Number One Rule: Drink Water

Early in the morning on the eve of Friday the 13th I was woken by a rather spectacular pain in my side. Thinking it was some kind of odd cramp, I got out of bed quietly and tried to walk it off.

But the more I walked, the worse it got.

Immediately I was reminded of when I went into labour with the boys: both times I quietly walked out the pain until I felt it was a suitable time to wake the house. I knew pain. I could do this.

But unlike labour contractions, there was no respite from this pain. No down time. Instead, the waves of pain just kept coming, building in intensity, until they literally knocked me off my feet.

So I crawled into the bedroom, woke my husband and told him I needed an ambulance.

Then it was all systems go.

Except it wasn’t.

Because while the pain kept increasing, we were all just waiting, waiting, waiting for help to arrive.

It was at this point I realised my rookie error: I had thought that by trying to manage the pain I could avoid scaring the boys, I didn’t want them to wake and see me in agony. I was going to wait until I knew I needed an ambulance and I thought it would come and whisk me away, while I reassured them all was well, and they knew mum was getting help.

You know what they say about best laid plans…..

So the waiting continued and the pain kept increasing.

But it was after the second phone call to 000, and then the call back where I heard the words: “I’m sorry mate, we currently have no ambulances available to dispatch” that the realisation hit.

Nobody was coming to help.

I was going to die on the floor in front of my kids.

The rising terror I felt now matched my pain, but the pain had reached a level that meant I now could not speak.

I was screaming, but I could not form words to tell my loved ones (who had arrived from their own homes with plenty of time before an ambulance), and especially my kids, what I needed to tell them before I died.

The pain was so intense and unrelenting that I could not even open my eyes to look at them, but I knew they were there, and I was convinced they were going to watch me die.

Looking back, I think if I had any inkling of what was causing the pain, or if it had subsided enough at any point to allow me to take just one deep breath, I may have been able to manage it in some way but my brain had been reduced to its most primal functions and all I felt was excruciating pain and sheer terror.

Running on a continuous loop in my head was: “I love you. I’m sorry you have to watch me die”, while all I could vocalise was a guttural scream while I writhed in pain.

This continued for what seemed like eternity (in reality was more like 45 minutes) and just at the point I was convinced I was about to lose consciousness and my kids were about to witness my final death throes, in walked the most amazing humans that have ever trod the earth.

Calmly and quickly they loaded me into the ambulance, handing me that green whistle that did nothing for the pain but everything for my ability to claw back some control over what was happening to me.

I don’t remember anything about the ride into the hospital, except for a brief discussion about where to go to avoid “ramping”.

On arrival at the Royal Adelaide Hospital I heard the driver say that two other ambulances were pulling up at the same time, and the paramedic looking after me said: “It’s ok, we’ll race them”.

So as we pulled up, the driver got out, opened the back doors, pulled me out and ran as fast as she could, pushing me in front of her, getting me in first through the doors.

Let that sink in:

I got treated first because my paramedic could run the fastest.

Once inside the hospital, after receiving 500mcg of Fentanyl my pain was still at 10/10, so they started administering Morphine and finally I was afforded some relief.

The rest of the day passed in a blur of tests, ultrasounds and finally a CT scan, which gave us an answer:

I had a kidney stone.

A tiny 4 millimetres of hell on earth that had convinced me I was dying.

Little fucker.

Treatment called for IV fluids and continued Morphine, so I was moved to a quieter part of emergency they call “short stay”, as there were no beds available on the ward to admit me.

Earlier, my sister-in-law had remarked on the sheer number of security guards she’d seen move past my room. Now, as the intercom buzzed incessantly with requests for rooms to be cleaned, the one constant was the frequent declarations of a “Code Black”.

In South Australian hospitals, a Code Black signifies a “personal threat to medical staff, for example assault, violence or threatening behaviour”.

As the day wore on and turned into night, the ‘Code Blacks’ blurred into the background of the steady stream of sick, violent, drug affected or mentally affected patients churning through the Short Stay Emergency Department.

(One notable exception was the guy who came to the emergency room of our state’s largest hospital with tonsillitis. He was examined, handed a piece of paper (probably a prescription for Strepsils) and sent home pretty quickly).

My pain now dulled by the truckload of heavy duty IV drugs, I knew it was time to go home when the snores of the handcuffed guy face down on the bed opposite reached epic levels, and despite the lights permanently shining brightly, there was a chance of being shivved on the way to the toilet by the crazy eyed woman who refused to stay in her room.

So shortly after midnight (it was now Friday 13th) I got my discharge papers, and we walked the gauntlet of the ED: away from crazy eyes, past the two burly policemen guarding the handcuffed guy, past the two interns trying to wrangle a very agitated woman back into her bed, past the two massive security guards on the door, past the homeless woman sleeping on the couch in the foyer, and out into the carpark, brightly lit by the full moon…………

So while I STILL await the exit of this 4mm stone from hell, bouncing around happily somewhere between my kidney and bladder, ripping my insides to shreds, I have had time to reflect on a few things:

1. Drink water. Water is your friend.

2. Tell the important people you love them, while you can. Don’t assume there will always be time, or that you will be able to speak, when the time comes.

