Sparkygate 2017

The Sparky costume lives in Janitorial Closet #2.  It is an uncomfortably small room, but well organized and unsuspicious–like a telephone booth. It’s never easy to put on the 5-piece orca costume, which comes with a faux tummy attachment to make Sparky extra huggable, but it is even more challenging when three of your children are with you asking questions and trying to help.  However, I thought it might bring some levity to an otherwise tumultuous morning of missing shoes, compromised lunch boxes and poor time management to include the children in my part time gig.  It worked. Soon we were laughing and hugging in the snuggly little closet — even deciding on a theme song for Sparky’s entrance. Ki suggested Back in Black.  Finally, we had achieved unity.  Nothing can bring people together like mascots can, except maybe Field Day…

We opened the door and exited “the phone booth” with slow motion swagger like Resevoir Dogs –ACDC playing on my phone in the background, muffled by my fuzzy fin.

Our first encounter was with my daughter’s Kindergarten teacher.  Her enthusiasm was palpable, appreciated and just what I needed to get really pumped up. Pictures were taken. High fives, “or fins” were exchanged. It was time to head outside…

Get ready kids. I thought. It’s Field Day–and Sparky came to play.

The Pasley kids went to their respective lines, proud of their mom and their school.  Abel,  a Pre K graduate, was my handler. We walked lockstep out onto the blacktop, where students mingled in haphazard lines awaiting the bell that would usher in Field Day fun.

The Kindergarteners were the first recipients of Sparky’s friendliness. They gently waved their little innocent hands and requested hugs from the lovable whale with subtle gestures, like outstretched arms, and doe eyed stares. I was in the zone.  Clever dance steps, and strategic fin placement communicated school spirit and tenderness all at once.

Damn, it feels good to be a mascot.

IMG_9002

As I moved beyond the lines of Kindergarteners, more and more children approached like a tide coming in. This wasn’t my first rodeo though.  I had a handler.  Sure he was less than four feet tall, and no where to be found, but, I knew he was out there somewhere. Perhaps even surveying the situation and seeking out an adult or two who could help out if things went off the rails.

IMG_8933.JPG

I felt a dorsal fin pull here and there as the crowd grew, but knew that came with the territory.  I am sure the Mariner Moose has had a child or two test his antlers. It wasn’t until, all the recipients of my mascot merriment were eye level, that I realized the demographic had changed. These were not students who wanted a little Field Day inspiration from their friendly neighborhood whale, these were older kids who were hell bent on discovering Sparky’s identity.

They begin to press their pre pubescent faces against the black screen that protected my personage.  Worse yet, their morbid curiosity became a challenge to one another. I took up defensive position against a thin white pole and looked for an adult while the diabolical boys batted at my head shouting out clues to one another.

It’s a girl!!!  They shouted as they caught a glimpse of my pony tail.

They pushed and pulled at my second skin, laughing maniacally. The heavy whale head bobbing up and down on my shoulders. I was drowning.

And then…

It happened…

Sparky got decapitated.

My sweaty head, and tousled hair sat naked atop the fuzzy whale costume in the middle of the populated playground of stunned children. It was like an episode of Scooby Doo.

A demonic voice came out of me that had previously been reserved only for difficult parenting situations..

“HEY!!!!!!! UNBELIEVABLE BEHAVIOR!” I screamed, Orca head in hand.

My eyes began to fill with tears as I looked around the school yard at all the the horrified faces.  My cover was blown. Worse yet,  I had broken the only hard and fast rule of mascotting (outside the handler height requirement) –never let them see you cry.

I placed the shamed whale head back over my own and walked toward Janitorial Closet #2, leaving in my wake a viral tale that is sure to live in elementary school lore forever.

Where were you when Sparky lost his head? They’ll say.

God knows I will remember where I was…

 

________________________________________________________________________________________

*Thank you to Ms. H., Kindergarten Teacher of the Year, who let me walk around her empty classroom in a headless killer whale costume venting after the incident. I am sure the simultaneous laughing and crying was a little unnerving. Thanks for the “We Love Sparky” chant too.  It restored my faith in humanity, and made my retirement less traumatizing. 

**Please leave comments that detail what you would have said when your head came off.  I am pretty disappointed in my lack of creativity in that moment. 

 

IMG_9007

***Sparky Out

 

 

 

 

Truth or Blog Part 1 — Stand up at the Comedy Underground.

“I have never done this before in my life.”

I told myself I wasn’t going to say that.  I sure as hell wasn’t going to lead with it…

The darkness had clearly thrown me. The audience was lost in the black.  A sharp light pointed down at me, causing me to pace restlessly back and forth in front of the iconic brick wall backdrop.  I was trying frantically to connect emotionally with the shadow people. First through a confession or two then with impressions, all the while clutching the mic stand like a safety rail. I thought it might stabilize my nerves and keep me funny till it was safe to depart the stage, but I couldn’t seem to stop manhandling it.  I have held a mic in my hand a thousand times for more musical reasons and never been so attached to the stand itself.

I quickly introduced my go to characters Texas Dance Mom , Ukraine Mom and Delores before being gently nudged off stage by a little musical number they use if you are oblivious to the giant red light, “time is up” signal. I guess I was too busy feeling up the microphone stand to notice.

I have been told there was much laughter, but I could hardly hear it over my howling insecurity. All I could do in the aftermath, was pick myself apart.

