Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Letter To A 29 Month Old Barista

My darling Tricky
As I type this you are struggling with your father who is trying in vain to give you dinner.
You are kicking him and shouting NO I WANT STORY! There is something very poetic in this scene, something about art before bread or somesuch and being your mother and a feckless artiste herself I, of course, understand your passion, but also it's a wee tad annoying because we are actually at a friend's house on Lake Macquarie for NYE and all the other kids are eating outside and I'm trying to blog my last post for the year, as well as your monthly newsletter which is a trillion days late.

It's bad enough that I've abandoned our friends for the computer without having you loudly drawing attention to the fact. And frankly, i thought you loved tortelini (I know the tomatoes are a stretch), or at least you did at lunch.

Also Mummy's a bit pissed, can you tell? Nothing serious, two glasses of champagne, that's all. Since having you I've become the proverbial two pot screamer and whether that's due to the sleep deprivation or some hormonal biz I couldn't tell you. Also my feet are bigger. How wierd is that?

As are your feet. And your legs. And your lovely mop of curly hair. You seem so tall when you stand beside me, at hip level, with your arm wrapped around my thigh. When we arrived at the house today you stood like that for a long time, even though you know all the kids here and all the adults, coyly gazing at the floor. It's such a far cry from your loud shouting, specific demands, intricate songs and secret language raves. Like your mother you take a while to warm up.

For posterity I shall record your latest song which i'm pretty sure is completely made up and not a bastardisation of some daycare melody:

Oinka boinka oinka boinka
da da da
Hairy Scary Hairy Scary
da da da

What does it mean? No idea, but the other day I casually started singing Oinka Boinka and the grin on your face was fabulous. It was like you'd cracked a joke a while ago and I'd brought it up again and then we sort of sang it together, chuckling. My how we laughed and I'm hoping that it's a clean joke and not for instance a reference to that day you got into the shower with me and loudly pointed out my missing appendage.

You adore trains and the whole ritual of boomgates and cars stopping and the ding ding ding. When we go out to coffee in the mornings you ask if we can go to the 'train cafe', a groovy little place in the carpark of Hamilton railway station. We sit so we can see the track and the boomgates and as soon as we see the red lights flash Some Convenient Adult must whisk you up and rush you out to stand on the bridge. It's a complete bugger and hell on the thighs as we run up the steps with you in our arms and thank god the coffee is good.

This Christmas was lovely lovely lovely and yet there was a lot that could have gone wrong wrong wrong, your grandparents having moved into their new place and nearly killing themselves in the process. Your favourite present, hands down, was the wooden garage your Uncle P gave you. His dad gave it to him when he was a little tacker and he still had it some 20 or so years later. He found it shoved in the back of the cupboard of his old bedroom during the move and decided to repaint it for you. Your Aunty R and Aunty T gave you cars to match and the result was nothing short of sublime. You moved cars and drove cars and fixed cars and had tiny wee roadrage episodes. 

It was all very typical boy stuff which is fair enough. You played and played and then... you got out your pink teaset and utilising a firetruck with extendable ladder as a moveable boomgate you suddenly were running your own 'train cafe'. 

This morning you gave me a cup of coffee which you 'spilled' and 'wiped up'. When I complained and asked for a caffe latte you gave me a plastic knife. You also offered me banana bread but failed to deliver. I'm giving you one more go and then i'm writing a letter to management.

We are having a bit of a session with rules at the moment. As in: No Screaming In The House. My parents new house is quite sturdy but it's a little small and the sound travels like nobody's business especially at 5.30 in the morning. Other rules include: We Don't Push and We Don't Pull Hair. One rule I haven't activated is We Only Do That When We are Alone And In Our Bedroom but it may well be on the horizon.

At the beach today you said to me sternly; We Don't Eat Sand.
That's right, i nodded as I towelled him dry.
And We Don't Eat Dirt.
Neither we do, I agreed.
And...We Don't Eat People.
Quite true. Although exceptions are made for footballers who crash land in the Andes.

