Mother of a Man-Child

My life with teenage boys

Walking in my children’s shoes May 28, 2018

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A157CC50-42CD-40DC-8B3C-B93DD2FB8DB5Sometimes we get opportunities in life that present themselves, that give us back way more than we expect. I recently took part in the annual “Parent’s rowing regatta”, organized by my teenage daughter’s school. As a mother to rowers, including both the men-children a few years back, and now my daughter (AKA Sister of a Man-Child), I jumped at the chance to learn how to row and get out on the water.

There were a few reasons I was keen to partake:

  • Firstly to actually give it a go – I know if it had been offered at my all girls school many years ago, I would have jumped at the chance. As it turned out, it was introduced just a few years after I finished school – who knew what a massive sport it would turn out to be for girls (and yes like too many things, the boys were already well established in the sport).
  • Secondly, having heard my daughter talk about some of her experiences on the water, the stunning sun rises, the sense of gliding on the water on a crystal clear morning in Melbourne, the view of our city from the river, I wanted to experience that unique point of view for myself.
  • And thirdly, having dropped our kids to so many early morning training sessions over the years (yes 5.30am on the river is very early), I guess part of me was keen to understand just what all the fuss was about.

So off I took myself, with another three willing rowing mums, for our first Parent’s Regatta. We arrived with a sense of excitement, trepidation, anxiety and most of all fun. After a short briefing, and ensuring our colorful wigs were in place (yes the Parent’s Regatta wasn’t limited to making yourself look stupid rowing, you also looked stupid by dressing up), our journey commenced.

We met our coach, a lovely ex school girl and rower, who had volunteered to take on our motley crew for the morning, and our cox, a current student and rower, who admitted, when casually asked, that she had never coxed before, therein introducing a moment of slightly nervous panic by the crew, especially since they are responsible for STEERING the boat people!!!

One of our key questions of the coach/cox and other parents who had participated before, was whether or not it was possible we would end up tipping the boat or falling in the Yarra River. None of us wanted this to happen, firstly out of sheer embarrassment, but also because the Yarra River isn’t exactly the healthiest of water ways to be submerged in. Of course they assured us it wasn’t actually possible to tip the boat (kind of a white lie) and that only those who stood up in the boat were the ones who had fallen in previously. Note to self – DO NOT UNDER ANY CIRCUMSTANCES STAND UP IN THE BOAT.

So off we went to commence our journey. First things first, grab some oars, and get the boat on the water. Yes, this was the real thing, there wasn’t a boat pre-prepared and waiting for us to daintily step into, ready, for our first foray at rowing, no, we had to do it all ourselves!

And so the learning began. I can tell you, our kids make it look so easy, carrying a rowing scull above their heads, and gently placing it in the water, attaching the oars, all set for rowing. But what I now know is that those bloody boats are HEAVY (especially if it’s an old wooden boat like the one we were using, not a new sleek, light weight fibreglass model) and AWKWARD to carry and hold, and damn near impossible to place delicately into the water. And for we people with short arms, that stretch to attach the oar isn’t an easy task people!

So after much patient instruction by our coach and cox (God, they must have thought we were useless), we finally found ourselves sitting in a real rowing scull, on the river, holding two oars each and praying we wouldn’t tip over and end up very wet (and embarrassed).

Over the next hour, they taught us the basics of rowing. And trust me when I say, the rowing machine at gym does very very little, in fact nothing, to help you know how to row once you are doing the real thing. The rowing machine doesn’t wobble un-nervingly when four women feel slightly off balance, the rowing machine doesn’t have two oars that need to move together, but somehow also overlap, and hit the water at exactly the right angle, and then also lift above the water oh so gracefully (we weren’t even TRYING to feather our oars – that’s a whole other skill). The rowing machine doesn’t need turning, which requires a unique combination of one still oar and one moving oar, akin to tapping your head and patting your stomach. And the rowing machine doesn’t have another three people on it, all rowing at different rates, and accidentally hitting your oars and “catching crabs”.

504A12BF-020C-4511-BD79-5A19C8812F8EYet, with all of the above, do you know what happened? We actually, finally, by some amazing stroke of luck, managed to get our boat moving down the water, with four of us rowing mostly in sync, and actually “rowing” (okay, I will use the term loosely here, but hey, at least we were moving downstream). We had our wonderful coach running beside us on the river bank yelling instructions and encouragement, and our fabulous cox doing the same, whilst also steering the boat and accounting for our very uneven stroke rate and technique.

