Being Grateful

dolphin-1679468_1280With a natural propensity for anxiety and a daily irrationality caused by the hormonal imbalances of middle age, I know that most of the time I am bad about feeling grateful and creating my own happiness. I might be appalled by the images coming out of Aleppo, but sadly, they don’t stop me from moaning about my trivial first world problems.

 

I know that individually we can’t solve the world’s problems – that we can only empathise with those who are grieving or in danger – but what we can do is to appreciate how lucky we have it.

 

So today I’m going to share a few precious moments I experienced on my recent holiday with you…

 

One day, a pod of five or six dolphins emerged out of the water, close to the shore line. It was ironic really, because the previous time we visited the area we each paid $50 a ticket to go on a tourist boat tour to see them and Kurt and I spent the whole time heaving at the back of the boat, so missed the one rogue dolphin that apparently swam by. The dolphin with ADHD, the performer of the group, suddenly broke free from the rest of them and caught the waves majestically into shore to perform for us and this time I didn’t even fuck up the ‘moment’, like I usually do, by frantically searching for my iPhone to record it and missing the whole darned thing.

 

After the family beach holiday the old man and I drove three hours further north to visit friends who have had a ‘tree change’ this year and bought farmland in the hills outside a beautiful country town called Bellingen. It was a sticky, thirty-seven degrees on Saturday and after trawling our way through the Christmas markets they took us to the river to cool down with a dip, where we came across these two guys playing music among the trees, apparently in harmony with the movement of the currents. One of them was playing a didgeridoo…a fucking didgeridoo in the middle of nowhere.

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Another day at the beach I decided to take myself off for a walk in a vain attempt to burn off some of the excess food consumed because we were on holiday, and as I began to walk along the cool sand I noticed the spring in my step quicken as the sensation of the water lapping around my toes relaxed me. Before I knew what I was doing, the sand became alive and I had a Julie Andrews moment, feeling energised enough to start jogging. Everything was perfect – the heat from the sun was counter-balanced by the coolness of the ocean and I could feel my body release the tension that has built up over the year like a toxin in my body, my lungs fill with clean air and my heart respond accordingly and slow down to a normal pattern.

 

Admittedly, I couldn’t get out bed the next day without falling over.golden-doodle-1626721_1280

 

Christmas is fast approaching and with it comes so many opportunities for us to acknowledge the gifts that don’t cost anything in our lives. Even if the kids are so over-excited they come across as entitled little shits on the day, or lunch turns into a family fight and the dog throws up the turkey, we all need to take a moment and appreciate what we have.

 

Many people have no control over their lives or their situation so those of us who are fortunate enough to live in an equitable society, able to meet our mortgage or rental payments, put food on our table and receive love and support when we need it, should say a silent thank you.

 

 

 

 

‘Tis The Season Of The Family Holiday

It’s that character-building time of the year when all those carefully thwarted irritations caused by living with people you didn’t choose to live with, are thrown squarely into the spotlight on the family holiday. family-932245_1280

 

Why I insist on instilling this week of hell bonding I have no idea, but I get sentimental after I watch the Americans celebrate Thanksgiving and we begin the final approach to the silly season. All those movies like Love Actually, The Holiday and Home Alone remind me of the importance of keeping families together, no matter how far apart our life journeys take us.

 

Why I should feel the need to do this when our young adults refuse to leave home, I don’t know, but the aim of this week is to get through it to be thankful for what we have and to remind each other how much we really love and appreciate each other. I expert either Kurt or the old man to be back on the road by day two.  

 

We’ve allowed the kids to invite a friend this year, with certain conditions drawn up by our solicitor. We want to encourage their friendships, show them how much we respect them as young adults and demonstrate to them how chilled we can be by this out-of-character ‘more the merrier’ approach, but we also hope that their friends provide enough of a distraction that we don’t have to actually do anything to entertain them ourselves.

 

We have yet to meet Kurt’s friend in person because each time he has come to the house so far he is stowed away in Kurt’s den as fast as you can say ‘Marijuana’, so the only evidence of his visits are the sound of his baritone laugh, an increase in the smoke levels in the courtyard and a shared enthusiasm for twanging ‘Waltzing Matilda’ on guitar late at night. He did order in a pizza the other night under the name of Donald Trump, so I assume he has a sense of humour.

 

We’re not over-anxious parents but Kurt and his friend don’t arrive at our holiday home until the day after we leave Sydney and so to avoid the temptation of the current teenage trend for a ‘free’ at our place – teenage slang for when the “rents” are away, hence a free house to destroy – we need to make sure he leaves before we do, check every orifice for any spare keys he may have secreted, and hire guards (at great expense) for each boundary of the property.

 

NC’s friend has replaced The Astronaut – he who can never be mentioned but whose loss the old man and I continue to grieve over when we’re drunk, much to her disgust. Hopefully she matches NC’s current enthusiasm for all-night partying which means we won’t see them much of them.

