Thursday, 29 November 2012

When your child's need for routine is your idea of a nightmare

I struggle with routine.

I loathe catching the same train at the same time every day. I loathe parking in the same spot, or indeed, driving the same route. I never sit in the same seat on a train, at the movies, in the staff cafeteria, in a lecture theatre nor at the dinner table. I don't feel the need to have a 'spot'. I like to see the view from different angles of the room. I have moved offices three times since going back to work in July 2010. True story.

I like change. I crave variety.

Ground hog day is my idea of a nightmare.

I was at a Christmas dinner with the Kindy parents the other night and we got talking about this. The mismatch between my life (that I had four children including twins in a matter of four years) and my natural pattern to have no routine was a source of great amusement. But how did you manage twins without a routine? they asked.

I did have a routine of sorts. A boring three hour cycle of sleep, feed, play. Day in, day out. But I sought opportunities for it to not be the same. They slept in the car, in hammocks, on my lap (anywhere I could get them down). I fed them in the loungeroom, or my bedroom, or in the car or outside or wherever I felt the need to be. And we did something different every day. A different park. A little drive. A visitor. A trip to the shops. Any break in routine I could muster.

Like most children, my children do like routine. They like knowing what is happening next and where they are going to be. But I see little bits of me rubbing off on them. This morning on the way to the dreaded swimming lessons, the Minx said "Can we find a new way to drive there today Mum?". That's my girl.

Do you like to sit in the same seat? Or does the very thought send chills down your spine?

Tuesday, 27 November 2012

It's a twin thing: The little Mum syndrome

Selfies by Dew Drop and The Minx
Having boy-girl twins is such a fascinating study of male-female relationships. My two are like a pair of old marrieds some of the time, so familiar are they with each other and so comfortable in each others' presence. But they can fight like cats and dogs too. I mean REALLY fight (bite/punch/pinch). The absolute best and the absolute worst. That has been my twin experience.

There are tricks to managing a boy and a girl the same age. For example, at the moment The Minx is more advanced than her twin brother Dew Drop in many things. The literature confirms that this is normal for girl/boy twins. The little girl often develops language skills first and with them, self esteem and confidence. They say this can lead to a "sex-role reversal, with the girl becoming dominant over the boy". Hmmm.

I decided enough was enough when I watched Dew Drop being dressed by The Minx one morning recently! I figured Dew Drop MUST be capable of doing more for himself; after all he is the same age as she is and bright enough.

When push came to shove, he can totally do it.

I had to change my tack to get him on board. He is a pretty laid back chap and quite happy with the arrangement he and the Minx had established. So instead of hassling him to take more interest in his self care, I encouraged her to back off and surprise, surprise. Rapid development.

While the Little Mum syndrome has been very helpful for this overstretched Mum, I think I need to make sure my very capable girl doesn't suffocate her equally capable brother. The tides will no doubt turn with time, but for now if I can't use it to my advantage (like getting her to put her brother to bed or through the bath lol) I will need to make sure The Minx has other outlets for her mothering instincts.

Do your daughters 'mother' their brothers? Or is it a twin thing?

Monday, 26 November 2012

Frugal Christmas ideas

When you have a family of six, and a limited budget, Christmas can be a very overwhelming time of year. Over the past few years, we have managed to create some lovely family rituals to celebrate the festivities, but in a way that doesn't break the budget.

Here are some frugal Christmas options for you to consider (apart from the 'make your own gifts' mantra), along with the eco-friendly Christmas ideas I posted about last week:

Gift wrapping
You can try using different wrapping for each person (saves having to buy or make gift tags). We use recycled paintings from daycare, newspaper, old craft paper and re-used Christmas paper from earlier years.

Advent calendar action
Make your own Advent Calendar - use 'experiences' rather than gifts for each day. Tie the experiences in with your Christmas plan eg. Christmas tree goes up on the first weekend in December; looking at Christmas lights happens on a Thursday after Little As training etc. There are so many lovely people sharing their ideas (such as this gorgeous one from Little Eco Footprints)

Lunchbox festivities
Bake Christmas themed cakes/biscuits for the children's lunchboxes and afternoon teas. It is all in the colour selection and presentation of course. Just a little something special in the usual weekly routine. You can find some great ideas here.

Christmas cards
Go digital with your Christmas cards. I know there is nothing nicer than receiving real cards via snail mail, but Christmas cards are an expensive proposition. Of course you can reduce the cost by making your own but you still have to post them all. I think the e-card is the way to go; as long as you don't do the group email thing. Tacky!

