Ten things I’d really have liked for Mothers Day

Okay.  I know this is an easy target.  And there are probably a lot of these lists going around.  And of course, if I really could have anything I wanted, I would wish for world peace and end to poverty and a cure for cancer and MS and every other bastard degenerative disease out there.  I’d also wish for a happy ending for all of the women who so desperately want to be mums, but aren’t yet.  Excruciating.

So thank you to my beautiful children, and their handmade cards and gifts.  And thank you to my husband for buying me flowers and vacuuming the car and making me dinner.  I salute you.

mothers day delights

Here are ten things which would also have been awesome Mothers Day gifts:

1.  It would be really nice if, for once, my daughter nailed the ‘what I love about Mummy’ question, at the school mothers day morning.

You know – the bit when you all sit around in a circle, and every child has a turn at saying something nice about their mum?  In front of EVERYONE.  And I see her start to squirm… Some acceptable examples, as voiced by her classmates last Friday, were:

  • She’s AMAZING
  • She’s beautiful
  • She’s the best mum in the world (5 children said this!)

And what I got was:

  • She cooks me food

Now this is a true statement.  I do, in fact, cook her dinner most nights, and pack her lunches every day.  And yet… I’ll admit to being a little underwhelmed.  Surely an adjective or two wouldn’t go astray here?

fish finger guys

(I do make awesome dinners)

2.  I would love a shoe re-homing device

Like a Robomaid, only it specifically seeks out shoes (must be able to climb walls to reach those placed on the mantle piece out of the puppy’s reach) and returns them neatly to the correct closets.  Just a little thing, but I think it would make me immensely happy.

my mantle piece

3.  I’d like my children to remember to flush the toilet and wash their hands

Again, just a little thing.  And not a terribly difficult concept to grasp, one would think.  But do you know how often it is that I walk into the bathroom to be greeted by Mr Hanky staring back at me?!  Far too often.

I think what I need is one of those space aged booths with automatic flushing and a lock-in system which denies exit until you’ve washed your hands (with soap Goddamnit).  This would also eliminate the ‘did you wash and flush?’ question, which I currently ask at least five times daily.

And while I’m on the subject of toileting,..

4.  Is there such a thing as doggy toilet training boot camp?

And if not, can I maybe have that Chesty Bonds Vet man from the tele come over for some intensive toilet training assistance?  And I can make him cups of tea and regale him with cute puppy stories..

Why are you looking at me like that?  Did I say that out loud?

bondi vet man

What? Are you saying I’m the first person to have this fantasy?

Oh and one more while I’m on the subject:

5.  Can I please be allowed to go to the toilet in peace?!  PLEASE!?

This means no barging through the door as soon as I have closed it.  Or, for that matter, trying to hip-and-shoulder the door down if I lock it.  And no thumping on the door and asking me questions.  And no wailing MUUUUMMAAA I need you!

And finally, no slumping heavily against the bathroom door and breathing loudly until I am finished.  Just NO!  Okay?!

6.  I would like a mute button for the children

Now I don’t wish to sound harsh here.  I adore my children.  And they say some of the most delightful things.  So I would just like the option of the mute button for emergencies, and I promise I wouldn’t use it too often.

4878030109_3ace30595c_z

7.  I’d like a CCTV slow motion playback / external referee to sort out the children’s arguments

Imagine how much easier this would make my life?!  All I’d need to do, in the event of the screaming match / sobbing child / mysterious chocolate swindle, would be to make that special sign they do (where you draw the outline of a screen with your fingertips, and look up to the heavens).

I might use my mute button whilst waiting for the decision.

red card


Sorry kids – official decision is final

8.  I’d like the children to call out ‘DADDDYEEEEEE!!!’ in the middle of the night, in the event of a wet bed / tummy ache / evil Kermit in the cupboard / unexplained night terror / pending vomit

Enough said.  Moving right along..

