Saying “I love you” with Weetbix

Weetbix as an artform? Breakfast is never just breakfast at our house. It’s an opportunity for whoever gets there first to leave a Weetbix artwork for the other. And given my general dislike of mornings, it’s usually the Carnivore leaving gifts for me.

Some mornings it’s a simple stack, or a triangle. Stonehenge is a popular choice, though sometimes it looks more lik Pi, with a bit of a lean on one of the legs.

Here’s a typical Stonehenge:


Occasionally we have a flying Weetbix bird. Or maybe it’s a biplane. What do you think?


And then there is that elusive beast, the Weetbix bridge. This miracle of balance and engineering is the rarest of masterpieces, often sought, but rarely achieved. Both the Carnivore and his apprentice, Baby Duck, were celebrating success when I came out for breakfast the other morning.

I present to you: The Weetbix Bridge


It occurred to me the other day that relationships are full of Weetbix bridges—little things that people do for each other, for no other reason than to make the other person smile. Silly little rituals that only have meaning for the people involved, that are just another way to say “I love you”. Relationships, particularly longstanding ones, are full of in-jokes and personal histories that make them unique, and it’s capturing exactly these sorts of things in writing fiction that can make characters appear to be real people.

And besides, they’re fun! Do you have any little personal rituals, any “Weetbix bridges”, of your own? Share them in the comments!

Does my butt look big in this???

The Carnivore was sorting washing when a horrified look came over his face. Horrified and really guilty.
“I’m so sorry,” he said. “I put your running shorts through the dryer and they’ve shrunk. I thought they’d be okay! I’m really sorry – I’ll buy you another pair.”
The Carnivore has a bit of a history of poor choices with laundry, like the time he put my handknit top in the washing machine and the sleeve unravelled all around the agitator. Or the time he washed a brand-new red T-shirt with the whites, and the “whites” all became “pinks”.
Mind you, I’m not complaining. I have a husband who helps out a lot with housework, which is great. The occasional ruined item of clothing is a small price to pay. I’m merely telling you this to set the scene.
His apologetic guilt was so amusing I was very tempted to let him suffer, but I’m not that heartless.
“It’s all right, honey. Those aren’t mine.”

Drama Duck has a pair of running shorts just like mine – only a lot smaller!
He was one relieved husband.

Of love and ransom notes

Before February slips away completely, I want to point you towards
 You can see why I love him. Ridiculous man. He was so proud of himself.
Don’t worry, no cute white bears were harmed in the making of this extortion attempt. He took the bear to a local craft shop and asked the lady behind the counter to make him a matching ear. When he explained why, she was so amused she added blood stains and didn’t even charge him.
Certainly a memorable Valentines Day, if a trifle … unorthodox. My husband – the last of the true romantics.
What about you? Do you have any good Valentines Day stories to share?

Happiness is …

Happiness is being reminded what a great guy you married.

Being an old married couple, the Carnivore and I haven’t celebrated Valentines Day in years. It’s too commercial, we don’t need a special day to say “I love you” – the usual reasons. Occasionally we might give each other a card if we happen across one that’s insulting enough (I was tempted this year by one that said They say opposites attract. Happy Valentines Day from your intelligent, beautiful and amusing wife) but usually the day slips past with no acknowledgement.

But …

This year at the girls’ school they had a scheme whereby, for the princely sum of $2, you could buy a rose for a friend and have it delivered during roll call. There was much excitement and planning of who was buying roses for whom. All would have been well, except they underestimated the number of people wishing to buy roses.

Demon Duck came home devastated. She’d managed to order a rose for her new best friend, but they’d run out before the friend could get her one in return.

“I’m not going to get a rose on Valentines Day!” she wailed.

You might imagine this wouldn’t be too much of a problem, since she’s never received a rose on Valentines Day any other year either, and managed to live through the experience. But she was really quite disappointed. Briefly I toyed with the idea of buying her a rose myself, but a) roses are hideously expensive on Valentines Day and b) I’m a cheapskate, so that idea didn’t fly.

