat was ruined by their anxious little sister. They'd spent the entire minute trying to help push Miss2 out of the ride without getting slapped about by Grandma's hands and Miss2's elbows. "You can have a go on the Merry-Go-Round." Which is another coin operated ride in the shopping centre.

So Grandma stood holding Miss2's hand while Miss9 and Miss5 inserted a coin and the ride started.

"I wanna go!" yelled Miss2 before the older girls had even done one rotation. She's going through that difficult stage. She'll grow out of it in another eighteen years or so.

"You can't, dear," said my mum. "It's already started."

"I wanna go! I wanna go! I wanna go!" began Miss2, pulling Grandma's hand and working up a good head of two year old steam - you know, the type what could drive locomotives, if only they could figure out a way to harness it.

"No," said my mum. This woman had raised my sister so she knows how to stand firm on a decision.

"YES!" bellowed Miss2. She's a lot like my sister and knows how to steamroll until she gets her own way. She yanked her hand out of my mum's, rushed forward and grabbed hold of the ride.

"It was hilarious," my mum admitted to me over coffee. "She wouldn't let go, so she was dragged all the way around before she was flung away, managing a little tumble before coming to a halt."

But of course Miss2's indignant rage didn't stop there and, when the ride was finished, Grandma lead the furious, raving, unharmed two year old, with the older two siblings in tow, past seemingly judgmental frowns, out of the centre to the car and home again.

Which I can't help but feel makes the weekend even more perfect. Thanks mum x

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Friday, November 16, 2012

How to build up a kid's immune system

Friday nights at the park are becoming a bit of a habit. Tonight it was to celebrate a little friend's sixth birthday.

"Here," Tracey said to me when I arrived straight from work. She planted a kiss on my lips and shoved Miss0 into my arms then tottled off with Miss2, who looked like she was about to fill her boots if someone didn't get her on a toilet seat very, very quickly.

We have a superb park in G-town, with loads of swings and activities and, best of all, a couple of flying foxes. I love it because the kids love it. All around our kids were running and playing and having an awesome time.

I sat on the grass with Miss0, absently letting her crawl around and stick the odd leaf in her mouth. I felt a kind of peace.

It lasted all of five minutes, roughly until Tracey arrived back from the loos. Sitting on the grass with a 10 month old is boring when there's a flying fox not twenty feet away. I wanted to have an awesome time as well.

"Tracey!" I called out, noticing for the first time Miss0 tearing some grass up by the roots and giving it the ol' taste test. "Tracey! The baby is putting all sorts of stuff in her mouth. You know you shouldn't trust me with this sort of thing. It's very irresponsible of you!"

Tracey hates it when the kids put unsanctioned things in their mouths. I could hear her thinking, 'People walk on that grass!' at me as she came and relieved me of my fatherly duties.

But then it turns out putting-yucky-things-into-mouths was kind of playing on her mind.

"Soapy (Miss2) dropped her lolly in the bathroom," Tracey told me. "In front of a loo! Then she bent down and picked it up to put back in her mouth." To make it worse (as if this story needs it) they're unisex loos here in the G-town park.

I gagged a little. A blade of grass is one thing, but a piss-coated jube!?! Yuck!

Fortunately, Tracey managed to dive across the room, Lara Croft style, and snatch the lolly out of Miss2's hand just before she started sucking on it again.

"You should have let her eat it," one of the other parents told us.

"Sorry? What?" I said, sure I'd misheard.

"We used to worry about that sort of thing but our daughter cured us."

It seems their daughter doesn't get sick. In fact, when they gave her the four year immunization shots her arm became so red and swollen they raced her back to the doctor only to be told it was her body fighting the immunizations themselves.

"It's fantastic!" the doctor told them.

And while I'm sure they were joking about us letting our daughter eat the lolly, I must say I was impressed with their story. How did their daughter get this fantastic immune system?

"Licking hand rails," this parent told us.

"Sorry? What?"

"We tried to stop her," the parent insisted, I'm guessing because Tracey's face, and mine, demanded some sort of explanation. "But we got sick of saying, 'don't lick the railing!' so we just gave up. I mean, it didn't seem to hurt her."

Unfortunately for me and my hopes of going on the flying fox, if there's one thing Tracey hates more than the idea of horrid things in her kids mouths, it's sick kids.