Why did I declare myself a novice? Why was I so nervously mobile? Why did I treat the mic stand like a Latin dance partner?  Why did I use the pork chops at a bar mitzvah joke? It’s not good and it’s not even mine.

The head of Four Square Youth Ministry  in the 90’s was a man with a penchant for the theatrical with a scant cache of go to jokes.  My favorite being the one he used whenever he wasn’t getting laughs from the Christian teens he wanted to win over, which was often…

“Well, that went over like pork chops at a Bar Mitzva!” The youth leaders would howl in an effort to  declare their knowledge of contemporary Jewish customs.  The kids never really got it.

It is a solid joke though when used correctly.  Sort of like the Crane.

I did not use it correctly. I used it like a place holder.  A go to that gave me time to think.  It was more like when Daniel Larusso used the crane a second time.  It might work in a regional tournament against Johnny but don’t even think about it if you are fighting someone protecting their honor in Okinawa.

In spite of my uninteresting opening line, the unintended youth pastor plagiarism, the inappropriate touching of the mic stand, the time management problem, and the part where I had too many glasses of wine at the end of the night and ended up crying in the car , I think I would still call it a success. I made some people laugh, mostly family, and I didn’t die trying.  Guess I can knock that one off the bucket list.

Next Challenge:  Date night with Sparky

Fun Fact:  I think I enjoy improv more than  stand up.  It was much lonelier than I thought it would be up there.  Any ideas on where I can test my improv chops?

Question of the Day?  What is something you have always wanted to try? No seriously, I want to know! Tell me all about it.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Bill Me

“I found this on the floor by my bed.”

Chaylee came shuffling down the stairs in her absurd, over sized pajamas carrying a piece of notebook paper with the word SKOR scribbled across the top and a mysterious swirly object in the center. We examined the enigmatic mound and placed our bets on what it might be.  I settled on semi dried acrylic paint of the alizarin crimson variety.  To prove my theory, I gave it a gentle poke.

“That’s not paint!  That’s not paint!”

A trickle of blood poured from the base of the innard.  Whatever organ it was, it was fresh, warm, and licked clean.

I realize that cats are hunters, but this was some next level Dexter nonsense. Not only did Bill drag the carcass of a freshly slain rabbit across the sleeping bags of slumbering children, leaving tufts of fur and bunny blood on their innocent little sleeping bags, but he then set up a coroner station by the shoe bin. I am surprised we didn’t find fava beans and a nice chianti in the toy kitchen.

Bunny, bird and rodent death had become commonplace. Especially throughout the lower levels of the house. So common, in fact, that over time all four of our children had slowly migrated upstairs to avoid accidentally stepping on bird feathers or fur balls with bare feet in the morning.  That’s what made this gruesome discover even more depressing. It was gutting to see the last bastion of bedtime peace be turned into a bunny morgue. Where on earth would the kids sleep? Would their cousins ever want to stay the night again? It was as if Bill was claiming more and more land and raising a creepy fur pelt flag over each room he deemed his.

This was not the first time I had witnessed a hostile take over of humans by an animal.

It was 1985. We were headed to Mount Rainier with Uncle Kenny and his dog, Sport. Mom and I sat in the back of the sedan with his ill behaved black lab, taking in the Bob Ross painting that had come to life outside our windows. Stevie Wonder serenaded us, via cassette tape and all seemed right in the world.  I think we would have figured out alternative travel arrangements though, if we knew Sport was prone to nausea.

We were about a half an hour into our ascent up The Mountain toward Paradise  when Sport begin to slowly thrust his head back and forth rhythmically, as if he were really, really enjoying the music. He wasn’t. Sport was not feeling  well.  A gutteral utterance was followed by a deluge of dog vomit.  Fumes filled the sedan as his quasi digested Alpo sunk into the carpet.  We rolled the windows down and found a place to pull off and problem solve.  We did away with as much of the regurgitated dog food as we could with Sport’s help. Apparently, dogs are down with with snacking on their own vomit.  Who knew?  His appetite was promising, and we did not want to disappoint the rest of the familial caravan, who were farther up the road, so we continued our journey–windows down.

We turned Stevie back on. The sun was shining. Sport seemed okay.

Until he wasn’t.

Once again, he moved his head back and forth like the Jackson 5. This time I knew he wasn’t just into music. The volume of vomit was extraordinary.  It was as if he had consumed an additional meal without our knowledge during the previous pull over. His aim seemed strategic–blanketing the swatch of carpet adjacent to his previous purging. Not very thoughtful Sport. Not very thoughtful.

We looked for a place to pull off, but without a shoulder, our options were limited. It felt like a sick joke, especially when he threw up again on the last stretch of clean carpet in the back seat and then again on the seat above it.

 

 

The stench in the car was no longer tenable. Kenny pulled over at a convenience store and threw up in a rusted garbage can outside the very rural mini mart. My mother,who was born with a overly sympathetic gag reflex, dry heaved vociferously along side him.  The hills were alive with the sound of vomit…I looked on with a churning stomach and visible concern.  The adults no longer seemed in control of the situation.

Once the laughter and intermittent purging died down, we bought a green tree car freshener and returned to the contaminated sedan.  We would clean up the car as much as humanly possible and hunker down on the only seat left in car void of vomit. We were gonna get to Paradise to meet up with the family if we had to go through hell to do it.

