Category Archives: Funny

Monkeys drinking wine, nude maternity photos, and other such topics

I know I said I was going to put up a post on author’s favorite children’s books today, but I’m not. It’s taking longer than I thought it would to draft and I want to do it right. So that’s on next week’s schedule for Writing Wednesday.

In the meantime, in keeping with the childhood theme this week, I’m going to put up a post containing material completely unsuitable for children.

How is that in keeping with the theme of childhood, you might ask? Well, it’s in keeping with mine. To wit, an excerpt from the soon to be published Love At The Speed Of Email:

“Like many kids, I suspect, I was drawn to stories of outsiders or children persevering against all odds in the face of hardship. I devoured all of C.S. Lewis’ stories of Narnia and adored the novels of Frances Hodgson Burnett, especially the ones featuring little girls who were raised in India before being exiled to face great hardship in Britain. But I also strayed into more adult territory. I trolled our bookshelves and the bookshelves of family friends, and those bookshelves were gold mines for stories about everything from religious persecution to murder, rape, civil war, child brides, and honor killing.

“It would be nice,” my father commented dryly upon reading the first draft of this chapter, “if you could manage not to make it sound like our personal library was stocked exclusively with troubling filth.”

“Dad,” I explained, “that’s why I used the gold-mine analogy. You don’t just stumble across gold; you have to dig for it. I worked really hard to find that stuff in amongst all the boring family-friendly fare you were prone to buying.”

Additionally, this post is in keeping with the theme of childhood because, as everyone knows, children can ask a lot of questions. And just as a responsible parent answers their children’s questions (at least the first five times they’re asked), a responsible blogger answers her reader’s questions.

Today I woke up feeling responsible, so here are my answers to some recent search terms and questions asked of google that have led people to my blog.

In no particular order:

When do stitches come out after delivery? They don’t. They sew you up using special thread that dissolves over time.

Monkey drinking wine picture: Here (it should be noted that I was not feeding the monkey wine):

Where can I steal a baby monkey? You should be ashamed of yourself.

What is a cluster bomb? A form of air-dropped or ground-launched explosive weapon that releases or ejects smaller sub-munitions. Laos is, unfortunately, littered with them – see this post on the UXO museum here.

Bonsai dog: People, I get this one all the time and as far as I know, there is no such thing as a bonsai dog. There are bonsai trees. There are dogs. End of story.

White dog looks like husky: This one post has made me somewhat of a go-to person on white dogs that look like huskies. There are four options – Samoyed, Siberian husky, Alaskan Malamut & Shiba Inu.

Butchering Samoyeds: You should be ashamed of yourself.

Bad puppy chewing rug: Here:

Treating lympedema in puppies: If anyone has any good information on this (or, more usefully, on treating lymphedema in people), leave it below.

Do koalas bite people? No, but drop bears do. Follow the link to familiarize yourself with Australia’s most fearsome predator, the drop bear.

Funny dead cats in oven: Haven’t seen any of these lately, sorry.

Should I move to Laos? Why not, go for it.

Where can I get a Lao second wife? You’ll figure this one out quickly enough on your own after you move here. (And, PS, you should be ashamed of yourself).

Phallic rocks: Here (you may also want to google Cappadocia, Turkey):

How loud is a sperm whale? The sonar clicks produced by sperm whales are the loudest sound produced by a living creature, as loud as thunder. Apparently, when a sperm whale clicks at a diver it’s like getting kicked in the chest by a horse.

Lisa McKay sex trade worker: Not me, people. Lisa Ann McKay. She was convicted of killing a realtor in 2006 and she was recently released.

Does pornography change young minds? Yes. And older minds. For an excellent discussion of this seek out the book The Brain That Changes Itself and read chapter four on Acquiring Tastes and Loves.

How can I break my arm on rollerblades? By falling over.

Elf-milk: Um… drawing a blank on this one. Sorry.

Can I eat sorbet when pregnant? Absolutely, during the last three weeks of pregnancy I helped myself to a bowl (or two) some time between midnight and 4am every day.

Nude maternity photos: Here: … Kidding. I’m so not going there. And before you start looking through all my other posts, I cannot figure out why two people landed on my blog using this search term. Honestly.

That’s it for this session of 20 questions folks. If you have a question for me, you know where to find me. And if you forget, apparently you can just google nude maternity photos.

Have a good weekend.

