Bringing the Family Joy

With Darling Hubby away overseas, it is up to me to keep the home fires burning and handle the weekly Skype conversation with his parents and sister.  Not a problem, I am a functioning adult. I have a university degree and state higher education certificate. I know how to click buttons and turn up the volume on speakers.  This should have been a slam dunk for the morning, setting the tone for handling the rest of the day.

It certainly was a slam dunk and the tone was set.  It slam dunk straight into the insanity that is my family. Usually I would say my kids, but this time I’m pulling my in-laws into the fray.

Our conversations usually run in one manner.  Mom, Dad and Aunt Mickie sit politely on their side of the computer screen.  Either Ted or I sit here with the kids behind us.  Nothing is even remotely polite as one of us is usually yelling, “Stop that!”  “Don’t you dare threaten her with that!”  “For the love of Christ, will you stand over here so they can see you?!?!?!” “No.  You don’t have to go get Echo.  They already know what she looks like.  COME BACK HERE!” “STOP IT, right now!” And my favorite, “You have to talk to the computer, not me…I already know this story.

Twenty – thirty minutes later sore throats or pissed off children prevail and we say good-bye.  I honestly have no earthy idea why my in-laws enjoy doing this.  Half the time no one can understand what anyone is saying or they understand perfectly but, really who cares what cute thing Echo has done?  If that’s not enough, the shrieking and sobbing, sometimes even from the kids, well it’s overwhelming.  Personally I would rather have my face pounded flat with an Xbox remote, but Mom assures me that someday, I will find this endearing.  Whatever.  She’s always been the nice one. I know damn well I am not going to miss gritting out, “If you don’t stop hitting your sister with the ruler I am going to physically kill you.”

Today we were in rare form, however.  I swear it must be a full moon. Tessi was in FULL TESSI mode and had to be told to repeat herself three times when she announced her receiving the sacred pen license from her teacher.  Repeat herself because the octave and speed were too high for normal mortals to understand.  Damn Dog might have grasped it but she was hiding her crate to get away from us all.  Tessi is a force onto herself.  I try to describe her to people and I fail. The closest I can get is a the Loony Toons Tasmanian Devil, in a twirling dress and Minecraft diamond sword.

Squealing aside, we went through the week’s activities and shared all that we could remember.  Ted is away in Manila so we lamented Daddy’s absence….I am cursing him under my breath, but all was okay. My in-laws were smiling away, clearly enjoying the show.

What happened next played out in roughly fifteen seconds.  It really couldn’t have been any longer.  Yet, time must have stopped to allow all the movement that occurred.  At least I think so.  I’ve had a bit of a headache since then, so I’m not really sure when it all happened.

My charming son was in the middle of calling his sister a loser when he suddenly became quiet.  “Wow.  That’s a large bug.  Bye.” he said and then left.  He just walked out of the room and left his two sisters and his bloody dear, sainted, mother to deal with the leviathan that somehow had entered the room. I assure you, a discussion about chivalry and not being such a candy-ass will be held in the near future. As soon as I can walk, not run, across the floor to get to the safety of the chair or couch.

Returning to the fifteen seconds of horror….I wasn’t sure what he was talking about initially because I was facing the computer, but I quickly grasped the severity of the situation when the insect hating sisters began shrieking at what I would consider a pitch high enough to make ears bleed.  Turning to see them bolt from the room, again, abandoning the dear, sainted, mother; I look on the floor and there is a millipede at least five inches long.

Side Note: It could in fact be a centipede.  I’ve spent a few minutes at the University of Google trying to figure out what is was but Google’s algorithm had a hard time with my description of “Scary ass huge bug with a gazillion legs Australia” and coming up with credible sources.  I found quite a few blogs with the sentence “I was lucky enough to see this little beauty!”….whatever, what a bunch of crap.  For the purpose of this story I’m going to write millipede because I want to and also, because I never, ever want to look up pictures of Australia centipede or millipede again. There are some sick images on Google my friends, bloody sick.

Right, come back to the tale now.  Seeing the millipede move quite quickly, I naturally screamed.  I accept no shame in this. Genghis Khan, fresh from the murder of his brother and several thousands of Chinese would have jumped up on his horse and screamed like a stuck pig too.  So there.  You weren’t here, you have no idea the terror these Australian creatures can inflict.  Accepting my screaming as behavior de riguer, the tragically unseemly part was my inadvertent spilling of Diet Coke on the keyboard. This immediately cut off the Skype conversation.  I realized that the last view my poor family had of all of us was Teddy leaving, the girls screaming and bolting and then me screaming before being cut off.  Poor souls, they must have been terrified.  Not waiting to try finding the demon bug, I quickly reconnected the call in an attempt to calm their obvious fears concerning our safety.