We arrived over an hour late, looking shattered and smelling like sick dog. Sport, however was suddenly cured. He frolicked through the wild flowers like a wayward teenager on Spring Break, looking surprising agile and alive after a bender.

Although the K-9 used biological warfare and the feline went the traditional route, utilizing senseless violence, both taught me a valuable lesson. Animals are capable of corralling humans for their own nefarious purposes. You’ve been warned.

Fun Facts: A year after Bill’s passing we discovered an abandoned kitten in some shrubs across the street. Her name is Meridah the Brave.  She is kind.  We got her a buddy named Leonard.  He is weird and orange and uncomfortably into humans. We think he might be one. RIP Bill.

An additional fun fact: This is my last cat blog. I felt I owed it to Bill to complete the blog trilogy about his life. I feel  bad that I ended it with a fascist feline overtone, but to be honest….he deserves it.

Challenge of the Day: I don’t want to be a mom blogger. I don’t want to be a cat blogger. I don’t want to be a mom with two cats blogger. I used to only write about moments of humiliation or awkward struggle.  So, perhaps I should seek out more of those.  If you think of a challenge you would like me to take on, please let me know.

Examples:

Go out to dinner as Sparky, the Marvista Mascot.  Yes, it’s true. I am the Orca. I mascot on the side as a service to my children.

Try out for the Seagals as Tonya, my Texas Dance Mom alter ego.

Your turn_______________________________________

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Wild Bill

I am over it.

I am.

We are in the middle of a hard core renovation and the idea of negotiating dead vermin, night stalking and leg wounds might lead to bad things happening to cats and kids. I am at capacity. Capable of little more than what is currently required of me. But, I keep my promises, and I promised myself and others that I would tell Bill’s story.

—————————————————————————————————————————————-

She approached me while I was juggling a baby and a toddler in the shallow end of the pool and fielding “Mom watch me!” requests from multiple directions.  I was clearly vulnerable.

“You look like a nice family.”

Dang it. I needed a compliment at that very moment. I should have known she was just grooming me.

“We just got this ADORABLE kitten and my daughter appears to be allergic to him.”  The kids began pleading immediately and out came the pictures.  This woman was good. He was curled up in a ball on a lovely little girl’s lap. It was like a high end cat card.  He looked annoyingly adorable and in need of a home.  Curse you Sara McLaughlin and your guilt.

It didn’t help that the kids have been pushing hard to get a dog for some time now.  You know, because it is such a good idea to get a dog shortly after you have your fourth child.  The pressure to adopt a K-9 had recently intensified.  “Why we need a Dog” presentations were becoming fairly regular. Typically these presentations included facts, breed comparisons and powerful dog photos with the occasional testimonial and sometimes crying. The pressure was getting to me, but there was no way in hell I was getting a dog anytime soon. But I had not ruled out a cat.  They seemed easier.  Moody and stand offish, but less likely to prevent me from going on vacation.

I told the nice lady we would think about it and we exchanged numbers and niceties.She immediately texted me some sensitive shots of Billy the kitten.

I sent them to Mike.

Bad idea. He replied.

Usually when Mike says something is a bad idea, it is.  In fact, this has been a theme in many of my previous posts.

-I can’t handle a dog. We have kept the goldfish alive for over a year. I think we are ready for a intermediate pet. The lady said we look like a nice family.

You fell for the “nice family” trick?

-Yes.

I am going on record, that this is a bad idea. But if you want to take on a cat, go for it. But you will own this decision. It will be your cat not mine.

I took his naysaying as a sort of challenge. A Marlee and Me, Turner and Hooch  — can you bond with an animal in a cinematic, heart warming sort of way– challenge. In hindsight, it is clear to me that those movies are about dogs and not cats. In fact, I cannot think of a movie about feline bonding…can you?

Bill arrived concerned and skiddish, with a bin of fancy toys, a plush bed,expensive food and name brand kitty litter. The hand-off was awkward. They didn’t seem as sad as I thought they should be.

When they left, so did Bill, down the stairs and to God knows what nook. I had pictured us snuggling with our new little bundle of kitten like the girl in the picture. Maybe some yarn play would go down. Instead, the clearly unstable kitten took off before we could even lay a loving hand on him.   Later, I learned this was my fault.  Apparently, kittens are supposed to be put in a very small room for a week or two to acclimate to their new surroundings.  Being claustrophobic myself, this idea never entered my mind.

———————————————————————————————————

The screams came around 2 am.  Startled, I rolled out of bed and smacked my head against the wall.  Mike snored on.  I ran downstairs to assess the danger and discovered Chaylee and Kenna hiding under their covers with the light on.

“What happened?!” I said holding my throbbing head.

“Mom, look out!” They screamed in tandem.

I turned around and there was Billy, crazed, hair on end, back arched, paws pointed, tail erect, side-winding toward me and break neck speed! I ran to the bed and jumped under the covers.

What have I done?,

We peeked out and he was gone. I began my advance toward the door and THERE HE WAS AGAIN!  Halloween cat from hell flying at us sideways!

I was back in bed with the girls.

After several attempts, I was finally able to wrangle Billy, not without injury, and place him in the bathroom with the door shut.  I stayed with the girls till they fell asleep, for they were no longer excited about the cat but terrified.