Christmas decorations
Hand make your tree decorations (pre-schoolers specialise in this). A little bit of nature looks fantastic eg. a leaf bunting for tinsel or you can go the food option (popcorn strung has apparently been a staple in frugal circles for generations). Some lovely children's paintings with a Christmas theme around the place make for a lovely personal touch too. I buy one new Christmas decoration each year - something that symbolises the year we have had (and I usually buy it after Christmas in the sales).

Christmas movie
It is always nice to have a family movie night on Christmas eve. There is always free-to-air TV but as they are full of commercials, you might like to consider other options. Try the drive-in for your Christmas movie night. It is cheap and fun and the kids can talk in their loud boomy voices without disturbing anyone (other than you!). There is always a DVD at home, which is even cheaper. Some of the old classics like "It's a wonderful life" can be picked up for a couple of dollars these days.

Kris Kringle
Our family swapped to Kris Kringle (aka Secret Santa) for the adults many years ago now. You set a sum that suits everyone's budget and just buy for one or two people. The first few years we did it, we got a name and the wish list from the recipient. Nowadays it is more about a fun gift and some Christmas joy.

Limit gift giving
None of us needs as many gifts at Christmas as we get. Limit your purchases either in number (Something you want, something you need, something to wear, something to read) or by budget. Set your budget and stick to it. Afterall, who wants to spend the first half of next year paying off Christmas? A much better way to do it is to spend half the year saving for it.

There are a thousand and one other things you can do to save money at Christmas. Tell me how you do it.

Wednesday, 21 November 2012

Green Christmas ideas

WaaWaa Kids at local market
Last year I was Buying Nothing New and Christmas was the absolute hardest part of the year. I realised that I am not much of a consumer, but I am crazy at Christmas time.

I did make some gifts, bought some second hand and home made, but I still found myself at some of the big toy stores at all hours of the night finding little 'stocking fillers'.

This year, I have been stuck on my back in bed for the past three weeks and I have been shopping online. I am trying not to go beserk but I have to say it really is easy to spend a LOT of money.

So here are a few things I am trying to keep in mind as I work my way through my children's 'Santa lists':

Big online stores are just big stores
Some of those online retail giants, like Amazon, have some pretty shitty working conditions. They don't lose their multi-national/corporate status just because you can't see them. You have to consciously support small retailers with good customer service. Sites that are run by real people who genuinely care about their products and the people who buy them.

Avoid over-packaging
Some products come pre-packaged (in excess packaging) and then they are shipped in even more packaging. It is ludicruous how much waste you end up with. Re-use it where you can. Recycle what is left. If you find a particularly bad culprit, be sure to report them to Planet Ark.

Buy Local
Local markets and shops are the best spots to get your shopping, especially if the products they sell are handmade by local people or made by local companies. It is ridiculous how far some products travel, just to be in your child's Santa sack. Don't forget your local thrift stores. You will be amazed at what you can find.

Service gifts
There are so many charities and sites that offer gift options that don't come in a box. With Oxfam Unwrapped, you can buy a goat for a community or some clean water for a child. Alternatively, you could buy a gift card for a massage, an experience, or plant some trees to combat carbon emissions.

D-I-Y gifts
There are so many gift ideas. I am making my own teacher's gifts this year, as well as the kid's Advent calendars and a few other bits and pieces (mostly of the baking persuasion). I am not an arty-crafty type but you can still make great stuff if you do your research and follow a tutorial.

Wrap your gifts in available resources
You don't need to buy wrapping paper or cards, you already have plenty of options available at home. Children's artwork, newspaper, old maps, blueprints, wallpaper, scraps of material - to name a few - all make fabulous wrapping paper. Use whatever works for you to avoid even more packaging this Christmas.

Sometimes you already have what you need, and you just need to zhush it a bit. For example, The Minx wants a bike for Christmas/her birthday (same/same but different) and I don't really want to spend the money getting her one. We have a spare 'boys' bike that would do the trick, so the Geege is going to paint it purple and we'll get her a basket for the front and some training wheels. Old bike becomes new bike.

Do you think about the environment at Christmas?

Tuesday, 20 November 2012

Fussy fusspots and other eating tales

My four children range from 'I will eat anything' to 'I am a fussy fusspot'. I try to cater to individual tastes and patterns as much as possible, but dinner time is often a battle ground in our house.