9.   I’d like an extra 5 minutes sleep for every F&#KING loom band I find around the house.

I mean SERIOUSLY!  These things are everywhere.  And the dog tries to eat them.  And then I have to chase her.  And then she thinks I’m playing with her.  And then by the time I’ve finally caught her and prized open her jaws, I’ve forgotten what the hell I was doing in the first place.loom bands

10.  I’d like a four day mini break in Noosa with 7 old friends, a rooftop spa and and an afternoon beach cocktail party

And that, my friends, is exactly what I’m doing this weekend!  Come Thursday morning I’ll be boarding a plane (without a million activity pads and snacks and changes of clothes) and ordering myself a glass of sparkling.

It’s a Mothers Day present I’m giving to myself.  And it’s going to be awesome.

 

Advertisements

The upside to Gastro

Viral gastro.  It spreads like wildfire and takes no prisoners.  And if you have school-aged children, you’re a sitting duck.  Before you know someone in your fold is incubating, you’ve already been sneezed on (and spat on, and shared bathwater, towels and eating utensils with them). The chances of escape are slim to none.

I don’t think I need go into gross detail here.  Most of us have been there and bought the t-shirt.  And if you have children, buying the t-shirt means being spewed (and possibly pooed) on.

But this weekend, while we waited-out our quarantine period at home, I’ve been considering the upside to gastro.  I’m a glass half full kinda girl (with a blog to write).

Cleanliness is next to Godliness

Let’s face it.  The kids’ bedding really did need a wash, and sometimes it just takes fate (in the form of a projectile vomit) to step in and force your hand.  On the upside, while you’re scraping the slimy chunks off the sheets in the wee hours, you can also give next week’s ‘to do’ list a pre-emptive tick.

And that awkward spot behind the toilet cistern?  God knows when you’d’ve found time to crawl in and clean around there, without the vomit splatter to guide you.

washing line

If we look on the bright side, gastro is a timely wake-up call for the distracted housekeeper (image: Ian Rees)

Strength and agility training

If you’re a parent, you’ll be aware of the universal fact that children seldom know when they’re about to vomit.  We all know the scenario:

Parent:   Do you feel sick sweetie?

Child:     No… (squirming uncomfortably)

Parent:   Hmm.. Should we get the bowl to the just in case?

Child:    I’m not sick. (turning green) I just want a biscuit.

Parent:  Hmmm.. (eyeing child suspiciously)

Child:    I don’t feel g….. euaaggchch! Bleurgh! (SPLAT)   Waahhhhhhh!

But with practice, you can make up for this deficit by developing superhuman vomit detection senses.  Given enough training, you’ll snap to attention at the slightest moan.

Before you’re even awake, you’ll be streaking to their side, deftly dodging obstacles like an elite athlete.  You’ll impress yourself with what you can use to intercept those surprise projectile offerings!  An old bowl is good, but if you don’t have one handy, your cupped hands (or your nightdress held aloft) are perfectly good alternatives.

It’s better to take one for the team, than be faced with the lingering smell of it on the rug ’til to the ends of time.

You’ve heard the stories of mothers who lift cars to rescue trapped children?  Well the speed at which I can appear at my child’s side – bowl in hand, in the middle of the night – is eerily similar.  If the vomit-dash was an olympic sport, I’d’ve smashed a few WRs this weekend.

Book of vomit?


Why do I vomit? Great subject for a take home reader.

No more boring shopping trips

Going to the supermarket is so boring and expensive – but in the case of gastro, you need only duck out once to stock the house with icypoles, rehydration fluids, antiseptic paraphernalia and paper towel.  After that you can board up the windows, pop on the tele, and wait for the next man to fall.

And while I’m on the subject, who are you kidding with the Glen 20 anyway?  You can cover every surface of the house in that stuff, but you’ll never escape.  Haven’t you watched zombie movies?  A splash in the eye is all it takes (and although the result isn’t quite as immediate, if can often be just as dramatic).

zombie child


Remarkably similar to my experience late Friday night (image Oscar Ocelotl Aguirre)

A Licence to be lazy

When you have gastro, and you’ve splashed the news all over Facebook, you can be assured no-one’s going to be dropping by.  Your friends don’t want to know you (and those who have visited over the last week are wishing to sweet Jesus they hadn’t).

