Friday, June 29, 2007

The power of the shower

I had this great idea for a blog post while I was in the shower this morning. You know, an actual post, some real thoughts and conclusions, perhaps a little discussion. Something deep, rich and meaningful.

I'd written half of it in my head, the rest was rolling about in there, all in the wrong order, but just waiting for a pen and paper to line it all up and make it behave. Today I was going to be a real blogger!

Then I stepped out of the shower.



Just me and a few drips of water on the tiles, and the words 'deep, rich and meaningful' racketing about in my head, which wasn't much to go on as the words 'deep' and 'rich' came off my conditioner bottle in the first place. Gee, I love a good cliche.

The shower is one of my favourite thinking places and our water bill reflects that. I've had ideas for articles, come up with witty headlines and pithy body copy and solved gnarly plot points. The problem is...holding that thought. The instant I turn the water off, my shower ideas go down the plug hole with the soap scum and loose hairs. This is why my kids are occasionally treated to a naked, dripping me rushing towards pen and paper screaming 'I've got to write that down!'

Maybe I should glue a pen and whiteboard to my shower cabinet. Maybe then you'd get that wonderful blog that this replaced...

Where do you have your best ideas?

Monday, June 25, 2007

Washday blues

A comment Shanta made below reminded me of this little story, which was published in the Sydney Morning Herald a couple of years ago. To save you from scrolling, Shanta mentioned doing an interview with a paper while wrangling her baby boy. I did a live radio interview about this article while filling a paddling pool with a hose and trying to stop my toddler daughter from hurling herself into it. No idea what they thought about the background noise, but that's the life of a mummy writer in a nutshell.

Washday blues

Why are modern clothes and modern washing techniques so incompatible? Did it never occur to the manufacturers that their products might, once in a blue moon, be used together?

I concede happily that traditional delicate fabrics, such as wool and silk, deserve a little respect and a box of the best hand wash soap flakes. After all, they were created by sheep and silkworms hundreds of years before man came up with top loaders, front loaders and tumble dryers.

But I have no patience at all with man’s latest fabric initiatives, most of which have been created by test tube and pipette. Did someone forget to pour in a few millilitres from the bottle marked ‘Make sure it’s machine washable’?

Just a quick rummage through today’s washing basket will provide the full spectrum of sage advice from clothes manufacturers.

“Hand wash only”. Thank you for the suggestion, but no. If I handwashed every $5 t-shirt that my son dribbles juice on, then you could use my hands as a cheap alternative to sandpaper. Not to mention that I like to come out of the laundry every now and again to check that my family are fed and watered.

“Machine wash separately”. Yes, I’m going to put my washing machine through an entire cycle to wash a single baby’s jacket.

“Remove buttons before washing”. What, and then sew them right back on again afterwards?

“If bought as part of a suit, wash together.” I’d be happy to do that, except this only ever seems to appear on items that have been bought separately.

“Do not wring or spin.” It’s just a shame that I’m not psychic and I can’t anticipate the exact moment that the spin cycle is going to start, so that I can break off from helping the baby throw Weetbix at the walls and fish through the suds for a single shirt.

“Use mild detergent”. Ever tried soap flakes in a top loader? It creates enough foam to clean up an oil slick. Regrettably, oil slicks aren’t that common on laundry floors.

“May be dry cleaned”. Well, that’s good to know, but it’s not going to be dry cleaned. Not at $7 a shirt, thank you.

“Dry flat away from direct heat and sunlight”. Hmm, how to do that on a Hill’s Hoist in the middle of the back garden?

“Reshape while damp”. It’s a sweatshirt, not a playdoh animal.

“Cool iron on reverse”. Maybe it’s just me, but I always thought that the whole point of an iron was to be at least moderately hot.

“Do not iron motif.” Well, why then, does the motif cover the entire back and front of the t-shirt? Do the manufacturers think that it makes Spiderman more of a superhero to be as crumpled as an old envelope?