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T’is The Night Before (A Children’s Story)

It’s 8, and Mama Bear gives a yawn
She’s very tired, she’s been up since dawn
All day Baby Bear needed loving and feeding
Up and down he set emotions stampeding
She goes to bed, she begins to count sheep
One, two, three, four… Mama Bear is asleep

It’s 10, and Mama Bear wakes in the dark
Drums and cymbals and music, hark!
These are sounds she is daily dreading
The loud late strains of a Lao wedding
She lies in bed, she begins to count sheep
One, two, three, fifty… Mama Bear is asleep

It’s 12, and Mama Bear wakes in the dark
Papa Bear’s snoring sounds not like a lark
She tugs his arms down from over his head
Papa Bear sighs and rolls over instead
She lies in bed, she begins to count sheep
One, two, three, eighty… Mama Bear is asleep

It’s 1, and Mama Bear wakes in the dark
This time she hears a familiar dog bark
Zulu has chased a cat up a tree
And is leaping around in a wild frenzy
She lies in bed, she begins to count sheep
One, two, three hundred… Mama Bear is asleep

It’s 2, and Mama Bear wakes in the dark
Baby Bear moans, stirs, and lets out a sqwark
Mama Bear leans over and hands him his dummy
It’s a 24-hour job, this being a mummy
She lies in bed, she begins to count sheep
One, two, four hundred… Mama Bear is asleep

It’s 3, and Mama Bear wakes in the dark
“It’s morning! It’s morning!” the roosters remark
Mama Bear thinks about chicken pot pie
And how she wishes the roosters would die
She lies in bed, she begins to count sheep
One, two, five hundred… Mama Bear is asleep

It’s 4, and Mama Bear wakes in the dark
She hears a buzz, the mosquito trademark
Little legs brush her cheek like lace
She swipes, misses, and hits her own face
She lies in bed, she begins to count sheep
One, two, eight hundred… [beep beep beep beep]

It’s 5, and Mama Bear wakes in the dark
It’s Baby Bear again, a wee hungry shark
She rises and reaches for her little boy
He gives a sudden, toothless, grin of joy
She picks him up, she kisses his head
She thinks, “this is almost, maybe, better than bed.”

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All’s well that ends well

Yesterday one of my good friends, Abi, left this comment on my post about joy: “the sight of mini-Mike grinning as he leans back in the safe nook of maxi-Mike’s knee definitely came as a welcome joy-boost.”

Today I have for you a one minute video, in two acts, of Dominic in that “safe nook”. The first time Mike showed it to me I said it wasn’t funny. Then I had to admit that it would have been a bit funny… had it been someone else’s child.

Without further ado, here are the adventures of Mike and Dominic at 6am.

Breastfeeding lessons from cows, take two

This post is an addendum to one of my favorite posts from the last year, Life lessons in pregnancy and breastfeeding from cows.

5AM this morning:

Me: “Dominic!!”

Mike: “What’s he doing?”

Me: “He’s latching on repeatedly, sucking nicely once or twice, then tossing his head from side to side before yanking backwards – still holding on, mind you – until my nipple finally pops out of his mouth. Then he opens his eyes wide in panic and lunges forward like a small, desperate, vacuum cleaner until he finds it again.”

Mike: “Do you want me to tell you what the cows on the farm did when the calves did that?”

Me: “Yes!” (After all, you can’t go past a good cow story at 5AM after you’ve had a grand total of 4 hours sleep that night)

Mike: “Well the calves would nudge under their mothers and do exactly that – yank down on their teats really hard. Or their other favorite trick was to throw their heads up hard and headbutt the mama in the stomach.”

Me: “So what did the mama cows do?”

Mike: “They kicked the calves.”

Me: “Really!”

Mike: “Yup, they’d haul off and give the calves a sharp kick and that usually stopped them.”

Me: “So by extension I could give Dominic a smack on his little bottom when he yanks on me?”

Mike: “You’d be well within your mammalian rights.”

P.S. I relayed this conversation to my own mother this morning and she’s of the opinion that Dominic is still too young to connect his nipple-yanking behaviour with any bovinesque chastisement I might dish out. I’m not so sure, though. He’s clearly old enough to understand the concept of playing with his food.

P.P.S. I relayed this conversation to the community health nurse this afternoon and she just laughed. When I followed it up by asking whether he could be doing this because he’s still hungry at the end of his feed she laughed even harder. “That little guy’s gained over 300g for the second week in a row,” she said. “He has no right to still be hungry at the end of a feed. He’s just being demanding.”

Dominic: "What? Me? Play with my food?"

Life lessons on pregnancy and breastfeeding from cows

I still remember the moment, about two months after we were married, when the cows made their first appearance in the discourse of our relationship. I can’t remember what we were debating now, but it led to the following exchange.

“You know who you remind me of?” Mike asked in a tone of mingled frustration and admiration. “Ivy, our second smartest cow on the farm when I was growing up.”

What?” I said. “Who was the smartest cow?”

Photo: Martin Cathrae, Flick

“That was Emmy. She was awesome. She was the sweetest cow ever, so bright, and so gentle. She was the queen matriarch of the herd. All the other cows followed her everywhere.” Mike got slightly misty eyed at the memory. “She was my favorite. She was everyone’s favorite.”                   

“What was Ivy like then?” I asked.

“Ivy was smart all right, but boy was she ever obstinate,” Mike said with grudging respect but a total lack of misty-eyed affection. “Ivy was the only cow that ever figured out that if she wriggled right under the electric fence it would only hurt for a little while before she would be through to the other side and she could have a whole, untouched pasture to herself. Emmy was smart and used it for the good of all. Ivy was smart and used it for her benefit alone. She was a determined, stubborn bugger. And she kicked.”