I decided to do something more in the original spirit of the day. I gave each family member four red paper hearts and told them to write a loving message for each other member of the family. We sealed each person’s messages in an envelope to be opened and read out at dinner on Valentines Day, so we could all hear the nice things we’d said to each other.

Satisified that Something Was Being Done about Valentines Day, I thought no more of it, and was taken completely by surprise when I came out for breakfast on the day and found this:

The Valentines Day fairy had been and left me a beautiful bunch of flowers, a single rose for each girl, and a beautifully wrapped present for Baby Duck (which of course turned out to be a box of lego).

Demon Duck was thrilled that she got her rose after all, and I was touched that her thoughtful daddy had taken in all the lamentations on the subject and decided to do something about it. It was such a sweet surprise. He’s so sneaky! And obviously not as much of a cheapskate as his wife. I think I shall keep him.

As for the messages we wrote each other, they were a lot of fun too. Some members of the family cough cough demon duck cough couldn’t quite get the hang of being unreservedly nice, and had to get their snark on. For example, her note to her dad began “I love how you think you’re so funny even when you’re not”. Others, like Drama Duck, crammed whole heartfelt essays on to their little paper hearts.

Baby Duck’s note to me said “You are the awesomest mum in the whole known galaxy”. Can’t do much better than that, can you!

Hope you enjoyed it too, if Valentines Day is your thing. And if saying it with flowers doesn’t appeal, maybe next year you could take a leaf out of the Carnivore’s book and try saying it with lego instead. Guaranteed to make an impression on the small boys in your life.

‘Twas the night before Christmas

… and all through the house, not a creature was sleeping. Except Baby Duck, who’s worn out from the elevated levels of anticipation. The other two ducklings are lying in bed talking and giggling, despite repeated warnings that Santa Will Not Come until they’re asleep.

It’s now 10:30 and looking like being a looooong night. A little while ago I even threatened to stop Santa on the doorstep and tell him to take all the presents away unless they go to sleep Right Now Dammit.

“Yes, Mummy,” they say through their lying little teeth, then start giggling again before I’ve even made it all the way back down the corridor.

I can’t believe it’s Christmas again already. It feels like only a few months since we did this all last time. Where did that year go?

We went to church tonight, to avoid the rush in the morning. Ha! Us and 57 billion other people. Still, it was a children’s mass and very sweet, with a real live baby – a very fresh one, judging by the size of it – playing the part of the baby Jesus. So cute, though I don’t think I could have done it if it were mine. I’d be busy picturing the 10-year-old Mary dropping my precious bundle.

However, no babies were harmed in the making of the pageant, so it all worked out. The Carnivore sang with his usual gusto and inaccuracy. In Hark the Herald Angels he sang “late in time behold Him come / offspring of the Virgin’s wum”.

“What?” he said when I gave him a funny look. “Womb doesn’t rhyme with come. I always want to sing thumb – or something even worse …”

Is it a sin to laugh in church?

I hope you all have a lovely Christmas. And if you have children, I hope you get some sleep and that the sun is actually up when your little ones bound in full of excitement. Though I know it’s a pretty faint hope. Kids will get excited about Christmas, even if it only feels like three months since the last one to the rest of us!

The soul of an accountant

I was amusing myself trying to write haiku yesterday. There’s a local haiku competition coming up and I thought, why not? I’ll give it a whirl.

I remember writing haiku at school when I was about Drama Duck’s age. Back then, of course, it was all about the physical structure: the three lines of five syllables, then seven, then five again. I doubt my teacher even mentioned the finer points of nature/seasonal imagery or the way a haiku captures the essence of a moment, gives an unexpected insight. If she did, I certainly wasn’t listening!

