L is for Little Finger Twisting

brother 1

As a small girl all I ever wanted for Christmas was a big brother. Needless to mention the impossibility of this task never occurred to me as a child. I assumed my parents could make this happen and was brutally disappointed that they failed in this simplest of tasks.

Watching sibling dynamics is an entirely new world for me. At turns it fascinates, amuses and downright irritates the living daylights out of me.

My husband, thank heaven for small mercies, has an older sister. So, he has some idea of what this involves.

When scooping out ice-cream into bowls he actually uses my kitchen scales to make certain each child has the exact same amount.

17453377-bohemian-crystal-glasses-filled-with-water-aligned-backlitWhen pouring drinks he measures the liquid in a measuring cup so that down to the last millilitre everyone is satisfied.

Each day we have this mad race for food at dinnertime, as if I would starve the last person in the queue.

God forbid someone get one extra pea. I actually have to count them out.

And it doesn’t extend to them, it extends to me too. So much so that I have taken to locking myself in the bathroom to eat a chocolate bar and then hiding the wrapper in the neighbour’s trash bin.

Miss Diva is 6 years old. Young Padawan is 8. The Ninja is 10. They outnumber me and the combined force of their discontent is too much to bear.

I digress.

Last night Miss Diva wanted to watch Barbie in Rapunzel, a movie the rest of us have some to hate with unequalled passion.

However, it was her choice with the caveat that we all have to be able to watch the chosen movie and Barbie renders most of us gibbering.

weeping_angelThe Ninja tried to push Doctor Who or Zathura.

“But,” sniffed Miss Diva tears welling up in her eyes, “If I watch Doctor Who I’ll be scared of the Weeping Angels and I’ll have to sleep in your bed!”

The Ninja has the coveted Top Bunk. His siblings will go to astounding lengths for a night spent at its dizzying height.

Miss Diva knew it was win-win situation for her. Either she got Rapunzel or the Top Bunk.

The Ninja caved. Miss Diva smiled the sweet smile of a girl who got her own way.

The Puppet from Deviant Art
The Puppet from Deviant Art

I laughed.

“What Mummy?” she asked.

Taking hold of a lock of her hair I said, “Pretend this lock of hair was on your brother’s head.” Then I wound the hair around her little finger and pulled it.

“You see,” I said, this is what you did to The Ninja the day you were born and just by pulling slightly you can make him do whatever you want.”

“Oh, yes!” she said, “I think it must be my talent. I do it to you and Daddy as well sometimes.”

Truer words were never spoken.

I can also ascertain exactly who is to blame for whatever disaster has befallen by checking who is not blamed by the other two. The odd one out is always the villain, because they others would never rat out the culprit. This is invariably Miss Diva.

The Young Padawan uses the power of his huge blue eyes and “I love you’s” to render any infuriation I might be suffering completely powerless.

Then they gang up on us.

Young Padawan suddenly needed urgent engineering expertise on a complicated structure in the back yard necessitating his father’s attention.

Miss Diva required my immediate presence in her Wendy House to attend a tea party.

On some secret cue both said, “Don’t worry, you can go now.” And we stumbled off feeling slightly bewildered.

During that time The Ninja built a tower of chairs to the secret snack cupboard and removed its entire contents to the space under Miss Diva’s bed.

That is where I found them when the eerie silence alerted my maternal instinct to misdoings and misadventures.

I wonder how often my parent’s let me get away with thinking they didn’t know about what I was doing?

Like putting the thermometer against the light bulb so I didn’t have to go to school. I didn’t realise that if actually had a fever that high I would have been dead.

I know I let my children manipulate me.

Sometimes I let them, because I appreciate the effort.

Sometimes, I don’t.

I like to mix things up and keep them guessing.

 

Operation Dumpster has commenced.

My husband and I are both Cancerians. Astrology believer or not, it seems we display many of the characteristics of the sign, of course, I haven’t analysed myself against the others so I can’t be certain.

Astrology.Com says: “You surround yourself with sentimental objects from the past, including souvenirs, hand-me-downs and keepsakes. Cancerians are remarkably good at accumulating things; indeed, you can be unwilling to throw anything out.”

After reading the news about a woman in the UK who was literally buried under the rubbish in her home, it would be fair to say that I was struck dumb by terror. Or this one about a Chicago couple who were found after 3 weeks under the trash in their home.

I share a small house with my husband, two sons, one daughter, two cats and two dogs. Let’s just say my feet and shins are immune to Lego, small plastic garden rakes (if you have a child, I am sure I don’t have to spell out the damage these little suckers can do – read my previous post on the topic) and other household menaces originating from Toys ‘R Us.

I have a book fetish. I have also run out of shelves. Books litter every surface and great mounds of them threaten to topple and crush anyone or anything unlucky enough to be caught beneath.

