The Strawberry Shortcake Situation

Charlotte had brought the house down with a fantastic speech on lamingtons. Her mum had even brought in the classic Aussie dessert to share with the class. This week’s speech topic was “my favorite fruit” and not to be outdone by Charlotte and her lamingtons, Kenna decided to bring in some culinary bribery of her own.

She started work on her upcoming oratory six days ahead of schedule, meticulously making note cards and rehearsing endlessly in front of the mirror and any live audience that was willing to sit through her spiel on the joys of strawberries. The clever speech included descriptive diatribes, questionable facts, eye contact, and impressive vocal stylings. This was an A+ waiting to happen. All she needed was some culinary support and perhaps a carefully planted slow clapper at the end to intensify the electrifying response she was sure to receive.

To showcase the strawberry we settled on an all-American confection–Strawberry Shortcake. The novelty alone would win the hearts and minds of the natives.  I utilized imported Bisquick to create the pastry and purchased copious amounts of fresh strawberries from Harris Farms to make the ambrosia filling. I whipped fresh cream into a frenzy for the finale. The speech and its shortcake counterpart would no doubt become the stuff of legend. I finished the masterpiece with minutes to spare and headed to Roseville Public with Aunt Leslie and Chaylee to deliver the goods.

Leslie and I arrived just early enough to quickly assemble the shortcakes. Fortunately, the children were still in the main hall enjoying a bit of dance, so we had ample time to work our magic. We layered the tasty morsels in small plastic cups, leaving room for a dollop of cream. They looked beautiful and tasted even better. There was the small problem of having limited cutlery, but Leslie and I determined that most first grade classes came equipped with some form of plastic utensil for occasions such as this.

We could hear the children in the distance and the melodic though strained voice of Mrs. Burnside* leading the way.

“Come now children. Don’t run! Hats by the door! Take your seats! Quietly please…quietly 1B***!”

Kenna’s eyes widened with utter delight as she saw her precious strawberries displayed gloriously in the clever little cups! Her mates gathered round excitedly to see what “Kenna’s Mum” had brought them. They were clearly impressed.

“Mom, I will put on the whip cream as a demonstration okay?” I nodded with maternal confidence. I had done it. I had taken her speech from here (insert hand motion) to here (repeat hand motion with increased elevation).**

Mrs. Burnside approached and offered Kenna the option of going first or last. It felt like the coin toss at the beginning of a big game.

“First please.” She replied.

That’s my girl!

Kenna delivered her speech brilliantly and without error, and before I could deliver the slow clap, I was called upon to help serve-up the big finish. It occurred to me, however, as I approached the table that some key planning had not taken place. I had not brought napkins, nor had I addressed the cutlery issue with Mrs. Burnside.

“Mrs. Burnside, I only have 11 forks. Might you have some available?” Her already palpable stress visibly increased. “No, but you may be able to find some in the faculty lounge, Mrs. Pasley.” She was passively displeased.

I quickly ran out the door to do some fork finding while Kenna placed uncomfortably large portions of whipped cream onto the shortcakes. Meanwhile, Mrs. Burnside, noting our lack of serviettes, asked Max to run to the back of the room to collect paper towels. I raced back from my successful mission to find Mrs. Burnside crouched uncomfortably near Kenna and Aunt Leslie holding back nervous laughter on the sidelines. The children were hovering over the table of treats like little pugnacious vultures, fighting for flesh.

“I want that one!”

“I don’t like strawberries! I just want cake!”

“I don’t like the cake, I just want the cream!”

“I’m hate strawberries!”

“I want the big cup!”

“No, I get that one!!!”

“Mrs. Burnside, how would you like us to proceed?” I said, hoping some leadership would emerge amongst the chaos. I don’t think she heard me. She continued to attempt to bring order, correcting individual student transgressions like a flustered nanny.

Since the speech was only supposed to take three minutes, and it had already been nearly ten, I decided to just start handing out the cups randomly, not realizing that the napkin situation had not been brought under control. Max was running around aimlessly near the paper towels, clearly not meeting his objective. Leslie intervened but it was too late. The children had begun to eat before the utensils and paper towels had been distributed. That’s when things got ugly.

Mrs. Burnside was beginning to unravel—she was like a mildly deranged Mary Poppins.

“Sit Down! Place your rubbish on the table! I said, sit down! That is NOT where that cup goes. Place your rubbish on the table! Be more careful please. Sit down 1B!”

Strawberries were being strewn across the newly cleaned carpet and haphazardly crushed into the grey threads by wandering school shoes. The red chunks of pulverized fruit were accompanied by bits of shortcake and entrails of cream. Many a school uniform was compromised as well. It was a disaster. The clever little cups were no match for the little uncoordinated consumers.

