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.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Universe, Shmuniverse

A year ago I posted how I feel about All That Universe Bullshit. If you missed it, click on it and go read it. It's short and will take you about 1 minute to read.

I'll wait here while you go and do that.
Okay. Thanks. You needed to read that because you need to know the background of my discomfort. Tomorrow I'm going to spend an entire day in a seminar with a guy whose entire life centres around telling everyone all about "All That Universe Bullshit." He practically invented it, or something. Seriously. I have to be honest here, it makes me uncomfortable as anything because it just seems so far removed from my usual grounded, tangible, hard-work-is-what-makes-stuff-happen ethos. At the same time, I voluntarily paid to go, AND I'm giving up an entire day of work (at the end of the week no less...and the end of the week is sacred to cake makers) to go and listen to what he has to say.

I suppose I did it because I'm curious, I love to learn new things, and this arena is really something I only have played with around the edges - so I figure I'll go along and soak up the knowledge and enjoy the experience. That, and the small fact that in the past year, the Universe has provided me with an embarassment of riches, a plethora of blessings, and I've got shitloads to be really, really grateful for.

But, you know. Universe, shmuniverse.

Tomorrow night's blog should be interesting.


This week, the three most vital things in my life decided to break down all at once. My husband, my smartphone and my back (not listed in order of importance.) (Or maybe they are...).

First to go down was DH, who put his back out and now has some sort of evil sinus-y head cold-y thingie. Unlike most men, he does not ever suffer from Man Flu, he suffers from the "my right arm just fell off but let's all pretend like nothing happened" syndrome. It takes an act of god to get this man to take care of his health issues, plus he has a pain threshold whereby probably even HE would not notice if the arm did in fact fall off.  Unforunately for me, *I* am the one who suffers when he is unwell - what can I say, when you get used to someone being able to function no matter what (even with only one arm intact), it makes you just a wee bit dependant. Plus it freaks you right the hell out when the guy who can survive a nuclear war says, "I think I might just need to lay down for a moment." 

As far as DH is concerned, the only people who "lay down for a moment" are dead people. So you can see my just...slight...bit of alarm here. Plus the LAST time he felt a little 'ping' in his back, it was a week and several thousand dollars in shoddy American medical bills before it was sorted out (but that's a story for another day.) Plus I'm absolutely shit at giving sympathy, and I didn't need to be reminded of that.

Second to go down was my smartphone. You would think I could cope without this thing, right? It's a PHONE after all. Um, no. My life is in that phone - or more accurately, my ability to manage my life is in that phone. I am a ridiculously over-the-top communicator, and this device being broken almost rendered me mute (oh now there's an  overstatement for dramatic effect!) The phone itself decided to throw a tantrum (and my work email and texting capabilities in specific were being petulant children) and this was making me CRAZY.  When you find yourself Googling the solution to your phone problems, and you find yourself trawling through endless forums about specific phones, desperately hoping you will find one which does NOT say "the only answer is a factory re-set"...you've got a problem. Actually I would have said it's the people who design and participate in said forums who have a problem, but I'm so damn grateful to them, I want to kiss their pathetic little have-no-life nerd asses.

Third to go down (because things break in threes, don't they?) was my back. I've blogged before about my hip dramas, but yesterday my back also decided to get in on the act. I haven't had any (real) back issues in a long while, and so this one was a particularly frustrating thing to deal with. I am no good at being no good - in fact for a moment there I almost (okay I did) suffer from Man Flu in every sense of the word. Oh, the whining and moaning! I unfortunately do not have the same pain threshold that DH does (quite the opposite) - I am in fact a big fat wuss.

It took less than 48 hours for all of these things to mostly solve themselves. DH is still crook but he's DH, so he'll cope, right? The phone got fixed thanks to not only the geek forums but my own geek-ability to understand what the hell those forums were talking about, and the back is on the mend thanks to a great physio and some even greater anti-inflammatories (and a very nice chocolate ice cream on a stick. And a Slurpee. Or three.)

Just a few days ago (before all these dramas began) I commented to Biz Guy that I thought I was calming down about a lot of things, that I was just getting less manic and insane about life in general. That I've had these three dramas happen, dealt with them all, and didn't either eat a whole packet of Oreos or fall into a heap is testament to that calmness.

