Lucky number 3

You know how a picture tells a thousand words?  Here’s the story of this one.  When Paddy and Bede were born, three years ago, they became the third generation of male twins in a row on Shane’s side.  Wow, what a perfect photo opportunity I hear you say.  Well, one would think.  However it has taken three years, countless planned and then cancelled photo ops and the kind of logistical planning that could launch a rocket to get these six people in the same place, at the same time and prepared to stand together for a photo.  Mostly because they’re all pretty laid back (well, that remains to be seen with my boys, might be my genes playing a part!) and whilst they’ve thought that this is a good idea, they’ve been of the firm belief that they’ll do it another day, somewhere outside, when I’m not in my work clothes, when the boys are older…until FINALLY, today, it happened.  Coincidentally, with the least notice given to participants.

But with the time constraints, I hadn’t had the time to plan the boys outfits and I made the mistake of thinking that Shane would be capable of choosing his own clothes so with five minutes until the designated meeting time, I quickly selected three semi clean jumpers and hustled them into the car.  On the way to the car, Paddy decided to stomp in the mud in his new white shoes (why did I buy white shoes?!) and then scrape it all over his pants and the car seat.  Luckily, there was a pair of odd gumboots in the car that he could wear.  Uncle Dave had a similar problem with mud on his shoes so he’d left them at the door and wasn’t wearing any which was thoughtful for the staff at the nursing home where Graeme is and I just had to make sure that I put him at the back.  At this point, it’s worth noting that Graeme and Dave are fraternal twins like Paddy and Bede whilst Shane and Darren are identical – they’re easy enough to tell apart now but not even they know who is who in their kinder photo.

I didn’t have much time to plan seating arrangements and in the end, I had only my phone to take the picture and due to the inclement weather, the dining room curtains as a back drop and two tired threenagers to set the timer.  Bede had decided to bring Woody along and spent the first 300 photos chewing on his leg and looking anywhere but at me so they were a right off.  Paddy was pretty keen to say ‘cheese’ but then he over acted on the smile and often shut his eyes or flourished his hands a bit much and at times, Shane had a pained look on his face whilst trying to juggle the boys and keep smiling.  So, 30958678 clicks later, this is the best we got. And then, once everyone had dispersed,  I realised that the curtain had scrunched in at some point. But it’s a moment in time and one day we’ll be glad we’ve got it.

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What a pain in the back!

Hooley Dooley.  What a week it has been around these parts.  A few fairly important things around our house decided to give up the battle this week, including my back.

It all started on Monday (can’t trust that day) well I think it did but I can’t pinpoint the moment in time my back decide to ache and pinch and make life a little bit unbearable but it was some time Monday.  Never mind, I thought, I’ve had this so many times before, I’ll just get an appointment at the chiropractor and I’ll be fine.  Except I couldn’t get an appointment until Friday morning.  That night, the dishwasher decided to pack it in.  And I know it’s such a first world problem but bloody hell I hate washing dishes.

This week, Shane’s worst fears were realised and the rooster has started learning how to crow.  Which is actually a bit cute because he’s not very good at it and even the kookaburras laugh; which means we have quite the cacophony in the morning just to add to the mix.

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L-R: Neptune. Sushi, Pick a Posie and Octopus.  Neptune is wrapped with his crowing. 

During the week I realised that all it takes is one day of not doing the washing or picking up the mess of the day for it all to go a bit pear shaped.  I also realised that the boys can actually be quite helpful now and do things like – let the dog in and out 50 times a day, find the remote to watch more of ‘Andy’s Prehistoric Adventures’, climb into the fridge and bring me cheesesticks to unwrap for them, reach the fruit bowl to take two bits out of everything and put it back.  It’s probably been a fairly boring week for the boys because we’ve done lots of inside activities and they are predominately outside kids.  We’ve played catch with stress balls, I’ve been a superhero that doesn’t move much from the couch much to their distress and we’ve drawn, done stickers and read ’til the cows came home so I’m up a couple of dozen books up on the 1000 books before school at the moment which is a bonus.  Also, the seat heater in my car stopped working.  I cannot believe that I’m complaining about that when there are serious problems in the world, but I’m feeling a bit fragile.