We were at Newcastle beach and for a few moments we stood together, the three of us, by the large round kiddy pool, carved from rock. I wrote about this pool once before, long ago, here, Your father and your mother, standing together, kissing in the moonlight at the start of their relationship. I wrote about fear and about wishing for a child and and about despair and how maybe it would only ever be the two of us. 

But today, on the last day of the year, we were three.

We saw a pelican and seagulls and you held a tiny starfish in the palm of your hand and we were immeasurably happy.

It's a new year coming and so your parents are reflective and regretful and hopeful and appreciative.

But it's just another day for you and so you shout and laugh and ask for dinner when it's been cleared away and run away from putting on your mumpy and you sing and smile and love, just like any other day. You have no idea why we're here, all these shrieking pint sized kids, your little friends Claudia and Sebastian, Morgan and Jack. 

And their mothers and fathers, watching with loving smiles, all made parents in their late 30s and 40s. Grateful. Tired. Happy. And much to celebrate.

Worth another glass of champagne at least.

Your very own


Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Book Review: Emily Waits For Her Family

The literary world of Tricky is a turbulent place, full of fast paced action and lurid colour. Here oceans are in commotion and rumbles occur in jungles. Yes Bobo gets his hug and Hannah gets taken to the zoo to see her gorilla but not before much adventure and emotional upheaval. 

If Lola is allowed to look after Marv’s dog Sizzles, it’s dollars to doughnuts that Sizzles will not only be lost he’ll be mixed up with another dog that looks exactly like Sizzles. 

It’s a crazy, green eggs and ham eating world.

 And it is here, amongst all the noise and chaos I find myself reading out loud a small mint coloured book. A quiet gentle book. That rhymes. 

Emily Waits For Her Family is the first in the Emily The Chickadee series. I’m a little behind the 8Ball here in Australia, I’m pretty sure we have no chickadees here (not in Sydney anyway) but there are any number of delicate pretty little birds all at various stages of extinction so I get the gist. 

In this book, a little girl spies a chickadee who builds a nest in a window box and there, nestled amongst the flowers, lays three eggs that eventually hatch into the ugliest boggly eyed chicks you’ve ever seen. That’s not really part of the story but it certainly made me laugh when I got to the picture. Time is a great beautician for the chickadee brood and quite soon they are just as attractive as their mother. And now all four can flap above the head of the little girl who spends her time lounging about in flower beds and gazing up at her feathered friends. End story.

 I have to admit I did not hold out high hopes for Emily et al on my first read through. Where were the lost dogs? The gorillas wearing hats? There were eggs yes but they weren’t green and no one was being exhorted to Eat Them. 

And also the rhyming. I am not a natural fan of the rhyming children’s book. I often find the rhyme overtakes the story and it happens a bit here too with a lot of enforced rhyming with “chickadee”.

 Gentle, charming, delightful. These are the words that spring to mind to describe Carol Zelya’s book with illustrations by Kristin Metcalf. The author’s note indicates her aim of “educating children about nature’s precious gifts all around us when we take the time to notice” an intention I would applaud but perhaps not necessarily feel the need to mention since it seems a tad preachy. Luckily this is in the back of the book, not the front. 

I did very excited by the bonus chickadee checklist for readers to log the movements of the chickadee in their own back yard (we scored a fat zero sadly).  

 Finally I have to put up my hand and admit, to my surprise, Tricky enjoyed this book – to the point of throwing aside Lola and her search for Sizzles the dog, and asking for “the birdy book.” 

He listened, he counted the eggs and the birds, and he asked me to read it again when I was finished. Which was a gentle reminder to this book reading mother that stories do not always have to be high concept or fast paced to be engaging for children.


Emily Waits For Her Family

By Carol Zelaya

Illustrated by Kristin Metcalf

Richlee Publishing

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Say so

Tricky's vocabulary has been increasing in leaps and bounds.