In a rare turn of events I was momentarily speechless.

“Ivy was my second favorite, though,” Mike added quickly after glancing at my face. “You couldn’t help but admire her even if she was a bugger.”

“Let me get this straight,” I said. “I remind you of your second favorite, second smartest cow.”

“There were 40 cows in the herd, honey,” Mike said. “Second isn’t bad.”

It took a long time after this exchange before I grew to appreciate the cow stories. I certainly wasn’t amused the night I woke up with cramps at 3AM and Mike told me that he thought midnight cramping may be part and parcel of the female mammalian system because he’d noticed over the years that pregnant cows usually went into labour in the early hours of the morning. And I didn’t particularly appreciate the subsequent descriptions of how he had to help hand-deliver the calves (in some cases, using chains to pull them out) when labour didn’t progress.

“Oh, Ivy was a good breeder,” Mike told me when I inquired, with mingled sarcasm and curiosity, about my bovine doppelganger.  “I don’t think she ever had trouble delivering. And whatever else you can say about her, she was a very good mother. If her calf ever started bawling she always came running, usually looking to bite someone.”

Slowly, however, over the two years that we’ve been married, the cow stories have started to make me smile. And just the other night, for the first time, I wondered whether those cows haven’t helped prepare Mike for marriage and parenthood in important ways.

The other night we were out to dinner with friends who have just had their fourth baby. Hannah was telling me about some of the things she wished she had known before she delivered her first baby.

“I wish I’d known how hard breastfeeding could be,” Hannah said. “I had no idea about even basic things – like the fact that some women produce more milk than others, and that flow rate can be different. For some women the milk spurts out so fast the babies practically choke on it. For other women it comes out really slowly.”

“OK,” I said slowly. This was news to me.

“Anyway, having trouble breastfeeding was such a shock,” she continued. “Holton just wouldn’t latch on for ages, and then my milk didn’t come in for a long time, and then I got cracked nipples, and then mastitis, and then – because we were here in Laos and didn’t get to a doctor quickly enough I think – I developed an abscess in my breast.”

“Huh,” I said, feeling horrified in that way you do when you see a car accident and you’re secretly glad that it has nothing to do with you. I am still, on some level, clearly in denial about the fact that I am pregnant and will be giving birth and attempting this feat called breastfeeding in less than five months.

“Breastfeeding is just not as easy as you would think it should be,” Hannah said. “I’m happy to show you some tricks. Western women don’t often get the chance to see breastfeeding up close, so how are we supposed to know how to do it in the best way?”

“That would be good,” I said, thinking that she had a point. How were we supposed to learn in a society where women are fairly shy about whipping out their boobs in public and inviting detailed scrutiny of the whole process?

Well, apparently one other way to learn some of this would have been to grow up on a farm.

“I had such good filters tonight, honey,” Mike said triumphantly after we got home from dinner. “I was going to say all sorts of things during the breastfeeding discussion, but I didn’t.”

“You were going to talk about cows, weren’t you,” I said.

Mike ginned.

“Alright,” I sighed. “Tell me about the cows and breastfeeding.”

“Well,” Mike said. “Everything Hannah said makes sense. Our cows also used to vary dramatically in terms of how much milk they’d produce and how fast it would let down. And some calves, oh my word, some of those calves were so dumb. They just couldn’t figure out how to drink – you’d have to spend hours out there coaching them.”

“Really?” I said. “They didn’t just know? How do you teach them?”

“First you’d prod the calves in that direction and hope they’d figure it out. But if that didn’t work, eventually we’d have to milk the cows and put it in a bottle and hope that the calves would made the connection between what comes out of the nipple on the bottle and what comes out of the nipple on the cow. But some really struggled to make that quantum leap. We had one calf we thought would die it took him so long to figure it out.”

“And I know all about mastitis because the cows used to get it,” Mike continued while I took this in. “Sometimes the calves would develop a preference for only one set of teats – usually the forward ones because they were easier to reach and the calves were lazy. Then the back ones would get full and blocked up and infected.”

“What did you do?”

We’d have to massage and hand milk them on those teats, and sometimes they needed antibiotics.”

As far as I can see so far, Mike’s farm background has substituted quite well for older sisters in preparing him to deal with period cramps and breastfeeding challenges, as well as equipping him with skills in the area of assisting in the delivery of baby mammals (skills that both he and I fervently hope he does not need to employ later this year). And I will admit that I’ve grown quite fond of the cow stories, even if they involve Ivy.

That doesn’t mean, however, that all other animal analogies are fair game.

The other day, when I recalled some random (probably useless) fact, Mike asked me, amazed, how I’d done it.

“I have a good memory,” I said modestly.

“Just like an elephant,” he said. “You’re my elephant.”

“Careful,” I said. “Thin ice.”

