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I like driving in my car

Otto is doing a holiday program this week. A holiday program that I carefully forgot (at least four times) to book her into. Unfortunately for me, she remembered (at least once more than I forgot) that she really REALLY wanted to do it.

She’s learning how to build Apps.

Sometimes I want to do school holiday programs too.

Anyway, this program is on the Other Side of Town. And driving North-South across Melbourne is kind of hellish. As in, Took-me-ninety-minutes-to-get-home hellish. And most of the week, I am driving over to collect her and then back again. Conservatively, that’s a five-hour daily commute.

I’ve looked into public transport, but it’s tram + train + bus, with all the accompanying potential for disaster, and even my buddy the metlink journey planner says 90 minutes minimum, each way. That’s too much commitment for me.

As this is posted, I have three more of the long commutes to go. And I kind of want to buy a Go-Pro so that I can do an exciting time-lapse photostream, just to share the horror with the world.

Or maybe there’s an App for that. If not, there should be – maybe Otto can deliver?

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Posted by on January 22, 2014 in family

 

Thematic?

Every so often, I start to think that the Internet is a normal place, filled with normal people who do really sensible things.

And parts of it probably are.

But then I stray somewhere and cannot get the weird things I find out of my head.

No, not THOSE weird things.

Things like “What is the theme of your bedroom?” which was posed as a serious question (I guess I deserved it, looking at Home Decor as a category on Pinterest). Unfortunately, there were no Cliff’s Notes to go with it or to suggest what might be considered an appropriate answer.

I know that, when decorating for children, some people go with a theme. That’s really rather sweet. Had I been more organised, I might even have had a crack at it. But for adults, it feels like it’s maybe a bit weird. GAMES have themes. Not bedrooms.

Don’t get me wrong. The Indiana Jones Lego bedroom we stayed in at Legoland was awesome. I just can’t see myself deciding to replicate it chez moi.

Tomb Room

Quite apart from anything else, I can’t face the thought of having to dust the monkey every day.

Lego monkey

So what would be a “normal” bedroom theme? Because my mind goes to Bordello and, well, it stays there, weeping.

Anyway, I’ve resolved it for now. The theme of my bedroom is “Tired. In every sense of the word.” The Bigster’s is “There is no such thing as too many books” and Otto’s is “Wow, mummy REALLY likes pink.”

That solved, I think I’ll go find a normal corner of the Internet now. Where they talk about action points vs set collecting as a mechanic, and whether linen finish cards are REALLY better than the other kinds. And whether Renaissance Italy and Ancient Egypt are overdone as themes.

 

Counting down

It’s hard to believe that in eight days both of my kids will be back at school. *counts on fingers* OK, maybe nine.

Some apparently very small and single digit number, anyway.

Otto only finished school on December 19 – that means she’ll have had five and a half weeks of break between Year 5 and Year 6.

That doesn’t seem enough to me.

I know it’s impossible for working parents who only get 4 weeks’ annual leave (I’ve been there myself), but I just don’t see that five weeks is really enough to relax and recharge for school. And I don’t think it’s enough for the teachers to really relax, either – because of course they are back before the kids, and finish after them.

My friends are saying the same. Their kids are TIRED. Still. When we were young, we got seven weeks’ break (eight if you went to private school). It seemed to stretch on forever. Sometimes we slept in, sometimes we didn’t, but we were relaxed and rested by the end of the holidays.

This year, we had a week for Christmas then a week at the beach and we’ve been back for two weeks now. Next week, she’s chosen to do a holiday program Monday to Thursday – and then, four days later, she’s back in the classroom.

And of course the real holidays should be in February-March, when we tend to have the hottest weather – she’s heading back with the promise of mid-thirties weather to come.

She does get three weeks in April and July (Bigster gets two) as well as two in September. But I’d like a couple of extra weeks RIGHT NOW – enough for her to get thoroughly sick of being at home and really looking forward to going back to see her friends.

