Hung Household

 

Not to be out done by our country’s not-so-Prime Minister, I find myself this week sitting constantly in a Hung Household. Also known as school holidays.

As the Speaker of the House it is my principal duty to preside over the House and maintain order in the House, uphold the rules of procedure, rule on points of order, and protect the rights of backbench members. Except sometimes this Speaker feels like a backbencher as well.

Kicking off the debate is the Karate Party – oldest boy child with some sort of testosterone surge going on. His policies revolve around the importance of all sport, sleep over’s and TV. He is also well known for his strict policy that all younger siblings being kind to one another – called his protection policy.  He gets a lot of votes from the Upper House (Mum and Dad) for this latter policy.

The Karate Party is sometimes in close alliance with the Always-Right Party (also his younger brother and second in line in the Lenehan Senate).  At other times the two parties are in complete opposition.  The Always-Right Party can swing the Speaker of the House with clever arguments and the odd tantrum.  But no matter how hard he tries, the Always-Right Party will never, not even a tiny amount, influence the policy of the party who sits next down the line to him in the Lenehan Senate….

…Which is the Sustainability Party. The only female on the floor, the Sustainability Party has to fight for her life for equality and a voice.  Aptly named, this Party can sustain a high pitch wail for much of the day and sustain a nagging argument for an entire week.  She can persuade one half of the Upper House (Dad) easily on her policies using these methods and a tiny twist of her little finger.  

Then we have the Shooting Party. It’s a simple policy for this last seat in the Lenehan Senate and three year-old boy: All older siblings, the Upper House and any visitors to Parliament must be shot with a Nerf gun. Great antagonist to the Sustainability Party’s main policy of wailing. Interrupts the Always-Right Party’s sense of what’s right in the world, and is always testing the patience of the Karate Party’s protection policy.  

The Lenehan Senate has been on a constant campaign trail this school holidays.  It’s a battle ground, with each vying for the Speakers attention, via methods of loud voicing of opinion and also by physical example. Such as this:  The Shooting Party wakes late, enters the TV room by stealth while all other parties are still, half-asleep, formulating their plan of attack for the day. Then, BOOM! he shoots them all dead. And it’s on. At 5.30am.  The Karate Party gets up to do what he does best, swinging and kicking and keeyah-ing all over the place. The Always-Right Party is trying to explain at 500 decibels that shooting people while they’re still half-asleep is taking unfair advantage, and the Sustainability Party has begun her day long sustained squeal.

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The Speaker rises to her feet.

No one notices.   

She raises the gavel.

No one notices.

She orders the Members to excuse themselves for one hour to their rooms.

No one notices.

She thinks about being history’s second only ever Speaker to permanently expel a Member from the House.

Instead she stages her own #Brexit.

 

 

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Tales from a Soccer Sideline: 2020

 

“I’m devastated, 2020 was going to be his first year to be graded into a good team,” says soccer mum, India, carefully placing her newly lifted face in her hands so as not to create any wrinkles.  “A hip replacement, can you believe it?”

“Try not to worry India honey, he’s young, he’ll bounce back quickly and be back on that soccer pitch in no time,” soothes her friend Sydney, via collagen lip balloons.

They sit in silence, watching their tiny younger son’s play in the latest technology Protein Infusion® compression wear, and helmets with inbuilt multi-directional Bouncepads® for headers.  The Bouncepad® was the same technology Nokey had tried out in their football boots a couple of years before, which had helped shoot China onto the world stage of soccer (in a deal whereby China supplied the children to manufacture the shoes and the Chinese soccer team would be the first to use the new technology. Chinese children would do anything for soccer, said Nokey’s Marketing Director).

