Thursday, April 4, 2013

5 Reasons to Love Thy Neighbour

Last weekend, we had a ‘street’ gathering. One kind and very persistent neighbour organised it while another kind and very accommodating one hosted.  Everyone else brought a plate, a bottle and a child or two. 10 households were represented. It was a BIG turnout.  As I hotfooted it home afterwards (a little on the sizzled side) I reflected on how lucky we are to have such a good bunch of people, not only in our street, but also in our extended neighbourhood. Then again, it’s not so much luck as a little cultivation, common decency, politeness and some good old-fashioned friendliness. Here are 5 reasons you should love, or at least get to know, your neighbour…

1.     BORROWED FOOD – It’s not just a sugar that warrants a knock on your neighbour’s door. In addition to emergency call-outs for tomato sauce during badly planned sausage sizzles, our fence has seen the passing of curry powder, bi-carb soda, soy sauce, food colouring, dogs, children and just yesterday, some butterfly band-aids. Neighbours are much closer, more convenient and cheaper than your local grocery store, especially late at night or when your recipe is almost cooked and the obscure final ingredient is not in your pantry.

2.     TEENAGE BABYSITTERS – Finding a teenage babysitter in your street is a ten-point bonus for everyone involved. You trust this whatever-comes- after-Gen Y’er and you know their family. You also know if anything goes awry, mum and dad are a few doors down to help. Speaking of Mum and dad, they’re relieved they don’t need to drive him/her to their babysitting gig, and you’re pleased not to be driving them home when you roll in after midnight. The teenager is pleased to use someone else’s wi-fi for uninterrupted live-chat on Facebook, and the kids don’t know any different because they’re normally in bed while all this takes place. Win-win, win, win, win.

3.     SAFETY HOUSE – Remember the ‘Neighbourhood Watch’ program? People volunteered to put a sign at their letterbox to tell kids it was OK to seek help there if needed. I hope they were police screened or something, but I was a kid back then, and don’t remember that bit… Wouldn’t you rather your kids actually know the people who live around you? That way, if they ever need to seek help on the streets of suburbia, they have a range of places to choose from and people they are comfortable and familiar with too. It’s not just for the sinister stuff either. An elderly neighbour once scraped me off the road and cleaned me up after I stacked my bike spectacularly outside her house. It’s times like these your kids will appreciate a familiar face, a warm hug and a bottle of dettol. Actually probably not the dettol.

4.     GOOD FRIENDS, FUN TIMES – As a kid, some of the best fun you ever have is with your neighbours. It’s like having siblings only without the rivalry. You roam around looking for adventure after school and during school holidays. You band together for trips on the school bus or walk to and from school in a pack each day. You spend weekends in each other’s backyards and swimming pools and eating dinner at one another’s tables. You make secret hideouts and cubby houses and generally have the childhood you’re supposed to have when you can roam and socialise in your surroundings without being scared of the ‘weirdos’ you might find outside your front door. 

5.     NEIGHBOURHOOD WATCH – No, not the program I mentioned earlier, just actually
Our furry friend on a not-so-furry day
watching your neighbourhood. People who know one another look out for one another. If one neighbour is away, another might pick up their mail, take out their bins, babysit their fish or feed their guinea pigs. We’ve done all of these in our time. Our lovely neighbour has bravely offered to mind our beloved furry friend for 5 days while we’re away.  It also helps to have the eyes and ears of your neighbours just in case anything suspect really does happen. In a happy neighbourhood, everyone has each other’s back and you just

It sounds like utopia, but like I said at the beginning – I’m lucky. It’s not hard to be a good neighbour. If you’re a nice kinda person, you shouldn’t have to try. You don’t have to live on top of each other, but you do live beside each other, so better to hold hands, eh?

As a little side note – Does anyone remember the hilarious sit-com ‘Love Thy Neighbour.’  It’s retro gold. They’d never get away with this stuff now – check it out… 

Monday, March 11, 2013

5 things that are NOT unisex

In the age of metrosexuals, man-scaping and mankinis, when is enough enough?  I know not all blokes are blokey and I fully support a bit of healthy man-tenance, but some things are just plain womanly. At the risk of being politically incorrect or uncool (again), I’m going for some old fashioned sexual stereotyping, and asking why we women can’t just keep some things for ourselves. Things that are, well, womanly. Like these 5 things…

1.     Long fingernails – This one is funny because some men have nice, manicured slightly long fingernails that are neat, clean and polished, while other men have long filthy ones that show they can’t be bothered looking after themselves. I don’t know which is worse. Then there’s painted nails – a hot trend for young hipsters and try-hard middle-agers that’s 50 shades of wrong. Probably the worst of all is the intentional long pinky nail, which we all know can only serve two purposes. One involves the nose and boogey, the other involves the nose and white substances. When it comes to nails, men only need to trim them, and keep them clean. Surely that’s not too much to ask? 

