Urticaria: WTF?

School holidays really are the gift that keeps on giving, aren’t they?

Usually, they gift me with a two week long migraine and empty pockets.  But this time, before I get any of that joy, I have been given the gift of Urticaria.

Or, for us non-medical folk: hives.

Hives.  Sounds innocuous, right? Maybe even conjures up the image of a group of sweet little honey bees buzzing around in their beehive, hard at work for their queen.

Now imagine those bees are buzzing around under your skin, tattooing you from the inside.

Hold that thought.

Do you remember your teenage years when you lathered yourself with a little too much Coppertone (dark bronze, SPF minus 50), and stayed out in the sun for a little too long?

The memory is literally burned into your brain, right?

Now.  Mash the two images together. Imagine your skin feeling completely fried, burning and stinging, but also itchy as fuck.

You’re cringing now, aren’t you?

I haven’t even mentioned that the hives are also on the palms of your hands and the soles of your feet.  Or the fact that your wonderful, diligent, organised brain can’t cope with the mindfuckery of the pain and the burning and the stinging so it sends in reinforcements…which makes the skin swollen.

At this point in my happy little tale, I feel we need a public service announcement for the GP’s, pharmacists and pharmacy assistants who are loyal followers of my writings.  (I know who you are).

The next time you encounter an unfortunate soul who has hives, this is what you should not say:

“Don’t worry, it’s not Measles.  Just hives.  Nothing serious.”.

JUST hives.  Nothing SERIOUS.

Honey, I will JUST seriously stab you in the face with a fork, my nerves are that on edge.  That is, if my stubby little swollen, itchy, burning fingers can hold a fork long enough for me to hobble over to you on the swollen stubs that are currently painful excuses for feet.

What else should you NOT say to a person with JUST hives?

How about: “gee, that looks itchy.”

Thank you Captain fucking obvious for such witty repartee.

Or: “Try this cream.  It SHOULD help”.

Should? SHOULD? No.  I am now on day 3 of wanting to peel my skin from my body, a la John Travolta and Nicholas Cage in Face Off.  You had better give me a tried and tested remedy or I will jump over that counter and rip YOUR face off.

Oh, and do you remember the psycho in Silence Of The Lambs who stitched a full outfit made of human skin? If you even think of using me as a guinea pig for a new lotion you are giving me because you get generous kickbacks from some pharmaceutical company, don’t be surprised when you end up down a deep fucking well, obediently “rubbing the lotion into one’s skin”, while I am upstairs, surrounded by butterflies, spooling the thread into the sewing machine……

While on the topic of psychopathic stalkers, I have never identified with that crazy hives guy in There’s Something About Mary as much as I have the last three days.  You see, when Mary was stringing him along, it triggered him, a traumatic reminder of his doctor informing him she doesn’t know how long the hives will last, but it is possibly up to six weeks.

Six weeks?  Christ on a cracker, if I survive a week I will be organising my own ticker tape parade down the middle of Rundle Mall.

You may need to send wine.  And chocolate.  And a pallet load of Pinetarsol, as well as some kick arse painkillers.

On second thoughts, maybe all I should do is watch reruns of the Barnaby Joyce 60 Minutes interview, or the current season of Love Island and I will be so brain dead I will be oblivious to the pain……..

Only 18 Summers…..

By now I’m sure you have seen the quote about only having “18 delicious Summers” with your children?  Attributed to Jessica Scott, it says:

“You only get 18 delicious summers with your kids.

This is one of your 18.

If that’s not perspective, I don’t know what is.”

Yep.

When I first read it, the perspective hit me right in the chest, like a lead weight in my heart.  It was the same feeling I have whenever I realise I have just experienced something with my children for the last time.

Last time I need to buy nappies: check.

Last time I need to move the booster seat in the car: check.

Last time he will reach for my hand when crossing the road: check.

Last time I will drop him off at primary school: check.

Cue tears.