How long are your kids’ holidays? What do you think of the length?

 
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Posted by on January 20, 2014 in children, education, family

 

Cooking

Something awesome that has happened in the past month is that Otto has discovered cooking.

Well, more that I have had time to discover cooking with her. It’s a little bittersweet, as Bigster had just decided she wanted to learn to cook when she got sick, so now her sister is learning things that she never got the chance to learn. And that sucks for Bigster, but if we are totally honest it is really rather glorious for her little sister.

A year or two ago, I bought a slow cooker with a “sear” setting. It’s perfect for us, because you can sear things and then add all the slow-cookery things and leave it bubbling away in the background. And because I am completely paranoid about Otto using the  gas stove to cook on.

She’s a whizz at bolognese sauce. The good kind, too – she even directs Fraser when they are home together (Now I need the WHITE wine, daddy). And she’s pretty good at salads, and even spent Christmas day regaling the family with the recipe for the (very yummy) vinaigrette dressing she’d made for the potato salad.

Lately, though, she’s expanded her repertoire.

She bought a box of macaron mix and made macarons, virtually all by herself. We’re going to try them from a recipe soon. I do get frustrated that everything takes longer when she’s doing the cooking, but of course it takes less time than ever when I don’t have to stand there cooking. And you don’t nag the child with the sharp knives.

When we went to the beach after Christmas, she cooked dinner. Not once, not twice, but EVERY SINGLE NIGHT. With daddy’s help, which meant that we swapped jobs and I got to do the dishes. Without a dishwasher, boo hoo. It helps that the burger patties were really, REALLY good, so we ate them a lot – but she got right into it (and a bit bossy too).

It’s getting so I can’t use my kitchen any more. Tonight, we defrosted some chicken I’d marinated and she insisted on cooking it for me. And the rice, AND fluffing the rice with a fork, and then she told me which platter I should serve it up on.

Because my kids aren’t a bit bossy.

 
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Posted by on January 18, 2014 in food, parenting

 

My new obsession

I have a new obsession.

It’s Nony’s blog at A Slob Comes Clean.

It’s like reading my own posts by an alternate-universe-Melissa. Nony and I just might be soulmates. But mostly I love her because she posts before pictures that are at least as bad as my own. I find her motivating as much because she fails as because she succeeds.

Like her, I struggle with clutter. If “struggle” means “constantly lose the battle”. Like her, I have tried lots of different methods, but they never work because there is a weak link: me. There are many things that are more fun than cleaning the toilet. And I am (just a tad) easily distractable.

I have always believed, quite genuinely and sincerely, that my house would be less of a tip if I wasn’t always working so hard and such crazy hours. Not perfect, mind you, but “less of a tip”. It gets noticeably worse when I work more, so it stands to reason that it should get better when I work less. And so, the house is one of the things I was going to work on after I quit my job in June (the 18th, if you were wondering). But then I kept working pretty much full time until September, and then there were STILL projects to finish and I was still studying until the Middle of November and the builders were here and they and their cement dust pretty much became the Best Excuse Ever for not tidying.

Except that they have finished now. I don’t have any excuses left. It’s January, the kids are on holidays, we don’t have many places to be, and I don’t officially start my PhD until March. And the house is still a tip. And my cleaner is overseas until the end of the month and I don’t think we can afford for her to come weekly any more.

And the problem with Every Single Thing I have *EVER* read about getting your clutter sorted out is that it’s all one person’s responsibility and sharing the load never seems to even figure. Which means I need to toughen up a bit and Just Do It.

 
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Posted by on January 14, 2014 in decluttering

 

Overwhelmed

I have been feeling so unbelievably overwhelmed lately that it is like the rest of my life before this was underwhelming and dull and filled with long absences-of-anything and moments-of-supreme-boredom, which I do not really believe for a moment. There have even been a couple of moments of weeping in the car, and one monumentally embarrassing moment last week of running out of a tile shop because I was about to start not merely weeping but actually sobbing. With snot and everything. Because bathroom tiles are really, REALLY stressful.