 

The best part about this holiday is that it is a dog-friendly establishment and so The Princess is coming with us and her superior parenting skills should keep things vaguely civil. Hopefully this means that the old man won’t be tempted to spoon me in the bed for our annual Christmas ‘cuddle’ and we won’t have to endure her un-stoic suffering at the kennels on the pet-cam either. When the suitcases came out, her usual panic attack provoked by separation anxiety was quickly quashed once we gave her her own back pack which she has been filling with relish with her toys and the contents of hers and Kurt’s Advent calendar ever since.

 

The old man and I remain optimistic about long walks along the beach, time for reading, a chance to catch up on the one or two British Netflix series that we haven’t yet done marathon screenings of when hungover and some culinary indulgence. With four twenty-somethings (who we suspect are only really coming for the free booze), and an anxious dog, what could possibly go wrong?

 

 

 

Everyone Needs A Token Baby Jesus At Christmas

I’ve got earache.

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The Princess was too mature to adorn the silly moustache. Obviously, mine is real!

It’s either payback for jumping into the pool for that revitalising swim on Christmas Day, (sometime between dessert and cheese), to celebrate the end of a glorious lunch that finally made it to the table in spite of my oven’s best attempts at sabotage when it decided to switch off halfway through cooking the turkey.

 

Needless to say, I remained calm, if ‘calm’ can be defined as drowning in a bottle of Moet. You can only imagine the military operation to get it going again – thank you God, Google and the Bosch forum.

 

Or it might have been caused by the swim on Boxing Day morning to help clear the Whisky cobwebs and give the locals a good laugh at my first attempt to glide gracefuly through the water with my new flippers.

 

It was a memorable Christmas Day.

 

If I’m honest, I’ve never understood those people who get super-stressed about cooking what is essentially a posh roast. It’s not the food that maketh the day, it’s the people you share it with. And we were lucky there. Good friends, who have become surrogate family here in Australia, with their new addition this year of the cutest token baby Jesus ever to grace our table and Instagram.

 

You need small children around you at Christmas, especially when your own children have grown up and disappoint you horrbily by sleeping straight through the morning, which left the old man and I twiddling our thumbs, wondering how to start Christmas without them. 

 

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NC tolerating our token Baby Jesus, the closest she will get to a baby, or so she tells me.

NC engaged Santa to deliver the old man and I both a stocking this year – my first since I was fourteen – and I might have shed a tear. The old man surprised me (hmmm) with the best handbag EVAR…as well as some new kitchen scissors (!), and Kurt bought me a mystery book, whose clues to its genre included the keywords ‘humor’, ‘perversion’, ‘sex’ and ‘women.’

 

If ever a son knew his mother….

 

Not everything went perfectly according to plan, OBVIOUSLY. The custard on my trifle never set and had to be sucked up with a straw; there was mild panic when the ‘pigs in blankets’ were still pink inside; Kurt scared the fuck out of our token baby with his impression of Mr Napkin Head, and no-one apart from me touched the Brussel sprouts or red cabbage and so avoided the obligatory flatulence afterwards.

 

Even the fact that the next generation thrashed us at Trivial Pursuit (who the fuck knows the names of the Transformers) couldn’t spoil the day, and nor could Kurt and one of his ‘in between sofas’ mates who turned up at 11pm and drank my entire bottle of Vodka between them. 

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The trifle might have been a tad runny…

 

The old man spent the day clearing away wrapping paper, tutting as he emptied the bottle bin, humming ‘Christmas Is Nearly Over’, and intermittently yelling at Kurt to PUT THE VODKA BOTTLE DOWN. But I’m sure I caught a couple of smiles of near-contentment when he thought I wasn’t looking and he hasn’t started counting the receipts from Myer yet.

 

And new BFFs for this one day of the year, NC and Kurt entertained us towards the end of the evening with their annual drunken dance off; the only time they truly bond, with their joint ‘garden sprinkler’ and ‘filling the shopping trolley’ moves.

 

To crown the day, a moment as pure as ‘Silent Night’ when drunk as a skunk NC moved us all to tears and reminded us of the true meaning of Christmas with her beautiful rendition of Phoebe’s ‘Smelly Cat’.

 

How was your day?

Worst Christmas Cookie Recipe and How To Succeed At Not Being Perfect

I decided to dedicate my last post before Christmas to reminding you that it’s seriously okay not to be perfect; especially at this time of the year. And that I am quite happy to be your role model of imperfection. 

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Nailed them!

If I reflect back on the past year, there have been no really outstanding personal achievements to brag about on Facebook. I haven’t got pregnant or forged a new and exciting career, and my kids haven’t shone at the top of their school or field. Furthermore, I’ve gained weight, I’m drinking more, I still refuse to take exercise seriously or touch a Kale smoothie and a lot of the time I am not very happy.

 

But I am alive, and my dearest and dearest are healthy.

 

I still don’t get why we women continue to torment ourselves with trying to be perfect all the time; and I am the worst offender. Only the other day the strangest urge came over me to show NC and Kurt that I can be a real ‘mom’ by baking for them, and as usual the experience left me feeling about as useful as a snow plough in Sydney over Christmas.