3. Whenever I complain that work is stressful, I will think of those two female paramedics, who walk into the unknown several times a day, calmly and without fear, and who then have to race to get help for their patients, so they can get the ambulance back on the road to help more people. These kick-arse women are absolute heroes.

4. The public health system is in a bad way. Throw in a full moon and Friday 13th, and the emergency department is next level cray-cray. I am in awe of anyone who works within it and remains sane.

5. Kidney stones suck. The end.

So this Christmas, hug your loved ones, raise a glass (of water) to our amazing doctors, nurses, and emergency services personnel, and stay safe. See you in the new year xx

You Can Be Masculine Without Being Toxic

After reading about the behaviour of boys from St Kevin’s (an all-boys Catholic school in Victoria) I feel compelled to write a response.  But I am not going to write a response to their behaviour, as there has been a huge backlash about this already.  This is as it should be, and shows that as a society we are making huge progress.  After all, apparently this puerile chant – although I have never heard the words before – has been around and sung loudly by both men and women, boys and girls, for over 30 years.  The fact that it is now being recognised as vile, misogynistic and utterly inappropriate gives me hope for the world our children – boys and girls – are growing up in.

There is something that worries me more than the fact a group of 15 and 16 year old boys thought it was completely ok to sing this chant at the top of their voices on a tram on the way to a sporting match.  What concerns me more is the reaction of many adults to the behaviour of the boys, calling for their imprisonment and in some cases, their death, to stop the spread of this display of “middle class privilege” and “toxic masculinity”.

Let’s go over it again just so we’re clear: there are fully grown adults with supposedly fully formed brains who are calling for the death of a group of CHILDREN (at 15/16 years old they may be 6 feet tall and hairy and look like men but let’s remember, their brains are still forming and they are still children) for singing the words to a chant – an absolutely vile and vulgar chant – but a chant nonetheless. These same people and others (who perhaps would not go so far as calling for a public execution), are using this incident to call for the complete abolishment of single sex schooling in this country (but you know, maybe just start with the “elitist boys schools”).

Fuck that’s a lot to unpack.

Indulge me if you will and let’s travel back in time, almost 20 years ago, to the year 2000 when the world had just recovered from the fear of the Y2K bug and everybody breathed a collective sigh of relief knowing we could march into another century, continuing our lives.  At this time I was a fresh faced university graduate, feminist AF and preparing to march into my new teaching job at one of the state’s well known “elitist all boys schools” affectionately referred to by many of my friends as ‘Hogwarts’.

Make no mistake: I had heard the rumours and I believed all the hype.  I was sure I was walking into a well-established boys club with an insidious misogynistic culture and I was ready to tear down the patriarchy from the inside of those walls, one teenage brain at a time.

Over the next 6 years, instead of ‘tearing the place down’ I found a community of people – mainly young men – who held me up. 

To my astonishment they were prepared to read the feminist texts by marginalised female authors that I had chosen.  Of course they complained – they were teenagers – but they also fully engaged with the challenge to their critical thinking, their minds open to looking at the world from another perspective.

Rather than being objectified by this insidious misogynistic culture, I was treated with respect by a group of boys for whom I was on any given day a teacher, mother figure, sister or friend. 

When my mother in law was ill and I needed to bring my phone into the classroom, the entire room would hold its collective breath if it rang, everyone hoping it wasn’t bad news.  Then when she died, students who had seen me crying in the hall left small gifts for me on my desk, or caught my eye in assembly for weeks afterward to check if I was ok.

Did they push boundaries with their behaviour?  Absolutely.

Did they push the limits of personal safety, especially with their endless games of “stacks on” at lunchtimes?  Also yes.

Did I ever feel unsafe around those boys? 

NO. Completely the opposite.

Let me give you an example:

One of my classes was populated with some very sporty boys.  Some were members of the First XVIII Football team, the Captain of Rugby was in there and some rugby first rowers, as well as some musclebound actual rowers (the boat on the lake kind).  They were strong and physical and sometimes complete boofheads. But they were also – as members of my Year 12 English Studies class – interested in literature and culture. 

One day we walked over to the University of Adelaide for a concert of classical music at Elder Hall.  As we walked through the gates of the university I will never forget looking up at the “gentle”men surrounding me, as they instinctively moved closer to me, as if to ensure my safety in this unfamiliar place.  These boys sat attentively (maybe not enthusiastically, but they were attentive and respectful) for the next two hours listening to violin and classical piano, before we walked as a group back to school.

Inevitably, as was almost always the case upon returning from excursions, I had to follow up with members of the public who had made complaints (about my class) to the school.  These complaints usually ranged from: “I was walking on North Tce and the boys took up too much room on the footpath” to “there were so many boys, all very tall and in their blazers, I felt intimidated”.

Young men in large groups ARE intimidating.  If they are also dressed alike, they start to look like a pack. It is not their fault, and often not their actions, it is just the way it is: especially if you do not know them.  Many people are not willing to get to know them, or give them the benefit of the doubt. 