“Yes, I know,” continues India, rearranging her hands to her knees and off her face, deciding it wasn’t a good idea to tempt fate on the wrinkle front. “It’s just, you know, all those years of training – 6 hours a week of development squad when he was 5 years old, all the 4am Crossfit strength and endurance training before school every day, the evening academy’s year round in the freezing snow and the 40 degree temperatures… The Christmases we gave up! The 100 hours a week work I had to do to pay for it all….. For what? A hip replacement at 8 years old.  I can’t believe it.  He’ll never get back to a decent level before the month-long sleep over camp where they assess them for grading…” India cries at the injustice of it all, gently dabbing tears away along her cheekbones – rubbing your eyes was the absolute worst cause of major wrinkling.

“Have you spoken to the club’s doctor? Maybe he has some supplements little Ronaldo can take to get him back in top shape before the grading?” suggests Sydney, careful not to smile in admiration and stretch her lips too much as she sees her wee 2 year-old scissor-kick then roundhouse a goal from the other end of the pitch.Baby playing football

 “Oh yes, absolutely, he’s got a full regime ready to go as soon as I give him the go ahead,” nods India.  “Thank goodness all that’s allowed because we’re still at the junior, amateur, volunteer club-run stage of soccer.”

“Good.  Oh look!” Sydney points toward a mother, who dared wear a tracksuit to a sporting event and is kneeling down cuddling her son.  “There’s that silly hippy who still believes sport is for fun! Ha!”

 

 

My crappy new look

The other week I pictured myself stepping back into the glamorous, highly strung world of fashion, as a fashion editor sitting in the front row at Australian Fashion Week. Result: Grey roots, a pink shell tracksuit and lack of understanding of the uses for handcuffs, did not serve me well. 

So I decided to stick to my mission to be a Fabulous Authoress. Your outfit and hair do not matter because you’re always holed up at home, and as for the uses of handcuffs – I can make that all up in my next book.

But every now and then the Fabulous Authoress type must extend her nimble digits and leave the house to mingle with other writerly types.  Lucky for me, the Sydney Writers Festival was on the week after Fashion Week. So I decided to take my crumpled style ego, don whatever was comfortable and warm, scarf my roots and toddle out to all of Sydney’s Pier’s to see how I fit in.

Turns out, the saying that everyone has a book in them, is true: 

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Be careful who you sit next to

There were all makes and models of humans at this event. In contrast to the all-black, praying mantis’ of the week before, this event was bursting with colour – all on the one body, most of the time.

There were older couples, young grungy students, well-dressed women, and street-cred blokes.  There were young mums with babies on their front, some who looked dressed for a wedding, and others who looked as if they’d just crawled out of a marathon Game of Thrones session.  Red hair, green hair, brown hair (I hope Dr Seuss was there) and grey which is the new blond.  They all had two things in common: bright, wacky eye glasses were on just about every face.  And, they love to drink champagne – I imagine Sydney Harbour had a few writerly piss-heads sloshing about in its waters at the end of that day.     

And me? 

I’d been sitting at home all week writing about toilets.  Yes, someone paid me to. In a lovely matching coincidence, that beast that is a tummy bug came to visit our house, which gave me endless opportunities to research my topic. “Curvaceous ceramic bowl, pure as the white of an angel… Top of the range is the “Wind Tunnel” with an extraction fan for all those memories left behind…. Recline, relax, the Leatherette seat is as comfortable as your Nick Scali lounge…”  I was buried in literal crap, and I looked like it too.

Creative genius at an all-time high, and (bypassing the handcuff trend) bleach-scented yellow rubber gloves my look, the day of the Festival arrived.  Sick myself now, my husband rolled me out of bed like a hot dog out of its bun, and sent me on my way. I think I was out of my dressing gown, but I can’t quite remember.

Of course, there is no crappy ending. I forgot I was sick, and suddenly stepped into my element – completely ensconced in the atmosphere, the brilliant authors I was listening to, in taking notes for my own books, and in feeling like I was a part of an industry, a group, some form of the working world which I usually think everyone else is participating in except me. A day of unadulterated inspiration, surrounded by an accepting, champagne-swilling crowd, who’ve all been there done that crap and now wear the wacky glasses to prove it.