"Here," Tracey said to me, handing back Miss0. "Go sit on the ground and feed your daughter some grass."

I don't think we're in any danger of my wife encouraging her children to suck on urinal candy yet, but I'm guessing, because of the unique skill set I bring to the childminding table, I'm about to become more hands on with my kids at functions.

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We help a man in Kosovo start a stable

Well it's that time again - my monthy KIVA plug.

If you're one of the 126 people who have joined us through BIG FAMILY little income in helping people help themselves through this fantastic program, shoot over to KIVA because the monthly repayments from your previous loans will be trickling back into your account now we've reached the 15th and you can lend it out again!

This month Tracey and the kids have decided to help Idriz from Kosovo. This is our first loan in Kosovo, which is a land locked European country near Macedonia, Serbia, Albania, Montenegro and Bolgaria. KIVA makes loans in 66 countries and over the last couple of years we've loaned people money in 44 of these.

Once we saw Idriz's application we knew immediately we would be helping him reach his dream of starting a farm and buying his first cow. The guy is a Hugh Laurie doppelganger, isn't he?

Kiva works with microfinance institutions on five continents to provide loans to people without access to traditional banking systems. One hundred percent of your loan is sent to these microfinance institutions, which we call Field Partners, who administer the loans in the field.

100% of every dollar you lend on Kiva goes directly towards funding loans; Kiva does not take a cut. Furthermore, Kiva does not charge interest to our Field Partners, who administer the loans.

Here's what Hugh's, sorry Idriz's, loan request has to say about him:

"Idriz, thirty-nine years old, is married and has three children between the ages of one and five years old. He works on a farm, earning a very low salary, and his wife is a housewife who stays at home to care for the home and the children. 

Idriz has always wanted to have his own small farm, but he could not. Now he is requesting a loan in order to start a small stable and buy a cow. This loan will help him to cut family expenses, such as those for milk and other dairy products. In the future, he hopes to expand his farm. 

His goal is to give his children a better education. Idriz wants to thank all Kiva lenders for their support!"

Kiva gives you the chance to make small loans to borrowers working to start businesses and improve their lives. Loans are made up of $25 contributions and when the repayments come back into your KIVA account you get to lend the money out again or take it back. We're already lending on Kiva and thought you'd like to join us!

Here's a link if you'd like to have a look. KIVA

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Thursday, November 15, 2012

Out with the old. In with the shoes.

Miss2 was hell today, very whingy and demanding, and Tracey thinks this was somehow my fault.

It all started because a school shoe of Miss9's blew out yesterday, leaving her with one sole flapping about like a fish on land. Meanwhile I was home sick today, nursing myself back to good health curled up on the lounge watching Toy Story 2.

Now you might see these two things as unrelated, but you would be wronger than a man in a marriage.

Because of the shoe blow out, this morning Tracey made a mad dash to the shopping centre to buy new ones.

Because there was a 'buy one pair, second pair half price' deal Tracey saw an opportunity to save money.


Tracey saw an opportunity to buy more shoes.

Gleefully checking her purse to see how many credit cards she had on her, she gave the girls their sizes and instructions and sent them hurtling through the shop looking for something suitable.

Within a minute, Miss5 was back with her new shoes on her feet. They were pink with two inch heals and her little feet barely made it out of the toe box.

"Um, I don't think-"

"But they're my size!!" screamed Miss5, teetering precariously.

And they kind of were - they were a size 9 in adults, and not childrens.

Not that Miss5 left disappointed. Tracey came home with 5 pairs of new shoes. My lack of high fives and exclamations of 'Oh wow! Shoes! Yes!!' didn't go unnoticed.

"You don't think I did well?"

"Why five?" I asked, as Tracey deposited box after shoe-box onto the table. How do you discover you need  more shoes at the shops? It didn't make absolute sense to me. "I thought we needed to replace one pair?"

I don't know why I wasted my breath. I'll give Tracey this, she was able to explain the logic behind each and every purchase. Or I assume so. I drifted off to my happy place fairly early in the conversation. Although this lack of gushing and, let's face it, genuine interest might possibly be attributable to the fact I'm not well.

Tracey, on the other hand, was suddenly full of energy. Shopping can do that.

"You watch the kids. I'm cleaning out their rooms," she announced, bounding off to the bedrooms.

