A mouse, a mouse. So not grouse.

Today a “friend” (this may or may not be me) told me that she had seen a mouse in her lounge room.  I recoiled in horror on her behalf.  She said she then decamped to another room and lo and behold, another mouse.  Or maybe the same one, given that they are pretty homogenous in looks.  So her mother (who bears a striking resemblance to my own mother)  was despatched to the shops post haste to get some traps while she stood on the verandah hoping that the only wildlife she encountered was her dogs.  Ok.  It’s me.  And today I had at least one, but maybe two mice in my house and for all I know they’re still there.  And I hate mice.  So much.  I’m generally in support of all creatures great and small but I draw the line at rodents.  I’m happy to share the house with spiders and I’ve currently got  a pretty spectacular golden orb on the outside tap.  Flies – frustrating but fine.  We have the odd stumpy tailed lizard and I’ve often seen snake tracks in the driveway and none of these things worry me as much as a mouse.  And for the record, mum has said that I probably shouldn’t tell people there’s a mouse in my house but according to the lady at the supermarket, they’re doing a roaring trade in traps due to some kind of plague – or at least a rise in numbers so I don’t think I’m the only one with an uninvited four legged guest.  I’m not sure what constitutes a plague but I think two should do it.

This furry little fella has brought back so many unpleasant memories about mice – my first experience involving me in the bath, a mouse’s tail and dad trying to prove there was nothing to be scared of.  Plan backfired.  When I was in my twenties and probably should have been more resilient I found a half dead mouse on the floor at mum and dads and I was home alone.  I phoned dad from the safety of the verandah (there’s a theme here – a verandah is essential to escape mouse attacks) and although he couldn’t come home and sort it out, he did send one of his work mates over.

And then – the nightmare to end all nightmares; our honeymoon.  Driving a kombi through central Australia in the middle of a mouse plague.  We didn’t know there was a plague until we got there and there wasn’t really any way to escape in a vehicle with a top speed of about 75kmp/h.  There were mice everywhere – scurrying along the top of the shower stalls in the caravan parks, dead in traps, dying slowly from poisoning or running freely with gay abandon in every supermarket, service station and shop we visited.  I remember lying in bed one night and saying to Shane ‘i’m pretty sure there’s a mouse in the cupboard’.  He told me there’s no way a mouse could get in.  I now believe that he actually thought it was a mouse too but did not want to be doing battle with a rodent in the middle of the night.  So I went to sleep and awoke the next morning to find that a mouse had chewed through everything.  As if living in such close quarters 24/7 for the first six weeks of wedded bliss wasn’t challenging enough, now Shane had an irrational mouse hater on his hands.   At night, the ground was moving with mice running hither and thither and I was that scared that one would run up my leg, I had to sit with my feet on the table and/or my pants rolled up so they couldn’t.  It was terrifying.

And now, there’s a mouse in my house.  It or they are either still here and waiting to scare me again or they’ve tripped off back to whence they came.  These are the times I abandon my feminist principles and am more than happy to defer to a man to fix the problem and I’m relieved that Shane will be home to wage war over the weekend.  Of course the bleeding heart in me doesn’t actually want to kill them, I just want them to leave.  And if I should see a mouse next week, when neither mum nor Shane is home to save me, I’ll take my goods and chattels and hit the road until such time as it’s safe to return.

A wee update

During the course of my foray into motherhood, I’ve encountered quite a few people, mainly men, who tell me that the thing that puts them off about babies is the nappies.  Early on, I always thought, ‘are you serious?’ the nappies are nothing compared to the fact that you’ve got to get these babes to sleep (which I’ve failed pretty miserably at unless we’re driving) and fed.  Now, I would say, nappies are nothing, absolutely nothing compared with the trials of toilet training.

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Driving a car apparently.  