We had two “races”, if you call a couple of sculls racing each other down the river, over a measly 400 metres, with a very rough start line a “race”, and one win and one loss. But for us, no-one was a loser on the day.

And after a couple of exhausting hours on the water, we finished our session, pulled the boat out of the water, washed it, and put it away, before enjoying a champagne brunch with the other crews (yes it was a PARENTS regatta). 🙂

So after all that, what exactly did I learn?

  • Rowing is hard work. It’s not just the physical rowing part, add to that the boat management before and after, when your muscles are already tired, and you’re lifting a large vessel and it’s a solid few hours of very physical work.
  • Rowing is NOT easy. With a new insight into the technique required to row, all the things you need to think about, and co-ordinate, not just yourself but in sync with the rest of your crew, I am in awe of my three children. They made it look so EASY to keep your back straight, push with your legs, pull with your arms, twist the oars just so every stroke, perfectly dip the blade in the water for maximum impact, then delicately feather the blade above the water on its return. All without catching a crab, smashing the oar handles together, catching them in your ribs, or hitting your team-mates oars.
  • Rowing is a team sport. If you want a lesson in team work, look no further than rowing. To excel in the sport, it takes absolute precision in team work, that I think no other sport can claim. When you have a crew who are rowing at the same stroke rate, with the right technique, with consistency, you have a great rowing crew. And if you don’t have the FULL team, whether that’s a crew of 4 or 8 plus the cox, you can’t row. Simple, end of story. No other sport is so reliant on the contribution of EVERY member of the team in every race, and at every training session to achieve their end goal.
  • Rowing looks good on your CV. Both my boys have had several prospective employers comment about their rowing and the many perceived benefits. Discipline, reliability, sense of team, physical demands, drive, competitiveness. All attributes an employer would look for in a future employee.
  • Rowing is addictive. The feeling of achievement from contributing to the propulsion of a boat down a river is amazing. The view from the seat of a scull, looking up at the banks of the Yarra and beyond on the wonderful city of Melbourne, is fantastic. I can only imaging how serene a still, calm, fresh Melbourne morning must be when you are rowing. Add to that the sense of physical achievement of a job well done, muscles aching from strain, but knowing you have worked your body hard to achieve results, with the subsequent release of endorphins, of course it will make you feel good.
  • Rowing is a community. My daughter has commented about the amazing sense of community that she shares with others, not just her crew and coach but the entire rowing cohort. It’s a very tight-knit community and crosses many year levels, all hugely beneficial in my mind.
  • And lastly rowing is FUN. I had an absolute ball having a go at rowing. Our team had so many laughs on and off the water. We were all very competitive, and determined, but it wasn’t about winning, it was about participating, and achieving something personally and as a team. If time permitted, I would love to do more of it – but fitting it into an already hectic schedule and making the commitment to a team just isn’t possible right now – and that’s hard for me to admit, but hey, sometimes you just have to say no.

So in the interim, I will enjoy being a rowing mum for another few years, continuing to embrace all that rowing means (early morning training drop offs, rowing breakfasts, regattas, extra training sessions), watching with awe and a deeper appreciation as my daughter rows her way downstream, and probably (much to her embarrassment) cheering even louder and harder for her, knowing she is putting it all on the line and that the team are doing an amazing job rowing. 🙂

Any other rowers out there who share my pain and/or joy?

I’ve written about rowing before back when the men-children were rowing.

https://motherofamanchild.com/2012/03/02/hats-off-to-the-my-rowers-theyre-amazing/

https://motherofamanchild.com/2011/04/01/mother-of-a-man-child-row-row-row-your-boat/

 

 

Diverse paths March 1, 2013

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headphonesSomeone asked me the other day if the men-children are getting along better now that they are spending more time apart.  It was a good question, and my initial response was to say yes.  But on reflection, it probably hasn’t made much difference to them.

As they are so, so different (just as my twin sister and I were) they really haven’t spent much time together in recent years, except when they both trained and rowed in the same crew last summer (ironically even sitting next to each other in the scull).  The fact is they played different winter sports (footy vs rugby), they were in different sport houses and classes at school, they never travelled to school or home together, and didn’t spend time on the weekends together as they have different circles of friends.