I also have a thing about tin cans.  I have plans to spray paint them and use them to put things in. I don’t know what things, but things, useful things.

My husband has a computer, electronics and hardware fetish. Screwdrivers can be found within reaching distance anywhere in the house.

Computers, hard drives and CPU fans from bygone eras fill cupboards, boxes and drawers. Nests of wires, cellphone chargers and other bits of electrical wiring are actively breeding more bits of electrical wiring.

My sons have a Lego and marble fetish. This leaves potentially life threatening items littering the floor, inhabiting spaces behind cupboards, under couches and strangely enough in my duvet.

And plastic insects that seem to inhabit the refrigerator, my make-up cabinet and other places designed to terrify me.

My daughter hoards anything related to Barbie’s footwear. She hides these under her bed, under my bed, in my shoes and anywhere where she thinks no-one will find them, step on them and cause themselves irreparable harm.

She is wrong.

Terrified at the prospect of being found dead under a pile of cheap romance novels, pre-school artwork, empty tin cans, pieces of wire and dead computer I rebelled against the programming of the stars at my birth and embarked on Operation Dumpster.

My family took one look and the crazed light in my eyes and promptly decamped to go sailing. It’s safer for everyone that way.

The guys at the dump site also gave me a wide berth, but fell on the spoils like it was Christmas.

Because really, my oldest child is 6 and I really don’t need 4 newborn car seats, two booster seats, two pushchairs, a pram and some other unidentifiable baby stuff.

I even got rid of the Bumbo to which my daughter is ridiculously attached. I can now rest assured these gentlemen will rehabilitate them and flog them off to other people.

Bye-bye went the California King Size cotton futon mattress I have DHLed across America, the United Kingdom and South Africa.

Yes, I DHLed it. Let’s not go there. It was with suffocating relief I waved goodbye to that horribly uncomfortable piece of furniture.

My husband regards all artwork produced by our offspring as potential Van Gogh masterpieces.

I am under no illusions. I pared it down and recycled the rest. I boxed all the art, schoolbooks and stuff and hid it away.

 

The chap at Plasticland saw me coming and instead of backing away he was the first all weekend who recognised a woman on a mission when he saw her.

I came home with a selection of big black plastic boxes.

 

Photographs, 18 years’ worth of advertising samples, notes I passed at school, my first valentine card – all now neatly stored away.

Yes, I have the notes I passed at school – filled with teenage angst and misery.

I plan on fishing them out for my high school reunion and embarrassing the hell out of a lot of women. Payback my darlings.

Lots of swirling vortexes and references to Kurt Cobain in that lot. We were Emo – just without the feelings.

I have a box of books ready to go to Rotary.

I’ve restacked the school second-hand shop singlehandedly and I spray painted my tins and put marbles in them.

Marbles breed like electrical wiring only more proficiently.

My house looks Spartan now. I love it. I still have an enormous amount to tackle and I am relishing the weekend ahead.

My husband has gone from somewhat supportive, to mildly antagonistic to Googling nervous breakdowns and trying to find me a facility where I could wreck less havock.

I think he has put in a bid for a strait jacket on eBay – at least I wouldn’t put it past him.