Now this bit does make sense - because Tracey had all these new shoes to somehow fit into their cupboards she needed to make space.

So I put on a movie and Miss2 and I lay on the lounge together, with only occasional interruptions as Mum as she walked past the telly with armfuls of toys she expected to be able to throw out.

A little pointer for all you Mums and Dads out there - the Toy Story stories probably aren't the right movies to put on the telly when you're in the middle of throwing out old and unused toys.

Well I know that now.

And fortunately it's a lesson I won't quickly forget because Tracey bought herself a new pair of shoes this morning with which she intends kicking me up the bum :)

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Tuesday, November 13, 2012

The Big Event

We get to look at this! How exciting!

There's a real buzz in the Devereaux household: we are at four sleeps and counting to The Big Event. 

In anticipation of this weekend, there's been smirking, gleeful giggles and even skipping all through the house. The kids, of course, are completely in the dark - mainly because The Big Event has bugger all to do with them. It's me and Tracey who are acting like school girls with a secret crush.

This weekend Tracey and I are going away with my colleagues for our staff Xmas party for a WHOLE NIGHT.

We're booked into Twin Waters Resort on the Sunshine Coast, and the package includes dinner and breakfast and even a bottle of sparkling and some choccies. I can't wait. Apparently the resort is right next to the beach but if I can't see waves from the seafood buffet I don't think I'll bother with it.

We have our baby sitters organised (we're farming them out - we can't really expect one person to look after all of our kids because that would be especially cruel). The only bone of contention has been what to do with Miss0. A number of options have been 'discussed' including my mum, Tracey's mum, Tracey's sister and even a friend of Tracey's who has volunteered to ohh and ahh at our Miss0 for a night.

"I don't mind who we leave her with," I told Tracey honestly when the topic was originally broached. So naturally we're taking Miss0 with us.

I don't know how this came about either.

Tracey assures me I was there for this decision but maybe the telly was on because I know I was surprised as hell when this arrangement was tossed into a conversation earlier in the week.

Naturally, I've used all the usual arguments against this.

"Don't you-"

"She's coming with us."

"What about-"

"It's decided."

"But if-"

"That's the end of the discussion."

Ah well, I tried.

Still, like a good husband, I've decided not to argue this point any further, although mainly because it would get me nowhere.

Besides, I've worked out the only thing taking Miss0 with stop me doing is going out after the dinner to dance, and no-one in their right mind wants to see me dance. I have all the eighties moves but none of the rhythm which makes them look good.

Even better than a night away without most of our kids is on either side of the WHOLE NIGHT are two perfectly good shopping days.

I know I'm going against type by admitting I like shopping, but I'm looking at the bigger picture here. I see these two shopping days as my ticket to a very merry Christmas.

If everything goes to plan we will have our Christmas shopping in the bag by Sunday night, and that means we are done for the year with the whispered arguing in the bedroom (sorry 'discussions') about what to buy each kid. With the Christmas shopping finished we can revert to using the bedroom for what it's intended to be used for - hiding piles of laundry from visitors.

Then, for the next five weeks, while everyone else in G-town is battling the crowds at the shopping centres, we'll be sitting at home drinking beer. Well, at least one of us will be.

Oh, yes, after The Big Event I'm foreseeing a very merry lead up to Christmas. Now if you'll excuse me, I need to skip into the bedroom and dig through the washing pile so I can pack my travel bag.

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Sunday, November 11, 2012

New Australian Payment for Dads

Looks like there's good news for expectant parents in the new year.

One of the most frustrating things for us about popping a baby out every couple of years has been working out the holidays, especially because it's generally a fantastic, if a little 'ohmygodwhathavewedoneagain', surprise. You wouldn't think, by the seventh, it would still be a shock. You would be wrong.

Usually, it's a nightmare trying to plan out the details. 'Where the hell are we going to fit in another kid?' is always a fiercely debated topic, hot on the heals of 'How the hell did this happen?'

We've also usually either just gone on hols or we've booked something, so working out how much help Tracey's going to have with the school run and general around the house stuff is also hotly debated. Suddenly I'm shaving a day here and there off booked holidays to make up as much time as I can for when Tracey heads for the delivery ward.