What can I say, it only took me 36 years to fully embrace the basic truth of life: shit happens.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Hopelessly Devoted

Claire's comment on my camping post got me thinking about motherhood. (If you missed it, she commented that my camping experience indicates that I'm a devoted mother.)

My Mom went back to work shortly after each of us children were born - and she would tell you that it wasn't a matter of money, it was a matter of not wanting to be a stay at home Mom. I felt much the same way about it, actually...when the triplets were six months old, I got a call from my boss asking me to make a decision about coming back to work. I laughed and told her the decision was made long before those children were even conceived. I love and adore my children, but I know I'm just not suited to being a stay at home Mom.

I think the mothers (and fathers) who stay at home with their children full time are the most selfless, amazing people on earth - and cliched as it is, I don't know how they do it. It's a level of devotion I can't see myself attaining (because I'm not able, nor am I inclined to.) 

What, exactly, defines a devoted mother? What separates good mothers from bad ones? I tried to define this for myself and came up with nothing much - because I'm thinking that to be a truly BAD mother, you've got to be neglecting your kids' basic needs of food, shelter, and education. Suppose you provide all of those, but no love and affection. Are you then a bad mother because you are giving them all they need to survive but not giving them love (which I would argue is also necessary for survival)? Or are you a good ENOUGH mother because you're giving them what they need only on a very basic level?

..and what if you are a mother who simply does not have the means to provide the food, the shelter, the education, but you love your children? Are you then a bad mother because circumstance has kept you from being able to provide, because after all, one can't eat love for dinner?

I might be opening an enormous can of worms here, but I'd love to hear what you think about this (and go on, all you who read but never comment, this is a good a time as any to out yourselves from lurker-ville.)

Monday, March 12, 2012

The General Public

Phew, it got all serious in here for a second, didn't it? Just to reassure you all that I am still as cheerful, optimistic and grateful as ever (and to lighten the mood a bit around here), I'm going to share some of my "did they really just say that?" moments from work:

1) Email exchange:
Dear X, Thanks for your order, I received it and payment was processed, I'll get that out in today's post.
Dear M, Thanks for the prompt service, I appreciate it.
(one day later)
Dear M, I got my order, thanks!
(one day later again)
Dear M, I'm still waiting on my confirmation, your website said I would be emailed a confirmation of my order.

2) Phone exchange at 4pm:
Her: Hi, I am the PA for (insert name of person I've never heard of.) I need a (lots and lots of details) cake because I've *finally* convinced (person I've never heard of) not to bake the cake herself.
Me: Okay, great, we can do that. When did you need it for?
Her: Tomorrow morning at 10am.
Me: I'm really sorry but there is no way we can create (lots of details) cake for you by tomorrow morning. However I can create (lots of other options.) I can also recommend some other cake makers but you might struggle to find someone who can make something so detailed in that time frame.
Her:  Yeah, we figured that we would run into this problem. I guess if I don't find anyone this afternoon we'll just keep calling tomorrow morning until we DO find someone.

(Why she thinks her chances will be better on the DAY OF the event? God knows. Me, I'd be finding a new PA.)

3) Email exchange:

"Hi, attached is a picture of a cake I want. I got someone else to quote on it but I want your price as well. Can you please send me a quote?"
(Attached picture is of a 5 tier HUGE wedding cake.)
Me: How many people did you need to feed with this cake?
Her: How should I know? As many as the cake in the picture will feed.
Me: Hard to estimate size looking at a picture, but I think you would get about 200 servings out of that.
Her: Really? We're only having 15 people. No wonder the last quote was so expensive.

4) Email: Hi, I'm having a party this weekend and I'm wondering, can you send me some pictures of cakes I might like?

Answer in my head: I'm good, but not good enough to have ESP as to what you might like.

5) Phone conversation:
Her: What sort of cupcake flavours do you offer?
Me: We've got 9 (list them).
Her: Oh so nothing interesting then. No bubblegum flavour?

Answer in my head: WTF? Bubblegum flavour cupcakes?