This year of course one has left school to pursue a trade, whilst the other is doing VCE with plans to attend university, which will no doubt send them on even more diverse paths over the next few years.

Again, it is pause for reflection on my part as to how my twin sister and me were at their age.  We shared a bedroom for at least 15 years (god forbid the men-children should have to do that), and I don’t ever recall asking her about her friends, or her hairdressing course, or her job.  Are we all so self-absorbed as teenagers to not even care?  I can only assume so based on my own behaviour and that of my sons.

On the home front, some things certainly haven’t changed between the boys.  The arguments over jocks and socks, the fights over food supplies, or missing drink bottles or clothing, or the state of their shared bathroom or sitting room (one likes tidy, one comfortably lives with mess – a repeat of my sister and me ironically).

Just last night we enjoyed a raging argument between them over the TV.  One wanted to watch TV, one wanted to listen to music in his bedroom. Even with closed doors, it was impossible for the music not to drown out the TV.  I can vouch for that, as we regularly complain about the doof doof sound effects that come from one’s bedroom above to the family room below.  Even with extra insulation put in when we built upstairs (for that exact reason), the heavy sound of the bass penetrates the floor.

We looked for a solution last night – put in earphones (“I don’t have any”) or turn down or off the music – of course not!  So the argument continued between them, with shouting eventually over-taking the music and TV!  Thank goodness for the door at the bottom of the stairs. 🙂

I found my own solution today – their birthday is around the corner, so I have bought wireless headphones for the TV and/or computer.  That way one of them can listen to the TV or music without annoying the other one.  I wonder if we’ll go back and buy a second pair at some stage to stop them fighting over the single pair of headphones, or so that we don’t have to listen to either of them being entertained?

Or will Father of a Man-Child decide that with the in-built noise reduction he is going to claim them as his own and listen to Fox Sport in bliss for the rest of his life, without the sounds of all of us in the background?  Now that is a very big possibility.

Are we alone with fights over TV and music?  What do you do to manage it, and who wins in your house, if anyone?

 

Committed to their causes October 26, 2012

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It’s not often I wax lyrical about the men-children (it doesn’t make for the usual amusing reading) but from time to time, to be fair to my subjects, it is worth recognising their achievements and acknowledging that where there is ambition and commitment there can also be success.

Two cases in point. As many would know, one of our men-children has indeed made the decision to leave school (with our support), and head to TAFE to undertake a trade course and an apprenticeship. We were naturally delighted that he conducted himself well at the interview and was successful in gaining entry to the course of his choice. He is looking forward to next year, and to focussing on something he really wants to do, with a clear end goal in mind. He is already talking about the opportunity to work on building sites during the course and get valuable experience on the job. I admire his passion and hope it translates into dedication and success.

As we rightly pointed out however, don’t lose focus on finishing year 10 this year, because without it you can’t continue onto the course. Such is the life of parents, why is it we always seem to dampen enthusiasm! Having recently seen the drop out rates for trade apprentices I was momentarily alarmed. However something tells me our man-child will thrive at TAFE and find success in his chosen career.

Our other man-child will of course remain at school, with plans to head to university eventually. As an aside, yes you are right to realise our twin boys are very different, both in personality and aptitude at certain tasks. Hence one is happy to remain at school and most likely head into a business course, and one is off to trade school so he can work outdoors.

blistersNaturally, in remaining at school, one son is continuing rowing, something which they both excelled in last year. Of course this season, it’s a whole new level of intensity, as it’s “open squad” for Year 11 and 12 boys, and now very, very serious. So whilst we thought last year’s training schedule was demanding, this year’s is incredible. Two early mornings a week, two afternoons a week, lunchtime gym sessions 5 days a week, and a 50km row on a Saturday up the Maribyrnong River (and that’s their light training program)! As you can see, the blisters on his hands are just starting to heal, and the skin harden, as they do at the start of each season. Apparently his hands look good compared to some of his friends!

My son knows what he wants to achieve and is working hard to get it. Each seat in the skull is highly prized and sought after. He has his sights set on rowing in the “seconds” this season and hopefully sharing in the ultimate prize of a spot in the “firsts” the following one. With determination and continued development we hope he achieves his goals. But we are already proud of him!