They were laughing.  All three of them.  Laughing their heads off.  I shouted that we were okay and I leapt to find something to shove the devil spawn into the other room and watch it shimmy into either the bathroom or Teddy’s room.  The entire time I was screaming at Teddy to kill it and he, rather rudely, refused to do so.  Throughout this entire process my loving in-laws were becoming sick with laughter. The howling escalated to near Tessi proportions when I had to reveal that the death bug was now missing. We have no idea where it went.

I honestly think it was the best laugh they’ve had in a long time.  Perhaps not though.  Mom tells me that she LOVED my post about Minecraft weed.  She showed her family and friends and even felt that she needed to print it out and hand it out to strangers.  Mickie piped up that she liked the Nepalese Polish girl in Tessi’s class story. Dad didn’t comment on his, I think he was giggling too hard about Teddy running for the hills and ditching us a bad job.

You are welcome dear Family.  I’m glad our horror brought you joy.  I will let you know when we feel it’s safe to walk around the house again. Hopefully it will be before the next Skype conversation.  If not no matter, Ted will be back from Manila and running the Skype conversation for you.

I will be sobbing in my room, protected by a can of bug spray…industrial size.

What is Australian Anyway?

I’ve been in a bitter, foul mood for a few weeks or so now.  Usually this is a great time of year for me as I’m planning and having our annual blow out Halloween party.  I’m up to my neck in cutting out paper bats or sticking fake blood on windows.  If that isn’t enough, I’m usually arguing with children about settling on one single Halloween costume.  Alright, fine.  I’m usually arguing with children about lots of things, all the time.

We’re not having this party anymore, for a variety of reasons, but one of the main ones is my fellow Aussie’s attitude as of late.  I have been lectured by newspapers, social media and even friends about what is Australian and more importantly, what decidedly isn’t Australian.  Recently I have been virtually bombarded with these pearl phrases.

Halloween isn’t Australian, worse, it’s UGH…. AMERICAN.

All the Asians moving here aren’t real Australians.

Let’s play “Spot the Aussie!”

Great, now we’ll have to celebrate Diwali.

Schools are different because all the Asians are coming in and making changes.

There’s a war on Christmas!!!

Our cricket teams are full of Indian kids now.

She just needs to have a sense of humor and stop all that man-hating.

Those refugees trying to sneak in and steal our good jobs.

It’s just not like it used to be.

Hate to break it to you Sweeties, but if you and yours don’t participate in Aboriginal traditional ceremonies, you ain’t from here either. Somewhere, somehow, someone from your family tree came from some place else. Maybe they loved it, maybe they hated it.  Regardless, they left home and came here.  They landed and took the land from the aboriginal people that had it first and called it there own.

A group of people who aren’t called Australian.  Hell, the word aboriginal means “inhabiting or existing in a land from the earliest times or from before the arrival of colonists; indigenous.” and they aren’t called Australians.  That’s right.  Here in Australia we have Aboriginals and Australians.  The people who have been here for 50,000 years aren’t considered Australian. Many of my Aussie friends will stand up smartly right now and rebuke me for saying this.  After all, the Aboriginals don’t like the white fellas.  They separate themselves and choose to live away from everyone.

Yes, you’re right they do.  They are desperately trying to save what little bit of their history and culture they can and they know damn well how much they are disliked and looked down upon. Call anyone an Abo today?  Can you blame them? What would you do?

This is why aliens fly right past us. We are all human beings but as a species we separate ourselves into as many groups as possible.  If that’s not enough, then we spend hours of our lives denigrating as many groups as we can, all under the pretense of showing pride in our group.  It used to be disgusting….now however, I’m finding it horribly depressing.

If you look at the history of the globe, everyone is from somewhere else.  To live together we have to accept that different people have different ideas and do things differently. No one is saying your way is bad, just that there are many ways.

Despite all the spiders and snakes trying to kill me and the near rabid obsession with Vegemite and beets, I have loved living in Australia.  I was proud to become a citizen and I firmly believe this country is the best place on earth for me and my family to live the kind of life we want.  I will not willingly leave this beautiful nation.  None of those feelings however,  mean that I am not still proud to be an American and love a great deal many things about the land I was born in.  None of it means I want to forget everything I knew and only embrace what is right in front of me. Nor does it mean I can’t welcome other cultures into my heart.

