Girlfriends: The Icing On The Cake Of Life

I had a story in last weekend’s Sunday Life magazine about the joy of girlfriends. It contains that gold-star anecdote about the time I accidentally showed a topless selfie to the deputy principal, and also this tale:

Home from holidays recently, I faced a towering pile of laundry. My friend S came over to help me fold and bring me up to speed on the local goings-on, but she lost her train of thought each time she encountered a pair of my knickers.

She was horrified on a number of levels – age, bagginess, general nanna vibe.

“I’m staging an underpants intervention,” she said.

Yesterday I found a paper bag in my letterbox containing two pairs of new knickers and a letter from The Ministry of Unacceptable Underpants, beginning: “It has come to our attention that you have not renewed your underpants at the recommended intervals. By following our quick checklist you can ensure the reliability and safety of your underpants.”

The list was exhaustive. It included the following questions: can you see through any part of your underpants that were once opaque? Does the elastic around your underpants hold the garment securely in place? Is the integrity of the gusset still acceptable? Can a breeze enter through any part of your underwear?

The Ministry gave me four weeks to update my collection, after which they warned of direct community action.

While underwear-shaming and accidental sexting scandals are key components to my female friendships, this community has another function. We are a safety net for life and all its unpredictable slings and arrows. Here, deep in the trenches with small children, we lean on each other for help. Any time one of us drops, the machine rolls into action. Lasagnes land on doorsteps and schedules to manage the kids start circulating. There is a direct and practical aspect to my female friendships: when we have to be responsible, we are. And when we bundy off the responsibility clock, we are absolutely ridiculous, making each other laugh until our weak pelvic floors give way.

These moments, cackling in the coven of my witches, bring me such joy. They are the icing on the cake of life.

Read the rest at Daily Life online. 

It’s a love letter to all the ladies in my life – word counts made me restrict this piece to only my beloved school mum gang, but I’m lucky enough to also have a school-friend gang, an online lady-squad and a coven of Pink Ladies, all of whom hold sacred spaces in my heart.

Thank you, friends out there. I love youse all!

 

Honest School Notes #10

Dear Office,

I’m sorry the children were late this morning and wearing the wrong clothes.

I lost my Sunday, you see.

There is so much organisation involved in getting three kids clothed and prepared for a school week that I tend to use Sunday to get on top of that stuff. I bake muffins and bread. I freeze sandwiches and squeezy yogurts and make sure there are lots of apples and carrots in the fridge. I do my best to tackle and conquer the washing pile so that there are pants, undies, socks and hoodies ready for the week ahead. This make me happy. I feel I am ready to take on the world.

If the weekly sort out and the night-before planning don’t happen, mornings are a stressful mess of shouting. There is not a lunchbox, drink bottle, hair-elastic or hat to be found anywhere.

We had a thing at our place on Saturday night. Now, I don’t get out much, so  when I do, my latent party animal just goes mental. I’ll leave out the details of what was said and done on the night (I can’t remember them) but let’s just say that there were a lot of pisco sours, one girlfriend left with ‘strippers remorse’ and one did the washing up with such enthusiasm that she smashed two wineglasses. Sunday morning I was not at my peak. There may/may not have been noises at my house that sounded like a giant cat was trying to expel a furball.

By Sunday night I felt human again, but I was not chia-seed raspberry pudding-Martha Stewart- mother. I was Nurofen Plus -stop-breathing-so-loudly-Mummy’s-got-a-headache mother. Plus, I had dressed as a Mexican man for the party and I was having trouble scrubbing off the moustache. I am sure that if this ever happened to Martha, she would know precisely the blend of organic oils and unguents to deal with the problem.

Monday morning was a shambles. There was no little note in the lunchbox; in fact there was was barely recognisable food in there. After a fruitless search, I was forced to tell the nine-year-old ‘Just grab a jumper out of the lost property and I’ll wash it and replace it!’ She did. But the jumper she grabbed was size 4, and she is nine, so that didn’t work out so well for my already shabby reputation.