The upside here is that whole family can stay in pyjamas indefinitely.  There’s no need to make the beds or vacuum.  You certainly won’t be welcome at swimming lessons (that’s one weekly argument eliminated).  And come to think of it, there’s no need for makeup or hair washing either  – it’s only going to get vomited on again!

Finally, because you need all the distractions you can get, usual television rules are suspended.  Leave it on all day.

Revel in the snuggle time

Although we love them, children are generally exhausting.  They talk a lot, make a mother-load of mess and ask for food constantly.  They also rarely sit still, which means limited snuggling opportunities.

Gastro brings out the vulnerable side in any child, and for a brief while, you are once again the centre of their universe.  You get to ask sweetly: Can I get you anything possum? or Are you okay little fella? You get to sit up all night and watch Rage, smoothing a little one’s silky hair and uttering sweet nothings to soothe them

Go you earth mother you.

Mealtimes are a breeze with gastro

 (image: teamjimmyjoe.com)


(image: teamjimmyjoe.com)

It sounds like a ridiculous 1950’s ad line, but gastro gives you a rare pardon from one of the most relentless constants in life – mealtimes.  It’s truly amazing the time you find on your hands when no-one wants to eat.

In the land of gastro, dry biscuits or bananas are perfectly acceptable meal offerings (or you can get fancy and take it up a notch with vegemite toast).  This eliminates any need for the usual bargaining and cajoling over vegetables, and puts you permanently in the good books.

Let me share one of my most treasured moments this weekend:  It was the look on my child’s face when they asked for dinner, and I suggested an icy pole.  For an instant, as I tenderly peeled back the paper, and shuffled them back toward the television, I was the coolest mum on earth.

Muffin-top begone

As a dietitian, I’m often asked for quick fix weight loss ideas.  And although I’m loathe to jump on the fasting is so hot right now bandwagon, I’ve got to say:  When it’s unavoidable (and hopefully infrequent) it’s amazing what a few days without food can do for you.

Just think of all the fundraising chocolates you’d’ve scoffed if you weren’t busy mopping up vomit.  Your weary abdominal muscles haven’t seen such a workout since you made that one, ridiculous attempt at body pump.  And ask yourself: when was the last time you went this long without alcohol, coffee or salty food?

Your body loves you right now.  Your liver loves you right now.  And when you finally turn the corner, and sum up the energy to get out of pyjamas and into your jeans again, you’ll notice a bit of extra breathing room.  Well enjoy this gift to you from gastro (you’ve worked hard for it, after all).

And seriously, imagine how good that first glass of wine will taste, when you’re back in ruddy good health…

Weird Science

It really has been a while between blogs.   I know this because quite a few people have been asking me how my blogging is going (ie. they have noticed that it’s not going).  And my stock-standard answer is to blame the silly season, which appears to to kick off earlier every year.

In 2013, I managed to convince myself by the last week of November that Christmas was imminent, and that I had already failed miserably on the planning and shopping front.  And as I do most years, I promptly started waking up at 3am with a compulsion to write lists.

Is it marketing?  Well it doesn’t help when Christmas decorations and ads start to appear during October.  I certainly hold partially responsible those infuriating people who finish their Christmas shopping during November, and then feel the need to announce it on social media (you know the ones).  But I also feel that life just gets incrementally busier for me every year.

And so, in logical sequence, I decided that we would throw a Mad Scientist themed party at home in December for my almost seven-year old daughter.   You’ve heard the saying: if you want something done, ask a busy person!

Well I would like to declare, in hindsight, that if I’m the busy person you’re asking, best think again.  It appears that I’m not one of those people who thrives on being ridiculously busy.  Allow me to illustrate the case in point:

A few weeks ago, for my daughter’s school lunch Christmas party, I presented her with a selection of left-over jubes on a disposable plate.

I was so exhausted and creatively stunted by the relentless party planning and final execution the day before, that a plate of jubes was about all I could muster.  It was technically admissible, being a sweet (L-Z were to bring a sweet food), and being arranged into thirds according to colour (her class was to present their plate in 1/3’s fraction).  Way to go mum.  Really out of the box.