You don’t want to participate in Halloween, Diwali, Christmas, or any other holiday or event?  Don’t.  There is no law requiring involvement.  But mocking and picking fights with people who chose to do so is pathetic. Sick of all the foreigners changing everything?  Look in the mirror and ask where your people came from.  Once someone looked at your ancestors and wished you would go the hell home.  But please, stop saying all of this is un-Australian.  Because Australia is a big, beautiful, glorious country and there is room here for all of us.  We just have to learn how to share and play nicely.

Try just for one day, ONE DAY not to find a problem with your neighbor celebrating a different holiday than you, eating a different food than you or simply looking different than you.  Just one day.  You can still enjoy everything that is important to you….just don’t denigrate what is important to someone else.

Do better Australia.  We are all worth the effort, even us foreigners.

Why Anyone Does this Gig

Parenthood is by far the most taxing, painful and difficult experience I’ve ever had.  Ask anyone deep in the throws of unbridled parenting woes and they will tell you just how rough it is.  Personally I was stunned to find out just how often I would find myself in the fetal position on the floor, crying, “Nope.  I should not have done this.  I really suck. Bring on CPS.”

Because I don’t care what kind of June Cleaver, Mary Poppins mother you are, no one enjoys being screamed at or arguing about refilling the toilet paper.  NO ONE. Those people who post on social media about how they luurrrrvvee everything about their child and just CAN’T STAND to spend even a single second away from them are deranged.  Totally and completely deranged. I hope they know that all of us talk about them behind their backs.

So why do it?  What in the hell is wrong with people who constantly complain about how tough their lives are and who insist on having kids?  Surely the current available methods of birth control should be enough to stop some people from unwittingly entering the gladiatorial Colosseum and facing hand-to-hand child rearing?

It’s simple.  For every couple of horrific, vent immediately about it moments of agony, there is one moment of pure, unwavering joy.  Something so beautiful that it takes your breath away and you simply can’t believe you are lucky enough to witness it.

My moment came last night. The 2015 Festival of Choral Music: The Argyle Concert at the Sydney Opera House.  I wrote about it last year when Connor was able to attend.  This year Tessi earned her spot in the Choir along with her sister and so I was able to watch both my girls sing in the Opera House.  For a foreigner who grew up in awe of the architecture of the Sydney Opera House and knowing that I could never see it….well, for someone like me to move to Australia and have my children perform in this unique and stunning building, reaches a level of beauty and glee that I can barely describe.

If that wasn’t enough to impress the masses, my two girls, both diagnosed with Autism before the age of two, stood in a crowd of 90 schools with several thousand students, performing to a crowd of 3000 parents and family. Anxieties, nerves, impulse control issues, sound sensitive and simple fear of the unknown were overcome and they performed, just like every other kid.

In our world, doing any activity “just like a normal kid” is akin to winning the Superbowl or the Grand Final.

There are no words to describe the intensity my feelings of joy, relief and hope.  Yes hope.  Moments like these give me hope that all will be alright.  I can dream that my girls will survive and thrive without their father and me and have the life they chose, not the one they settle for.

Last night alone was worth one hundred of the bad moments. Not just because of my girls’ triumph, but because of another winner I saw last night.  During the finale I noticed a girl with long platinum blonde hair suddenly rocket her hands to her ears.  When everyone is wearing the same shirt unusual hand motions can stick out.  As soon as her hands went up I saw her teacher make his way down to her, put his arms around her and lead her away from her seat, to stand on the edge by him.  He stood with his arms around her, holding her tight.  Suddenly, a canon with confetti exploded with a thunderous roar sending millions of bits of string and paper into the air.  The girl dropped her arms, the teacher let go and she worked her way back to her seat, cheering along with with classmates.

Dear sweet girl, you’ll never know this, but last night a total stranger cheered, “Well done!!!  You did it Baby!” for you. I couldn’t pick you out of a crowd again, but I will remember you and your success along with my daughters for the rest of my life. You got through it and participated, just like a normal kid.  Congratulations on winning the Grand Final.

Here are my babies with the most serious pose they could manage and then one of what they are really like.  Also here is a picture of the inside of the Concert Hall of the Opera House where they performed.




