Wednesday, November 25, 2009

The Rain in Spain/Brisbane

Sometimes I feel a little like My Fair Lady's Eliza Doolittle living in Australia. "The rain in Brisbane falls mainly on the plain" (if you can, try to imagine me saying that with kind of an Australian accent). I often wonder what we sound like to them. Do we sound cool or just annoying?

I'm thankful though that we moved somewhere where English is the official language. It's not that I don't like learning new languages, it's just that moving is hard enough without having people not understand you. And living in an English-speaking country means that I haven't been reduced to using charades or pantomimes to get my point across - not like my brother Robb who's been working in Jakarta. What I would have given to have seen him act out his dire need for Pepto-Bismal at the local Indonesian pharmacy! But then again, I probably would have needed to buy some "Depends" for myself from laughing so hard!

But even in Australian there are times when we have trouble understanding their accent, and vice versa.

At the beginning of school Jack was convinced that some of the kids in his class thought he was annoying. He was adamant that their nickname for him - "noy boy" - was short for "annoying boy". As he tearfully related the story to me, I couldn't help but worry whether he was really having a hard time fitting in. But, after saying the words over a few times in my head "noy boy, noy boy," I started to laugh. I reassured Jack that no - the kids did not think he was annoying - they were just calling him "new boy!"

Caitlyn has had her own troubles understanding the new accent. Her teacher even suggested we have her hearing tested because Caitlyn was not always responding to instructions or to her name. Turns out her hearing is perfect, she just didn't recognize that "Kitlain" was her!

Last week I went for coffee with a friend. When I went to pay, the girl told me my total was $22. Secretly wishing for a Tim Horton's, I paid the money and waited for my change. The waitress handed me my money and a whole date loaf. I looked at her funny and told her that I had not, in fact, ordered a date loaf. She was certain that I had. So, I went through my order:
  • a jam donut - she nodded,
  • an almond croissant - she nodded,
  • a flat white (like a latte) - again, she nodded, and
  • a diet coke - she grimaced.
Apparently a diet coke, with a Canadian accent, sounds a lot like date loaf - who knew? At least I got some change back!

Jack is already starting to take on a bit of an accent. He was excited the other day when he was finally able to say some of his friends' names "properly". Oliver has now become "Olivah" and Robbie has turned into "Rubbie". He also informed his Uncle "Rub" that Rice Bubbles are actually Rice Krispies, just said with an Australian accent!

I don't know if in the end we'll all pick up their accent but in some ways we're part way there - Queenslanders are also known for finishing their sentences off with "eh!"

Thursday, November 12, 2009

My New Boy Toy

I have a new "Boy Toy" in my life and he's really growing on me. He has a sexy, calming voice, a charming Australian accent, and he never takes the wrong tone with me. He's also very helpful and he forgives easily - on the odd occasion when I've done something wrong. He's really the ideal guy!

But, before anyone starts worrying about my marriage, I'll give you a hint - the new man in my life is "Lee" - a G.P.S. that Paul bought me for my birthday!

Being in a new city and having the added stress of driving on the other side of the road has made me very reliant on my G.P.S. navigational system. Sometimes, however, it's like being in an unhealthy co-dependant relationship! Particularly with my ex-G.P.S. "Karen".

Paul bought "Karen" when he first moved to Brisbane. Whenever I was a passenger in his car, Karen was always on her best behaviour. Paul would type in a destination and Karen would efficiently direct us there and back, with very little hassle. So, when Paul gave me his G.P.S. for my new car I was expecting the same great relationship.

I tried to make Karen feel at home in her new surroundings. I kept my car clean for her (it's true Mom!). I consulted her often. I thought we were friends. So, when she told me to take the main freeway to get to the kid's first karate school I obediently followed. Her route took me 75 minutes - far from the 20 minutes that Yahoo map had calculated. But, I gave her the benefit of the doubt and chalked it up to bad traffic.

Except then there started to be other small misdirections. And then some pretty big ones. Like insisting that I turn the wrong way down one-way streets, telling me that the mall I was looking for was on the left (in the river), setting a route to the kid's new karate school which had me trying to cross the equivalent of Glenmore Trail with no light and at rush hour! When I disobeyed her directions she would give me attitude. She'd snottily "RE-CALCULATE" and attempt to send me back into the exact same chaos! In the beginning I tried to remain calm and ignore her "passive-aggressive" tendencies, but that could only last for so long. I truly felt like she was out to get me!