“Oh, honey,” Mike said. “Instead of the second smartest cow you can be my smartest elephant.”

“What was that I just heard?” I asked. “Oh, yeah, a big splash.”

What about you? If you’ve had children, what is one thing you wished you’d known before you had your first? If you haven’t had children, what questions or observations do you have?

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Bank cards and inner children

I found my credit card today. It’s been, well, not exactly missing, more like “vacationing in an unknown location”, since we got back from Australia. That was three weeks ago.

I remembered to ask my parents whether they’d seen it while we were on skype the other day.

“Have you seen my credit card lying around?” I asked, oh so casually, in the middle of our conversation.

My father, as I’d guessed he would, sighed.

“Lisa,” he said, and then paused. “Does your husband know about this?”

“Not exactly,” I said, grinning just a little. “I’m a firm subscriber to the theory that one of the best ways to keep your marriage healthy is not to let every single thought that goes through your head come out your mouth.”

There was silence while my parents, I’m sure, tried to figure out what this had to do with my credit card.

“Almost every day I think that maybe I should really try to find it,” I added helpfully.

Dad sighed again.

“We’ll keep an eye out,” he said.

So “find my credit card” has been on my to list for weeks now, and since today is a day full of life admin – filing, sorting books, and trying to catch up on email – I gritted my teeth five minutes ago and went in the bedroom determined to do a thorough search. I’d already looked in my wallet twice but started by flicking through it again just to make sure… and there is was. Nestled somewhere I still can’t understand why I would have put it. Halleluiah. I found it and I got to tick something off the to-do list and I do not have to go through the hassle of trying to get it replaced over here in Laos, not to mention having to confess the whole debacle to Mike. Happy days.

The whole thing has made me think of one of the first essays I wrote after I started emailing Mike. Called, “Inner Child” I thought it was merely an “all’s well that ends well” tale that kept me amused writing it up on an overnight flight to London. I found out later that Mike found it less amusing than terrifying. So, today, here’s a walk down memory lane and a look at an essay I sent out just over three years now. (PS, Despite this post’s evidence to the contrary let me assure you that I’m heaps more responsible and organized now. Heaps.)

Inner Child (October 2007)

What does my inner child look like, I wondered, rifling through the pockets of all the jackets hanging in my closet, and where on earth was my bankcard?

Both were pressing questions. Ed was picking me up for the inner child party in two hours, and I was getting on a plane to head to Kenya in less than 24. I had six dollars in my wallet, and it was Saturday at 3:30pm. The banks were closed (which I had discovered when I rocked up at my local branch at 3pm with passport in hand all set to make a withdrawal sans bankcard). They were going to stay closed until Monday morning by which time, all going well, I would be in London. This was somewhat of a problem. Plus, I still didn’t have a costume for the party. The afternoon was not going as planned.

Faced with a whole row of stubbornly empty pockets I stood back, took a deep breath, and tried to think.

When confronted with multiple crises it’s always wise to take a moment to evaluate which is the most pressing. Clearly that was what I was going to wear to the party. Perhaps if I figured that out, the secondary issue of how I was going to manage to spend two weeks in Africa on six dollars would seem more manageable.

Robin said we were supposed to come dressed as something that reflects our inner child, and this had me stumped. Did she want us to come dressed as the inner child that actually was a child? Because then all I’d have to do is straighten my hair, put on some appallingly thick glasses, and braces, and then go and sit in a playground and read a book – because that child didn’t actually have many friends and hence, didn’t go to parties often.

Or did she mean the inner child we have now – the un-self-conscious, comfortable-in-our-own-skin inner child that tempts us towards silliness and fun and levity? Come to think of it though, I’m not sure why those qualities get associated with inner children. I got better at embracing them as I got older. Most of my childhood I spent feeling like an adult trapped in a little body.

Perhaps she meant the inner child we always wanted to be when we were children? If that was the case I could go for the entirely unremarkable outfit of jeans and a tee shirt on the grounds that I spent a significant portion of my childhood wanting to just be more normal. Or perhaps I should wear a sari because when I wasn’t thinking it would be nice to be normal, I was thinking it would be nice to be Indian. Or maybe a formal dress and a tiara? I can’t actually remember fantasizing about being a princess (except being a sari-clad Indian princess) but I’m sure I did. Doesn’t every little girl want to be a princess?

I sighed and looked longingly at my bed, which was covered with clothes, work documents, and an open suitcase.

What I really wanted more than anything else in that instant was to climb back into that bed, read a good book, and forget about Africa and parties. And I’d give my kingdom to have someone bring me some ice cream. And a nice glass of wine. Or two.

That was it! My inner child just wanted to be in bed. I would go in pajamas.

“Good idea!” Robin said, when she heard what I was planning. “I will too, and Sharla, probably. Then we can have a slumber party!”

Awesome. Not only had I come up with a decent idea, this inner child went to slumber parties. This inner child had some friends. Things had definitely improved in the last two decades.

Now, the bankcard.

I’d been convinced it was in the car.

