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, November 30, 2010

Just Quietly...

If you call me up and say, "Hi, emzee, I need to order a cake for my son, only it has to have NO sugar in it at all," and I say, "I'm terribly sorry, but all of our cakes and icings have sugar in them," and then you say, "Can you suggest who I might go to who might do something like that?" and I say, "(insert 5 minutes worth of suggestions including calling up the Diabetes support group and asking them who they recommend)"...

and then you say, "Oh, it's not a medical or dietary condition, it's just that we don't feed our son any sugar at all, "

and then I say, "Okay - well, try the people I suggested, hopefully they can help,"

and then you say, "Well, how MUCH sugar do you use? Because maybe if it's not too much..."

I will officially lose all respect for you and what you are trying to do. If you're going to talk the talk, you need to walk the walk - because I have no idea at what point (one cup? two? two and a half?) sugar goes from "we don't feed him sugar at all," to "well, maybe, if it's not too much."

Yes, I'm sitting in judgement here on this poor guy and his kid. I see no problem with choosing to feed or not feed your kid something (even if it IS something close to my heart), but I do see a problem with being adamant and then bending the rules in the very same conversation.

No cake for you, sorry.

Monday, November 29, 2010


Around here we are no stranger to good things happening in threes...actually, we rather think that things work out better in sets of three than anything else. So it stands to reason that so far;

1) The kids schooling situation for next year is sorted out in the best way possible for all of us. The school we most wanted them to go to ponied up the money in order to make it at least vaguely possible for us to send them there. We took all 3 kids to visit and before we even left the grounds, two of them were "definitely in" and one was "gotta think about it." Turns out debater #3 was mostly just worried about the detail of how to find the bathrooms, what the homework rules were, and other things she was unsure about. She swapped to a "definitely in" once we told her she could swap back if she hated it, AND she realised that 7 of her ballet school friends are all current students there. Chance of her wanting to swap back: I'd say about 7 pairs of pointe shoes to none.

2) DH got offered a job today! Hooray! It won't start until mid-Jan, which suits us because it means I still get my delivery driver for the business during the crazy season, and the kids can spend some good happy summer days with both of us. I adore summer in Australia (except when it's stinking hot, then I just hate summer and Australia and life in general) and so it's a real joy to know that this summer I will spend it in relative calm as opposed to panic. We'll still struggle on the money side for a while, but heck - this is just about the best outcome ever. Here's looking forward to a calm, mostly stress-free, relaxed 2011 full of new opportunities.

3)??? Hasn't happened yet. Watch this space. If good things happen in threes, then something else wonderful should happen soon...and if not, well, I'm already happier than I've been in months and that's good enough for me.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Sunday Musings

Delivering cakes to the ends of the earth is far, far more fun when you fill the car with enthusiastic helpers (eg kids) and blast ABBA Gold on the way there.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Cars and Donkey Kong

The other night I watched this great documentary called "The King of Kong," which was basically all about these total nerdy burgers whose greatest feat in life is reaching world record breaking scores in classic 80's arcade games. Donkey Kong, Q*Bert and so on.

They're total losers, but they make good documentary fodder. If you can get your hands on it, I'd recommend seeing it. I was seriously glued to the screen - there's intrigue, drama, good guys, bad guys, whiffs of conspiracy theories and a whole lot of soda being drunk. There's even some romance if you consider the wife of the creepy guy, who is on screen for about 10 seconds and yet shows more boobs that you would see in your average porn flick.

But I digress. The thing I find compelling about these sorts of documentaries (and I've seen many) is the sheer dedication these people have to a single thing (or a single hobby.) I saw a similar doco a few months back, all about the NY Times crossword puzzle. I also saw one about these kids competing in the US National Spelling Bee, and what all these people have in common is dedication. The girl who currently works for me drives a VW Combi van (or 'bus' as she calls it.) She drives one, spends time with other enthusiasts, goes to dedicated car clubs events and expos, is part of an online forum with other 'bus' drivers, travels around Australia with other Combi owners, and even has a Combi tattoo. Heck, I could probably film a documentary of my own just about her and her friends.

It occurs to me that I have nothing to which I am so totally dedicated (unless you count Slurpees, and even then I don't even own a t-shirt so that does not qualify.) While I enjoy a whole lot of stuff, there is not one single solitary thing to which I can claim nearly as much a dedication as these people have. One one level, I admire them and on the other level, I think they are totally nuts, but then maybe that's just because I have not yet found my thing to obsess about so I'm secretly jealous.

Do you have a 'thing' and if so, what is it? (Although for some of you I can make a pretty good guess...)

Friday, November 26, 2010

Big Bullies

I've recently come to realise that the world is full of bullies, and that I am one of the nice guys of the world. My friends often joke about what a soft touch I am, how much of a rule follower I am, and how much I just always like to believe that people's intentions are pure and that being nice is most people's first reaction to things. I think The Neighbour's Wife said it best recently... I told her that I have the same philosophy as Anne Frank, who said, "Despite everything, I believe that people are really good at heart." To which TNW said, "Yeah, and look where that philosophy got HER."

All together now: ZING! She totally got me between the eyes on that one.

In any case there have been THREE massive bullies in my life lately, and I'm none too happy about any of them. At the moment all 3 are triumphing over me, who is over here trying to do the right thing, the nice thing, the moral thing and trying to believe that nice guys DON'T always finish last.

Bully #1 is the owner of the new property I want for the biz. He seems to think negotiation is where one party begs and one ignores.

Bully #2 is my current landlord, who seems to think a normal rent renewal process is a synonym for "give you no notice on a massive rent hike and then hope you never check the legality of what I'm doing, and threaten to evict you as well just for good measure."

Bully #3 is the principal of the kids school (and did I mention, as of 6 weeks from now, it's their former school?) who tried to tell me that moving my DS to another school is "no guarantee he'll make any friends" and that "he's totally fine now" and then tried to threaten me with the fact that as I did not tell her they were going when I was supposed to (last term), I'm liable for all of Term 1 fees. Kinda hard to tell someone something when you have no idea that something is happening or is even on the cards, but there you go.

The sad thing is, I'm still persisting in believing that ALL of these bullies will do the right thing, that all of them will see the error of their ways and all of them will realise that I am not going to be pushed around all that easily. It might be true that the outside of me is made of sugar, and the first few layers (okay, many layers) are decidedly marshmallow-esque, but at the very heart of it is one hell of a bitch who does NOT like being told what to do.

You have been warned.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Frighteningly Like Real Life

....only I don't sound robotic (although often the other person in the conversation does!)

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Freedom and Independence

To give my kids a taste of freedom and independence, I'm going to want to:

  • Discuss their choices in tattoos and piercings but not actually go with them to the place to have it done (too embarrass for both of us),
  • Allow them to go to Queensland on Schoolies Week with nothing but a suitcase full of towels, bathing suits and money,
  • Say "yes" to every request for money,
  • Say "yes" to every request to borrow the car,
  • Say "yes" to every request for concert tickets, or every request to attend a party even when I know that party might have kids/stuff I don't like there,
  • Give them a car as soon as they earn their licence,
  • Not tell them that the guy/girl they are dating are no-good pieces of shit who will just break their hearts,
  • Bite my tongue when I see them eating too many carbs/sugars/high fat food/whatever is clearly not at all good for them,
  • Allow them to make their own choices about going to university (or not), what to study (or not),
  • Allow them to wear whatever they like even when a street walker's clothes would be nun-like in comparison,
  • Let them control all their own money, starting from now,
  • Never teach them how to read maps of the non-GPS kind,
  • Leave them on their own to figure out most things even when I've already been there and done that and know the right answer,
  • Tell them to give up when it all gets too difficult, and all them t0 make their own choice to try again (and this applies to everything from bike riding to time management to making babies to making souffles),
  • Come home from school and neither DH nor I will be waiting for them, but get home and expect that they've already done their homework/showers/dinner cooking,
  • Look out for one another but stand on their own two feet,
...but I can't say that I'll ever do ANY of those things, even if I will want to. The best I can hope for is to fulfil that old cliché of giving them both roots and wings. The rest will just have to work itself out.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Did I do that?

I promise this is not me trying to be all shy and "oh you shouldn't have"...but when it comes right down to it, I'm not entirely convinced I am any good at this whole cake thing. Or this whole blogging thing, but that's not today's topic.