The truth is, Office, that I can have a wild Saturday night, or I can have the children fully prepared for school on Monday. I tip my hat to those parents who can do both, but I am not one of them.

This weekend, back to reality. Saturday night will see me sorting socks in front of the television with a nice cup of tea and a Terry’s Chocolate Orange, Sunday will see me getting our shit together, and Monday will see the children at school fully equipped for the day ahead.

My apologies, again.

Ms. McIntosh

Honest School Notes #1

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Honest School Notes #9

 

Preschooler Fashion: Too Much Is Never Enough

This post was first published in Practical Parenting Magazine, June 2016

Dedicated to Nanna!

Nothing new under the sun, German postcard, 1910

I’m thinking I might start a fashion line called ‘Four Year Old’. Every garment in my first collection (I shall call it More Is More) will be sparkly, glittering or bejewelled. It will be spectacular, and also, utterly mad.

Four is the age of independence, a time when a fierce sense of personhood expresses itself in lots of ways, most fabulously through the wardrobe. I will choose my clothes, Mummy! No! I will dress myself!

Little Pudding is my third child down the runway of life, and I’ve realised a few things along the way. First, resistance is futile. The more you want your child to dress in Fair-Trade neutral organic cotton woven by a feminist collective in Uzbekistan, the more they will assert their right to wear synthetic Frozen-themed sportswear.

I’m thinking, specifically, here, of the pain I felt when my firstborn Peanut became obsessed, age three, with a pair of satin Wiggles boxer shorts that Nanna picked up at the op shop. (Nanna!!) I hated those shorts, and the emotional power this gave Peanut (See Mummy sweat! See Mummy plead!) spurred her on to greater and greater heights of rebellion, until eventually she insisted on wearing, every day, the Wiggles boxer shorts, a t-shirt that read ‘Bring Back Warnie’ and a pair of plastic Wiggles sunglasses. When I insisted on putting her uniform through the wash, she would wait patiently by the window. ‘Is Warnie dwy, Mama? Will Warnie be dwy soon?’

Hopelessly optimistic, I would proffer classic brown sandals, woollen capes and sweet bird brooches, as she pushed past me to get to the pink heels that Nanna picked up for her at the op shop. (Nanna!!)I was so adamant that my first-born daughter wouldn’t fall victim to the Princess syndrome that of course (can you feel what is coming? Nanna found it hilarious) by age four Peanut would not only wear nothing but pink, but also insisted she be referred to as Pinky Winky.

When my son T-Bone was four, he insisted that his outfits be ‘like a fruit salad’ which involved combining colour, pattern and print in such violently clashing ways that passers-by would have to shield their eyes from the glare. Also, he loved to wear his clothes backwards, which made for a lot of bum-flashing.

Of course, now that Peanut and T-Bone are nine and seven, their fashion choices take different forms. Peanut wears two different shoes to school every day, and chooses her outfits on how well they facilitate handstands. T-Bone barely notices whether he has shoes on or not.

It’s my third child, Pudding, who is deep in the pre-school fashion zone now. Bedazzled and glorious, she embodies the opposite of Coco Chanels famous advice: ‘get dressed, and then take one thing off’. For Pudding and her peers, enough is never enough. In fact, the pre-school playground should sport a warning sign: ‘Beware: Intensive Glitter Zone.  7% Chance Of Mild Epileptic Fit.  85% Chance Of Headache. Do Not Look Directly At Children As Costumes May Blind’.

 

This third time round, I surrender. I empty my drawers of all the neutrals, the camel, tan and cream, the darling brown Mary-Janes and the vintage coats. Off they go to the op-shop, for other hopeful mothers of size 3-4 youngsters.  I retain the synthetic fibres, the unnatural colours and anything Frozen. Also, I’ll take notes for the fashion line. And I’ll dedicate the first collection to Nanna, because she knew all along, of course, that this sweet and hilarious time won’t last and the best idea of all is to just enjoy it, in all its sparkly madness.

Taking Stock

Like Pip, I’m taking a minute to stop, smell the roses and capture a little of this moment in time.