But as the holidays have marched on, I saw the quote pop up in my Facebook feed a second time, and a third.  Suddenly I realised it wasn’t resonating with me anymore.  Rather than giving me perspective, it was just giving me anxiety.  The lead weight on my chest started to spread, until it felt like it was hanging around my neck.

By the fifth or sixth time someone shared the quote, it just made me pissed off.

Don’t get me wrong: I understand the sentiment, I truly do.

And if it encourages parents to look up from their phones and be present in the moment with their kids, to really enjoy the time they have together, then I am behind it, 100%.

But on the flip side, it feels like a lot of pressure, with a side serving of guilt.  I feel like I carry enough mum guilt around with me every day, thank you very much.

In the same way the women smile at you in the supermarket and entreat you to “savour these moments, they grow so fast”, while watching you wrangle a toddler climbing out of the stroller to reach the checkout chocolates with one arm, and simultaneously comforting a screaming, hungry, overtired baby in the other, Jessica’s dose of “perspective” is not actually helpful.

Do her words make me want to really savour every moment of the 18 “delicious” summers I get?

Well, maybe.

But not as much as it makes me want to punch Jessica in the face.

I would love to invite Jessica to Australia to test the validity of her words.  Obviously in America the children do turn 18 and move away for college, whereas given the state of the housing market here in Australia, those 18 summers are likely to number well into the twenties.  And I am confident Jessica would not use “delicious” as an adjective to describe an Adelaide Summer of consecutive 40+ degree days.

Still, there have been many moments these holidays when I have looked at my kids and wanted to capture the moment forever, my heart full to bursting with love and gratitude that I get to spend such precious time with them.  There have been just as many other moments when I have wondered whom at school I can bribe to take them back earlier.

Often these moments occur in the same hour.

So you see, Jessica’s words are not helpful.

They are not helpful to me as I flip flop between hugging my kids and not wanting to let them go, to looking up how much I could sell them for on Ebay.

They are not helpful to working mums who have to schedule the school holidays with military precision, knowing it is a physical impossibility to spend every day of the holidays with their children.  It only makes them feel “less than” and heaps on another dose of mum guilt.

Her words are most certainly not helpful to the mum I read about today, whose 5 year old son filled up his Nerf water gun with his own urine, and proceeded to spray his entire bedroom with it.

As the mother of boys, let me tell you this made me snort laugh in solidarity.  But I was not surprised.  The only thing that surprised me was that neither of my boys have ever thought to do it.

Now, if THAT’S not perspective, I don’t know what is.

All My Friends Are Going On Cruises

All my friends seem to be going on cruises.  Big ships, beautiful destinations. While I love the idea of a cruise, loyal followers of the blog will remember I have a particularly irrational fear of gastro, especially vomiting.  This has singlehandedly stopped me from even entertaining the idea of going on a family cruise.  But this did not stop us from dipping our toes into the water of the cruising experience and taking on the challenge of our very first houseboat holiday!

With a sense of excitement and trepidation, we boarded our houseboat, raring to get cruising!  But before they let us loose on the mighty Murray river, our instructor – Sam –– had to show us the ropes.

While Sam was teaching us the basics, we fired some questions at him.  Without missing a beat, he answered them all.  However in hindsight, it is entirely possible that Sam was a little loose with the truth.  I suspect Sam is actually a sensational salesman who would be just as comfortable in a used car yard as he was in the loungeroom of our houseboat.

 Here are just a few of Sam’s answers:

  1.  “The river water is 100% safe to drink.  In fact, it is just as good as tap water.

First of all, blind Freddy could see the amount of duck and pelican shit on the deck of the boat and work out how much of that is in the “100% safe” drinking water, not to mention the colour. Or the smell.  Yep, that water is about as safe as picking up your drink in a bar after you have left it unattended for several minutes next to a serial killer with a pocket full of Rohypnol. 

