I'm trying to keep my business, my triplets, and my waistline under control. I excel at one of those, fail at another one of those, and one is a work in progress. Which is which is day dependant.

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Saturday, September 27, 2008

John Merrick's Remains

Yesterday NN and I had a crazy cake making day - everything from pretty-in-pink two tiered christening cakes to Paul Smith striped cakes to the world's most annoying house-shaped cake (which leaned so far over as to look as though it had been built in Pisa.) As usual we spent our time in true confessions, talking about the stuff we wouldn't normally have the guts to talk about face to face. It's one of the advantages to working next to someone - your eyes and hands are busy concentrating on the task at hand, so your mouth tends to run on...and on...and on.

Yesterday was also one of those days where the radio throws a tantrum. I was given this crappy radio to use in the kitchen. Because of how much metal is around (and no windows to speak of), you can only get a few stations, and most of those are playing static of the 80s, 90s and today. Funny how static sounds the same as it did back in 1984, isn't it?

As a result of all this confession talk and crap radio business, we had to listen to one of four CD's I've got in there...all of which were bands NN had never heard of (with the exception of Billy Joel.) I popped in the Bare Naked Ladies CD, which brought up the song "A million dollars." The song is basically a love song, talking about all the things the person would buy, if only they had that elusive million dollars.

If I Had $1000000 (If I Had $1000000)

I'd buy you a fur coat (but not a real fur coat that's cruel)

If I Had $1000000 (If I Had $1000000)

I'd buy you an exotic pet (Like a llama or an emu)

If I Had $1000000 (If I Had $1000000)

I'd buy you John Merrick's remains (All them crazy elephant bones)

If I Had $1000000 I'd buy your love

This song got me thinking about what I would buy if I had a million dollars. The rules of the game were that it had to be a selfish purchase - no giving money to charity, no giving money to friends or family. Pure, unadulterated GREED.

NN wanted a car. A super gorgeous, sleek black sex-on-wheels sort of car. Plus some other stuff like a personal stylist (OMG, Trinny and Susannah!) and other bits.

Me? I want a house.

Not just any house. I want to knock down my existing house and replace it with a custom built Fasham Johnson home. Once I got done building my house - which is a fully sustainable, state of the art eco-home complete with water tanks, wind turbine, and insulation made of hemp blah blah - I'd spend all the change on the details of the house.

Egyptian cotton bath sheets which coordinate.

6 billion threadcount sheets.

A fully kitted out professional grade kitchen, WITH the stainless pots and pans to match.

Underfloor heating.

Heated towel racks in every bathroom.

A shower so big, you can hold Dancing With The Stars competitions in in (but of course the water is recycled.)

A leather couch so scrumptious, you need a crane (or some interesting rope arrangement) to help you get out of it.

...and so on and so forth. I'd probably spent well beyond my million dollar budget - but this was my fantasy game afterall.

We were sitting down for lunch (Best sandwiches ever, NN. I love you and your tuna goodness.) and I said, "So, now that we've spent our own million, let's spend a million on each other. What would you get for me?"

Funny how the world tells you things you already knew - that the things you WANT are not always the things you NEED.

NN? She would buy me a car. A big one to fit kids and cakes and whatnot.
Me? I'd buy NN a house.

What would you buy with your totally selfish million? Better yet, what would you buy a friend?

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

My Beloved Zoom Zoom

Yes, I drive a car this small.
Note: Cars in this picture may appear bigger than they actually are.

Internet, tell me the truth.

Doesn't everyone sing loudly enough in their car that the entire world can hear them, AND have the radio up so loud that the driver's seat is actually vibrating....not to mention using an empty Diet Coke bottle (or Pepsi Max bottle if you're desperate) as a microphone? My car is my cone of silence, so whatever I do in there cannot be seen or heard by ANYONE else, especially the jerk in the car next to me who is laughing his head off.

My car is my personal temple. I adore every single last scrap of cheap Asian metal and plastic and upholstery in it.

Seriously. I feel the need to blog about my car, my little bit o' freedom. I drive the BESTEST car in the world. It is very small. It's square. It gets ridiculously good gas mileage, and before the price of oil went to six jillion a barrel, it cost me about $20 to fill up. The trunk (boot for you Aussies) is a total Tardis - it easily fits 3 backpacks, a pair of shoes, 10 or so tapes from the 80's, seventy thousand cupcakes and 14 circus clowns (with wigs and unicycles!) Because the damn thing is so small, I can park in odd-shaped places and really tiny spots at the end of rows. I can park totally illegally in tiny not-really-a-space-spaces because a cop takes one look at it and says, "Awwww! How cute!" and wanders away to ticket an SUV taking up 4 spaces on either side.