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Bringing the bins in is a new skill. 

Finally Friday rolled around and relief was just around the corner, although to be fair, by Friday the pain was now down to an intense dull ache.  I am so fascinated by chiropractors and how they magically (or after years of study and practice) know what is wrong and how to fix it with a few prods here and there.  Over the past couple of years since I started having these ‘back episodes’ they are definitely up there with my favourite people.  Apparently it’s got something to do with my pelvis tilting the wrong way which is fine until the rest of my back gets sick of over compensating and then bang.  And I hadn’t been having my ‘maintenance’ appointments because this working one day a fortnight is absolutely hammering me.  Seriously.  You should see the state of my brows because I can’t get organised enough to make an appointment.  But I am now well and truly on the path to recovery which I’m sure everyone around here is thankful for – not least Bede who told me yesterday that I was ‘grinding his gears’ .  Probably a fair call.  And I’m super thankful that it wasn’t my side of the electric blanket that just suddenly stopped working on Saturday night.

A hairy adventure

It’s been two days since ‘the incident’ and I’m only now able to talk about it. It shook me to my core, almost brought me to tears in the middle of a shopping centre and I’m still not sure that I like it, but I’m learning to live with it. Paddy got a haircut. Not just any haircut, not just a trim of a few curls here and there, a full on haircut. He could probably go into BWS and get a slab and not get asked for ID. He definitely could front up to grade prep in term three. How did this happen? Well, I’m glad you asked.

We’ve been over visiting my mum before jets off to the US of A and since we had the boys outnumbered, we thought we’d try a few of the more mundane things like getting haircuts and new shoes. Ordinary enough pursuits you’d think – well for some people, probably, but for us, it was a bit trickier.

Usually when I get my hair done, the boys come in and get a trim.   That’s it, just a trim. Because my life long hairdresser and friend knows that that is all I want for their hair, just to keep it tidy but not too styled. Perfect. Except, they absolutely hate getting their hair done. Flat out refuse to put the cape on and twist and squirm and spin around whilst she jumps around trying to be as quick as she possibly can be. Last time, after screaming and twisting so much that no amount of lollies or screen time could fix, I declared that they were never getting a hair cut ever again.

But Shane thought he’d give it a crack. We discussed tactics the night before and he said ‘have you ever given them your phone to watch something on?’ Oh genius idea Shane. Of course I’ve tried that. But given that they think he hangs the sun every morning, we agreed that he might have better luck. So off he goes, taking Bede up to check out the hairdressers and talking it up like it’s going to be amazing. No luck. Noone can pull the wool over Bede’s eyes, but his fringe is getting pretty close to impacting on his vision. There was no way, no how that he was fronting up to the scissors. So I decided to take him to try shoes on whilst Shane tried to get Paddy in the chair; divide and conquer and all that.

Bede was just as adamant that he was not going to get shoes as he was about his hair cut but given that his gumboots, his shoe of choice, had holes in them and were not the best shoes to wear to every occasion, I was determined to persuade him some new kicks would be ace. God bless the shop assistant, he was amazing and tried his darndest. He valiantly attempted to strike up a rapport with his little customer by talking about his Captain America jumper and asking about the sting ray figurine I’d stupidly agreed to buy before the shoes were in the bag but Bede is one determined little man. He thrashed his feet, put his head down and flat out refused to engage in any conversation let alone allow me, mum or the shop assistant to try the shoes on him. A crowd had gathered, it was getting serious. I said ‘mum, I’ll hold his leg and you shove it on’ much to the distress of the shoe salesman because this was surely against all his training and ‘best practice’ but we got it on nonetheless and in the space of 1.5 seconds decided it was perfect fit and we’d take them. Once the transaction was complete, Bede asked where his lollipop was – he hadn’t forgotten that he’d been promised one if he was a good boy. Evidently our definitions of ‘good’ differ significantly. He has been heard retelling the story that because he was such a good boy when he got his new shoes, he got a lollipop and all. Oh man.