Thank God for our foresight in bringing 40 litres of boxed water on the boat to avoid contracting Murray Mouth or whatever the local equivalent of Bali Belly is.

  •  “Parking is a piece of piss, mate!”

If you mean the only way to successfully park is by going in full throttle, mounting a sand bar and ramming the riverbank with the same force as the Titanic rammed the iceberg then yep, “piece of piss”.

  •  “Nah, no snakes.  In 2 years, I’ve probably only ever seen two snakes”.

I’m not sure if Sam measures time in the conventional way or in dog years because we saw a snake on day 2.  It was as we were coming in to park.  Let me tell you we went from full throttle forward to chucking the oversized paddle boat in reverse so hard we possibly burnt out the clutch.

  •  “It’s great weather for swimming.  The temperature of the water is exactly the same as the outside temperature”.

Again, I’m not sure on the units of measurement Sam was using.  Whatever they are, how would Sam explain my son suffering from hypothermia throughout his body while simultaneously getting thoroughly sunburnt on his face?  Not the same temperature, Sam.

  •  “The toilets are a bit sensitive”

No shit, Sam.  No, really.  That is what you should tell people. 

No. Shit.

Do not under any circumstance use the toilet for the purpose it is intended for or it will block up.  And smell.  The heady, aromatic smell of sewer mixed with river water (you know, that delightful brown water that is 100% safe to drink?).

  •  “The boat absolutely does not rock”

You’ve got us on a technicality there, Sam.  You’re right, it does not rock in the traditional sense, but there is a definite horizontal swooshing movement that sees the boat move several metres from side to side, making it impossible to find your centre of gravity.

It was after enjoying a night of this regular “swooshing” that we returned the houseboat to its moorings (full throttle all the way in until we launched onto the bank), packed the car to the rafters with all of our sleeping bags, pillows, clothes etc and with our stomachs still swirling, set off on the drive home.

Eager to get home, my husband helpfully suggested we take the quicker route home, otherwise known as “the back way”.  Otherwise known as Gorge road.  Otherwise known as the windiest road known to man……..

Y’all know how this story ends, don’t you?

Ten minutes into the journey there was groaning and complaining from the back seat.  I sprung into action, dispensing Chuckeez sick bags and lollipops.  By the time we reached the Big Rocking Horse, we had to pull over so that the 12 year old (aka Mr Sensitive Stomach) could sit in the front.  That meant I was now crammed in the back with my youngest son (aka Stomach of Steel: nothing fazes this one), and the Leaning Tower of Pisa of luggage between us.  Ignoring the continued groans now emanating from the front seat, Mr Iron Stomach declared he was starving.  So we fossicked through the leaning tower until we found a pack of BBQ shapes, which he started to demolish quite happily.

It wasn’t until I realised the snacking had stopped that I looked over the top of the leaning tower to see the sheer horror on the face of my youngest offspring.

While Master 12 was sitting pretty in the front with his three sick bags and lollipop, his brother had regurgitated nearly an entire box of biscuits into nothing but his cupped hands. 

This was a vomit explosion of epic proportions.

Luckily our travelling companions pulled over to help and between us, my sister in law and I managed to mop up the mess with packets of wet wipes and towels, just enough to get us home (windows down all the way).

The next day as I was drowning under a pile of washing and the toxic fumes of car upholstery cleaner, I reflected on our houseboat holiday which was – despite the small setbacks – truly sensational.  I even laughed about Sam and his gift of the gab, his skills akin to a used car salesman.  Which leads me to the point of this post: if you’re in the market for a new (used) car, there is a fantastic Holden Commodore for sale.  Lovingly cared for, comes complete with its own unique smell from the back seat. If you need any more info, please call Sam……

Dear Coach

Dear Coach,

Thank you for showing up.

Week after week, training after training, game after game.

Rain, hail or shine, you were there. 

Win, lose or draw, you were there.

When my mum or dad didn’t want to get out of the car because it was so wet and cold, you were there.