It was the very first thing I bought myself when I moved to Australia, and I bought it in part with some inheritance I got from my grandmother. My grandmother was a feisty, smart, independant kind of lady - so I KNEW she would approve of my buying myself this little scrap heap of feisty, smart independance. It's also kinda dorky looking...and yes, of course, it's GREEN. I think some people wonder how I fit in it, given how small it is and how not small I am. Truly sometimes I wonder how I fit in it, but I do. I even fit in when I was 8 months pregnant with the triplets, and yet I simply HAD TO go to KMart right then and there or I would surely DIE.

Granted, I made that shopping trip with the back of the seat almost inclined so as to be lying in the backseat, and every time I came to a red light I'd sag back and breathe a sigh of relief because my arm muscles were burning from holding me up. Still, my little car got me and my big ol' belly there and back in one piece and for this reason alone my car deserves a medal.

Sadly, the time has come to hang up the itty bitty car keys. It's already 12 years old, it has a TAPE PLAYER (yes, really) in it, and it's kinda starting to die a very, very slow death. Plus the kids are now at the age where they want to bring friends home, and we can't do that in the world's smallest car unless we employ some bungy straps for roof-mounting of small children.

Problem is, you cannot find a seven seater car which a) is not a soccer mom totally uncool car, b) gets decent gas mileage so as not to totally annihilate the environment. This kind of car simply does not exist. I don't want a bloody SUV, I don't want a *gasp!* people mover, and I don't want anything which looks like it needs a bumper sticker which says: My Honour Student Can Kick The Ass of Your Honour Student (even if it's true.)

If I had my way (which, of course, I don't), I would really, really want to drive one of these:
It's totally customisable, costs about 20 grand (eg cheap!), gets a ridiculous amount of kilometres to the gallon, and can be parked in someone's pocket. I ADORE the smart car.

Problem? a) It definitely does not fit 3 kids, one mother, some cupcakes and some random other kids and b) I'm pretty sure my fat ass won't fit in unless I employ the Vaseline and get the kids to pull from the other side method.


My latest invention is to get a K'nex or Meccano set of smart cars. So you can kinda add or remove ones you need, in a chain arrangement. Just me? One smartcar. Me and kids? Two smartcars. Me, kids, cake? Three smartcars. Me, kids, cake, friends? Four. See? How brilliant is this plan - you just add and remove smartcars as needed. Sadly, while I am married to an engineer, his automotive engineering skills are at least 20 years old. (Jewel: Ask your automotive engineer if he can jimmy this up for me?)

So if I want something which can fit a bunch of kids and be kinder and gentler on the environment, it looks like this is my only option:

Well, at least with all that cycling I'm bound to lose a few pounds!

Sunday, September 21, 2008

The Vagaries of War

Last night Jewel and I went to see the movie "Waltz With Bashir." Given my cultural background, I wasn't all that enthusiastic to see it...who needs yet another reminder of the atrocities of a war-torn Israel?

Against my better judgement I went to see it. I walked in that movie theatre thanking my lucky stars that it only lasted 90 minutes, and hoping like hell it would be over quickly. I walked out of that theatre in shock and awe of the most thought-provoking and harrowing 90 minutes of my life.

If you are someone who believes war is the answer, go see this movie.

If you are someone who believes there must be an answer other than war, go see this movie.

If you see no other movie this year, go see this one.

Of Fathers and Sons

The trio were conceived via IVF - something which I have no problem sharing with people who ask, because I find they are often being nosy because either they or someone they love has been through a similar experience. It's also something which we've been very open about with the kids. The "how did you get pregnant, Mummy?" question is one which I've had to deal with fairly early on.

It's now part of bedtime story lore that, "...we had to go see some special doctors, blah blah and then you three miracles were born." I often refer to them as my miracle children because I really believe that their conception - their mere existence - IS a miraculous event. Our infertility was both male and female related: reproduction-wise, we're both totally buggered. I remember one OB/GYN telling us that as individuals we had close to zero chance of conceiving, but as a couple we had less than zero chance. Niiicceee.