Reading: White Eskimo, the story of polar explorer and super-hottie Knud Rasmussen, who mapped and explored Greenland in the early 20th century. I love a good explorer tale – ( here I’ve written a list of some good Man Vs Wild books, and here a list of some women adventurers). Rasmussen is very cool, and also, SO PRETTY.

Come on! Imagine that face, speaking Greenlandic through a mouthful of whale blubber, and you have my dreams.

I’m also loving Edmund White’s ‘Inside a Pearl: My Years In Paris’ ; ‘Life Below Stairs: True Lives of Edwardian Servants’ and re-reading the Amanda Foreman biography of Georgiana, Duchess of Devonshire, one of my all-time favourite women of history.  The kids and I are reading Dahl’s Danny, The Champion Of The World.  (So lovely. One of his best.)

Eating: A lot of what we call ‘horses dinners’ – a sort of random snacking plate.  I don’t like to advertise on the social medias when Keith is away, but he’s been in China. I’m in the single mother zone and there are  and Wagon Wheels and Coke in the fridge. Nuff sed. He’s back now. Roast lamb appeared in celebration.

Watching: Things have been quite fraught around here, to be honest. My father-in-law is very sick, Keith is stressed and sad and busy. I was so buggered after he left last week  that I watched Sex and The City 2, just to see if the movie was as bad as I remembered, and it was, of course, WORSE, even, unbelievably, comically bad. Then, later, I found myself watching Sex and The City 1, just to see the progression of shame. So weirdly reminiscent of some pre financial-crisis, gone-forever time, I told my Wagon Wheel.

Also, I went down a delightful rabbit hole of Tate Studio vids on Youtube, and some Vogue 73 Questions (Sarah Jessica’s house is gorgeous, Iggy Azalea is a weird fembot). The kids and I have been enjoying watching Catalyst archives while we eat our horses dinners.

I watched Marley and Me with the girls – beware! Don’t try this before bedtime! The last twenty minutes are tragic. I didn’t see it coming (I’m sharp like that) and it took me forever to calm them down enough to go to bed.  FYI – when you have two daughters sobbing on either side of you, don’t say  ’It’s really OK! All dogs die! Everything dies!’ It does not help the situation.

Resting: my head on the electrical tape the holding my bath together while I dream about interior design projects of the future. (All in good time, grasshopper.)

Sharing: my bed with the children, who take it in turns to ‘be Daddy’ when Keith is away. This means they get to tuck up in the big bed, so important and special, at bedtime, and then I tell them ‘now, prepare to get cuddled in your sleep.’ Frankly, it’s a moot point, whose turn it is to be Daddy, because by the early hours, all three of them are in the bed. They press up so tight against me that I feel as though I am in some sort of old-timey prison cell where there is not quite enough room for us all to lie down together and at some signal we all must turn over at the same time. It’s terrible and lovely – they are so cuddly and warm, their strong little arms and legs so gorgeous – but it is also painful and hideous.

Also, wee.

Pondering: Whether the hat I bought is wrong. In the shop it read ‘boho’ and now it is reading ‘Amish’. Hats! You kill me, Hats.

Listening: Two Dope Queens. Yaaaaas! Also, the Carol soundtrack.

Trying: Not to touch anything on the backseat floor of my car. It has moved beyond disgusting to scientifically interesting.

Laughing: at the children. ‘What you thinking about T-Bone?’ ‘I was imagining what disgusting sandwiches I could feed the dog if we ever get one.’

Scrambling: Under last minute instructions: I need this note signed today. I need a superhero costume for the morning. I need to finish my speech before bed. I need my old soccer socks for tomorrow.

Honestly, this guy captures the tone so perfectly! God this made me laugh.

Writing: Not much. The Mumming has been intensive.

Planning: to get started on my embroidery project. I just need a hoop for the K Dog and I have everything else ready to go. I’m looking forward to some winter fun listening to podcasts about Donald Trump and doing embroidery with my boyfriend.  Once he gets home from his Talking From My Balls mens group on Thursdays, that is. Of course.