Thank you for teaching me the basics, and allowing me to kick the ball around with my mates.

Thank you for encouraging my dreams, for making me believe I could be the next AFL superstar, the next Grand Final winner, the next Magarey medallist, the next Brownlow recipient.

Thank you for teaching me what it means to be part of a team, part of a group of mates, part of a club.

Thank you for teaching me what it means to be part of THIS club:

to Play Hard

Play Fair

and Never Give Up.

I will take this with me wherever I go, whatever I do, and whatever challenges I face.

Because of you, I know that winning isn’t everything: that mateship, teamwork and good sportsmanship are so much more important.

Because of you, I know that there are different types of masculinity, that there are different ways to be a man. You have helped to shape the young man I am becoming, and the type of man I want to be.

Because of you, I know that limits don’t exist for girls, that we can play footy too.  You have shown me that everyone is welcome here.  That I can pursue my dreams too, that I am just as worthy, regardless of my gender.

So, Coach: thank you.

Thank you for your time.

Thank you for your commitment.

Thank you for your passion.

I will see you next season.

The Weight Of Motherhood

From the moment you came into being as a tiny seed in my womb, I started carrying the weight.  Not just the physical weight (although you didn’t do me any favours there, fellas), the mental and emotional weight of guilt, and overwhelm.

On the surface, the task of mothering appears to be quite straightforward.  Mothering a new baby centres around three seemingly innocuous tasks: Feed. Play. Sleep.  On their own, these things are not necessarily difficult. It is the cumulative effect of mastering all three, all day, every day for years, that wears me down.

FEED. 

The bleary haze of trying to keep track of which side you last fed on and for how long was quickly replaced by when to introduce solids and suddenly I blinked and realised I have spent endless hours in the kitchen crafting nutritious healthy meals from scratch only to have you screw up your nose because you have spied – with your stealth ninja 20/20 vision – a tiny piece of onion in your meatball, and of course that is grounds for rejecting the entire meal. 

Most meals, happily eaten or not, usually end with an encore 30 minutes later of a desire for toast or 2 minute noodles anyway.  On those occasions when I choose to skip the rigamarole of mashing or blending vegetables into something unrecognisable so they can be more easily hidden in the rest of the food, only to have you detect them and recoil in horror as if I have presented a plate of arsenic for your consumption, and declare: “tonight we are having bacon and eggs on toast for tea”, you don’t miss a beat before gleefully pointing out that dinner is not the time for breakfast food.

PLAY.

I am sure there were many magical times of play and wonder when you were babies.  It is no doubt what lulled me into a false sense of delusion that having a sibling was the best idea ever because you would always have someone to play with.  Except anyone witnessing the two of you “at play” currently would perhaps think they have mistakenly stumbled upon an audition for the latest episode of WWE Smackdown, complete with hurled insults and extreme overreactions to bodily injury.  It is for this simple reason that I spend many nights each week driving you both to sports training, just so someone else can take on the role of referee, if only for a few short hours.  I also – despite constantly being proved wrong – stubbornly believe that keeping you active will help you to come home and……

SLEEP.

Sleep is not the enemy, you guys.  I feel as though I have spent your whole lives trying to show you how wonderfully restorative sleep can be.  For me as well as for you!  You could see a whole new side to my personality if only you would let me have a solid forty winks instead of basically four interrupted winks.  Over the last 12 years I have tried endless rocking and singing and shushing and patting and reading and now my go to is basically yelling and threats.

But for the past two weeks even the yelling and threats haven’t worked as school holidays sends everything out the window, doesn’t it?  You still:

Eat – everything in the house that is not nailed down.  Then complain there is nothing to eat, but there is no way I am enduring a trip to the supermarket with you two in tow. Besides, there are plenty of vegetables still on offer.

Play – mainly Playstation, as your ball keeps conveniently going over the fence 5 minutes after I push you outside and shut the door.  Guess what else is going over the fence if I have to break up one more fight over Fortnite?

