Battling The Machine

I am afraid standards have been slipping alarmingly around here. The Man has been gone for over a month. A month! This is the longest he has ever been away, and truly, if the children were smaller I would be seriously suicidal by now. Single parents, I salute you. As it is, most of the children are more competent than I am at most things. Sadly, now that The Boy has left home I have no driver. Add to list of inadequacies: failure to teach The Girl to drive. She has had her learner's permit since April last year. And in that time we have taken her driving once. Truly, it is a reflection of a) how terrifying it is to teach a child to drive, and b) how incredibly difficult it is to pick up the phone and organise a driving lesson, or two or three. And now my dilatoriness (probably not an actual word) has come back to bite me because now, when I really need one, I have no extra driver.

I also have no-one to mow the lawn, and have had to work out how to do this MYSELF which seems wrong and unfair. I am nothing if completely unmechanically minded, and am sure there is a special circle of Hell designed so that every single action anyone could possibly need to undertake involves putting together a complicated machine, or even just starting one, aided only by instructions written by someone whose first language isn't one's own, and accompanied by diagrams that bear no resemblance to the actual piece of hardware in front of you. Oh wait, that is already the life of every one who doesn't herd yaks in Mongolia. So, the lawnmower. I could see theoretically how it ought to start, but just couldn't. The whippersnipper? Just no idea. So for the first week, I got A Man in, who mowed and whippersnipped very efficiently, then charged me $45 at which I nearly fainted. For 20 minutes' work? That is a very good hourly rate. I made the world's most expensive lawn trim last as long as possible by not watering the lawn, but then I felt I must have a go. Yes, it's true, I have never, ever mowed the lawn by myself. Pitiful, you might think. I prefer - strategic. If you can't do something at all, then you don't get asked to do it.

But here we were, no excuses. Except I couldn't start any of the wretched inanimate objects. I had to ask the good natured neighbour to pop over and start the lawn mower for me. Terribly humiliating. Even worse, he did the whippersnipping for me while I mowed. I am slain by kindness and my own incompetence. Next time I needed to mow I was determined to do it myself. Still couldn't start the damned mower. Called all the girls out. Gave stirring speech, highlighting female independence from hierarchical male lawn-mowing hegemony. Receive stirring applause blank looks. Rosy tries and fails to start mower. The Girl starts it. Cheers from me, some minor head shaking from her as she goes back inside to finish her tea. I mow the lawn but fail to start the whippersnipper at all. Can not bear shame of going to neighbour's again. Pretend shaggy edges is the look I am going for in the garden.

In the end I have to send off urgent messages for help to The Man. Slightly embarrassing, but then he is used to my continuing mechanical incompetence. He sends terse instructions for starting whippersnipper. Slightly mystified by most sentences, including the one about the choke. Is 'in' and 'out' the same as on and off? It takes Rosy and I some time to exhaust all possible combinations and permutations as we fantasise about machines that have only a big red button, with maybe a smiley face for confidence, and the words 'Don't Panic' helpfully silk screen printed somewhere prominent. Finally, finally, Rosy manages to start the damn thing, and I do the edges at last, which must prove something heartening, like, 'girls can do anything' or perhaps, 'two girls and a middle-aged woman can do anything any 13yo boy can do' which wasn't exactly the sentiment I was going for, but hey, my life isn't a Disney fairy tale.

In other news, I am frequently failing to cook proper meals because cooking for four hardly seems worth it. This is my idea of a balanced meal this week:

I'm pretty sure all the major food groups are covered. Luckily the girls are all well versed in life skills and have been whipping up pizzas and blueberry ice cream and similar when they feel peckish. However no-one has leapt into the breach and cleaned the bathrooms recently, and Rosy, who was supposed to be cleaning the pool, decided to practice ballet on the deck instead, and now has a giant swollen ankle which I am almost sure isn't broken, so instead of being helpful, she has to lie on the couch and be waited on hand and foot.

Luckily, The Man is coming back very soon, because without him, clearly I would degenerate into some kind of crazy cat lady, or become like that poor man with the odd name in Anne Tyler's The Accidental Tourist, who streamlined his entire life when his wife left, and only ever wore sweatpants so he wouldn't have to change into pyjamas, and sewed all the sheets together in a giant tube so he could keep rotating them and only have to wash them once every six months. I could totally do that, except for the sewing bit. Macon, I think that was his name. Is anyone in the whole world actually called that? Anyway, I am preserved from complete housekeeping degeneracy by imminent arrival of The Man, not that he growls if the bathroom isn't clean, but he sometimes notices if it is clean, which not many other people around here do, and I do apparently require housewifely validation, but also importantly, HE WILL MOW THE LAWN so I don't have to waste karmic energy battling The Machine.

Drop by next week and experience the aura of Zen-like calm that will be emanating from Chez Blueday once the machine wrangler is back in residence..


