Rescued

noI have been saying NO to my children for a very long time.

Despite my best efforts to be a mother who phrases things positively, explaining what I want them to do rather than what I would like them to stop doing, there has been one small, though significant thing I have been saying no to repeatedly — pretty much ever since they learned how to walk and talk.

No, we are NOT getting a pet.

No, not a cat.

No, not a dog either. 

No, not even a fish.

No. 

And it’s not like I haven’t had good reasons for saying no. In fact, both my girls can quote you, chapter and verse, the many and detailed reasons I have provided to them over the past nine years (since our last pet passed on) why we would not be getting a replacement four legged friend any time soon.

There have even been occasions — usually when they have been particularly persistent in their pestering for a pet of their own — when I felt tempted to start spounting the lines from Labyrinth Sarah uses to defeat the Goblin King.  Go on, I would think to myself, try me: “My will is as strong as yours and my kingdom as great…YOU HAVE NO POWER OVER ME!

But the thing is, as it turned out that one small creature DID have power over me.

During the Easter holidays, I softened my hardline just a smidge: I finally relented and informed the girls that they would be allowed to get a small tank and some fish. They would need to be in charge of cleaning the aquarium, feeding and caring for their new finned friends. They also needed to work out how much everything would cost and stick to a budget when making their initial purchases — gravel, tank decorations, the fish themselves, the works.

And then, while we were at the pet store, Marvel Girl and Miss Malaprop just happened to venture down to the far end of the shop to a couple of cages containing animals who were up for adoption. They might even have “borrowed” my phone to take pictures of said creatures…or, more accurately, of one in particular.

We went home, set up the tank, washed the gravel, positioned all the plants and the hula hut decoration, got the filter and lights going and and began treating the water so it was ready for fish.

Later that night, once the kids were in bed, I found a series of photographs on my phone. They weren’t great pictures, because many of them had the bars of a cage featuring prominently in the foreground. But beyond the bars was a small, furry feline with tabby/tortishell markings, spectacular whiskers, beautiful eyes and an elegant tail that resembled a plume.

She was one year old. Desexed, microchipped, vaccinated. And she was a stray.

Next morning, I woke up well before the kids.  Without even meaning to, or realising what I was doing, I picked up my phone off my bedside table and began scrolling through the images of the small, furry creature who was most definitely not a fish.

The Bloke rolled over, wondering what on earth had possessed me to start checking my phone at 5:00am.

Ah, he said. I thought this might happen.  I saw her too.

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So, as it turns out, we returned to the pet store that day and came home not with fish, but with a small and ever so delightful cat we have named Tauriel.

And since we got her — or since I said YES — I have made some interesting discoveries.

I have yelled less. We have all been calmer, and made an effort to get along with each other better. We have tried to make Tauriel feel at home, and she was rewarded us with her madcap toy mouse-capades and her speed scampering up and down the hallway, with purrs and playful bites and with the joy only an animal can bring.

The many and varied reasons why we should not have got a four-legged friend remain, and will continue to do so, but after eight or nine years of saying NO, Tauriel appeared at precisely the right time for me to change my formerly made-up mind.

A rescue cat, is Tauriel. And even though we may have rescued her from an uncertain future, I suspect we all feel she has rescued us, too, and that we are as lucky to have her as she is to have us.

And the fish? Well…we finally got them too — and Tauriel takes great delight in watching Mahalo, Taco, Nacho and Mrs Norris swimming around in their tank. So do we.

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Rainy Days

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Are you ready for the holidays?

It’s finally raining here in Sydneytown, and — rumour has it — they’re even getting some of the good stuff out west where they need it most.  Not enough to break this godawful drought just yet, but all rain is good rain when there hasn’t been any for a long while.

The other thing that eventually turned up was the school holidays, which I was looking forward to beyond measure. Third term was long and full — too full, perhaps — so the combination of rain and lazy days off school has proved, so far, to be a good one.

And yet, only a week or so before the holidays began, several things occurred that filled me with dreadful trepidation rather than joyful anticipation…

The first clear sign I had that something was amiss was when I found a teaspoon in the washing machine.

No, not the dishwasher, but the washing machine.

Yep.  A metal teaspoon in the washing machine, under a load of wet clothes.