We are currently smack bang in the middle of toilet training or whatever the politically correct term is because apparently it’s not training because they’re not dogs. On that point, we also welcomed Peggy-Sue the Huntaway x Saluki (or mongrel as the vet lovingly called her) over the past few weeks and she’s also learning the art of where and when to wee.  So I feel like I could do with a sponsorship deal from a paper towel and/or disinfectant wipe company. I started out by stocking up on exorbitantly priced novelty toilet training nappies with cartoon characters on them and more reasonably priced jocks with dinosaurs on them.  And away we went.  I didn’t bother to read any tips or tricks or parenting manuals because I’ve had trouble following the instructions before so we just went for it.

The first few days were trying.  There was wee (we’ve been lucky thus far on the number 2 front) everywhere.  They’d come running to say ‘come and look! I juts did wee in the corner.  Look, over there!’ and they were so bloody proud of themselves I told them it was great.  But next time come and tell me.  So they did – ‘look mum! I just did wee on the verandah’.  At times, it was a competition of the most or weirdest places wee could be done.  So then I ventured to K Mart and got one of those ladder toilet seat things and it was an absolute game changer.  As of today, we’ve had more wees on the toilet than any of the other creative places I’ve found it in the past and I am now a bit more hopeful.  Now to see how we go in public…

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Throwback to when they were babes, had cool clothes and started wrestling. 

 

In other news, the boys have taken to wrestling each other again.  This was something they used to do as babies and was pretty cute because they looked like little puppies rolling around and they didn’t seem to hurt each other.  Now they’e progressed to some fairly serious take down manoeuvres and it always ends up with one or both of them in tears no matter how hard I try to persuade them that this will be the case.  So of course this happened today, right in the middle of a happy little play session with all 6583945 of their toy cars.  Paddy took down Bede with an around the back of the head trick and he landed flat on his back.  Bede screamed, rightly so.  I was about to intervene when Paddy ran past me and said ‘don’t worry Bede’ so I stopped and watched.  Paddy went to the freezer and got Bede an icy pole and said to him ‘I’m sorry I hurt you Bede’.  And Bede said ‘that’s ok Paddy.  You’re the best brother in the whole world.’ And let him have a taste of his icy pole.  Then they sat and discussed the fact that some of the cars are sharp and it hurts and they shouldn’t hurt each other and then had a little hug.  Out of the mouths of babes, I tell ya.  It almost brought a tear to my eye.  Almost.  I just went on with the next load of washing and waited for the next stoush.  But it gave me hope that they might be lovely young men one day.

Confessions of a boy band tragic

The year was 1997. I had not yet discovered my own style and I shudder to think of the hairstyle I was sporting at the time. Probably a shoulder length bob in my natural colour (perish the thought!)  I was stuck somewhere between the dork I had been at primary school and the rebel with too many causes that I would become at high school. I firmly believed that I was destined to become Australia’s first female Prime Minister. I had a cat named Pepa (perhaps this ridiculous spelling was some indication of my fierce ‘individualist’ streak yet to emerge). And I was totally, passionately, completely in love with Hanson.

During the week I held the position of form captain of 7B – there wasn’t much responsibility with this role but I did like the badge. On the weekends, I would wake up early to watch Rage and then Video Hits and hand on every word of those young brothers with the luscious locks. My friends and I would pool our meagre resources to buy ‘Smash Hits’, Samboy salt and vinegar chips and raspberry lemonade. Sometimes even chocolate ice cream. We’d spend hours watching, listening and dissecting the significance of the slightest flick of hair or the possibility of hearing Taylor Hanson breathe in (how very normal and yet so exotic and intoxicating?) during the ballad ‘I will come to you’. From beneath our poster covered walls, we dreamt up impossible scenarios of meeting our idols, them falling instantly and inexplicably in love with us and we’d all live happily ever after. Of course we all loved Taylor, but if push came to shove, I was prepared to marry any of them, such was my devotion.

We memorised the lyrics and divided the posters evenly between us. Clearly Hanson were the most coveted, but Human Nature, Backstreet Boys and Savage Garden were also quite acceptable. We’d listen to the cds – still quite a novelty and a world away from the on tap information the teenagers of today enjoy – on repeat to the frustration of our collective tribe of brothers and cap the night off by watching Freddie Prinze Jr movies.