Today's topic is all about how I secretly think (or not so secretly, hello there Internet) that I suck at cake decorating. Not suck as in "feature on cake wrecks" suck, but suck in a"never going to be as totally freakishly awesome as Pink Cake Box, Confetti Cakes or Cake Lava," sort of way (go Google any one of those and prepare to have your eyes fall out of your head from sheer awesomeness). I attribute this suckage to two things. One, I am mostly self-taught when it comes to decorating, and so there are a lot of things I feel I don't know (although I do endeavour to engage in continuing education). Two, I am lazy as all get out, plus a dash of impatient thrown in for good measure. So while I *could* spend an entire day making sure each corner is *just so*, I tend to make it 'pretty darn good' and then get on with the next task. In part that's just who I am, and in part it's where I've deliberately placed myself in the market - many steps above home decorator and yet some steps below the "sell a kidney to afford it" decorator.

Many, many times a week I will finish a cake and see only the flaws. I might see it as "the client will be really happy with this" but I rarely see it and think I am totally happy with it. I am mostly left thinking I could have done more, done better, worked harder, been more particular, fixed that mistake, started over, done it a different way. I am my most demanding client, and this client is pretty much never satisfied (damn. Should've told her we're fully booked for all weekends into eternity.) Some of this relates back to my emotional self, because being far too attached emotionally to just about everything means it's very hard to be objective about things (even cake.) I look at the blogs of those companies I admire and think, "In my wildest dreams I could never produce something as perfect as that," or I think, "I'll never find a client willing to order something like that," or one of a thousand other negative thoughts which are doing nobody any good.

I just feel as though I lack the skills and the artistic vision to produce anything nearly as wonderful as the creations I see in magazines and books and online. Sometimes I even feel like I am just a big ol' faker - I do it well enough to keep the punters happy but not well enough to actually stand up amongst my peers.

This week, though... I had a moment of happiness and feeling like I am worth something as a decorator. Actually a couple of them, which are rare as hen's teeth and therefore very valuable to me. My employee's decorating skills are coming along pretty well - especially considering it's this lazy, impatient decorator doing the teaching - and this week she has had to replicate a number of my cakes. By replicate I just mean a client ordered something which the business has done before, so she had a photo to work from. She did the first one, and I thought it was pretty cute, and I said to her, "Hey, that's a really cute cake - fun colours and design!" ...and then a couple of minutes later I thought,"Wait a sec! That's a cake *I* designed!". Later in the week the same thing happened a few more times - with a couple more cakes and then some fondant sea creature cupcakes. Creations which came out of my head and made it into real life without the help, influence, or inspiration from anyone else. Creations which I looked at and thought they were fun, interesting, different, colourful and entirely happy-making for both me and the client.

Hmmm. Could it be I am finally beginning to appreciate myself, finally valuing my skills?

Sadly, I don't think so...because after each of those, my next immediate thought was, "Yeah, total fluke, that."

*sigh* I think I've got a ways to go on more than just the decorating front.

Monday, November 22, 2010

The 25 Year Old Me

If I could go back ten years to my 25 year old self, I would have so much to tell her! Firstly I should point out that until 5 weeks from now, it's really my 24 year old self - but my 24 year old self was going through IVF, still fairly newly-ish married, and pretty much all over the place. My 25 year old self was pregnant with triplets, still newly-ish married, and basically felt as though just about everything was falling into place. I'm going to talk to her because I think she is just that little bit more sure of her self than she was the year previous.

Dearest 25 year old self,

As I write this, you are now (almost) 35, and these things I know for certain:

1) Nothing is a certainty. You will spend a lot of time waiting for things to become easier, simpler, more stable so that you can make more considered, slower, more definite decisions. That day will not come, and you need to stop waiting for it. Take action even when the future is uncertain because the future will always be uncertain.

2) You will survive your children's babyhood, toddler-hood, and pre-teen years even when you have a day when it feels like you can't possibly survive it all. The teen years, well, that remains to be seen. However, you've made it thus far with a minimum of fuck ups, so chances are looking good.

3) Take your own advice. When people ask for your parenting advice, you always say: Listen to EVERYTHING and then pick and choose the things which you think are relevant, worthy, and might actually work. Totally ignore the rest of it but be polite about it. It's high time you lived by the words you dole out.

4) You will re-gain all the weight you will lose when the kids are toddlers, and then some. It will be HELL ON EARTH to think of how far you came, only to bugger it up again. Might I suggest you try and stop that freight train before it goes right past the station? Start as you mean to go on and then keep on going.

5) You won't be stuck in a dead end admin job forever. I promise. What you will move to, though, will be much, much more demanding (physically, emotionally, financially) and yet much, much more rewarding. I won't tell you what it is, though, because the surprise of achieving it was one of the best moments of your life.

6) You will lose friends, some of whom you will be very sorry to lose and others which you will be glad to see the back of.

7) You will gain many, many new friends - a vast majority of which you will never meet in real life, but that won't seem as strange as it does now.

8) You will live to 35 and well beyond, even though when you were 5,10,15,20, 25 you could not even imagine yourself being 30. 30 isn't nearly as old as you think it is - but nor is it the time at which your adult life begins. You're almost 35 and yet you still adore Slurpees and tickles and peanut butter sandwiches. I don't think you'll ever fully grow up, and that's what I love about us.

9) There will be times in your life when you think, "I can't take this anymore!" and "I've had enough!" and "Why ME?" and you will cry, and cry, and cry rivers and rivers of tears. All I can say is - remember that you are blessed, and remember that losing your shit altogether occasionally is a very human thing to do. You really DON'T have to cope well all the time.

And lastly,

10) Call your Dad more often. More than that - in that first week of August of 2009, when he tells you he will call you on Wednesday afternoon and then forgets to call, YOU SHOULD CALL HIM. Because while I don't know what he or you might have said, I know you will regret missing that call for the rest of your life.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

We Have All Met Her

I realise this is not going to be the witty post you are all waiting for...seriously? Mother in laws and gay men? You amaze me. In any case I recently saw this and adored every robotic-sounding moment of it, because we've ALL met one of these women, haven't we??

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Only 10 Days Left

Dear most patient readers of mine,

There are 10 days left of NaBloPoMo, and frankly, I'm running out of ideas here! Mostly stuff just kind of rolls off the top of my head - but being as grumpy as I am at the moment, good blogging ideas are a bit thin on the ground at the moment. It will make me even more grumpy if I have to give up NaBloPoMo for reasons of lack of interesting content (I mean, I could just write, "This space intentionally left blank." for 10 days, but that's not doing anybody any favours, is it?)

So. There are 10 days left, excluding this non-post I only need to come up with 9 ideas for topics. Your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to write me a blogging prompt. Not a topic per se, but a one line (or one phase) string which I can use as the start of a blog topic.

The ones which will not be used:

If I was on a desert island...
If I could invite anyone to dinner...
My 3 favourite books are...

Or anything else boring and hackneyed. To make this more challenging (for me), I'll even accept a list of words which you want to see appear in a blog post. So, go ahead and write a list (5-10 words or less) of words which you think I won't be able to make fit together in the context of a blog post. The challenge for me is to make them not only fit, but make sense.

Go on, help a girl out here! Only 10 days to go and no way will I give up now.

Friday, November 19, 2010


When I started this blog, I thought I had a need for an audience - because let's face it, I'm not sure I could keep writing if nobody ever knew I was doing it. Obviously, I'm an attention whore. So when I started, I emailed the address to a bunch of people and said, "hey! check out what I'm doing with my spare time!" Not surprisingly, this method of advertising worked and so I kept on writing, and writing, and writing.

These days, I've got an audience which is not limited to close friends or family members - the blogosphere has filled my readership with all sorts of fabulous and interesting people. Some of them I've had the good pleasure of actually meeting in real life, and some I hope to meet someday soon (Danielle, I'm looking at you.) Of late, though, I have begun to question if the open door policy was such a good one.

Admittedly, my blog being public serves many good purposes. It keeps my far-away family in touch with my daily goings on, it allows me to express in print things I have difficulty saying out loud, and in general it provides me with a good vehicle for voicing all sorts of things which are on my mind. On the other hand, it has upset and offended people (even though there is a very clear disclaimer.) Sometimes I get friends calling and saying, "I can't believe you blogged about that before you even told me!" Or even my Mum will call and say, "Your blog sounds upset. What's wrong? Why didn't you call me?" Blogging in that respect has definitely opened me up to a hot mess of drama and emotions - and sometimes I've then totally caved in when the person has called me on it, and other times I've stood my ground.