 

There is an underlying fear in my head that my kids’ memories of their childhood will be of this last-minute, anti-mum, who always bought the shop-bought cake to functions and winged everything.

 

‘How hard can it really be to make a few Christmas cookies’, I remember thinking?

 

IMG_0337I didn’t over-stretch myself. I did my research and asked the Google gods to send me down the simplest cookie recipe – yet still assumed that I could modify it a little, if needs be.

 

After all, Jamie does that all the time.

 

But I hit the first roadblock immediately, when in my haste to get a photo of my perfect Christmas cookies up on Instagram, I selected a shortbread recipe instead of a cookie recipe, but didn’t realize my error until my dough was not ‘firm to the touch’, but closer to the consistency of butter icing.

 

It was wet, sticky, about as malleable as a jellyfish and impossible to peel off the work top, let alone shape into a star.

 

You can do this!’ I buoyed myself as the sweat dripped down from my forehead into the yellow goo stuck to my hands and an image of how fabulous Nigella always looks in the kitchen began to torment me.

 

And there were the inevitable ‘FUCKS!” of frustration at my hopelessness when it comes to baking, and I might have even sobbed a little and been forced to resort to some Rescue Remedy (a.k.a wine) for medicinal purposes, to calm me down.IMG_0339

 

But at least the Princess appreciated them.

 

Be kind to each other at this time of the year and remember that no-one is perfect and Christmas is not everyone’s idea of fun. Even as I write this post, the jelly is yet to set on my trifle, I can’t even squeeze into my Christmas dress and my son hasn’t spoken to me for 48 hours. 

 

Star Christmas Shortbread Cookies

250g butter, chopped

½ cup caster sugar

1 1/2cups plain flour

¾ cups rice flour

White icing

 

Combine together all ingredients.

Say ‘FUCK’ liberally.

PANIC when the consistency of your dough feels like wallpaper glue and you can’t even roll it out, then add loads more flour until you can cut those bastard cookies (you wished you’d never started in the first place) into something resembling a star shape with your cookie cutter.

Completely ignore the ridiculous timing suggested by the recipe and cook the fuckers for as long as they need for you to be able to prise them off the tray.

Smear with enough white icing to disguise their fugliness.

 

Merry Christmas and thank you for putting up with me for another year. xxx

 

 

What Do You Buy For Your Partner For Christmas?

I’ve been thinking about the agreement the old man agreed to about Christmas presents a while ago, and am now questioning if we made the right decision. seamless-pattern-for-ladies-handbags_GyPhmad__L

 

Sometimes I think it might be romantic for him to surprise me with a gift on Christmas morning… and then I remember the patterned towel set and the hairdryer. I know with certainty that if I try and trust him and let him loose in the shops this year, I’ll be almost as disappointed this Christmas as the rest of Australia will be if Michelle Bridges isn’t doing squats on breakfast tv while simultaneously breastfeeding Axel, and the old man and I will end up one step closer to divorce.

 

Other days I think I should give him another chance, but I know what the outcome would be, and it would simply add more stress to what is already the most stressful morning of the year.

 

To give him carte blanche to waste our hard-earned cash on something awful seems foolish and un-Christian somehow, when there are so many people in need. Isn’t it worse to return a gift that someone has taken time and thought to choose, than to choose it for yourself in the first place and avoid disappointment?

 

Added to which, his threat of a set of golf clubs has gone beyond a joke.

 

Christmas is about making people happy, right?

 

And I know I will be ecstatic with the new handbag I carefully picked out for myself. I would have been happier with the Calvin Klein, OBVIOUSLY, but that was never going to happen while the old man continues to prevaricate about a job that will force him to give up on his daily golf video sessions.

 

Once upon a time, (in those golden days when he used to still cook a meal for me on Valentines Day), I would force him around the shops behind me so that he experienced some level of pain; but he spoiled even that. He would put me under pressure, like there was some time bomb ticking away in the background, forcing me to choose my gift really quickly to appease his anxiety in malls, just because he was paying.

 

Every woman knows that choosing the right handbag is like choosing the right man and you should never buy the first one you see, no matter how perfect it may seem at the time. That you have to do your research first and check out all the handbags in each store before you can make the informed decision that perhaps the first one was in fact the right one all along.

How Much Is Too Much At Christmas?

There’s been a lot of talk in the media this week about how much we should spend on our kids at Christmas, after a women in the UK made headline news for ‘pressie-bragging’.

Decorated Christmas tree on white background
Decorated Christmas tree on white background

 

It’s a tricky topic and one that is bound to make those of us who indulge our kids feel even more guilty. Because there may be all manner of reasons behind the decision of how much to spend on presents, ranging from how much money we have in our bank account and our beliefs about the true meaning of Christmas, to our concerns about upholding certain values, not ‘spoiling’ our children or promoting materialism and consumerism.

