Tuesday, October 28, 2008


Last weekend we returned to the Parental Home to have our last few days of fun with my sister AJ and the Nephews/Niece. My sister and her family live in a small, picturesque corner of New Zealand; a country seemingly made of nothing but small picturesque corners and the occasional large flightless bird. They were due to return this week and while I had detected a certain weariness amongst my parents, I could also see that they would be sorely missed.

AJ, being the mother of an 8 yr old boy, a 6 yr old girl and a 4 yr old gorilla, seems perpetually tired but in a sort of gentle, gracious Earth Mother-ish sort of way. Whereas I, mother of a screaming tomato aged 2 and three months, am also perpetually tired, but in a thrashing, writhing Earth Worm-ish sort of way.

On Saturday night AJ, our surfy naturopath sister T, our stepmum D and my husband C went off to one of the local pubs to watch a rather grumpy Australian singer play her 90's hits. Meanwhile, my dad and I fed the all kids, bathed them and put them to bed.

With Tricky's new jack-in-the-box style of sleeping and the NZ cousins' own sleep related pecadillos, it meant some clever tactics for the grownups.

For me it meant attempting to be more calm, more zen about the whole sleep battle thing. One of my friends has a pre-schooler and she described the crucial period when she would lie next to her toddler, patting her back, until she fell asleep. It took about twenty minutes and this particular stage lasted for six months.

"Six Months!" I had exclaimed in horror.

"It's ok," she reassured me. "Once I accepted that there was nothing else I could do I just lay there and came up with script ideas. I wrote two animation scripts in my head during that six months."

So as I lay next to Tricky on the Big Bed and stroked his back (more doking Mummy) I tried to ponder script ideas and exciting new plays. Instead, all I could think about was the frightening news my producer had shared with me last week when she told me they were making a 'behind the scenes' thing to go with the television series and the writers would be filmed talking about their episodes and also their 'process'.

What could I say about my episode, I wondered. What could I say about my process? And most important of all, what should I wear?

Give or take a few false sleeping alarms (Tricky can be practically snoring but has his eyes wide open and ears alert for any sound of escaping parent. Mummy! More Doking!) I was out of the bedroom by 8.30.
My dad, I noted, had set up a chair between the bedrooms of the NZ nephews/niece and was sitting there, keeping guard and growling if anyone dared to sit up. Which was not dissimilar to the technique he used on my sisters and I when we were kids.

The NZ kids aren't naughty per se, but like most kids they are...well... intense in small spaces.

Also quite adventurous and selectively deaf.
These two things combined can be fairly gutwrenching for a gentle soul like AJ. My sister took her kids on an outing to the Sydney Aquarium. After a good hour or so of examining the sharks and octopi and multitude of brightly coloured reef fish, their little group emerged blinking in the sunlight and stood for a few minutes by the edge of the wharf. When AJ stopped blinking she found that her youngest, the gorilla, was missing.

After calling his name in more and more desparate tones she decided he must have fallen over the edge of the wharf and into the harbour. As she flung her bag onto the ground and prepared to leap into the water she heard an answering call - naughty gorilla child had wandered back into the aquarium and couldn't understand what all the fuss was about.

At which point AJ felt her knees buckle as she fell to the ground and howled.

This was probably the lowlight of her holiday, there were a few sleepless nights and shouty mornings, one rather badly hungover day which she couldn't really blame on the kids, but give or take some conflicts over eat your dinner! brush your teeth! and stay in bed! I think they all had a great time.

This was perhaps measured best by the intense reaction that occurred on Tuesday when, AJ enjoying her penultimate day in Australia with a relaxing hair treatment and a final jolly catch up with our younger sisters (and newest Tiny Niece) before her return to NZ on Wednesday, discovered rather late in the morning that she had in fact got her dates arse about. She had drifted onto T's computer to check her bank balance and called out in a perplexed tone: why does your computer say today is the 28th? Answer of course being: because it is.
It seemed that in fact, Tuesday, ie the 28th, was the day she was meant to vacate the country.
Not Wednesday.
Cue a lot of frantic and hysterical packing of two and a half weeks of collected holiday shite into three too-small suitcases. Also some handwringing over failure to properly farewell Aphwa, visit Grandad etc. Also, just sort of random non-copeyness. My dad described her as looking like a rabbit in the headlights as she stood in the middle of the bedroom staring, helpless, at first one suitcase and then another while T and K packed like demons around her.