So after surviving this, I took a phone call from Shane who said that Paddy was awesome at getting his hair done and was now having a ride on the coin machine bus thing in the shopping centre. I must admit I was impressed that he had got his hair done and was prepared to give Shane some glory. Until…

I recognized Shane’s figure standing next to the bus ride in question but I couldn’t work out where Paddy was or who the kid sitting in the back was. Horror of all horrors, it was Paddy. He was sitting up in the bus as proud as punch that ‘it wasn’t so bad after all’ and that he had ‘sat very still’ and got a balloon and a lollipop for his troubles. When the shock had passed enough for me to talk and I had resisted the urge to break down in great heaving sobs, I said to Shane ‘why didn’t you tell them to stop?’ And I stand by that. Gone were his beautiful long curls and with them, his baby face. Mum, ever the diplomat, said ‘oh I think it’s nice you can see his beautiful big eyes better now’. On the plus side, he probably won’t need another haircut for a good 6 months.

And for the record, we ended that day with one pair of shoes and one haircut, two out of four ain’t bad.

What time are you going to the dentist? Tooth hurty.

So this week it was my turn to bring the entertainment in the form of irrational behaviour, an unfortunately timed meltdown and a complete over reaction, which, incidentally occurred simultaneously.

This week I went to the dentist for the first time in a long time.  I’ve had a toothache for the better part of a month (which is shocking, I know) but I was dealing with it by living on Panadol and denial.  But I did make some progress – I went from only having either chewable Disprin, which is my pain reliever of choice, or soluble Panadol, because I am absolutely terrible at swallowing tablets, to actually downing about four Panadol Rapid caplets like no one’s business.  Then I would count to twenty and take a few deep breaths and wait for the pain to ease – and I can confirm that it is pretty rapid but I’m not sure that it was ‘best practice’.

During this month of pain and denial, I managed to convince myself that it would go away, it didn’t or that it was just sensitive teeth and nothing some Colgate Sensitive Pro Relief couldn’t fix; it wasn’t and finally, that it was just stress related jaw pain which occasionally extended to my ear and down my arm when I was two minutes overdue for my beloved Panadol but this was not true either.  So finally, when I realised that I was relying on the old green and white box a bit too much and the pain was only getting worse, I decided that I just needed to suck it up and get myself to a dentist.  Except by the time I came to this conclusion, I’d lost my voice so I had to message Shane to ring up and make me an appointment like a controlling husband.  On the voice thing, I just woke up one morning and it was gone but I didn’t actually feel that sick.  A lady at the hairdressers asked me if I had laryngitis which I didn’t think I did but apparently that is the technical term and so I’m definitely going with that because it sounds so much better, as in worse – like there is something really wrong.  Right, appointment booked, time to sort this out.

I’m not grouse when it comes to medical procedures hence why I’d put off this appointment for so long.  Mum was pretty happy to find out that I could only have one person in the theatre when the boys were born and that person was Shane, because she’d had enough after being with me when I had a mole cut out.  I never used to be this bad – I had terrific dentists when I was a kid – Dr Guthrie would let us choose a toy out of the drawer after our appointment and then we visited a dentist in Albury for years and years and he was awesome and lovely and it was never intimidating or scary – even when I had root canal super young because the nerves and the roots were all tangled up. But a few years later, I needed an emergency repair to that root canal and it was horrendous.  Maybe because I was in my 20s and should have been old enough to deal with the reality of getting some dental work one, this particular fella, who I’m led to believe was actually a qualified dentist, didn’t warn me about putting needles in, was pretty rough and his bedside manner was non existent.  So I pretty much haven’t been game to set foot in a dentist since, let alone take my open mouth to one.  But the time had come.

So off I trotted and tried to convince myself that it would be fine and people do this all the time blah blah blah.  Filled out the form, read a few lines of a book (which I’d bought myself as a treat for being such grown up) and sat in the chair.  Sunnies on, let’s go.  Then he had to do the ‘cold test’ to determine which tooth was sore and hooley dooley, I nearly shot through the roof.  And then I cried.  I managed to hold it together just long enough for an x-ray and then a brief discussion about the fact that I would need to get the tooth out because root canal was not going to save it before really losing my mind.  And asking, like a toddler, do I have to have a needle?  Of course I bloody did!  I stopped just short of hyperventilating, but I was a bit of a mess and the poor dentist and dental nurse were terrific when confronted with this hysterical woman losing her mind for no really logical reason.  So we decided that it would better if I came back in the morning and we tried again.  How bloody embarrassing.  What a mess.