Many's the time we sit and chat, he and I, perhaps over a chilled sippy cup of milo milk and a zucchini muffin.

Early in the morning we might discuss a passing garbage truck ( iss got fashing lights!) or ponder the mysterious opening and shutting of a neighbour's garage door (door go up and car comes out. Now door go down!).

We might lightly debate the pros and cons of watching Charlie & Lola before we have our weetbix (YES! Mine watch NOW!) , or playfully spar over whether or not we really need to wear trousers. (NOOOOOOOOOOO!)

Of course I am not particularly essential to his conversation skills, he'll happily yarn with his teddy bears or his dinosaurs, and often in the bath he likes to have an indepth chat with his penis.

Every now and then he will come up with something unexpected. For the past week he has been shouting at me, apropros of nothing, Jinx! and then, even more intently, Personal Jinx!

In the car, if he spies a telephone box, he will call out Red Fox!

The other day I put Tricky on the phone to speak to his father who has been working for the past few days back in Country Town.

Say hello to Daddy, I said. Tricky did not say hello.

What he did say was: DADDY IS A PLONKER.

It seems Tricky has also been been doing a lot of vocabulary practise with his cousins, the Naughty Nephews. Three days a week they travel together to and from school/daycare. It's a fifteen minute car ride but this is ample time to teach your baby cousin about spotting red foxes and casting jinxes and personal jinxes, not to mention plonkers. I have asked the NNs not to say this anymore, with particular emphasis aimed at Naughty Nephew 2.
("Even if you do change it to John Howard, I don't care, no more plonkers.")

This morning it was my turn to drive them and after an obligatory round of Twinkle Twinkle and a few Red Fox! spottings, Naughty Nephews 2 and 3 got down to brass tacks.

Say Ferrari, says NN3

Say Honda Odyssey, says NN2

Fahwee. Ondassee

Say Father Christmas... say Al Qaida... say Plonker... HEY! I call over my shoulder.

Ok, just say Father Christmas.

Lessons halt as we park the car and everyone gets out. Tricky is fascinated by school and loves walking in the gate with the Naughty Nephews. He is facinated by all the big kids in their matching clothes.

It makes me a little moist-eyed to see him, hand in hand with his cousins. In his big hat and shorts he almost looks like a junior version of them, except instead of school colours he has on his stripey shirt with the robot and his hat is lime green, not institution blue.

Bye boys, I call after them, come on Tricky - time to go to daycare. Say goodbye.

Say goodbye, says Naughty Nephew 3.

Say mustard gas, says Naughty Nephew 2.

But Tricky, all big eyes and stripey robot shirt, says nothing at all.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

I won't have what he's having

It was lunchtime when I went in to visit Grandis again. He was sitting upright in the chair beside his bed. As I entered the door I smiled hello to the three other elderly women patients sharing his room, pausing by one woman who had been bedridden almost as long as him.


Grandis waved me over impatiently to sit in the chair beside him and started twitching at his hospital gown.

Actually I have, I hastily replied, when you were doing your physio. How are you today?

NOT BAD, he shrugged.

The lunch trays arrived and I busied myself with releasing his salmon sandwich from its packaging and fixing the spouty lid to his Vanilla Sustagen.

As he ate, we made a little small talk about the earthworks going on outside ths window (SOME SORT OF TRENCH I’D SAY), the weather (I HEAR IT’S REAL SWEATY) and the fact that the clock on the wall facing his bed had finally been fixed. (ABOUT BLOODY TIME I SAY!)

With Grandis it's often a case of the louder the voice the higher the spirits and I was pleased to see how well he was obviously feeling. So well in fact, he was going to be moved out of the hospital bed to a high care facility as soon as possible. Further enquiry about why he was not suitable for rehabilitation had been explained as only available if he was going to return to his own home (no) or to the same low grade care facility he had occupied before (no, needs help showering and toileting). There didn’t seem to be another alternative but Grandis was quite cheerfully matter of fact about what would come next.