Making: A long-overdue photo book of our Tasmanian adventures (and thinking I should really include that story about the topless gardener, which still cracks me up.)
Appreciating- Keith getting home safely. All’s well with my world again. Although, even less room in the bed.

Respecting: As always, when Keith is away, single mothers. You are amazing!

 

 

How are you? What are you watching, reading, avoiding, marinating? I hope you and your beloveds are well and happy out there. x

Bad Buddhist

I haven’t been around here much. I’ve been too busy being disgusting. A mother cockroach scurried out of my linen cupboard last week and when I had a closer look, I  found some big brown balls. Heart in mouth,  I did a Google image search on ‘cockroach eggs’.

Nooo!

Each one of those little bastards can hold FIFTY EGGS.

I had to empty out the whole cupboard (yay! Fun times with laundry!) and in the end, I found about fifteen eggs. ERMERGERD SAH SAH GROSS. Dr Google said that I should bash the eggs with a hammer – if I threw them away, they’d just hatch in the bin. While emptying the cupboard the mother cockroach appeared and tried to make a run for it down the hall.

I chased her and squashed her under my boot and it was awful. Since having children I can’t kill living creatures. Even the ugly ones have mothers. But I did, I chased her, I murdered her and I wailed the whole time like a crazy lady. ‘OH I”M SORRY EWWWWW I”M SORRY’

Then I took all the little egg babies out to the front steps and killed them with a hammer.

I’m not finished. That afternoon, all five us of covered our heads with evil insect-killing lotion and  murdered a whole bunch of lice.

Unfollow me if you must after this. I understand. You probably thought I was a reasonable lady, not a serial killer. At the very least, a terrible Buddhist.

Hey! Come round for sleepovers!

Guys?

Guys?

Watching, Listening, Reading #5

How’s it travelling out there? What have you been scanning with your eyeballs, cramming down your cakeholes, sucking down your earholes?

Oh, this opening is making me feel a little nauseous. My apologies. (note to self: lift tone.)

Reading

I adored Ann Patchett’s Amazonian tale State Of Wonder, a one-more-page-while-the-bath-is-getting-cold type of read. Also the late, wonderful Oliver Sacks autobiography On The Move:  charming,funny and idiosyncratic, like the man himself. Look at him here, so young and gorgeous.

I also loved broadcaster Simon Scott’s memoir ‘Unforgettable: A Son, A Mother and The Lessons Of A Lifetime‘ about time spent at his mothers bedside. She is a racy, witty and kind-hearted showgirl, he’s a moving writer, and their relationship is beautiful. (I must add here while trying to remember Scott’s name,  I thought the book was called ‘Surrender’ and so I googled ‘Surrender memoir’, where I was directed to a Salon.com article called ‘Rectal Romance’ in which ‘Toni Bennett talks about her new anal sex memoir.’  I mean. No.  I know that the young people say that the rump is the ‘hot spot’ of the moment, but Ms. Bennett… think of your legacy!  )

I’ve read some excellent 1980′s tales lately: the astonishing, unputdownable story Octopus by Guy Lawson about Sam Israel and the stockbroking world of the 80s, and Undress Me in the Temple of Heaven by Susan Jane Gilman, about her trip to China as a young girl in 1986, when everything goes catastrophically wrong.

Keith has just finished the last of the Narnia series with the kids, and they are embarking on Swallows and Amazons. I’ve been reading the first 2 books of the Alex Rider series by Anthony Horowitz, which are super fun, punchy, high-octane spy-tales. Great for reading aloud, especially because you get to punctuate  every chapter with ‘Duh duh DUH!’, which happens less often in life than it should. We’ve just moved on to calmer fare though; and I am loving re-visiting My Family And Other Animals by Gerald Durrell; one of my own teen favourites.

Watching

I’ve been doing a bit of the OJ Simpson story and loving my old fave Nurse Jackie on Netflix, but I’m not finding much time for TV at the minute.