Say Cheese

On 20 February 2006 the world changed forever.
Maybe you didn’t notice, but the world as I knew it shifted slightly to the right.
Alexandra Isabella was born at 06:50 and promptly altered the state of the universe to suit herself.
Today is her sixth birthday and like most mothers, I suffer from party panic.
You may scoff, but I have been to parties where the mother has broken down into hot tears of hysteria because the kids didn’t want to pin the tail on the donkey.
I have spent sleepless nights baking elaborate birthday cakes in the shape of the Sword of Omens and a robot.
I have iced 100 small pink cupcakes and stuffed party packs full of toys and candy from China Mall.
Each year there is a not-so-subtle parental competition – one that usually ends with you substantially poorer. You can easily end up spending as much on a birthday party than you did on your own wedding – only Daddy doesn’t pick up this bill.
I have been to a party where one of South Africa’s premier soccer teams played ball with a bunch of 7 year olds. Former State President Nelson Mandela made an appearance at one.
I don’t bother even trying. I sent the boys to bootcamp to wallow in the mud and be yelled at by ex-Navy Seals. They go hone happy,exhausted and covered in mud. Most the time they are happy with a water pistol and a jumping castle.
Girls are harder.
This year as I was lamenting the impending day with gloom, the power of social networking led me to a review by Shelli Nurcombe-Thorne who knows more about Johannesburg than anyone I have ever met.
Largely because she writes a Joburg blog about it. She had just reviewed a kids’ photo studio and promptly sent me the details of Nina Say Cheese.
Lexi and her best friend were duly collected on Saturday afternoon and chauffeur driven (by me) to the studio of Nina Say Cheese in Fourways.
Vanessa Lewis is a professional food photographer, but was inspired to start a children’s studio after the birth of her daughter, Nina.
She offers four magical sets, an aeroplane hanger, a circus, a forest and a tea party.
She also provides delicious cookies and macaroons from a real pastry-chef.
The girls put on identical pink ruffled skirts, pretty tops and sparkly shoes. Suddenly these two scruffy little tomboys blossomed into the most beautiful and ladylike little girls. They posed, they played and they laughed and laughed and laughed.
I haven’t got the pictures yet, but I know they will be beautiful.
So all-in-all it was a good way to celebrate without having to entertain 25 small girls and their 50 associated parents.
Social networking again helped me out on the birthday present front. Having expressed interest in a Barbie Bride at a friend’s house,her mom called to tell me about the best place to buy Barbie clothing.
Hint: It is not Toys R Us.
The Rosebank Market on a Sunday is home to a remarkable stall. An elderly man painstakingly designs and makes exquisite furniture for baby dolls and Barbie Dolls. His wife equally painstakingly designs and sews tiny clothes, sleeping bags, duvets and other necessities for small girls and their dolls.
For R300 I bought a wardrobe and 6 perfectly made little outfits, including a wedding dress. Unlike the cheap and nasty Toys R Us clothes, they don’t fall apart as soon as Barbie is dressed up and they cost a damn sight less.
I highly recommend him to every mother of a small child who balks at the idea of buying yet another Barbie. Lexi unwrapped her gifts this morning in total rapture.
I also got out of baking a million cupcakes by strolling into Mother Hubbard’s in the mall and purchasing for R70 a Happy Birthday cake for her school birthday ring.
Far less stressful.
This afternoon I will pick up little karate kid and take her out for ice-cream with sprinkles on.
Heaven.
And when we get home Lexi can model the pretty clothes purchased on her shopping experience with my  mom – from Zara no less!

Betelgeuse Betelgeuse Betelgeuse

The Energizer Bunny is practicing his drum roll
Inside the confines of my head
I don’t mean to be a party pooper
But I wish he’d go somewhere else instead
The rhythmic pounding of his drum beat
And the pitter patter of his little rabbit feet
Are driving me completely out of my mind
I think its punishment for the gig I declined

Some American Indian tribe
Who probably on magic mushrooms imbibe
Said that one should only speak
When one had something important to say
If I followed that rule I’d be silent all day
Still there’s a lesson in there somewhere I’m sure
Not to waste words that will never be heard
There are times when it’s better to commit to the wind
One’s practiced laments at someone else’s sins
How high one’s horse is, is a matter of perspective
And hardly one that you could call objective
My 16 hand Arabian stallion
May only appear as some Shetland pony rapscallion
Aside from which I’m a lousy jockey
Better suited to playing hockey

I’ve reading a list of what constitutes the perfect man
I think the whole thing is a bit of a sham
I’ll take a bet it was written late one boozy night
After some chick had been in fight
There’s a response too from a misguided guy
Who could patent his particular bunch of creepy pick up lines
A word to the wise, don’t grab her ass
Or make some bigoted asinine remark
Or rabbit on endlessly about your car
How much money you make
And how you once met some star
She couldn’t care less or about as much you
Care about the fact she’s wearing Jimmy Choos

God, I’m hungry I can’t even think
About what type of guys Peroni drink
The thing about free food is this
You have to wait around for it
Then queue in line and hand over your ticket
It reminds me of Betelgeuse in the waiting room
Between the after-life and the recently occupied tomb

“Hey Vix, can you quickly give me a line?
The deadline’s at 3 and I’m running out of time”
Sure thing, but it works quid pro quo
Can you whip me up a design before you go?
Oh yeah and Milo over there was just thinking
If I had a headline or some body copy writing
We could stick it over there where it won’t get in the way
I guess its not like anyone’s gonna read it anyway
So yes I am feeling put upon and completely secondary
Post rationalizing designs and feeling contrary
I’d just like another semantically minded person
To give me some well deserved consolation

A sudden flash of memory
Just crept up upon me
One of those funny little moments
That pepper the life of parents
One boy of 6, one boy of 4
A girl of 2, need I say more?
Each has a DVD safely in his or her paw
All of which apparently made it in the door
The girl has hers; she’s kept it in sight
She wants to watch Barbie tonight
The boys don’t have the faintest clue
Did I have it? No did you?
I line them up and patiently trace
The steps they took to reach this place
Exasperated I berate the boy of 4 with these words of truth
A 2 year old girl kept hers safe, why can’t you?
He shrugged and gave me the smile I so enjoy
“I don’t know,” he says, “’cause I’m a boy?”