And possibly the most common instruction of all: “Do not tumble dry”. Despite the fact that the tumble dryer is one of the greatest blessings to modern mothers on a rainy day, I can count on one hand the number of garments that I am allowed to use it with.

But being a slovenly slattern, I do it all anyway. Everything the manufacturers tell me not to. I recklessly wash everything in the machine. I heedlessly fling it all in together, even the items that beg for special treatment. I spin it like a whirling dervish and am a stranger to the dry cleaner. I leave the buttons on, I hang it in bright sunshine and on a rainy day I tumble dry it. On a good day, I might even iron it. And you know what? It all comes out just fine.

Saturday, June 16, 2007

Here's one from the archives

I write these slices of life for various purposes; some have been published, some haven't. This one's from a while ago when princess was just a baby and it's called 'A Simple Phone Call'...

It should have been a simple phone call. All I needed was an address so that I could pay the phone bill.

(Background: man the husband receive bill, man write cheque, man bin envelope in which cheque to be returned, woman try and put this right with a simple phone call.)

This was a good moment to call. The house was quiet, with my son contentedly watching tv. The baby was a bit hungry, but this wouldn’t take a moment.

The phone number was printed right at the top of the bill under the heading: Bill Enquiries. I dial and run into the usual electronic options.

“So we can help you better, please enter your phone number, including the area code. Thank you. Press 1 for billing or general enquiries. Thank you. A Customer Representative will be with you soon.”

The baby is gambolling around my feet, but rather ominously, is also muttering “num num” (‘food’ in her language). Luckily, for once the Customer Representative actually is with me soon.

“Hi, I want to pay my bill, but my husband has binned the return envelope, so please could you give me your address.”

“I can help you with that, but please can I first have your phone number?”

“I just entered my phone number.”

“I’m sorry, but for security purposes…thank you. I’m sorry, but you’ve come through to wrong number.”

“I dialled the number given for Bill Enquiries,”

“That’s the wrong number.”

The baby is now gnawing gently at my leg, her way of showing that it really is time for num num.

“All I want to know is your address.”

“I’m sorry, but I’ll have to transfer you.”

“You don’t know your address?”

“I’m sorry, but I’ll have to transfer you.”

Back on hold. The baby has graduated from muttering and gnawing to a hysterical wail: “NUM NUM! NUM NUM!” Never mind, this won’t take a moment once I’m through to the right person.

“Hello, how can I help you?”

“Hi, I want to pay my bill, but my husband has binned the return envelope, so please could you give me your address.”

“I can help you with that, but please can I first have your phone number?”

“I’ve already given it twice,”

“I’m sorry, but for security purposes…thank you. Now can I have your name, please…thank you. And now your address, please.”

“NUM NUM!” The baby has decided to forage for herself, but all she has found is toilet paper. “NUM NUM! NUM NUM!” And now my son is getting in on the act. “MUM! I CAN’T HEAR THE TV!”

“My address? Why do you need my address? I’m phoning to get your address.”

“I’m sorry, but for security purposes… thank you. Now I need your date of birth.”

“Really, I just want your address.”

“I’m sorry, but for security purposes…thank you. And your husband’s date of birth.”

“NUM NUM! NUM NUM!” The floor is covered in shreds of toilet paper and the baby is bashing the tv screen in a hunger driven rage. “I CAN’T SEEEEE THE TV!” my son is bellowing.

“For security purposes?”

“That’s right…thank you. Now how can I help?”

“Your address, please.”

“PO Box 123, Sydney 2000. Can I help with anything else today?”

With a lucky, or unlucky, swipe, the baby turns the tv off and simultaneously vomits up some half-digested toilet paper. “NUM NUM! NUM NUM!” “MUUUUUUUM! THE TV!”

“No, I really don’t think that you can help me with anything else today.”