6) Email: Can you give me a quote on the cake picture I've attached? I want it exactly like that, only where it's purple I want white, swap out the circles for squares, make the flowers into hearts, and I want 6 tiers, not 2. Oh, and I'd also like to change the cake topper, and the green leaves can just be taken off, and if you could make the cake rectangular that would be great. But I want it *exactly* like in the picture."

7) Email at noon: Hi. Can I pick up a birthday cake this afternoon?

In my head reply: No, because you've proven yourself incapable of picking up a PHONE to ask. This is a MAJOR pet peeve of mine, people who want something very short notice (as in, less than a few hours) but email a request through rather than call it through.

On the whole, people are generally nice and understanding and lovely...but lately we've had a bunch of people (like the above) who make you scratch your head and think, "Seriously?!" Never a dull moment...

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Dude Looks Like A Lady

Since we're (still) on the topic of men and women - have you ever noticed how men tend to want to solve things, and women just want to talk endlessly about stuff? I think somewhere along the line a stray Y chromosome made it into my body, because I want to talk endlessly about stuff but only if it comes to a solution.

I am terribly at endless talking and not reaching a resolution. This of course makes me either a great friend to have, or an extremely annoying friend to have, because I can be really helpful, but neither do I want to listen to your shit ad infinitum. I see a problem - my own or someone else's - and I have an immediate need to fix it, or at the least make some sort of decision about it.I just can't talk about it in circles (but to be clear, I can in fact talk the paint off the walls, just not when there is a specific problem which is crying out for a solution.)

At the moment, this 'fix it' part of my personality is causing me no end of grief - because along with it comes the unfortunate behaviour of choosing to ignore those things (or people) that I cannot fix. There are a few specific situations in my life which I can do nothing about - not because I haven't tried, but because the situations are either out of my control, or the people involved in them need to do their own fixing. I've been asked my opinion on how to solve these issues and gladly given them...but now I no longer can bear to hear about them. I just can't keep listening to the broken record of complaints, whining, sadness, anger, hurt and frustration - and so I basically just turn off my involvement in those situations. I walk away. I engage in a form of self protection and I distance myself entirely from the people and the situations. I'm choosing to do so because I just can't let that negativity into my space...much as I think letting it in is probably the right thing to do.

Just writing this down is actually making me feel horrible - because I like to believe I'm the sort of person who sticks with you when the chips are down. I feel as though letting that negative energy into my life would just...cripple me. I have a tendency to take on other people's issues and in these situations, I know that doing so would be the quickest way to the bottom of a bag or ten of cookies and I do NOT want to go there. So, I'm choosing to be selfish and walk away.  I hate that I'm doing it, but to do differently would just be...unfathomable to me right now.

(By the way, I hate to be all vague and whatnot (because how irritating is that?!) but it's unfair to the people who are involved to air dirty laundry which does not belong to me.)

Intellectually I know that the best thing one can do for a person in need is just to listen - really listen - and let them vent whatever they need to vent. Hell, there are many times when that's all I really want to do myself. "I don't want you to solve it, I just want you to hear it," is a sentence I've said to DH countless times and yet I'm finding it pretty close to impossible to be the listener I want and they need me to be.

Right now, I just can't 'be there' for the people who need me to be there, and the disappointment I feel in myself is painful as hell. I'm actually not sure which is worse - the pain of the situation itself, or the pain of knowing I'm behaving like a complete selfish jerk.

I want to solve things. I can't. It sucks.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Too Little or Too Late? Maybe Neither?

In that last post I talked about how I used to (and still would) take on any number of jobs if we needed the money, and how I think that behaviour is very much about the female instinct to protect. Here's where I start to question if that's a good thing or not, and in fact if that instinct is on some level keeping me back from success.

I recently heard about a cake business not dissimilar to mine which is taking off at a million miles an hour - opening locations all over Australia, investing a shed load of money into marketing, and basically going at it in a very no-holds-barred sort of way. I'll admit that when I initially heard about this (and continue to, they're making massive waves), my immediate reaction was to be jealous of them. Not so much jealous of their success, because I think that remains to be seen, but jealous of the enormous pair of balls they must be hiding in their chef pants. These are balls I do not have.