I think a little part of me died that day, as I pulled the car to a halt outside school, hastily rearranged the jumbled up jubes, gave her a squeeze and propelled her toward the gate. There was no way I was walking her into class with that sorry offering.

So why the elaborate, at-home, science-themed birthday party?

We naively gave over the choice of party to my daughter (I even encouraged the home party, in the deluded thinking that it may save money), and were quite chuffed when she chose the gender-neutral theme of ‘science’.  I was quietly overjoyed at the absence of fairies and princesses, and the fact that she wanted to invite a few boys from her class.  I didn’t quite appreciate that it would take on a life of its own.

Just Google ‘science party’, and you’ll see what I mean.

This is the point where I diverged from what my husband, my daughter and her friends would have found acceptable, and elevated things to the next level.  I began trawling the internet nightly for protective eyewear, petri dishes and test tubes.  I drifted off to sleep at night dreaming about child-sized lab coats.

All I can suggest is that I was overcome by a kind of party-force, fuelled by equal parts pent-up creativity, a tendency for perfectionism and the egging on from a close friend who moonlights as a party planner.  The perfect storm.

Needless to say, my husband wasn’t overcome in quite the same fashion.  His exasperated expression, evident whenever I gently enquired regarding his progress with the name badges said: What are you on about?!  We’ll set off a few Coke geysers sing happy birthday, and then they’ll all eat some cake and go home.  I believe I was also told not to ‘overthink’ things.  Humph.

So as you can imagine, by the time the party day came around, there was a fair amount of angst in the household.  Particularly so when, an hour before kickoff, my husband decided that tipping the kids entire Lego collection onto the lounge room floor and building an electric circuit that would light a bulb, should take precedence over helping me set up the actual party and experiments outside.  You can possibly imagine the look on my face (which would be quite amusing now in retrospect), and the choice words muttered under my breath, as I literally raced around the house, running sheet in hand.

But if I fast-forward to present day, post party, post Christmas, I am overjoyed to report that:

  1. Despite the urge to do so, I did not rip my running sheet into shreds and insert them forcibly into any of my husband’s orifices.
  2. We’re still married, and
  3. The kids had an awesome time.

And so, I thought I’d take the time to chronicle the bits that went swimmingly, the bits that totally tanked, and some shortcuts for anyone else out there looking to throw a science party.

And yes, okay, I am also writing this to boast about my newly discovered party planning skills and MAD NOVELTY CAKE BAKING SKILLS.  Indulge me – I’m still harbouring post-party delusions of grandeur.1461109_10152109717889265_1648075115_n

Now let me tell you about science party paraphernalia.

With the benefit of hindsight, I can tell you that one size fits all disposable lab coats are not made for seven year-old children.  Amusingly, it turns out that ‘one size fits all’ equates to XXL, and when we opened the package and my daughter tried one on, it was simultaneously panic-inducing and hilarious.

After another week and many fruitless internet searches, I happened upon the idea of creating lab coats from oversized white t-shirts, simply cut down the middle.  Thank you blogiverse, and unknown science-party blogger.  A few clicks and a few days later, I was safely in possession of a box of ‘lab coats’.

Photo 15-12-2013 2 52 08 am

P1070908

During the earlier stages of planning (before my husband had decided I’d gone quite loco) he created these uber-cool name tags, based around the periodic table.  Did we blatantly rip off the idea from the Breaking Bad credits?  Yes we did.  But children don’t watch Breaking Bad, so no copy write problems there.

1466023_10152109720439265_6211801_n

And seeing as we were going down the Breaking Bad road, I couldn’t resist this Jesse-inspired t-shirt, for the Daddy-turned-science-party-facilitator.

