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.

3am Wake Up Call

The other night I was woken at 3am by a shadowy figure standing next to my bed.  Because I have watched WAY too many episodes of Criminal Minds, as soon as I opened my eyes I was overcome by a wave of terror.

(Side note: I have only ever watched Criminal Minds for the sexual chocolate that is Shemar Moore.  Due to the content of the show, rather than dreaming about him calling me “baby girl”, I instead have nightmares about the serial killers coming after me. Even though I no longer watch it – because sexual chocolate is not on the show anymore – I have obviously watched enough episodes to give myself PTSD from it).

Then, the shadowy figure spoke:

“Mum, I feel like I’m going to vomit”.

Instantly the wave of terror was gone.  It was replaced by a tsunami of terror. The one thing I fear more than serial killers, is gastro.  Vomiting, diarrhoea, any kind of unwanted expulsion of bodily fluids just Freaks. Me. Out.  It is a massive phobia of mine.

Frantically I started fumbling through my bedside drawer for a vomit bag: not there.  I asked the shadowy, 12 year old figure about to vomit why he hadn’t grabbed the vomit bag from his bedside table (couldn’t find it).

(Yes, we do keep vomit bags on our bedside tables in our family.  As I mentioned earlier: massive phobia.  And no, my 3am foggy brain did not think to ask him why he hadn’t gone directly to the toilet, or the bathroom sink, or to his dad: all of which he had to walk straight past to get to me!)

So I leapt out of bed in search of a vomit bag.  (Past experience has taught me not to use a large stainless steel bowl as the curved sides act as a ramp to propel the vomit up and out of the bowl in several directions simultaneously).   I thought perhaps there was one in the kitchen pantry, but I knew with 100% certainty there was one in the glovebox of my car.  No time to waste looking in the pantry, I rushed to grab my car keys, flung open the front door and raced outside to be confronted by……………………….two kangaroos.

Now, one of the perks of living in the foothills is our close proximity to the wildlife, particularly koalas and kangaroos.  But at 3am, standing half dressed on my front porch, it felt less like a perk and more like a potentially perilous situation.

Now I was in a predicament.  Possible projectile vomit vs possible mauling by a kangaroo.

It was a no brainer. 

Still in my undies, I pushed past the kangaroos, opened the car, and emerged victorious from the glove box, holding the “Chuckies” vomit bag aloft like a gold medallist, and raced back past the kangaroos, inside the house to my 12 year old who was………………………………. asleep.  In my bed.

Turns out he was just hot.

Driving Under The Influence Of Children

People say using mobile phones while driving is dangerous.  I agree 100%.  The statistics regarding accidents due to mobile phone distraction speak for themselves.

Drink driving?  Dangerous.

Drug driving?  Dangerous.

But I think there is something just as dangerous as all of these things:  having more than one child in your car, especially if they are siblings.

The bickering and arguing that goes on in my car drives me to distraction, literally.

Have you seen the National Lampoons Vacation movie (the newer one, not the old Chevy Chase classic) where the mum confiscates all electronic devices in the car, so the younger brother amuses himself by trying to suffocate the older one with a plastic bag?

I laughed way too hard at that.  Welcome to my life.

Recently, amid a somewhat heated argument between my two children, my youngest son launched himself without warning from the back seat to grab his older brother in a headlock in an effort to force him to apologise.  I nearly ran the car off the road.

See I told you: dangerous.

Ok, so that behaviour was extreme, but this has been going on for years.

Several years ago I got so fed up with the arguing in the car that I pulled into the carpark of the nearest police station, and threatened to take the boys in and leave them there.  This was particularly effective: not a peep from the backseat the whole way home. 

Unfortunately I made a rookie error: you can only play the police card once, and I fear I played it too early.  Now the boys simply look back and laugh about the time I pulled in to the cop shop and threatened to leave them there.

I have been feeling very defeated about the constant bickering until the other day when a good friend of mine told me a story that still makes me smile.

The story goes like this: my friend finished work, picked up her two children from school and had to stop at Rebel Sport on the way home to buy a gift for a child’s birthday party the next day.  Her kids nagged her relentlessly to buy them something (as kids do in Rebel Sport: I always end up losing my shit in that store.  Surely it’s not just me?).  So the birthday gift was purchased and each child walked out of the store with smiles on their faces and new jumpers in their arms.

Then came the ride home.

Almost immediately they started arguing and squabbling.  Unable to get them to stop with verbal pleas, then verbal threats, then physical efforts (in her frustration this mum grabbed an umbrella but couldn’t lift it high enough to whack them properly because the roof of the car was too low).  Nothing worked.

So she pulled out the big guns.  She chucked a u-ey, drove back to Rebel and returned the new jumpers.  The best part is that she explained to the shop assistant exactly why she had to return them and they refunded her money: no problem.

That my friends, is parenting goals.

I love this story so much because it reassures me I am not alone.

I often see mums en route to drop off or driving home from school gesticulating wildly at their kids in the car.  Now I realise they are probably losing their shit, like me.  I feel like we need a wave of acknowledgement, one that says: “Yep, I see you.  Same shit, different car over here”. 

We could call it the solidarity salute.

What do you think?  Please tell me I’m not alone.  We all have these stories, right?