How it got there remains a mystery to us all. Various suspects (generally of the smaller two legged variety) were questioned, but answered with blank, wide-eyed stares, shrugged shoulders and mumbled responses along the lines of nope, nup, no idea, or at best, a vague: “What teaspoon?”

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What the heck are my kids up to?!

My second tipoff was the Painting Incident, which took place on the (appallingly scheduled) staff development day which gave the kids a Friday off in the second last week of school. I was on a writing deadline and had lined up an interview I was unable to postpone early that afternoon.

“No problem!” responded my (unnaturally cheerful) children.  “We will paint on canvas outside, so we don’t make a mess of the house and it’s quieter for you.”

How lovely, I remember thinking.  How understanding and considerate…what lovely little human beings.

Needless to say, the Painting Incident did not end well.

I was on the landline, recording the interview on my iPhone, and was quite unable to chastise those so-called lovely little human beings when they traipsed into the kitchen a mere ten minutes into the conversation and began rummaging through the junk drawer for various containers of goodness knows what. The artworks were now, apparently, being transformed into mixed media pieces, and all I could do was gently wave my hands at my progeny and keep my focus fixed on my interviewee.

OK…OK…it was more like whole arm windmilling motions combined with aggressive finger pointing towards the back door, all while glaring at my offending offspring and clearly mouthing the words GET OUT.

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I may also have said this – both bits.

Twenty minutes later, interview complete, I ventured outside to survey the…artworks. To be fair, they had created some quite respectable pieces: palm trees silhouetted against a sunset, tropical islands, starry skies with actual glitter to make them more sparkly.

That, I think, was also the moment when I noticed there was an entire galaxy of glitter spread across the patio, some of it mixed in with paint in a truly alarming variety of shades. The plastic mat I had intended to protect the patio tiles was bunched up against the BBQ, and more paint was coagulating in approximately fifteen separate paint brushes. Used wet wipes were wafting around the back yard, along with the now empty packet from whence they came.

I turned back towards the house to get more wet wipes, found that one of my dear children had trodden blue footprints on the back doormat and across the living room rug, and then proceeded to discover that there were no spare wet wipes either.

What? I always have a spare packet, because…

(Well, I think by now it’s pretty obvious why I always have a spare packet of wet wipes. Some days I think I should just give up and call the house Gotham.)

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Some of this experimenting is quite perplexing.

I then remembered where I had last seen a large quantity of wet wipes, which also — naturally — reminded me of the third clue I had received indicating we were all in need of a holiday: there had been a large, curiously yellow coloured wodge of wet wipes (I believe that is the correct technical term) in the bathroom bin several days before.

Sigh.

A Science Experiment (unoffical and most definitely unsanctioned) had been conducted in the bathroom a couple of days earlier, which had involved my younger child liberating a bottle of bright yellow food colouring from the top of the pantry and attempting to make slime.  She had, to her credit, attempted to clean up the ensuing mess (hence the wodge).  However….the pale blue bathmat began to turn an unusual shade of green when wet feet were placed upon it (more food colouring on the floor, methinks?) and the toilet seat still sports a rather large yellow spot no cleaning product has yet managed to shift.

Not surprisingly, she has not yet confessed to the other indgredients with which she attempted to concoct her slime conduct her Science Experiment — which is, upon reflection, probably for the best.

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I told you the spandex was bad.

And so I am welcoming the Rainy Days these holidays, and we are filling our spring break with baking and jigsaw puzzles and long periods lounging around reading books or watching movies. The girls have marathonned their way through the extended cut of the second Lord of the Rings film and have moved on to watching Labyrinth.  I rejoice that they are are old enough to enjoy these things, and will definitely take their veneration of David Bowie (even when wearing spandex pants) as a parenting win.

Let it rain, let it pour, I say — from here to the end of the Western Plains.

As I write, the wind is currently whipping the rain against the windowpanes, so washing clothes is out of the question.

At least I won’t find any teaspoons in the washing machine today.

 

Who’s Afraid of the Wizard of Oz?

Miss Malaprop came home from preschool the other day and informed me that one of her little mates had brought in a DVD of The Wizard of Oz. Now, given that both my children are in equal parts blessed and afflicted by active imaginations, The Wizard of Oz is one movie we’ve, shall we say, kept in reserve for the time being.

Not because we’re cruel, unfeeling parents — no, no, no.