Anonymous said…
Love that you can turn your suffering into a post that makes us laugh. And I do feel your pain. I have never been apart from Mr Sans for a month. I tell my boys there are jobs they must learn to do as I cannot/will not learn. So when Mr Sans is away, they must step up. I have never started a whippersnipper, and don't intend to start. How much chlorine goes into the pool? I have no idea.

And I do know how terrifying to teach a child to drive. I only took over after they reached about 20 hours. Boys didn't want me anyway. Something about my flinching, grasping the door arm rest and sharp inhaling of breath made the boys uncomfortable or thinking there was an unseen car coming out from somewhere.

Enjoy the dual parenting!
Heather said…
I think you have done a fantastic job considering your husband has been gone for a month. One of my friend's husband was deployed to Iraq for a year and when she told me she had to mow her lawn herself, I felt my eyes widen in incredulity. That is the one regular job that my husband does that I have never even considered attempting myself. Not that I don't think I couldn't do it if I HAD to, but it is such a "husband job" to me. I think it is valiant that you and your daughters attacked such a feat. I don't think I could get those contraptions started on my own either. Maybe the next time your husband is gone you could find a neighborhood teenage boy who might do it for $10.00? $45.00 seems outrageous.

I am with you about teaching your daughter how to drive, which I'm sure you know by reading my posts. It is so, so hard. We can do it, though. WE CAN DO IT!!! You can for sure do it if you figured out how to mow the lawn. I bow down to you.
Anonymous said…
This reminds me of my neighbour across the street. Her husband was away on his last overseas deployment before retirement, and she crowed to me, "I can't wait for him to come back so I will never have to mow the lawn or shovel snow again!" Guess who is still doing them two years later? LOL!
Bek said…
I am impressed with your persistence. I abhor lawn mowing so much I completely removed all lawn from my front and back yard, and nature strip. No lawn moving ever! But I appreciate this strategy will not work for everyone.

Yes, they do come in handy don't they? Husbands that is! Hope all in recovery mode soon.
I do agree that the 4 food groups appeared to be covered in that meal. While I think a bit of time alone is not a bad thing, I also think that after 4 weeks I'd probably be eating straight from the tuna can.
Good luck with the driving lesson stage. I def agree with a). I'm still recovering, and son is into his 2nd year of having a real (P) licence. cheers Wendy
Judy said…
If the month is nearly over you have clearly survived very well indeed. Imagine what the house would look like if you had gone off and left The Man for a month! When I go away for a week the kids live on take-aways, and some of their clothes are either shrunk or dyed pink. (The rest of the housework is just left to wait for my return!)

My husband and sons suffer with hayfever, so it is very rare for anyone but me to mow the lawn. But our lawn is so small at this house it is not a problem and luckily for me it is very slow growing too. (At our previous house you just blinked and it was a knee-high meadow!) Plus I have an electric mower, which is far easier, smaller, lighter and push-button start.

How about digging up the lawn and planting vegetables instead?

My weakness is the computer stuff. I could learn how to do it, but why should I when my kids and hubby are all far more proficient at it and can fix my problems in minutes. Hubby explains that next time I should do this, that and the other, and I nod my head hearing only blah blah blah.... ;)
Unknown said…
Well Done Jo and the Girls. Im a bit of a tom boy and would like never to have to ask for help from a man!!! To my knowledge there is only one area where i am completely incompetent and that is the techno stuff. It would help if my guys didnt keep upgrading or changing configerations every other day (i cant keep up) but really, i just want to be able to play a DVD or watch TV sometimes.

As for whippersnipping, my Hubby bought me a battery pack one that is so light that i can lift it with one hand and it has little plastic replacement blades that clip in instead of the dreaded breaking plastic line. It is so easy though i have to do it in 20 spurts as the battery dies. Still thats time for a coffee break in between. Check them out at Bunnings for $120. Hubby tells me he's getting me a second battery. We only have grass in one area and that is in the back yard around my veggie beds. This is my domain and so to keep it that way i insist on maintaining it. Cant have them encroaching on my turf, literally. The front yard is his and so since the drought and the hard stand area construction last year it looks like a dirt mound covered in weeds. Thankfully hidden behind a tall fence. He's also anal about maintenance and so i dont have problem with starting the mower. Just, let it rip!

Oh, your dinner platter looks like good eating to me. I think i could live on platters of fruit, cheese, nuts, crackers and hummus. Looks like a balanced meal to me and so portable for work.

As for the driving bit, send her here for a holiday. We will go on a road trip like i did with my son his 3rd week. 1350km and 15 hrs of driving in 7 days. He's just turned 17 and today he's done his 60th hr. One year to do another 60. It was his birthday this weekend and so i let him drive my V8 to his Laser Strike party an hour through the city. Awesome! Driving must run in the family. Did i whisper to you once that in another lifetime i drove semi's interstate. (LOL) i told you i was a tom boy. We were driving on the farm before we hit double digits.