I must get me a pair.

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Do I fit in?

Notice

Ah, holidays, they’re so good for the soul aren’t they?  Warmth in your bones, cocktails in your belly and pictures of your red toenails against a blue sea on your Facebook account.

Or not – as was the case for our most recent holiday.

Yes, we did have warmth – but only for a few hours in the middle of the days, for a couple of days.  We also had rain for much of a day, clouds, and the chill of early morning and evening which comes with mid-autumn. It was invigorating and restful weather.

No cocktails. (There was wine though – let’s not get too hippy here).

But we did have some chairs and a wee porch, which was situated upon – literally – the sand of an almost deserted beach.  One day, the kids played on the sand, watched a movie, played a board game, played some more on the sand, walked on the rocks and swam, and for about three hours my husband and I sat.  We have many kids, aged 3 to 10 (our fault).  Sitting was an activity we had to relearn.

My red toenail picture I took. IMG_1181However, sadly, and gladly, Facebook was nowhere near us.  Nor phone contact, nor email, nor ANYTHING!  Plenty of chip eating kangaroo’s, pretty finches and fisherman at dawn.  But I couldn’t tell anyone about them.

To begin with I found myself looking for things to do, with no quick fixes of social media enjoyment, or snooping into other people’s enjoyment,  available.  I found that actually, it doesn’t have to be quick fix, because in fact there is nothing quick at all about FaceAche (as my funny friend calls it). Once you’re in there it’s like quicksand – nothing quick about it and you’re not getting out any time soon.  I think I grabbed back hours – in fact I know it was at least three hours that one day on the balcony.

I began by filling the time with my book. Which I finished. Then I read another and I was all outta books.  Because anyone with a 3 year old knows there’s no such thing as finishing a book within the library’s designated 6 month return policy (what? It’s not 6 months?).  The kids didn’t need organised activities – they organised their own.  Yes, the 10 year old boy got a bit sick of being the “horsey” on the beach, but hey, that’s your job when you’re number 1.  They were safe and free.  Doesn’t happen often in the burbs nowadays.

Then I looked.  What I saw when my head was up and out into the open was clearest, magic-coloured water… my two big boys just sitting on a rock gazing, in companionable silence…IMG_1298 a national park of our quite amazing Australian trees swaying and framing the expanse of sky.  I saw dolphins, incredible colours on the rock shelves, and a stingray surfing with my kids (till it ran away from their squeals).  I saw fresh air.  Can you tell me what fresh air looks like? How it feels coursing through you when you’re still?

I saw my husband again. I saw that we need to switch off phones more often.  I saw how I see things when I stop.

Noticing. It’s important.

When we returned I heard of a tragic accident which resulted in the loss of a little boy, just like my own. I cried for them. I wondered if the parent was too busy, too pushed with too many things to do, and in that split second it happened. It could happen to me – I can feel it hovering too close to my heart.  I appreciated my opportunity to notice all the more.

Why not switch FaceAche off for a day and count the hours you grab back?  Look up.  Breathe out.  Listen carefully. Touch the hands of the ones you love.

Understand though, I am not suggesting you give up cocktails…

 

Back from the brink

“If left, the bacteria Molly has, can kill in a matter of hours.”

I remembered, through a haze, that when we first arrived at Sydney Children’s Hospital at 1am that night which was to change us forever, they’d bumped a head trauma in order to operate on the pneumococcal infection in our tiny six month old baby’s hip.  Although we didn’t know exactly what evil it was at that point in time. In the depths of that night, the medico’s voices had a practised ‘let’s not panic, but…’ pace to it. Yet still, these words did not shock me into a state of clarity, or panic, or any other emotion.  It was just another thing to swallow, then keep going, breath by breath, sleep by baby’s sleep, missed meal by missed meal, day by day by week by month. It was the only way I knew to get through.