You look so much better, I smiled at him.

He gestured to me to sit closer and, looking furtively about the room, lowered his voice to a bellowing whisper.


Oh dear, I muttered. Is that… painful?


I nodded, hoping that might be the end of the report. It was not.


Bit of cream? I suggested helpfully.


I glanced around the room where the other three patients, all with perfect hearing, were staring fixedly at their lunch trays.


I did see, and I smiled and shook my head a little, as if in wonder, at the clever ideas of these nurses.

Well hopefully that’ll do the trick, I said.

Grandis nodded and we sat in companionable silence as he knocked back his Sustagen.

He stopped mid swig, a sudden thought having come to mind.


I did indeed.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

The Screaming Tomato Fights Back

It started with a plug.

Just an ordinary bath plug, black rubber and some sort of metallic bit on top plus that ring thing you pull to remove the plug from the bath.

All part of the night time ritual - lovely warm bath, hijinks with bath toys, hijinks with peeeeenussss, too much splashing, sodden bath mat, wrapped in big coloured towel, mumpy, pyjamas, story, bed. However the crucial step missing from this list is the one where Tricky pulls the plug out of the bath. By himself.

This step was passed over because, stupidly as it turns out, I decided that the whole getting out of bath routine was taking way too long, it was late, last episode of The Wire (series 3) was waiting to be viewed on dvd, there had already been a fairly unpleasant experience the night before which was put down to toddler spending three nights in three different beds, I was tired blah blah blah...

So I pulled the plug myself and said...Right that's it, out you get, we've got time before bed for one quick...

...story was the word I was about to use but Tricky, indignant beyond belief that I had usurped his plug pulling duties, obviously assumed I was about to say nuclear meltdown.

So he did.

Sweet mother of god.

It was the return of the Screaming Tomato but a louder, heavier, screamier Screaming Tomato. One with teeth. And pummelling fists. And tactics.

My god, look at it! It's thinking! It can actually think!

As fast as we formulate a strategy, the Screaming Tomato formulates one back. A better one! With laser beams and rockets!

Throughout the screaming he kept up a running tirade of immediate demands and loudly disappointed observations of our parental methods.

I want water, give me water. WATER PEEEEASE (parent hastily fetches orange sippy cup of water) No, not water, no no no water. (parent quickly takes loathsome cup away) GIVE ME WATER! (parent rushes back with cup) Mummy hold! No, Tricky hold, NO, MUMMY HOLD WATER, HOLD WATER MUMMY! (parent holds cup to Screaming Tomato's lips, Screaming Tomato snatches at cup and flings it to ground.) Where is water?! Mine want water! WATER PEEEASE! MINE WANT ORANGE CUP. MINE NOT WANT ORANGE CUP. (Repeat several times until other parent appears to find toddler and mother on floor surrounded by several sippy cups in varying hues, none of which seem to be wanted. Action now moves to bedroom.)

We tried to ignore him, he screamed louder. We tried to calm him, it seemed to enrage him. We cuddled him, he slapped our faces. We put him in his bed and he stood up and jumped on the spot, all the while howling at the top of his voice.

At one stage, bizarrely, he told us he wanted to wee on the toilet. Alright, I said, thinking this change of strategy might break the circuit.

This has been a slow process, the toilet training, we have had success with wees for instance but not with poos. And suddenly, the tears stopped and Screaming Tomato suddenly turned into Angelic Aubergine, all winning smiles and shining eyes.

Mine not crying now, mine happy. Mine do wee wees and mine also do poo poos. They go plop.

C and I cowered on the tiles by his feet, almost weeping with gratitude.

Oh they do go plop! Yes darling, you're so clever! Good boy. Are you finished? You can push the button on the toilet, now. Wow. Clever clever boy.

But minutes later when he wanted to come off the toilet, there was no poo and within a minute there were no more smiles and we were tomato agogo and back to the MINE WANT WATER refrain.