This event was foreshadowing. Billy continued to terrorize the house utilizing the cat and dog doors that came with the property.  He would attack the children and guests. He was not warm but fearsome. We stopped calling him Billy, for the cutesy, do-gooder name did not suit him. He became Bill, William, and sometimes Chunky the Death Cat (Ki’s favorite).

He would do strange things too, like drink the fish water but not eat the fish. He would just drink their water down  enough to make them uncomfortable and then stare at the poor bastards.

He was weird and maniacal.

Once, we took a little jaunt down to The Cove for some family fun.  As we headed down the hill at approximately 15-20 miles an hour, a neighbor frantically flagged me down.  I slowed to a stop and rolled down the window assuming there was something wrong with my vehicle.

“Your cat is on the roof!”   And he was.  His claws dug into the metal like an Alabama tick.

“Never seen that before.” Said the neighbor.

Bill loved the car. But, usually he only rode on the inside. He frequently accompanied me on trips to the grocery store. He would perch on my shoulders and only relax once I turned up the music. It would have been sort of endearing if it wasn’t so creepy.

My mom had a particularly troubling night with Bill whilst babysitting.  He would not stop leaping onto the bed and attacking her while she slept, so she locked him in the garage and put suitcases in front of the boxy little exit the previous owners cunningly added to the house. He breached the barricade and continued his assault.  She locked him in the bathroom. He scratched and batted at the door all night long.

We arrived home to a shattered and exhausted Grandma, not because of the four children, but because of the cat.  Her calves looked like she had gone traipsing through the brambles.  And she was not the only one to have this experience. After spending a night with Bill, Aunt Leslie simply said, “Fuck that Cat!”

The most frightening incident however is one so unbelievable that it may bring into question my integrity as a story-teller. But, I assure you this is not feline folklore.

Abel was bathing and I was watching a documentary on netflix so as to make the folding of clothes more palatable. Bill liked to sit on the computer sometimes, perhaps to warm his undercarriage.  This was annoying, but not atypical behavior for a cat…until….

I peeked in on Abel, who was joyfully playing with measuring cups in a couple inches of warm water, then returned to my domestic responsibility which included, once more removing Bill from the keyboard.

This time however, netflix had been mysteriously replaced by a google tool bar…and within that toolbar was the text:

@&#@(@%$^&*^killing mice***

W…T…F  Just sit with that for a minute.

Bill googled killing mice.

I looked at the screen in absolute horror and called Mike at work.

He was unavailable.

I left a message.

Mike!  HONEY!  There is crazy shit going on here! *  I am freaked out. Bill just googled killing mice.  Call Me. I am freaking out. Bill is scary. We need to get rid of him.

He heeded my cry for help by circulating my message throughout the trading floor at Russell Investments.  Bill, unmoved by my panic,  turned away slowly and hit up the fish tank for a drank like a G. He had busted a cap in my sanity.

Google had no response to my repeated request for an explanation.

In the words of Spinal Tap, “Some mysteries, are just best left unsolved really.”

Next up:  Bill Starts “Killing Mice”.

Send Me the Bill

I couldn’t stop crying. Intimate crying. The kind you only let a few people in your life see due to unsightly swelling.  The kind that won’t stop and makes others uncomfortable, unless they are cat people.  Fortunately, they all were.

“I think he is done. I think he doesn’t want to do it anymore.  I think he wants to be done now. ” I said between sobs as I approached the desk holding our cat.  Bill writhed and whimpered and took in only hard earned breaths–his bones  visible through his fur coat. All the piss and vinegar that made him the cat from hell, our cat from hell, was drained out of him, a fighter without without a ring, only a blanket.

This melodramatic scene would have been perfect for a Marlee and Me cat spin off.  Especially since my tears were dripping with irony. I hated our cat. Not a malicious hate.  Not like I hate suffering or cruelty. More like I hate the 49ers or warm milk. He was not likeable. He was mean to me, my mother and pretty much everyone else too. He ruined our sleeping arrangements.  He caused me and family bodily harm. He was aloof. He hijacked my computer. And then there was his awful habit of murdering local wildlife.

We weren’t exactly his dream humans either.  He came from a wealthy family.  A family that purchased him intentionally and lavished upon him accordingly.  A family without small children and loud music. A family with an organized garage and clearly labeled bins for everything. A family with cat allergies.

———————————————————————————————————————————————————————————-

“You fell for the you look like a nice family”trick? Don’t do it! You don’t even like cats!  This is a bad idea.  I will let you decide, but if you say yes…he is your cat.”

Mike was right. I am not a cat person.  At all.  I have had several downright traumatic experiences with them throughout my life.  Scritty Palitty the Kitty, our first cat, was an arsonist. He knocked a lamp over on my parents bed that led to our home nearly burning down when I was 3 years old.  Scritty survived by hiding under the house.

Mike had a cat when we first started dating that hated me.  Her name was Cora.  She had a negative attitude and made me feel bad about myself.  I think she also made his parents question my integrity.

Then there was Maggie and Tanner.  Before I married Mike, I lived with his lovely sister and my dear friend, Kate.  The aforementioned cats were hers.  Tanner was socially maladjusted. He ate and hid.  Hid and ate.  He was weird, emotional and orange.  It wasn’t right. I was always afraid that one day I would come home to him listening to the Cure.  Maggie had a more interesting personality, but was reckless.  She destroyed several of my most precious belongings including a set of teacups that belonged to my great grandmother. She never apologized.