With the recent actions of the St Kevin’s boys, it is easy to see how some people’s fear and disgust led them to conclude the only way to stop it is to eliminate the source of their fear, as well as to “feel sorry for the teachers who have to deal with these vile young people on a daily basis”.  My response to that is that most teachers of teenage boys actually love spending time with them and relish the chance to challenge them and their thinking about any kind of hyper masculinity and toxic behaviour.  Because guess what? Hyper masculinity is exactly that: a behaviour.  It is a way of performing gender. The good news is that gender performance can be shaped, moulded, changed. 

In the immortal words of Maya Angelou: “When we know better, we do better”.

And it’s not just teachers shaping this behaviour, what about the parents?  I can tell you there is not a mother of boys that I know who would tolerate the performance of hyper masculinity like that displayed by the St Kevin’s boys without having PLENTY to say about it!!

And you know what else?  This is a gender issue, a societal issue, not solely a school issue.  As the learned Dr Justin Coulson readily admits: “there is a contingent of hyper masculinity in some pockets of every school”.  I know there certainly was in the co-educational high school I attended (although the chant involved “HK Monaros and 57 Chevy’s”, not dump trucks and bumps in the road, but same/same.)  In fact, I have seen it in many schools, regardless of whether they were single sex or co-ed. 

So how about as a society, and as adults with (hopefully) fully formed brains, we put our energies into identifying and calling out toxic behaviours of masculinity, educating our young people as to why particular behaviours are offensive, and get on with raising the next generation of kind, respectful, humans whom we should feel proud to have in our community?

Your Call To Action

For 40 years, Connie Johnson was always one day older than me.

Until she wasn’t.

On 8th September, 2017, the 40 year old mother of two boys, died from breast cancer.

I have been on board with Connie and Samuel Johnson and their Love Your Sister charity from the beginning. I felt such an affinity with Connie: not just that we were born one day apart in January of the same year.  It was also that we were living parallel lives as the mothers of two young boys, both loved to write, and according to her book, both loved to be right (a Capricorn trait to be sure). 

It felt like a sucker punch when Connie died, and it still does when I reflect on the life I am living: an opportunity she did not receive.

Connie spent the last precious years of her life making it her mission to remind women to check their boobs. Now, on this two year (and a bit) anniversary of Connie’s death, I am reminding you. Because Connie can’t.

There is a very good organisation called: “Can at 40.  Do at 45”, which reminds us that mammograms are free through Breastscreen from the age of 40: not 50 which is the age usually advertised.  You CAN have a free mammogram from 40 years of age, you MUST do it from the age of 45.  Please do not put it off until you are 50.

But don’t ONLY check your boobs. 

Women’s bodies are so amazing in the way they can grow tiny humans and bring new life into the world.  But those same miraculous reproductive organs can also turn rogue, and the bits that give life turn around and try to kill us.

Ovarian cancer, Uterine, Cervical, Vaginal and even Vulvar cancer.  (Did you even know there was such a thing as Vulvar cancer?  I certainly didn’t until this year.  It presents like skin cancer, even though that part of the anatomy doesn’t often see the sun!).  We don’t need to be terrified of these things, but we do need to be aware of them.  We need to be vigilant with our own bodies, and if something does not feel right, see a doctor.  See them again if necessary.  And again and again if it still doesn’t feel right.

In the words of John Farnham, “we are all someone’s daughter”.  We are also wives, partners, possibly mothers, sisters, aunts, and maybe even grandmothers.

We matter to our families.

We must ensure we matter to ourselves.

Please: check your boobs.

Check your bits.

Be proactive about your health.

This is your call to action.

Don’t just do it for me.  Or for Connie.  Do it for you.  Do it for all of the people who love you. 

This world needs you in it.


We Need To Talk About Aldi!

Friends, we need to talk about Aldi.

Or rather, I need you to explain it to me.  Because quite frankly, I just do not get it.

Yesterday I ventured into the new Aldi store near my house to buy a loaf of bread, butterflied chicken that had been recommended to me, and to check out their mould cleaner spray that I had read about.  I did not think this would be a difficult task.

Indeed, my shopping experience started off as I expected, as I cruised past the usual supermarket items:

Fruit and veg, tick.

Meat, tick.

Chicken, tick.

At this point I was a bit unsure, as none of the meat and chicken labels looked familiar, but I had been assured that they sell Australian meat and I found the chicken I was looking for, so I was currently winning at life.

Then I rounded the corner to the next aisle and this is where I started to lose my mind.

Down the left-hand side of the aisle was not too unusual: biscuits and potato chips, all in brightly coloured packaging, although again I did not recognise the brands which kept me slightly off kilter.  However, there was a grooved potato chip that looked suspiciously like the “Ruffles” I used to eat for recess each day at primary school: nothing like a bit of nostalgia to put you at ease.

But then I glanced to my right…..

What in the holy hell was this hot mess?

Piles and piles of random ‘stuff’ that continued endlessly through to the front of the store.

Look to my left: biscuits.

Look to my right: 50 litre tins of house paint, step ladders, dry shampoo….

Left: Potato chips.

Right:  Curtains, body lotion, oh look: a washing machine….

Ok then.

Look back to the left: couldn’t see anything because I was too distracted by the last thing I noticed on the right.  Wedged between a pile of Hi-Vis shirts on one side and kettles on the other, was a very large ball of crocheted twine that I’m guessing (and it is a complete an utter stab in the dark) was some kind of ottoman type furniture piece?