I've found myself pondering on this notion of privacy - of when being a public writer outweighs (or does not outweigh) the potential downsides of being a public writer. I do actually have a second blog, which is an entirely private one - not visible to anyone at all. I managed 6 posts before I stopped altogether (and the last one was well over a year ago.) So for me, the audience is motivation to keep on going, and the reason why I am so honest here. Somehow telling it like it is to people who willingly listen is the whole crux of why I do what I do.

These days, though, I'm wondering how wise that is. My thoughts on this actually stem from another blog I read, in which the author's work mates have used the information in her blog in a less-than-savoury way. She, too, is contemplating a private blog, but wonders if that means that the help she provides to all her lurkers and non-workmate readers will somehow be lost altogether. I've been lucky in that nothing like this has ever happened to me... (maybe that's because I have no actual workmates? Ahh, the benefit of working in a micro business!)

In any case, it has me thinking. Do you have a private blog, or a public ones? What are your reasons for keeping one or the other?

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Hope, And The Loss Thereof

I make no secret about the fact that DH and I are in the mega financial hole, and that he's been out of work since July.

Because clearly, I'm all about over-sharing on my blog.

In the past few months this situation has been really wearing me down. I'm doing my best to hang in there, but the reality of it is I can feel hope slowly slipping away. Funnily enough I recently re-read Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows (in anticipation of the movie) and the description of the Dementor's Kiss is kind of what I feel like these days. It's as though I can just feel all the happy, good, hopeful, 'we'll get through this' positive stuff ebbing away and leaving me with a very dark heart.

This isn't to say that I'm not still cheerful (and yesterday's post summed that up nicely, I think. ) It doesn't mean I am spending every minute sitting in a corner feeling sorry for myself. It's more that I am at the point where I can't really see a positive outcome for us right now, and frankly I'm damn sick of pretending that I CAN see one. In short, it would seem that hope has left the building.

A friend of mine living in a similar situation told me that this feeling is normal...that eventually I'll just get past this bleak moment and hope will float right back in again. She's someone who has been living with this for 3 YEARS so I'm sure she knows what she's talking about, but... I'm not sure I can really make it that long. At what point along this crappy road do you make the big decisions? To sell the house, to ask for help, to get a third job, to put the kids at the local school and stop all their activities? At what point do you give in to the reality of the situation? Or do you just hope it will all be okay and fix up the mess (eg debt) later? We have taken a lot of action to allow us to keep surviving, but as I stare at that woeful bank balance, I know it's not nearly enough. So what now? Is it time to take the next step, even if that next step would mean choosing to give up my home?

Without hope, how does one even make decisions in the first place? It seems the energy to do so has also left me.

emzee is not in a good - or even cheerful - place right now.

Bugger. I hate it when that happens.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010


Last night I was feeling exceptionally grumpy. The sort of grumpy which settles in at the pit of your stomach and nags at your psyche, the sort of grumpy which makes you want to bury your head right into a bag of peanut M n' M's. I ended up sorting this grumpy out by spending some time with girlfriends of mine - just eating chocolate (Israeli chocolate embedded with pop rocks. WTF?) - and sitting around having a chat.

In the course of the chat (which was really me just having a pity party), the Neighbour's Wife mentioned something about a cheerful person. I happen to think *I* am a cheerful person..but apparently she didn't agree. To be fair she said NONE of us in the room were cheerful people...which made me wonder what exactly a cheerful person is.

Is it someone who is always sunny and happy, even in a crisis? Is it someone who pretends to be sunny and happy? It is someone who is always smiling? Someone who pretends like nothing is wrong even when the world is falling down around their ears? Someone who always has a good thing to say? Someone who never complains? Someone who never lets life just get them down?
Have you ever heard that expression - if you are smiling while all around you is chaos, perhaps you have not fully understood the seriousness of the situation? (Or you are choosing to ignore it) Is THAT a cheerful person?

I think I've decided that on the whole, I'm a cheerful person. Most of the time, anyway, my outlook is pretty sunny and I like to believe that better things will come, that bad situations are not forever, and that people are basically honest and good. I think TNW believes that cheerful people are of the 'never complain' variety...of the Dory school of "just keep smiling, just keep smiling," lifestyle. Urgh. How bloody boring to be so cheerful all the time! I think I prefer my definition, AND I prefer that my friends know they can count on me for a laugh and a smile, but occasionally I acknowledge that life goes pear shaped sometimes. Seems all the more normal somehow.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Humans Are Dumb

Have you ever noticed that sometimes you can anticipate a negative outcome to something, and yet you do it anyway? It's like you just can't help yourself - even when you're pretty sure nothing good will come of your actions, you still go ahead on that course of action.

This recently happened to me with a 3 tiered cake... but the end result was a really positive one.

I designed a 3 tier cake which was stupidly ambitious. I knew just from my drawing that keeping it supported and upright would be a challenge, but I kept going with it anyway. I enlisted the help of DH, who looked at it and thought it would be difficult, but not impossible. Hmmm. DH is an engineer and can generally be relied upon for these sorts of things, so if he doubted it, well, I should have stopped right then and there. I kept going with it anyway. I don't have a picture o f it to show you(which sucks, what was I thinking?? Or not thinking, as it happens.) Have you ever seen one of those barbie doll cakes where the dress is cake? It's kinda like a fat cone shape? So I baked three of those, and the idea was to tier them UPSIDE DOWN. So the skinney part of the cone is at the bottom, and the fat part of the cone is at the top. Similar in shape to a flower pot. So like three cones on top of one another in a straight line, held together by a central pillar

Are you still with me? I know, even you can tell this is a bad idea, can't you?

The cakes got baked, and iced, and stacked with SHED LOADS of internal structural support. Like about 50 million skewers and boards and stuff. I knew this was a bad idea but I just was compelled to keep going. I knew it at the drawing stage, at the 'buy some dowelling and screw it to the cake board" stage, at the baking stage, the icing stage, and the final decorating stage. At EVERY STEP OF THE WAY I knew this was a bad idea and yet I kept going, and going, and going.

I finished the cake and I hated it. It just looked like crap. The idea was sound but the execution was miserable. I was under pressure, though, and had already spent many hours on it so I didn't want to start again. When I left work on Friday night, it had developed a slight lean to it, a la Pisa. I shored it up with some strategically placed icing and left for the night. That damn cake stayed in my brain all Friday night - I even told my in laws that I was 90% sure Pisa was going to fall right over. DH happened to return to my kitchen late Friday night and came back to report that it was standing upright, but "at a rakish angle."

Hmmm. Not generally the sort of thing you want a cake to be doing.

Saturday morning I went to check on it and the entire thing had EXPLODED. The top tier fell off totally, smashing into the second tier, and while the bottom tier was intact, it was at somewhat more than a rakish angle. The middle tier was sort of intact on one side, and smashed to bits on the other (it got in the way when the top tier tried to make an escape). Literally this cake looked like someone had punched right through the middle of it. The bench was littered with cake and icing. I am SO sorry I didn't take a photo of it...but I think the desire to just scoop the whole lot into the bin was far too strong.

On Saturdays I sub-let my work kitchen, so I spent about an hour or so collecting up EVERY SINGLE PIECE of cake decorating equipment I thought I might need (plus icing, and skewers, and measured out cake recipe ingredients) so I could take it all home with me since my work kitchen was unavailable. Suffice to say all that stuff filled up the entire boot of my car AND the back seat.

I cancelled all my Saturday plans, had a friend take my girls for the day (thank god for good friends) and set to work. AGAIN.

I spent all day Saturday and a large part of Saturday night re-baking it, re-filling it, re-icing it, and re-decorating it.

The crazy thing is that I'm actually not upset about this at all. I didn't even shed a tear (although I did shed a tier. Ba-doom-boom-boom. Okay, better joke, right?) I seriously was not even annoyed for one single solitary second about this cake disaster - and it should be said, it's THE FIRST TIME this has ever happened to me. Normally this would send me over the emotional edge. Hundreds of cakes and this is the first time one of them was an epic fail, and I could care less. Mostly because a) I expected this would happen and it was only my idiocy which made me continue working on a doomed cake design, b) the damn thing was seriously ugly and I knew in my heart of baker hearts it should have been re-done anyway.