In the last month, our friendship had deteriorated to name-calling. O.K., it was a little one-sided - but I felt her anger. Our relationship was to the point where I would only allow her to speak when I was really lost. Even then, I would often ignore her shrill "re-calculations" and continue on whatever path I thought was best until she finally had no choice but to agree. The situation required a drastic change.

Then, thankfully, along came my "Lee". Perhaps Paul was trying to save the children from hearing some "new" words while Mommy was driving, or maybe he wanted his precious "Karen" back, whatever the reason - we're back to being one big happy family.

Now, the only new name I've thought up for "Lee" is something that's o.k. to say in front of the kids. I've decided to re-name my boy toy "Hugh" - as in the sexy, Australian Hugh Jackman! Hey, the G.P.S. already has the accent, may as well put a face to it!

Fairy Queen's Birthday

I had a birthday last month. This year was kind of interesting because I got to officially celebrate it twice. Once when it was October 23rd in Brisbane, and then again when it was October 23rd in Calgary. Being one of those people who likes to drag out their birthdays as long as possible, living on the other side of the international date line has its advantages.

I like birthdays because they're the one day each year where you get to feel a bit special. Even sharing a birthday with my twin brother Robb, my parents made sure we each got our own celebrations. Lots of years my mom would have one party going on upstairs and another down in the basement - and she thinks I'm crazy with my kids' parties! Apple, tree, enough said!

Despite the celebrations, and the added bonus of gifts, there is a downside to birthdays. Becoming one year older is something I could do without. I don't want to get old. The thought of it makes me feel like one of the "runners" in the movie "Logan's Run." (That comment probably dated me - but I'm sure I only saw it as a re-run!)
I still like to think that I look younger than I actually am - but am I deluding myself? (Purely a rhetorical question.) O.k., maybe I am in denial about growing older. It's not like I'm trying to dress like a teenager or act like I'm still in my 20's. I'm just trying to hold on to a bit of my youth. For that I have a couple of suggestions:
1) Hang around younger kids
In my experience, kids in the 4-7 year old range generally do not have a fine tuned concept of age. Unless you've told them how old you are (in which case they will remember and let everyone else know) they will usually guess you are younger than you actually are. I remember at Caitlyn's and my dance recital a few years ago, a girl in Caitlyn's class asked me whether I was Caitlyn's sister. Both Caitlyn and I were dressed in our kilts for our performances. Whether the little girl's comment stemmed from our matching outfits, identical red hair, or the mini-face lift that I'm sure my tight hair bun provided, I didn't care - I wanted to hug that kid!

Plus, hanging around with little kids let's you act like one too. How can you feel old when you're making pig faces against the window glass for a laugh?

2) Have friends that are older

I'm not saying that any of my friends are old - just that they are older than me! While I have a some younger friends, many of my close friends have a year, or two, or three on me. I'm quite happy to let them lead the way! They still look hot, which gives me hope, and I get to be the "youngster" in the crowd.

3) Little white lies

Does the elliptical at the gym really need to know my true age? Isn't it bad enough that it wants my real weight too - and I'm sweating? How rude! Then there's the telephone surveys that want to know what age range you fit in - who decides what age brackets they use and when you get thrust into the next one? Is it really necessary to tell them the truth? I think not!

Heck, I lie to my kids too (see point #1 - if they know, they will tell everyone). Despite doing well at arithmetic, they both firmly believe that I am one year younger than I actually am. Paul (who is much older then me) continues to show them the math, but they are solidly in my camp.

Caitlyn made me a card for my birthday. I've posted it here. It was the best present I got! Not only does she love me, she also thinks 1) I'm a fairy queen and 2) I'm only 21!

So while I accept that the number on my cake will increase each year (the alternative isn't pretty), and that in many ways I have gotten better with each birthday, it doesn't mean that I have to feel any older. Because who says Fairy Queens have to grow up!