One of the hurdles we had to jump was doing some genetic testing for DH - to see if his problem was genetically based. I suppose if the answer were yes, we would have to really think long and hard about continuing on that path to parenthood. Luckily, the answer was that no genetic abnormalities were detected. Plain and simple, DH's reproductive roll of the dice was just bad luck. Over the years, the possibiity of this same bad luck happening to my son is something I've thought about. A bedtime story is one thing, but what about when he wants to father his own children? How will I explain that he may not be able to? Actually the issue applies to the girls as well - because it's more likely than not that they will inherit my issues, too. (Don't say I never give them anything!)

It was with some interest - and a hearty dose of fear - that I read this article, all about the sons of infertile fathers. In specific, one paragraph freaked me out:

"The whole issue raises the science-fiction prospect of a society in which many men can’t father children naturally. According to one estimate in the journal Nature Genetics, if even half of affected men used ICSI to have kids, the incidence of severe male factor infertility could double nationwide within seven generations."

The article goes on to quote several infertile fathers who basically think that, by the time their sons have grown to reproductive age, IVF will be just another medical procedure - and hence not all that worrying.

It's true that advances in science have meant that IVF procedures and success rates are better than they have ever been...but it's also true that I wouldn't wish that process on my worst enemy, let alone my children. Now there is no absolute guarantee they will have any issues of infertility, but I'd be lying if I said I didn't think about it now and again. I also have to wonder if, when, and how we'll tell them the more intimate details about it all. I suppose the day will come when they will ask us directly, at which point I plan on being as honest about it as I've been until now. (Which is to say, full disclosure at an age-appropriate level.)

If you're someone who has experienced this, what is your take on it? How much do we tell our children of our experiences? When do we tell them? Do you ever worry about having passed on your reproductive issues to them? The bigger question is really this: By even using processes like IVF, are we altering the future population? Are we in effect messing with the future? How much are we messing up the population by allowing these "mutations" to carry onwards? Fact is, 20 or even 10 years ago, these kinds of procedures were not available. Couples like us just wouldn't be able to have biological children - we'd have stopped this mutation dead in it's tracks. because we could not pass it on to our children. By using IVF, we've allowed it to move forward ... with little, if any, thought to the future generations. Is this the ultimate in selfish acts?

Friday, September 19, 2008

Kol Chatan Veh Kol Callah

(title refers to a well known Hebrew song, the translation is "every groom and every bride") This article was originally written for our Temple newsletter.

Recently DH and I had the good fortune of being invited to two weddings in one weekend. There isn’t anything unusual about that, given that we’re in the right age group for weddings (okay, I am – he’s not!). What was particularly unusual about these weddings is that one was a full Catholic wedding in Sydney, and the second was a Jewish wedding in Melbourne. It was to be a particularly religious and cultural weekend!

Attending both these ceremonies and celebrations was interesting, to say the least. The Catholic wedding was held at St Mary’s Cathedral, right in the heart of Sydney. The ceremony was attended by thirteen (yes, 13!) priests and a bishop, and included the full Nuptial Mass. Close to ninety minutes of ceremony including Gregorian chanting, Latin words I had no hope of understanding, and the strong smell of frankincense in the air. Sitting in that Cathedral, you could not help but be awed by the whole pomp and circumstance of it all. It was, to put in mildly, an event. Even though I had to use my order of service to keep track of it all, there was no question that, while joyful, this was a serious event. There were readings, a sermon, and hymns sung by the choir – a true life experience which I will never forget.

The celebration that night included (among all the dancing and noise and excitement) the reading of good wishes from far away guests. The very first far away guest to send his personal congratulations was none other than Pope Benedict! I was most amused to find that our table was right next to a table full to the brim with priests…all of whom were getting involved in the dancing and carrying on as much as the “civilian” guests were. I’m pretty sure DH and I were the only Jews in attendance that night – something which our table mates found interesting. They had quite a few questions for us about Jewish marriage traditions – knowledge which we were happy to share.