But it still makes me wonder what it is about the human psyche which makes us continue doing things which we know can only end badly. It's like we are compelled to continue along the path once we've begun heading that way. Has this ever happened to you?

Monday, November 15, 2010

Away With The Fairies

In recent months, one of my worst personality traits seems to be getting worse. Yes, this over-achiever, Capricornian control freak spends most of her time away with the fairies. This is of course very odd, since generally I consider myself very well organised, ordered, on top of things, in control and very 'on the ball' about life in general. I have more than one diary, I always answer phone calls, I (try to) answer emails, I pay my bills on time and I have no problem making appointments and keeping them. I'm even usually on time to places and most of my
'to do' lists get completed. Therefore, I consider myself a very put together sort of person. Here's the thing, though... I'm often pretty clueless. What this means in my everyday life is - I never remember anyone's name, can meet someone ten times and forget each time that I've met them, I can totally not realise when something really obvious happens, and often when people talk I am hearing them but not listening at all. I literally wander around with my head in the clouds (not hard when you're as tall as I am. Ba-doom-boom-boom. Okay, not my best joke.)

It's not at all unusual for me to have a conversation with a friend and they'll say, "You know, remember, Debbie, you've met her before?" and I'll shake my head because I haven't the foggiest clue who Debbie is (never mind that I saw her this morning.) Or a friend will ring me about something and I will listen intently but then give up and say, "Can you please send me an email or a text about that? Because I'm hearing you, but I'm not really listening and I will forget what you said the minute I hang up." (Which I will.) It's like I just can't process all the information in my head. Poor DH will often talk to me (and talk, and talk... it's one of his more amusing habits), and halfway through I'll look at him and realise I have not heard a single word he said. So sheepishly I say, "Wait, can you start again? Because I totally wasn't listening." So he'll sigh and then launch into the story again and I will have to actively force myself to pay attention and be in the moment.

I have no idea why this is. Far as I know I don't smoke, drink, suck on bongs or do anything else which might have killed a whole swag of brain cells along the way. I'm pretty sure the issue is just that I am often thinking ahead to the next hour, day, week, month...and so it's quite hard for me to stay focussed on the here and now. Plus I tend to make fairly snap judgements about whether I think people, or stories, or experiences are of any value to me - and so I just sort of stop listening or paying attention when I decide something is not worth my time (I've been known to be wrong about that, but there you go.)

This whole airy-fairy habit of mine is something I sort of thought was my own private craziness. I really thought that on the outside I seemed like a totally put together kind of person. Until of course I spoke to The Neighbour's Wife (who can always be counted on for honesty, I adore that about her) and I jokingly said, "Yeah, you know me, totally clueless and away with the fairies," and she said, "Yes, totally! Sometimes I wonder how you deal with all those clients!"

Damn. Outed again as imperfect.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Wuv, Twoo Wuv

Today I told DH that I was running out of blog topics, and I asked him for a suggestion or two on what I should blog about. I wondered, did he have any thing he would like to hear my opinion on? (A ridiculous question, because I am nothing if not vocal about my opinions.) He stood there with a confused expression on his face - sort of along the lines of, "Is this the same type of question as 'do I look fat in this?' because then we know I won't win no matter what I say."

Anyway he was useless on the blog topics front...and this brings me to today's topic, marriage.

I've mentioned several times before that I had no intention of getting married. But then here I am and almost 14 years later, we seem to be making a pretty good effort at it. Among my friends I only know one divorced couple, so it would seem that for the moment we are all bucking the 45% divorce rate trend. Not that you asked, but here are the reasons why I think my marriage works so well:

1. We can talk about things like farts and the interesting-shaped shits we take, and pop one another's pimples. Sounds ridiculous, I know...but DH and I are so comfortable together, there is almost no topic which is off limits (other than money, but then that's a whole 'nother story.) I don't have any need to pretend I am something I am not and that in itself is a gift. With DH I can just be me - smelly farts and all.

2. He still makes me laugh. If all the fun had gone out of it, I'd have hit the road a long time ago.

3. We have the same core values and we worked that out BEFORE we got married. We talked about the big stuff - religion, kids, family, etc - before we got married. I just don't understand couples who get married without talking about things like if they want to have kids or not.

4. He loves me unconditionally, but isn't shy to say when he thinks I could be doing a better job of something. So by this I mean, he loves my ass if it's fat or thin, but if I point blank ask, "Do you think this looks good on me?" he will answer, "I think it could be more flattering than it currently is." He won't seek to hurt or offend (and will often go to great lengths not to), but he WILL tell the truth even when he knows it's not what I want to hear. (And it's not unheard of for me to say, "Geez! Can't you just say, 'looks great, honey!" and he says, "No, because you know I would be lying.")

5. I try to not let there be hidden messages. He does not have ESP. So - if I'm upset about something, and I'm not getting the feedback or care or whatever it is I want, I literally say, "I need you to just hug me and buy me a Slurpee, I don't want to actually discuss this," or I might say, "I need you to talk more about this and help me find a solution." Let's face it, boys can be bloody thick sometimes, and you've got to give them a roadmap. They can't give you what you want if you don't make it clear that you want it in the first place.

6. We talk and touch A LOT. I've already discussed being married to velcro man, but it has done a lot for our marriage and our general happiness levels. I know without fail that every time I come home, he will be there with a huge hug for me. I also know that if I come home and say, "I am Madame Grumpy Pants right now and if you dare hug me, I will shoot your balls off," he respects it. (Although he's not happy about it, Velcro Man needs his fix and I usually relent.) We also talk on the phone several times a day - and when either of us are at jobs or meetings where talking is not possible, we still try to text just to say hi. Yes, we're mushy like that (or like my employee says, "shmoopy like that.")

7. We try to remember that we were a couple before we had kids. So we sometimes go out for a meal together, or play hooky from work and enjoy an afternoon delight, or have conversations which do not revolve around the small people in our lives. I love and adore my children, but they are not the centre of the universe. DH and I had a lot in common well before the kids came on the scene, and it helps if we remember that more often than not. It's far too easy to get caught up in the kids and forget about the grown-ups.

8. We have interests outside one another and outside of our household and we make time for those things. Seems a bit odd to say that one of my best marriage experiences is spending time outside of it, but there you go. Just like we were a couple before we had kids, we were individuals before we had each other. Losing yourself totally in your partnership isn't doing either of you an favours.

9. We try to resolve the little things before they transform into big things. Note I said we TRY. We don't always succeed and there are times when one or another of us is mightily pissed off (usually me.) We both just acknowledge that sometimes, shit happens. Neither of us have any expectation that all of our married life will be wine and roses - and how terribly boring if it was!

and lastly,

10. Plain and simple, we like one another. If DH and I were not married (for whatever cosmic reason), I'd still adore him for who he is. I truly just like the person he is, and I consider him my best friend. The rest of it is just a bonus.

I should say (before you all think I've gone Little Miss Marriage Sunshine on you) that there are times when I want to kick him from here to kingdom come because he is seriously pissing me off. And there are times when he finds me very frustrating (god knows why, I'm totally perfect. Duh.) But because of all of the above points (and some other ones, too), we make it work....and even when he doesn't know what blog topic to give me, he gives me one anyway.

Thanks babe. Love ya.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

The Unit

A couple of days ago I read a post over on Jen's blog. The topic of that post (and before you read this one, go and read that one) is something which has been turning over and over in my head since I read it. It's especially interesting to me in light of the fact that we are considering, for the first time, putting out kids into separate classes.

Now I probably could have just replied with my thoughts over there...but then I find my thoughts on this are too big for just a comment. So I hope you'll forgive me Jen, as I wax lyrical about this for an entire blog post- I promise I'm not triplet mum bashing.

From the beginning, we've aimed to treat our kids as individual people with individual interests and needs. We did not make a big deal of it - in fact we pretty much just treated them in the same way we would have treated siblings of different ages. At the same time, we tried to instil in our kids the importance of family - and very often when the 3 of them go somewhere, together, DH will remind them, "Don't forget to look out for one another." Where I think I differ from my blogging friend is that I see these things as two separate entities. You can teach you children about the importance of family, about blood being thicker than water, about siblings coming before friends... but you cannot 'teach' your kids to actually be friends. You can teach them to be kind to one another, to respect one another, to look out for one another's best interests...but you cannot force them to like one another. Nor can you force them to always do what the other does. Suppose one gets an invite to a playdate of a friend the other does not particularly care for. Does that mean the first one will miss out because their sibling has no interest in going? How disappointing to miss out on things - or be forced to participate in things - simply because your siblings are doing it, too.

