Monday, December 30, 2013

The Late Night Bad Thought


Why are you awake?

I had a bad thought and it made me scared.

What bad thought?

I thought about what would happen if I drew you a picture, but I didn’t tell you I drew it for you and your tore it up and threw it away.

That is a bad thought. Luckily it would never happen. Now go back to bed and think only good thoughts.

But I don’t know any good thoughts.

What about when Baldy does her baby dance or shouts ‘ta da!’, or cooking with me, or washing the car with Daddy and getting splashed with the hose, or building Lego, or reading books. Or writing books? Luckily there are more good thoughts in the world than bad thoughts…

But you don’t know that. You don’t know everything, how can you know that?

You’re right. I don’t know everything but I definitely know that.

I saw you cry once after talking on the phone. I don’t know why you were crying, but I know you were sad.

(Taken aback) But that happened only once. How many other times have you seen me laugh and smile?

Hardly ever.

What? That’s nuts, why do you say that?

Because we’re always so naughty…

Ahhh touché. But you can bet your ass I'm smiling right now.


Wednesday, December 25, 2013

The Twelve Dogs of Christmas

On the first day of Christmas, my true dog sent to me, a fat cat in a fur tree…

It was time for the annual Christmas concert, and it wasn’t even Christmas yet. The Bombshell had whispered in my ear that it was time to announce the concert would start.

All the adults, exhausted from over-indulging in an Aussie seafood feast, were all too happy to oblige: as long as they didn’t have to get up from their chairs.

On the second day of Christmas, my true dog sent to me, two chewed up slippers…

The Bombshell was the picture of seriousness. Standing straight and tall, book in her hands, she sang with the manner of an English Beefeater. No matter what was happening around her, she would continue to sing.

On the third day of Christmas, my true dog sent to me, three French poodles…

This song was way too long for the Mop, who promptly took to the stage, grabbed a plastic rake as a microphone and began singing her own song. Not entirely sure what song it was.

'Shhhhh,' all the adults told her. 'You’ll get your turn in a moment'.

On the fourth day of Christmas, my true dog sent to me, four pointers pointing…

Breaking free from her Auntie’s grip, Baldy was determined to take her rightful place on stage. In the manner only an almost-two year old can muster, she began break-dancing, doing rolly-polies, dizzy-whizzies and egging the crowd on for cheers.

On the fifth day of Christmas, my true dog sent to me, five old hounds…

I watched the faces of the family, chuckles suppressed. We were all trying so hard to keep our attention on the Bombshell, who was pushing through despite the competition.

On the sixth day of Christmas, my true dog sent to me, six pooches playing…

The Mop was surreptitiously moving her chair forward. Her microphone had morphed into a trumpet, and occasionally she was waving it around over her head. It’s difficult to tell whether she was deliberately trying to hit Baldy who was flinging herself around, or whether it was just a happy coincidence.

On the seventh day of Christmas, my true dog sent to me, seven mutts a’dreaming…

Man this song was long. Why did there need to be twelve days of Christmas?

On the eighth day of Christmas, my true dog sent to me, eight canines skating…

I had to admire the Bombshell’s fortitude. Almost no one was able to listen to her. Baldy kept popping up in front of her, raising her arms and shouting ‘ta da!’ at which point everyone (except the Bombshell) needed to yell ‘Ta da!’ back at her.

On the ninth day of Christmas, my true dog sent to me, nine fleabags fencing…

Anyone else would have given up by now, but I knew she was desperate to get to the eleventh day. We had read the book for the first time a few days earlier and it was every kid’s dream: to be able to talk about naughty things in front of adults and not get yelled at. She was going to soldier on.

On the tenth day of Christmas, my true dog sent to me, ten labs a’licking…

Besides, I had seen the script the Bombshell had neatly written out that morning. After she sang the worlds-longest and most annoying Christmas song, she planned on reading a story to everyone. There was no way she was given up her spot in the limelight.

On the twelfth day of Christmas, my true dog sent to me, twelve dogs a digging…

‘Didn’t you forget one?’ I called out to the Bombshell. ‘Shhhh,’ everyone hissed at me, not wanting yet another verse.

The Bombshell paused and turned back a page. ‘Ah yes, thank you,’ she said.

She took a deep breath and another pause for effect.

On the eleventh day of Christmas, my true dog sent to me, eleven puppies pooping…

‘Did she say pooping?’ my father-in-law whispered with a grin.