This tumultuous history made it all the more surprising that I fell victim to flattery that day at the pool, when the wealthy family with cat allergies offered us a kitten named Billy.  Maybe I needed affirmation that day. After all, I was a new mother of four and not exactly swimming in confidence. Maybe I just wanted to know that I was capable of loving an animal.   Maybe I just needed a story to tell…

 

Coming Soon — Part 2 : “Mom, He’s Scary!”

Bed and Butter

She had a rash.  She was tired. She was miserable. She wanted to sleep but couldn’t. 

Our other three children were also in need.   One was emotionally distraught over an upcoming jog-a-thon, another was not happy with  her bedtime attire, and our young son was attempting to suplex anyone that crossed his path.

When all offspring are in need at once, I find the triage approach to be helpful.  The rash was clearly the most  life-threatening issue, followed by the suplexing toddler and the jog-a-thon situation . The pajama problem would be dealt with last if at all. So, with a plan in place, I headed to the rash victim’s room. I applied a salve to the affected region, all the while cursing the bargain Easter dress whose lace was likely to blame. Next, I dealt with the baby wrestler. A bottle did the trick. It kept his hands busy and his mouth closed.  Problem solved. Back to the rash. Her anguish was untouched by the salve, so I hit up the freezer for the trusty, all powerful ice pack.  Unfortunately, we had no pack, just ice.  Chaylee, the afflicted one, loves to eat ice, so I searched for some frozen vegetables to use instead.  None were sealed.  The alternative solution? Frozen butter. We had loads of it and she hates butter, so there would be no danger of her ingesting the cure. I said a prayer, kissed her goodnight  and promised to pick up the butter after dealing with the jog-a-thon problem–by then she would surely be asleep.

I am not sure what woke me. Perhaps my maternal alert system picked up a needy presence in the room. Or maybe it was the rhythmic thud of a child flying up the stairs at mind boggling speed to avoid the nothing behind them.  I can’t be sure, but when I opened my eyes she was 6 inches away from me, standing sternly by my bedside. 

“What is it honey? Did you have a bad dream?”

“No,” she replied indignantly.”I’m covered in butter!”

As my eyes adjusted to the subtle light from the alarm clock,  I could see that she was indeed glistening. It was 2am. She had been rolling around on two sticks of butter for hours, slowly melting them with her body heat until she was fully glazed like a self basting turkey.  

I took her to the bathroom as she cried. “I hate butter!!!!” 

I attempted some fun word play to lighten the mood and hide my shame. 

“Nothing like a little bed and butter.”

No laughter, just tears.

“You’ll feel butter in the morning,” I quipped.

More tears.

After a thorough scrub down with warm rags and barrage of hugs and apologies, she was back to sleep — in our bed of course. Hers was smothered in butter. At least the rash was gone.

Poll: What food would you rather not find yourself sleeping in or on?

Family Fun Fact:  Mike slept through this debacle. He learned of the incident by looking for his favorite pillow in Chaylee’s room. Didn’t see that one coming did ya Mikey?

In other news:  This is my first blog attempt since departing my beloved Australia.  It feels weird. But, I needed to get this story off my chest, and I thought it might help other mothers feel butter about themselves.

 

 

 

There and Back Again — A Pasley Tale

It’s a lovely world

Up, over and under.

Same stars that we all call ours

To look upon and wonder

Good to see another point of view

Good to show my daughters

Courage can kick start a heart

Scared of crossing waters.

Still I think it serves us leaving what we know

Though there may be days when my heart gives way

To the pulling undertow…and I want to go home.

My sister wrote this song for me before we moved to Sydney.  I used to sing it to myself when I felt lonely or lost or on the wrong side of the road.  It was such a gift–such a comfort.  But Australia no longer feels  foreign to me.  It’s not just the birthplace of Crocodile Dundee and animals that want to kill me.  It’s where Chaylee learned to walk and talk, where Kenna learned to read and ride a bike, where our baby girl, Kiama took her first breath.  It’s home. Wild kangaroos and wombat roadkill, kookaburra wake up calls and startling cockatoo cries,  crushing waves and God painted sea shells, the seductive curves of the Opera House and the  iconic arch of the Harbour Bridge….they all  feel like my natural habitat now.

In fact, it has taken a while for the pointy evergreens of Washington to feel natural to me again. The mountain still takes my breath away, but the dark green waters have taken some getting used to.  The chill in the air doesn’t feel quite right yet either.   But, in the words of the great Australian singer, song writer and wise sage, Josh Pyke,”when the city that you’re from makes a stranger of you, you know you’ve been away too long.”

So, though I have avoided writing this final chapter, I think it time.

Many blog worthy stories from our journey never made it to cyberspace.

Like the time I slipped on a cruel patch  of seaweed at Mona Vale whilst wearing a bathing suit in front of the only man in all of Australia, other than Mike Pasley, that ever attempted to chat me up.  My landing was hard,  awkward  and painful–my ending pose, unfortunate.  I tried to put the gentleman at ease with my spill by making light of my injuries.  He was concerned for me. That made it worse. Much worse.  I was so glad to return to the arms of my husband who is more than happy to laugh with me when I bite it.

Then there was  the time  a young woman working the phones at ABC Carpet Cleaners made me cry when I nervously called with a customer service complaint.  She hated me and my stupid request for better service.  She told me to never call again. I called her a big jerk.  I think she worked at the Artarmon Post Office too.  Hey, blondie…if you are reading this, put your manners back in.