So how did I go today? So good.  Unbelievably good.  I went totally prepared – two stress balls and about two hours worth of podcasts to listen to. For those who live in the Wimmera and need a dentist, and for those who don’t but want a really ace dentist, I cannot recommend or speak highly enough of Dr Jiang at the Horsham Plaza Dental Centre and the nurses there.  So bloody good.  He was calm and kind and explained everything and reassured me and did a bloody good job.  And I can’t believe how much pain I am no longer in. So the moral of the story is…find yourself a good dentist and go!

The week that was…

Lately (like for the last three years) they boys have really been fighting sleep, especially during the day.  On Tuesday day, Paddy fell asleep on the couch but snoozing was definitely not on Bede’s agenda and before I knew it, he was waking Paddy up.

Me: “oh Bede, please don’t wake him up”.

Bede: “Oh sorry mum, Paddy said to wake him up”.

Paddy: “Thanks for waking me up Bede.  Can I please have a cheese sandwich?”

Me: Oh well, I guess we don’t even try to do this day time sleep thing anymore.

The other thing they’ve started doing is saying, more like screaming ‘I want Nanny.  I want to go to Nanny’s’ as soon as they get upset, tired or something doesn’t go their way.  Which, as threeangers, is fairly often.  But I quite like that they have this association with Nanny, because at least they’ll always have someone in their corner when the chips are down, like when they can’t have chocolate milk at 10pm.

The other interesting things that happened at our place this week are related to our ever expanding menagerie.  On Wednesday, I’d planned to maybe clean the house but definitely catch up on the latest season of ‘House of Cards’ whilst the boys were at daycare but we all know what happens to the best laid plans…I ended up driving to Edenhope to see a man about a lamb.  And then bringing him home.  The lamb, that is.

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I had grand plans of calling the little bloke Paul Keating – to match my other sheep named Barry Jones and Philip Adams, mostly because I love the idea of those great minds out in the paddock chewing the fat and solving the problems of the world.  So, for a blissful few hours, he was named Paul Keating.  But then, the little masters came home, saw him, fell in love and immediately declared him Darth Vader.  I tried in vain to say ‘no, his name is Paul Keating.  Don’t you think that’s a good name?  You can just call him Paul or Keating.’  However, they were adamant that his name was Darth Vader.  So I now find myself calling out, ‘hey Darth Vader, come and have your milk’ and ‘oh good boy Darth Vader’ – I’m not sure what the real Darth Vader would think about this situation.  Even though he’s a merino, I got him a weatherproof jacket to keep him warm in the absence of other sheep and I thought he’d be chuffed.  He wasn’t.  And the next morning I found the state of the art jacket on the ground covered in frost and Darth happily sitting at the back door, apparently warm enough.

After a day or so, I thought that maybe he would be happy being with his own kind and so I planned a move into the big paddock which didn’t quite go to plan.  Whilst Buttercup the lovely lady goat was quite friendly to him, Barry and Philip didn’t come anywhere near him, Aly -paca was having a conniption about the fact that she may now be expected to care for not only a lamb but two excited toddlers and Jimmy was really not keen on his new roomie.  Now, Jimmy is a desexed, dehorned mini goat so on paper, he should be a pretty placid sort of a bloke.  But he’s not.  He’s a one woman kind of goat and luckily for me, I’m that woman.  He takes exception to everything and everyone else by head butting them.  Darth Vader included.  Then he head butted Paddy for trying to climb onto his (that is, Jimmy’s) trampoline.  Cue Paddy getting really upset, telling me to be cross at Jimmy and then stating loudly and repeatedly that he would really like to go to Nanny’s.  Shane claimed that the animals would sort it out, that Darth would be fine and since it was dark and cold, we should go inside and reassess in the morning.  I reluctantly agreed because I needed to lock the chooks up and cook dinner.