2.   Earrings: Not even George Michael and Andrew Ridgely could pull this off, and that was the 80s. Earrings are eternally womanly, and moreso in both ears. Embarrassingly, my husband once sported this look (again, the 80s), and tried to revive it for a fancy dress last year. I was mortified. He even tried to re-pierce the closed holes. Even more mortified. He thought it was hilarious. If you’re a pirate, earrings might match your look. If you’re a heterosexual suburban dad with a 4WD, a surfboard and a bus-pass to get to work, give it up and leave earrings for the ladies.

3.     Rolled up jeans: Fashion forward young men everywhere - and they really are everywhere – seem obsessed with showing off their ladylike ankles. Mankles. They roll up their stovepipe jeans, which look great in black, but are now appearing in mustard, beige or ‘brick’, and they go sockless. Their mankles are sometimes hairless too, because their legs are waxed, but more on that later. Unless you’re a founding member of One Direction, or you’re running along the beach in an Enrique video-clip, please don’t roll your jeans up.  Especially if they’re tight.  It’s effeminate.

4.     Sandals and sarongs – Not if you’re in Hawaii, Tahihti or Tonga. Actually maybe Tonga, but only if you’re Tongan. Jesus, of course sported sandals wherever he went, but he had the good sense to pair them with a toga, not a sarong that showed his moobs. Those ‘sport’ sandals that cost $2.50 from Phuket markets might be OK for men who are backpacking around Asia and can’t stand trekking in 38-degree temps wearing sneakers and socks. They’re also acceptable because of the holiday clothing paradox whereby you often wear things you wouldn’t be caught dead in at home. But the sarong? Not even on holiday. What's wrong with shorts?

5.     Hair Removal – I’ve known men who have their backs or necks waxed, and that’s OK, because you feel for a dude who looks like they’re wearing a T-Shirt when they’re actually naked. Then, after the glam-rock days of the 90s, hairy chests started disappearing (Jon Bon Jovi, anyone?) and body hair on men started going waaaay out of fashion. In the 90s, the ‘back, sack and crack’ wax found popularity, and it simply hasn’t stopped. Now they get their eyebrows and legs waxed too! Is this going to far? Aren't men men because they’re hairier than women?  It’s hormonal. It’s animal. It’s one of those things men are just supposed to have and women...well, hopefully we have less.  

The bottom line is, I love men who look after themselves. I love men who know how to dress even more, but I still like men to look like men. Having said that, after I wrote this list, I watched last week's recording of channel 10's  Can of Worms. Kris Smith – that gorgeously pruned and plucked specimen of modern manliness was wearing… rolled up jeans with no socks! I saw his mankles and they looked hairless. And he still looked like a man. A really, really, really, reaaaaally good looking man. And that might just be the key...

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

5 Things about visiting the doctor

It’s the blog topic I’ve been trying to avoid, but it just won’t go away. In the last three weeks I’ve made 4 trips to the GP, 2 trips to the ENT specialist, one trip to the blood lab and spent an afternoon in emergency. Sickness is boring the BS out of me, but in the spirit of art imitating life, here are my 5 things about visiting the doctor…

1.     WAITING ROOM TOYS: Our local surgery used to provide a couple of toys for the little ones to spit all over during the long wait. The star of toy corner was an activity centre thing shaped like a dog’s face. You pull its tongue, roll its eyes, push its nose, you know the drill. That dog was a beacon to every boogey nosed, feverish, rashed-up kid in the ‘hood. If your kid wasn’t sick when you walked in, it would definitely be afterward. I christened it Vomit-Dog. I’ve met other mums who had named him as well: Death-Dog, Spew-Puppy, Poo-Pooch etc. Poo-Pooch is gone now - the doctors realised he was a cesspit of infectious disease. These days, to keep the kids quiet in the waiting room, I show them pictures of Hugh Jackman in Woman’s Day, and to date, this hasn't made anyone sick.

2.     NO APPOINTMENT NECESSARY: No one plans their illnesses. No one pre-empts their kid getting up at 5am and projectile vomiting across the room. Generally, when you call to make an appointment, it’s impromptu. Have you ever called your doctor on Monday because you suspect that by Wednesday you might have the flu? My mum does this every week but I’m sure you don’t. By the time you call the doctor, you’re probably feeling pretty sad and sorry for yourself and would maybe like a little cuddle and a cup of tea. You certainly don’t want ‘Sorry love, we’re fully booked today. Next appointment’s Saturday.’ Really?! I might be dead by Saturday!!! Why does this happen? Can’t they factor in a few unexpected illnesses?  Surely there is such a thing – we’ve had three in three weeks and I’m sure we’re not alone. Anyone?