I recently received some information from the government about a new entitlement for Dads -  two weeks of Government funded leave to ensure us fathers can be home to instill a little common sense and order into the proceedings.

I took over lots of Tracey's duties when we brought Miss0 home from the hospital in January, things like napping and snacking, so Tracey could focus on breast-feeding and the housework.

I think this is a fantastic new entitlement, giving dads a chance to participate and contribute in settling in their adorable little poo-factories. And two weeks seems about perfect. Two weeks of my 'help' and Tracey was begging me to go back to work.

Best of all, this new payment seems to be keeping up with the sensible, new standards of our changing world - as in it isn't just for dads (it's partners, including same sex partners) and it includes adoptions.

Spread the word, people! It's a great initiative. I'd use it myself but sadly (and by sadly I mean YAY!!!) we've reached our bag limit and won't be having any more munchkins. Of course, that's the fourth or fifth time I've said this so I also won't be deleting this link anytime soon.

For loads more information head over to this webiste - Australian Government, Department of Human Services.

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Saturday, November 10, 2012

Snakes & Feathers

A family member has taken their little family away for two days well deserved R & R so we're babysitting their talking bird.

I mean it's not much of a conversationalist, their little feathered friend, and its entire arsenal of witty banter consists of a  "Hey, sexy!' and a wolf whistle.

The only talking bird I have time for.
I've never had a talking bird before, and I must say, I will be glad when they come home and take it back. It never shuts up!

Worse thing about having their feathered squawker here isn't the constant noise, but the destruction of my good standing in the community. I fear I might gain something of a reputation because the skinny chicken is constantly wolf whistling so passing women, who can't see that it's only a bird, will think someone here is a bit of a perve. And as I'm the only male in the house over 7 I have no doubt who the fingers will be pointed at.

Not that these family members don't deserve a break. They've been working flat stick on renovations and landscaping lately and need some time away from 'to do' lists and snakes.

The mention of snakes isn't random.

They've been having all sorts of slithery visitors at their place up on the hill. A few weeks back they jumped up into the roof cavity to sort out the noise keeping their kids awake and discovered eight green snakes. More disturbing were a couple of red belly blacks outside their back doors not long after.

One snake even put a dint in their car! Although the details are a little sketchy, it seems the snake jumped out in front of their car and, in their hurry to get away, they backed into a ditch.

So, to summarize  it's like being at the reptile enclosure at Australia Zoo at their place, and all this legless (but not in a good way) and  fork-tongued activity has resulted in some extensive tree lobbing and bobcating all around their house, which has resulted in their need to get away for a break.

"I'd want to get away for longer than two days," Tracey told me. She doesn't like snakes. Personally I'm reserving judgement - I've never tried one. Probably tastes like chicken.

Anyway, because we're the sort of family members who aren't afraid to dive in and get our fingers dirty, we're doing our bit too, not just looking after this silly talking bird but trying to teach it something useful.

That's right, the entire Devereaux household is pulling together, taking it in turns standing in front of the cage saying things like 'Did you hear something?' and 'SNAKE!' We figure it can act as a sort of early warning system.

Or just freak them out.

It's our little way of saying. 'thank you'.

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Got a family member you'd like to annoy in a similar fashion? Here's a link :)

Good morning....for me anyway

Because she can't quite get her tongue around Emily, Miss2 has taken to calling Miss0 the Enemy. It's cute and, I guess, if you were superseded as the youngest and elevated to middle child, borderline appropriate.

This morning I was woken up before 6am by squawking from the cot. With Christmas fast approaching I decided to improve my chances of receiving a gift from Santa and snuck Miss0 out of the bedroom and into the lounge. I say 'snuck' but I mustn't be as quiet as I think because within fifteen minutes all the other kids in the house had joined me.

"What's for breakfast?" Master7 asked me.

"Nothing yet," I whispered.

"But I can smell it," he said.

"That's not breakfast," I explained to him. "Although it does contain last night's dinner." I put on a movie and started changing dirty nappies.

Another five minutes, while I was finishing changing Miss0, I noticed Tracey was also awake. She was sitting behind me on the couch, looking miserable.

"What happened?" I asked her. "I was letting you sleep in." I was a little miffed. If Tracey didn't want to sleep in I would loved to have traded places with her.

'You misplaced one," Tracey told me, pointing at Miss2.