We have many strategies for improving eating outcomes with our fussier eaters and I want to share some of them here.

Try something new day
On a random day of the week, I cook something totally new with ingredients in it that I know the kids are either not familiar with or not enamoured with. I proclaim that it is Try something new day and everyone has to give it a shot. Most of the time it works to at least get them to try the food.

Kids get to choose what's for dinner
Once a month, on the kids' birthday day, they get to pick the dinner. It has to be something that I cook (not take away) and it has to be something that they can help me make. We get a whole lot of requests for fish 'n' chips, but Doo Dah always picks something more interesting.

At least two vegies
I always serve up three or four vegies with meals, and the kids are encouraged to eat ALL of them but they have to choose at least two. Most days I have at least two I know they will eat, but every now and then they have to choose at least one that they don't love as much. I have managed to increase their repertoire to include lettuce, baby spinach leaves, snow peas and beans with this method alone!

Substitute and hide
Once the kids have established that they 'like' a meal e.g. spaghetti bolognaise, I continue to cook it but refine the recipe to make it healthier e.g. substituting brown pasta for white, hiding grated vegetables. I know I have gone too far when it is no longer eaten nor requested!

Dessert Night
We don't have dessert every night but try to have it on Wednesdays and Sundays. Absolutely everything must be eaten to be able to have the 'ice cream' component of dessert night. The same concept works for eating cereal before moving to toast.

Whole of week approach
The kids are up and down with eating day to day. Some days I hit the jackpot and they eat a lot, on other days, not so much. I try to take a whole of week approach with them, which means in the 'bad' weeks I push a bit more and in the 'good' weeks, I let them slide if they hit a snag. It is just too dull to fight every day don't you find?

How do you get your kids to eat their dinner?

Monday, 19 November 2012

Guest post: Tips for Teaching Helping Skills in Children (Part 2)

It is heartening indeed when your children take ownership in their jobs, not only completing it to satisfaction but having a real sense of pride in their ability. - Erin*

Our children are officially placed on the job roster on their 5th birthday. While they are so young I work with them, teaching alongside as we go.  We have tried pairing with an older sibling but this was unsuccessful as it led to 'disagreements' and unfairness regards work distribution. The older sibling can end up carrying the bigger load. 

It can be common in families with a wide age spread to let our younger ones slack off; to have a tendency to ask an older child first. They can get the job done faster and to a higher standard.  However I strive to keep in mind some once read advice "don't ask an older child to do something a younger one can”. We also distribute tasks fairly between girls and boys.  Some personalities are easier to motivate and work with and we have to guard against letting the more 'difficult ones' slide.


Short term rewards or rather 'earning privileges' can be a helpful tool.  For young ones it may be something small and tangible, for older ones it may be the reward of a movie or computer time, it may be "we'll play a board game after we complete the task." 

Outward motivations are useful in the immediate, yet the 'bigger picture' is a desire to instill a sense of pride in a job well done.  It is heartening indeed when your children take ownership in their jobs, not only completing it to satisfaction but having a real sense of pride in their ability.  In time they can even seek mastery of tasks beyond what you have asked.  

We're now blessed to be at the stage where all the older children (8yrs+) can 'pitch in' and clean the house when needed, including bathrooms (we use natural products so safe for all).  Our teens have a repertoire of several meals they can cook, our oldest can do the grocery shop for the entire family's month's supply.  They have and can tackle many house building projects. We are now reaping the benefit of perseverance of those earlier years.   

Each family needs to find their own 'stride' which varies according to the home itself and family dynamics (which can be fluid). While we have tried a variety of methods over the years, with varying degrees of success, the reality is it all comes down to you as the parent to follow through. To assure the job is done. 

You do become tired at times and you wonder "when will they just 'get it'?" "Why do I always have to be 'the taskmaster'?" 

Truth is you'll be 'at this job' for at least the next decade.  Try to keep in mind the bigger picture (hard some days I know) years of good habits will pay off, not just in terms of being helpful within your household. You are equipping them with skills and habits for a lifetime that they will take into their study years, the workforce, their family life, their life choices.  

The key is having clear expectations and following through. 

Are your kids helpful in your household? What tips, tricks and rewards do you use?

*Erin lives on a 140 acres on the East Coast of Australia with her husband and nine children, she shares snippets and musings about family life, home educating, owner building, striving for organisation, trying to eat grain free, creating a home library and other interests including books, photography and books.  She blogs at Seven Little Australians and Counting

Thursday, 15 November 2012

Hot under the collar

I saw this little (see photo) snippet in the local paper today and it got my blood boiling. It is about the teacher situation in NSW. 1800 jobs will be axed by the current Liberal government. Mostly support staff that I could ascertain. Like that matters. You cut the infrastructure and everyone suffers.