This was not an entirely stupid assumption. I’m a relatively neat and ordered person. My office, my bedroom, the house… all fairly neat – if not germ-free clean. Captain Waldo, my car, is a totally different story. My theory is that he is actually a different planet, with his own field of gravity, which has an almost irresistible affinity for things like receipts, empty coffee cups, cans of diet coke, Tupperware containers, CD’s, and books. On Saturday morning he looked like a mobile library. There were at least forty books scattered on the back seat. It seemed likely that my bankcard was buried in there somewhere. It’s been known to happen before.

It was a great theory. The only problem being that during the half an hour it took me to dig through all the detritus it became clear that the bank card was not buried in there somewhere.

I tackled the problem logically. I marveled at the cleanness of the car for a minute or two, then I went back inside and decided it still wasn’t time to panic. It was likely somewhere in the house, I reasoned, but just in case it wasn’t, I’d better go to the bank before it closed and make a withdrawal using my passport as ID.

So off I toddled to the bank.

Which is when I learned that the bank shuts at 2pm on Saturday.

So now my costume was all sorted and another half hour of searching in the house hadn’t yielded any bank-card-joy there was no avoiding the fact that I was going to have to figure out a plan B or embrace solidarity with the poor.

Plan B would normally be Bank-O-Dad. But, unfortunately, Bank-O-Dad only has one branch, which is in Australia rather than Los Angeles. But, I suddenly realized, I had friends. Friends who would be coming to a slumber party with me that night. Friends who would surely empty their checking accounts for me. After all, what are friends for?

So I rang Robin back.

When she didn’t answer I left a message telling her I had an “unusual request.” I tried for an upbeat, “I have a really neat plan for a big adventure” tone, but had a nasty suspicion as I hung up that I had sounded more guilty than cheerful.

This was confirmed when she rang back and the first words out of her mouth were a wary, “what do you want?”

“A thousand dollars,” I said in a small voice.

“Lisa!” Robin said in a tone I’ve heard more than once in the last four years of our friendship.

“Where did you have it last?” She asked after I explained the problem.

“Chicago,” I said, even more softly.

“Lisa! You went to Chicago a month ago! I heard you say your bankcard was missing weeks ago. You didn’t find it in between? When did you really start looking for it?”

“This morning,” I whispered.

“Lisa! Wow!” Robin said. There was a long silence that gave us both ample time to reflect on my idiocy. “Well I can’t get out a thousand dollars at the ATM. I can only get four or five hundred.”

“That’s okay,” I said, relieved. “I can write you a check right now for that, and I’ll ask some of the others too.”

In the end my Bible Study group came through with the goods, and Robin, Paul, Sarah, Sharla, and Joe, all contributed to my financial solvency for this trip.

“Don’t lose it,” Robin warned me as she handed me an envelope full of cash. “And don’t tell Jenn about this. She’ll be mad.”

Yeah. Our mutual friend Jenn, and my parents, and everyone else who manages not to do things like this on a regular basis. But the way I see it I’m home free now. I only make one or two big and potentially serious mistakes per international trip. And this was my second, because this year I completely forgot that I needed visas to go to Kenya and Ghana until three weeks and two days before I was scheduled to leave and anyone who knows anything about the pace at which African embassies generally operate know that’s not exactly a safe margin. So given that I’ve already had a potential visa-debacle and weathered a missing bankcard… it should be a great trip from here on out.

Thank the Lord for growing out of lonely childhoods, for grown-up pajama parties, and for good friends is all I can say.

And, for those good friends who live in Chicago – if you happen to see my bankcard, can you mail it to LA?

Thanks.

In which I answer seeker’s questions

Do you know that if you are an author you can now log into your author profile on amazon.com, look at the sales information for your book by state in the US for the last month, and track the rise and fall of your kindle and paperback sales rankings over time? I am not at all sure that this is a good thing (although I would like to thank December 2010 shoppers in Vermont, California, and Washington State). It took me considerable time after my book was published to break myself of the habit of checking my Amazon sales ranking several times a day (a habit I now call Amazturbation) and googling my book name to see who was writing what about it on their blogs. After putting myself on very strict me-related internet rations, however, I’m proud to say that I can now go months without even thinking about my Amazon sales ranking, and I aim to keep this up despite the lure of those pretty colour-coded sales maps to puzzle over.

I mean, why Vermont? Although, I guess if I lived in Vermont in December I might be browsing the shelves for novels set on tropical islands too.

When I started blogging seriously earlier this year, wordpress presented me with yet another tool that has the potential to be wielded as a navel-gazing, self-stimulating, saccharine-sweet-but-ultimately-unsatisfying substitute for interaction with real people in real time that’s actually not all about me – site statistics for the blog.

Much to my relief, however, I’ve found site stats not nearly as dangerous and much more amusing than amazturbation. For example, here is a list of the all-time most popular search terms that have led people to my blog in the last year.

