Posts Tagged ‘children’

smallglowYesterday we awoke to find Sydney bathed in a seriously eerie orange glow. Gale force winds had blown this dusty soup in from the west of our state. The day before, despite little water, this dirt had been trying really hard to grow our vegetables, so this colourful gift from mother nature pleased neither us nor our farmers. It was estimated that about 4000 tons of top-soil sprinkled down on Sydney alone and caused much mayhem as it did so. Planes and ferries were all cancelled, air-conditioners blocked up and many asthma sufferers rang 000 (our emergency number) to report severe breathing troubles. Even indoors you could smell and taste the dust and today the big clean up begins. Yes everything is covered in a red haze.

I took these photos in our street at about 7.00am and they show precisely what it was like yesterday morning. The last dust storm like this to hit Sydney, was back in 1939. As I pulled open Rodent Boy’s curtains and let the weird orange glow wash over his room, he leapt to his window, and noticeably struggled to make sense of this once in a lifetime event. In response to the inevitable “What the..?” I teased him it was ‘the revenge of the Rangas!’ Rangas is an Australian colloquialism for red-headed people, short for Orangutans. For a second he believed me.


If you’d like to see more pics taken by other people in Sydney click here


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Rodent boy slept on the floor last night, away from his bed and cuddled up closely to Muppet Dog. When I asked him why, he said it was because Muppet wouldn’t get up on to his bed, so he joined him on the floor. As cute as this is, it also highlights why we got the dog in the first place. As our children pass through that invariably tricky adolescent phase, the mutual unconditional friendship animals provide, can be so helpful. So, when one of our kids occasionally ‘hates’ us for some trivial reason, Muppet Dog is still likely to be able to gain access to their bedroom for a cuddle. Ultimately, and without wanting to sound too melodramatic, this interaction could, we believe, potentially cushion them from spiraling into depression or other behavioral problems. Now while I’m not overly worried this will be an issue for us, it can and frequently does become a problem for many families.

We waited until Rodent Boy reached seven years old before we got Muppet. Being the youngest child, and assuming the dog lasts the full term, Rodent will be nineteen or twenty years old (adult anyway), and so better placed to deal with the passing of what has rapidly become a fellow sibling. Having a sensitive teenager dealing with the death of a dog-brother could, we thought, make a difficult time even harder.

“So what dog should we get?”
I said enthusiastically one morning just after Rodent’s seventh birthday.

“Look, I really, really don’t want a dog.” said Working Mum. “They shed hair, they fill the garden with poo, they bark all the time, they need exercising, they chew everything… Do I need to go on?”.

All valid arguments of course from someone like her who’s never had a dog. But what she was failing to appreciate, was that like children, dogs always give back far more than they take. After much research, I finally found a breed that I felt met everyone’s criteria, Working Mum included – well except for the poo bit, they all do that.

“The Australian Labradoodle!” I proudly announced to the family at dinner.

This ‘designer dog’ came about when in the early 1980s Wally Conran the breeding manager of the Australian Guide Dogs Association in Victoria had the idea to cross a Poodle with a Labrador Retriever to produce a hypo-allergenic guide dog. A lot has happened since then, not all of it good. With the rise in popularity of this breed every Tom, Dick and Harry has been crossing Poodles and Labs in their backyard in an effort to cash-in. Unfortunately, 87% of first cross puppies will shed hair and therefore not be hypo-allergenic and some very strange looking dogs have resulted. Thankfully however, a handful of breeders in Australia are working very hard to refine the breed and they believe that it will only be a few years before the required criteria is met for it to become a recognised breed with the Kennel Clubs around the world.

So what’s so special about Labradoodles? Well to start with, they’re great looking dogs. They have no doggy odour, seldom, if ever, need bathing, and of course are a Godsend if, like us, you have any allergy or asthma sufferers in the family. They have a vivacious nature and a joy of living. They have a unique and delightful way of ‘melting’ at the touch of a human hand, even when bouncing around and full of play.

We got Muppet Dog from CloudCatcher Labradoodles about two and a half years ago and he is without doubt maturing into a mighty fine young man. He’s a fifth generation Labradoodle and I have since met both his parents, a couple of his grandparents and an uncle. Several of his siblings were dispatched around the world, a couple to the US, one to Denmark and one to Germany. I’ve now just about got used to cars driving past us slowly with excited young occupants staring longingly out at him. Women too, often just stop me in the street and initiate meaningful conversations. [Sigh…] If only I’d had him a few years ago!