 

And that decision is certainly made much harder these days when we are constantly reminded of the people who have so little. Those haunting images of refugee children still living in shelters, whose one wish for Christmas would be the safety of a roof over their heads for their family, (rather than the latest Lego drone), is enough to make me put the bon bons guiltily back on the shelf.

 

But like Emma Tapping, I personally believe that what we spend at Christmas is our business and no one else’s. Sure, in the past I’ve been guilty of silently judging the parents who pampered their kids with the latest iPhone, (while mine whinged on and on at me about their vintage Nokias), and made my middle class life so very difficult, but I’m equally certain that others have judged my choices.

 

Who knows why Emma feels the need to be so overtly generous. Perhaps she came from nothing and it brings her genuine fulfillment to give her children what she never had. Perhaps she is a compulsive shopper. What is certain is that she needs some advice on which images to upload onto Instagram.

 

We do what is within our means and what fits our sensibilities. Over-generosity is not a sign of corruption.

 

(And can we please stop judging people on how they parent).

 

This year we have reduced the value of NC and Kurt’s Christmas pressie loot – partly because they are older, but mainly because the old man refuses to get a proper job to keep us in the luxury we had become accustomed to.

 

However, our kids will not go without. They will be spoiled, (by the standards and cultures of many), and as much as I might wish that the video below would be representative of their reaction if I sold all their presents and surprised them with a shoebox of crappy craft from the local Christmas market, it’s unlikely.

 

 

(All the fucking feels).

 

However, there has been no real complaint thus far. They didn’t question our decision and their Christmas requests were quietly planned according to the limitations of their new budget.

 

Perhaps our work here is done after all.

Dressing The Christmas Tree, With A Little Help From Captain Morgan

After twenty-one years of being forced to compromise my artistry and stem my superior creativity when I am forced to dress the Christmas tree with the kids, I’ve finally found the solution of how not to give a shit.

Decorating A Christmas Tree
Decorating A Christmas Tree With Tinsel, Balls And A Ribbon

 

Drink copious amounts of Captain Morgan beforehand.

 

Why this strategy never came to me before is beyond me. Probably, because, typically we plan the ritual of dressing the tree. It usually takes place on the morning of the Saturday closest to the 1st December, when with Buble crooning on the Bose,  I attempt, (once again), to re-enact what I perceive is the perfect family Christmas scene of unity.

 

‘Remember this beautiful pasta decoration you made at school?’ I imagine myself saying to Nerd Christmas in my role of Mother Christmas.

Or:

‘Where did you manage to find this wonderful mini glass bong for the tree?’ I say to Krazy Christmas.

 

And during my perfect family dressing of the tree, I don’t measure the distance between each decoration afterwards, or get up in the middle of the night to rearrange the Lametta, or even put all the fugly school-made decorations to the back.

 

And I allow Scrooge Christmas to stay in the bedroom watching golf without bitching at him for the being the worst father in the world, because I AM the perfect wife.

 

But this year was a little different, I have to admit. Krazy Christmas had broken the seal of trust again and so the old man and I went off to the pub in a parental huff to get shit-faced and console ourselves that at least our son wasn’t Oscar Pistorius, (even though, like him, Kurt will most probably spend a Christmas season or two in jail if he carries on the way he’s going…).

 

But Krazy, being Krazy, and no doubt wanting me to feel some parent guilt as well as anger, must have felt some twinge of regret while were were out. So while we were merrily being the perfect parent role models drowning our sorrows rather than trying to ‘understand’ him or booking his next ten therapy sessions, he got the tree out of storage to set up as an apology/surprise – even though I’d refused this earlier on the grounds of  punishment, and because I can be truly evil like that and…well… frankly nothing other than spite really makes me feel better.

 

And so upon our return, chilled by the Captain, Krazy and I finished dressing the damned tree with a newfound freedom and fervour this year. And the creativity truly flowed. I allowed the red tinsel on our silver-tinsel-only tree for at least five minutes and I even let Krazy believe that I would allow him to put his favourite tree decoration, which is made out of a green kitchen scourer, at the front.

 

And the tree really does look like someone stood in front of it and projectile vomited. And it might be my higher dosage of meds, but I really don’t give a shit. It’s our tree, and although it has evolved over the years, it is a mish mash of mismatched decorations that the kids enjoy tormenting me with. I never did get around to changing the ghastly bright white energy-saving lights that I bought by mistake in the Target sale and which make the perfect torture on New Year’s Day, and I still haven’t found the balls to stop moaning about the fugly homemade decorations and just chuck all the fuckers away when the kids aren’t looking.

 

One day, I will have my white, silver and glass, perfectly-poised Home and Garden Christmas tree that I dream about.

But not this year. And when I do it will probably made me a little sad.

 

A Christmas Carol For Middle-Aged Women

Ready to play?

 

A Christmas Carol For Middle-Aged Women
Natasha Pantelyat Real middle aged woman!!! Found on Pinterest.com

 

 

Fill your muffin tops with Bolly,

Fa La La La La, La La, La La,

Tis the season to be jolly,

Fa La La La La, La La, La La.