And we can’t leave out the infamous Roseville Public School Art Auction and Fundraiser where Mike was coaxed by a teary wife into purchasing an unsightly map of Australia decorated by Kenna and her fellow first graders for $350.   I was in charge of the project. My original vision involved, through the eyes of a child, style photography and some simple framing.  This concept soon evolved into a large map of Australia decorated with homemade post cards created by the students.  It devolved into a grotesquely large particle board collage of muted coloring pages pasted on a background of hard to read “hand-written post card” entries.  The night before the auction I attempted improve upon the deteriorating design by framing the individuals drawings with some exotic red sand we had collected from our journey inland to Dubbo.  I thought that would give the final product an, if you will, rustic motif.

What emerged was a humiliating hodge-podge of kid art in smeared dirt frames stuccoed onto a now irreparably contaminated canvas. It was a lost cause. My dirty map would have to go to auction. That’s when I started crying.

It really wasn’t that hideous if you considered it “child art”, but the other class pieces were definitely outsourced with only peripheral ankle biter involvement.  One class even constructed a 5’4 wishing well out of stones from the playground.  It sold for over one thousand dollars.  As it should have.  Thanks Mike for buying the dirty map of Australia.  I’m sorry it had to come to that.

On a side note, the fundraiser was amazing. Those Aussies really know how to invest in public education.  Among the door prizes;  a win your height in cases of beer raffle, and a vasectomy.

I don’t believe I blogged about my frightening encounter with an angry bird either.   I was walking to Jane’s house one sunny Sunfay afternoon when suddenly a deranged bird of prey repeatedly attacked the hair I had bundled on top of my head.  No one warned me to avoid nest like buns during magpie mating season.  After the assailant’s fourth sortie,  I was able to take up defensive position utilizing a book I had brought with me.  Unfortunately,  I dropped several creative expletives in front of Jane’s neighbors during the assault, thus bolstering my already tarnished reputation.  (See the Chicken Situation– https://heatherpasley.wordpress.com/2009/07/25/jane-says/ ).

Another favorite was the accidental bikini car wash drive-by on the way home from the hospital after having Kiama.  No woman wants to sit at a stop light observing scantily clad, childless women in their twenties caressing muscle cars just after she has given birth to her third child.  Mike and I got a good laugh of out the juxtaposition,  then I gave them the bird…in my heart.

And an honorable mention goes to Chaylee’s surprise performance of “poker face” at her final ballet lesson before an audience of puzzled parents.  The whole experience was a bit more subversive than I had anticipated.  The lyrics suddenly became crystal clear, as if I were hearing them for the first time.  What once sounded like gibberish, sounded downright inappropriate.

I won’t tell you that I love you, kiss and hug you

Cause I’m bluffin with my muffin…

What the?

It was like Little Miss Sunshine but with  improvisational, and if you ask me, superior choreography.

Another gem worth a nod came by way of the International moving company that packed and loaded all our worldly possessions.  Evidently our belongings were not very impressive.  “You sure you want to bring this?” “This is garbage”  “You need three barbeques?”  ” Why you have this?”  His choppy English  cut deep.

There are many more stories that deserve a paragraph or two but the time for closure has drawn nigh.

I never knew when my sister shared that song with me nearly four years ago that home would become more of a feeling than a place.  Perhaps she knew that would be my fate…that one day I would long for the Southern cross as much as I once longed for the Fourth of July.

Feelings they come

Then they go like a dream slept by

Can’t remember why I cried so hard

Staring up at the sun swept sky

Another day of finding love

Forming bonds and virtue

Fighting fear and finding recompense

F0r all the things that hurt you

Still I think it serves us leaving what we know

Though there may be days when my heart gives way to the pulling undertow

And I want to go home

Final Poll

What does home mean to you?

Aussie word of the day:

Australia:  The land derived it’s name from the Latin term Terra Australis which means unknown land of the south.   The original Spanish name for the Land Down Under was La Australia del Espíritu Santo which means, “the southern land of the Holy Spirit”.  That is perhaps my favorite.
Family Trivia

I went indoor skydiving in August to celebrate my dear friend Michelle’s birthday. I came away with a shoulder injury.  After a month of continuous discomfort I decided to go to the doctor.  I knew he would want an x ray so I went ahead and took a pregnancy test to satisfy my conscience when I confidently checked the “not pregnant” box.

It’s a boy.

Crouching Tiger, Hidden Baby

All we wanted was one last Australian road trip.  We never meant to deceive anyone. Is it even possible to lie to an inanimate object anyway?  A website has no soul.   It knows not the  difference between a lie and an omission. The book now button doesn’t care if we exceed occupancy requirements?  So, the Tree Motel only accepts parties of 5 or less.   Babies can’t party.  Nor should they.  And should babies even  be considered occupants?  At four months, Kiama doesn’t occupy more than a onesie.  She is more like a growth than an occupant.  And so it was decided.  We would book the Tree Motel and declare our most diminutive family member at check in.

We arrived under the cover of darkness and realized quickly that the Tree Motel may have occupancy requirements for a reason.  It was a linear rambler with no more then 10 small units surrounded by gum trees and a subsequently compromised pool.

Mike lost a round of scissor, paper, stone and headed into the lobby to pick up the key.  I gladly stayed in the car with the ladies, grateful that I would not have to be the one to break the news about the size of our party.