I do take my hats off to the boys that pursue rowing at this level. The demands are enormous, physically and mentally, and totally time-consuming. It impacts their working life (you can almost forget a casual job), their social life (good news is they forego alcohol), and their school life (reduced time for homework) and eats into their holidays with camps and more personal training. In doing so, it also teaches them the importance of the commitment that is required to pursue sport at a high level, and the sacrifices elite sports people make on a regular basis.

So as we head into the end of the school year (and for one his “school” life), we watch our men-children continue to grow, like butterflies emerging from a chrysalis, having left behind their life as hungry little caterpillars. We know they will both be beautiful butterflies in due course, we just don’t know what colour they will be, and what direction they will fly in. All part of the excitement (and worry and stress for parents) of our children growing up. 🙂

I have written about their rowing before: Rowing when they first started out (Row, Row, Row you boat), and their success last year (Hats off to my rowers)

 

Hats off to my rowers – they’re amazing! March 2, 2012

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rowersAs most of you would know the boys selected rowing as their summer sport once given the chance.  They begin their rowing “careers” at the end of Year 7, or the start of a season.  So this is their 3rd season now.  To be honest, I haven’t seen much of their rowing, mainly due to other time commitments.  When they first start, it’s mainly training on the river outside their school, getting used to the idiosyncrasies of skulls (boats) and learning the tricks of the trade.  By Year 8/9 they progress to regattas, their first taste of competitive rowing, and by Year 9/10 it’s hit the serious end of rowing (there’s a strong parallel to academic life it has to be said).

The last time I saw the men-children row was a school only mini “regatta” with some short races to show the boys new-found skills off to their proud parents.  Then they were whisked off each week to regattas on the school bus (thankfully) and our task became the early morning taxi service.  Which was just as well, because when you’ve got Sister of a Man-Child with commitments each weekend (sadly full-time working parents have to cram it all in on a Saturday), it becomes difficult for parents to be in two places at once.

For those who don’t know, trust me the rower’s life is not an easy one.  Early morning starts (5.30am to be at school by 6), at least 3 mornings a weeks for the juniors, escalating to more than 7 training sessions a week for the seniors.    In fact the boys training regime this season seemed almost too much in my view – I really thought their coach had become quite obsessed with the boys performance and was potentially pushing them too hard.  They had no rest day, training sessions with some of them throwing up from the effort, and school holiday training regimes that made Biggest Loser camp look like a walk in the park!

Last weekend we finally got the chance to attend a regatta, as it was thankfully in Melbourne and ran into the afternoon (all other commitments with Sister of a Man-child then complete).  Sadly it was also a sweltering 38 degrees in Melbourne, but wild horses weren’t stopping me and my new digital SLR camera from being bank side to watch the boy’s row.  We knew they had actually been performing very well of course, with both boys in the 10A team, but we didn’t realise until we saw them just how good they actually are!

The first row past on the water they were just heading down to the start line for one of their races.  I threw a casual hello (yes, embarrassing mother that I am) but they didn’t even flinch.  Such was the intensity and focus on their rowing I doubt they even saw me and my father standing watching them.  We both commented on our surprise at their absolute concentration, but minutes later as we watched them row, all was revealed.  They are amazingly good.  Their coach has produced an incredibly disciplined, focussed, dedicated, and well-oiled machine of 8 young men, who together have become an unbeatable crew.  Such is their success, they are beating other crews their age by 4 boat lengths, and even beating some Year 11/12 crews.  No wonder the school are sending them to compete in the National Championships in Perth next week.

Father of a Man-Child and me (and the boy’s grandfather) have a new-found respect for the boys, and their coach.  It’s clear he knew exactly how much he could push them, and he has certainly got the results.   Of course success is certainly a brilliant motivator for all.  We were delighted to be on the river that day watching them, and thrilled and proud to have both our boys in the limelight.

It’s not every day you have twin boys rowing together, although it does happen.  The irony of them sitting one behind the other in the boat is not lost on me – no-one watching them would know that they fight and argue at home and sometimes could kill each other, yet are forced to sit so close in a boat! It’s perfect really.  And I have no doubt that looking back they will enjoy the fact they did this particular sport together.