I really love both Leigh Sales and Annabel Crabb, and so their short, snappy show When I Get A Minute  is right up my alley. These short, chatty programs cover books, TV, podcasts and general media, they are delightful and everything they discuss I have either read or watched, or plan to as soon as possible. Also on iView, Luke MacGregors series Luke Warm Sex was almost unbearably candid, as he goes on a sort of 6-episode sexual vision quest to try and get over his own hang-ups as a shy and anxious person. He is such an unusual comic, disarmingly sincere and immensely likeable, and so it made for wonderful television, provided that you can see through your fingers.

The kids have moved, well and truly, into the Doctor Who zone. Also they love the Slow Mo Guys on YouTube, and the girls and I are partial to a bit of RPA (the more intense the surgery, the better. )

Together, we are loving Survivor, one of my own favourites for at least a decade now. It’s an excellent family show – much strategising, much excitement, a lot of communal maths as we work out numbers and alliances before eviction. (Nerdy good times!) Tonight we stuffed ourselves with spicy bean burritos, then had a special dessert; coconut pannacotta with fresh pineapple, in honour of the tropics.

Friday night Survivor – it’s one of my favourite things.

Listening

Keith and I are really into historian Dan Carlin at the minute; his history podcasts are amazing but we also love his current-affairs show. (Interesting Trump analysis.) The New Yorker politics podcast is also great on the US election. I’ve been enjoying Only Human and The Memory Palace, and as always, Double X, Radiolab and Freakonomics are reliably cracking shows.

On Spotify I’m really liking this indie playlist with the crazy title Skäggiga snubbar sjunger skönsång, which translates to ‘men in beards singing sweetly’ or similar, as well as a bit of Barbra Streisand. T-Bone is very into ‘It’s Raining Tacos’ (do not explore, earworm of epic proportions) and I’ve been pulling out some of the old favourite Dan Zanes for the smallest. (If you have pre-schoolers, Zanes is the best – try Catch That Train.) Here’s a cracking one: Prince’s own party-mix as a Spotify playlist. 

Happy weekending, my friends. May the road rise to meet you,  the wind be at your back, your pannacotta coco-nutty and your earworms brief and manageable.

Any tips for me? Whats good in your world?

x

Watching,Reading, Listening #1

Watching, Reading,Listening #2

Watching, Reading, Listening #3

Watching, Reading, Listening #4

 

Finite And Fleeting Moments

(Last Days Of Shanghai, 1949, Life Archives )

I love this useful bit of mental arithmetic, especially during the school holidays!

“In the course of each bedtimes bedlam, try to see into the future. The next time the clamour crescendos, but before the din dims, imagine your biological parenthood clock wound forward to the time they have grown and left home. Picture their formerly tousled bedrooms as neat, clean and empty. See the tidy backseat of the car, vacuumed and without crumbs or Cheerios. Playroom shelves neatly stacked with dusty toys. Laundry under control. Then wind the imaginary clock back from the future to now, and see those moments of mayhem for what they are, finite and fleeting moments. Never to be reproduced. Precious.”

Dr. Harley Rotbart

The Near Poo Episode

From the book I’m writing, here’s a chapter. It’s in draft stage, not tidied and completed.  There’s stuff I’m trying to explore that is deeper, more serious and intense, stuff about identity and pain and motherhood, but this is not it; rather, here we have a charming tale of the time I nearly pooed my pants at Aldi.

I feel nervous! But I’d love any feedback you guys have. Thanks. x

 

It’s sad, but years of growing humans who won’t let me sleep are taking their toll on my face. There are lines getting etched in there that I can no longer cover up, and the greys are taking over my head. When I let the roots of my wild brown hair grow out I look like an old witch. Add that to the permanent cranky-frown between my eyebrows and it’s probably just a matter of time until the local children are afraid to pass my driveway in case I run out to hit them with sticks.

Having kids has taught me my place in the evolutionary totem pole. Keith and I have replicated ourselves (and added a spare)and so our usefulness is over. What need now for a fresh face and perky young buttocks? What point trying to trap a mate? Move along now, Mother Nature is clearly telling us. The new generation is here, and your time in the sun has passed.