Let me stop myself for a second and say - I quite often meet people who think that I do in fact posses said balls. So it's probably a matter of perspective, but for the purposes of this post you need to understand that I do not think I have the (basketball sized) balls people seem to think I do. Anyway, to get back to my story, I'm really impressed by this company and how quickly they seem to be rising to the top. I then started to wonder why I didn't follow that same sort of timeline. For all those years, why did I only give 50% to the business? For all those years I kept on cooking part-time, which kept me from devoting 100% of my effort to getting the business off the ground. Even now, sometimes it feels as though it takes me forever to do things which other people achieve in a heartbeat. I find myself thinking I've missed the boat on a couple of industry trends that I really should have been on top of. Why is that?

I think it's because my need to survive is far stronger than my desire to succeed. Let me explain. When I started the business (and until just over a year ago), I was still working as a chef. The reasons for that were simple, we needed the money and I needed to look after my family. Going into the cake business as a full-time thing was way too far out of my comfort zone, because I could not guarantee that any money would come out of it, and I couldn't guarantee that we wouldn't LOSE money out of it - and my family needed money to survive. This was of course especially true given DH's work history. Going into business full time required me to let go of my ability to safe-guard us. So, I put a big fat chef-shaped bandaid over the problem of us needing money and I just worked like hell in two part-time endeavours because I felt I needed to - the 'full time' business would just have to wait. At the time it seemed SO black and white - no way could I go into a risky business venture (which in retrospect wasn't all that risky) when my family NEEDED me to bring in the income to do things like...buy groceries. 

While I am not one to live with regret (because that's a real waste of time, isn't it?) I do sometimes think that if I were not so determined to protect us all, if I'd just said "FUCK IT" and risked my family's security - I'd be so much further along the road than I am... wouldn't I?

Truth is, I don't really know. I don't think it's as easy as I make it seem.  In some respects I'd love to be the "play hard, win hard" sort of person, but in my heart of hearts I know that's just not who I am. I operate out of love, I protect the people I love - and to me those things are non-negotiable. I'm thinking that I'm not really alone in this respect. Like I said in my earlier post, I think the protection thing is inherently female anyway.  So the question remains, then - is the cautionary way in which I do things about who *I* am, or is it the nature of women and their need to protect? Or is it perhaps a bit of both?

Then the question becomes, is being cautionary really the right sort of thing to be when one is owning a business? Or maybe it's the BEST way to be when owning a business. Is having that 'slowly, slowly' safety net keeping me from achieving things, or making me MORE able to achieve things? Am I missing the boat on some things because I'm not willing to make risky decisions and move very fast, or am I in fact ensuring my long term business survival by taking things a little more slowly? I don't think there is a wrong way and a right way to approach business - and for me the 'gently as she goes' method seems to be doing bloody well, thanks very much - but...I still wonder what I might be achieving if I did actually posses the giant balls people seem to think I have.

But then maybe it's all just a matter of perspective.

Friday, March 9, 2012

To Serve or Protect?

The other afternoon I had a discussion with a friend which brought up an interesting topic - the different approaches men and women have to survival. I recalled for him the (many) times in my married life when DH was out of work. My solution to this problem was to work more - crazy hours, crazy jobs - whatever it took, really, to keep my family afloat. In my mind the problem (at it's very core) was that we needed money and did not have any and the solution was just to go out and earn some. DH's solution to this was to keep looking for the same type of job, hoping that he'd get one, and...well, that was about the extent of it.

Our differing approaches to our family's survival were the cause of many an argument and many a tear (mostly shed by me.) I just couldn't understand, and actually still can't understand, why he wasn't willing to do literally ANYTHING to keep our family going. It was *me* who was taking on every extra hour I could get, and it was me who was happy to work menial jobs if it meant money coming in. DH on the other hand never did any of that (although in recent years, he's changed tack significantly on this.) It really was beyond my comprehension why he did not just get up off his ass and do something to make things better. ANYTHING at all. DH is by no means a bad person. He loves his family and wants to look after them, financially or otherwise - but he just could not bring himself to do what needed to be done.

