Saturday, July 28, 2007

Millie the dog

Our dog is not adorable. She looks sweet enough, but she is simply not one of those wonderful, trustworthy, loyal family hounds. Not in the least. She is snarky, she is greedy, and she snores like a truck. Yet somehow this annoying beagle has insinuated herself into our hearts. I can't explain why I love her, but I indisputably do.

It's not as if Millie tries to be endearing. Far from it. I can think of countless ways she unhinges me.

When no-one is paying attention, Millie sidles into the house and fossicks through the bedroom and bathroom bins. She sneaks away with tissues, and drags them out to the lawn for chewing. When our children were small, Millie would steal nappies and do unspeakable things to them. She once ate a whole packet of my birth control pills, the morning I was leaving on an overseas trip. One Easter, Millie found Laura's Easter eggs and ate the lot. This dog is a stomach on legs.

When we have guests over, and we escort them to the door as they leave, Millie quietly gets up on the table to eat the leftovers. She doesn't give a hoot if she gets caught. We can yell, smack her, lock her out, ignore her for hours or all of the above, but Millie doesn't mind. She is undeterred. She does the very same thing at her next opportunity.

Then Millie has some other quirky (read idiotic) habits. If we have visitors over and decide to lock Millie outside, she gets very upset. She whines and whimpers. She stations herself on the back deck, right outside the dining room, and periodically leaps up in the air so she can glimpse everyone inside. Our guests are treated to the sight of a beagle head, ears flying, appearing at the window at intervals.

I haven't ever owned another dog (or cat, or bird), but from talking to experienced pet-owners, it seems animals each have quite distinct personalities. Millie is no exception. She is gluttonous, obstinate, sneaky and grumpy. And yet, she also waits for me on the front deck when I go out - even when Fatty and the kids are home, and she could be lying inside in the warmth. She leans against me as I pat her soft caramel head. She waits, without sound, at the back door each morning, until we finally notice her sitting there. Sometimes it is an hour before we register her presence, yet Millie sits motionless, silent, as if she is The World's Best Dog.

The sweetest habit of Millie's is one I cannot explain. I have no idea what leads her to do this, but she does it every night.

Last thing at night I open the back door, and tell Millie to go outside. She obeys, albeit with a mournful sideways glance. Then she heads for her kennel on the back deck, and settles in as if she were sleeping there all night. But as soon as I walk down the hall to bed, Millie makes her way under the front of our house and sleeps on some old shelving directly under me. The lying down in the kennel is all a charade! Millie has never slept a single night there (I know this, in case you're wondering, because I have to endure Millie's nocturnal snoring, echoing up through the floorboards!). And yet each evening, as if trying to appease us, she pretends she is snuggling up in her doghouse for the night. And then instead of sleeping in her kennel, or on her dog bed under the house, Millie lies much less comfortably, for the sake of being nearer.

No matter how irritating, a dog always loves. And that, I suspect, is why we forgive them almost anything; why they worm their doggy way into our deepest affections.
Millie the weird, naughty beagle ...... we love you, nose to tail.

Friday, July 20, 2007

dinosaurs and diaries

This is the horrific scene that greeted me when I entered our side room the other day. I thought for sure this was the work of my bloodthirsty son, but no, 'twas my bloodthirsty daughter who created this attractive tableau.

Last night I was tired and irritable and anxious about various things. I sighed as I plonked down on Laura's bed to read books to my little rugrats.
"C'mon guys - choose your books", I intoned drearily, as I sat mulling over this and that.
Ben came striding in confidently, carrying one of his favourite books - a journal-style story, written from a wombat's perspective.
"I've got one!", Ben announced. "I've got 'Diarrhoea of a Wombat' ", he crowed. (The actual book title is "Diary of a Wombat")
I began to laugh as I explained to Ben about diaries, and my worries receded into the distance.
Kids are good like that.

Saturday, July 14, 2007

fowl play

This is a story involving two dear friends, 'Ocker' and 'Belly'.

Ocker was in my year at medical school. Ocker is a sunny, friendly sort of guy. He is knowledgeable, and a very good doctor, but in some ways he is just a little naive. And take it from me, I am very familiar with naivete. Being somewhat naive myself.

Belly, Ocker's wife, is pretty switched-on, but being of a quieter nature than Ocker, she tends to defer to his opinion, unless she is absolutely certain of her facts.

The other day, Belly, was around here having a cup of coffee with me. She was chatting about backyards and gardens, and she mentioned that she and Ocker had been toying with the idea of buying some chickens. Both Belly and Ocker thought that chickens might be nice pets for their young daughters, with the added benefit of providing fresh eggs. However, they had recently discussed things further, and the idea had been shelved.

"Oh?", I enquired politely. "What made you decide against it?".

Belly shifted uneasily. "Well", she explained sheepishly, "Ocker reckons that unless you keep a rooster with the chickens, the chickens won't lay. And we can't have a rooster in suburbia." Belly paused, then added sceptically, "Ocker says the only way to get chickens to lay without a rooster is to get a stick, and gently poke them in the backside every day. And no way am I going to go around poking chooks' bums."

"What?!" I fairly shrieked, grinning from ear to ear. "That's not true! Chickens lay eggs without a rooster. I can't believe he told you that! Belly, he's pulling your leg."