We simply value uninterrupted sleep. Possibly to the point of obsession.

“Did you watch it?” I inquired, as casually as I could, trying not to hold my breath or to further elevate my already rapidly rising blood pressure.

“Well, not all of it,” came the initial response, at which I might have winced: my sleep deprivation sensor had, even at this early stage, been well and truly triggered.

“Did you like it?” I asked, unable to keep the slight tremor of trepidation from my voice.

“Well…”

Cue klaxons, sirens, alarm bells of varying intensity…

Yes, true to form, instead of merrily singing, “Ding Dong the Witch is Dead” and “Follow the Yellow Brick Road”, my poor Miss Malaprop proceeded to inform me that there was a wicked witch with a horrible green face and finished up with a plaintive, “Oh Mummy, I just can’t get it out of my head.”

And so the fun began…

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Lee Winfrey tells it like it is…

We dealt with the green faced witch first, given that this was Miss Malaprop’s main object of preoccupation. Marvel Girl raced to her room and returned with a Guardians of the Galaxy poster she had pulled from her wall, pointing out that Gamora not only has a green face but that she is also roughly twenty-seven kinds of amazing.

Gamora: it's OK to be green.

Gamora: it’s OK to be green.

Now I should point out, as I have before, that our kids are not old enough to watch any of the Marvel movies yet, though we do explain various plot lines to them and leave out the parts that are…most graphic and violent? That said, it didn’t seem like a good time to tell either of my girls that before she became a Guardian of the Galaxy, Gamora did a whole bunch of dirty work for Ronan, the Kree fanatic, or that she probably listed her occupation as “assassin” on any official intergalactic paperwork.

It did seem like a good time, however, for me to draw Miss Malaprop’s attention to various outrageous acts of artistic licence that MGM took when they made The Wizard of Oz way back in 1939, including the fact that in the book the Wicked Witch doesn’t have a green face at all. No, L Frank Baum did say the Wicked Witch was hideous, but he certainly did not say she was green.

Then, quickly applying the First Rule of Parenting — which is, of course, Distraction — I went on to express my umbrage at Dorothy’s shoes being glittery red in the movie (no doubt sparking an untold multitude of shoe fetishes around the globe), when in the book the shoes are specifically described as being silver.

Our discussion then moved on to how the movie actually finishes, and the standout role performed by Dorothy’s shoes (regardless of their colour) in returning her safely to Kansas with Toto — whose name, naturally, means “everything”. I may have proceeded to wax lyrical about how it wasn’t the Wizard of Oz who was powerful, it was Dorothy, and finally brought matters to a head when I explained that once you are no longer afraid of something, it has no power over you.

David Bowie as Jareth the Goblin King.  If you want to see the spandex pants in all their glory, you'll have to look elsewhere.

David Bowie as Jareth the Goblin King. If you want to see the spandex pants in all their glory, you’ll have to look elsewhere.

Fortunately, Marvel Girl and Miss Malaprop were both fascinated by this idea, and it appeared that the image of the green faced witch was finally be fading from my younger daughter’s highly impressionable mind. Seeing the opportunity to apply the Second Rule of Parenting — which is, of course, When in Doubt Change the Subject — I sneakily steered the conversation in the direction of another movie entirely, Labyrinth, and regaled my eager listeners with tales of Sarah triumphing over the Goblin King.

Again, my imaginative kids are not likely to be watching Labyrinth without adult supervision any time soon — not least because the sight of David Bowie clad in spandex could be detrimental to their otherwise normal development — but I did manage to successfully skirt the issue of Jareth the Goblin King snatching a child in Sarah’s care and skipped straight to the moment of Sarah’s victory. “My will is as strong as yours, and my kingdom as great,” I intoned solemnly, “You have no power over me!

The kids cheered, and the rest of the evening unwound as it usually would, excepting the fact that I may have shoved a bottle of wine in the fridge — which I wouldn’t generally do on a Wednesday.

And I won’t lie.  I gave Miss Malaprop the most carbo-loaded evening meal she has had in very a long time, and sent her off to bed hoping against hope that digesting said dinner would act as some kind of nightmare-preventative and she would slumber blissfully until morning.

To her credit — and my eternal relief —  she did.

Ding Dong, the Witch is Dead.