3.     PEEING INTO A CUP: Now big thinkers, here’s the irony…Why is it that you can’t see your doctor at the drop of a hat, but when the doctor says ‘could you please go into the bathroom and pee into this cup’ you’re expected to waltz into the communal lavatory and split your whiskies on cue, just like that. What if you’re not ready? What if you’re dehydrated? Yick! What if you actually manage to do one? Then you have to carry the warm little jar of pee back from the bathroom and into the surgery. Past all those people in the waiting room. Past Vomit Dog whose eyes are always watching. And everyone thinks you're pregnant. Here’s my hot tip: in winter, shove the jar up your sleeve and act normal. Here’s my hot, hot tip: In summer, wear long sleeves to the doctors just in case. What could be worse?

4.     STOOL SAMPLES! – I’ve been blessed so far to not require one of these myself but I did need one for my daughter once and that was an epic adventure because the reason she was being tested was… constipation! I can’t remember how long it took me to get that sample, or who suffered more during the wait. Let’s say her, poor cherub. We eventually got the sample, and I carried the little pot of turd around in my handbag until I could get it safely back to the doctor. It even came to the park with us for reasons I can’t remember now, but I did protect that poop like a golden nugget – it was harder to come by and therefore much, much more valuable.

5.     CONDESCENDING DOCTORS: First I’m going to mention all the fabulous medical staff we’ve encountered lately. They were quick, switched-on and made being sick as fun as it could possibly be for a kid. Now I’m going to tell you about Mr Condescending. Mr Condescending actually looked down his (large) nose at me and said ‘it’s funny how symptoms disappear when you walk into the hospital.’ Yep. Because a 7 year old can fake a 39-degree temp. And vomiting. And can make her body flop on cue and knows how to roll her eyes into the back of her head. I must have forgotten my daughter was possessed. Really? When you’re worried enough to take your child to hospital, do you need to be made to feel like an idiot as well? Here’s my last tip: Even if they make you feel like a dramatic, overreacting helicopter mum, always do what you think is right for your child, because in the great words of that evil witch on Rapunzel “Mamma knows best.” And we usually do.

Incidentally, my demonised daughter ended up having glandular fever, which the big-nosed doctor failed to pick up. I developed a slight crush on our ENT surgeon, who is at least 15 years my senior, balding and never going to read this blog, so I’ll say what I like about his gentle caring ways. And finally, if you ever have to collect a stool sample, may it be for constipation, as I presume this would be better than diarrhea.

Check ya’s!

Monday, February 18, 2013

5 Tooth Fairy Dilemmas

My little one lost another tooth last night and is now a verified gummy bear. It's also given her a short-term lisp, adding to the strange cuteness of the gappy smile. But having just come from her room, where my husband is ever-so-quietly searching for the bagged tooth which has fallen off the bedhead into the mess below, I’m reminded just how arduous a task playing tooth fairy is, and of all the things that can sometimes go wrong...

1.     The tooth disappears: This must happen to everyone. The kid is so excited, they take the tooth to school, to grandma’s, on the trampoline, into the dog’s kennel and before you know it, it’s gone! I even know a few kids who swallowed the damned things before they came out. What to do, what to do? Every self-respecting fairy knows. You write a letter, explaining how you lost the tooth, how sorry you are and why you still deserve the cash. It’s like asking for a payrise when you haven’t met budget, except in this case the kid will still get paid. 

2.     The tooth re-appears: The fairy, upon entering the room, cannot locate the tooth. Without night vision, silence slippers or other stealth enhancing tools (they’re reserved for super-heroes), fairies can only fluff around in the dark trying not to sigh or grunt too loudly in exasperation before leaving the money anyway. What do you say when the kid wakes up and yells “I got my money but my tooth’s still here!??” Because you slept with it darling, in your hot little hand, and it got lost amongst the sheets and you were lying on it – princess and pea like – and the poor fairy didn’t know what to do. FAIL!

3.     The fairy forgets to appear: This isn’t just a fail, it’s a monumental F*-Up. How you could possibly forget to sneak into your kid’s room at mid-night and drop off a few dollars? Honestly. After waking at 6am to squeeze in half an hour of exercise, making the lunches, hanging a load of washing, folding another one, double drop off, working a few hours, back to school for pick up, afternoon tea, dance class, signing permission slips, Premier’s Reading Challenge and that thing you call dinner, surely lost teeth are at the forefront of your mind. Lazy selfish fairy! Santa would never do such a thing!