And then I sat down to write a family Christmas letter which I know is terribly bourgeois and all that but frankly, I am middle-aged and married with kids which probably makes me terribly bourgeois. And I have no time and have not caught up with many of my friends all year which means I kind of owe them a roundup.

And I was ok with writing about what other family members are doing and all that generally fun stuff, and then I got to me and I tried to write it and I went HOLY CRAP I HAVE DONE A LOT THIS YEAR. And then I freaked out a little bit (= quite a lot) and then I realised that actually it was all good because it means that I am ALLOWED to be overwhelmed.

Which is probably the first stage in a 12-step program, right? Except not the AA kind of 12-step program because I don’t think you’re meant to give yourself permission to be an addict. And I am seriously contemplating wallowing in it. And maybe bribing the Bigster, who is on holidays now, to take her sister to school on Friday while I sleep and sleep and sleep. (unless the builder is there … or the cats … or the postman delivers something …)

Anyway, what I am overwhelmed about at the moment is the bathroom, because things are still going wronger and wronger. And my mother, who has breast cancer and is going a bit nutty from chemotherapy and ringing me three times a day. Or maybe I am going nutty from her doing that. And my brother, who she doesn’t really ring at all, which is probably good for his mental health but less good for mine. And my dad, who is in a nursing home close to me and needs visiting and love and affection. And maybe furniture. And the Bigster, who is still sick. And Otto, who is adorable and sometimes nuts, and always wants attention right when I am having a “my brain is full please let me process something” moment. And the cats, who wizzed on all the clean washing so I had to re-wash it. And there was a LOT of it. And Fraser, who is lovely but wonders why I never have any time. And my experiment going back to a couple of small work projects, which has been a dismal failure and has seen me actually working 4-5 days a week the last 2 weeks (and until 3:30am today). And the house, which is even more of a disaster area than ever, not helped by the Absence of Bathroom. And (ex-) work perhaps not actually realising that I am really not working there any more and asking me to do a small project NEXT WEEK as in the week before Christmas. And not earning any money except for these projects, so Fraser doesn’t know whether to be cross with me for working or for not earning anything, and neither do I. (We are over this now. We are both cross with me for working so I am stopping.). And the garden, which is completely overrun with weeds that are, quite literally, stronger than me.

There are some funny stories buried in the stress, like my mother and the online banking app. I’m sure that will be funny in oooh about fifty years or so. And the builder telling me the tiles we spent three hours tracking down were the wrong size. (They are NOT.). And Snowflake’s big escape through the wall of the bathroom. And the toilet story which I have told before (emptying and cleaning it, however, was NOT a funny story). And dad and the set-top box. And the water tank that was going to cost more than a Miele oven! And the Miele oven that I didn’t buy. And the vegetables fruits and herbs that Otto and I planted (Fraser is worried because I bought “vegetable and herb” potting mix and he thinks that might be enough v-word to trigger something). And the crazy nutritionist with the squillion dietary supplements. I think perhaps I should invent a sort of half-life for these moments – a way to calculate how long it will be before they stop inspiring either murderous rage or cold sweats, and instead become funny. But in reality it’s probably about two weeks. Or two days, depending on who I am talking to and whether I am drawing a flowchart about it.

I haven’t even got my head around Christmas shopping yet. I did, however, buy shoes. They are Spanish, and wearing them is like having my feet caressed by the downy wings of baby angels. Even the Bigster approves: “Mum, you are allowed to buy me these shoes if you like.” They don’t quite make up for the tiling issues, but they sometimes come close.

And our toilet still flushes. I am grateful every time.