At which point, in true B-Grade horror movie style, our brains exploded through our skulls.

Sheer exhaustion saw him finally fall asleep in his bed, we got to watch our episode (everything they say about this show is true) and then, a few hours later, it all began again.

Except now it was some ungodly hour in the early early morning.

And now it was time for the big guns, the MINE WANT CUDDLES routine. This is not toddler asking for the quick comfort of a loving hug. This is a demand for Mummy to squat on the floor by his bed and drape herself on him so that he can cling to Mummy's wrist or, even better, Mummy's hair, and Mummy shall stay like that until Screaming Tomato has dropped off to sleep, or better, ALL FRIGGING NIGHT.

I did resort to some stern speaking through gritted teeth, i did try and smack his bum at one point. I managed to not lose it completely because I kept saying, in my head, i will win this, I will, as I put him to bed yet again.

But man he was good. He was, as Omar himself would acknowledge, fierce.

And I tried to call SHHHHH from my bed and say in a quiet but firm voice SLEEPYTIME and eventually he wore me down to going over to his bed and patting him, and from there he got me down to the "cuddle" (but with intention of returning to bed) and then it was a slippery slope to allowing him into our bed until he fell asleep and carrying him back to his bed, and half an hour later when he woke screaming again it was game over, and he slept in our bed until eight oclock in the morning.

I know he's not posessed, I told Screenwriting Mummy, on the phone this morning after he was removed to daycare by his uncle.

At least I think I know that. But could it be autism? Or bipolar?

And I feel terrible just writing those words, but the truth is, last night and this morning that's how I felt.

Who was that angry toddler? What was going on? He was completely out of control. And what about the wierd Smiling On The Toilet routine. In retrospect that was what freaked me out the most because he seemed so happy. But I guess it did seem over the top at the time, happiness of the wound up, gleaming teeth, glittering eyes sort.

Screenwriting Mummy also has an angry toddler, slightly older, of the female variety, and she swapped back some of her own tales of Notorious Meltdowns. And we talked about all the changes in Tricky's life at the moment and also that maybe some sort of rapid development was happening. And then we also talked about how losing control of your toddler makes you feel like you also have no control over yourself.

He may be a screaming tomato, but he's my screaming tomato.

The thing is, I only get one go at this.

And I really hope I'm not screwing it up.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

I'm baaaaack

I am back from the holiday in the country.

I would love to wax lyrical about the darling little house, the tranquil open fields, the nippy little horses, the cunning electric fences and the frigging flies, but sadly I have left my homage to pastoral living just that tad too late. It is now more than 48 hours since our holiday concluded and hence all residual created calm has been officially leached from my system.

Since our return I have managed to lose a book, a set of keys, a vital phone number, and my wallet. These were all found, eventually, but geez the stress.

I could be wrong but I think I can pinpoint the exact moment I lost the very last vestiges of calm.

It was this morning at 3.10 am when Tricky started kicking hard at the wooden bookshelf between his bed and ours and shrieking at the top of his voice: MUMMY! GIVE ME A CUDDLE!

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

seeing stars

Yes it is a holiday but it is only about an hour from grumpy grandad's hospital and so i decide to visit him, because i am feeling a lot better.

His hospitalisation and subsequent amputation was probably the last bowl of emotional spaghetti on my great big mental tray. i talk to my stepmum about this and I find myself saying that seeing him in bed so helpless and so sick and thinking early on that he was trick or treating on death's doorstep has probably brought up old scary stuff about mum dying, and the looking after, and the waiting for, and the watching her die, day by day by day.

And also, also...the future fear, the ms stuff, the fear of one day being bedridden and helpless and dependent and maybe that's why suddenly i was all gungho about seeing grumpy grandad daily, being not just independent but indispensible.

And these are heavy meals i'm trying to balance on my tray, stodgy, sloppy, carb-laden unpalatable bowls.

Which may explain why, on this holiday, i'm eating a lot of salad.