Sleep – Yeah, nah.  There is very little meaningful sleep happening, which makes your newly discovered attitude so much easier to bear during the waking hours.

BUT.

Then you smile at me. 

Or smile at each other.

You hug me. 

Or hug each other.

It is then that I know.

I would die for you.

Even when you are argumentative, whinging turds.

So while my bucket may be empty, my heart is full.

And my head is cheering: because in just a few short days, you’re both back at school.

I Saw A Unicorn

On Saturday I saw a unicorn.  A real life, sparkly horned mythical creature.  It was glorious. 

Ok, ok I know unicorns don’t exist. Not literally.  But I’m using a metaphor, guys.  Because what I saw was just as rare as a unicorn with a sparkly horn and rainbow wings.  I saw a group of people, mainly women, work together without ego, without bitchiness, to achieve a common goal.  And we pulled it off. 

Spectacularly.

What am I talking about?

A School Fair, you guys.  We created a School Fair.  An enormous, living, breathing School Fair.  There were rides, food, entertainment, market stalls, an art exhibition and so much more.  And it is the “so much more” that everyone is talking about.  Some people have commented on the atmosphere of the day, the fantastic sense of community that made it so good.  Others have channelled Daryl Kerrigan and said it was simply the “vibe” that was special.

The thing is, for those of us involved in the organising and running of the fair, we knew our community was special.  It is one of the things we love about our school.  But even so, I think there was still an element of surprise, even among our Fair Crew, at how well that was showcased.  Underpinning that was more surprise at how seamlessly it came together, how satisfying and how much FUN it all was, to work together with a group of women of varying ages and backgrounds, most of whom did not know each other very well at the beginning.  But all of whom are now firm friends.

I guess the sad thing is, you don’t expect it.  Films like “Mean Girls” and “Bad Moms” are funny because people can relate to them.  We know women like that.  Because of this, it is seen as a daring act to put your hand up to volunteer, to be involved, because who wants to work their arse off for a bunch of bitchy, nasty women who don’t appreciate it?  So many people step back instead of forward for that very reason.  I totally understand that.  But on the occasions you think “fuck it” and be brave and step forward? That’s when the magic can happen.

Was it incredibly hard work? Yes.

Are we are all exhausted and sunburned and having trouble walking today? Yes. 

Are we all going to dodge our fearless P&F leader’s phone calls for a few days while we recover?  Quite possibly, yes.

But was it worth it?  Hell, yes.

A huge thank you to all of the Fair Crew and indeed all of the volunteers I worked with on the weekend.  There is nothing better than women working together.  Building and strengthening friendships.  Lifting each other up instead of tearing each other down.  If we keep this up, we could take over the world!

 Hhhmmmm, I wonder if we have enough in the Parents and Friends budget to cover that…..

I Watched You Today…

I watched you today.  Living, breathing, talking.  The grief bouncing off you like shock waves.   All the while I was wondering: “how is she still standing?”.

My heart heavy, the tears stung my eyes as I hugged you and felt the weight of your pain.  It felt like a throat punch: taking away my ability to breathe.  It stunned me for a second, but then I realised it just felt familiar.

You see, we’ve been here before, you and I. 

We were so much younger then, more easily shocked by the cruelty and unfairness of it all.  More easily wounded when grief picked up its bat and just kept hitting, over and over.

For thirteen years I have stood beside you, helping you scoop up the broken pieces and glue them back together. I have watched on helplessly as grief tried to crush you, then cheered as you emerged stronger, like a diamond.

You wear your pain like armour.  People who only see that outer shell misunderstand you.  They don’t matter.  They don’t see the strength in you.    They don’t see the fire you have had to walk through, that has formed your hard exterior.

I see you, in your pain.

I love you, like a part of me.

I am proud of you, like a mother.

I am in awe of you, like a warrior.

I will be here for you, like a sister.

Always.