"Really? She was helping me with the baby wipes."

And not just the wipes, it seems.

"I need wash my hans!" she'd marched in and announced to Tracey without me realizing.

"Wh-wha?" Tracey had muttered.

Miss2 then stuck her hands into Tracey's sleep-addled face. "I need wash my hans!"

"Why? Whasson 'em?" asked my lovely wife, brushing Miss2's fingers off her chins and lips and steadfastly refusing to open her eyes.

"Enemy's poo!"

After which Tracey found the need for sleep was shoved aside in favour of the need to spit and scrub her face.

You know what? I'm glad I got up to the kids this morning and let Tracey stay in bed. After all, she deserves it ;)

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Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Note to self

This morning, because I'm hilarious, I placed a nappy under Tracey's pillow for her to find tonight. I figured we'd have a giggle.

Turns out I was wrong on a number of fronts.

Firstly, Tracey says she found the nappy virtually as I was walking out the door to work.

"I can smell," she explained to me. "It was either a nappy or something dead."

Secondly, she isn't laughing.

However, she is smiling. Unfortunately these nasty little smiles don't reach all the way to her eyes and tend to come as she's giving me things. Like dinner.

"Here you go," she said to me tonight as she handed me my bowl of Stroganoff. Then she stood smiling down on me, watching my spoon as I brought it to my lips.

My hand froze a couple of inches from my mouth. I looked closely at my spoonful of food.

"What have you done to it?" I asked her. I felt a bit like filling a little nappy of my own.

"Nothing," she said airily, the thin smile still in place. I brought the spoon another half inch closer to my mouth. "Probably nothing."

My wife could write a text book on psychological warfare. My book, on the other hand, will be a first hand account of Stockholm Syndrome and how a prisoner fell in love with his captor. Assuming I live long enough to write it.

"You try yours first," I suggested.

"Okay," she said, and took a mouthful from her bowl. "Now you. Try it. Go on. Tell me what you think. It's a new recipe."

I looked at my bowl of food. It seemed to be the same as hers but mine definitely had a sinister air about it.

"You try mine," I suggested, offering her my spoon.

"Okay," said Tracey. She did.

"Now, it's your turn," she said, handing me back my spoon and continuing to stand looking over my shoulder, moving away only to bring me a cup from the kitchen. "I made you a cup of tea too," she said, placing it in front of me. "Take a sip. Go on. Try it."

And she was still smiling.

"I love when we play these little games," I told her as she offered me dessert. "But we're even now, right?"

"I'll be sure and tell you when," she answered sweetly, and then asked if I wanted her to pour me a beer.

"I don't think I'll drink tonight."

Drink. Relax. Sleep.

"You're enjoying this," I accused her.

"Not yet," she grinned. "But give it time."

She'll probably do nothing. But then she might strike just when I think it's all over.

Note to self: no more hiding nappies under Tracey's pillow.

I just hope I'm still here in the morning to get the memo.

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Don't tell Tracey - it's a surprise

Don't you love it when the kids make you something?

Arriving from the direction of the lounge room, Miss2 walked up to me in the kitchen with a clean nappy and a pack of baby wipes. She didn't say anything but the smell which walked in with her was like being slapped in the face with a turd. Clearly, she'd not made it to the toilet to do her 'snake' (her term, not ours).

I took the nappy and wipes off her and took her hand.

"You know I know you sent her in with these, right?" I called out to Tracey, walking Miss2 into our bedroom. "Just for that, I'm using your side of the bed."

Tracey couldn't have appeared quicker if I'd announced a red spot special on boxes of Ferrero Rocher Raffaello. Suddenly, making our bed was her priority. 

"Just use the floor," Tracey told me.

I was still gagging and wiping after Tracey had left the room. Miss2 was grinning at my facial expressions and handing me wipes. Obviously the smell wasn't bothering her at all - it seems even at a very young age we rather fancy the smells our own body makes.

Once I had her cleaned and changed I wrapped the offending nappy into a neat parcel, reusing the sticky tags to keep it all together and stop the soft chewy center from leaking out.

Which is a good thing, because otherwise we'd have to change the sheets later tonight when we go to bed and Tracey finds the whole stinky mess under her pillow.

Miss2 worked pretty hard on this one. Hope Tracey remembers to say 'thank you'.

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