And meanwhile, i note these things about my grandfather:

Dad has shaved his head with clippers (at grandis's request) and now he looks like more of a pirate than ever. My sister K takes a photo and sends it to me via her mobile phone; shaven headed grandis with K's 8 week old baby on the pillow beside him.

i knew this was happening (the shaving of the head) but even so, i receive the photo in sydney while i am in mid-conversation and it is so startling I exclaim oh fuck mid sentence and then have to explain myself.

I am with my grandfather when the young spunky physio comes in to give him some exercises. Suddenly i am privvy to his stumpleg waving about, out, in, out, in. It is not quite as startling as the photo of his shaved head but it looks like an escaping lamb roast, uncooked.

I note that he is quite jolly with cute sassy physio whereas he is quite rude to the male nurse whom he refers to as a WASTE OF SPACE, I say shhhh Grandis and so he lowers the volume to a gentle roar . He instructs me to write down the exercises that cute sassy physio gives him to do. I do so, in large letters, and then he gets me to borrow some surgical tape from one of the other nurses (one of the ones that he likes) so i can tape the exercises up next to his bed.

The blonde doctor with beautiful skin and flawless pores comes into the room. She tells me that Grandis is her star pupil. He pretends he can't hear what she is saying so that she has to say it again, louder and closer to his ear. His eyes are twinkling. I begin to tell her about how well he did with his exercises but he bellows over the top of me. It's almost like the Grandis of old, before the falls and the nursing lodge.


I glance across at Dr Flawless Pores and she actually giggles and says...mmm very wise.

Good lord, i think. My grandfather is flirting with his doctor.

Today i come in to visit him again and he tells me all about his day, the staff who have been visiting, the doctors, the specialists. I tell him about the wonderful holiday and the horses and paddocks and we talk about my parents and how they are moving soon into their new house.


We talk about his options, the future, he wants to just focus on getting from POINT A TO B THAT'S MY FIRST PRIORITY and I nod, yes that sounds a good plan. We talk about false legs and wheelchairs. we talk about him needing help to shower and toilet .

And we talk about christmas, how that may work, where he might be. I can't help thinking how sharp he is, his mind whirring and clicking, he's bored but he's still here. Mentally he's better than i've seen him for months, even before the operation, and the falls.

As I leave the hospital i talk to the discharge nurse and she tells me that he's been rejected for rehab. Not an appropriate candidate. Bed and chair only. Next stop will be the nursing home.

I stare at her and my face must crumple a little. i tell her that he is focusing on getting up, getting from point a to point b. She nods and repeats to me, not unkindly, (she's one of the nice ones after all) he's only suitable for bed and chair.

And i nod and thank her and leave.

One thing about being in the country. You do see a lot of stars. Tricky likes to be held up at night so he can point them out.

Tonight, back at the holiday house, i will be watching stars alongside my toddler.

Both the rising and the falling.

Monday, December 01, 2008

gone country

C, Tricky and I are having a wee little holiday in the country. We have a cottage for a week and it is surrounded by paddocks and horses and trees and other such oddities.
Also vineyards and although this was not a pre-requisite for holidaying it certainly adds a little flavour to the resting and relaxing.

I am feeling very in need of the resting and relaxing and despite my brave post about putting down the tray blah blah don't put the seventh bowl on top or you risk losing the lot blah blah the truth is, my tray had crashed about two weeks ago and how I get that spaghetti sauce out is anyone's guess.

Luckily I won a holiday in August. This is a bit like winning a chicken in that I won it in a raffle and also in that my chicken is coming home to roost ie. holiday now being had.

We have packed up our toddler and all our stuff and our computers although we have solemnly sworn not to do work on them (what?) and I have included my special foot massage rub and quite a lot of vitamins and so forth as I am still yes still hacking and spluttering away.

But we have left our worries behind. Mostly. And although i sometimes hear them tippy tap on the window at night I think they're a wee tad scared of horses. And chickens.

and that's good.