I also think that their relationship is strengthened by the opportunities we give them to be apart. We have a family requirement that each child do a sporting activity, and we prefer it be different for each kid. What we've found is that they share a lot more with one another - "I did the coolest thing at Scouts today!" "I learned a new dance step!" "Will you come and see my gymnastics performance?" - all of these are fairly typical comments in my house. This morning DD2 taught both DD1 and DS a simple tap dance move and they spent the ride to school talking about how they were going to practice it at lunchtime. This wouldn't have been nearly as fun - nor as good a lesson in sharing - if they always did the same thing.

Similarly, I have noticed that my kids LOVE to spend time as individuals with their friends - it's a treat for them. They share so much of their daily lives, that sometimes interacting with same-age kids who are not their relatives is almost like a mini-vacation. They get some space from one another - and it makes them feel special. We don't allow them to come home and boast or gloat about it, but we DO allow them to go to their friends and come home with happy smiles and shared excitement. In many cases their shared friends have loved having them over one at a time because it's a novelty for them as well. "Today I'll have DD1 over and then next week I can have DD2 over," is something which I've heard from their friends quite often. It's not at all about shaming the other kid because they didn't get invited, it's about sharing and learning that life is not always equal and balanced.

There have been times when I have wanted to wrap up all my kids in cotton wool, shut out the rest of the world, and make everything equal and fair for them. I very quickly realised that it was ME who wanted this, not them. Sure, they cried when someone didn't invite them over...but in most cases we managed to turn that around into a learning experience. And, not surprisingly, some time later it was the other child who had an invite while the first child did not. I understand very well the desire to keep our children from hurt - but I also understand that it's an impossible task which you could spend the rest of your life failing at spectacularly.

When it comes to triplets - or just siblings of any age - I think you need to teach them the lessons of love, and kindness, and consideration for other's feelings - if those people are related to them or not. I also see nothing wrong with teaching the importance of family - but part of what families do is revel in each other's successes, and commiserate with their disappointments. How can you do that if these things are always the same? I believe children need to be given the opportunity to be their own shining lights, even if there are two equally bright ones right next to them.

Friday, November 12, 2010

The Retail Me

Since I've become a small business owner, I've discovered that the general public have some very odd shopping habits, and that being a business owner means you attract all sorts of crazy stuff. Chief among these:

- Clients calling at odd hours (after 7pm on a weeknight, on Sunday night, on Saturday at 6am and so on) and wondering why you do not wish to discuss their cake requirements. I do my best not to answer the phone at these odd times but sometimes, it can't be helped (correction: sometimes, I am an idiot.)

- Asking for a discount on their order because they know people/are an event planner/are well connected to the [insert ethnic group] community / just because. My favourites are those who ask for a discount because they promise to bring me lots of future work and so it's somehow worth it to me to discount for them. Yeah. NO. All you will bring me is stacks of people who now know I discount at the drop of a hat. No thanks.

- Asking questions about things which can clearly be answered just from the front page of the website, OR calling and saying, "Um, is this a cake shop?" Hmmm. If it isn't, we're BOTH in trouble, buddy!

- Various organisations want me to advertise with them, but they are too stupid to research what kind of company I actually own. In recent months I've had a gym (yes, of course my cupcakes are calorie-friendly), a winery/rugby match (WTF?), several police and military organisations and some animal welfare organisations as for me to advertise with them. If I cannot draw a direct correlation between your readers/clients/rugby players and my business, then that's a big fat NO. And then when you ASK me why I say no, and I say, "Sorry, you're really not in my target market, but thanks anyway," you really should not ask me what my target market is. Trust me, you're not it.

- The guys who want to sell you ad space on Google, but start the conversation with, "So. Do you have a website?" (I could not make this shit up if I tried. This has happened more than once. If I didn't have a website, why the hell are you calling me?!)

- The clients who need to feed 200 people and have a budget of $100, or other ridiculously small budgets for which they want the moon. Last I checked there is not much in life which is worth 50c, except possibly a Chupa Chup. Word of advice - if you cannot afford to actually feed 200 people, don't invite them, make it a pot luck, or replace the cupcake fad with the chupa chup fad - just don't call me.

- I am very transparent about my pricing, and there is a lot of detailed information on the website. So a word to the wise...when I give you a quote on something (1 metre high, 3 D, and with spinning and flashing lights), the correct reaction is not, "You want HOW MUCH? For CAKE?? How hard can it be to make CAKE?" because, dear caller, the fact is, if it were that bloody easy, you would be doing it yourself.

Really, it's astounding the phone conversations I have with people - and while I do my utmost to be polite and fair and give people the benefit of the doubt, sometimes its very hard not to just lose it at them altogether. To be fair, a vast majority of callers are lovely, friendly people who want genuine quotes or truly want to help me or are being paid by the hour to sucker people into advertising in the Policewomen's Gazette. For the most part, I'm pretty lucky in that I've managed to steer clear of too many -zillas (bride, mother, or child)...but not-so-secretly, I'm glad of the total nut jobs because it makes good fodder for both dinner parties and blog posts.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Updates All Around

The boy: Is happy, and smiley, and excited about new school options even though no choice has been made yet. He's also 2 weeks into his own 3 week challenge - the challenge was to make it through 3 weeks of good behaviour (without any phone calls from school). His dearest wish in life is to go to Harry Potter World - and thanks to my brother marrying a Floridian, we're going there in February. So, because he wants his own wand from Ollivander's - we put $50 in an envelope and put the 3 week chart on the outside of it. If he makes it, he keeps the contents of the envelope to spend how he wishes (and I don't need to tell you, it's a HUGE amount of money to him. And me. We're skint.) Anyway, there's even a 10% bonus if he does not need to use any of his "get out of jail free" cards (of which there are two.) I am loving every single second of my sunny, funny boy.

The DH: Is waiting on the results of two interviews, and heard this week that at least one of those was checking references. We live in hope, and in the meantime, he continues to be the most supportive husband that ever lived. He still annoys the crap outta me sometimes (just don't mention housework, or paperwork...) ...but then I can be a pretty demanding wench, so it's a miracle he's stuck around as long as he has.

The School Debate: We're waiting to hear about some financial stuff. In other words, we begged and now we're hoping they have mercy.

The Shop: Things seem to be moving in a forward-esque direction....but the owner has not yet figured out that the whole premise of negotiation is that BOTH parties give a little.

The Bike: Still in action.

The Gay/Not Gay Client: O. M. G. What a drama! I delivered the tower (or tried to anyway) only to be met with about 20 minutes of verbal abuse from the owner of the taverna where the function was meant to be held. Apparently the client organised a cake table but the owner claimed she did not and proceeded to rip shreds off me. I survived the deluge of swearing and the client apologised profusely to me for having to endure that. The good news? I apparently did not fully hang up the phone at the taverna and so she heard him yelling insults directly at her (the client). The bad news? Apparently their function was a disaster and my cupcake delivery gone awry was only the tip of the iceberg...but (!) he loved the feathers, darling! Loved them! Divine!

Life: I am hanging in there, and at the moment that's all I can really ask for.

Secret update which we are not going to talk about any further: Doctor says, 15 months = -44kilos (or just shy of 100lbs). (Insert secretly proud smile.)

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Big Order

The first week in November I got a big order from a corporate client. Far and away the biggest order I've ever gotten - and here's hoping it leads to more work from them and similar clients.

As you might imagine, I've been pretty happy about that order for a number of reasons. So when I first got it, I was telling DH about it over dinner with the kids listening in intently. Being my biggest cheerleaders, they were all excited about it and wanted to know details. How many cookies? How many cupcakes? How much money are you getting?

When I told them the dollar amount of the order, there was a lot of excitement around the dinner table. It was an amount that for them seemed totally other-worldly (and frankly, it kinda shocked me, too.) So their reaction was not entirely surprising, along the lines of:

We're rich!
Oh my god, Mummy, that's close to like a billion dollars!
Does this mean we can start having take-away again?
Yippee! We can call the cleaning lady to come again!
That's SO MUCH money Mum - you're like a billionaire, like that song!
So can we go out to dinner to celebrate?
This is HUGE, right? HUGE?!
When are you going to get paid?