 
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Posted by on December 12, 2013 in house, rant

 

Urgent! I need a toilet! (Just not in the way you might think)

Those who follow me on Twitter will know that toilets have been on my mind lately. You see, the next stage of the Curse’s after-effects has been the demolition of much of our bathroom floor. It’s rotten under the shower … AGAIN.

Unfortunately, the rot had spread to under the toilet as well. Our lovely builder Alberto warned us last week that the toilet was going to have to go, maybe for as much as a week.

Cue panic.

Then it was all OK and we were only going to be without a toilet on Monday night.

Which sounds reasonable until you think about the words. Without. A. Toilet. Family of Four. Ugh.

And so every day since about last Thursday, I have wondered whether I would have a toilet that night. And I have been oh so very thankful when I did.

And then the Bigster realised that her exams were at the start of this week. No proper shower (only hand-held over bath). No toilet. Actually, half a bathroom missing. And Exams. Yikes.

So we hatched a little plan that involved me and Bigster going to a hotel for Monday night, leaving Fraser and Otto to wizz in a bucket manage on their own. And then we considered getting a family room or something so that we could all go. And then our builder said today, “Oh by the way, you won’t have a toilet tomorrow either.”

Which he clearly meant to be reassuring. Or, at the least, informative.

But you see, “no toilet” and “reassuring” do not really go together. And I started to add numbers in my head, because we were already way over “budget” on, well, everything, but especially on the unbudgeted “hotel” item. And I flung myself in my car and drove to Aldi, because some of my friends thought that MAYBEJUSTMAYBE they might have seen camping toilets at Aldi.

And of all the things that were bad about having OMG NO TOILET, that one was the least bad. Because it would mean that the inspection camera was no longer the strangest thing that I had bought at Aldi. I was able to go to a happy place inside my head. A toilet-free happy place, admittedly, but an only slightly less happy place for it.

Until the woman at my local Aldi smashed my dreams. “Yeah, we had those. About three months ago. But they didn’t sell so we sent all our stock to the rural stores.”

Grrr. I drove home again, thoroughly subdued. Then: Brainwave! Camping Stores!

I rang the “local” camping store, which is about 15 minutes’ drive away. It was 5:13. They had camping toilets in stock, but closed at 5:30. It was a challenge I was determined to make; I was out the door before we were even off the phone.  (I rang my family while I was on the way, to tell them I had gone out).

I made good time to the camping store, until … disaster. A train. Ding, ding, ding, boomgates down, no chance to cross.

Thoroughly desperate for my toilet, I rang them. “I’m on my way to pick up a camping toilet but I am at the boomgates and now I will be late. Could I possibly pay by credit card or something, just to speed it up?” I was ready to offer any staff member willing to WAIT OUTSIDE THE STORE WITH MY TOILET $20 cash. Things were down to the wire.

Fortunately, the assistant manager was lovely and helpful and reassuring. After establishing that I really WAS just up the road, she promised to keep the till open for me, even past 5:30 if need be.

And so it was that I got there, and ran through the doors, and was greeted with one sweet sweet word: “Toilet?”

And it was 5:33 and all was good.

Epilogue:

I bought the special toilet paper which “hindert Verstopfungen” (stops blockages) which made me giggle because I will swear that Verstopfung is German for constipation. Trust me, by that time I would have giggled at anything. And then I bought the special tank chemicals, only it turns out that you aren’t supposed to use them in the regular sewers, so I didn’t. And then I over-filled the tank (the clean water for flushing, people, minds out of the gutter) and it started leaking and there may or may not have been some al-fresco wizzing and some argufying with Fraser about how much water should be going into the waste tank anyway because there is a PROPER WAY to use a camping toilet and I might have missed it. And then we demonstrated how to flush the toilet to the girls and there was much hilarity except from them and Fraser, who all think it is a little revolting. So from me, really.

And the best part of all, is that I got to buy something completely weird, and actually genuinely put it on the “saving money” side of the ledger.

And also, I have just topped my Best Toilet Ever story.