Mike looked bewildered as he reentered the vehicle after check in.

“What happened?”  I asked.  “Did you tell them about the baby?”

He laughed nervously and shrugged.

‘It never came up.”

We parked in front of our humble unit and quietly came to terms with our dilemma.  We would either need to come clean right away or hide the baby for the duration of our stay.  Ethel and Stevo, the motel managers sat in rocking chairs outside the lobby which  doubled as their living quarters.  And since the lobby itself was a central and unavoidable  feature of the motel they had a birds eye view of our comings and goings.   It was as if the hotel itself was designed for surveillance.   This would make camouflaging the babe decidedly more difficult.  But just as we decided to live in the light and confess our omission, management called it a night and headed indoors.  Our decision was made.  Kiama would remain undeclared for the night.

The room was narrow and filled to capacity with deteriorating furniture, leaving little room for free movement…or luggage. Three beds were juxtaposed against the walls like Tetris pieces.   I could practically hear the catchy electronica theme song as we snuggled into bed.  In fact, the Slavic rhythms plagued me all night, reminding me of our deception.  There are five of us!  Tetris.

I was haunted. What if Ki woke up and was inconsolable?  Would our cover be blown?  Would we get a knock on the door? Would Stevo get cross?  Would Ethel never trust Americans again? It was unlikely that they would send us packing but dirty looks were a real possibility, as was a “you lied about the infant” tax.

I knew my anxiety was a bit excessive but, I  live to avoid awkward moments and I could feel one coming.  Also, I had recently lived through a bad experience with a disgruntled property manager (See When Harry Met Pasley) and did not wish to create anymore ill will amongst the villagers.  It was still a goal of mine to add America to Australia’s Most Favored Nation list.  Not that we could ever beat out the Canadians.  (They absolutely LOVE Canadians in this country.  What is that all aboot?)

The next day, we decided to get an early start.  We wanted to see as much of Narooma as possible,  whilst avoiding any unplanned run ins with management.  But, our efforts were thwarted by the unbearable kindness of our hosts.  They came out to meet the family when they heard us preparing to leave.  I stayed inside the room with the baby, unsure of what had been revealed.

Ten minutes…20 minutes…it seemed like an eternity. It was almost as if they were toying with us.  Trying to break us down. Finally, they gave up and headed back to their porch… or as I liked to call it….the observatory.

Mike stood in the doorway.

“Did you mention the baby?”  I asked.  He looked at me somberly.

“It never came up.”

And thus, our mission became clear.  We would hide the baby for the duration of our stay.

It was like the  Born Identity.  Our entries and exits had to be carefully executed.  One of us would create a diversion, while the other rushed the car seat to and from the Pajero.  Coughing fits accompanied crying spells. And since Ethel doubled as the cleaning lady, we  had to carefully conceal our cache of infant paraphernalia. The baby capsule was obscured  by “personal items”. The box of diapers became a  suitcase stand. The suspense was constant–palpable.  We could never be certain of what they knew or did not know.

As our stay at the Tree Motel came to a close we were tempted to reveal the child in some regal display as if it were all just a grand illusion intended to entertain the motel guests.  But, there would be be no climactic end to this sordid tale.  Instead, the kindly couple we double crossed came out to wish us well.  They never mentioned the clearly visible baby sleeping in the back seat. Neither did we.   I felt like we had been playing spy games with innocent civilians.

Awkward.

……

Poll

Should a baby be considered an “occupant”?

Family Factoid

We also visited the nation’s capitol, Canberra (pronounced Can-bra) . We did not mention the baby on that leg of the trip either, but the size of the hotel we stayed in made that omission less controversial.  Canberra is absolutely beautiful.  A bit contrived, but glorious nonetheless. I even got to have my picture taken in front of Parliament House with the SIGNED John Howard book Mike got me for Christmas. (Picture coming soon)

Family Factoids Continued…

We spent Easter in an RSL Club (think local casino meets Dennys). Might be time to come home.

Australian Trivia

It is next to impossible to find white eggs in an Aussie grocery store. Hence, dying eggs is not an Aussie tradition.  Instead, Australians eat OBSCENE amounts of chocolate eggs, chicks and bunnies.  Not sure how the chocolate ties into the resurrection–or bunnies and chicks for that matter.  Your thoughts?

————————————————————————————————————-

 

When Harry met Pasley

I should have known better.

Apologizing in this country is futile.   In fact, it is seen as a sign of weakness.  Instead, Australians say “no worries” when they do you wrong.  Somehow this is supposed to prevent the wronged party from worrying about the transgression.  Mike has embarked on  many a comical  tirade on this very issue .   And yet, I have continue to employ my Americana apologetic strategies when dealing with Aussies.  It’s in my nature.  At least, it was.  Then I met Harry.

We  accidentally booked the wrong dates for our Easter/Anzac road trip.  Worse yet, we paid the full balance when making our reservation at the Wharf Apartments in Narooma. I apologized profusely to Harry, the Property Manager, when attempting to cancel the reservation.   When I suggested that the cancellation protocol was a bit unclear and requested 50% of our deposit back,  in accordance with the policy, Harry got personal.

He used aggressive CAPS and emotionally loaded punctuation!!!!  I am surprised he didn’t throw in a emoticon with devil horns just to twist the knife.  He hated us and our stupid mistake and let us know that we were incompetent, irresponsible and unworthy of reimbursement!