One look at that macramé monstrosity and I knew that if it ever entered my lounge room it would last two minutes max before one of my boys picked it up and threw it at the other, probably knocking over the TV.  Still, it was only $5.99 because it was some kind of “hot buy” so good deal, right?

All of this random stuff had me so baffled, like Alice in Wonderland I was so far down the rabbit hole of that centre aisle my head was spinning.  I had no hope of finding the cleaning products that everybody raves about, so I grabbed a loaf of bread, gave up on finding the $2 miracle mould remover and headed for the checkout.


Moving from that centre aisle to the checkout at Aldi is – I imagine – akin to flying from Trump’s America to Boris Johnson’s Britain: trading one bizarro world for another.

Despite the fact there was only one checkout open it was only a matter of seconds after being sucked into the vortex of loading the groceries onto the conveyor belt that I could feel the cortisol levels rising.  It was like being funnelled through a tunnel of anxiety, the tension building as you wonder whether you will be able to pack your groceries fast enough. Is that why the ridiculously high shelves lining the checkout line are filled with chocolates?  So you can inhale Kit Kats to deal with the adrenaline coursing through your veins?

The checkout vortex quickly took my money and spat me out the other end, and I emerged relatively unscathed: physically, that is.  Mentally I’m still a bit off balance.

Incidentally, the “to die for” butterflied chicken that I went in to buy in the first place was declared by my family to be quite ordinary, so perhaps I don’t need to go back to Aldi after all.

 Does anyone else get Aldi anxiety or is it just me?

Haunted by The Hunting

I am being haunted by The Hunting.  The Hunting is haunting me. 

What is The Hunting you ask?

It is something I have spent the last two weeks talking about to anyone who will listen.  The Hunting is a new series on SBS, illustrating the dangers of technology when our teens make bad choices. 

From the SBS website:

“The Hunting intimately and dramatically imagines the lives of four teenagers, their teachers and families throughout the lead up, revelation and aftermath of a nude teen photo scandal. When two high school teachers discover students are sharing explicit photos of their underage friends and peers online, the revelation has devastating consequences for the students and their families. Tackling themes of misogyny, privacy, sexuality and sexualisation, online exploitation, masculinity and gender, the series uses this singular event as a way of exploring some of the most pressing issues of our time and offering a vital portrait of modern, multicultural Australia.”

Filmed, at various locations in Adelaide, the content is extremely well written, the characters are relatable and the subject matter is, quite frankly, terrifying.

Having taught students of a similar age, I find I can give real life names to each character, several names actually.  I know every one of these characters because I have taught them.  And at some time or other, I have interacted with every one of the parents represented in the show.  It is that realistic.  That is one of the reasons the show is haunting me.  But it is not the biggest one.  The biggest reason(s) are those pieces of my heart that are currently at school, hanging out with their friends and I can only hope, making good decisions. 

The reality is, despite my best efforts, my kids will not always make good decisions.  They will make some dodgy decisions along the way, and they will no doubt make some really bad choices.  I know this because both of my boys are at the age where their child brain is morphing into an adult brain, while at the same time being flooded with hormones, and that my friends, is not a smooth ride.

Currently, their brains are actively shedding any unnecessary information, while feverishly making new links and connections.  This would explain why, after 8 years of daily reminders to “put your socks and shoes on”, then a couple of blissful years where the act of protecting one’s feet before going outdoors became an automatic one that didn’t need a reminder, you suddenly realise that your teenager has gone for several days without in fact, wearing socks.  Now I know it is trendy to wear ankle freezer pants with no socks, but that is not the reason.  The teenager’s reason?  “I couldn’t be bothered”.  Eight years of instruction, of gentle reminders, that- especially in sub-Arctic temperatures like this – it is necessary to wear socks, gone.  Dismissed.  Shed by the newly forming brain as unnecessary information.

Combine this with the fact that the part of their brains currently developing most rapidly is the Amygdala: the “fight or flight” part of the brain that controls survival instincts and emotions. 

A developing Amygdala means big powerful adult emotions firing haphazardly in the brain, randomly colliding with a flood of hormones.  Meanwhile, the last part of a child’s brain to be rewritten and develop into an adult brain is the Frontal Cortex: this is the part of the brain that’s good at decision making and understanding consequences.  And that is not fully developed (in boys particularly) until their late teens or early twenties.  This fact alone creates the perfect storm for poor choices in adolescents.

In no way am I excusing the actions of the boys on The Hunting, but instead using science to explain why I am so terrified.  Because while I agree that it starts at home, we must teach them right from wrong and send them out into the world with a firmly entrenched moral compass, the unfortunate fact is that we can do all of this and they will still make bad decisions. There will be a period of time when they don’t wear socks in the middle of Winter because they can’t be bothered, or they simply “forget”.  There will also be times when they make a rash choice based on big emotions and hormones rather than common sense and their core values. It does not make them bad people. It just makes them human. There are no “good” or “bad” kids, just good and bad choices.  Inevitably, all of our kids will make both good and bad choices several times over.