There is one other upside of rowing, apart from keeping them fit.  It’s true what they say – the demands of rowing keep them out of trouble.  They still have a social life, but it’s definitely tempered by their training and regatta commitments.  I know for a fact they seriously curtail their drinking (yes of alcohol) during rowing season – that’s music to a mother’s ears.

I hope the boys enjoy their taste of success – the medal haul is impressive, every regatta brings home yet another, and I hope they enjoy their time together – I’m sure they will look back with fondness on their time spent rowing.

Here are my earlier reflections on the sport of rowing, which was all very foreign to me then.  Row, Row, Row your boat.

 

High Expectations? February 17, 2012

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salad rollA teenagers needs are pretty basic.  Feed me, clothe me, drive me, fund me, and leave me alone!  Simple really.  Oh and read my mind constantly.

So unfolded a conversation with one of the men-children on Monday morning at 6.30am that is pretty indicative of how “adolescent” they can sometimes be.

The first thing that popped out of his mouth:  “Did you make the sandwiches I asked for?”  Actually he asked his father for a certain variety, not me.  So no, I didn’t make them, because I didn’t know, and by the way he was pretty lucky that a Year 10 boy was still having his sandwiches made for him.  What are we, a tuckshop?  No we’re just parents with boys who are rowers who recognise how important their food requirements are.

“That roll is small!” This immediately followed the last comment.  Oh sorry, it’s only half a baguette, and yes it’s not the same size as the ones I’ve bought previously.  But it’s better than a sandwich isn’t it?  Sorry I bothered I am thinking to myself by now.  See previous point about rowing men-children – it’s all about fuel!

Within 60 seconds, man-child was heard from the laundry:  “Where’s my zoot suit?”.  (For the uninitiated, this is the all-in-one fitted suits that rowers wear – very “gay” when you’re in year 7/8/9 but somehow more “manly” when you’re in year 10.  Go figure.)  Now, since I had VERY KINDLY trawled through both their bedrooms late on Saturday for dirty clothes to wash, only because they were both rowing all day and I felt sorry for them, I knew the zoot suits had indeed made it into the washing machine, onto the line, and into the folded pile of teenage clothes that seems to live permanently in the laundry.  So you can imagine my response – silence! (Actually you could call it fuming, because I was).  He eventually found it, but not before he’d told me that the only one he found was his brothers, not his, and therefore that’s why he couldn’t find a zoot suit.  Yes, they still fight over clothes regularly.  And no they don’t put their names on them to stop said fighting.

It got better.  A minute later we had the same thing over the rowing t-shirt, which he promptly produced for me saying “You didn’t wash my shirt”!  Well no, I clearly didn’t wash your shirt – as any blind man can see because it’s filthy.  It obviously wasn’t on the floor, and so I didn’t pick it up when I was VERY KINDLY looking for 4 weeks of washing on your bedroom floor, you know the floor that the cleaners no longer vacuum because they can’t find the carpet!!  “Well it was in my backpack!”  Oh sorry, I didn’t go through every bag in your room looking for errant dirty clothes.  On another day this would be called an invasion of privacy wouldn’t it?  Clearly ESP and XRAY vision are two skills I need to add to my mother of a man-child collection.

Ah the simple joys of motherhood.  Slavery would have been a better option for some.  I can’t recall the last time they voluntarily thanked us for a nice meal, or for driving them at 5.45am every second day to school for rowing, or to a party, or for washing piles of clothing.  One of the men-children (yes the one above) sees it in very simple terms – well you chose to have children so it’s your job to do all this stuff.  Stop complaining.  I can’t wait to be laughing if and when I’m a grandmother to his children and he tells me how ungrateful they are.  The joys of parenting. 🙂

I do recall a similar conversation with the other man-child a few years back: Argue this Logic

 

Back to School!! February 3, 2012

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twins at schoolAs our unusual “summer” enters its final month, the kids this week returned to school.  And we returned to the daily grind of making lunches, 6am rowing starts, music lessons, and countless loads of washing every week – I haven’t missed it I can tell you.  Nor the peak hour traffic that results!  Whilst there was no excitement evident amongst the men-children as they headed back to school, I know they were happy to return and catch up with their mates after a few months off.  And they’re both pretty pumped about a big year of sport in Year 10.  (Let’s hope it’s also a big year of study for both of them!)