 

Then later…

“Miss Molly is one lucky little girl that you got her in there so quickly,” said our lovely doctor.  The saviour of our lives so far.  “There is not much time for error with this type of bacteria. But I think we’ve done well, and hopefully there will be minimal damage.”  Then he came over all Doctor’s Rules, and I knew I would get no more on the situation.  Not that they knew much more on the situation:  We were currently, after a month in hospital and two operations, still holding onto the cliff with just a few weak fingers, too find out if that bacteria would yet still take her, or if she would never walk.  

We moved to bed number ten of our stay. The moving around was getting to me. Pushed on by bossy mothers who wanted our window bed, or by the Noro virus sweeping through the ward  and closing it down, sending us off to Isolation.

It was in Isolation I hit what I know was the lowest point I’ve been at in my life thus far. I was so emptied, tested, tired and worried that I had the completely ridiculous thought I wanted to leave the hospital, which meant leaving my baby. onthebrink I asked my husband to come in, but he couldn’t breastfeed, so it was all just me.  Me and this enormous confusing thing. Me and a whole little person whose life might just depend on me.  I cried for 24 hours. I never knew I had that much crying in me.

When I wiped my last tear from that particular flood, my phone beeped.  It was my oldest friend, texting to say she’d just heard about Molly.  I’d resisted all conversation outside of nurses, doctors, and my husband.  I couldn’t talk about this.  I didn’t really know what was going on myself.  I didn’t know how I’d react if I talked about it.  I didn’t know if I could comfort someone else who was upset for me. 

Perhaps I didn’t want to really face up to that fact that all this was happening.  As it turns out, it took years for me to achieve such a thing. Maybe I even haven’t yet.

We texted back and forth for hours.  Her sympathy and friendship flooded into me.  Her ability to see the possible positives started working on me. 

Then another friend started texting.  She asked how I was going.  I mused, how was I going?  It suddenly struck me that my back was pretty sore from sleeping on a lopsided plastic chair for a month.   As I stood back and looked at what I’d just written, I actually found it pretty funny – so absurd that it was humorous.  I started to talk about whether it was better to have slept on one of the hospital’s fold-out beds which sported only half a mattress leaving my bum hanging off the end, or the lopsided plastic chair. It reminded me of our toilet rating system when I travelled Africa; where in some parts they didn’t really know what to do with Western sit-down toilets in terms of cleaning or plumbing, so we’d decided the long drop toilets won highest ratings.  I deemed the lopsided plastic chair a winner. A game of relativity.

This reminded me of my other friend who’d sent in nibblies and books to pass the time for my stay.  Others had sent in toys and little books for Molly, and even one very ugly snugly blanket, like a back to front dressing gown, to go with my plastic chair bed. It made me laugh like a madwoman.  Who laughs in a children’s hospital?  Not many – only me that day.  It made me think of the outside world, of a life other than the one I was so completely ensconced in at the moment. God bless my girlfriends.

And I began to fill back up with the wholesomeness of friendship.

Tales from a Soccer Sideline #2

“It’s just really important to Sam,” enthuses Marsha with a look of utter distress on her face about the whole situation, whilst simultaneously checking Facebook. “Soccer is a huge passion for him and he really looks up to the coach, sees him as the most important thing in his life during the soccer season – oh my gosh, Carolyn’s at it again with her status updates complaining about having no help at home, bor-ring….If no one else is doing it for you, get off Facebook and do it yourself woman,” mimics Marsha as she swipes Carolyn off the screen in disgust.  

“You know,” continues Marsha, back to the important topic of soccer, “when their coach doesn’t turn up, not only does the team fall apart during the game, but the boys don’t feel like they’re worthy of their “esteemed” coach’s time,” she sighs, withdrawing her French polished fingernails back to their phone typing.     soccermumsbagcoach

“Hmm,” agrees Beverly, mother of the star striker of the team. She’d not been happy since the beginning of the season when her division one son had been relegated back a level to division two. “This is what happens in the lower divisions, it’s just rubbish, no one commits, no one cares.  I think I’ll talk to the club director about it. See if they can give us a new coach – one who actually has the team winning as their top priority.  When he does turn up to coach he’s too soft, like they’re just there to run about and have a giggle.  Perhaps we can pay a coach?  Volunteers just don’t work.”