I am not sure why Harry was so angry.  Maybe it was because he “wrote the policy” and felt like I was insulting his knowledge of contractual language.  Perhaps he didn’t take kindly to foreigners.  Or maybe he went on a bad date with Sally and failed to have what she was having.

Whatever the cause, I was dumbfounded by his  rage at our request to be partially reimbursed.  All I could think to respond with was, “I don’t like the tone you are taking with me”  so I handed off the task of negotiating with Dirty Harry to Mike.  And he delivered.   The man whipped up a retort that made him sound like he practices contract law on the side just for pleasure.  He used legal bonus words like, clause, tariff and restitution.   We got our deposit back, but not before being cyber bullied for weeks thereafter by Harry the scorned Apartment Manager. Maybe he and Eileen should go bowling?

Australia Rock-Narooma

Words of the Day

Have a Blue: Have a fight.

Mean As Cat’s piss: MEAN!!!!!!

We had a blue with Harry who was as mean as cat’s piss!

Fun Facts

We never actually got to stay at the Wharf Apartments. Or any other fancy apartment for that matter. Instead we stayed at the Tree Motel which included free instant coffees, an ash tray, 80’s VHS rentals and a parking spot near the “lobby”.  Read Crouching Tiger, Hidden Baby for further details.

Poll

Have you ever had a customer service representative take your cancellation policy questions personally?

Since My Baby Left Me…

Some things seem like a good idea at the time.

Speeding.

Chocolate.

Reorganizing your sock drawer.

Exercising with your children…

———————————————————————————

Kiama lights up a room.  She smiles on command. She sleeps like a teenager.  She has a healthy appetite.  She even waits in her bouncer politely while I finish the dishes without making me feel guilty.  In other words, she is the ideal baby.  Her only flaw is that she turned my abdomen into a deflated pool toy.  She also caused instability in my pelvis. As a result, my hips don’t lie they just  hurt like hell most of the time.

Fortunately, I got onto the problem early thanks to repeated visits to the physio (Physical Therapist) shortly after giving birth. Lately, I have been feeling great.  Which is why I thought it would be a wonderful time to try and get rid of the pool toy.

But how?

Kiama isn’t a huge fan of the pram (stroller) nor is she quite old enough to enjoy a creche (childcare) hence power walking or attending an aerobic class is not an option.

So what does one do?

The answer came to me in a moment of great distress. Kenna and Chaylee were careening through the house at top speed running into walls and furniture.  Despite my cries to cease and desist, they continued using our home furnishings as leverage and each other as inspiration.

And then it occurred to me–if you can’t beat them, join them!

No one has more energy and stamina than young children. If I could tap into that power source, perhaps I could not only get the exercise I desperately needed but I could quench their desire to destroy property while simultaneously being an engaged parent void of rage.

It seemed like a really, really good idea.

We each chose two high energy songs a piece.  We then took turns leading one another in aerobic activity for the duration of our selected song.

Chaylee was first to lead.  She started by holding herself up off the ground with one hand while jutting her right leg at a 90 degree angle in the air, and from there it got worse- high speed jumping jacks, ergonomically incorrect push ups, extreme lunging and summersaults off the couch.  I knew it was  high impact–dangerous even, but I was committed. I mimicked her every move with precision.

Kenna’s routine was slightly less crazed but equally challenging. Her approach was more like a bitter PE Coach that always wanted to go pro but instead ended up in a multi-purpose room berating 8th graders who were unable to do the backwards roll in tumbling class.

I can’t tumble okay!  You happy now Kenna?

When it was my turn to lead I gave the girls a taste of their own medicine. My moves were fierce, repetitive and complicated. They required skill and rhythm and adult size appendages.

What’s up now kid…huh?  What now son?

We ended with some collective stretching and breathing exercises.  All in all it was a success. I had some minor aches and pains, but I was proud of the sweat on my brow and the time I spent with my kids.

Because of the success of my first aerobic endeavor with the girls, we decided to have another go the next day.  But, this time Kiama’s legacy became apparent.

Chaylee, once again, started her routine with her extreme one armed power stance, but this time my pelvis turned into a heartbreak hotel. I was in agony from the downbeat.  Every move was a challenge. Every haphazard sit up seemed ill advised.  I felt like an old woman. But, still I pressed on. I begged Kenna to go easy on me but she was merciless.  Soon, the pain was too much and I had to give up the fight and put my pelvis to rest.

As a result of my awesome idea, I am now disabled. I am unable to walk normally.  I cannot sit, stand or roll over with out guttural utterances. I am no longer capable of picking up any of my children without a shriek or grunt.  I currently sit on an ice pack when I drive and moan when I put on pants.

It really did seem like a good idea at the time.

Words of the Day:

Good Oil: Good Idea

Old Girl: Mother

It seemed like good oil, but this old girl just can’t keep up with her ankle biters.

Family Trivia:

Mike did warn me that my awesome idea might end badly.

Poll:

What was your best idea gone wrong? Tell me.  I really do want to know.

Australian fact that has nothing to do with pelvises or exercise.

If an Aussie asks you if they can nurse your baby do not be dismayed. They merely want to cuddle the child, not breast feed them.  I wish someone would have let me in on that little gem a bit sooner.

Previous Older Entries