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Of course the chooks chose this night to decide to roost on top of their house instead of in it.  So I had to pick them up, put them in and then quickly shut the gate.  Phew.  Now to make broccoli and blue cheese soup that no one will eat.  And then, horror of horror, I saw a bloody mouse.

Friday morning and before I could hit the road back again to Yarrawonga I had a few loose ends to tie up.  Poor Darth Vader was at the gate crying and the rest of the gang were at the other end of the paddock – what bullies.  So I brought him back to the house where he was much happier.  I let the chooks out and discovered that a rogue pigeon had stowed away in their coop for the night which is probably why they were hesitant to get in there, but I eventually liberated them all.  And as I was packing, the boys were crawling along the floor saying ‘hey mum, mum, I’m a mouse stuck in a trap.  Do you like mice mum?’  Finally on the road and I forgot to restock the cds so it’s pretty safe to say that I am beyond sick of Peter Coombe and bloody Mr Clickety Cane.  But, here we are at Nanny’s and Shane has a few pages of lists of things to do to keep the menagerie ticking over until we’re back.  I wonder what the next week will bring?

Gotta love this city

And the winner is…Sydney.  The prize?  Having us come and stay for the best part of a week.  We just had to get there first and who doesn’t love a good road trip?  We’re lucky that the boys are so used to travelling long distances, they can amuse themselves quite well with some Justine Clark and Alex Papps cds and giving a running commentary on absolutely everything that they can see out their windows.  We struck trouble just outside of Albury/Wodonga which was only one hour into our trip on the second day.  Bede was so taken with the mountains (Little Desert boy!) that when we went past them, he chucked a massive wobbly and no other mountain or promise of an undulating landscape would placate him.  We stopped for a coffee, a quick walk and reset.

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When we eventually made it to the outskirts of Sydney, Shane said ‘oh can you just put the address in your phone for directions?’  Nothing grinds my gears more.  He knows that directions and numbers aren’t my strong points and he knows that we inevitably end up in some kind of passive aggressive stand off yet insists on winging it every time we go somewhere new.  Add to this, me being absolutely busting to go to the toilet and Shane missing the turn TWICE.  When we pulled into reception I flew out the door faster than I’ve ever moved but not before calling him Kel Knight – (for any “Kath and Kim” fans playing along at home).

The reason we were in the city with the bridge was because Shane had to go to a conference for work and so the boys and I would be exploring the city on our own by day.  Which sounds fine, even lovely, in theory.  I’d only been to Sydney twice before once for the Olympics in 2000 which was bloody amazing but I took no notice of my surroundings or geography and had tunnel vision for people wearing track suits who may have been famous athletes.  So it’s safe to say that this was definitely not my natural environment.  Add to this two freshly minted three year olds with a penchant for running in opposite directions and the challenges were beginning to dawn on me.  I’d foolishly packed the double stroller as opposed to the pram – subtle but important difference – and I was definitely up against it.  In the first instance, the boys are way too tall for it.  Their brand new boots now have a nice angle carved into the front of them from scraping along the ground in protest at being fenced in.  The handles are really low.  They were really heavy.  And Sydney is a little bit more up hill and down dale than I’m used to.  But we made it to everywhere we planned to go and then some and had a really ace time, mostly at the museums which we visited twice.  When we got to the Powerhouse Museum, the staff suggested that the boys would love The Wiggles exhibition and I’ve got to admit I didn’t even know it was on but thought ‘oh yeah, that will be great’.  A sentiment not shared by the boys.  They screamed, threw themselves on the floor and said ‘I don’t like The Wiggles, it makes me feel sick, take me to the rockets’.  In an attempt at idle conversation and to distract myself from the hill I was pushing them up, I started telling them things that we might see at the museum, so it was possibly my fault a little bit but gee whiz it was so embarrassing as all these other parents had their Wiggles loving kids happily sitting in the Big Red Car.

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Spiders were a far more popular activity. 