Sunday brought colder weather and a flight back home in time to change clothes and head out to East Melbourne Shul for our second nuptial experience. This time, while there was a high ceiling, uncomfortable pews and some wine, there was not much else which had quite the same feel as the Catholic wedding. The entire thing was over and done with in about twenty minutes. I found myself feeling just a little bit, well, disappointed. To be fair this was a fairly conservative wedding in so far as there was only the one rabbi and he did not attempt to engage the audience at all. It was pretty much a ‘by the book’ sort of ceremony…and how terribly boring and sad it all seemed in comparison to the spectacle we’d seen the day prior!

Our own wedding wasn’t quite as by the book – we had the added bonus of a fantastic chazzan, a rabbi who made a short speech and explained all the parts of the ceremony, and a rather amused unicyclist who stopped by for a look. I should probably explain that David and I were married in Santa Monica, California – and the venue was bordered on one end by a main road! Hence why we enjoyed our unicycled visitor (and duf-duf music in the background of our wedding video.) If nothing else, we have a good story to share!

Watching this all-too-short Jewish wedding, it had me wondering if, when it’s all so quick, it has quite as much meaning. With such a quick ceremony, are we really giving it the feeling of importance it should have? Are we doing the institution of marriage a disservice? Should the Jewish wedding ceremony be longer, more involved, more ceremonial, more…something? Should it involve frankincense (okay, let’s substitute for the smell of hot bagels)? Truthfully, I don’t think so. Ultimately the commitment you make to one another is much more important than the words which are said, the wine which is drunk and the glass which is smashed.

If you and your partner have not fully committed to the sanctity of marriage and all that being part of a partnership entails…then it won’t matter how many rabbis or priests you’ve got in attendance. Ultimately it’s about you and your partner becoming a family, and moving forward together as a single unit. The ceremonial bit of it, while important, isn’t what will make or break your marriage. Still, having thoroughly enjoyed the Catholic ceremony (and being bored in the Jewish one), I can’t help but think there’s something to be said for a bissele (little bit of) chanting!

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

With Honey

I read this fantastic article today - from the website Flying Solo, which is a website geared towards "solopreneurs" or people like myself who run micro businesses. (Check it out, it's fab!) The article was all about how "secret" factors make a small business owner adjust their quotes in one direction or another.

Whether consciously or subconsciously, there are intangible factors that go into the black art of business quoting. Below are ten of the common 'adjustments' that are often factored in:

UP: The 'unpleasant person' price hike. Usually expressed in stronger language, this is the 20% tax added to the quotes of people who are an absolute nightmare to deal with.

DOWN: The 'good bloke' bonus. This is the lower price you give to a charming woman or man who is friendly and easy to work with.

The funny thing about the article was how true it all was! I found myself nodding and agreeing to almost every one of them. It's no secret among my friends that I will add an "irritation fee" or apply the "embuggerance factor" to clients who, from the outset, seem like they are going to be problem children. Sometimes I'll do it even if the person is sweetness and light...because they've given me less than 12 hours to produce a 3D cake diorama of the Wild West and they want it delivered to Upper Nowhere.

Owning my own business has really taught me the importance of being a good consumer - giving positive feedback as often (or more often) than negative. Replying to someone even if I know I won't be ordering with them and thanking them for their time. Saying thank you to people in shops and being understanding when an occasional order goes astray - all of these are things which I appreciate, so I've started to use them when I am the consumer. You would be AMAZED at how much a nice word, a sympathetic email, or a friendly phone voice will get you. It's the old adage of "you catch more flies with honey than with vinegar."

In the case of Three Sweeties, I try as much as possible to be consistent on quoting. I rely on word of mouth to get me business, so it wouldn't be fair if I offered you X price for something, but offered your (nicer) friend Y price. At the same time, a big part of what makes my business successful is the amount of TLC I give my clients - so that's where you might notice the difference in terms of price. Not so much in absolute dollars, but in how many 'extras' I might throw in, how flexible my appointment times are, and so on and so forth.

So consider this my public service announcement for the day: next time you're dealing with a small business, be NICE about it. You never know what it might get you.

Monday, September 15, 2008

I'm good, but I'm not THAT good.

Can you make this cake feed 200 people?

It never ceases to amaze me how some people believe that they can get something for nothing. Most of the time, I just gird my pastry loins and get on with it - like the time a lady came for a consult, told me the price I charged was too high, and left. That's fine, I understand completely, what with mortgages and petrol prices and whatnot. Cake is not an actual life necessity (well, you and I know it is, but not everyone else is on board yet.)