P1070939

We used the same name tags on the zippy pouch party bags (discovered during one of my many $2 shop hit-and-runs), and filled them each with a note-pad and pen, goggles, test tube lollies, popping candy and rock sugar candy (which did look worryingly like elicit street drugs).   Photo 15-12-2013 2 52 34 am988797_10152109718159265_1772079339_n (1)

On the lunch menu were mini frankfurts in specimen cups, petri jellies, fruit molecules and jelly-cream beakers.  1506773_10152109717459265_1290934904_n Photo 15-12-2013 2 52 26 am

Less photographically impressive, but none-the-less well received were the party-girl’s specific requests: party pies and sausage rolls.  Apparently it is not a party without these items.

Do you like how I used a Sharpie on clear disposable plastic cups to create the mock beakers for the jelly cream concoctions?  I could claim artistic ingenuity, but in fact I unashamedly stole the idea from this excellent science party blog post.

155723_10152109718549265_2068038862_n

And yes, more than one party attendant did point out their lack of uniformity in the scale department – who would have thought seven year-olds would be such sticklers for accuracy?

When you’re going to so much trouble for a party, I’d highly recommend asking someone to be there just to take photos of all your hard work.  In my case, my lovely friend Dawn, from Ruby May Designs not only helped arrange the party table, she also captured the details you see here, while I was quietly hyperventilating out of sight somewhere.

1487355_10152109718294265_713117097_n 1461756_10152109722444265_83989566_n

1514538_10152109718809265_318554603_n1469906_10152109721644265_1883118658_n

And now you’ve seen all the glossy photos, lets delve into the science party action and activities.  Especially the bits that didn’t quite go as planned.

Psychedelic milk.

I gleaned this idea from someone much more together than me, and practiced it before-hand with great success.  You can read her post, which provides detailed instructions and has fantastic photos of the colourful milk swirls that we were supposed to discover.  I would, however, like to add one small but salient point, which we discovered on the party day.

When you give 20 excitable children a bowl of milk, food colouring and a jar of cotton buds, their first instinct is (of course) to stir the colour in using the cotton buds.  In fact, even if you tell them NOT to stir it in, they will anyway.  They cannot physically restrain themselves from stirring the colour in.

Photo 15-12-2013 2 52 59 am

In retrospect, I would have had an adult demonstrate the process before allowing the children within a foot of the experiment table.  Then, if they still decided to stir in the frigging food dye, I could have said I told you so.

I don’t have many photos of our failed psychedelic milk experiment .  But if you would like to envision the scene, there were a lot of confused-looking children dressed in cute lab coats, and quite a few bowls of grey milk.

No problems.  We moved right along.

Mentos and Coke Geyser

Cue ‘Yeah Science’ Dad with a packet of Mentos and a 2L bottle of Pepsi Max.  He was quickly surrounded by 20 screaming children (I think at this stage they were screaming for Mentos, which I find odd, considering the amount of lollies in close proximity, which they could have helped themselves to at any time).   Using the purpose-made geyser tube I had picked up during my late-night internet trawling, he created a rather impressive fountain of foaming science-stuff, and was instantly elevated to Cool Dad status.

Photo 15-12-2013 4 30 30 am

Film canister rockets

These babies were a huge hit with the party-goers.  A friend gave me the hot tip – that I could get as many film canisters as I wanted, free from a local Photo processing shop. You add 1/2 Alka Seltzer tablet, a few teaspoons of water, quickly snap the lid on, invert the canister, and stand clear.P1070930

P1070934

Elephant toothpaste

There are lots more impressive posts about this experiment, such as this one here.  Using a combination of yeast, warm water, hydrogen peroxide, dish detergent, and food dye (here we go again) you can produce foamy stuff which (apparently) resembles elephant’s toothpaste.

In this case, due to the potentially toxic nature of the hydrogen peroxide, and with the hindsight of the failed milk experiment, we decided use smaller groups of children with a significantly greater amount of supervision.

P1070917

I’ll skip to the chase, and report that after much phaffing about with gloves and funnels, and a few tense moments, we did create some rather impressive elephant-toothpaste-like foam. Photo 15-12-2013 4 00 40 amPhoto 15-12-2013 4 02 58 am

Can you see the vivid hue of our experiment foam here?  Well that was exactly the colour of the children’s hands after they played with the foam.  Sorry parents, your child appears to be turning into a Smurf, starting at the hands.