In lots of ways Keith and I are super happy to be settling into mid-life. I feel like I partied enough as a youngster, prolonging my adolescence well into my twenties, and even (cough, pathetic fist-bump!)my thirties. I’ve done my time interpretive dancing on bar-tops and throwing up into pot plants. I don’t long for more freedom, or miss nights on the town. Life on the couch with a cup of tea, a bag of nuts, Netflix and a kindly physicist to cuddle is as rich as I ever hope to be. I hope I can do this until the curtains come down.

But getting older brings up a lot of fears for me about health. My chosen method of dealing with health problems is denial, and it’s getting harder. Middle age approaches loudly. I see it in the mirror with my creases and lines and I feel it in my creaky old bones. I can hear it coming: tea at 4pm, complaints about young people, a slight whiff of Eau D’Incontinence (say that one out long with a French accent; you’ll be glad you did.) For me, my fears centre around my back and its inorexable decline into crunchy rigidity, but every once in a while I am served a preview of what other joys might be in store as my body falls apart. I get one of those hints this week when I nearly shit my pants at the supermarket.

Normally, an Aldi shopping trip is a low-to-medium grade thrilling event for me. It’s pretty impossible to get out to the real shops with three small kids in tow, so Aldi, with it’s middle aisles of fantasy, is as good as it gets these days.

Depending on the state of the household budget, I sometimes have to put the invisible blinker on. This prevents me from looking left or right and keeps my mind solely on spaghetti bolognaise and blueberry porridge, but today, we’re in a great mood and grabbing our fun where we can. A trip to Town! What ho! How spiffing!

George is in the baby seat, Ted inside the trolley and Ivy wandering at my side. Everybody is in a delightful state of equilibrium, all the more precious for its rarity – all kids sufficiently fed and toileted to give us half an hours time free of the demands of the body. Even the baby! It’s wonderful.

We travel the aisles and I muse aloud.

‘Shall we make some little burgers, kids? This organic mince looks nice. Tacos?’

The baby gurgles, Ted mutters nonsense and Ivy chats to herself about Charlie and The Chocolate Factory. Everybody’s happy. I am too, except for a slight gassy pain in my tummy. I try to fart silently (one of the greatest blessings about having children is that there is always somebody to blame for bad smells, which gives parents incredible gastro-intestinal freedom). It helps a little, that release, and I turn my attention back to the shopping and pick up my pace a little.

I take us up the final aisle. Eggs, frozen blueberries, orange juice. I pause at the fish freezer. ‘What do you think about these prawns, Ivy? Are they from one of those anti-biotic Vietnam fish farms, or are they maybe OK?’

Ivy likes being consulted about these things, and she is thoughtful for a moment.

‘Great, I think Mummy,’ she says but I’m not listening. I’ve been suddenly hit with a desperate need to go to the toilet. Specifically, I need to poo. And even more specifically, to poo Right This Second.

I breathe through what appears to be some sort of bum labour pain, and when I can walk, push the trolley at speed towards the checkout. Party’s over. Time to get out of here.

‘Do you have a toilet?’ I ask an assistant as I pass by. He gazes at me with his dead eyes. ‘Across the road, behind the car park,‘ he says.

He may as well be suggesting Uzbekistan. I thank him through gritted teeth, make it to the checkout and start unloading my trolley.

There is an art to shopping at Aldi. Heavy things first. Fragile stuff last. Get it all up on the moving track and then start refining, adjusting and finessing, all before the checkout assistant actually starts ringing up your goods. When that begins, you move immediately to the position behind your trolley and as the products are flung at athletic speed you catch and arrange them, so the eggs are not smashed, the feta is not leaking on the gluten-free olive foccacia and you can create a flat platform on which to rest your Outdoor Room Daybed on the top (you have, of course, failed to block the temptations of the middle aisle.)In silent partnership, you work with the checkout assistant to beat some invisible and utterly pointless speed grocery record.