Monday, June 11, 2007

More about nits

By way of a post, here is the article that last week's brief nit agonising turned into:

A few weeks ago my daughter and I became members of an exclusive club: Those Who Have Had Nits.

I first discovered them when blow drying my daughter's hair. A small dark spot had appeared on her scalp near the crown. As a cool, calm, collected kind of a parent, my first shriek was: 'Melanoma!' Then the spot moved: 'Crawling melanoma!'

Cooler heads prevailed and within five minutes my husband had picked half a dozen lice out of her hair. Then he turned to me. My daughter really hit the nit-picking jackpot when she inherited his fine, blond hair. My long, thick, curly hair was another matter. After half an hour of intense chimp-like picking and whooping (but thankfully not eating), my husband confirmed I, too, was thoroughly infested. Then he and my son shuffled their Pure and Clean Heads along the sofa away from us. A very long way away.

In the ensuing hunt for A Product That Actually Works, and the humiliating phone calls to inform playmates, in case any of our new friends had jumped ship on to their heads, I discovered the massive gulf between Those Who Have Had Nits and Those Who Have Not.

Those Who Have Had Nits were amazingly blasé: 'oh yeah, thanks, I'll whack some conditioner on their heads tonight and don't worry we're still friends'. Those Who Have Not turned Incredible Hulk on me: 'killer beasts?! Aaah! We never want to see your nitty faces ever again.' No doubt I would have reacted the same way a few weeks ago, except without the ostracision, because as a relative newcomer to this land girt by sea, I need all the friends I can get.

I also received a host of advice on nit repellents. Tea tree oil is apparently popular, but if you take it too far you will smell like a freshly disinfected toilet. Vinegar and water is reliable, but small boys, drunk on collecting football cards, may rummage through your hair on the grounds that if you smell like a bag of salt and vinegar chips, the Darren Lockyer gold card may just be hiding in there.

My favourite piece of advice was: never wash their hair. Ah, no more screams about shampoo in their eyes and conditioner in their ears! No more wielding the hairdryer to cries of 'too hot!' 'you're burning me!' On the other hand, if I stop washing their hair, Lazy Me might take over and it's a small step to no more toothbrushing or clothes washing, and from there, an even smaller step to No More Friends At All.

Nits are not fatal. Not nice, but not fatal. I'll wear my club membership badge with pride as I go back to the chemists for yet another foul-smelling cure.

Sunday, June 10, 2007

Coming soon...

...more confessions from a domestic ogress. No soccer this weekend due to flooding (wimps!) so a bit busy preventing frustrated Soccer Boy from taking out his irritation on the Princess.

Sunday, June 03, 2007

Nit not wit

A few weeks ago my daughter and I became members of a very exclusive club: Those Who Have Had Nits. Actually, I'm not really justified in using the past tense in my case, as I've discovered it's very hard to clear them out of long, thick, curly hair. My daughter really hit the nit-picking jackpot when she inherited her father's fine, blond hair.

Interestingly, I have discovered that members of this club are amazingly casual about the beasties. I had to phone a bunch of people to let them know, in case our new friends had jumped ship on to any of their heads. Anyone with previous experience was amazingly blase: 'oh yeah, thanks, I'll whack some conditioner on their hair tonight and don't worry we're still friends'. It was the people who had never experienced Itchy and Scratchy who flipped: 'killer beasts? Aaah! We never want to see your nitty faces ever again'. As I suppose I would have done a few weeks ago.

Nits are not fatal. Not nice, but not fatal. I know that now. I'll wear my club membership badge with pride as I go back to the chemists for another foul-smelling cure.

7G1s - 2-3, darn! Beaten by the 7G2s from our own club. My own Soccer Boy scored both goals, although the second bounced off about four defenders on its way in, so not sure how much credit he can take for that one. I can't be too rude about the opposition this week, given that my son may one day end up on a team with one or more of them, but let me just say...there was blood and it wasn't coming from any of them.