Aunt Leslie offered to address one of the stains on the floor. Mrs. Burns accepted her offer with a sort of righteous indignation. I cowered in the back, intermittently eating left over shortcake, while frantically cleaning off sticky cutlery. I could over hear Mrs. Burnside instructing Leslie to address additional stains like she was Jane or Michael Banks. Apparently, there were many. Despite the guilt of knowing she was on her hands and knees scouring the floor, I could not make eye contact Leslie, knowing that one look would send us both into a hysterics. How could it all go so horribly wrong?

We collected our rubbish and left over samples and headed quickly for the door before Grace’s speech on Rock Mellon got underway. Evidently, she had samples too.

Words of the Day:

Rhyming Slang

Good thing I was not Pat Malone (alone) when I got into froth and bubble (trouble). Ta Les.

Poll:

Have you had any classroom debacles as a parent or child that you would like to share? Because I would like to hear them.

Points of Interest:

* Mrs. Burnside is not her real name. I decided to use an alias to protect her virtue.

** This famous saying is a Carolee classic but must only be used in conjunction with the    suggested hand motions

***Classes at Roseville Public are referred to by their year followed by the first letter of    the teacher’s name. 1B thus stands for Year One-Mrs. Burnside.

Family Not-So-Fun Fact:

We have been evicted. The landlord wants his land back by then end of November. It’s going to be an interesting Christmas. Maybe I can find a nice stable to give birth in. Looking forward to the life lessons that are coming my way. Or that’s what I am telling myself in between sobs. No really. I am okay. Not really. No, really, I am. Sort of. Hopefully this situation will get funny soon too.

Where the Streets Have No Name

 

We’ve come a long way, Mike and I. Six months ago, we were navigating the Sydney suburbs with little more than a stroller and an atlas. Three months ago, we purchased a vehicle and drove sparingly; gripping the wheel at 10 and 2 like petrified high school students on the first day of Drivers Ed. Today, we both are capable of eating a burger, talking on the phone, grabbing an unruly child by the ankle and steering simultaneously. How is that for progress?

But progress brings with it challenges of it’s own. An increase in confidence has led to more driving excursions, and it doesn’t take many of these to discover that Sydney is cruel.

Would you like to take a right, Heather? Shut up. You will turn right when I say you can and that won’t be for another 10 kilometers!!!!

Oh, did you make a mistake? Would you like to turn around? NO! Now turn off your blinker before I force you onto the freeway.

Oh…you didn’t want to get on the toll infested freeway? Too Bad. Pay up Beeyotch!!!! And when you figure out how to turn around and head back the other way you will pay again…..mmoooohahahahaha moooooohahahaha!

Oh you need to turn left? You want to be in the left hand lane? Oh you do?Okay…..PARKED CAR!!!

Mike finds the random parked cars that pepper the left lane particularly irritating. Legendary tirades have ensued after near misses with said cars.

And then there is the issue of navigation. I am convinced that google maps is against me and my family. Not sure what we did to anger Mr. Google and his map making minions, but they seem to want us to be permanently lost. It has gotten so ridiculous that Mike and I have decided to always find our selected destination a day ahead of time.

“Hey honey, let’s go to the drive-in”.
“Okay, we’ll drive there tonight and go tomorrow”.

Today, I took the girls to Bi-Centennial Park in West Pymble. There are about four Bi-Centennial Parks in Sydney. Just like there are 18 Macquarie Streets, 12 Warratah Roads and 32 Victoria Avenues. Fortunately, I did my homework and found the park I was looking for on (dun dun dun) google maps.

Google thinks it funny to say things like, “Exit toward Ryde”. No street name. No Exit number. Just a suggestion. If I knew where Ryde was, I would go toward it. It reminds me of how my mom gives directions

“Go West.”

“What? I have not a compass! Left or right woman…left or right!”

The rest of the directions were less vague but completely wrong. I relied soley on my Gregory Guide (cousin of Thomas) to get me there. And you know how conveient ancient map navigation is while driving. Greg and I worked together and got us there though. Good on ya Greg.

TAKE THAT GOOGLE MAN!

Kenna Quote: Context-When I could not find the play area at the park we spent a half an hour trying to find. “Mom, it’s okay. Strawberry Shortcake says that hill is more than just a hill it’s a possibility. You add skill and love and that’s how a garden grows.”

She has been throwing out a lot of gems lately. Yesterday she said she loved me because I make her feel like she has glitter and bows in her heart. She also told me I was pretty like the “Queen of Israel”. (stunned silence) That’s awesome.

Chaylee quote of the day: Momma. Momma. Mommy. Mom. Momma. Momma. Mommy. wasssisiss ticka was he he dada ha.

Shout out to my man: Mike was named Foreign Driver of the Year when he took on a two lane round about at night during rush hour without breaking a sweat. Cool as ice, that man. Cool as ice!

Word of the Day: Fair suck of the sav! : exclamation of wonder, awe, disbelief.
Fair suck of the sav, I am where the streets have no name!

Trivia: It is World Youth Day here in Sydney. The Pope is here presiding over the largest Mass in Australian History this morning at Darling Harbour. I had no idea the Pope was such a Rock Star. The youth were beside themselves. It was a lovely spectacle.