Photo 15-12-2013 4 01 32 am

As is the way with childrens’ parties, everything took longer than expected, and quite a few of the planned activities never actually came to fruition.  We couldn’t be bothered in the end with the DIY lava lamps and lolly molecule making – by this stage the kids were happy to play with magnetic slime and magnets I purchased online.  They also enjoyed having a go at the Guinness World Record for number of seven year-olds to fit on a small round Springfree trampoline (at this point I realised that asking parents to sign a waiver upon dropping their child off may have been a good idea).P1070912

Photo 15-12-2013 3 15 06 am

The next thing to do was to sing happy birthday and cut the rather confronting creation you see below.  The brain cake.

1002051_10152109719199265_237343688_n

Various terms used to describe it include ‘disgusting’, ‘gruesome’ and ‘revolting’.  For those who could get past the presentation and eat a slice, it was surprisingly tasty.

Photo 15-12-2013 4 32 15 am

If you’re interested in the detailed dirt on creating the brain cake, you can read my version here.

The children then commandeered the studio, transforming it into an underage rave for 20 screaming, sugar-fuelled children.  Yeah Science Dad became DJ daddy, who begrudgingly succumbed to the demands for Katy Perry and One Direction.  Interspersed with a science quiz and a few more rockets and Diet Coke geysers, that was pretty much a wrap.

In conclusion, I’d like to share the following observations:

  • Seven year-olds scream a lot when they’re excited.  In fact, the greater the numbers present, the louder the screaming and the higher the pitch.  We have concluded that in party terms, screaming is generally a good sign (given there have been no serious injuries of course).  Conversely, if all is quiet, it may mean that you have a boring party on your hands.
  • Twenty is rather a ridiculous number of guests to invite to a 7th birthday party, especially in the absence of any official party entertainer-type person.  And although such a party may guarantee your child a good month of popularity amongst their school friends, this should be weighed up against the potential strain on one’s marriage.
  • If you are lucky enough to have family to help, do rope your relatives into heating and serving the food.  This will ensure that the children actually get fed, as you run from one interrupted task to the next, in the manner of a strung out wedding planner.

But before signing off, I have one more thing to report.  Just a few days ago, while I was writing this post, my friend texted me some pretty awesome news.  When reviewing the year that was 2013, her son reported that the best thing that year had been…..

‘India’s science party’.  Bless him.

I’ll leave you with that thought, until my next party chronicle, which should be expected sometime in the vicinity of December, 2022, when I have recovered.

P10708901488746_10152109718429265_1612905673_n

We are Family

It is Sunday evening, and I have taken up residence in my husband’s man-cave for the next hour or so, while he puts the children to bed.  Not a bad payoff, I feel, for cleaning up the veritable mountain of dishes left over from today’s lunch with friends.  There are two reasons that I’m quite happy with this transaction:

a) I do a much better job of the dishes.  It’s my thing.

b) He is somewhat merry after our long lunch, and has been revving the children up with frenzied tickle fights, to the point that they are now behaving as though they’ve snorted a few lines of coke and followed it up with a red cordial chaser.  Good luck with getting them to bed, sucker.

I have my cup of tea, my computer, and that’s pretty much bliss, as far as I’m concerned.  It’s so quiet in here!  And experiencing the man-cave from within, I can appreciate it’s magnetic pull, which often causes my significant other to go missing in action.  It is here that we eventually discover him, after one of us notices his prolonged absence following simple tasks such as putting out the rubbish.

If I turn my head, I can look out of the window and catch a glimpse of the house, as a small nude body goes streaking through the sun room.  I can faintly make out high pitched shrieks (hilarity or injury? – It’s often difficult to tell the difference) and the thud of their stampeding feet.  And is that Dancing Queen he’s playing?  Christ, he’s had more to drink than I first thought.