Except that then she called a few days later, to say that XYZ bakery on the other side of town would do it for $50 less, so would I be willing to meet their price?

In a word? NO.

I bet you're wondering why I said no, over a measly fifty bucks - when we all know that my current goal in life is to build up the Three Sweeties empire. So here is why: a) I price the way I do for a reason. Does she want me to use $50 cheaper ingredients? Spend $50 less time on making her cake gorgeous? I'm guessing not. b) If I did it, she would get a fabulous cake from me. She'd then tell all her friends about how fabulous I am, AND about how I can be "negotiated" on price. I'd end up with a whole crowd more clients who want something for nothing...and those are clients I really don't need.

They say that 90% of your profit comes from 10% of your clients...and I'm guessing those are the clients who don't negotiate.

But I digress. This past weekend I had two clients who really tested my entrepreneurial nettle.

Client #1 wants a cake for her 21st birthday. It has to include: 1) A Latin theme, 2) An elegant Hawaiian/tropical feel including hibiscus, palm trees and possibly some fresh fruit, 3) A fairy princess castle, 4) All or at least some of the Disney Princesses, especially Jasmine and 5) she'd also like a sunset or at least the bright pink/orange colours of sunsets. Oh, and it needs to feed 150 people, be 3 tiers, and be under $250.

Yeah. Not going to happen. I came up with a good idea for the themes, but couldn't do it for the budget she had. Is she kidding me? At $250, she's talking about less than $2 per person. People, you spend more than that on your daily weak skinny soy latte with 2 sugars.

Client #2 wants a wedding cake for 60 people (enough to serve at the wedding, AND box it up and give it away, so basically 120 servings), and she wants to keep the top tier for their first anniversary. She is utterly convinced that she needs the bottom tier to be NO BIGGER than 8 inches square. Apparently she read somewhere that you determine cake servings by the size of the pan x the size of the pan. Therefore, in her twisted logic world, her 8 inch square should feed 64 people.

Yes. Well. When I suggested that perhaps those 1 inch x 1 inch servings might be considered a bit, ahem, small, she said she didn't want to go much bigger because people would think "they were being too wasteful." Sweetcheeks, it might be wasteful to have a lot of cake, but it's seriously TIGHT ASSED to not have enough for everyone. Actually, I think it's almost impossible to actually cut cake pieces that small...unless you are using a precision laser cutter.

When I suggested having an 8 inch fake second tier (common practice for wedding cakes), and making a bigger bottom tier, she told me it was weird to have "fake stuff touch real stuff." Can you imagine an 8 inch square wedding cake? It would have no chance of feeding all those people, and no chance of looking like anything other than an afterthought. I'm seriously considering telling her to go somewhere else - because I don't want the reputation as the "el cheapo cake maker," either!

...and the kicker? She wants it "as simple and elegant as possible", but it has to be in metallic blue and baby pink, and have hearts piped all over it. Plus ribbons. And wedding figurines.

Sometimes, you just have to shake your head and hope like hell these people run the other way. I fluctuate between my usual people-pleaser Capricornian self and my self-obsessed Capricornian self in wanting to help them...but not wanting my name associated with the product they end up with.

That said, I love my job. These kind of requests combined with the crazy comments people have made over the years about my triplets truly make me think that I've got a book inside of me somewhere.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Father's Day

The required "let's all look silly now" photo

This past Sunday was Father's Day - and no, I have no idea why it is in September in Australia, yet celebrated in June in America. Also, I have no idea on which Father's Day I am meant to call my Dad, so usually I don't bother (anyway he claims Father's Day is a stupid holiday, so who am I to correct him?) Here is how the residents of Casa Verde spent Father's Day:

Breakfast in bed for Dad which included loads of totally strange presents from the school Father's Day stall (stress balls: 3, too-small socks: 1, silver windscreen cover heat deflector thing: 1, little green man-shaped radio: 1, full professional car detailing: 1) (Can you guess who organised that last one?)

Breakfast menu: challah toast (buttered), scrambled eggs, tomato slices and chocolate milk (made by kids). Easy Cinnamon Bun Bread (made by wife.)

Delivery of a lotus-themed wedding cake to the Dandenong Ranges...

Wandering around wedding venue and picking up some beautiful fallen flowers...

Stopping at Grant's Picnic Ground to feed the sulphur-crested cockatoos...