  1. Writing
  2. Puppies
  3. Write
  4. Dreaming
  5. Samoyed dog
  6. Lisa McKay
  7. Resilient
  8. Giant snake in laos

It’s very hard indeed to take yourself too seriously when your own name is outranked by Samoyed dog, dreaming, and puppies, and you only just beat out the giant snake in Laos.

However, the thing I really love about the search terms list is the questions. People have found my blog by asking some of the weirdest questions – questions I’m quite sure they didn’t find answered in my posts. So, today, in honour of all you question askers, I’m going to attempt to answer ten of them now.

What is that dog that looks like a big ball of fluff? This question pops up in various guises all the time. That dog is a Samoyed. That is, however, the extent of my knowledge, I’m sorry. I cannot direct you to bonsai Samoyeds, gothic Samoyeds, Samoyeds wearing helmets, or tell you what a Samoyed looks like when it’s been shaved. If any of my readers would like to chime in in the comments section with any good Samoyed related sites you’ll make a lot of searchers very happy. There are a truly remarkable number of people interested in Samoyeds out there.

Is pig fat good for fertility? Well, I’m no dietician, but I’d guess that while very small amounts aren’t going to hurt fertility, it’s not likely to do much good either (unless the fat is still on the pig, the pig is a mother pig, and you live in Ancient China – where keeping a fat mother pig at home signified fertility and wealth).

Is pepsi made of pig fat? and Is there pig blood in pepsi? To the best of my knowledge, no. There is a persistent internet rumour going around that pepsi contains pepsin and that pepsin is a chemical that contains pig blood. Every reputable site that I looked at, however, flatly denies this. 

What age do dogs start wandering? Some of my readers are professional dog trainers, so I should probably defer to them on this. But my own internet research suggests that male dogs will start wandering off in search of females in heat at about six months old.

Where can I buy Lisa McKay Pottery? There is apparently a Lisa McKay out there who makes pottery. However her site is down and I can’t find any of her pieces on sale. Sorry. If I take it up as a hobby I’ll let you know.

Does wandering have the same definition as wondering? No. Wandering refers to being mobile, migratory, and traveling around without a clear destination. Wondering refers to being inquisitive, showing curiosity or amazement, or to wish to know something.

Do you use a bridle to ride an elephant? Ah, no. That is one reason why it’s easy to fall off an elephant’s head unless you have better innate balance than I do.

What does Laotian writing look like? It’s very pretty. I can’t reproduce it here because my browser isn’t enabled for the script, but if you want to check it out you can go here.

Does Laos have rabies? Yes. But it’s not like packs of rabid animals are roaming the streets. The dogs here are mostly attached to families and relatively well behaved (if a bit mangy and flea-bitten). I have never been directly threatened by a stray dog here.

Is having two babies and two puppies too much? Look, too much is relative. But I can speak from the perspective of having one puppy and no babies and the answer for me is clear. Yes, it is.

OK, that’s it for this session of “Lisa answers questions”. But before I leave here is one final tidbit. One search term that regularly pops up has had me puzzled for quite some time. That search term is “giant snake bites electric fence.” So yesterday I went googling this myself, and if you want to see what I found you can go here (in all fairness I think this photo even beats the giant snake in Laos photo). I am warning you, though, I will take no responsibility if you follow the link and then have nightmares. None.

Until next time.

In which we talk about animals

On Tuesday afternoon Mum and I drove into Ballina to have tea with my grandparents. My grandfather is 86 now and my grandmother 85. Every year that I say goodbye to them after visiting I wonder if it will be for the last time. I know they’re thinking about it too, because my Pa’s always making jokes about how he’s an old workhorse about ready to be put out to pasture to die (mind you, he’s usually making this joke right after he’s been out and about on the property up here mowing the lawn or fixing things or otherwise getting up to active mischief).

I often don’t know quite what to say when Pa makes these comments, but sometimes I remind him he’s been talking like this for about 15 years now. Maybe longer.

“Well then, one of these days soon it’s bound to be true, isn’t it,” Pa says. Then he grins a cheeky grin and his green eyes twinkle. “Would you like another bit of sponge cake with that tea, love?”

My Pa is a sunny soul.

So every time I come home I’m thrilled that they’re still around, not least because if they weren’t I wouldn’t get a front row seat to delightfully random welcome-home conversations like this one:

“Oh,” Nana said, hugging me to herself tightly after I stepped through the door. “Oh. You’re here. You never change. Have you lost weight, dear?”

“Well, well, well,” Pa said, hugging me next. “Look who the cat dragged in.”

“Speaking of cats,” I said, staring past Pa’s shoulder and out the window, entranced, at the giant cotton puff lurking in the bushes below, stalking the birds. “That is the most enormous white cat. You haven’t adopted a cat, have you?”

“Nah,” Pa said. “He gets around here sometimes, climbs up the brick and stares at us through the window. Generally makes a nuisance of himself.”

“Oh,” Nana said. “The cat’s nothing compared to the gigantic crocodile we saw up the tree yesterday. Tell her Alan.”