Today, I am incapable of managing any of these Aldi Athletics. Rather than thinking about the Tetris-style game, I am totally focused on not shitting myslef. It is actually that bad. A vision leaps to mind. A meerkat sticking it’s head out of the cave to look around.

‘Just get to the car’, I tell myself, breathing deeply. ‘You can shit yourself in the privacy of your own car.’

The pain and pressure in my belly is intense. Farting is no longer an option. I can easily blame a bad smell on the children, but the inevitable follow-through would leave physical evidence on my own pants, and it would be much harder to blame that on the baby.

I can feel beads of sweat on my forehead as I throw items into the trolley, willy-nilly. Should I just run? Abandon the shopping? This is tempting, but really, creates more problems for me in the long run. We need nappies. Snacks. Dishwashing liquid. Possibly, specialty adult undergarments for what may be an ongoing health issue. If I don’t pick up these things, the delicate balance of my small household will fall apart and all will be chaos. ‘You can shit in the car’, I remind myself, breathing through this yogic mantra like a Buddhist in intestinal crisis.(What would the Dalai Lama do?) “You can shit in the car. You can shit in the car.’

The baby is whimpering, Teddy is asking for an apple and the supermarket is busy and noisy. But all of these things have faded to a background hum behind the mantra pulsing in my ears.

Don’t. Poo. Your pants.

Don’t. Poo. Your pants.

I am transported to a daydream, a future reality, where I have, somehow, ended up with colitis, or irritable bowel syndrome, or Crohns disease. My bum, which has before always ticked along, barring the occasional codeine-constipation or gastro episode, really successfully.

I’ve never really had bum or gut problems before. I’ve never appreciated the smooth running of my downstairs lounge. Is this the start, I think in panic. Is it? Is that what’s going to start happening now? Sudden urgent bum crises? Am I going to have to pack adult nappies and spare pants for me too, as well as all the little bastards?

This future, she is grim.

But finally, at least, the shopping is all rung up. It’s a devastating mess in that trolley, but not in my trousers. I pay the lady, who must be wondering what kind of mental demons I am struggling with as I blink and sweat while I work the card machine. I drag the trolley awkwardly out to the car park,legs trotting spastically like a marathon runner in lactic overload.

‘Get in!’ I squeak at the children. Once we are all in the car, I release a glorious, cleansing fart. It’s probably the best fart of my life. I am fully prepared for terrible things to come once I have opened those sphincter gates, but – miracle of miracles! – there is no follow-on effect.

Sitting in this private box, having made it through what seemed with every passing second to be certain humiliation, I feel elated. I still need, desperately, to shit, but I am not going to do it in public. It’s a near-poo experience, I made it through, and both my dignity and my trousers are unsullied. ‘Let the records show that Mummy has avoided middle-aged humiliation for one more day,’ I announce to the children. ‘Let’s go home.’

I don’t always feel in control of my life and my direction as a Mum. I frequently question my decisions. I wish very much that I was better at different parts of the job, and some days all I can see are my failings. But, just like when my mother-in-law said to me that the key was to just keep the children alive until the end of the day, sometimes you have to celebrate the small wins of life.

My name is Rachael, I am a mother of small children, and today, I did not shit my pants in the supermarket.

 

Mother And Son

(sweet pudding-bowl boy photo source)

This column was first published in Practical Parenting Magazine, April 2016

Recently I took my seven year old son T-Bone on a solo date. The day was equal parts charming and exasperating, because, like me, T-Bone lives a significant portion of his time immersed in his own daydreams and regards the actual, practical world as a bit of an intrusion.

We are both, in some ways, like heads on a stick, and I have to tell you, my friends, I have huge sympathy for my own mother now that I am engaged in the everyday work of raising that kind of airheaded child.