 

Buy your online Christmas dresses,

Fa La La La, La La La, La La,La,

Make sure your husband never guesses,

Fa La La La La, La La, La La.

 

See the burning lunch before you,

Fa La La La La, La La, La La,

Turkey’s dry but … Chocolate Fondue!

Fa La La La La, La La, La La.

 

Follow me in boozy Christmas

Fa La La, La La La, La La La,

While I gloat of middle-aged excesses,

Fa La La La La, La La La.

 

Fast away that hot bod passes,

Fa La La La La La, La La La La,

Hail the new, the bloating masses,

Fa La La La La, La La, La La.

 

Eat we joyous, all together,

Fa La La La La, La La, La La,

Heedless of our wind and bloating,

Fa La La La La, La La, La La.

 

Fuck spoilt teens and talk of money,

Fa La La La La, La La, La La,

Life’s too short, there’s sales a-plenty

Fa La La La La, La La, La, La.

Compression and Putting Your Children First At Christmas

Compression and Putting Your Kids First This Christmas
Photo by Maria Mandanas at http://www.flickr.com
  1. The definition of compression is the action or state of being squished down or made smaller or more pressed together.

When a pile of material is squished together and made smaller and more dense,, this is an example of compression.

 

Compression is when you reach fifty and realise that you’ve shrunk. So much so, that suddenly your children look down on you and you can’t reach those bags of Kettle chips you secreted at the back of the kitchen cupboards, so no-one else could get to them.

 

The most significant problem with the bodily compression that comes with ageing is that sometimes when things are compressed, they also become more dense.

 

So although I may have only lost an inch in height (sometime during my forties), I’ve gained about ten inches in glorious techni-density around my waist. Science can fuck you over like that.

 

I am learning to cope with the muffin top….well, not really…maybe… just…but finding that perfect Christmas dress has been a perilous journey this year.

 

I must have tried on at least forty-eight dresses during an eight-hour marathon torture session amid the pre-Christmas rush in Myer, yesterday, when I foolishly attempted to squeeze my newly-compressed, middle-aged frame into just about every fucking style of dress ever designed.

 

Nothing gave.

 

By 4.30pm, and close to my ninth barren hour of shopping, desperation sunk in and I relocated myself to the hallowed designer sections of Myer without an ounce of guilt or unease. Pretty Woman sales assistants looked over my head and pretended I was as invisible as I think I am.

 

 

What can I say? I had become a woman who could justify any shopping crime by that point of the day. Alas, it seems that even when you pay a lottery win price for what is basically a piece of material, it still doesn’t guarantee it will fit.

 

I spent a sleepless night drifting between dreams about Cinderella’s shame after midnight and mentally going through my current wardrobe, hoping to find some magical reprieve, that long-forgotten and perfect outfit that would look good on my new fuller figure.

 

By 9.30am this morning I was at another mall as the doors opened with a new set of compromised criteria and had already purchased two outfits by 10am as well as promising the old man a Karma Sutra of sexual favours in repayment for my shopping felonies.

 

I now have a new dress for Christmas Day. I feel guilty for baring publicly such a first world problem but I hope you’ll believe me, readers, when I tell you that I am still paying for my African child. But I need to think of my own children too – and that dress could make the difference between a great and a ’truly shite’ Christmas for them.

 

I’ve sat through Paddington and The Kranks At Christmas today with Kurt, so I’ve done my time. Once again I have put my children’s needs before mine.

 

Happy Christmas everyone!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Blowing The Budget At Christmas

The biggest bonus about doing your Christmas shopping online is being able to sneak in extra personal purchases, so when you’re being tortured by the in-house financial Gestapo about over-spending, you can fob them off as presents. 

Blowing Your Budget At Christmas
stock-photo-close-up-woman-s-hands-holding-a-credit-card-and-using-computer-keyboard-for-online-shopping-140850265

 

As you are aware, I am unfortunately married to Tightus Pocketus, and so during our VERY LONG marriage I have been forced to come up with underhand clever ways to make many of my personal shopping purchases surreptitiously.

 

Blowing The Budget At Christmas

 

Because for some reason my shopping prowess upsets him, and it’s becoming apparent, as we age together, that his inability to co-enjoy my purchases is beginning to affect his health.

 

You see, as we approach middle-age and have had to prepare for all that really boring ‘getting older’ stuff (yawn!), like retirement and health plans, the old man’s pockets have become even smaller when it comes to what he terms ‘unnecessary expenditure.

 

‘Unnecessary expenditure’ is categorised as anything fun or stuff that I like to spend money on, such as holidays, clothes, jewellery and shoes.

 

 

So every year or so, I have been forced to develop new tactics to enable myself to purchase those few NECESSARY extras without getting caught or persecuted by financial control. Cash has been my best friend in the past, as TP finds it harder to trace our cash expenditure from the bank statement, but there is a limit to what I can allocate to cash and occasionally I have come unstuck. According to TP, those times have been noted in our marital history as when I compromised the seal of trust that should be the foundation of a marriage – his words, not mine.