To them the order itself and the money seem enormous - but more importantly, they are ignorant of the fact that I don't really get to KEEP all that money. Most of that money won't ever see my wallet. Most of it will go to ingredients, kitchen rental, wages, and and and ... very little of it will come back to me. For now, though, I haven't chosen to burst their bubble, because there is a little part of me that wishes I too could indulge in the fantasy. I sometimes wish I was ignorant of the reality of a small business, too - but then if I were, I probably would not be where I am right now, which is still actually IN business.

Their excitement is fabulous though - because it's not just about the money, it's about them saying they're proud of me in the best way they know how, AND it's catching. So I caved, and agreed that we did really need to go out to dinner to celebrate "Mummy's huge order and being a millionaire" ...and I even had to promise it would be somewhere nice, with tablecloths and everything.

Sheesh. Tablecloths? What am I, a millionaire?

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Things You Probably Already Knew

1. Not enough the dance lessons are costing me $360 per term (and this does not include the shoes, leotard, make-up and so on), but then if I want to actually see my little ballerina perform what she's learned, that's another hundred bucks. Seriously?! I want my kid to be marginally more coordinated than I am (not hard, I can fall over while standing still.) But for this privilege, you pay, and pay, and pay. I'm thinking it would be cheaper to stand her on a bar and shoot bullets at her feet. (...and possibly more entertaining, since I don't have to sit and suffer through OPK dancing as well.) (OPK = Other People's Kids)

2. Sometimes I read blogs which are all about being kind and grateful and living authentically and seeing the beauty in the everyday, and I think: just fuck off with that grateful crap.

3. I don't find it at all odd that of the 60+ blogs listed in my Google Reader, approximately 49% of those are about gaining weight (pastry, cake, dessert oriented ones) and the other 49% are about losing weight. 2% are about stupid stuff like photo bombs. A girl has to be well rounded you know! (Pun gleefully intended.)

4. I don't think Glee is appropriate for kids under the age of about 14. Call me prude, but the things in that show are not what I want my kids exposed to before they really need to be. Your kid likes singing and dancing? It's called High School Musical, and it's probably playing on the Disney Channel in some country somewhere right now. If not, it's called a DVD player. Glee is not for kids. Sometimes it's okay if grown ups are having fun without their dependants.

5. I am currently reading a novel which is set in present-day Melbourne. Among other things the main characters (all suburban parents) seem to indulge in rather a lot of extra-marital affairs, cocaine, marijuana and other stuff which is not-so-suburban (or maybe it is). According to The Neighbour's Wife, this stuff is all around me all the time - I'm just in the wrong 'group' to be exposed to it at all. I also recently read an article which said that 30-something mothers are the current highest consumers recreational drugs. I'm not sure if I feel that I've missed out on the party, or damn grateful I'm a big ol' nerd. I'm leaning towards thinking being a nerd is the new black.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Bike Riding 102

I'd love to be able to tell you we had some sort of miracle method for teaching DS to ride, but we didn't. Pretty much I went out there with no idea of how to go about this, but plenty of enthusiasm and a good pair of running shoes. I can say that in the space of two lessons, he was confident enough to push off and ride a long(ish) distance with no help, and was improving at the whole steering/staying on/not crashing thing. In the course of our second day out together, we actually developed our own method -now forever known as the"emzee Family Goolies Method."

As a side note - I adore Australian slang. So many of the words just roll off the tongue beautifully and sound exactly as the item looks. Case in point, goolies. Goolies are in fact also known as the dangly bits between a man's legs. Doesn't the word goolies (goo-lees) just sound poetically like the items themselves?

Anyway. So DH was trying to get DS to gain some confidence in pushing off on his own. So he would stand about 5 feet in front of the bike, and get DS to push off and then DH would "catch" him. Given the height of the bike's front wheel versus the height of DH's inseam, the top of the wheel (when properly wedged between his legs) would indeed "get him in the goolies." So, me being me, I used this as a comedic motivator. DH was a short way away, and I leaned in and whispered to DS, "Go on, go get your Dad in the goolies!"

He didn't need to be told twice. He laughed like a maniac and then pushed off with a fair amount of force. After a couple of these starts, DH had to stand further and further away from us (or really risk copping it). Eventually, trying to "get Dad in the goolies!" was the goal for the day - with DH standing further and further away (suitably engaging in foolish hip wiggling and carrying on for motivational purposes, of course), DS was determined to get there. It actually worked really well - because it made my son smile, it gave him a goal to work towards, and it reminded him to keep his eyes on the road ahead and NOT at his feet on the pedals. Several times poor DH had to jump out of the way, as Mr Kamikaze Goolie Getter was hell-bent on his mission.

So - there you have it, the emzee Family Goolies Method for bike riding lessons. All it requires is a boy on a bike, and a willing set of goolies.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Bike Riding 101

"The downside is that I pretty much only have half a penis left."

...so says DS to his beloved Uncle after we went out for his first ever 'learn to ride a 2-wheeler' lesson. Beloved Uncle brought home the amazing machine to DS on a Sunday night. It was exactly the right size, in exactly the right colours (he wanted a red, silver and black bike). DS was nearly chomping at the bit to get riding, so on the Monday I made it home several hours early in order to make good on my promise of lessons. The official promise was that he would be able to ride a 2 wheeler by the end of the summer (although technically summer starts in Australia on Dec 1.)

It was a very bittersweet moment for me, since I had always assumed my Dad would be the one teaching my kids how to ride. The day was filled with loads of "Dad and Me" memories, as I remembered the (traumatic and yet triumphant) day when he taught me to ride a bike. I even remember going with him to buy it - it was a sparkly blue 'big kid' bike we bought at Sears for $99. We brought it home and had to assemble the entire thing - literally it was just a big box full of parts and wheels. So Dad and I put it together and the next day went to Balboa Park, and like most kids, there was a whole lot of "don't let go! don't let go!" and a lot of crying when I inevitably fell on my ass (and my arm, and head, and shoulder, and elbow, and knee.) I got there in the end, of course - as he knew I would.

So it was with some excitement and a hint of sadness that I took DS out for his first lesson. I even used some of the same little tips my Dad had given me, and probably used some of the same phrases to motivate him...and the experience was, in a word, fabulous. DS and I just had a brilliant time out there. To be sure, he got fell over and hurt. A lot. And he cried, and he had a lot of snot running out of his nose, and he and his bike (and me) got pretty muddy. But I wouldn't trade that hour for anything else in the world - because this boy who has only recently returned to me, this boy SHINED.

If I had attempted this a month ago, I am pretty sure I'd have had an angry, frustrated, MAD and extremely uncooperative person on my hands who kicked the bike across the park. Instead, I had someone who was frustrated, and in pain, and tired, and feeling pretty negative and low, who then said, "Come on, Mum, I think I can give it another go." My boy could hardly see from his tears and yet there he was, on that bike and pushing off yet again even though physically and emotionally, he was spent.

When he crashed full pelt into a timber fence, I decided to have mercy on him and head home. On the (slow, painful) walk home, he said, "I don't know, Mum, it's really much harder than it seems. I don't think you'll get me on that thing again." Wisely, I kept my mouth shut.

The following day (a public holiday so all of us were home), it was a gorgeous sunny Melbourne day so as a family we decided to head out to the park. Surprisingly, Boy and his bike were out the door and ready to go LONG before any of us were even dressed yet. He actually persisted at the bike riding attempts for THREE HOURS (and endless crashes) and by the end of it, damn if that kid was not totally able to ride clear across a very large open field, all on his own.

"Boy," I said, "Are you proud of yourself? You DID IT! You rode it all by yourself with NO HELP!" He was crying, and hurting, and really looking for all the world like he'd been through a war, but he conceded, "Slightly. I'm slightly proud of myself." I just smiled about it and continued to whoop whoop about it all in a suitably embarrassing motherly fashion (he would expect no less, and hell if I was going to let this moment slide.) I don't think he knows that a bit later on, through all the sniffling, I heard him mumble to himself quietly, "I DID IT, I rode a bike all by myself."