Money will buy you a pretty good dog, but it won’t buy the wag of his tail.
Henry Wheeler Shaw

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Arrggghhh! I hate school holidays! Why do they always coincide with large paid jobs coming in with impossible deadlines. Today I have a 32 page magazine to design, two over-active boys to entertain and it’s going to be 35°C/95°F. Said boys are currently arguing with each other while allegedly watching The Simpsons. It’s an episode I’ve seen myself five times, and I don’t even watch the show. They must know it word for word. No wonder they’re distracted.

Yes, Soldier Boy is safely back from Army Cadet maneuvers and after picking him up from school yesterday I began the task of assimilating him back into civilian life. I can’t begin to tell you how dirty he was, having crawled around the Australian bush in the same clothes for six days. So camouflaged was he, that just walking in through our small garden I lost him twice.

As anticipated, he was on a high to be home, extremely chatty, full of his adventures, even the odd dance step. Lovely in fact. Then just one hour and a long shower later… BANG! He turned into the grumpiest, most lethargic, rudest teenager from hell. Talk about Jekyll and Hyde. I knew why of course, he was utterly ratted! Suspecting he had probably only had about 18 hours of sleep all week, I sent him off to bed. I didn’t see him again for another 18 hours.

‘Delicious coffee thanks. Must dash, see you later. Don’t work too hard today.’ said Working Mum planting a tender kiss on my cheek.

She’s right about the coffee. I do make a very good coffee. Only because I take the trouble to understand how the machine works and keep it spotless. It’s not a particularly flash machine, although it does have a full-size group head and twin thermoblock for you home baristas out there.

So here I am… loads of work to do, washing to hang out, two boys to entertain, a hot panting dog masochistically looking at me for a walk and a coffee machine to clean.

What the hell am I doing writing this?

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‘Come here you!’ said Working Mum seductively grabbing at my belt and pulling me down towards her on the bed. It’s amazing how she loses all her inhibitions when we are away without the children. Not that I’m complaining or anything…

The birthday itself got better, but no thanks to the pathetic total of two and a half birthday cards. The first was the usual one from my elderly mother – yet another dirt bike flying through the air. I’m not sure if she thinks that’s what ‘boys’ like, or whether that’s all her corner store sells, but she’s been giving me variations on this theme since I was five. It’s a shame I haven’t saved them, as collectively they might have made an interesting collage of motorbike development.

WM’s card was very English in humour and made me laugh out loud. It simply said.

It’s your birthday
and quite honestly,
you’ve never looked
better. Well, obviously
you looked better
a few years ago but
what can you do?

And thirdly there was the usual hurried hand-drawn affair signed by all the children. ‘It means so much more Daddy, because we made it.’ Hmmm!

Along with some great birthday presents from WM, such as a new stainless steel container for holding all our cooking utensils, there was also an exciting ‘all expenses paid’ two nights away in a posh hotel in the city. Alright there was the little compromise of her having to attend a conference all day yesterday, but it was still a nice thought to take me along. Two of our children are away at the moment so it only meant finding someone to take on Rodent Boy and Muppet Dog which proved easy because it’s school holidays here in Sydney.

Princess has gone to Nouméa in New Caledonia on a ‘school excursion’ where she is supposed to be only speaking French for the whole week. Well that’s the plan anyway. ‘Un autre Coca-Cola s’il vous plaît’. I don’t know if she realises how lucky she is. When I was at school, if we went six miles up the road to London Zoo we felt lucky, and it felt like we’d been to the Moon and back.

Soldier Boy is away somewhere deep in the forest on Army Cadet maneuvers. I don’t think they give him a gun, at least I hope they don’t. I think the emphasis is more on fitness, survival, singing monosyllabic songs as they jog and annoying the hell out of the Australian wildlife.

So unencumbered, it was off to the city for our ‘part-time’ romantic rendezvous. The accommodation was indeed luxurious, but clearly the least romantic hotel room I’d ever seen. It was dominated by a large passion killing businessman’s wooden desk and matching leather chair. I immediately assumed they’d run out of rooms, given us the manager’s office and just put a bed in it.

Seeing my dejection resourceful WM soon initiated ways of using the desk which are far too intimate to discuss here, but needless to say, none of which involved any kind stationery. It occurred to me during one of these saucy sessions, that this desk probably gets utilized a lot in this way. I have to say, by the time we checked out, I’d really come full-circle on the room and it’s desk. I’d definitely stay there again!

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