Belly chewed her lip thoughtfully. "No, I don't think so. He didn't have any sort of smirk when he told me. I can tell when he's teasing me."

"Well then someone's told him that, maybe even years ago, and being a city boy, he's never found out it was all a joke, " I decided.

"I'm googling 'chickens laying' and there's absolutely nothing here about sticks", my husband called from the dining room.

At this unusual interjection, I collapsed into laughter, and Belly joined me as it dawned on her that her wise husband was not always as wise as he seemed.

So which came first - the chicken, the egg, or the stick up the chicken's bottom? Only you can decide. Vote here. Vote now.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

these happy golden years

The little blighters are bound to cause me untold headaches and heartaches through the years, but just now my children are still innocents. They are sweet-natured. They say adorable things. They haven't yet learnt to hate their parents.

Laura is prone to leave me notes on the bedside table when she's done something wrong. The words fill me with sorrow and remorse, as I read her plaintive,"Mummy I'm sorei wehn I was beeing bad". The experienced parents reading this will now be nodding sagely and intoning, "Ah! She's got you!". I fully admit the cute apology note sucks me in every time. I am reeled in - regretful, and forgiving, and vowing never to be such a crabby mother again. Until the next time those kids annoy me.

Benjamin doesn't bother much with apologies. His tactic is to charm the pants off me, as a sort of a preemptive strike. He schmoozes and compliments. He snuggles and kisses. Yesterday, he hugged my back energetically as I bent over to help him with his shoes, telling me, "Oh, I love you Mummy. Why would I ever love anyone more than you?". You've got to admire this kid. He's got the smarmy lines. He'll tell his girlfriends that they have hair like silk, and lips like rose petals and eyes like shining stars. It's all becoming clear.

I am trying to savour every embrace and enjoy every crayon-adorned message. I know teenagers don't touch or talk nearly as much as little ones do. If I get more than the odd grunt and occasional pat from my adolescent children, I'll count myself lucky.

So today, and every day, I am thankful for these small children - my kind, soft-cheeked Laura, and my loving, grinning Ben. They bring so much laughter and new light to my life. And I don't care if they have me in the palms of their sweaty little hands. Wrapped around their sticky little fingers. I'm a willing victim, I'm a captive audience, and, above all, I'm their besotted mother.

Thursday, July 05, 2007

my friend and I

I was twelve. I was scared about starting at the large inner city high school, but I was excited as well.

Every day I caught the dusty, smoke-belching bus to school. I knew none of the other kids on the bus, but they seemed to know each other. There was Desiree, of the tanned skin and trendy feathered haircut (yes, yes, we're talking back when Farrah Fawcett hair was oh-so-cool!). Desiree had a husky voice and a knowing laugh and I was way too frightened of her to attempt conversation with this high school diva. There was the tall, tall Year 12 boy who was a swimmer and sat at the back with his friends. He would smile at me as he made his long-limbed way down the aisle and I would almost pass out from the thrill. Then there was a petite dark-haired girl in my grade, with the longest, thickest plait I'd ever seen. Her hair may have been old-fashioned, but she chatted breezily with everyone and was obviously popular.

One day, the gods of fortune smiled upon me, and this pint-sized girl, 'Chooky', sat beside me. I managed to convince her that, although I had a nasty haircut and no bus-friends, I was worth getting to know. We became best friends. We have remained friends, despite never being in the same class (well, apart from one geography class, during which I distinguished myself by having a confiscated letter to Chooky read out to the class by the stern elderly teacher .... "Dear Poo-Head, This class is making me fall asleep zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz...hey, do you still like Michael? I think he likes you, anyway..."), not attending the same university, and working different jobs.

Chooky has had an incredibly tough life. Her father left when she was three, and has shown minimal enthusiasm for his role in Chooky's life ever since. Chooky's mother was a frightening woman who was in and out of psychiatric hospitals during Chooky's childhood, and rarely had a kind word to say to my lovely friend. And yet, Chooky is a phenomenal woman - a loving and loyal friend, a sought-after manager with a large company, partner to Goodguy. I don't know how she has done it, but she fills me with awe. My Chooky is an inspiration and a wonder.

This weekend just passed, Chooky whisked me away on a 'girls weekend'. It was my surprise birthday present from Chooky. And what an elaborate gift it was. We flew (yes, flew in a plane!) to a tropical locale. We stayed in a fancy hotel. We ate lazy lunches and drank a mango daiquiri while sitting by the pool. It was the most luxurious weekend I've ever had.

And yet.... the best part of the weekend was simply talking with Chooky. We caught up on news, we teased each other. We also reminisced about the beginnings of our friendship, and spoke about what we mean to each other now. Chooky told me that she believes she would not be the same happy person she is now were it not for her friendship with me. It brings tears to my eyes here and now just to write these words. It is the greatest compliment to me to be credited in such a way, whether true or not. I told Chooky that I consider her part of my family, and I do. Chooky is my lifelong friend and my soul sister.

She may be a dear friend, but she didn't love me enough to let me photograph her in her stripey pyjama pants. Humph.

You can't see her face, but you don't need to see it to know she is beautiful.