I know it seems like a lot of hand wringing over something that generations have experienced and come out the other end alive, mostly.  But we are the first generation to parent the “igeneration”: kids who have never known life without technology and social media.  We handed our kids this technology thinking we were doing the right thing, keeping them safer, but we have also handed them a device that, combined with big emotions, impulsivity and poor understanding of consequences, has the potential to blow up their lives.

Rather than carving their initials into a tree, or writing their love interest’s name all over their pencil case, these teens are proving their affection by texting intimate pics meant only for each other to see.  But of course, this is not always what happens, is it?  All it takes is a dare from a mate, a misunderstanding, a jealous comment, and all bets are off.  Suddenly that intimate pic is potentially seen by hundreds, even thousands of people.  Sent to other kids who innocently open the message and simultaneously open themselves up to the possibility of a police record for viewing child pornography.  That is how quickly things can go pear shaped.

As I said: terrifying. 

This is why I am being haunted by The Hunting.

It is why I keep talking about it.  Even so, I am aware that my thoughts go round and round in circles, probably much like what I have written above.

My incredibly intelligent and articulate friend Lucy puts it much more eloquently than me when she says:

“The thing that hits home for me about this issue is that it has the potential to devastate all families of all socio-economic groups. Kids from “good” loving families – kids who are naive, AND kids that are savvy. Gentle families, tough families. Families with working parents, parents with liberal attitudes, parents raising resilient, happy kids. Everyone.

I am so aware that I have no real clue about my kids digital usage and I’m, in theory, a “good” parent who sets tough boundaries on device use and access to social media. 

My girls are aware and passionate about the levels of self respect they uphold toward their bodies and their privacy.

My son has been raised in, and influenced by, a home based on respect for women. He has a core character that is kind and gentle and considerate.

My kids generally don’t bend to peer pressure.

BUT: none of this matters if one of them makes one bad choice”.

So what can we do? 

Keep talking about it.  To our teens / tweens.  To other parents.  To each other.  Freely admit that there is no rule book for how to parent these kids and their use of technology.  Recognise that all of our kids are going to stuff up.  Make mistakes.  And so are we.  We can stop pretending that our parenting is as perfect as the lives we present on social media. And hope that loving them is enough.  That with enough love and guidance and leading by example that one day their frontal cortex will be developed enough that they will make good decisions more often than bad ones.  And they may actually remember to put on socks once in a while…….

The joys of the school pick up line

Welcome to Term 3!

I know Term 3 is hard going.  You have been slogging through those school lunchboxes and drop offs and pick ups for two terms now, and now you have to do it all again for another ten weeks, except it is now freezing cold and everyone is still tired and probably a bit sick from our “worst ever flu season”.  On top of all that, Term 3 signals the race towards the end of the year which makes everyone a bit batshit crazy and who said there was 22 Saturdays until Christmas and wasn’t it Easter like last week and I’m not ready for any of this…..

I get it.  I do. 

Which is why I am trying my hardest to be understanding of the fact that so many of you seem to have lost the ability to drive like a sensible, rational human being at school pick up. 

What the fuck people??

Honestly, I don’t even know where to start.

Actually, yes, I do.  At the very beginning.  With the kindy parents. 

Dear sweet kindy parents, with your dear, sweet little munchkins.  Your kids are gorgeous.  Truly precious.  But not so precious that they cannot possibly walk more than two fucking steps out of the school gate before hopping into their nice warm car. 

Until now I have held my tongue, because you are new to our beautiful school community and I was channelling the spirit of being warm and welcoming, which is what our community generally is.

But it has been two terms, and you still appear unable to read the signs that very clearly state NO PARKING in the school pick up zone.  Hell, your child has been at kindy long enough that they can probably read the signs on their own now. 

But where am I meant to park, you cry?

How about the car park (the purpose of which is exactly as the name implies), or alternatively, try one of the seventy billion parks in the neighbouring streets.

And yes, that does mean that you may have to in fact take your baby out of the car, instead of leaving them unattended in your parked car on a public street while you go in to collect your child from the kindy, sign them out, load your arms with their 5 thousand pieces of precious artwork, wait at least 10 minutes for the 4,999th painting to dry, bundle your cherub into his / her parka and return to your car.

But maybe I should cut the kindy parents some slack, it has only been 20 weeks. 

What do the rest of you have to say for yourselves??

Some of you have been doing the same shit every day for YEARS.  This is not a one off situation where a police car pulls up behind you and suddenly you forget how to drive.  I understand that anxiety.  No, this is a situation that is as predictable as tying your shoes.  Every day, as surely as the sun sets and the sun rises, you will have to go and pick your kid up from school.  There is no anxiety here.  Just common sense, and common courtesy.

Unfortunately, neither of those things seem to be very common at all.

The number one rule of the pick up line is: get in the line.  This doesn’t mean speeding at 60kph down the right hand side of the road and then slamming on the brakes and cutting in on a 90 degree angle when you see a space of approximately 30cm between two cars.  The only thing that is going to fit into that space is the plastic ruler in your child’s backpack.  Not a two tonne motor vehicle.

But you have places to be?  After school sport?  Other school pick ups?  Want to get home in time for The Bold and The Beautiful?  Guess what? So do the rest of us.

In my case my eldest child is dismissed from his school (several suburbs away) exactly 5 minutes after the bell rings here.  What can I do to change that? Nothing.  Except wait in line.