This is where - somewhere in our DNA - there is a huge difference between women and men. Women are the protectors. The ones who will literally do whatever it takes (including self-sacrificing) to ensure that their children, their home, their family - survives a situation. Men on the other hand, well, they're less about protection or survival and much more about pride. It wasn't that DH didn't love us or want to keep us safe - it's that somewhere deep inside, he just could not bring himself to make the sacrifice. He was far too proud to admit that he had (even if only in the short term) failed us. Too proud to lower himself to a menial job because that was more about admitting defeat than it was about being too good for something. Too mired in what he calls "the destruction of hope" to actually be part of the solution. I also believe the pressure of knowing we all depended on him also paralysed his ability to help us as a family survive. He couldn't see how a short-term 'fix' might be better than waiting forever for a long term fix that might never come. He had ONE course of action and that was it, and he was going to stick to that course of action no matter how much I cried.

Like I said, I don't get this way of thinking at all. For me, love is a huge motivator in most if not all of my actions. It's because I love people that I act the way I act (you did read that camping post, right?), and for me taking on all those insane jobs was an expression of love like any other. It's because I loved DH and my kids - combined with my inherent need to protect them - that I did whatever it took to keep us afloat. I remember crying to DH and saying, "I don't understand. Don't you love us enough? Aren't we important enough to you to make you want to do anything at all to help us through? Why can't you do this for us?"

No amount of crying, begging, pleading or threatening got him to move one single inch in any direction.He just could not let go of his pride, of his hope, of his...one-road solution...enough. I did wonder back then what might happen if I simply took the children and left. I KNEW we would survive even without him (it's what I was doing already anyway). Would that somehow push him into action? I suspect not, and the damage it might do would be something we might never recover from.

Like I said, my DH is not a bad person - he is actually the single most wonderful person I know - but these situations served as very stark reminders about the differences between women and men. When the chips are down, it's ME who is going to hold it all together, because that's just what women are programmed to do.

You might be reading this and thinking, "Yes, but DH is now happily employed and the business is going well, so what is she carrying on about?" Isn't this ancient history? Yes, of course it is - but the conversation I had got me thinking about it again. In that conversation, a couple of light bulbs went off in my head: 1) If all else fails, my survival instinct will always be there as my safety net, and 2) If our financial situation, for even one millisecond, made me uncomfortable or unhappy enough - I'd be out there working on Sundays and evenings (which are currently my only 'down' times from work, and often not even then.)

It's that inherent safety net which has keep my family going through times of dire straights, and it's the safety net which also 'allowed' me to be brave enough to take the business to the next level. I didn't take the leap with the business because I am a risk-taker. I took the leap because I knew there was a safety net, and I knew my survival instinct would serve me well. 

(and more on this tomorrow, but from the other side of the coin.)

Thursday, March 8, 2012

The Post-Camp Wrap Up

Remember I said that the first commandment of parenthood is "Thou Shalt Suffer?" .... nowhere was this more evident than on my latest experience in Mum-and-Cub camping.

Imagine the worst camping experience you can think of. Really think hard about what might be there. Do you think there might be...

Relentless rain?
Gale force winds of 55kmph?
Freezing cold temperatures?
An army style canvas tent which collapses on you at 3am?
A stake hitting a water pipe and causing a gusher?
The toilet block not having anything on which to dry your hands?
Forgetting to pack a single water proof item of clothing for either you or your son?

15 hormonal boys and 10 irritating mothers for company?
No plan B activities planned for a rainy day(s)?
Mud, mud, and more mud?
Leaky tents?
Being so cold you need to resort to wearing every item of clothing you brought with you, including four pairs of underwear (but excluding the bathing suit or sandals)? 

Now what if I tell you that yours truly went on Mum-and-Cub camp...and had all of those, AND THEN SOME?

The yours truly who thinks camping is horrible even when it is warm and dry and activity-filled, the yours truly who thinks camping is a crime against (my) nature, the yours truly who thinks that the only stars I want to sleep under are FIVE, and those belong to the lovely Hilton family?


It was that bad. Worse than that, actually.

It's three days of my life which are only justified because I've got this post to write about them.