Dinner out (whichDD1 and I had to miss out on as she was sick. She's better now.)

[insert dinner photo which DH forgot to take]

...and a very happy Dad, who got (and deserved) a fabulous day out with his family.

Monday, September 8, 2008

The post about the hair

This past week I had a hair incident ... the incident being a hair cut and colour I'm not happy with. Strange for me, since in general I could give two hoots about my appearance - but this time, I really wanted some good hair and was seriously not happy when I didn't get it.

It all started a few months ago. My usual hairdresser, who I've been to for about 10 years, started to act all weird. I'd go in, asking for brown hair, and I'd leave with black. I'd ask for a short haircut, and have one which was chin-length. She'd started to really push the salon products on me, too ... something she knows to be a lost cause since I am married to my el cheapo shampoo. It was like she all of a sudden lost her hair diva mojo. She went overseas for an extended period, which was a great time to divorce her.

I happened to get a voucher for a local salon, and the place came highly recommended so I thought I'd give it a try. Ummm...no. Good haircut, shocking coulour (I do subtle highlights, people, not really bloody obvious stripes) and it took a whopping 4 and a half hours. For a haircut and colour, that's about 2 very long hours too long, and with only out of date Women's Weekly mags for comfort, it wasn't a pretty thing.

Some months past and 007 tells me about another voucher she has - bring a friend and it's 50% off (or whatever.) So we carefully plan our hair assault for a time when she and I need colour (a rare thing, we're not in the same hair cycle....although you know how girls who live together get their period together? I wonder if that's true for regrowth...hmmm.) Anyway, we go. We get one chick assigned to both of us. It's clear that this stresses her out, having two clients at once.

Long story short, I asked for a (much) shorter, no-fuss haircut and a warm chocolatey brown colour. I left the salon with decidedly dark purple hair and the same hair as before, just 3-4 inches shorter. plus a huffy comment that I really should learn to blow dry my hair every day.

Yes...I am going to blow dry it so that an hour later I can shove a chef hat on it and wave sayonara to the blow drying effort. I don't think so, stressed out hairdresser lady.

I dealt with it for most of the day, until I realised my jaw was aching from clenching my teeth so hard and my eyes were burning from trying not to cry. I really needed the pick me up that great hair gives you. I called back to complain (something I've never, ever done) and scheduled a do-over. This time I got one of the owners of the salon. She vaguely pretended to re-cut it a bit, but they can't do much about the colour (once it's dark, it's hard to go back without basically killing your hair.) She did tone down the purple ... so now it's just vampire dark (see new pic in profile!). She also gave me a lecture about blow-drying.

Let's make one thing clear: I DO NOT OWN A HAIR DRYER.

Ugh, ugh, and ugh. It's annoying the living SHIT outta me. The haircut is basically not what I was after, the colour was not what I wanted, and 4 hours later there is no way I am stepping into that salon again. Today someone tried to comment on my hair and I just showed her the hand and said, "Please. We will not, and cannot, talk about the hair. There is no hair to talk about. " (Gotta love that Jedi Mind Control, works every time.)

Funny, isn't it, how much this is pissing me off - for a self-professed anti-girl-maintenance sort of person, I'm surprised at how upset I am. I guess when I finally, finally drag my ass into a salon, and leave a mortgage payment at the door, I want to walk out looking fabulous. I don't want to walk out of there looking like a lost member of the cast of Buffy the Vampire Slayer.

What say you? Should I have complained again? Chalk it up to experience and never go there again? Should I really be making the effort to blow dry my hair every day? Ignore international politics and weigh in on this heavy debate, people.

P.S. I know, I know - if I hate it so, why am I smiling in that pic? Because I needed a new profile pic and I figured I should photo my hair while it's straight rather than it's normal boof-headed curliness.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Playground Biotch Gauntlet

One of the more annoying things about the kids' school is having to run the daily Playground Biotch Gauntlet during afternoon pick up. The main part of the school is an open asphalt court and a playground, both of which you need to walk through to get to the main part of the school. There are several small cliques of parents who, having no life of their own, show up to pick-up several minutes early. They then spend their time talking, bitching, gossiping and in general being irritating members of the public while their kids run riot around them.