 

A few months ago, I asked NC to pay for something on my behalf and the old man accused me of dragging our innocent daughter down to my basement level of dishonesty and refused to speak to me for weeks.

 

I can’t remember if I noticed…

 

Which is why December is such a joyous month for shopping extravagancia when all those parcels FOR FAMILY AND FRIENDS arrive at the apartment and Scrooge is so bogged down by the abject misery of what Christmas symbolizes for him – seasonal ‘unnecessary spending’ – that he is blind to my clever shopping tactics.

 

My excuse for hoodwinking him is that if he only demonstrated an ounce of understanding of what the average woman’s needs are at Christmas – new outfits for Christmas Day and New Years Eve as a bare minimum – I wouldn’t have to be so damned cagey about the whole process.

 

And there are just so many enticing, pre-Christmas, Christmas sales on at the moment, that I can’t actually understand why his analytical brain doesn’t see how much money I am actually saving us.

 

As NC pointed out the other day when she successfully sourced a $45 pair of shoes in the sales for $18 – ‘well, they were practically free!’

 

So proud.

 

Sometimes, The Only Thing Left Is Hope

The Frangipanis are finally blooming and the Christmas Tree has gone up today. Michael Buble has been crooning his version of Christmas on Spotify all day, in spite of the old man’s retching motion, and there is a veiled excitement in the apartment, fuelled by the excitement of the Princess Spoodle who thinks that every bauble on the tree is a ball for her to play with. Sometimes, The Only Thing Left Is Hope

 

We’re a little premature, I know, but this year we need the hope, symbolised by Christmas, to keep us from drowning. I’m always amazed at how, even in your lowest moment, a bit of tinsel and a few crass, white fairy lights can help lift your spirits.

 

Christmas is MY time of the year. I’ve loved Christmas festivities since I was a child and my mum would squeeze every last drop of Christmas-ness out of the few English pounds she had in her purse. We were the only house on our housing commission estate to have a Santa’s Grotto in our living area. And this year I’ve tried to reinvent our own private grotto in the block – in spite of being more than a little peeved that one of the wrinklies (on level 2 – you know who you are, bitch!) beat me to it by putting up her tree first.

 

Sometimes, The Only Thing Left Is Hope

 

We are in lock-down here, in another attempt to straighten out our son, but for once the old man and I are united in what needs to be done. Christmas is about unity, so it seems appropriate that finally we know where we’re going on our journey with Kurt, and we’ve even managed to laugh about the awfulness of our situation once or twice – although Scrooge couldn’t find it in himself to stretch to some Christmas spirit as I busied myself around the tree, pretending for a precious couple of hours that our life is normal and perfect.

 

We’re not faking happiness, but life goes on, even in your most dire moments.

 

English: Franipani (Plumeria) flowers in Perth...
English: Franipani (Plumeria) flowers in Perth, Western Australia (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Yesterday, I was sobbing in the car, (sending the old man into panic mode because after thirty years together he still hasn’t developed the tool kit to deal with emotional females); today, I was singing along with Buble as I hung all my favourite decorations on the tree and tried to ignore Kurt’s scathing comments, as he tried to intersperse my affected happiness with low-level comments about my decorating prowess.

 

I ignored him and focused on the positives. With Kurt not talking to me, sadly he has been unable to contribute to the design of the tree. So none of those nasty kindy decorations have made the final cut, nor the red tinsel or that hideous lantern that I’ve had to pretend I like for the past fifteen years, made out of a cereal box.

 

He’s angry, we’re angry, but I refuse to let him undo my determination. I won’t let anyone or anything burst my bubble when I’m decorating the tree, not even the most determined, antagonistic teenager.

 

We may have lost the battles, but we will win the war.

 

We still have hope…and wine. Lots of wine.

Is Giving To Family Really Better Than Receiving At Christmas?

There’s a serious issue threatening to wreak havoc on the Midlife Mayhem Christmas this year.

Scrooge extinguishes the Ghost of Christmas Pa...
Scrooge extinguishes the Ghost of Christmas Past. Original 1843 illustration by John Leech (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 

 

It could turn into one of those horrible, familial diplomatic crises, on a par with Abbott’s opening speech at the G20 Summit last week.

 

 

 

You see – I take Christmas seriously. NO-ONE messes with my Christmas.

 

 

 

But, unfortunately, it has already come to the attention of Scrooge (the old man) that the family numbers are increasing on par with the Chinese population crisis in our family, because younger members of our extended family insist on procreating like rabbits and providing even more little bundles of joy that require presents at Christmas.

 

 

 

And did I mention that most of the rabbits come from my side of the family?

 

 

 

Scrooge is not happy. He hates Christmas anyway, and has already begun to worry about festive issues, such as where we can possibly sit our over-sized Christmas Tree in our Borrower-sized apartment, (he even tried the ‘do we really need one this year…’ approach at one ridiculous point in his thought processes), can we afford Christmas Drinks, and how much is my Christmas outfit going to really cost.