The information doesn't surprise me in the slightest. The government has done the same thing in the health care system. NSW is going broke and the government is looking for cost saving measures. It is what they do. I don't like it, but I do think they have the best fiscal interests of the state in mind when they make these ludicrous decisions.

The thing that really got me in the article is the comment made by our local MP. He is a young upstart of Liberal persuasion who was quoted as saying that the job cuts are a result of deals done by the previous (Labour) government in 2010. Of course they are.

I am sick of the blame shifting. We didn't do it; it was them. It isn't my fault; it's his. I get enough of that at home with my children aged 7-3. They won't take responsibility either!

How hard is it to be honest? How hard is it to make a tough decision and cop the flack on the chin? I still wouldn't like the decision, but I would respect the politicians a whole lot more. Grow up kids. You are playing for real now.

The Geege says we wouldn't re-elect an honest politician. I disagree. I would always back a (wo)man with balls over one who has none.

How do you feel about the current NSW government?

Wednesday, 14 November 2012

Fighting the monsters: Night lights for children

One of the exciting things about our extension plan is that everyone will have their own room. At present, Dew Drop and the Minx share and so do Doo Dah and Nugget. Our architect, a friend of the Geege since high school, remarked the other day as he was sweating over our plans that 100 square metres is a very small house for six people. Indeed it is. And so it will grow, just as the kids have.

I am not against children sharing rooms. I shared a room with Sister B until Sister A moved out of home to go to the big smoke. About 15 years in total. I reckon it is why she and I get each other in a way that not many people do. A shared history of monthly room rearranging and daily routine juggles will do that.

But when you live in a small house, there is real value in having your own space. A little piece of real estate all to yourself. A shelter from the family storms; a place to take the required 10 breaths when someone rubs you up the wrong way.

And so it will be.

The kids are really excited about the prospect but I know the reality will be different. You see, they are all a bunch of scaredy cats at night. They rely on each other to feel safe from the terrible monsters that roam our house at night. If you believed what you were told, we are sharing our precious 100 square metres with hundreds of blood sucking monsters too!

For now, our hall light illuminates their bedrooms and they seek solace in each other's company. But this won't be the case when we have completed our extension. They will all sleep alone.

So on the Christmas list this year I have found each one a night light.

For Dew Drop, there is this one (duel purpose: night light AND sleep trainer for our little rooster)

For the Minx, there is this one (owl):

For Doo Dah, this:

And Nugget can further nourish his Lego obsession with this one:

Something you need. Check.

Now I just have to deal with the something you wants, something you wears and something you reads.

Do you do the night light thing?

Monday, 12 November 2012

Guest Post: Tips for Teaching Helping Skills to Children (Part 1)

Studies increasingly point to the importance that chores play in self-identity, self-esteem, work ethic and the formation of habits for a lifetime, in our experience we would 100% agree. - Erin*

We've been parenting for over 18 years and helping skills has become part of the fabric of our family culture.  Upon pondering how to translate an integral part of our lives into words I concluded it can all be summed up in one word, expectation.  We (my husband and I) strongly believe it is important for children to help out and we have an expectation that they will.

We were both raised in families where working alongside parents and siblings was the norm, we were children of the 70s (teens of the 80s) and this was standard.  As new parents we reflected upon our own upbringing, researched and came to the conclusion that having jobs/chores would be a vital part of our children's development.  Studies increasingly point to the importance that chores play in self-identity, self-esteem, work ethic and the formation of habits for a lifetime, in our experience we would 100% agree. 

As parents we uphold that it is a natural part of belonging to a family unit that we all 'pitch in'.   It is fortunate in that we are unified in our view and have similar standards of 'job done to satisfaction'.  

We aren't strong believers in pocket money, so whilst our children may receive a bonus for a major project or can earn money for siblings' birthday presents or Christmas by doing extra chores, mostly work is undertaken just as part of being a contributing member of the family.  The phrase 'the world does not owe you a living' is one the children have heard a few times;)

How does philosophy translate into reality? I'd like to preface the following by sharing we are not perfect, nor perfectionists, we aren’t militant in our approach or discipline (although we do write it up in lists), our children grumble occasionally (and get away with it) although we do 'drag' younger ones in sometimes, nor are we always consistent on a daily basis, but over the long haul we have put in the effort and it is paying off for all.