On the twelfth day of Christmas, my true dog sent to me, twelve dogs a digging…

Such applause, such acclaim. We were all so grateful she made it through, we were rapturous in our congratulations.

Baldy thought the applause was for her, jumping up and shouting ‘ta da!’

The Bombshell gave a neat bow, a satisfied smile on her face.

The Mop dragged her chair further forward and tried to grab at the Twelve Dogs of Christmas.

‘My turn,’ she wailed.


Merry Christmas from Curly Mop, the Blonde Bombshell and Baldy Baby


* The Twelve Dogs of Christmas is written and illustrated by Kevin Whitlark

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

The Three Things That Changed My Year

After six and a half years of being a Mum it would be easy to think that I would’ve got this whole parenting thing sorted out.

I haven’t. In fact, this year I have behaved pretty badly at times. If my kids behaved as badly as I have, I would send them to their rooms and never let them out. But the thing is, sometimes I wish someone would send me to my room and say I don’t have to come out. For a mum, that’s a luxury. For kids, putting them in their room with their toys and books and things that make loud obnoxious noises is the Worst. Thing. Ever.

Kids just don’t get it.

I did have a realisation this year though, an epiphany if you will.

I was sitting out in the back garden, as far from my kids as I could manage without leaving the property. My fists were clenched and my heart was racing. I wanted to smash something. Ten seconds earlier, that something was one of my children. They had pushed me and pushed me and pushed me so far, something in my brain was saying ‘just do something to make it stop’.

And I made a choice.

I walked out. I turned on my heel, unlocked the door, closed it behind me, and walked as far as I could from the screaming and the fighting and the yelling. I sat and I tried to calm down.

It would have been very easy to make a different choice in that split second.

I have realised that every second of every day parenting is a choice.

It starts even from before the baby is conceived and often we don’t even realise we are making a choice. Cloth or disposable. Swaddle or sleeping bag.  Red wine or white (not for the kids, relax).

Sometimes that choice is taken away from us. Sometimes we can’t breastfeed. Sometimes our babies are sick. Sometimes we don’t have family to fall back on. Sometimes we don’t have the resources to follow through on something we really want for our children.

But in those other instances, often the small moments we don’t give much thought to, parenting is a choice.

I have made some pretty bad choices in the past. And sometimes I see the consequences of those bad decisions repeat on me like a cheap taco. When you look at your kids and realise that they are behaving just like you and you don’t like them very much it can be a very confronting experience.

I did two things this year to help me control my anger. Three things actually. The first was to go and see someone to help me with some of my issues. To be able to talk about my problems in a professional and non-judgemental environment was a step forward for me, but I admit it’s not for everyone.

Then someone put a meme up on Facebook that said ‘the way we speak to our children becomes their inner voice.’

I printed it out and stuck it on the fridge, so I see it every day.

Your inner voice is the one who either tells you that you are worthless and you shouldn’t bother trying, or that you should keep pushing ahead. It’s the one that says you are fabulous regardless of your size and shape, or it tells you you’re not good enough unless you are a size 10. It’s the one that keep asking ‘what’s wrong with you?’ or instead says ‘how can we do it differently next time?’

Although in the heat of the moment I sometimes slip up, I have made a choice that if I have any role in developing my girls’ inner voices, it will be to make them strong, thoughtful, independent, self-assured and – most importantly - to like themselves.

Psychologists and Facebook are great, but they will only get you so far. So this year, I also called in the big guns.

The Blonde Bombshell.

Although she is just like me – or because she is just like me – we often don’t see eye to eye. To be blunt, we fight a lot. Well, we used to. Earlier this year I introduced a safe word. When our fight is escalating and we are beginning to lose the plot, we agreed that someone would call out ‘undies’ at the top of their lungs, the idea being that it is so silly we would laugh instead of strangle each other.

She is awesome at yelling undies. (Put THAT on your CV).

And while she doesn’t need to use it so much anymore for disagreements between her and me (because I am working on the other two things) she has been known to step in between me and The Mop (who, one month shy of four has discovered her own debating skills) and call out ‘undies, you guys, undies!’.

The neighbours must think we’re all loons.

Maybe that’s why they moved out.


Thank you to everyone who stops by Relentless to read my stories, who comment on my Facebook posts, and send messages about my WeekendNotes articles. With every ‘like’ and every ‘hit’ it’s another way of saying ‘I get it. It’s like that at my house.’

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