 

 

 

BAH, FUCKING HUMBUG!

 

 

 


Embed from Getty Images

Yes, my darling, our apartment is going to take on the look of Santa’s Grotto in Hamleys this year. If only he appreciated just how creative I can get with such a small space to dress and a ton of tacky Christmas decorations from the $2 emporium. I’m already thinking life-sized reindeer, artificial snow, stockings suspended from every light fitting and setting the balcony alight like a trashy trailer park Christmas Tree to really fuck off our stuck-up neighbours in The Block.

 

 

 

But he does have a point. Christmas is getting seriously expensivo and threatening other ‘luxuries’ on the family spreadsheet – like ‘health’, ‘the vet’ and ‘exfoliation.’

 

 

 

All these sprouting nieces and nephews can get expensive, especially now I have no real reason to go crazy in baby shops, and tend to get a bit carried away at the sight of booties and tiny, glitzy tutus.

 

 

 

But, here’s the real problem – if we cut the adult presents, I won’t get pressies from my siblings either! This means I could end up with guilt-cash from the old man, a ketchup gun from Kurt and some very expensive beauty product NC has had her eye on for sometime, (for her), on Christmas morning.

 

 

 

I can visualise the tantrum already.

 

 

 

Look, I know it’s shallow and selfish and extremely un-philanthropic, (sorry, Bill!), but I like opening presents, and my chances of getting something I actually like will be sorely limited if left to the choices of my immediate family, who obviously don’t know me at all.

 

 

 

Whereas my besties and my sisters have a chance of getting it right.

 

 

 

They know never to buy me clothes, won’t buy me a set of blue towels when I ask for white, size 18 French Knickers or an electric carving knife.

 

 

 

I’m not really a bad person, and love ‘giving’ too. In fact I almost like giving as much as receiving.

 

 

 

ALMOST.

 

 

 

What can I say? I had a tough childhood…

 

Christmas Is… Love Actually

Love-ActuallyThe family lived vicariously through Love Actually again the other night. It’s a tradition in our house at Christmas, rather like gorging on salmon and cheese canapés, the family row before Christmas lunch and over-salting the vegetables.

It’s almost as traditional as watching the Queen’s speech, if you’re part of the Commonwealth.

That film still manages to evoke emotions from me that remain dormant for the rest of the year. It still makes me laugh out loud, weep and ‘feel’, no matter how many times I watch it.

That part where Emma Thompson goes to the bedroom to have a dignified weep when she discovers that her husband has given the gold necklace to that bitch at the office, and you just want to tear Snape’s throat out Twilight-style for being so fucking blind to what real love is; or the funeral with the Bay City Rollers theme that makes me bawl my eyes out even more than My Sister’s Keeper, if that is even biologically possible; or the cleverness of the timing in the dialogue between Jamie and Aurelia. Then there are the word cards held up by lovesick guy from The Walking Dead and the fact that Keira Knightly still looks so fucking gorgeous on that incredible wedding day in her drop-dead gorgeous dress which still remains timeless – whereas my wedding dress wouldn’t look out of place in a ‘what was so wrong with the 80’s hall of fame’ now.

I could probably go on Mastermind with Love Actually as my specialist subject.

That’s MY wedding next time. Just saying.

In fact, the only part that grated for me this time was when Rowan Atkinson was wrapping the gold heart necklace. Perhaps the memory of waiting at a cash desk was still raw after experiencing a similar situation in Myer’s men’s department only that day.

I had an elderly man serve me and not being ageist – because that would be hypocritical – I had been initially keen to secure his service. Funny how quickly those charitable thoughts can turn to despair and bitterness and vile emotions so far from the spirit of Christmas, that I feel veritably mortified now.

But he was particularly slow, like tortoise-with-no-legs slow, which was not conducive to a great shopping experience in what was a particularly frazzled Christmas shopping atmosphere created by an understaffed department store of shoppers hellbent on completing their Christmas shopping that afternoon, because they had left it to the last minute like me.

I wasn’t in an empathetic mood either. I’d spent the previous hour in my annual torture of shopping for that elusive new swimming costume that fits the middle-aged body yet smacks of  ‘maternity’, finally ending up in the ‘plus size’ section as they had the only offering of costumes that would comfortably roll over my pre-Christmas baby belly.

I am appalled to admit that my sales assistant may have suffered from arthritis and English wasn’t his native tongue and he obviously had the same grasp of modern technology that I have, and didn’t know the procedures for the million and one special offers that Myer was offering just to remain in business for the next six months.

We got through the first part of entering each item through the till, despairingly slowly, while the queue elongated behind me and a chorus of tutting began. But then the real confusion set in. Not only had I accumulated various discounts from pre-pre-pre Christmas sales, (fundamentally, because retail is on its knees), but because I had spent over $200 (on a long overdue new wardrobe for the new man), I was now entitled to a $20 Myer gift card.