The exception to my wrath is if you are turning from the adjacent street into the pick up line and myself or another member of our lovely parent community has waved you in.  That’s not cutting in, that’s just good manners.

What is not good manners is cutting in to wait on the SOLID yellow line.  Y’all know what that solid yellow line is there for?  Not solely to inconvenience you and hold up the line (although it is pretty inconvenient); it is for emergency services vehicles.  Well, that’s what the front office ladies told me and I’m going with it.  So next time you cut in front of someone and find yourself on the solid yellow line, you are not only risking a fine from the council (those of you sitting there yesterday afternoon can be expecting a present in the mail any day now), you are making a statement about the needs of your child being picked up being potentially greater than a child who needs a fucking ambulance. 

Lastly, the line needs to MOVE.  If you are using the opportunity of being in the line to stop every 2 metres and chat to parents walking past, you should not be in the line.  I am writing this to myself as much as I am writing it to you, for as you may well know, I am partial to a good chat.  So if you are in the line and some inconsiderate fucktard is not moving forward because they are having a good old gossip, feel free to beep and yell at me as you speed past and cut sharply in front, nearly taking out the front end of my car.

However, if I am obeying all of the rules of the school pick up line, and you speed up next to me on the wrong side of the road and yell through a closed window that I am a “fucking bitch” as you did the other day for whatever unknown reason, you may need to be prepared to back that up when I approach you in the quadrangle……

But as I said at the beginning: Welcome to Term 3!!

Footy Boots V Dog Poo

Twice a day on the school run, I drive past the local oval.  Seeing the dogs of all shapes and sizes playing on the grass always makes me smile.

Twice a week I return to the oval in the evening for my son’s footy training.  At this time of night the dogs and their owners have all gone home.  They are replaced by 26 eleven year olds practising their kicking, marking and tackling.

There is only one problem.

While the dogs of all shapes and sizes are nowhere in sight, there is still plenty of evidence of their existence. 

You guessed it.

Piles of poo (of all shapes and sizes) are dotted around the grass, long after the dogs have left.

No dogs.

No owners.

Just plenty of poo. 

And 26 eleven year olds. 

Wearing footy boots.

The astute among you can see where this is going, can’t you?

For those who are unaware, footy training at any age almost certainly begins with a lap of the oval.  It is generally accepted that the team will run together as a close group around the boundary of the grass.

Unfortunately, this also seems to be the preferred location for our aforementioned furry friends to empty their bowels.  Sometimes in large piles, sometimes in small pellets of partially digested “Pal” scattered over several metres.

By the time the first stride has been taken, we have reached a foregone conclusion.

These kids are running into a shitstorm of epic proportions.

The sprigs on the bottom of their boots pick up poo more efficiently than children pick up germs from play centres.  This poo is then launched up into the air, either flicking up the child’s back or – given their close proximity to one another – onto the chest of the child running behind them.  If they are really lucky – or it was an exceptionally large dog – they might cop a bit of digested dog food in the face.

Fun times.

Yes I am being a bit facetious.

Just a bit of humorous banter.

But this is the point where “shit gets real”.  Literally.

You see, once training is over, those 26 kids – tired after a full day of school and then footy – hop into their parents’ cars for the drive home.

And each of them brings a little reminder of those happy, frolicking dogs home with them.

I perhaps shouldn’t speak for all 26 families here, but personally, this is where I lose my shit.

Because those – somewhat smelly – reminders embed themselves on the carpet of the car, on the car seat, on my front porch, down the hallway, through the kitchen and into the laundry.

It is then that I have the delightful task of removing all traces of said smelly dog poo from my car, my porch, the floor of my house, as well as my son’s clothes and boots.

Twice a week.

For the entire footy season.

This is absolutely a task I relish doing while trying to simultaneously cook dinner, supervise homework, baths and bedtime.

I am absolutely not cursing the irresponsible, lazy dog owners as I spend my non-existent spare time cleaning up after their dog, nor am I thinking up scenarios in my head where I confront them with every single swear word I know, and even some that I don’t.

I mean, if you were to calculate the extra, unnecessary time it takes me to clean up the mess left behind by somebody else’s dog, then multiply that by the 25 other families who have to do the same thing (twice a week, for an entire footy season), the result is mind boggling.

Especially when it takes the actual owner of the dog no more than 30 seconds to pick it up themselves immediately after the event.  And I’m being generous: I have a very large dog who does even larger poos and I can pick up a steaming pile of poo in under 10 seconds on a good day.

Trust me, I know my shit.

To those dog owners who can’t see what all of the fuss is about: Yes, I could absolutely ensure my child takes his muddy, shitty boots off before getting into the car.  I could even bring a change of clothes, to safeguard my car seats from any random smears of canine excrement being transferred from his training guernsey onto the fabric of my car seat.

But you know what?  Sometimes it is raining.  And freezing cold.  And dark.  And my eleven year old son is soaking wet and just wants to hop into a warm car and get home.

Alternatively, rather than me (and 25 other parents) spending an extra 10 minutes after training disrobing and reclothing our children, perhaps you could just bend over and pick up your dog’s shit. 

A thirty second action that could save the rest of us so much time and aggro.