Of course no camping trip would be a camping trip without a fabulous cast of characters with which to share this experience, so here are a few of the more interesting types:

Prozac Princess - who not only wore full make-up the entire time (including a hideous bright pink lipstick which even *I* knew did not suit her), but she announced in the first ten seconds we knew her that whatever pharmaceuticals we needed, she had on hand. Seriously. "I've got everything you could need. I'm a walking pharmacy! Prozac, Vicodin, OxyContin, Ritalin, Voltaren, Panadein Forte, anything illegal you can think of,  uppers, downers, pain killers, Viagra - you name it, I've got it." She then went on to proudly tell us how she only recently stopped taking SIX Voltaren a day for a shoulder injury. Voltaren - an anti-inflammatory drug - has an over the counter dosage of TWO tablets a day. For some people even those two will send them into la-la-land, and this woman drives her kids around while under the influence of SIX of those buggers. Good Lord. She did not stop carrying on endlessly about her pharmacy of goods which she proudly told us about and offered to share. She also apparently suffers from an endless array of ailments - or she has an endless array of doctors who prescribe that stuff ...because, geez, really, who needs that much? I know camping is painful, but not THAT painful, surely. It was amazing. ANY problem you have - medical or otherwise - the Prozac Princess had a solution for it, as long as the solution was prescribable and came in a blister pack. I'm all for self-medicating (via Oreo cookies, generally) but this was just insane - and insane too because she is one of the most insecure people I've ever met, unable to make a decision or go anywhere without the assistance of her friend (who, entertainingly, had the same name as she did but pronounced differently.) The Prozac Princess was - well...yes. Under the influence of both her same-name friend and her little blue friends.

Little Suzy Sunshine - At the end of the second endless day of rain and wind and boredom, we were all sitting around under the (wet, dripping, cold) mess tent (and by 'tent' I mean useless tarp held up by a ridiculous amount of ropes and poles) and feeling pretty damn sorry for ourselves (and our children.) Someone (probably me) had the gall to have a bit of a whinge about it, to which Little Suzy Sunshine took offence and basically told the group of us off. We weren't setting a good example for the children. We weren't coming up with activities to keep them busy. We weren't participating enough. We weren't acting happy enough, weren't having enough of a 'go' of it, weren't trying our hardest to show our children that we might be miserable but we are not giving up. In short, "WE" were being shit mothers and should all be sitting there pretending to have the time of our lives and loving every minute of this experience called HELL ON EARTH. Yes, because pre-teens are not smart enough to see right through that shit. Funnily enough I didn't see her suggest a rousing game of Charades, either. So - we let her say her piece and then she walked away. I'm shocked she did not fall over from the sheer weight of daggers poking out of her back.

Tuna Patty - At lunch on the second day, I sat across from Tuna Patty. Lunch was actually pretty okay, just some sandwiches and salad...but Tuna Patty was sitting in front of me eating a tin of tuna. Actually a tin of tuna mixed with 3 bean mix. She ate it with one of those itty-bitty plastic spoons (the sort they attach to on-the-go yoghurt containers.) As in a spoon so small you can fit ONE bean on there at a time. I must have given her a bit of a look (of course I did. Who am I kidding?) because she laughed and self-consciously told me that she wasn't sure what sort of food there would be on camp (hint: not Michelin-starred) and she likes what she likes, and what she likes is tuna, so she BYO her tuna. "So," I say (shit stirrer that I am), "Do you have any food issues, or do you just prefer to eat healthily?" She had the good grace to look sheepish. "Um, bit of both I guess." She then went on to tell me how she and her sickeningly fit husband went on a week-long hike in Tasmania several years (!) ago, and how every meal was tuna, and she loved it but everyone else hated it.  Tuna Patty then went on to eat a tin of tuna and three bean mix (and nothing else) at every single meal without fail. Even on the beach when we had a BBQ on the last day. All I've got to say is, THANK GOD I don't have to share a bed with this woman or get close enough to smell her breath. I'm guessing the hubby went on the week-long hike in the hopes of getting some fresh air.