Hanson, and to a lesser degree the other boy bands of the 90s, were our lives. We treasured every morsel of information we unearthed in the best way we could, pre social media. To be honest, I’m glad I lived in that far away place before the advent of Twitter, Facebook and the internet at large. This gave us so much more time to wonder, to dream and to while away our salad days with our innocence protected from the ravages of the information superhighway.

Something happened. I can’t remember the exact moment or what it was, but Hanson slowly but surely slipped off the radar. Replaced by real life boys, Greenpeace petitions, dreadlocks and of course new bands. Yet they failed to elicit the same kind of response Hanson did.   Our first real love. As I morphed into that teenager with too many causes, I died my hair, dressed in black, pierced my thumbnail and discovered Machine Gun Fellatio. I must have decided to eradicate the boy bands of my youth to the dark recesses of my mind, because surely, it wasn’t ‘cool’, and ‘cool’ I thought I now was. And so the next decade and a bit passed. I moved to Melbourne, followed bands around, got a few degrees and a real job. And then…in 2012 the news broke. Hanson were touring. And I just simply had to be there.

Having lost my copy of their debut, breakthrough album ‘Middle of Nowhere’ I used the ease of the 21st century to download it and refamiliarise myself with the content. Listening to Mmmmbop (not sure of the official ‘m’ count) still set off of a feeling in the pit of my stomach that I couldn’t quite explain, but I loved just the same. It was a chance to rekindle friendships that had been suffering under the burden of distance, lifestyle and the absence of any group of impossibly perfect boys to occupy our thoughts.

I won’t pick apart the night in all its glory – to do so might take away some of the magic, except to say that it was amazing. Beyond my wildest dreams amazing. Whilst I perhaps should have stayed on the raspberry lemonades instead of the Melbourne Bitters, it was definitely a night to remember. And then, fifteen years later, against all odds, I bloody well met Hanson.

It wasn’t quite how I imagined it, not least because we are all quite happily married to other people. We snuck around to the back entrance of the stage down a dark alley and waited for them to come out and greet us, their adoring fans. Perhaps my mind was playing tricks on me, but I swear that there was a light behind the brothers as they emerged from the door and made their way towards us as god-like figures. Let me just clarify, when I say ‘us’ I mean my group of friends and few dozen others who also had the same idea, but let’s not let the facts get in the way of a good story.

What struck me the most about this meeting was not just that Taylor was even more good looking that he had been, but the years had also been exceptionally kind to Isaac and Zac as well – but that they are really good blokes. Like really. Despite how many thousands of screaming, passionate and maybe a little bit tipsy 20something women they must meet every year, they managed to make each of us feel as though we were important and that they actually cared about whatever tiny morsel of conversation we had to offer. They signed everything that was thrust in their face, posed for photos and throughly wooed us all over again with their southern charm. Personally, I buckled under the pressure. After more than a decade, a few beers and the proposition of breathing the same air as Taylor bloody Hanson, I couldn’t even put together a coherent sentence. But I did manage to get a signature and a hug.

For a brief moment, my childhood dream came true. If I could tell my 12-13yo self something it would be this: you’re ok. And you will be ok and it will all be ok. Just breathe. Oh yeah, and one day, you’ll meet Hanson and it will better than you ever imagined it could possibly be. Even though you won’t have Taylor’s babies. Maybe I’d leave out that last part. It might send the dorky, socially awkward and devoid of style me into a state from which she would never recover.

 

 

All the small things

There’s a men’s razor in a cup in our bathroom.  It’s surrounded by the boutique toothpaste that the boys insist on using and their novelty toothbrushes and despite the fact they have morphed from babies into toddlers and maybe even now children in the blink of an eye, they’re not yet shaving.  And Shane has had a beard for about five years.  Not because he’s a hipster but because he was renovating our bathroom at the farm and as usual, it took longer than expected and so without a sink and probably to save a precious few minutes, he just didn’t shave for a while.  But that razor is one of the most precious things in our house because it was my dads.