4.     You get caught: They woke up and saw you hovering over the bed. You can’t pretend you popped in for midnight kiss, because instead of your usual loving face, you have a demented blurry-eyed look that says ‘I wish I didn’t have to get out of bed for this crap,’ accompanied by an awkward squint as you search in the dark for the tiny tooth which the child has hidden under his/her pillow. Your face is enough to scare the bejeezus out of any kid, until they realise it’s you, and then they want to know what the hell you’re doing and why you look so weird. Here are some top excuses:
1.     Woken by allergic reaction to fairy dust
2.     Trying to photograph fairy in action and blinded by light as she disappeared
3.     Severely wand-slapped by vigilant fairy who thought you were trying to make off with the dosh
5.     The kid sees you and doesn’t tell you till morning: The game’s up buster! You won’t be needing that pink tutu anymore. That cheeky so-and-so must be about 8 years old to pull this one, and probably has no teeth left to lose, so doesn’t even care. The problem is, he/she is will probably tell their siblings who the tooth fairy is before Wheat-Bix O’clock. At this point, it would be wise to slip the empty mouthed prat a $20 note to keep their gummy trap shut, after all, you do love wearing that tutu.

To end this lovely fairy tale, it should be said that #2 woke up today as pleased as punch and shouted “Mum, Dad, come upsthairs, I have thomething really excthiting to thow you!” She showed her $2 coin and the letter I wrote with my left hand telling her my fairy name and those of my fairy friends, because this is the kind of detail every little girl wants. And we all lived happily every after. 

Monday, February 11, 2013

5 of the best things about 'back to school'

As if going back to school isn’t mish-mashed enough with the happy/sadness of it all. We’ve had a staccato kick off to the school year, with days on and days off, early starts, early finishes, junior side, senior side, short days, long days a birthday and even a sick day thrown in! Oh the uncertainty! So when I woke up yesterday to our first full day of our first full week of school for both children, I breathed a sigh of happy relief.  Here's why…

1.     FINALLY - A ROUTINE!: I always thought I was a pretty cool live-by-the-seat-of-my-pants kinda gal, but after having kids, the monotonous value of a routine has taken over. The school holidays knocked me for six.  I physically got to the office maybe twice, and spent the rest of my ‘work time’ battling not to be disturbed while working from the end of the dining room table. I certainly didn’t do any not-for-profit blogging!! I don’t think I actually did much with the kids either.  In fact, I can’t really remember, it’s all such blur. Now school’s back, and so is the routine! We have times and schedules and shit actually happens.  It’s bliss.

2.     NO MORE DAILY SUPERMARKET TRIPS:  Is it just me, or are you always at the supermarket in the school holidays? I think Coles has an advantage over Woolies purely from my personal contribution to their bottom line. The holidays are a feeding frenzy for my kids – they simply don’t stop eating. We also attract lots of other kids to our home, or we gate crash theirs. Both scenarios require either having food or taking food, hence more shopping.  I can’t talk, because during this time, I also do lots of sitting around eating with friends. And drinking. Oops! When school goes back, everyone’s a winner. Me, my waist-line, my wallet. But not Coles.

3.     EARLY BED TIMES: My kids wake between 5.30 and 6am most days.  I can’t complain, because I often do too. However, when they don’t hit the sack until 9.30 or 10pm, which is often the case in school holidays, they’re pretty gnarly by the end of the day.  At least I can hold myself together! When school goes back, they’re so knackered by the end of the day that when I put them to bed at 7.30, they crash, like, immediately. Even in summer when it’s still light outside. And they actually go to bed smiling, which is also amazing.  I love school.

4.     ME TIME: Most of the time, it’s all about the kids. The minute those critters crawl out of you, you disappear into them. Which is mostly fabulous, but when they’re at school there’s an amazing window of me time just for you. Having spent the last 6 years scheduling my stuff into weird times that don’t interfere with the kids waking hours, I now have several days where I can do ‘me’ things in the middle of the day. Like sitting down to eat. Fancy that. Someone has suggested a matinee movie club. And bike riding. And kayak yoga. I know. It’s crazy. What the hell is it? I don’t know, but I might be able to try it now.

5.     SILENCE: This might be the craziest one of all the 5 things.  I’m sitting here at lunchtime on a Tuesday afternoon and I can hear the buzzing of the fridge. I can hear rain falling on something made from tin and water dripping through the filter of the fish tank.  I can hear the jackhammer of my neighbour’s builder carving into stone and I’m wishing it was mine. The builder that is.  Even better, I can’t hear any crying, screaming, fighting or songs from Barbie: the Princess and the Pop Star. And I haven’t heard  ‘Muuuuuuum’ for about 3 hours. Now this is living!

I do feel a tad guilty for not been the crying mum who sent her last born off to big school with the wave of a wet tissue, but I can’t help rejoicing just a little for the fact that I no longer have to be the mad, crazy, rushed-off-my-feet mum who forgets things and yells a lot and never feels like any job is quite finished. I’d rather forgo the sentimentality for the serenity, and I have back to school to thank for that.