So. Some tips?
  • Start young! 
  • Make it fun- turn it into a game
  • Create little challenges - be creative e.g. "pick up all the blue toys, the cars, let's race the clock, race each other"
  • Sing rhymes
  • Have little ones be your 'runners' (run misplaced items to the correct rooms).
  • Sometimes young children will be happy to fall in with your ideas, sometimes not (they're the not so good days;)  

As the children grow older games don't have the same appeal;) We have tried various methods over the years: 

  • Job charts
  • Rotating jobs
  • Changing jobs once a week (they keep them for longer if not up to standard as obviously they need more time to master the skill;) 
  • Sometimes we have paired children, sometimes they prefer to work individually on tasks.
  • At present each child is responsible for a particular room and one or two kitchen duties, the older children also are responsible for their own laundry.  
  • It helps to have a regular time each day for cleanup.  
  • Until the children are capable of consistently meeting a certain standard I do an 'inspection' of their room/area once they tell me they have completed their task.  They are familiar with the question "is it to Mum's standard?"  If not they will be sent back to re-do until we’re both satisfied with the result.

Are you growing little helpers at your place? How do you tackle it?

*Erin lives on a 140 acres on the East Coast of Australia with her husband and nine children, she shares snippets and musings about family life, home educating, owner building, striving for organisation, trying to eat grain free, creating a home library and other interests including books, photography and books.  She blogs at Seven Little Australians and Counting

Friday, 9 November 2012

Parenting from the couch

It has been two weeks since I was actively parenting my kids. I feel like an observer. I sit back and watch the chaos of life, my only tool my voice. Two weeks in bed, on the couch, in the background.

It is a strange feeling. Being around, being needed, but not being able to contribute much. The kids can sit next to me, but not touch me. They can talk to me, but not ask me to do anything for them. I feel distant. And yet I am here.

The Geege is frazzled. He has had to be Mum and Dad for the past two weeks, and he is doing it willingly. I know he is secretly wishing that I could bend down and pack the dishwasher, or reach up and hang out the washing, or get my own f%@!ing cold water from the bottom of the fridge, but he knows I can't. So he does it.

I don't know who has the worse position in these situations; the sick person, or the carer? The sick person feels useless, a real burden. And the carer feels overwhelmed. Both understand each other's positions and both wish it were different. But it isn't different and it won't be for a few more weeks yet.

I feel lucky that this is a temporary situation for me. Imagine if you were always the parent on the couch?


Thursday, 8 November 2012

Telephone training

My son Nugget is seven and a half (don't forget the half. It is important.). I realised whilst I was in hospital that he can't talk on the telephone. He'd get all flustered, freeze and say he couldn't hear and then get the cranks and walk away.

When I got home from hospital, I decided it was time to do some telephone training. I used to do this sort of thing when I was a speech pathologist with my clients who stuttered (because stutterers stutter more when they are on the telephone and need lots of practise during therapy).

Last night Nugget managed to call Gran to tell her that he had lost his front tooth. I think she even managed to make out the purpose of the call, the exciting story about how the tooth fell out* and a few other little bits and pieces about his day.

He got off the phone with the biggest smile on his face and a fist pump. "I did it!"he said, a mixture of surprise and pride detectable in his voice. "And it was easy".

So how did we go from Mr Freeze to Mr Ease in just a couple of training sessions?

1. I found every available phone in our house (three) and showed Nugget how they work. I pointed out the hearing pieces, the speaking pieces, the number pads etc. and I got him to hold the phone up to his ear.

2. Next we talked about what people say when they a) call other people and b) receive a call. Scripts, if you like. Then we practised our scripts with me holding one phone and him holding another.

3. When he was comfortable with that, I made a few 'real' phone calls with him and reminded him to use his scripts. First I rang him as me. Then I rang him pretending I was someone else. We debriefed about that.

4. The next step was getting him to call me. We did that a few times. He had to ring me to tell me something important about school, then to ask if a friend could come over for a play date, and lastly he had to pretend to order a pizza.

5. The final step was to get him to make a phone call for real. We practised what he wanted to talk about. I dialed the number for him and away he went. Thank God for good ol' Gran who ran with it and helped make it a success.

He's lined up to tell her that the tooth faery came last night (the new guy is doing a much better job that the previous incumbent).