T-Bone combines his father’s scientific precision and logic with his my own enthusiastic absent-mindedness. He is, possibly, your classic nutty professor. This is wonderful, of course, and in my greatest dreams I stand, a proud mother, at the side of the Nobel Prize stage as I do up my middle-aged son’s shoelaces and ask him if he needs the toilet.  In everyday life, however, raising T-Bone can be very tiring. Like so much of parenthood, it is bittersweet. That invisible string between mother and child is so profound, so gratifying and, sometimes, such a painful tether. It forces me into my better self, as I swallow my rage and frustration, look for the comedy in it all, and learn the art of patience.

T-Bone is both diabolical and brilliant. In the car on our date, he suggests a game. ‘Mum! Truth or dare?’ ‘Truth’, I say. ‘In the future you will die,’ he says. ‘I don’t think you understand this game,’ I reply. Next, he sings to me. ‘If you’re happy and you know it, pull down your pants! If you’re happy and you know it, blow up the universe and everything in it!’  He asks me about babies. ‘Mum, you know how little babies cry in the night and you have to feed them?’ I remember, I tell him.  ‘Well, can’t you just put them on an IV drip?’ he says.

When we get to the shopping centre we are halfway through the carpark when I notice T-Bone is wearing only one shoe. ‘What are you missing there, T?’ I ask.

‘What?’ he says.

‘You all put together there for shopping, buddy? Missing anything?’

T-Bone looks down at his outfit. ‘My book?’ he says.

This is a standard conversation with Ted, who is a clothing-optional sort of person.  He will appear before me totally naked. ‘Mum, I’m cold.’ ‘Well, put some clothes on!’ ‘Where are my clothes?’ ‘In your drawer.’ ‘Where is my drawer?’

At the end of our shopping-date, which is packed with comedic highs and frustrating lows (T-Bone! Don’t touch that! T-Bone! Get off the road! T-Bone! Put your book down!’) I try to validate our parking ticket. To my consternation, the machine jams when I insert my card.  I spend some minutes doing that unsatisfying young-child-present swearing: ‘you…bugger! What the…. far OUT!’ etc,   until I realise I have been forcing my credit card in the wrong slot, and seem to have broken the machine. I apologise to the long queue that has formed behind me, but T-Bone doesn’t notice. He’s too busy trying to read ‘Zombie Bums From Uranus’ while he walks up the down escalator.

I am he, and he is me, at least in terms of this particular aspect of his genetic inheritance. I hope, at the very least, that I’ve also gifted him with interpretive dancing and lasagne-making skills, as well as woolly-headedness.  And the patience I am learning through mothering this unique person is his great gift to me, in return.

My Dad Frank Is Offended By My Bad Hair

Hair: Before

There’s been a lot happening, and my hair has been neglected. It’s reaching Peak Witchy.  I know this, and it’s been my list to fix, but I had not realised it had become so offensive to others until my father called me to order.

Now, let the record show that Frank is not a fashionista. He buys his clothes from Ebay and Vinnies and the greatest accolade he can give an item is that it cost less than $2. His collection of hats would make the Queer Eye crew weep. And yet, he was outraged by the state of my hair. That’s how bad it must be.

On his front deck last week, Dad was idly filling me in on Henry 8th, his project out the back and the latest family gossip when he suddenly said ‘But what is wrong with your hair?’

‘What?’ I said. ‘I need a haircut.’

‘No, Rach’, he said. ‘It looks really bad.’

‘I know, Dad!’ I said. ‘I’ve been really busy. I’ll sort it out.’

He looked closer. ‘Rach, it’s like three different colours!’ he said. ‘It’s all fuzzy! It  looks terrible! ‘

‘Easy, tiger,’ I said.

‘No, it’s really rough’, he finished. ‘Do you understand? It looks very, very bad.’

I thanked him for helping me sort out that pesky high self-esteem problem I’d been grappling with. Dads eh? At least he forced me to sort out my hair. Now I just have to make sure he doesn’t find out how long it’s been since I waxed my legs.

Pants around Frank, self. Always wear pants around Frank.

Hair, After (with added confused quizzical expression of the four-eyed git and uncomfortable selfie-taker)

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And so, on with life! I may  be all over the place like a mad womans shit, but at least my hair doesn’t give me away.