Friday, November 6, 2009

The Poop Chronicles

What is it about my children and poop!! Or maybe the question should be - what is it about my children and public washrooms!!
The other day Jack and I took Caitlyn to her podiatrist appointment. He was doing very well at being patient - waiting for his sister's foot to be examined. Mind you he had his Nintendo DS - so he was pretty much oblivious to the world. We were nearing the end of the appointment when he came into the office looking somewhat pained and announced that he needed a washroom. The receptionist led him down the hallway and left him to his own devices. A few minutes later, when Caitlyn and I were at the front desk waiting to pay and schedule another appointment, I noticed Jack was still not back. Wondering what could be keeping him so long, I went down to the washroom and knocked on the door. Jack told me he was still busy, made a few grunting sounds, and said he'd be out soon. A few more moments later he waltzed down the hallway grinning ear to ear. The doctor told him that we'd been worried that he'd fallen into the toilet. Jack laughed and said how much he liked their air freshener. She thanked him, but looked a bit puzzled (I'm sure it wasn't a compliment she was used to receiving). He then proceeded to tell us all about how he had pushed the air freshener and it had fallen off the wall, and how he had struggled to get it back up. Without taking a breath he continued on describing exact mechanics of the air freshener and how he had successfully fixed it. While thankful that he hadn't broken it, I didn't think this conversation could lead to anything good, so I tried to hurry him along and out the door. The doctor was smiling and praising him for how handy he was when he decided to tell us all exactly why he had needed the air freshener in the first place. Much to the amusement of the doctor, receptionist and poor man standing in the waiting area Jack proudly told us that "it was a good thing they had an air freshener in their bathroom because it smelt like poop in there!" I was ready to die, the doctor and receptionist were laughing hysterically, and Jack kept on chatting away. Only someone as smooth as Jack could have the ladies adoring him, even while discussing bathroom functions!

However, he's not alone in his poop tales. His sister Caitlyn has embarrassed me, her grandparents, and a few of my kind friends who unsuspectingly volunteered to take her to a public toilet. I think sometimes she saved up her #2's for just such outings. She might have gone for days without pooping, but walk into a Walmart or Boston Pizza, and she had to go! (Soooo not like her father who makes us go home from wherever we are because he refuses to "read a magazine" except in his own home! Sorry Paul - but you don't read my blog anyways!)
Caitlyn always had a story to tell while on the pot. I remember one friend standing in the washroom at Boston Pizza with her for 20 minutes. Caitlyn would do a countdown on the number of poops she had left. How she knew the volume she had coming was always a mystery to me, but she would grunt away and announce that she'd "just had the daddy poop but there was a mommy and 3 babies coming!" Thankfully she's toned down her restroom conversations as she has grown, but she still continues on her quest to check out every washroom in every mall, theatre, restaurant, and park.
So for anyone coming to visit - we can tell you where to find the closest restroom, the ones with the best smelling air fresheners, and that yes, the water does flush backwards Down Under!

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Off to the Races!

The first Tuesday of every November is Melbourne Cup Day in Australia. At first I thought it had something to do with a yacht race (sorry - that was America's Cup). However, I found out that it was actually a horse race. It's touted as "the race that stops a nation." Kind of like the Kentucky Derby I guess - but bigger! In Melbourne, Cup day is an official holiday. Although it's not a day off for the rest of Australia, it's definitely an excuse for people to slack off or go for lunch and not come back. Unfortunately in my current position as "mum extraordinaire" - I could not just abandon my post. Even though I had a 2:30 p.m. curfew I decided I had to see what Cup Day was all about.
The actual race itself only takes a few minutes but the wagers, partying, and fashions make up the rest of the day. For most of the women - the race is merely a side bar - the outfits are the main event! Some of the headpieces worn are almost bigger than the jockeys! And the shoes - the girls of Sex and the City would look like bag ladies!
I opted to go small and understated for my first Cup outing - a cute Banana Republic sundress with a matching peacock feather headband. That's not all I kept small and understated! I'm the kind of person who cashes out when I'm ahead $9 at the slots. Needless to say, I wasn't going to bet the kids' college funds - I made three bets for a grand total of $18. Big money!! While the more seasoned racegoers were researching their horses, I chose my bets according to what the jockey's jersey looked like, and what the coolest horse names were. A surefire method!
As my friend H.J. and I gathered around the big screen T.V., with all the other party goers, clutching our precious betting tickets, it did seem kind of exciting! Next year I may have to go big - o.k. maybe not with my wager but with a extraordinary hat! By the way - I did win. My horse, Crime Scene, placed second. I knew blue was a lucky colour - and he matched my outfit!!