Not even fourteen hours later I found myself separating them to stop a punch-up over got to pick their seat in the car.  Back to normal for sure, but still riding the high from the win. I may even make it through to bed time today with a smile on my face.

Charged with Suspicion of Minecraft Usage

If you have a child under the age of fifteen that doesn’t play Minecraft, please tell me how you do it.  Not stop the game playing, I know how to stop that.  How do you live a semi-normal, reasonable life with that insidious game permeating every aspect of your day?  That’s what I can’t get around.  How do you accept this pixelated mania and it’s influence everywhere.  You think it’s just a benign video game?  Well it’s not my friend, there is grave potential for serious drama.  Mix this potential with my children and by God, there will be Hell to pay.

Yesterday I was trying to….Christ, only eighteen hours later and I have no idea what I was doing.  Sigh.  That’s another story in and of itself. Regardless I was doing some damn thing when Tessi cried out in frustration.  “Ugh!!!!  Why does it keep doing that!!???” She bellowed to the Heavens.  Concerned that something was actually wrong I moved in closer. Note to self, I can remember being in the living room, but I can’t remember what I was doing.  Better write that down to discuss with my doctor later.

Back to my story.  I asked Tessi what was wrong.  She looked up from her ipad and said, “Oh, I’m trying to plant weed but this other thing keeps growing all over the place!!!”

At least that’s what I think she said.  In truth, I stopped listening after I heard the word “weed.”  “Sorry…um what did you say?  What are you trying to plant?” I said back to her, trying to have my voice remain calm but firm and authoritative.  “Weed” she responded, already bored with the conversation and doing her best calm, yet firm authoritative voice.

Time to bring the big guns.  “TESSIA….” I began, only to be interrupted by her sister.  “Wheat!”  She means W.H.E.A.T. Mom.” said Connor.  Connor’s been feeling sensitive about being told she doesn’t sound American so now she insists on calling me Mom or Mommy instead of the local Mum or Mummy.  Still asks for a bickie or asks how I’m going, but I can’t get the concept of euphemisms through to her yet. It’s a work in progress.

Tessi by now has forgotten that any of us are in the room anymore and is fully engrossed in her game.  “Tessi, do you know what weed is?” I tentatively ask.  “Nope” came the terse reply.  Right.  Parental education moment.  “Tessi, look up at me. (annoyed grunt and then acquiescence)  “Wheat is a plant that is grown and harvested to make bread.” I begin in my school voice.  “I know that” came the shut down response.  I need to make a point here, so I shut her down even faster.  “Don’t interrupt me.  Weed is a plant that is grown and harvested so people can smoke it.  Do you know why?”  A deep, resigned breath is the prequel to “No, I don’t know why they smoke it.” Now she’s keeping her head up so I think she’s paying attention, not realizing that I can see her eyes dart back down to the ipad.

“PUT DOWN THAT DAMN IPAD AND LOOK AT ME WHEN I AM TALKING TO YOU!”  This is said in my full battle-ready Mom voice.  This is an ALL HANDS moment that forces both her and Connor put down their iPads.  Even Damn Dog looked over at me, anxious that someone was going catch Hell, then relieved that it wasn’t her.  Tessi looks genuinely shocked that I knew she wasn’t looking at me. This is something about kids that always concerns and pisses me off.  It’s either they are really that stupid and think I can’t see this or they think I’m that stupid and don’t realize what it means.  No one can win here.  I don’t like that.

“At school when they say don’t take drugs, weed is one of the drugs they’re telling you not to take.” I explain calmly.  “Oh, I didn’t know that.” she said.  Tessi wants to look away but she’s still unnerved by the sorcery I used to realize she wasn’t looking before.  I press my luck.  “Don’t tell people you are planting weed when you mean wheat.” I said, hoping to end this quickly.  “But what if I mean to grow weed?” comes the response that I should have been, yet somehow did not expect.

“YOU DON’T WANT TO GROW WEED, NOT REAL OR CYBER WEED.”   Tough mom voice is back.  I really don’t want to continue this conversation anymore. Tessi, ever Tessi, responds, “No, no. I don’t want to grow real weed, I meant in Minecraft.   Real weed would be too difficult.  Remember the strawberries I planted?The possums came and ate all of them.  I don’t want to grow weed because they will just eat it. That’s a lot of work to put into something that we won’t even get to use.”