I found a gorgeous definition of haiku, itself a haiku, on the haikuoz website, by a bloke from Perth called Andrew Lansdown:

“Haiku are pebbles
poets lob into the pond
of our emotions.”

So I was sitting there, scribbling away, counting syllables on my fingers, when Demon Duck asked me what I was doing.

“Writing haiku,” I said.

“Oh, we’ve done that at school,” she says, with all the lofty confidence of a nine-year-old. “I’ve written 16.”

Then she looked over what I’d written, counted the syllables and said, “That’s good, Mum, you’ve got it right.”

Next up was Mr I-don’t-have-a-poetic-bone-in-my-body, aka the Carnivore.

“What are you doing?”

“Writing haiku.”

“What’s that?”

Maybe that nine-year-old confidence wasn’t misplaced after all. At least she knows more than her father about haiku.

After I’d explained haiku, including how they’re usually about nature, he said:

“But you could write them about anything, right? Important things, like tax?”

Later in the evening he came to tell me he’d written one, grinning from ear to ear. I present it here for your edification.

“Transfer pricing,
Thin capitalisation,
Tax office pressure.”

He is such an accountant.

A family of comedians

I am living with a family of comedians.

Evidence the first:

Baby Duck had a haircut on Friday. Our friend who was cutting his hair asked if he’d like hair the colour of hers, but he declined, saying her colour looked old. Pretending outrage, our friend said, “Just wait till you’re forty! I’ll tell you ‘hey, you’re looking pretty old now’.”

He said, “And I’ll say ‘you still look older than me!’ “

Evidence the second:

Someone who shall remain nameless, but she’s my middle child and her name starts with Demon and ends with Duck, defaced my menu board while I was out yesterday.

(What, doesn’t everyone write the week’s menu on a whiteboard in their kitchen? What do you mean, I’m anal?)

She had carefully written up the menu as follows:

Monday: takeaway
Tuesday: takeaway
Wednesday: takeaway
Thursday: takeaway
Friday: takeaway
Saturday: takeaway
Sunday: out

Only the spelling mistakes have been changed to protect the innocent.

Evidence the third:

The girls went iceskating yesterday while I was out. I think that was pretty brave of me. If I say that I was imagining severed fingers lying twitching on the ice, you will think my worrywart gene is showing again. In my defence I offer that I used to work with a lovely man who was missing a couple of fingers because of an iceskating accident as a child.

I mentioned to Drama Duck last night that I’d been a little stressed about them going skating.

“It was fine,” she said dismissively. “I’ve still got most of my fingers.”

Evidence the fourth:

And the reason I was not available to personally supervise the safety of my daughters’ precious pinkies?

My brother rang a couple of weeks ago to say he was going away for a few days. He usually does Mum’s grocery shopping for her, and wanted me to cover for him. Not a problem, since I usually visit Mum once a week anyway, but just to make sure I wouldn’t forget, I wrote “Mum shopping” on the calendar that hangs on the back of the en suite door.

(My friends find it amusing when they ask me if I’m free on a certain date and I tell them I have to go check on the toilet door.)

This morning I got out of the shower and found that underneath “Mum shopping” the Carnivore had written “Could not find a decent Mum”.

I see dragons, he sees … bacon?

Remember Mark Antony’s beautiful speech from Antony and Cleopatra that begins “sometimes we see a cloud that’s baconish”?


Okay, how about this. What do you see in this picture?

A rhino perhaps? A dragon even?

We visited Jenolan Caves in the Blue Mountains west of Sydney recently. The ducklings and I had fun spotting all sorts of strange creatures in the caves, like this “dragon”. There were stalacmites at odd angles that looked just like unicorn horns, lots of monsters and a couple of dragons.

What was my beloved’s contribution to this game of make believe?

“Hey, that one looks like bacon.” [He’s talking about the pinkish shawls hanging from the ceiling.]

My meat-obsessed carnivore doesn’t have a poetic bone in his body. Drama Duck and I looked at each other, that special look that says “we really love him but he’s not quite like the rest of us, is he?”