There were a few more - including Early Riser, Showering Scotswoman, and Irritatingly Helpful Mother ...but I'll spare you the details of all of them. Suffice to say it was the longest weekend of my life. You know things are dire when even the Scouts themselves - whose whole reason for living is to spend their time suffering through outdoor pursuits, no matter how wet or painful it might be - were starting to lose patience with the entire thing. When the most exciting thing you do all weekend is learn how to swing an axe and have the Scout Leader shout at you about why you're doing it ALL WRONG and you need to LISTEN TO ME, YOUR AXE WIELDING IS ALL WRONG....well, is it no wonder that even the strongest of the strong willed boys were looking at their mothers as if to say, "You made me join Scouts because it's meant to be FUN, right? You call this fun?"

If the wet, cold, rain, mud and boredom were not enough....nobody told me that camping requires a ridiculous amount of STUFF. As in trailers and trailers worth of stuff. And that not enough you need to stand there, at midnight, in the howling wind, watching your fingers get torn to shreds as you valiantly hold onto a guy rope in the hopes that the fucking mess tent does not blow away AGAIN - but then, three days later, you've got to pack all that shit up again.

You've got to dig up the stakes, roll up the ropes, fold the tents, shove the sleeping bags in, pack up the food, unhook the gas cylinders, count the poles, unhook the poles, gather up the lanterns....it was definitely a man who decided that doing this was somehow meant to be fun and, dare I say it, relaxing. Not enough you spend an entire day unpacking, and then a day packing, you've got to then unpack it all again at the other end - and did I mention then unpacking the tents and sleeping bags so they can dry properly, then packing them up AGAIN? Everyone knows packing sucks, and yet here is an activity which requires you to do it six times for every one night you're going to spend sleeping in the great outdoors.

In short, there is not one single redeeming quality about camping. Not ONE. But, there was some good news - my son and I got to spend some time suffering together, although someone nicer might call it "bonding."

And the bad news? Mum and Cub camp happens every two years. Here's hoping my socks might dry out by then.

Friday, March 2, 2012

Oops I Did It Again

In order for DS to move onto the next step in his Scouting career, he needs to attend a Mother-and-Sons Camping weekend. It's actually a required activity, and while technically the mother bit of it is optional, YEAH RIGHT if I'm going to disappoint my son. No way. Remember my first rule of parenting? Thou Shalt Suffer. So I was going on this camp if I liked it or not. (And those who are long-time readers of this blog will know that no, I don't like it, and yes, I did this very same thing about 2 years ago.) (I'm an awesome Mum like that.)

A few weeks ago when he told me about it he also mentioned that this camp was different to the last one because it was "intense." As we all know, I don't DO camps, and certainly not intense ones, so I asked him for more information. "Are we going on a really long and muddy hike? Abseiling? Learning to live off of rations? What on earth can be intense about a 3 day mother and son camping event?" "No, Mum, I didn't say it would be intense. I said it would be IN TENTS."

Which pretty much makes it intense, doesn't it?

A couple of days ago we got the driving instructions for this camp which went something like this: go down the highway for an hour, blah blah, turn left at the dirt road, yadda yadda, drive 1.2 km down the dirt road to the postbox and turn left, etc etc....and drive very carefully through the dirt and potholes and sheer cliff faces until you see the large green toilet block, which is what we are camping next to. So if you find the toilet block, you've found your home for the next few days. That there are toilets at all, I'm grateful for. That I need to SLEEP right next to said toilets...well, yeah, this is going to be one intense weekend, isn't it? Intensely smelly, I'm guessing - and that's without the combined forces of 18 pre-teen boys out in the woods.

So as you sit in your warm home, reading this post by the glow of your lovely laptop, I'm probably shivering my ass off in a muddy field, wishing like hell they do not start from 100 for "100 bottles of beer on the wall" and surrounded by THOSE mothers we know I love and adore. Once I've endured all of that, I'm going to crawl (back groaning, hip protesting) into my very small tent (which apparently is a '2 man' tent, but I never met a man taller than 5'0" who fits in one of those, or is thin enough to get in there with somoene else as well) and try to fall asleep on the cold hard ground, only to be woken in the morning to do it all again, with probably only a cold, wet, muddy hike to look forward to.