Anyway, hope Hubby knows how much he's missed and Jo, you are too too funny.

Tammy said…
You survived, the kids survived, and you will all appreciate having your husband back!

I love that he recognizes when the bathroom is cleaned. That is the type of person I would clean a bathroom for!
Anonymous said…
I feel your pain re the extra driver. At least you don't have the problem of too many drivers and only one car where you have to "paper, rock, and scissors" as to who gets to use it at any given time ;).

Using the lawnmower? No thankyou! Our lawnmower hates me. It is completely and utterly misogynistic and refuses point blank to mow the lawn if I am operating it. Steve tells me how to get it going but do you think I can?!!! I once spent 2 hours with a lawn mower that would start (after protesting angrily) and then as I got through my first 2 minute run of a specific patch of our large lawn it would choke and die. Then it wouldn't start again for about 10 minutes...imagine this process over...and over...and over again for about 2 hours and you can only begin to imagine the red, angry faced maniacal creature that I had become and that creature was NOTHING to the angry creature that watched in abject awe when Steve returned, started the mower with one pull and then proceeded to finish the rest of the lawn completely without a hitch...

Have you named your whipper snipper? Mine is called "Betsy". Prior to naming her I was never able to start her but after I gave her a moniker, she became a good mate and even though I sometimes have to shake her around a bit and there may be a degree of unprintable and most decorative language that goes on, I can usually get her started and working reasonably easily. Before you ask...I tried naming the lawnmower..."Hermione HATES ME!" ;)

The problem with small machinery is that when you fandangle the whoozamajig too many times you flood it and it refuses to go even more stoically than it refuses to go on a regular basis. I did a chainsaw course as part of my Horticultural studies. No matter how hard I tried to get out of having to do this part of the course, it remained that I was going to have to heft a chainsaw to complete the course and so narf7 headed out into the wilderness armed to the back teeth with mechanical teeth and copious quantities of chaps, hard hats and anything else required of one in order to render you "safe". Trouble is, all of that safety equipment doesn't help you to start the bollocking thing! I managed to pass the course (in the end) but haven't picked a chainsaw up since. Small machinery comes with its own set of rules and number 1 rule is if you can't understand the instructions, they were probably written by a man...the END!

I have never read "The Accidental Tourist" but now I know what it contains I will NEVER bring it into the house! Should Steve ever get wind that someone out there was allowed to wear track pants EVERYWHERE and that sheets can be sewn into tubes and re-used over...and over...and over again he would go mad with joy. I can't sew either so you can only begin to imagine the sad state of affairs that we would both sink into if Macon's obvious "competence" with life managed to spill over into our own crazy grab for streamlining...the things we do for an easier life!

You should let The Man read your post. At the least he will feel quietly superior and at best he will be dead set chuffed by your need for him. Either way you win! :)
My older son, Jack, is about to get his learner's permit and take drivers' ed. I'm terrified the prospect and can't bear to think about it.

Here in the American South, there are indeed men named Macon. Anne Tyler went to college here in North Carolina, and may have grown up in Raleigh, NC, so the name wouldn't seem strange to her. It's not strange to me, either, until I start to think about it.

Hope your man gets home soon!

My older son, Jack, is about to get his learner's permit and take drivers' ed. I'm terrified the prospect and can't bear to think about it.

Here in the American South, there are indeed men named Macon. Anne Tyler went to college here in North Carolina, and may have grown up in Raleigh, NC, so the name wouldn't seem strange to her. It's not strange to me, either, until I start to think about it.

Hope your man gets home soon!

jo, i imagined you would be able to do all the lawnmowing and whipper-snippering - i have always imagined you to be a capable can-do amazing amazon woman who conquers all before her! but then we wouldn't have such a lovely post.

gosh, i wish my neighbours would come and whippersnipper my edges (ur, that sounds kinky). i am seriosuly considering getting fake lawn because i hate lawnmowing (and never trim the edges).
Jo said…
Hello my darlings, so lovely to hear from you all.
Lucinda and Heather, oh yes, child driving = scary.
Dar, I think when The Man sees how I butchered the lawn, he will be happy to get back to it.
Bek, I already dug up all the front lawn, there would be a revolution if I tried it out the back as well.
Wendy, yes, husbands officially handy.
Judy, if The Man was left in charge for the month I would come back to a spotless house with everyone eating three course meals. He is ridiculously good at everything. I just get this job due to lack of other applicants.
Lynda, I am loving imagining you driving a semi. Brilliant! You can do anything!
Tammy, yes, it's always good when one's cleaning efforts are appreciated.
Fran, let's just agree that machinery is the work of the devil.
Frances, Macon, fancy that. I have never heard of, or met one before. I just thought pityingly how awkward it would be to have a name that rhymes with bacon.
e, so glad I come over as wonder-woman. Pity it is so far from the truth. Go the fake lawn! Where edges always remain appropriately trimmed..

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