“Maybe the dragon eats the bacon,” she said.

It was an … interesting day. We changed our minds several times about whether or not to go that day due to doubtful weather and general laziness (at least on my part). So we didn’t end up leaving till eleven, and by the time we got there it was 3 o’clock in the afternoon.

The last 10 kms or so of the trip winds round and round the mountainsides on a road that feels about two foot wide, with a terrifying drop off the edge. I was practically hyperventilating and vowing never to return before we’d even arrived. Thank goodness we didn’t meet one of the many tourist buses coming the other way.

There’s nothing much there above ground, just a hotel and ticket office. We crawled past a million tourists to the carpark, which was full. A sign directed us up a steep road to carpark 2.

Which was also full. So we climbed more mountain roads, around more scary twisty bends to carpark 3.

Which was also full. By this time we are a long way from where we need to be and I’m starting to wonder if we’re going to have to park somewhere in central Australia. The road is now a dirt track with a most terrifying incline. But at last we find a place to dump the car, though we almost lose traction and fall back down the mountainside trying to get there. A helpful man directs us to a walking track to take us back down to the ticket office, which he says will take about 20 minutes “or I could call the bus up here for you”.

“No, no,” says the Carnivore gaily, “we’re happy to walk.”

I think 20 minutes might take more like 40 with Baby Duck in tow, but I can’t face the idea of a bus ride back down that dreadful road either, so we walk.

Did I ever mention that I hate walking downhill? I know I’m not the fittest person, but by the time we got to the bottom my quads felt like jelly – and we hadn’t even started yet.

The first guided tour that wasn’t sold out was at 4:30, so we spent the time in between doing the self-guided tour of the Nettle cave, which is largely above ground. Demon Duck kept having conniptions about how high up we were, but everyone else enjoyed it (though there were a lot of stairs).

Then we took a guided tour of the Lucas Cave. Our guide announced that there were 910 steps to climb “but don’t worry, they’re nearly all at the beginning – after that it’s okay”. So we and 164 million of our new best friends trooped off up the stairs of torment to view the delights of the Lucas Cave.

Which took so long, with 164 million people in the group, that there was no time to see any more caves after that, for which I was profoundly grateful, though Baby Duck was disappointed. He wanted to go back the next weekend.

Fortunately we didn’t have to climb back up the mountain to our car. There was a minibus to take drivers back to the various carparks, otherwise I’d probably still be there, crawling upwards on my hands and knees.

One more not-a-New-Year’s-resolution: Must. Get. Fit.

[And one more time without the bacon:

Sometime we see a cloud that’s dragonish;
A vapour sometime like a bear or lion,
A tower’d citadel, a pendant rock,
A forked mountain, or blue promontory
With trees upon’t, that nod unto the world,
And mock our eyes with air

I lost three kilos today

Otherwise known as having a haircut. My head, which used to look like a beachball, is now only the size of a tennis ball by comparison. You could have stuffed a serious cushion with the hair that was left behind on the hairdresser’s floor. My hair is ultra short again and I feel so much lighter.

Drama Duck says I look just like her father now. Scary thought. They say that married couples start to resemble each other after a while. (Or is it that people start to look like their dogs? I can never remember.)

Worse still, it’s not just a physical resemblance. I’m even starting to think like him. Be afraid. Be very afraid.

I walked past his car in the carpark on the way to the hairdresser’s. I was seized with the urge to move it – just by a couple of spots. He might not even notice, or he might come back to the car and go “what the??”. I don’t usually think like that, but it’s the kind of thing that occurs to him all the time. I was strong, however, and squashed the evil impulse.

Ten minutes later I’m sitting in the hairdresser’s and he wanders in with a silly grin on his face.

“I thought I’d better tell you in case you panicked,” he says. “I moved your car.”

I tell you, it’s a match made in heaven.