“That was a goanna,” Pa said. “Not a crocodile.”

Gigantic!” Nana said, not missing a beat. “Six feet long.”

“It was six feet long,” Pa agreed. “All the birds were going crazy, squawking and shrieking. Way worse than with that cat.”

“Did you take a photo?” I asked. “I’ll put it on the blog. I’ve got a snake-like animal sub theme going.”

“No,” Pa said, regretful.

“That reminds me,” my mother said to her parents. “I have to clarify something. Remember when I showed you that photo of the snake from Laos and told you that Lisa took it?”

“Mum,” I said, horrified, “you didn’t, did you? I said quite clearly in the post that I never saw that snake myself, only the photo of it.”

“Yes, well,” Mum waved her hand, “sometimes it doesn’t pay to read things too carefully, that only ruins a good story. And it was such a lovely story I was telling people, too, about how Mike had found this huge snake – practically in your backyard – and fetched you to see it, and you’d taken this amazing photo, and then they cut the snake open and there was a person inside. Until your father told me it wasn’t true and that you’d never actually seen the snake yourself.”

“How many people did you tell this to?” I asked.

“Not many,” Mum said. “Not more than a dozen, I’m sure.”

“What about the man inside?” Pa asked. “Was that part true?”

“That part was true,” I confirmed.

“Anyway,” Nana said, “back to the crocodile up the tree.”

“The goanna,” Pa said.

“The goanna,” Nana said. “I was lying in bed that night and I couldn’t sleep, and all of a sudden I started thinking about how if it could get up the tree like that, quick as anything,” (here Nana demonstrated just how quickly the goanna ascended the tree with a series of frantic scrabbling motions) “then it would probably get in the house next.”

Mum and Pa both dissolved in laughter.

“How, love?” Pa asked between snorts.

“Walk right up the front steps and in the door, I’d say,” Mum said.

“Or maybe up the brick to the second story and eat it’s way straight through the window,” Pa said, gnashing his teeth.

“Impossible to stop, really,” Mum said. “It’s probably lurking around here somewhere right now. Oh, wait, I think I might hear it in the kitchen!”

Nana folded her hands primly and completely ignored them. That couldn’t have been easy, with all the cackling they were still doing.

“You never know,” she said, darkly.

A tale of two puppies

Mike should have known better, really.

I was so happy at the prospect of finally getting a puppy that the thought of two puppies had never entered my mind. Honestly.

Then, while we were on the way to the airport last Monday to be medivaced to Bangkok, Mike mentioned that he’d called the puppy lady and told her we wouldn’t be able to make our scheduled appointment at lunchtime that day, after all.

It has turned out to be more difficult to find a puppy in Laos than we’d bargained for. Once we’d settled the fact that we definitely not getting the imported Samoyed (a question that was only really resolved in my mind when we went back to the little store and she was gone) we started scouting around.

Then Mike’s colleagues got wind of the fact that we were looking for a puppy and, hospitality being what it is here, decided to take care of this for us.

“What do you mean Makan has found us a puppy?” I asked, when Mike told me what was going on.

“Well, I’m not exactly sure,” Mike said. “You know how indirect everything is here. The word on the street is that Makan has ‘ordered one’ but I can’t get anyone to tell me when we might expect this puppy to show up at our house, or whether these puppies have even been born yet.”

“But what if we don’t like this puppy?” I asked.

Mike shrugged. “Unless we find another puppy quickly we will have exactly zero choice in the matter.”

We really didn’t want Makan spending his hard-earned money to buy us a puppy, so we set to hunting down puppies with new will. We asked the owner of the little grocery store we go to, and the people in the hardware store. But we didn’t strike gold until we asked the German guy who sells the only decent ice cream in town.

Ice cream man was very confused to be asked about “mah noy” (little dogs) while we were paying our bill, but when he finally realized what we were after he obligingly dug out the phone number of the German butcher. The German butcher, he told us, had little dogs.

The German butcher and his wife, Soumontha, did indeed have little dogs. We told Soumontha that we’d come round on Monday lunchtime to see them.

Except, last Monday at lunchtime found us in a car on the way to the airport to catch a flight that would ferry us to hospital in Thailand. Damn staph.

“Maybe we should get a puppy in Bangkok,” I suggested, trying to think of ways to redeem this trip and get my puppy fix. “A yellow lab, maybe. Or a husky.”

“Soumontha said she’d keep one for us,” Mike said. “Or two. She asked how many we wanted.”

Have you ever had one of those moments when your perspective and vision for life shifts with all the brilliant immediacy of a lightening strike? That was how the possibility of two puppies arrived in my mind – in a single, mesmerizing, instant.

“What did you tell her?” I asked, pretending casual.

“I told her that it depended on how cute my wife thought they were,” Mike said.

Really?” I said.

“Stop!” Mike said, with all the sudden fear of someone who’s just realized that they have handled a Pandora’s box far too casually. “I was joking. We do not need two dogs.”