Stupidly, I requested the amount be taken off my bill.

The sales assistant looked instantly worried as we both realized that we might actually be spending Christmas Day together among the Beckam boxers and Calvin Klein briefs if I seriously wanted to get that level of superior transaction over the line.

Three assistants, twenty-five new grey hairs, six under-my-breath FMLs and at least thirty minutes later, I was on my way out of the store, cursing my ill-fortune.

And then the remorse set in. It’s Christmas. That guy was probably holding onto that job by the skin of his teeth and although I hadn’t been ‘THAT shopper’ and cursed his ineptitude publicly, I had thought very bad, unwholesome thoughts that might have involved sticking pins into his body at one point.

It’s not as though I was really in any rush to get back to Dysfunctionality house. I could have consoled him rather than privately condemning him. We’ve all been in that horrible situation in a job where we feel helpless and under pressure and have to ask colleagues twenty years younger than ourselves for help, at some point in our lives.

And it hurts.

I wasn’t chivalrous. I wasn’t rude, but I also wasn’t empathetic either.

Sometimes we all need to remember that Christmas is… Love Actually.

The Christmas Party and The Hangover Part 4

We still haven’t quite worked out how the Princess Spoodle managed to get stuck in NC’s shower cubicle the morning after the Christmas party.

We’re praying she didn’t have an all-nighter in there, but it was highly reminiscent of the tiger scene in The Hangover.

The Christmas Party and The Hangover Part 4
Who did this?

Did she actually have the skill to close the glass door behind her while she took her morning shower, or did she inadvertently close it behind her? Even more likely, did one of those malevolent, dosser teens who were staying at our house that night, think it would be a funny prank?

Fortunately, NC noticed her her sad little face peering through the glass as she took her morning pee.

Unfortunately, I can’t really blame Kurt for this one, as he didn’t surface until mid-morning, having partied like an animal himself until the early hours.

And in spite of the rules drilled into him before the party.

It was awkward, to say the least, when he came to sleep in the spare room in the early hours, only to find his father and myself already ensconced there due to HIS noise above our bedroom.

Obviously he is back in the doghouse (his father’s usual abode) for breaking those carefully negotiated house party rules. Why is plan A so difficult for Kurt? Which part of ‘no alcohol or food’ in his bedroom didn’t he understand?

Which means there’s another ‘good behaviour chart from hell’ fuglying up the fridge door, designed by the therapist this time in a last-ditched attempt to get our son under control and our parenting skills up to Antonia Kidman standards.

This one’s a real motherfucker of a chart with colour and bold and everything, a be-penitent-or-else, do-or-die chart, so that we can justify giving him his Christmas present. It will be a truly fabulous Christmas Day if Kurt doesn’t get his present. I might leave home for the day. It’s day three now and he’s already tried to negotiate and manipulate me into removing some of what he considers to be the more heinous tasks on there. Frankly, I can’t understand what his problem is with cleaning the bathroom floors with a toothbrush!

I live in hope that one day he will realise that his impulsive actions can have serious consequences.

Not that his father ever did!

Luckily, I am finding some consolation in the leftover Rum Balls from the party. I was quite surprised that not everyone shares my enthusiasm for Christmas Rum Balls and there were quite a few left over, which have been very therapeutic. To the point that I’ve been really quite concerned whenever I’ve passed those over-zealous RBTs this week, that I may actually be over the alcohol limit and the first person to lose their license for quaffing too much chocolate.

Rum Balls
Rum Balls (Photo credit: Kristin Brenemen)

NB’s Punch went down surprisingly well though and I think it was a wise decision to make it non-alcoholic with all those sixteen year olds wandering around with their tongues hanging out, desperately seeking the thrill of illicit alcohol. It seemed funny at the time to surreptitiously add the gin to the glasses of the people we don’t really like, especially our neighbours who own the yapper mutts from hell next door.

A few notes-to-self for next year’s party in terms of organisation, though:

Try not to forget about the plates of carefully prepared canapés that tend to remain in the fridge after the first few glasses of wine.

No matter how intricate the canapés are, (and by ‘intricate’ I mean they have sundried tomato, a bell pepper or a fresh herb on them), all anyone is really interested in vacuuming down their throats after a few drinks are the (100 for $5) party pies and spring rolls.

Teenagers bring very little alcohol to the party, but consume vats.

Buying enough bread to feed the five thousand when you have thirty to forty guests is a mistake.

Do not start drinking before your guests arrive.

Check all the bulging, jangling, suspicious-looking rucksacks of invited teenagers and question why they need rucksacks for an afternoon party anyway.

Evaluate the old man’s ‘pissed-ometer’ level every hour, on the hour, before you introduce him to new friends you are keen to build long-term relationships with.

Do not think that you can eat as much finger food as possible because it is only the size of a finger, (and therefore a clever/evil misrepresentation of the actual calories consumed when you eat twenty of them).

Check where the Princess Spoodle is at all times, particularly if she is anywhere in the vicinity of crazed son and friends.