I was in Sydney at this point but discovered the situation when I rang to find out how Grumpy Grandad was faring - another post - and then, while dad drove AJ and the kids two and a half hours to Sydney Airport I got online to try and check them in (only for domestic flights) and failing that, try to find the right number to call someone and explain the problem (you want to speak to a human, are you joking?).

The plan was for C to drop me at the airport so I could be there to help wrangle the kids (and my sister) to the check in counter and help keep them together until they could be shepherded onto their flight. This worked reasonably well, although there was one horrid moment when I tried to find my 8 year old nephew who had suddenly gone AWOL and I stood in the middle of the airport searching for a glimpse of curly black hair and thin running legs and thought:

Maybe one really is enough.

But then he was found (I told you I was going to the toilet! I did!) and all was forgiven and Crispy Cremes were selected and packed into handluggage (you can only eat these when you are sitting in your seats on the plane, with your seatbelts on!) and then my sister was in floods of tears again and mumbling about her wonderful family and how she must be insane...

And then they were gone.

Later that night as I sat by my toddler, doking his back, and trying to think of script ideas, I thought about how close my sisters and I have become as we have gotten older, how much we like each other as adult women.
And I remembered how, when I first caught sight of her oldest son, dripping wet from the pool, face split with a huge grin as he ran up to say hello, I nearly laughed out loud because his face was AJ's face but her face as a child - a face I hadn't seen for more than thirty years. It was like being in a time machine and being taken back to Penang and Werribee and Carlingford and all the little corners of our childhood.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

A new stage worth toasting... nightly.

Today I picked up Tricky's little friend, Midget Vampire Boy, from daycare along with Tricky and they had a nice play together at home with Naughty Nephew the 3rd on our new trampoline. Tricky calls it 'dumping' and I find it hard to contradict him because it makes me laugh when he asks if he can dump on the tam-peen.

I say 'new' because we bought it last Christmas, or at least Santa did, but after having four boys dump up and down and wrestle and fling themselves from mesh wall to mesh wall, the trampoline is looking a little on the sad and saggy side.

Not unlike me.

When Midget Vampire's mother turned up, the very beautiful and talented Opera Singing Mummy, she looked at me with concern and said I looked drab and weary and a small vertical frown had developed across my forehead. OSM can say these sorts of things because we have been friends since first year drama at Newcastle University, when she was a buxom virgin in wholesome gingham and I was still learning to draw my eyeliner on straight.

Anyway my point is that the two of us sat down and watched the toddlers at play and OSM saw how Tricky soon tired of innocent dumping and instead took to wicked flinging all the wooden train tracks off the table and onto the floor, all the while with an evil little smile playing across his lips.

And then I explained about the hellish no-sleep nights we'd been having and she nodded. Midget Vampire Boy has just turned 3 and indeed has been responsible for many a hellish night himself. So she knew and was sympathetic.

She leaned across and patted my arm.

"Tricky's just going through a stage but I'm concerned..." she said and her voice was warm and caring, "that you won't have anywhere near enough alcohol in this house."

Interestingly I had thought the very same thing - not that there wasn't enough alcohol because I knew there certainly was - but that as the mother of a toddler it would be so easy to become a complete lush.

And then tonight, I put Tricky into his bed, and led him back twice and stroked his back and sat on the floor beside him and tried to be calm and not think about a glass of wine and by 8.30 he was asleep.

By coincidence (and not because of OSM's observation) I am having my First Ever Facial tomorrow. I am taking my other friend from uni, Screen Writing Mummy, for her birthday treat. She rang me tonight and we discussed plans and lunch and clothing to be worn.

And my big tip, said Screen Writing Mummy, re the facial, is this: Don't Fall Asleep.