The thing is, I now realise that I really do need to go to the toilet, but I fear that if I go back inside, the magic bubble will burst.  The children will instantly remember that they desperately needed me, to help them find the green Texta, or to make them a crumpet, or to referee their current argument about who’s turn it is to play the kazoo.  Maybe I could sneak inside without them noticing?  Nope – too risky – I’ll just hang on.  If I need to, I could always use my teacup, I suppose.

The studio used to be one of those old-school, dirt-floored sheds, filled with rusty tins full of nails and utterly creepy spiderwebs.  But my ingenious father worked his magic a few years ago, to turn it into a proper room to house Cam’s vast collection of old vinyl and electronic equipment, which he amassed throughout his former, pre-reproductive life.  It now also houses a ratty fold-out couch and our old refrigerator, elevating it’s status to fully-fledged man cave.

It provides a sanctuary from the crazies who rule our house (the children, not me of course), and doubles as a snoring retreat, for those nights when the red wine has been flowing a little too freely.  I also suspect, just quietly, it may be the place of some covert rum-drinking, from time to time.

The desk is littered with a colourful array of tiny wires, bulbs, screws, a soldering iron and something with wheels on it.  I think these are the contents of the mysterious padded post-packs addressed to him, which have been arriving on our doorstep with increasing frequency of late.  If you’re wondering – no – I don’t think he’s building a bomb (I’ve checked, and can find no trace of suspicious liquids or timing devices).  It’s just that when it comes to late night online shopping, we both have our vices -mine being fashion, and his being robotics.  Whatever floats your boat, I suppose.

My escape to the man-cave this evening is something my husband and I have come to refer to as a ‘free period’ (as in, the free period you had in high school, when you were supposed to engage in private study).  In my friendship circle, they are also known as a ‘spare’.  They can be a single (typically a few hours), double (the full day), or a full-weekend spare.  The latter are a rare beast – highly negotiated and desperately coveted.  I have one coming up in August, and the mere thought of it always elicits an impromptu happy dance.

Spares are allocated on the basis of need, and are run on an honour system.  It is usually quite evident when a spare is required.  For example, when I came home from work last weekend, I could see that Cam was losing the good fight.

At first glance, it appeared that the house had been ransacked by a very thorough intruder, leaving no stone unturned.  It also looked like someone had detonated a rice-filled device in the kitchen.  It was icy outside, the rain hadn’t relented all morning, and as a result, the kids were in stir crazy, difficult-to-please mode.  The gourmet fried rice he had prepared for their lunch just wasn’t right – they wanted a sandwich – and I could almost see the steam coming out of his ears.

And so, having the perspective and patience of the one who had been out of the house for the morning, I granted him an on-the-spot free period, banishing him to his cave for the remainder of the afternoon.  I felt like a (slightly underdressed) fairy godmother.  If I remember correctly, I think I added that he should really do his tax, but honestly, who was I kidding?

The very next day, I’d had to call in the favour, after I spent a particularly long morning at the park, attempting to wear the little beggars out.  Back home only thirty minutes, Cam caught me.. well… hiding from the children, behind the wardrobe door, as they roamed the house endlessly calling my name.  ‘Mumma? Where is she? Muuu-meeee? I can’t find her! She was here a minute ago…MUUUUUMMMMMMEEEE!!! WHERE HAVE YOU GONE???’ Man, they just don’t take a hint.

And at this point start to I feel a bit guilty, a bit ungrateful, for wanting to flee their unwavering love and neediness.  Why do I feel such joy in escaping those sticky little clutches for a bit?  It’s because being a parent is utterly exhausting – that’s a universally accepted concept.  I know for a fact that after a few hours to myself, my patience stores will magically regenerate, and I’ll be a much better parent.  I’ll also be less likely to be sporting ‘that cross look’ (as my children refer to it), which has caused some fairly permanent frown-lines between my brows.

So tomorrow morning, during my few hours off for the week, you’ll find me revelling in my own space.  I will be enjoying my coffee without having to explain why we shouldn’t lick the table, or pick our nose in public, or wresting the salt shaker out of someone’s little mitts. To the casual observer, I might appear to be reading the newspaper, but I’m generally not taking the words in.  I’m simply doing nothing in particular, by myself, and loving it.