 

Thoughts on parenting and coolness


Most of my time these days is dedicated to preserving two human lives. My goal is to provide my offspring with the best childhood memories possible. If all goes well, they will still like me when they leave the nest and need minimal therapy. 

The rest of my time is spent trying to run our household. Since Mike (God bless him) has been been confined to a desk from dusk till dawn ( such is life in a penal colony) the onus has been on me to keep things running here on the home front. Those of you who know me well, know that my administrative skills are only slightly better than my track and field abilities. And domestically, I really only have one gift and that is cooking. I can cook the bee-jeebies out of a hunk of meat, but cleaning up the pan after the fact is a hell I try to avoid at all cost. And then there is the art of laundry. I am sort of a Jackson Pollock in that regard. I like to sort of throw a variety of color in the wash and see what comes out. Mike (God bless him) will not actually let me near his garments. I think he just doesn’t understand my genius.

I have learned some very valuable life lessons from my time at home with the wee ones though. Particularly from my oldest…since she is the only one that is currently speaking a dialect I am familiar with.

Lesson 1: Any argument can be won by using made up words.

Me: Kenna, I need you to put on your shoes, it is the last time I am going to ask you!
Kenna: Mom, I am in the middle of a “constrination” so I cannot listen to you right now!!!
Me: (stunned silence.)

*Unfortunately, this method only works on people your own age or older.

Lesson 2: Fake plans will get you out of anything. I call this maneuver the Crane. There is no defense, if done properly.

Kenna: I want to go to Joan’s house.
Me: I am sorry Kenna. Now is not a good time.
Kenna: Mommy please, I want to go and have a chat!
Me: Kenna, you can go tomorrow honey.
Kenna: (tears) But, mommy, tomorrow I have a wedding to go to and a meeting! I can’t go tomorrow!!!!!!
Me: (stunned silence)

Lesson 3: Life is like a sitcom

Kenna: What is going on in this show mom?
Me: I am not sure. I didn’t watch it last week. These shows are kind of like chapters in a book.
Kenna: My life is like that. Each day is a chapter. When I wake up in the morning I decide if it is a good chapter with my behavior, or a bad chapter, or a sad one or a boring one. It is like God, writing the bible. He’s writing a book about me.
Me: (stunned silence)

Lesson 4: Singing a song can chase your blues away.
Sometimes I find Kenna standing still with her hands by her sides and her eyes half closed singing. It is almost always one of three songs: Tomorrow(Annie), Silly Dreamer (Strawberry Shortcake), or I’ve Gotta Go My Own Way (Troy and Gabriella). I have even caught her on a few occasions at the park after pre school…alone…singing…eyes half closed. I once asked her why she did this. She explained that it made her feel better if she was feeling sad, lonely or left out. I too use this method now; although I am struggling a bit with song selection. Don’t Stop Believin is a shoe in. The other two slots are still up for grabs. Chaylee has already adopted her sister’s mood adjustment method with a couple of minor alterations. She prefers to make up her own songs and she usually throws in some rapid arm movement just to mix things up.

Lesson 5: Its harder to be cool when you have kids.
Sometimes I miss my own youth. I realize 30 is the new 12, but there is something about being in my thirties that makes me feel like I can’t dance anymore. Maybe it is because when I shake it these days, Kenna politely asks me to stop. Or maybe it is because of generation Y and their cyber judgments. I watched some hip-hop videos from my school days on youtube one afternoon (Thank You Julie) and made the wretched mistake of viewing some of the comments made by chronologically challenged individuals. One youngster referred to Ralph Tresvant’s “Man With Sensitivity” as an oldie. WHAT? “Unchained Melody” is an oldie. “Louie,Louie” is an oldie. Hits produced by New Edition and it’s former members are not!

I digress.

I just want to be cool forever. Which brings me to my next life lesson!

Lesson 6: It is possible to be cool forever.
My best friend in Australia is Joan Karrad. She is 88, semi immobilized by mild CP and arthritis and still, she is the coolest person I have encountered in the whole of Sydney. She is clever, kind, funny, empathetic, fearless, faithful and bold. Everything I want to be. I refer to her as “my old lady”. Kenna refers to her as “cool”. I guess there is hope for me yet.

Poll: What songs would you select if you decided to use the Kenna Pasley mood adjustment.method?

Fun Fact: * In 1832, 300 female Convicts at the Cascade Female Factory mooned the Governor of Tasmania during a chapel service. It was said that in a “rare moment of collusion with the Convict women, the ladies in the Governor’s party could not control their laughter.”

Phrase of the day: galoot: a foolish person
The older I get the more I realize what a galoot I am.

*I realize that at a glance, my fun fact for the day has nothing to do with parenting or life lessons. But consider this: when you feel imprisoned by a monotonous life; when you are incarcerated by day to day responsibilities; when it seems no one is on your side…

moon someone.