“How do you feel?” I asked, glancing down at the swollen legs that were jammed into his shoes.

Stop!” Mike said, ignoring my solicitous diversion.

“What???” I asked.

“I can see you thinking.”

“Once upon a time you loved it when I thought,” I said.

“Yes,” Mike parried. “And then we got married.”

I didn’t pester him too much about two puppies last week. It’s hard to muster up the steely willpower necessary to press an argument with someone dressed in green pajamas who has an IV decorating the back of their hand. So I bought him chocolate covered ice cream bars from the gift shop downstairs and bided my time.

That time came yesterday, when we finally got to go see Soumontha’s puppies. There are fifteen of them, five weeks old now, and they are a squirming tangle of adorable. I sat down on the ground and let them crawl all over me and wondered how we were ever going to be able to pick one in ten minutes flat.

As it turned out, there were only two left unallocated from the litter that we wanted – a little girl and a little boy – tiny, tawny, balls of fluff with black noses.

We were leaning towards the little boy, but then we noticed that he whimpered a lot and started to wonder whether he was chronically noisy, or anxious… or brain damaged. Then we started leaning towards the little girl.

“Perhaps we could take them both,” I suggested, smiling up at Mike and Soumontha.

“I told you,” Mike said to Soumontha.

Mike and I talked this over again last night as we walked down to an outdoor restaurant overlooking the Mekong.

“They could be buddies for each other,” I said. “When we have to go out they won’t be lonely – they can play nicely with each other while we’re gone. And during the day when I am busy they can curl up together like tiny, contented, bundles of love. They will be happier with a friend.”

“That is a beautiful vision indeed,” Mike said. “But I don’t think it works like that, exactly. When puppies are together all they want to do is play, and I think it’s far more likely that they’ll wind each other up and get into all sorts of mischief. Do you really want to be trying to write in the same room as two bored puppies and all sorts of things they should not be chewing on?”

“Huh,” I said, my beautiful vision dying a small death.

After we got home from dinner I put this to an informal poll and it seems that, as usual, the global facebook audience agrees with Mike.

“Uh oh!” warned a good friend from California, Danielle. “I know it’s tempting, but don’t get two that are siblings! They maintain a pack mentality and it makes them unbearably hard to housetrain and domesticate! They act like little wild wolves when you have two from same litter together.”

“Little wild wolves” piques my curiosity, I must admit – after all, how much trouble can two puppies be? But I suspect that my curiosity will be trumped by pragmatism-plus-spouse, and I am slowly resigning myself to being a one-puppy household.

Of course, we are going again on Sunday to visit the whole furry mob of them – a visit that is likely to take a pair of bellows to the dying embers of that beautiful vision of canine comradeship…

I’ll keep you posted.

World’s Worst Elephant Mahout

Mike and I went on an elephant mahout training course yesterday.

Yes, seriously.

Here’s how it happened.

Last week we came back two days early from our time in Cambodia so that Mike could attend some important meetings in Vientiane – so he took those two days of leave this weekend instead. Given that we’d be in Luang Prabang, Mike decided it would be a good idea to pre-schedule some interesting things to do out of the house on these two days so that he would not be tempted out of habit to, as he put it, “fall into bed with my second wife, Madame Toshiba, when it is not her turn.”

(Madame Toshiba is Mike’s work computer and, for the record, she already gets more than her fair share of his attention.)

So that is how we ended up out at Elephant Village for the day, and when the owners asked us if we wanted to do the special package where you learn how to be a mahout and you get to swim with your elephant we said, “that sounds cool, why not?”

Perhaps if I had stopped to think about it for more than a nano-second I might have come up with a couple of potentially valid reasons why not.

Here’s one, for example: Mahouts ride elephants bareback.

Here’s another: Before they ride the elephants bareback they somehow climb up on them unassisted.

Here’s a third: There is no such thing as an elephant bridle.

And here’s the kicker: Elephants are very big.

But no – as in so many other situations in life I didn’t stop to think. Or perhaps more accurately, I knew that thinking might be wise, but I took one look at Mike’s hopeful, excited, face at the prospect of mahout training (he looked exactly like a Labrador Retriever who’s just spied someone with a tennis ball in hand) and knew I wouldn’t have the heart to say no, so I chose not to think. I can never figure out in those moments whether I’m being a great wife or an idiot.

They say you learn something every day, and here’s one of the things I learned yesterday: I’d be the world’s worst mahout.

It took two people to shovel me up onto our training elephant and things only went downhill from there.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I mastered exactly none of the commands designed to tell the elephant where to go and almost fell off the elephant’s head while it was merely walking in a gentle circle. Then I nearly lost my shirt over my head sliding down its neck.

Here’s another thing I learned yesterday: Sometimes I need to repeat an experience before I really learn my lesson, because later in the day I got back up bareback on an elephant – this time I wearing nothing but a bathing suit – and almost fell off again.

But here’s the third thing I learned: I might not particularly like riding the elephants without the aid of a howdah, but I sure do like swimming with them.