It seems every newspaper carries a mandatory image of twins or triplets or even better quads in school uniform, as they head to school for their first prep year.  It reminds me of our own front page photo of the men-children some 10 years ago (that’s it pictured for you) which was pretty exciting at the time, and really is a great moment to have captured for posterity.  I still remember the boys wearing their school uniforms home from the store, such was their thrill at owning one.  And of course the pride I felt whilst blinking back tears as we stood in the prep classroom and launched them on their school journey.  No less joyful was repeating it all 7 years later with our daughter.  They are moments you could relive a thousand times over and each would be as wonderful as the first!

In contrast to the boys, Sister of a Man-Child’s excitement was palpable at entering Year 3.  She even sent me a text message yesterday when she got home “Hay (sic) mum first day of school great.  Thumbs up”, complete with thumbs up images!  Now before you think our 8-year-old daughter has a mobile phone, not quite.  For Christmas she was lucky enough to get an iPod Touch (as a modern-day alternative to the Nintendo DS).  Whilst most people would think she would use it for music, it comes with so many other features she’s barely had the earphones on.  Why would you when it also has countless games free from the App store, a camera better than mine, access to YouTube, and most importantly the ability to text (via iMessage) and use Facetime with other iPhone/iPod users.  The ONLY thing it doesn’t do is make phone calls – seriously.  So when Ruby’s in a wireless environment, she’s practically got her own iPhone.  A “Digital Native” in the making!

emoji imagesShe recently found some friends with iPods or iPhones, and now they’re madly texting each other and doing Facetime.  The only issue is that Ruby doesn’t have her own email address, so she’s using one of mine.  As a result, all her messaging appears automatically on my phone too.  It was fascinating to observe the conversation unfold between three young girls, and see them helping each other text and use Facetime.  And then installing Emoji (an app for texting icons).  Now they seem to send each other hundreds of smiley faces and other images.  Although the other morning I was sitting at work with a stream of messages (complete with sound notifications) going off at my desk which got a little out of hand.  I ended up joining the conversation and asking them to stop, which took a while because we had to convince one of the girls that it really was the “Mother” texting.  Not surprisingly, we have now banned the use of the iPod before school and not until after homework is done in the evenings – like all fun and highly addictive “toys”, good in moderation.

So back to school and back to the routine.  And back to family meals which are a nice change, especially since during the holidays we rarely had both men-children at home for a meal.  No doubt the novelty will wear off quickly!! 🙂

 

It’s quiet without the Men-Children January 27, 2012

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Australian FlagIt’s been a quiet week on the Man-Child front.  They headed off last week for five nights at a school rowing camp on the Tambo River.  It coincided with the hottest week of our summer so far  – just as well they were on water.  No doubt the next hottest one will be when the kids get back to school next week.  Isn’t that always the way?

I can’t tell you much about it – as is usual you don’t hear from them when they’re away unless you prompt them.  Father of a Man-Child was pretty active with texts and probably got a bit more information out of them.   He wanted to know how they were rowing, and if they were improving their times and winning.  I wanted to know if they were getting sunburnt and wearing hats!  Naturally we were both keen to hear all about it when they came home.

I left an Australia Day BBQ to pick them up on their return, only to drop them off home and head back to the party.  So we only had a quick debrief in the car – they admitted they were stuffed and keen to get home.  They said the camp was good, but hard – the healing blisters on their hands being testament to that!  5.30am starts, 3 rowing sessions a day, typical camp food.   Home to their own beds and a nice home-cooked meal by Mum – what bliss I thought.

By the time we returned from our party the boys were long gone – off to catch up with mates and girlfriends.  So much for tired!!! And so much for wanting a meal….probably hankering after some junk food anyway.   So any good camp stories will have to wait until next week – we should get some out of them over the dinner table tonight.

Sister of a Man-Child thoroughly enjoyed the week without her brothers. It’s probably a nice treat to have Mum and Dad all to yourself.  I expect the main thing she enjoyed was the quietness in the house – no arguing, no fighting, no screaming Mother, and when I bought a packet of hot cross buns they actually lasted the week and not 24 hours (you’ve got to be fast in our place normally).

So a belated Happy Australia Day to all.  We had a wonderful day with friends embracing the true meaning of the public holiday and celebrating our fortune to live in the lucky country.