So, each day on the school run I will still smile at the playful frolicking of the dogs – big and small – on the oval.  But if I see one of them start to assume the squatting position, know that I will be watching like a hawk to ensure that you squat too to pick it up.

If you don’t, you can fully expect this crazy footy mum to stop my car and come after you with plenty more choice language than I have used in this piece.

For the sake of our sanity, and our kids, and our washing machines, please, please do the right thing.

And for those who do.  Thank you.  Seeing your dogs running freely really brings me joy.  I hope that seeing the smile on our children’s faces running on the oval, kicking the ball and getting muddy (sans shit) brings you joy too.

Stop The World I Want To Get Off

Today I had one of those “stop the world I want to get off” moments.  As I was mindlessly scrolling through Facebook, I came across an article titled: “How To Decode Your Child’s Snot Based On The Colour: A Detailed Guide”.

Yes.  You read that correctly.  

For fuck’s sake.

Can someone please tell me why we need an article – nay, a “detailed guide” – on “decoding” the colour of boogers, and written by a doctor no less?

(Actually, the jury is out on whether “Dr Sam” is a real medical doctor.  Like Dr Chris, Dr Phil or Dr FeelGood, he could indeed be a vet, a talk show host or even a sex therapist.  On the other hand, Dr Sam might truly be a “snot specialist”??)

To save you rushing off to search for the article (let me assure you it is certainly riveting reading), here is my somewhat less detailed guide to the colour of your child’s snot:

If it is clear and constantly streaming down their face: they most likely have the beginning of a cold.

If it is thick and green and sticky and the physical process of blowing it into a tissue sounds like the foghorn on a large ship: they are most likely nearing the end of the aforementioned cold.

Lastly, if it is red and streaming down their face: that is red snot.  Otherwise known as blood. It is either an extremely hot day or they have copped an elbow to the face.  Most likely courtesy of their sibling…

Look at me, gifting you all of this common sense information, and I don’t even have a medical degree!!

Yes, I am completely taking the piss but let me be clear: I am taking the piss out of these stupid parenting websites that pressure mums (particularly new mums) into thinking that this stuff is crucial knowledge.  Mums, and especially new mums, need LESS pressure, less “detailed guides” to study and more compassion and understanding.  (Oh, and someone to wash the dishes and wipe down the kitchen bench once in a while would be awesome too!)

I am not however taking the piss out of the mums who buy into the bullshit and do treat the “detailed guide” like gospel.

After all, that was once me.

But not with snot.

With shit.

When my eldest son was born, the second thing the nurse handed me (the first being my son) was a pictorial chart, detailing the sequence of poo to expect from my newly emerged bundle of joy.

If you haven’t lost all dignity during the actual birthing process, there comes a point where you have happily ticked off the meconium poo (aka the road tar disaster) and are eagerly searching your baby’s soiled nappy for poo that resembles “mustard seeds” and there it is: that is the point that your dignity has well and truly gone.

From then on the only way to sink lower is to frequently discuss your baby’s poo with numerous other people, and spend your valuable time while the baby is napping learning how to “decode” the colour of their snot.

Has the pendulum swung so far in the pursuit of perfect parenting that we think ticking off poo diagrams and learning how to decode boogers is vitally important?

Does it really matter at the end of the day?

I say Fuck No!!

I learned this more casual (some would say fatalistic) approach the hard way, after the birth of my second son.  Watching the doctors desperately trying to pump out the meconium that had settled so stubbornly in his lungs, all thoughts of pictorial charts went out the window.  Because THAT is when shit matters: when it is in the seriously wrong place.

Besides, one day they are going to grow up and become teenagers and let me assure you – there are no “detailed guides” that can prepare you for that.  (Not unless it’s titled “Armageddon”).

And once they are teenagers the only time you will think about snot is when one flicks it at the other, then the “flicker” ends up with “red snot” streaming out of their nose because the “flickee” has taken umbrage to having snot flicked at them and has inflicted a headlock, and possibly a couple of well placed punches to the face.

Or is that just in my house?

What is the most ridiculous “how to / guide / advice” re: raising children that you have come across?

I dare you to share…..

Emotional trauma at the hands of a paperback

Today, I feel bereft.

It is the kind of grief that follows you around, leaving a hole inside you and an ache in your heart.

It is ok, nobody close to me has died recently.  Not in a literal sense.

No, this is a self-inflicted grief.

You see, I have just finished reading an amazing book: Markus Zusak’s ‘Bridge Of Clay’.  I knew that it was going to be special before I opened the first page.  Zusak is my favourite author, and I have waited twelve years for him to complete this work.  I also knew that I would feel this way when I reached the end.

Nevertheless, I persisted.

I continued to read the 579 glorious pages, stopping occasionally for a brief interlude to read a different book, trying in vain to prolong the experience, not wanting the story to end.

Five hundred and seventy nine pages of dense, highly crafted prose.  After 400 pages my beloved favourite character died and yet I continued, riding the wave of grief I knew was going to peak to a king tide by the end.

For what else could I do?

As the narrator of Bridge Of Clay states:

“We can’t do anything.

One of us writes, and one of us reads.

We can’t do anything but me tell it, and you see it”.