There are a few more lessons to go - steering in a straight line, for one, and pushing off without leaning on Mum for support, and certainly a lesson or two in stopping without trying to jump off a moving bike - but for the meantime, my son can ride a two-wheeler all on his own for a fairly considerable distance. For my part, I managed to run along side him for as long as he needed me to, holding on, just like my Dad did for me all those years ago. It was a very proud (a bit more than slightly proud) moment for both of us. We did it, and we did it together. I just wish my Dad was here to see it...but secretly, I believe he is watching from somewhere.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Hair Today

It's 6 days into NaBloPoMo and the discussions around here have been pretty heavy....sheesh! What happened to the easy, breezy, light and lovely emzee we all know and love?

Well, she's still here. Which is why today we're going to talk about hair....which quite possibly will end up in lively debate and much flaming, but I'm willing to risk it.

Hands up everyone who is not happy with their hair? *waves hand in air*. A little over a year ago my hair started to disappear. I know the reason for it (stress), but I always expected it would grow back. So far, it hasn't. When I look closely in the mirror, I can clearly see my scalp back at least 3-4 inches from my hairline (it's not that it's bald, it's that I can see it clearly through my hair. ) I am NOT happy about this situation at all.

In recent months I got this totally cute short and sassy haircut and colour which I adore...but the hair itself? It makes me want to cry. Especially because now, if I don't wear it messy or curly, and if I haven't washed it every single day, the balding situation becomes even more obvious. This is one of those rare times when I am happy being tall - very few people can actually SEE the top of my head, let alone pass judgement on it. So at least I can - kinda - keep the situation hidden up there in the clouds. Between the hair and the Little Head Syndrome discussed earlier, let me just say that my cranium is no longer my favourite body part.

Why do we care so much about hair, anyway? Is it because it's one of the first things people see? Is it because it keeps us warm? Is it because we've invested time and money in it?

So, hands up all those whose hair is an issue for them (colour, cut, whatever) (and please god let me not be alone in this). And, hands up all those who have some sort of miracle solution for my current hair woes. Anybody? (Ahem. Well. Then. Excuse me while I go grab a hat. Or ten.)

Friday, November 5, 2010

Thicker Skin

I don't have a thick skin. I take everything to heart and I react emotionally to things which probably don't need much emotion in them. It's taken me this long to blog about this incident because it still weighs heavily on my heart, and stupidly some itty bitty piece of my heart lacks confidence. I'm sharing it because I think there is a lesson in it.

A few weeks ago now, a client ordered a cake for her son. This son has extreme dairy, egg, soy, nut, and wheat allergies. I explained that I can meet some of those dietary needs but not all of them (very hard to do a good gluten free cake with no eggs, IMHO.) She told me she had rung 5 other bakeries, all which flat out refused to help her. I explained that I might be able to help her if SHE provided the cake receipe and we just decorated it. After MANY conversations, she asked if I would be willing to bake up a box cake mix (which her son could eat) and then decorate it for her. She wanted a pretty simple design, and so I agreed to do it. She was gushing loads of gratefulness over the phone.

Note, only a crazy person would agree to taking in an unknown cake mix, baking it up (and thus slowing down our normal production), and hope it would bake up okay for decorating purposes. The risk factor at every level of this job was pretty high. But I am a bleeding heart and I really felt for this woman and her son - he can't eat much of anything at all. I also under-charged her - again a symptom of my bleeding heart nature. Anyway we did it (and it was a pain in the butt but came out very cute) - and her husband came to pick it up. I showed it to him and said, "Isn't it cute?" and he said, "Yes, thanks so much!" and drove away.

Two days later I received an email from the client's Mum. It is by far the most vile, hurtful, and personally insulting email I've ever gotten. I won't put it all here, but suffice it to say she accused me of, among other things - writing my own testimonials, letting a 3 year old decorate the cake (because "clearly it was not the work of a professional"), lying about my qualifications and experience, and ruining her grandson's birthday. She also told me the cake was disgusting, and she could not believe I would actually proudly present that to a client. She goes on to say that she and her daughter took it to 2 local bakeries, both of which refused to 'fix it' for them. They then went to the supermarket, bought icing, and redecorated the entire thing themselves until 3am. Apparently the only silver lining to come from it was that now 2 bakeries were "re-thinking" their offerings in terms of allergy-friendly cakes. I could go on, but I won't because I think you get the idea.

So I wrote back, simply saying I would call her daughter directly to discuss this. I called about 4 times that day, but there was no answer. I then got a second email from the grandmother telling me that her grandson was sick so her daughter was not available to talk, but I could call her to discuss it (meaning I could call the grandmother.) I politely wrote back and said I preferred to speak directly to the client. I called the daughter again and left a friendly voice mail, saying I would like to discuss the email I got from her Mum. (Friendly because I believe in good customer service, and being polite in the first instance, and that means discussing it like adults and not coming out guns blazing. Clearly this grandmother was not of the same belief.)

The client never called me back, and I've not heard anything since then from anyone in that family. I have a sneaking suspicion that the daughter was happy with her cake but that (for whatever reason) her Mum was not so the daughter just caved in to the madness.

It has taken me several weeks to get over this. I am just not thick-skinned, and I took everything about this situation personally. Her email to me was a very personal attack - so it's not really a surprise that I've taken it to heart. Still, it's much easier for me to focus on this ONE horrible email than it is for me to remember the hundreds of happy (repeat) clients I've got, and the many, many, many happy testimonials people have written for me not only personally but in public forums as well.

I'm sorry to report that rather than see this as one crazy lady among hundreds of normal ones and shrug it off, it's made me reconsider my stance on allergen cakes, and on doing people favours in general. It's really taken the shine off what I considered to be a situation in which I was providing exceptional service, and it's made me very wary of helping people out in the future.

There will always be unhappy people in the world, and just by law of averages I'm going to come across a few of them in the course of my business. I've just got to get better at dealing with them when they come into my life. So - I'm aiming to grow a thicker skin. I'm not entirely sure how one does that, but I'm going to try. All suggestions welcome.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Start As You Mean To Go On

DH and I are pretty old-fashioned - something which I think will annoy my kids as they get older, but for the moment they just accept. By "old fashioned" I mean that we only own one TV, nobody owns any hand-held games, we don't have any gaming consoles of any kind, we limit their TV/computer time, only I have a facebook account, and it's only in the last month or so that we've let them have their own email accounts. Plus we have an expectation that they will do daily chores without complaint (but some complaint is normal, they're not Stepford children after all), and almost every night of the week we sit down together to eat dinner. I suppose DH and I just have a very firm belief in what we want our core family values to be, and we our best to stick to those values and behave in a manner fitting to them. We do make exceptions, and we do fail at our own plans sometimes - but as a whole we do what we do because it's important to us. We are by no means the perfect family, nor am I trying to preach to you all. I'm just trying to make the point that we chose the way we would live and parent (and in many ways this was an unconscious choice because DH and I are by nature very similar people). So basically, when it comes to our parenting, we made our bed, and we lie in it.

By all accounts our old fashioned-ness makes us totally weird among our friends. .. although to be fair we were probably already considered weird, it's just that this cements our status. I always hear other parents saying they wish their kids spent more time outdoors, that they wish their kids didn't drag their Nintendo DS's around all the time, that they wish they didn't have to cook two meals (one for kids, one for adults.) In short, modern parents seem to complain about a whole lot of things which they themselves introduced in the first place. You started or encouraged the situation, and now you're upset about it? Really?

One of my friends recently told me how proud she was of her 10 year old DD. This DD collected up all the stuff she did not want anymore (namely, an Ipod, a DS, and some other electronic toys she had been given), listed them all on Ebay and sold them. She made enough money to then buy herself an iTouch. The Mum was very impressed with her child's entrepreneurial spirit...and not half an hour later told me that she finds it very hard to talk to her DD, that they all just seem so BUSY all the time, and that sitting down to eat a meal together is a near impossibility because the kids have so many devices on at once.

My take on this is pretty simple - if you created a situation, you live with the consequences of that situation. This woman's DD didn't just suddenly have a roomful of electronic gadgets to sell which got there by osmosis. Nor did she have access to a computer, an account on Ebay, or the means by which to get to the store to buy an iTouch by magic. The parents in this situation allowed it all to happen, as much as they might care to deny they had anything to do with it. So I'm having a hard time understanding what the complaining is all about. You made the situation, you live with the consequences of it.