This is no longer funny. This is how you get phone calls from school or worse, police raids in the middle of the night.  I don’t think it’s funny, but Connor and even Teddy upstairs can barely contain themselves.  Connor pipes in with, “I’m telling all my friends about this conversation!!”  I give her the stern Mom Nose Flare Glare but she quickly sealed herself up in her blankets.  I’m sure she did it on purpose so she can pretend she didn’t see me.

“So, can I grow it in Minecraft if I promise not to grow it in real life?”  Jesus, she’s not kidding, she really is thinking about this.  The voice of reason from upstairs floats down, “No you can’t do that, drugs are a mod.  You can’t use mods in the iPad game.  You can only do mods on the PC game. Thank you Oh Great Fifteen Year Old One.

“Ooooh, well never mind, the pc mods are a pain, thanks anyway!” Comes Tessi’s final words on the matter.  Wait.  The drugs are real in Minecraft? Stunned I go to the computer and yes, there is this.


Oh my God.  There is a whole world of drug mods.  Jesus, this is gonna happen.  She is going to say something to someone someday and I’m going to get arrested. I am exactly the type of person this crap happens to.  Alright fine.  Come get me. No one even think of bailing me out, just bring me magazines and cigarettes to trade.

Oh That’s Right, I Live in MY House

Remember my last post?  That heart-wrenching post about feeling the sadness of death and the needing to retreat.  I wrote about cherishing family and announcing that I was going to get my sick child out of bed and spend the day bonding…well, clearly I forgot that I lived in my house.

Here was the mood just after I finished blogging.

Me: Dearest Son, let’s spend some time together.  Life is precious and we only have right now.

Son’s response:  No thanks, I’m good.

Me: No, no, lets bond and discuss the frailty of life and rejoice in the love our family shares.

Son: Yea, thanks anyway, I’m good. I’m laying down for a bit. but you enjoy.”

Not to be dissuaded I found my lovely animals.  Animals always love you, want to be with you and see that you are happy.

Monty cat:  Seriously?  I can’t even look at you anymore.

Sasha, Damn Dog who always loves me:  Sound asleep in the bean bag.  Shaking didn’t wake her.  Noises coming from all ends.  I retreated.

Echo, the sweet new kitten we rescued:  AHH!!!!  A fly!  I must kill it!!!  Go away hooman, I have no time for you!

So I wait and plan the afternoon when my girls get home from school.  Yes, my loving and sometimes far too clingy girls; they will give me the nurturing and love I am seeking.

After returning home I say, “Let’s watch a show together or maybe do a craft!”  Connor gives me hope, by looking at me – actually making eye contact!  Then she spies the bag on the credenza.  “Is that my Year 6 Farewell dress?” she coyly says.  I can’t even finish the word yes before she’s grabbed the bag and run upstairs to change.

I turn to Tessi.  My sweet darling Tessi, whom I usually can’t beat away with a stick; surely she is my port in the storm.  She turns to face me with, “You got me a dress too, didn’t you?”  This time I didn’t even get to answer.  “GIMMIEMYDRESSCONNORTHEYAREN’TBOTHYOURS!!!” wafts down the steps behind her and I suddenly am alone.

Not entirely defeated, I head upstairs to share in the bonding over trying on new dresses.  This is when I learned that Damn Dog has peed all over the floor upstairs.  She woke up, walked past the boy, climbed up the stairs to pee.  Unbelievable, you have got to be kidding me.  I clean that up and go join my girls.  The dresses are lovely, perhaps we can join together in a moment of love and harmony.

Connor:  Can you leave, I want to change out of this.

Me: But don’t you want to plan your hairstyle?  Perhaps plan some shoes?

Connor: Nah, I’m good.

Me:  Tessi, what about you?  Tessi?  Tessi, where are you?

From downstairs Tessi bellows:  What? I’m watching Stampy, what do you want now?

Me: Oh never bloody mind.

Dejected, I head downstairs. Echo screams past me on the stairs, stops at the bottom, yells at me and actually flips her tail at me as she tears off to start chasing Monty. I know for a fact that two people who work for cat rescues read this so I am not going to type the phrase that came flying out of my mouth at her.

That’s Life.  Well, Life in my house anyway. I’m sure somewhere there is some Swiss Family Robinson or von Trapp type family sitting around the campfire sharing feelings and emotions.  There must be, I read about them all the time.

Help me out Cyber World, are your families more like mine or like the good families?  If you are one of the good ones, could you lie a little bit?


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