And I swear I'll try not to, because obviously one wants to experience one's full money's worth and also one doesn't want to do that embarrasing snorty snore thing where you just catch yourself dropping off, but lordy if I'm horizontal and even just vaguely comfortable without a toddler screaming in my ear for water, I don't really hold out much hope.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Night Terror

We are just back from visiting the family in Newcastle and potentially the most appalling nights' sleep ever.

Not just us, the motherperson and the fatherperson, but also grandparents, two aunties and three little New Zealand cousins. And not just the one night, but three, although to give Tricky his due he made sure that the nights got progressively worse.

Last week, after a couple of harrowing nights where Tricky had managed to throw himself out of the cot several times in an hour, C rolled up his sleeves and transformed the cot into a Big Boy Bed.

Cue much delighted shrieking from Small Brown Toddler and insisting that it was bedtime at 3 in the afternoon.

Mine Big Boy Bed! Mine have seeping! Mine seeping now! Doodnight!
On that first night he curled up in his big boy bed with a grin. C and I put an arm around each other's waist and simpered at each other. So adorable. So sweet.

Too easy.

He must have been chortling into his gingham doona cover.

One night and one night only of uninterrupted sleep. The next and the next and the next saw Tricky imitating a jack-in-the-box and us re-enacting a scene from Groundhog Day, probably one that hit the cutting room floor.

We had been advised that the best thing to do was to take him by the hand and firmly lead him back to bed without speaking or making eye-contact.

This worked well the first time. I led him back to bed and he obediently climbed back in. I did the same thing about 4 minutes later. Then C did it a couple of times. We were both aware that we were trying to instill good sleeping habits in our child, essential healthgiving skills that would ensure the wellbeing of all, and also we were gagging to watch the next episode of The Wire (series 2) in bed (with headphones).

C and I were quite calm and grownup about the leading back, taking it in turns, tipping each other off as we spotted him approaching our computers, muttering out of the side of our mouths like a couple of bad ventriloquists.

Ooh, here he comes, I can see him in the window.
Is he looking at us?
Who's he heading for?
Ok, both ignore him and then when he gets close enough I'll grab his hand and take him back.

But Tricky seemed to think that the silent treatment wasn't really working and on about the fourth or fifth curtain call he decided we needed a good prompt.

Come on, Mummy, he said, as he grabbed my hand and led me back to the bedroom.
Time for bed. Tricky's big boy bed. Seepy time. Det into bed. Shhhhh!

There was no Wire that night. Instead, C and I, finally, beaten, turned off the lights and got into bed only to hear the ominous patter of little feet, followed quickly by the rabid scrabbling of little paws.

And yes I got out of bed and led him back to his Big Boy Bed. And again and again. But at some point in the night, half asleep, I got confused and put him into our bed and so The Toddler won, at least until about four in the morning when I awoke to find his feet jammed into my stomach and I picked him up and carried him back to where he belonged.

Which leads us to our little holiday in Newcastle to meet lovely little cousins/nephews/niece and to see Aunty AJ again and Aunty K and newest Tiny Niece and, bonus: Aunty T down from Byron Bay. Aphwa and Poppy's house was full and so Tricky had to sleep in his travel cot in the same room with us and so the nightmare began again. Except this time, although he could climb out of the travel cot he couldn't get back in and it was hot and the walls were thin...


Last night, the worst of all, Tricky woke (in travel cot) suddenly, at 11pm, and started screaming about...oh look who knows. There was something about Mummy and Big Bed and quite a lot of Water and I think there was something about the Global Financial Crisis...but really, when you are wrenched from your sleep by a howling monster of a toddler who arches and kicks in your arms and then tries to hit you across the face and then when given a sippy cup of water throws it on the floor because you haven't held it to his lips as he expressly told you listen when I am screaming, how many times do I have to tell you my hands do not touch the loathsome sippy cup and then finally when you do hold it to his lips he bites down and uses his teeth to rip the lid off ensuring he and you will be doused in water and now he really will scream because I am wet dammit, change my trousers this instant!

I am sort of laughing about it now but in that moment, knowing that everyone, adults and kids alike had also been rudely woken and were lying there, wondering what the hell was happening, and water dripped through my pyjamas and my child howled and bucked and kicked and slapped, I felt like some evil fairy had slipped through the window and replaced my darling little bubba boy with some horrendous mythical monster.