"Sarah! We have to go! COME ON!"
[ten minutes of chattering]
[ten minutes of idle gossip]
"NU, SARAH! You have swimming/karate/soccer/obnoxious child lessons!"
[more chatter...with no actual intention of, you know, leaving]

You get the idea. Part of what pisses me off about this is that these parents spend ridiculous amounts of time at school - but somehow are always "too busy" to actually volunteer any of their precious time to help out. EVER. They think it's of more value to their child's education to stand in the playground and complain than it is to actually give the teachers a hand now and again.

Because I'm famous as "the triplet lady," a number of these parents like to make various comments to me. Often the comments are friendly and nice, and sometimes the comments are stupid ("Your son and daughter are SO identical! How DO you tell them apart?") Either way I don't love that loooong, loooong walk between the front gate and the school door. It's my version of running the gauntlet - the Playground Biotch Gauntlet [of idiotic comments.] As a result I've had to re-institute the "I'm not looking so you are not looking" stare as I make the long trek.

The INLSYNT stare is one that all parents with multiples perfect from very early on in their parenting. It's the look you have on your face when you're pushing the biggest stroller in the world through the mall, you have exactly 6.7 seconds in which to find the perfect present, and you DO NOT want to stop and talk to every well-meaning stranger who feels the need to chatter and touch your precious babies. It's the "please don't make eye contact with me" stare which hopefully acts as the warning signal to all approaching old ladies and gets them to veer off course. I graduated from using this stare once the kids were old enough to be "obviously" not identical. I've re-instituted it in the playground so that I can get in and out without having to deal with commentary (unless of course Poppet's Mum and/or Neighbour's Wife are there, in which case I don't mind a quick chat.)

On Wednesday I had no choice but to stick around in the playground, so that I could watch Neighbour's Wife's kids while she had her parent teacher conference. Quid Pro Quo, she was going to look after mine while I had my conference (yes, my kids are great and smart and blah blah, thanks for asking.) That short thirty minute span had me feeling very, very grateful for my usual "get the hell out" method of child pick up. I had to deal with these encounters of the Playground Biotch Gauntlet:

- DD1 was eating a cereal bar I brought her. In my defense, it was a rare moment of junk food which I allowed because I stupidly took the kids to the supermarket with me. Taking kids to the supermarket = conned into buying some crap. So DD1 is enjoying her treat when another Mom comes up to me and says, "You LET your kids eat that stuff?!" Well, dumbass, here's a clue. There's my kid, and there she is eating it. So, YES, I do let them eat that stuff. This same genius then tells me how my girls are identical, and wants to know if I've had them tested. When I point out that, in fact, they look nothing alike, she tells me I only think that because I'm their mother. Apparently, nobody can ever tell them apart.

It was at this point that I noticed the pretty little bird in the tree and simply HAD to rush off and go see it ... being the avid bird watcher that I am, of course.

- One of the other Grade One mothers is a bit of a nutcase. A lovable, well meaning, hippie nutcase, but still a nutcase. She comes up to me and says, "Oh, are you waiting for your teacher conference?" When I indicate I am, she asks me to do her a favour. The favour? Could I please ask the (secular) teacher about WHY the kids don't learn the Mah Nishtanah (Passover song) at school? Because after all we are paying for a Jewish education and our kids should be taught that song.

Okay, maybe she's right. But...lady...it's SEPTEMBER. Passover is in MARCH. What, exactly, is the teacher responsible for math and reading and life skills going to say about the kids not learning a Passover song? Better yet, why do I want to waste my teacher conference x 3 talking about some song that you are worried about 6 months in advance?

I got rescued from that one by the timely arrival of the principal, and my quick thinking self who told nutcase Mom to ask HER why the song isn't taught. Score one for a quick escape via the handball method.

- On the way OUT of said conferences, I pass yet another Grade One mother. "Here for conferences?" she asks. "Yes," says I, thinking - um, it's 5pm and I have no kids with me, why ELSE would I be here? "Everything okay? Kids doing fine?" she asks. "Yes, fine, thanks," says I, thinking, "and WHY exactly is it your business if my kid is a moron or a genius? "Oh, yeah," says other mother, "[insert snooty and sarcastic voice] of course they are. YOUR kids are probably all going to HARVARD." "No, actually, just one is. The other two are going to Yale," says I, thinking, "Listen you stupid jealous cow, it's not my fault that your kid is god's idea of a cosmic joke."

*sigh* ...and THAT is why I hate running the Playground Biotch Gauntlet. *stares*