Marsha looks at her watch.  It looks so out of date now, she must get herself one of those hot new Marc Jacobs’ timepieces.  “Five minutes late again. This is just ridiculous, where’s the man’s commitment, I ask you?”

“Exactly.  It might as well be us out there coaching them,” spits Beverly angrily.  “We turn up with our kids on time, we put in all this effort when we could be at home in the warmth, feet up, watching I’m A Celebrity –”

“Oo, do you think Shane Warne will win?” asks Marsha getting excited.

“For sure – Oh, here he is, FINALLY!” says Beverly loud enough for them to hear in the next suburbs’ training grounds.

But coach Tim doesn’t hear the women.  His mind is still back in that hospital with his little girl fighting the whooping cough ravaging her tiny body.  On his wife who is falling apart and on his boy, slinking along beside him who is suffering on all fronts as his family dances with death.  He gives his little Matthew a hug as they walk up to the waiting team. His wife had said it would be good to get fresh air, try and do life as normal for a while.  Him and Matthew had missed last week’s game when their baby girl had been rushed to the Children’s Hospital – maybe a run around with his mates and a bit of his beloved soccer will make him forget for just a small while. He tries to remember how to smile: “How are my boys? I heard you played an awesome game last week, lots of great passing and marking, well done, high five!  I was really upset I missed it…”

School Camp

Ahhh, school camp. It’s a challenge for a parent, is it not?

Firstly the packing list.  ‘Old t–shirts and shorts’.  Read: Complete and Utter Fashion Dilemma, might as well have written ‘pressure mum and dad to buy you the latest Nike gold plated futsal sneakers and scuff appropriately so it looks like you always wear this kind of stuff camping’.  school camp copy‘Underclothes’ – will he remember to actually put them on?  And a ‘Sleep Sheet’ – seriously? A sheet inside a sleeping bag is just a recipe to wake up wrapped like an Egyptian mummy – best use for it is to give it to Tarzan.

Secondly, interpreting the safety and medical forms. ‘Signs of asthma’ – well, can’t breathe is a good start but if you want anything pre-emptive his mother is just going to have to come because I’m the only one who can tell, ok?  Then we have the list, ticking yes or no, of all possible ailments – heart problems, night terrors, broken bones, concussion, operations – no, no, no, he doesn’t want any of these, thank you very much, you just bring him back the way I packed him off. Then there’s the good old ‘other’ at the end of the list – I take this to mean they want to know he sneezes 3 and a half times when he gets up and that if he wears soccer shin pads too much he will get eczema underneath them so you need to line them with a Libra Thin and Breathable. Well, you asked.

And thirdly, and most importantly, THE WORRY!  Will he have enough to eat?  Will they burn the toast, just exactly the way his mum does? Will he make it to the toilet during the night? And if he does, will he remember it goes in the toilet, not all around it?  Will he have a friend in his room?  Will he spew on the teacher on the bus – did they read my note? (actually, bad luck if they didn’t). 

And, will I survive missing my baby so much it hurts in my chest and my stomach till he returns?  

Yes, I will.  Because I remember how he stood taller when he returned from the last one, like he’d had a concentrated infusion of confidence for the past three days.  I remember that smile which tells me he’s feeling on top of the world.  I remember how he still talks about the log wrestling from his first camp all those years ago, and though I have many and varied skills as a mother, giving him a chance to log wrestle is not one of them.  And I absolutely remember his answer when I asked him if he’d been ok while he was away:  “Yes mum, I had a really great time.” He showered me with the biggest hug I have ever had. “But it’s good to be home now.”

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