I shouted at C through gritted, I Have Had Enough, teeth and he leapt up and grabbed Tricky and dragged him out into the loungeroom where I would find them ten minutes later curled together on the sofa, Tricky's eyes large and dark as he silently drank cup after cup of water.

But before then, I got up and turned on the light to get a towel and dry myself and the bed off, and I saw my angry face in the mirror and my ugly clenched-jaw scowl, and who, I wondered, was the real monster now?

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Having Your Cake And Eating It (also the icing and sprinkles)

This attractively garish and slightly fuzzy array of anti-oxident rich cupcakes was the product of a few hours of quality time between Tricky and myself.

Yes they came from a packet.
They were (gasp) sans buttermilk. That's despite my previous cupcake making experience.
Nigella would be turning in her rose petal infused milk bath.

No I don't know if Nigella has a rose infused milk bath. I do know that she's not lactose-intolerant so she may indeed enjoy le douche de la vache-juice .
(Please feel free to correct. I have decided to continue to apprendre le francais via blog comments only.)
Like Nigella to milkbaths, so too Tricky to this nutritious blue icing.
Especially on the big spoon.

No I didn't eat any cupcakes. The very sight of them disgusted me.

Yes they were eaten by a selection of children.

Yes those children are all related to me in one way or another.

While Tricky is enjoying the remainder of his health-giving green sprinkles (strange that he won't eat his broccoli with such enthusiasm), I shall just add that the title of this post was originally going to be:
Contracting Yet Another Flu Virus And Hacking Tiny Droplets Of Phlegm over Your Toddler Ensuring He Bears Your Infection, Spikes A Fever, And Has A Meltdown Just As You Walk In The Door At Daycare.
But, it didn't really have much of a ring.
Plus... no photos.

Monday, October 06, 2008

Scenes from my life...

Last week exploded like an egg in a microwave.

It started when I got The Phonecall from my producer-bosses asking me for the new draft of my episode within a matter of hours.

This was followed by another meeting with notes for rewriting over the next 48 hours.

Day then followed night in the strange floating world that is Rewriting Scenes Very Fucking Fast. It was uncomfortable and I consumed way too much coffee and chocolate but in a strange perverted way, I enjoyed it.

'You were in The Zone' one of my fellow writers observed, and yay verrily I was there, I did the tour and I bought the postcards.

I didn't even get the Second Phonecall, it went straight to messagebank but the gist was: my baby sister K (aged 29) had gone into labour 4 weeks early.

The baby was breech, she went to have accupuncture on Monday afternoon to try and turn the baby and within a couple of hours she had a foot in her birthcanal and a nightmare car ride to the hospital ending with an emergency c-section and...a divinely beautiful little tiny girl.

Cue Tricky and I dashing to Newcastle as soon as I had submitted my script, seeing Tiny Niece, blubbering over baby sister K and her husband for good measure and all the other things one does when a new baby comes into the world.

Our sister AJ is coming from New Zealand on Monday to stay for two and a half weeks. She is bringing lots of sensible sleep advice and her three kids meaning Tricky will be well and truly clubbed with the Cousin Stick...he will have met four in a fortnight.

In between the arranging and the phonecalls, the photos and the release drafts, the show and the baby, I find myself musing over how unpredictable life can be, my life for instance, and how that's not such a bad thing at all, although can be difficult if one wants to schedule a legwax say or an apppointment with the dentist - which may explain why I've never done the first and the second was two years ago .

As I held Tiny Niece and marvelled at her tiny ears and imagined nibbling off her tiny fingers (oh come on, don't say the thought has never crossed your mind) my sister K said to me...'do you feel like doing IVF again?'

'Of course I do,' I said, 'of course I do.'

And of course I don't, the last thing I feel like doing at the moment, in this crazy all-at-once dreamworld is pinch an inch and date the dildocam (and if I can't schedule my dentist how will I schedule Dr Lovely Accent) but I do, yes, feel like holding another tiny dancing baby that I call mine, and of course that sad soft yearning will never really go away.