When the kids were born, we had this battle axe of a maternal and child health nurse who literally sat me down and said, "You can choose to have a life, or you can choose to have the children run your life. Make your choice, and then START AS YOU MEAN TO GO ON." I cannot tell you how many times her words have come back to me, to serve as guidance when I needed to make a parenting decision. Whenever I've not been sure about something, I tried to look forward and predict the consequences of a decision - and then I started the situation in the way I wanted the situation to continue. I don't always make correct predictions, kids will be kids after all. Sometimes I thought I could predict where something was leading but made the wrong choice anyway. Now I should say she also said that it's possible to turn a situation around (in this case, night time sleeping)...but how much harder is it to go back and fix things, rather than to just start right from the beginning?

So hear this, parents of my generation - either stop your whining, or fix the situation. Your kids are annoying/irritating/lazy/unhelpful/addicted to TV/insert complaint here because it's a situation you allowed (either explicitly or by inertia) to happen. Of course there are situations where some kids needed to be allowed some behaviours or things for extenuating reasons... but, really, the things you complain about are all things you started in some shape or form. SUCK IT UP or do something about it, just don't come crying to me when little Johnny's eyes are rectangular from staring at his iPhone and your electricity bills are through the roof.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

More Client Madness

I had a couple come in recently to organise a 30th birthday cupcake tower. They were nice people...but seriously hard work. Firstly, he is as camp as a row of tents (go and Google - Napoleon Perdis. He looked and sounded exactly like that.) Second, his wife doesn't seem to notice this about him although she made reference to his love of feathers and bling and detail-orientedness. Third, she walked in and told me that when they got married, they went to the cake person and florist "like six or more times to get it right." (There are ALARM BELLS ringing in my head at this point.) Fourth, they spent most of the time bickering, like so:

Him: I want lots of feathers and gold and bling bling bling. I want it big, I want it bold, I want it statement.
Her: But that would look terrible.
Him: But it's MY birthday and that's what I want.
Her: Fine, but I think it will look terrible. *pout*
Him: Okay, okay, we'll go with what you think.
Her: No, no, it's YOUR birthday, you should do what YOU want.
Him: Okay, then I want my feathers.
Her: Why do you always do feathers at our functions? Enough with the feathers already!
Him: I *like* feathers and it's my birthday.
Her: *pout* I still think it will look terrible.
Him: Okay then we'll do it your way. No feathers then, okay.
Her: No, no, you do it your way.
Him: Great. Feathers are back in.
Her: *pout* (and look annoyed) But...
Him: But what? You don't think it will look good?
Her: NO. No, I think it will look terrible. This is ridiculous, you have to have more of the gold and less of the feathers.
Him: But I like the feathers.
Her: Fine, have the feathers. But it will look terrible.

Me: Okay, so it's gold papers, chocolate cupcakes and then ganache swirl on top, and then on the top cake we're doing the gold leaf with the white ostrich feathers and the big gold birthday plaque, yes?

Him: Yes.
Her: *pout*
Him: Wait, okay, maybe we should go with the glitter she likes. Sweetheart, do you want me to go with the glitter? I know you like it.

(and so on. All I could think was, "Please, shoot me now. Stick a piping bag in my eye and call it a day.")

...and before any of you say, "Michelle, you should write a book about your crazy clients," let me tell you that I AM writing about it. It's called a blog. :)

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Little Head Syndrome

Recently someone posted a photo of me on facebook. This is remarkable for a couple of reasons - one, that I let a photo of me be taken in the first place, and two, that I saw it on facebook even though it was not tagged to me. (Sidenote, it was a pic taken at that conference I went to. And the sad thing is, I'm not linked in that photo probably because they don't know my name. Guess not being tagged is the 2nd silver lining of that day.)

Anyway I noticed three things about that photo. One, that I was having a bad hair day (and my hair is another post for another day.) Two, that I looked pretty cute in that dress I was wearing - which is good because it's new and I like it. Three, that I suddenly appear to have Little Head Syndrome.

There is a saying that women lose weight from the head down, but gain weight from the feet up. So when you pack on a few kilos, it goes straight to your ass and is shown last in your face. When you start eating carrot sticks again, your face begins to look gaunt long before your ass does. Looking at this photo, I am now of the opinion that no truer words were spoken. In the last year and a bit, I've lost a lot of weight (and nope, that's NOT a post for another day.) So looking at this photo, I'm thinking...holy mazoly...my head is now totally too small for my body, and THIS IS BAD. I'm totally suffering from little head syndrome - which, truth be brutally told, is something I have laughed at in other people. There is even a teacher at the kids school who I secretly refer to as "Teacher Little Head" because she too suffers from this problem. It's the total opposite of that Hollywood syndrome of Lollipop Head where your head is giant and your ass is tiny.

The question I have is this - other than lose more weight so I'm more in proportion (and yes, I am heading that way), - what the HECK am I supposed to do about this in the meantime?? I'm pretty sure having a big ego does not ACTUALLY give you a big head so that option is out. I don't have enough hair to be rocking any 'big hair' hair styles. I don't do hats. So - what now? Do I just keep trying to remain behind the camera until I get back into proportion, or do I start to wear large scarves to distract from my head issue?

May this be my biggest problem in life. A serious case of LHS.

Monday, November 1, 2010

The Great School Debate

We are in the process of finding a new school for one or more of my kids, and it's fascinating to me how much the whole private-versus-public debate is one which raises people's hackles.

Open Admission - I went to private school for K-4 and hated it, so then went to public school until 12th grade. DH was private school educated for all of his schooling, and our kids currently attend a private school.

Fact is, the school my kids are at is not currently meeting their academic or social needs - and this is after I've spent a good 18 months trying to advocate for them as much as I can. It's mostly DS who is struggling although his sisters are not doing great, either. I've consulted the teachers, sent my DS to whatever other professionals the school asked me to, and basically tried my best to make it work. No matter how loyal I am to the place (and 18 months of crap is a LOT of loyalty) I can no longer deny that it just is not the right place for at least one of my kids. So we're looking at what the options available to us are.

I actually have no real preference for public versus private, but I do have a preference for a place which can give my son (in particular) enough academic challenges so I am no longer forking out a bunch of dough to a psychologist who tells me he is bored at school. So my first port of call was actually public schools who had a gifted program. Guess what? Very few of them do, and those that have something are generally of the 'out of school' variety where you pay extra and your kid gets taken out of school X days a week. So it's not the school providing it as much as it is the school allowing your child to participate. One of our main concerns is our son's alienation from his peer group..and I'm not sure how that sort of program would address that concern.

I then discovered that several public primary schools have an innovative program which, while not strictly for gifted kids, can be adapted in the classroom for their needs. Of the FOUR schools offering the program near us, we are between 0.5 and 2 kms out of their 'zone' to be considered for entry...which meant that over the phone I got a "no chance in hell" answer when I asked about enrolment. I then called the Department of Education, who basically repeated the above options and told me, "good luck" when it comes to finding a primary school which can help with gifted needs.

So I turned to the private sector - where again, I'm quite surprised to hear that there is not much in the way of extension work, and again it's of the more exclusionary style of days or hours spent outside of class. There seems to be more scope in the private sector, though - but this seems to be because parents have better recourse when their kids' needs are not met (eg "I'm paying X for this education and you are doing enough to help him.") In a public system, I'm not sure exactly how far you would get if you had a grievance (although this would be teacher and school dependant.)

What I've learned is that it's not all that easy to be on one side or another of the bell curve...which in a way I suppose I already knew.

Today I was talking to a friend who said she didn't understand why private school cost so much - why isn't it just more accessible to those who want it? (I should say this was in the context of a religion-based school discussion). I didn't agree with her sentiment (because I think there ARE ways to access religious education in a budget-friendly way) but it was an interesting discussion...mostly because I am lucky enough to find myself with the choice of public versus private. I have the luxury of choice in this situation (well, I might...time will tell.) Fact is, if DS had to go to public school - he would survive, I'm sure of it. After all, plenty of kids do - gifted or otherwise. But isn't it our role as parents to give our kids the very best we can? I'm not saying we should sacrifice our quality of life for private school tuition (although plenty of people do), I'm just wondering if it's our responsibility as parents to give our kids every opportunity we can.

So tell me. Is it a requirement that we give our kids the best opportunities we can? Or is that, too, a luxury, and our kids should just be glad we feed and bathe and house them? What is the extent of our parental responsibility when it comes to this sort of stuff?