He tells it.

I see it.

And I feel it.


So why am I writing about it? Because there is an intrinsic need in us for our grief to be a shared experience. I know others have felt this type of grief.  For some it’s books, others films, for others it is TV shows.

Game of Thrones anyone?

My husband still laments the way Sons Of Anarchy ended, insisting there needed to be some kind of alternative ending, simply so the series could continue.

A good friend was heavily invested in Offspring, and cried over Patrick’s death with the same ferocity as most of the country did when Molly died on A Country Practice.

When I first started reading John Green’s The Fault In Our Stars just after midnight one night in a bid to help me fall asleep, I kept reading until the end of the book found me at 3am, and kept hold of me, weeping uncontrollably until dawn.

It was the same when Izzy took Denny Duquette off the L-VAD machine in Grey’s Anatomy and he died of heart failure.  I wanted to lie on that bathroom floor with Izzy and never get up.

It is possible that some people even felt this kind of grief after the last episode of MAFS…..

Please understand that I am not trying to trivialize loss.

The good thing about this type of loss is that it is bite sized grief: it may initially take your breath away, but then slowly you are able to fold it up and carry it with you in your pocket.

It is not like the other type of grief, which can be all consuming, sitting just below your ribs, knowing it can squeeze your heart and suffocate you when you least expect it.

Still, today I feel bereft.

I will allow myself to feel this way for a week or two.  Maybe more.

But then.

The best bit.

I will open Bridge Of Clay to page one (after smilingly reading the hand written inscription from Zusak himself) and I will dive in, delighting in every one of those 579 pages.


I cannot wait.


When we brought our newborn home from the hospital over 8 years ago, there he was at the gate, waiting for us with a big smile on his face.  His little stubby tail wagged furiously as we lowered our son down so he could sniff him, become used to the smell that was to signal the new world order.  Then we whisked our baby inside and shut the door, into our closed off world of first time parenting, largely oblivious to the loyal creature that lay down on the doormat, ever vigilant: watching, protecting, loving.

In the blur of those first weeks and months of ensuring our baby son was well looked after, Memphis – who in so many ways had been like our first son – endured the minimum.  Minimum attention, minimum affection.  Yet he always reciprocated tenfold.  He didn’t make us feel guilty for how little time we had for him, or how little affection we could spare: he took what he could get.

As our son grew older, routines were established, and Memphis was acknowledged with pats and walks more frequently.  No longer our number 1, there was no jealousy, no anger or aggression, just an acceptance of “what is”. 

Then it happened all over again as he slipped further down the rung with the birth of our second son.  Again he existed for a time on scraps of kindness, fleeting pats and “good boy”s.   Time we did spend together helped to restore our inner calm: he always gave back so much more than he was given.

Our boys have loved growing up with Memphis.  They have played ball games together (“Mum, Memphis has taken the ball again”), spent endless hours squealing and laughing on the trampoline as he barks at them from below; even swum in the ocean together.

Now, Memphis is in the Winter of his life.  Large polyps have grown in his ears and dulled his hearing.  A form of congestive heart failure has taken away the playful leaping and inexplicable joy of chasing a ball.  He can be grumpy, and stubborn.  He is a grumpy, stubborn old man.  But he is also so loving, so loyal, so devoted.

Last Wednesday evening we arrived home to find him heaving, belching up great mouthfuls of foamy, frothy gunk.  His stomach was bloated, tight as a drum.  A panicked rush to the emergency vet and we were confronted with two options: operate, or euthanize.  Euthanize?  My brain couldn’t even make sense of the gravity of the word let alone contemplate it.  Was she really offering that as an option?  Willingly end the life of our best friend?  This amazing, dedicated member of our family?  Operate it was.

“But his heart” they said. 

“Odds stacked against him”, they warned.

“Order to resuscitate?” they asked.

As a family we lovingly patted and stroked our beautiful boy, whispering to him our gratitude for his years of faithful service as he drifted off into the pain free world of anaesthesia.  I was comforted by the tears streaming down the face of the vet nurse, her face mirroring all of ours.  She knows he’s loved, I thought.  Yes, she will look after him.

Hours of anxious pacing and nervous waiting followed, all the while the vet worked feverishly to untwist a stomach that had bloated and flipped over on itself, and then remove a spleen with a nasty looking lump smack bang in its middle.

Our strong, fearless boy, who has not had a normal heart rhythm for nine months, maintained a heartbeat and good blood pressure throughout.

Our rockstar dog made it through.

Memphis was home by Friday night and is slowly recovering, sporting a weird haircut and a raw looking line of stitches the entire length of his abdomen.  He is happy, if a little bewildered by the non-stop attention and affection he is receiving.  We are happy just to have him home where he belongs.

I don’t know how many more days I will wake up to his smiling face.  How many more times I will feel the lean of his body against my leg as I hang out the washing.  How many more nights I can lull my children to sleep, secure in the knowledge their faithful protector is just outside, and all is well with the world.  How many more times I will look into his big brown eyes and see only unconditional love.

For now, I will take what I can get.

**Just a few short months after I wrote this, Memphis’ heart could no longer take the strain and we  had no choice but to end his pain.  He died 5 years ago today, and we have missed him every day since.