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I don’t have very much in commons with Malcolm Turnbull, perhaps nothing and I definitely find his politics a bit brutal and inhumane; but he did say something (just the once) that really resonated with me.  I’ll try and paraphrase it here.  He was talking about the loss of his father and the fact that after he had passed, every little thing of his became special because you’d never get anything else.  And that is so bloody true.

Lately my hollyhock (which is actually from my nan’s original hollyhock, another ‘small thing’) has been copping an absolute nibbling from some caterpillars and the boys have taken quite an interest in them.  So I thought we’d read the classic “The Very Hungry Caterpillar” and the first page brought me to tears.  Not because of that little egg on a leaf in the light of the moon, but because Dad had bought it for the boys shortly after they were born and had written in it.  So even though we have about 1000 children’s books and some of these are in various states of disrepair, certain books with dad’s distinctive handwriting have to be kept up high and almost handled with white gloves because there will never be any more.  It’s beautiful and heartbreaking all at once.

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There’s been a running joke in our family that we’d need a holiday to recover from a holiday with dad because he didn’t believe in wasting time relaxing when we could be exploring.  And he never came to our place without a list of jobs he wanted to get done – gardening, sorting out the cellar, collecting wood, metal detecting etc etc and in order to make the most of his time and streamline his packing, he left his ‘work clothes’ over here in a drawer in the cottage.  I found them the other day.  And left them there.  Just in case.

We talk about dad a lot.  The boys can pick him out of a photo and sometimes even put the one of him drinking wine next to Tex the Wonderdog and tell him that ‘here’s grandad drinking wine at our house’.  But then I have to swoop in and rescue that photo because there will never be another one.

Of course we have lots of ‘big things’ from dad and then there’s those sayings like ‘as long as we live, he does’ and all those other things that we tell ourselves and each other to try and make sense of our experience of life (and death I suppose).  But I’ve found that it’s all the small things that bring me undone on the daily, so I’ll just keep them safe for a bit longer.

Warning: Explicit Language

I’m not against swearing, far from it.  I’m a firm believer in freedom of speech and I think that at times, the ‘f’ word is an excellent sentence enhancer.  In fact at times I’ve launched into monologues that would surely make a sailor blush.   But I must say, I was quite taken aback a few weeks ago (it’s taken me that long to get over it) when the boys uttered their first four lettered words.

It happened like this.  We were about three and a half hours into a four hour journey to see my brother’s new baby.  Everyone was sick of the car.  We were in traffic and out of snacks.  Shane decided to do some singing which usually works to calm the troops.  On this occasion, he was told, in no uncertain terms, to ‘shut the eff (I just can’t bring myself to actually write it) up’.  In fact, that’s exactly what he was told.  The English teacher in me was pleased that he had used his new academic vocabulary in context; the parent in me was horrified.  We looked at each other to confirm that we hadn’t misheard.  Then we made a game plan.  It was our first real parenting dilemma.  Do we tackle it and tell him off?  or Ignore him and hope it never happens again?  While we were trying to work out what Dr Phil or Supernanny or any of the thousands of parenting experts on Facebook would do, Bede came up with his own version and could be heard shouting ‘shuck up’ very forcefully in the background.  And I have to admit, this was a little bit hilarious.

Now before I go any further, I’d just like to point out that even though I love a bit of colourful language from time to time, I don’t actually speak to the boys in this fashion but who knows what those characters on ABC Kids are up to these days!

After a few furious moments of whispering to each other about what to do, stifling laughter (because at times like these if you don’t laugh you’ll cry) we decided to ignore what they had said and hope it went away.  For the most part, that seems to have worked.  I haven’t heard the ‘f bomb’ dropped again and they seem to have reverted back to their much more innocent ‘dear oh dear oh dear’ when calamity strikes.  Phew.  Fingers crossed.  And just to be on the safe side, I’ve been especially careful to express frustration with the incredibly sophisticated phrases ‘far out brussell sprout’ or ‘geez whiz’.