 

But it wasn’t all tricky. Just outside our apartment was Lord of the Fries and I really love that place and now even Shane is converted to their Halal snack pack.  And then on the way home, when Shane had asked me to ‘just put Yarrawonga in so it gets us out of the city’ and we took a wrong turn, (because I’m also not very good at estimating distance so I thought we were supposed to turn but clearly, we weren’t) we ended up driving past the Annandale Hotel which has hosted the likes of The Whitlams, Custard and Pinky Beecroft and The White Russians.  Probably as iconic as the bloody bridge.  And eventually we worked out how to get home and here we are, awaiting the next adventure.

Reading between the lines

“To read without reflecting is like eating without digesting” – Edmund Burke

I don’t remember learning how to read, but I can’t remember a time that I didn’t have at least one book ‘on the go’.  I decided that we needed to buy our house on the spot based purely on the wall to wall book case in the dining room. I’ve spent the best part of the last ten years encouraging countless teenagers to discuss the ‘themes and issues’ of various texts and ask them what they think the author ‘really’ meant or what comment he/she is trying to make about society. So it’s no surprise to learn that I’ve spent a great deal of time reading to my own babes and we have children’s books stashed in every room of the house, just in case a sudden urge to read overcomes them, they don’t have far to go. And now that I’ve read these books at least 4162 times each, I feel almost qualified to write a little bit about what the author might have meant.

The Very Hungry Bear – Nick Bland

IMG_3828.jpgWe’d read through this catchy, rhymy (technical term) story a few times before I started to let my mind wander about some of the broader issues Bland might be getting at. The basic story is that the brown bear was hungry, wanted some fish but the polar bear had caught them all. They came up with a deal whereby the brown bear would find the polar bear somewhere to live in exchange for some food. And the brilliance of this book, is in its apparent simplicity – it’s cool to be kind. Here are some of the big issues I’ve discussed with the boys after a reading: global warming, equal rights and refugees. Here’s how we got there – the polar bear (an asylum seeker if you will) is forced into the habitat of the brown bear as a result of global warming and melting polar ice caps. The brown bear is kind of like Canada – welcoming and helpful and going out of his way to find somewhere appropriate for the polar bear to live. Even though the bears are different – colour, climate, habitat – they are essentially the same in that they just want to live a peaceful life. And look, the bears might well just be mates but I’ve taken the opportunity to talk with the boys about equal rights and marriage equality and we’ve even lamented the current state of play in Australia.

 

The Tiger Who Came To Tea – Judith Kerr

IMG_3829.jpgI remember this book very vividly from my childhood – and the illustrations are still some of my favourite so I was keen to get it for my boys and it was even better when it came with a ‘bonus!’ little teacup (I’m all for the marketing). When I read it again as an adult, I couldn’t just leave it at the fact it was a fanciful story about a tiger coming to tea (as the title would suggest) and eating the mother and daughter out of house and home. I was certain there must be more to it. I started to think of the tiger as being something like anxiety or a free loading ‘friend’ or ‘thing’ that just takes and doesn’t give anything back–arriving, unannounced and milking you dry before leaving just as suddenly as it came and you’re left to pick up the pieces and rebuild your metaphorical life and go out for sausages, chips and ice cream – which I still think sounds like an excellent little supper, provided the sausages are vegetarian.

The Gruffalo – Julia Donaldson

IMG_3831.jpgThis is where my foray into the secret messages of children’s books first began and I distinctly remember finishing this book one day and after reading ‘the mouse found a nut and the nut was good’ and saying “ and that boys, is why we don’t eat meat” (although in the spirit of full disclosure, they do sometimes eat meat much to my chagrin). The story follows a little mouse on a walk through the ‘deep dark woods’ as he outwits each of the predators who seek to eat him by inventing a creature known as the Gruffalo with whom he is going to eat lunch. No one is more surprised than him to actually run into the terrible creature and then the little mouse must use his wit to preserve his life and outsmart the Gruffalo. A win for the little guys and a good lesson on the power of brains over brawn.

I’ve got to admit that whilst the boys are still a captive audience, Shane thinks I’m reaching a few bridges too far with some or most (ok all!) of my insights into these texts. But I really hope that I can teach my babes that even in these turbulent times, the pen is indeed mightier than the sword.