Have you had to teach your children to use the telephone? Or are they more like my daughter who was a complete natural?

* He has lost two teeth in the past week, both whilst eating. The first he managed to swallow but this one he caught on his tongue!

Wednesday, 7 November 2012


Image from here
The night before I went in for surgery, while having a shower, I considered what to do about the body hair situation. I am not known for my consistent ladyscaping, rather for my urban hippyness when it comes to hair maintenance. I have hairy legs and armpits much of the time and I hadn't had a wax since we went to Bali so as you can imagine, things were a little out of control in the nether regions.

I couldn't leave things as they were. The horror! But I didn't want to look as though I had tidied up for the doctors. (How embarrassing?)

I ummed and ahhed about this predicament for awhile (some might say too long) and decided I would do a bit but not too much. So I shaved and snipped. The result was good. Well-kept, without being show-offish. Just right I thought smugly.

When I found myself being drawn on and flashing to what felt like the whole world, I was pleased that I had made the effort. My fear of being on the receiving end of a joke while I was under general anaesthetic had all but disappeared.

You can imagine my surprise when the doctor did the big reveal on my tummy to discover that, in addition to a new belly button, I also practically had a Brazilian! All the careful ladyscaping I had done had been re-done by someone (who?) while I lay unconscious on the operating table.

So now I am in the situation of having itchy re-growth, nasty dressings that will need to be ripped off at some point (ouch), and a review at the clinic with further flashing requirements. Clearly I have too much time on my hands if I am actually thinking about this right?

I know one thing for sure. If I ever have to have surgery again, I am getting a full body wax.

Ever ladyscaped for the doctor? Come on. Be honest.

Tuesday, 6 November 2012

10 reasons why plastic surgery is not for the weak

Image from here
1. You will get less than 48 hours notice that the surgery will take place, and be required to be ready to be an inpatient for 3-7 days.
2. You will be told exactly what they will be doing when you get into the operating theatre. When you have no way to escape.
3. They will chat to you while drawing lines all over you (no ruler) while you stand semi-naked with six doctors looking at you and the drawer of said lines has his face at fanny height.
4. You will feel like you have been sawn in half, like one of those magic tricks gone wrong.
5. You will have drains coming out of your body for a week. These will need to be carried around in a pillow case when you stroll the corridor with the physio and will feel very strange indeed when they are eventually removed .
6.You will have numerous cannulas in your arms that will cause you pain every time you bend your elbow. These will be used to give you regular pain relief and antibiotics. You will still need needles when they need to take blood from you. Which they will.
7. The pain relief medication will knock you about so much that you will fall asleep for short intervals, day and night, so that you eventually come to realise just why the hospital movie channels run all night long.
8. They will give you a heparin shot in your leg every day. The bruises will act like a visual reminder of how long you have been hospitalised.
9. You will be sent home with little information and asked to do as little as possible. Even if you are the mother of four.
10. If you manage to find the funny side, you will feel like your stitches are coming apart every time you laugh. So you hold your stomach and tell the humorist to stop. Even though the laugh was the best thing that has happened to you in over a week.

R.E.S.P.E.C.T to people who volunteer for this kind of surgery. You are way tougher than me.

Monday, 5 November 2012

Writing a new signature

Image from here
I had a moment of connection with the man who wanted to grow his foreskin back the other day.

I had been in hospital five days* after having surgery to repair my diastasis rectis and various hernias, and the doctor had come past for a visit to check on his work i.e. check out my stomach.

He unpeeled my velcrose abdominal band, ripped off the dressings over my incision (free wax! His Mum taught him the fast Bandaid removal technique that he is now generalising to all sticky dressings with questionable results), and said 'So, what do you think?', clearly pleased with himself.

I lifted my head, peered down at my stomach and gasped. "What's that?" I asked.

"It's your new belly button" he stated matter of factly. "Don't you like it?"

"I don't remember discussing new belly button designs with you" I said, half tongue in cheek. "Shouldn't we have had that conversation at some point?" I asked, smiling.

"What's wrong with it?" he asked, looking concerned but trying to determine if I was giving him curry or not.

" is kind of small. I've always had an ample belly button. It's kind of my signature. You know."

"Well", he said scratching his head, "now you have a small one. You'll have to find a way to write a new signature."

Ever had to contend with a new body part?

* Just to complete the story, I had surgery on October 26 in my local public hospital after being granted permission by the Head of Plastic Surgery. I was in hospital 7 days, and am now recuperating at home.

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