Spare a prayer for me, okay?(and here's hoping some good blog fodder comes out of it.)

Thursday, March 1, 2012

A limp carrot and a soft stick

My Dad used a pretty simple child discipline system - and not a terribly original one - of applying "the carrot or the stick?" question to just about everything. In his case, the stick was fairly literal in so far as it wasn't unusual for one of us to get whacked, and the carrot was pretty much the 'prize' of avoiding getting whacked. I can remember being called in to see my Dad and him saying, "I have two ways I can deal with this. The carrot, or the stick? Which one would you prefer?" - which was his attempt at governing by fear and making you immediately own up to whatever it is you had done. In my case, I didn't get into trouble much - never snuck out, did drugs, disobeyed, broke curfew or ran around with boys...I was boring in that respect, but my big mouth and inability to shut it are what mostly got me in trouble. (Big surprise there, right?)

This week I got a phone call from school about DS, who decided that being a disrespectful pain in the ass was a really good way to endear his teachers to him. Sadly his logic was somewhat flawed, hence why I got a phone call. The school was calling just to tell me about the situation, NOT because they wanted me to take some action specifically (and because my IL's, who volunteer at the kids' school, had seen DS spoken to by a teacher, and they did not want word to get back to me from a source I would not appreciate. Damn, that school is good.)

Anyway I thought about how to deal with this for a long while, and I went through the seven stages of pissed off parenting: Incredulity, Irritation, Resignation, Anger, Consternation and finally Sharpening of Verbal Knives. I eventually decided that I was going to be irritatingly NICE to DS, but that I'd perhaps give him my OWN version of the carrot and the stick.

We sat down, DS and I, and I told him a bit about my Dad's method, and how I didn't really like it all that much, so I was unlikely to use it on him (cue: sigh of relief.) I then went on to tell him that in every life decision we make, we can choose if that moment is going to be a carrot moment, or a stick moment. We are in charge of deciding how we're going to behave in any given situation, and we can decide which of those two things we want more of. I went on to explain to him (because he loves food, so I had to relate it somehow) that if you had a life filled with sticks, you might be warm but you'll go hungry. If you had a life filled with carrots, your belly will be full but you might also get a stomach ache from eating them all raw - so in food as in life, it's really about having the right recipe to keep things tasting great. I don't expect (nor do I want) a Stepford Child. I just want a kid who is pretty great most of the time, but human enough to be stupid or pissed off or silly once in a while...and having made that decision, owns up to his 'stick' moments and moves onto more carrot ones.

I didn't yell, stare at him with my laser eyes, lecture him or even make threats I cannot keep (which is one of my MOST hated parenting styles and it makes my hackles rise when I hear other parents doing it). I just calmly sat him down and he and I had quite a friendly chat. I made it clear that his behaviour was HIS choice, but so too are the consequences. I also pointed out that he has quite a lot of carrots already - and, blessed with such abundance, why on earth would he want to lose any of them? (Namely those carrots known as guitar lessons, Scouts, late night reading privileges and so on.)  To me anyway it seemed a little foolish to go swapping your carrots out for sticks.

He's a frighteningly clever kid (and not just because I think so) - so he understood me perfectly, including the very loud subtext of "I'm watching you, kiddo, so watch yourself. Closely." We got to the end of the story and I just left it with, "Listen, kiddo, I don't expect you to have a life of only carrots. You're just a kid, and even us adults do a whole lot of stupid things sometimes. The difference is when you do something stupid, be smart enough to accept the consequence, and then move on. Don't bury yourself under an entire pile of sticks. If nothing else it can be a little hard to breathe under there."

...and then we went onto revising for his vocabulary test. And life as we know it continues, and I can only hope that I got through to my boy.

This afternoon, I got a phone call at work. "MUM!" screeched DD2 (she needs to make a grand entrance, even in a phone call) "We're home! When are you coming home? Oh and DS says to tell you he had a carrot day with only one stick, but I KNOW what he did and I think that was TWO sticks worth!"

No points for guessing who the next kid to get the carrot and the stick talk will be. Being a dobber is a definite stick behaviour.